Alliance rejects Government’s push for water privatisation

Alliance Spokesperson for Regional Development, Naomi Long MLA, has rejected the Government’s plans for water privatisation in its proposed legislation for water and sewerage services. Naomi Long also criticised the lack of independence for the proposed regulatory authority, as well as the copycat imposition of British legislation in Northern Ireland.

The East Belfast Assembly Member said: “Alarmingly, there is nothing within this proposed legislation to stop the new Government Company or ‘GoCo’ from privatising. This could happen without any further legislation or public consultation.

“The privatisation of the water service could be disastrous for the people of Northern Ireland. Not only will water charges skyrocket, but the quality of the service may deteriorate. The directors of the private companies providing water here may not have the best interests of the people at heart, as they will only be concerned with maximising profits for shareholders.

“What we want are properly run and efficient utilities which meet high environmental standards. Water service must also see high levels of investment in future to maintain a good standard of provision for the people of Northern Ireland. These standards have not been delivered through the privatisation of the water service in England and Wales, therefore we have severe reservations about similar measures being implemented in Northern Ireland.

“As regards the planned regulatory authority, these proposals seriously jeopardise its independence by making it subject to the consent of the Department for Regional Development, who happen to be the sole shareholder of GoCo. This just doesn’t make any sense at all.

“What has happened, yet again, is a simplistic direct import of legislation that was used in the privatisation of water in England and Wales. This not only ignores economic and social differences, but isn’t even compatible with the way that utilities are actually regulated in Northern Ireland.

“If those responsible for drawing up legislation spent more time consulting the people that will be affected by these laws, and less time at the photocopying machine with England and Wales legislation, then we might see more competent and coherent legislation.

“However, the best solution all round would be to put Direct Rule Ministers out of business and make our own decisions through a restored Northern Ireland Assembly.”


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