ALLIANCE Finance Spokesman Seamus Close MLA has slammed the Government for attempting to kill off public debate on metering as a possible basis for water charges in the future.
Mr Close accused Minister Angela Smith of “unduly influencing the jury” in her consultation paper ‘The Reform of Water and Sewerage Services in Northern Ireland’, which was released today.
Mr Close stated: “The Minister has told us that there will be full consultation in relation to water charging, yet it is obvious that she has made her mind up on metering. The Government is clearly trying to discourage any debate of what would be, with built-in safeguards for the vulnerable, the fairest system of all.
“I had hoped that this consultation would be meaningful and that the voice of the people would be listened to. I have already urged the Minister to come clean and stop the illusion that we currently receive our water free from the tap. She knows that there’s no such thing as free water from the tap. She knows that the infrastructure, purification and so on is paid for through general taxation.
“Angela Smith wants to introduce yet a ‘tap tax’ to make water self-financing. Yet despite claims of wanting to be both transparent and fair, why has she not suggested that consultation should take place on the installation of water meters, so that people could see what they are paying for, see how to reduce consumption, save water and thus save money?
“The old argument that meters are too expensive just doesn’t wash. If her Government can set aside £1.75 billion to kill people in Iraq and destroy what infrastructure remains there, just to satisfy the ego of the two ‘B’s – Bush and Blair – then a few hundred million for transparency and accountability through the provision of water meters makes good economic sense.
“But then who said that economic sense or even common sense was the hallmark of this Government?”