Public meeting demonstrates strong opposition to water charges

THE Government has been told in no uncertain terms that people in Newtownards are not prepared to pay twice for their water, Alliance Assembly member Kieran McCarthy (Strangford) has said.

Alderman McCarthy was speaking after a public meeting in Queen’s Hall, Newtownards, last night to debate water charges. Representatives from the General Consumer Council and Coalition Against Water Charges were present, as well as officials from the Department of Regional Development.

Ald. McCarthy stated:

“We already pay for our water through the regional rate, and the people of Newtownards told the DRD in no uncertain terms that they are not prepared to pay twice for this basic human necessity.

“This was an opportunity for people to express views on the Government’s proposals, and officials were left in no doubt that ratepayers are not going to be conned by this fraud.

“Ards Borough Council stated its opposition to the proposed water charges again, and officials were told to take the message back to the Regional Development Minister, John Spellar, that his ‘tap tax’ is unacceptable.

“Some people were of the view that the Government, despite its denials, is preparing for privatisation of the water industry. Many also expressed concerns for disabled people and elderly people living their own, as they will also be rated on the value of their property.

“This is unfair. Some who attended the meeting saw metering as a fairer option, but the Government seems to oppose or rule out anything that might better protect the vulnerable.

“It is disappointing that while Direct Rule remains in place, the Government is prepared to rip off ratepayers. Its proposals for reform of how we pay for water in the future show just how important it is to re-establish devolved government in Northern Ireland, so that local politicians can make decisions that are in the best interests of the people.”

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