Motion 2: Water Charges
· Conference notes that average Northern Ireland household income is 19% below the UK average, nearly twice as many rely on benefits, and pay 26% more for fuel light and power than the rest of the UK.
· Conference notes that ratepayers have paid for water and sewerage services already through their rates, and are not responsible for the diversion of funds and underinvestment in its infrastructure.
· Conference calls for any water charges to reflect relative usage and ability to pay.
Proposer, Councillor Sean Neeson MLA, will say:
“Water privatisation in Northern Ireland will be more iniquitous than the poll tax.
“This statement of mine appeared in a Belfast newspaper headline, July 1992.
“The Alliance Party and I have led the way against water charges and water privatisation from the very start.
“Over the years we have seen a process of disinformation by successive governments and political parties here.
“Minister John Spellar MP, who is taking on the responsibility of introducing water charges, wrote to me in 1995, when the Labour Party was in Opposition, stating that he was strongly opposed to water privatising, even through the back door.
“I am convinced that prior to the suspension of the Assembly, that the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP were prepared to rubber stamp water charges, as part of the Programme for Government, which Alliance never endorsed.
“As for Sinn Fein, I believe that £26 1/2 million would have gone a long way towards a major water scheme.
“On the other hand, the DUP are still consistent with ‘Water Says No’.
“The truth of the matter is that the people of Northern Ireland are being asked to pay for decades of under investment of infrastructure that happened under direct rule.
“The present proposals for water charges are completely unfair, and must be resisted at every level of society here.
“May I remind John Spellar and his cronies of the reaction to the ‘poll tax’.
Seconder, Ian Parsley, will say:
“On the issue of water charges, direct rule ministers have been trying to sell you a pup.
“They tell you that the average English household pays so much more for their water.
“What they don’t tell you is that this is for privatised water, for which the Government spent millions of taxpayer funds to upgrade the system, before selling it off to the highest bidders.
“They also don’t tell you that in Northern Ireland:
· Average incomes are 19% below the UK average
· More NI households (21%) rely on benefits, than in the UK overall (12%)
· We pay 26% more for fuel, light and power than in the rest of the UK
“Yet the direct rule ministers are forging ahead to introduce an additional ‘tap tax’. Let me tell you how this is actually a ‘segregation tax’. The money raised from this ‘tap tax’ will be used to:
· Maintain a divided education system
· Maintain duplication of health centres
· Maintain the practice of separate leisure centres
“The ‘tap tax’ is unfair and will lead to some of the most vulnerable being unable to afford a basic human necessity.
“Only Alliance can stop the ‘tap tax’.
“First, we must get devolution back. Only Alliance has a workable plan to realise devolution and make power sharing work.
“Then, in the Assembly, Alliance will expose the hypocrisy of others who claim to be opposed to the ‘tap tax’, but actually set out the course of events that has led us to this.
“With the ‘tap tax’ proposal so unpopular, Alliance will take the lead in restoring public confidence in our water and sewerage services, as we will implement a charging regime that is fair for all, charging for what people actually use and on a basis of ability to pay.”