Water Tax - Northern parties united in collusion, Communities united in opposition

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It's like the topsy-turvy world of George Orwell's "1984" where politicians engage in "double-speak" by saying they are doing one thing, while in fact doing exactly the opposite. Nobody could think the Water Charges are a fair way to pay for the upkeep of the dilapidated water and sewage system that the State has neglected for decades. The Anti-Poverty Network has calculated that 37% of the household rates we already pay goes towards their upkeep.So why this scheme to make working class households pay an extra £120 this year, rising to £340 and higher in 2 years? The answer is New Labour, following their neo-liberal agenda, cooked up the scheme to turn this essential service provision into a money making venture for private business. Just like they did in England, Wales and Scotland, and with disastrous consequences. Just like was tried in the South, but was beaten by a mass non-payment campaign.

Across the North, communities are united in their absolute opposition to the tax. People in their thousands have joined one or other of the community- based campaigns, such as Communities Against the Water Tax and the We Won't Pay campaign, tens of thousands have pledged to refuse to pay.

In February, the Northern Committee of the ICTU (not usually noted for its bold stances) responded to its membership and to overwhelming public pressure and backed the crosscommunity campaign's calls for nonpayment. No one in their right mind would stand in the way of such united opposition, so it stands to reason that "our" political representatives would take up the call of those they claim to represent and endorse a non-payment campaign.

Ever since Westminster passed the legislation to bring-in phase one of this double tax on April 1st, politicians from across the sectarian divide have been grandstanding about the ways in which they have been urging Direct Rule Secretary Peter Hain not to implement it. In fact, all the Assembly Members from all the main parties, SDLP, DUP, SF, UUP have been keen to out-do each other in demonstrating that they are the ones who are the most opposed to the Water Tax while blaming the rest for allowing it to be brought in.

The message from our Assembly members seems to be "if only our own wee Assembly had the power to make such decisions, we wouldn't have allowed it through". But is this the case? What did Assembly members from these four parties have to say about the Water Tax the last time they governed on our behalf?

In May 2002 SDLP Finance Minister Sean Farren and DUP Regional Development Minister Peter Robinson issued a consultation paper on the Blairite Reinvesting Reform Initiative (RRI) (that's water privatisation to you and me) which was approved by all the Ministers of the four-Party Executive. What did this paper have to say about Water Charges? Merely that the RRI "could include water charges as well as revenue from a reformed rating system". Nowhere in this document is there mention of opposition to water charges.

Those who claim to represent our interests haven't been shouting about this fact, nor about the fact that not one of them has endorsed the nonpayment campaign. They are too mindful of the groundswell of opposition across the community against this unfair tax to show their true colours. But can our "representatives" really be trusted to take up the good fight on our behalf, or should we just leave them to do the "yak yaking" while we take action for ourselves and break this tax the only way it is going to be broken? By standing together and refusing to pay.

Non-Payment: the facts

Tens of thousands have signed up already to one or other of the non-payment campaigns. They cannot cut you off for refusing to pay. They cannot force you to pay unless they win a case against you in a small claims court. They can't do this if enough people refuse to pay, it would just take a couple of hundred and tens of thousands have already pledged not to pay. A mass non-payment campaign against the water tax in the South successfully broke the double tax


This article is from Workers Solidarity No96, March April 2007

Download the PDF of Workers Solidarity 96

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