Why Paul Murphy MEP is fighting the Water Tax

People can’t afford it

The government may introduce this charge at a lower amount but it will increase quickly. The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) have estimated that the average charge could be €426 a year. If the full cost of water services as estimated by Irish Water is passed on to people, which is what they are meant to do, the charge would ultimately be over €700 pa. Already hard pressed by unemployment, underemployment and the spreading of low pay and rising bills and rents, people simply cannot afford another tax.

For real water conservation

Concerns about water conservation and the environment are being cynically abused to try to justify this new tax. In Britain metering hasn’t fundamentally altered the amount of water used; metering is not a water saving mechanism, it is simply a mechanism for charging of individual households. Successive government’s haven’t cared about conservation and failed to ensure proper maintenance of the system over decades so that now 40% of water is lost through leaks. These same governments refused to implement the proposals made many years ago for water saving devices – rain harvesting, dual flush toilets etc – to become law for all new buildings being and to be retro fitted into existing ones. Those who are fighting the Water Tax have the record of fighting for the environment, those who are promoting it, just want to turn a vital resource into a source for profits.

It’s a double tax

Water is currently processed and supplied to homes all over the country as is, that means, it is already paid for by taxpayers. Ordinary workers continue to take a disproportionate burden of tax in this country, whereas taxation on wealth and profits are very low. The imposition of this Water Tax is demanding that ordinary people pay on the double and it exposes as hollow the fraudulent promises about tax cuts that are being made in a desperate effort to buy votes.

It exposes that austerity is continuing

Nothing can disguise that the extra money raised from the Water Tax will be used to help pay the interest on the national debt (over €8 billion this year) – that is, it will go straight into the back pockets of the bankers and bondholders. This exposes the lies and rhetoric of government Ministers that they are easing off on austerity measures. Austerity measures – squeezing the wealth that goes to ordinary people – is now a permanent policy in Ireland.

Fighting the EU’s profit agenda

The Water Tax was included as part of the memorandum pushed by the Troika and particularly the EU in November 2010 when they forced the bailout on Ireland. It was pushed so that the EU could be confident that bondholders will get fully paid but also to help set up a new bonanza of profits for big business through privatisation. If they get away with the Water Tax, the EU will come back with more and more measures that benefit European big business elite.

It’s a decisive step to privatisation of services

The charge itself and the setting up of Irish Water, are preparing the ground for profit hungry multi-national corporations to come in and buy up the infrastructure and the rights to supply, that belongs as of right to everyone collectively. The Thatcherite privatisation of water in other countries, like in Britain, has been a disaster. Prices increased not because of investment but so the private companies could maximise profits. In fact there has been a decline in investment and the infrastructure has declined. The average domestic water bill is around £400 in England and Wales, but many areas charge up £500 pa.

We can defeat the water tax

That more than 50% of ordinary households were not paying the Household Tax at the start of 2013 is an indication of people’s instinctive opposition to these austerity taxes. There were very high payment levels for the Property Tax, but that was only because Revenue was involved and people knew they had the power deduct the tax from pay or benefits, so in reality non-payment wasn’t an option for people. However, with the Water Tax, the bill is owed to Irish Water and not Revenue and Irish Water does not have the right to deduct the charge from pay or benefits. So the key tactic of non-payment is back on the agenda and mass non-payment can derail the Water Tax. An active campaign in all areas can also deal with any legal sanctions and reverse attempts to reduce the water pressure. In the mid 1990s such a campaign, led by the Socialist Party in Dublin, forced the abolition of water charges nationally, and the same can happen again and would help in the overall fight against capitalist austerity. The first blow we can strike against the Water Tax will be to ensure a defeat and misery for the Austerity parties in the Local and European Elections on 23 May.