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Irish Water a Trojan horse for privatisation – Stanley ‏

26 April, 2012 - by Brian Stanley TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community and local government Brian Stanley today accused the government of establishing Irish Water as a Trojan horse for the installation of water meters and the imposition of water charges and laying the foundation for the full privatisation of the water sector.'

Stanley said:

“The establishment of Irish Water, along with the imposition of water meters and water charges is seriously ill thought out. It is driven by Fine Gael’s right wing agenda and supported by the Labour Party. In their drive to establish Irish Water the government continue to promote myths about water meters and water charges. These myths need to be challenged.Myths such as the public get water for free. This is untrue. People already pay for their water through their tax. The introduction of separate water charges is an attempt to get the public to pay for water twice, once in their taxes and at a second time through the water meter. 

“There is also the myth that all other citizens in the EU pay water charges. This is simply not true. Sinn Féin Assembly Minster Conor Murphy resisted introducing water charges despite Westminster attempts to impose water charges in the north.

“Finally, the government would have us believe that water metering reduces consumption. This again is untrue. In England, where water metering has been in place for many years, consumption is at 158 litres per head per day.  In Dublin the Dublin Water Supply Report of 2008 showed consumption is at 148 litres per head per day.

“It transpires that one third of households here in Dublin cannot be installed with meters, this will also be case in many parts of the country. If water meters equal water conservation then the government has a serious problem. One third of homes in the capital will have no incentive to conserve water as a flat rate has no impact on water conservation.

“The establishment of Irish Water and the introduction of water meters was brought through the houses of the Oireachtas in the most underhanded way. The Dáil working group report on the issue has yet to be brought to conclusion. The report on the water sector still remains in draft form, not to be disclosed to the media.  Yet we have the cabinet commenting and promoting the introduction of water charges. I participated fully in that Dáil working group but unfortunately I am left with no other option but to resign from that working group. I feel its work has been totally undermined by the spin doctors within the cabinet.

“Sinn Féin fully understands the challenge that lies ahead for the water sector. This government has used the crisis as an opportunity to promote their right-wing agenda of charging ordinary people for the use of something they already own and pay for in their taxes. Our approach is different, it is based on ensuring that water provision remains in public ownership and paid for through progressive taxation.

“We would be far better off investing money from the National Pension Reserve Fund in creating real jobs that have a positive legacy. The money being wasted on meters should be invested in upgrading an aging, leaking water distribution system. According to the Irish Academy of Engineers the cost of meter installation will be at least €500m. This €500m would fund the water conservation strategy for six years.   It would be far more appropriate to invest the €500m in water conservation rather than meter installation, saving water and public money. Sinn Féin supports the introduction of district metering as opposed to installing domestic water meters in every household. This is already in place in a number of local authorities and is cheaper and is effective in monitoring usage and identifying leaks.

“Currently the water sector is managed by the 34 local authorities. The move to Irish Water will not improve accountability or governance. Local authorities are accountable to their communities. They are able to meet local demands and can provide solutions to local crisis and emergencies.

“Sinn Féin calls for the establishment of a National Water Sector Framework Team overseeing governance  and capital investment for the water sector.  It would be made up of City and County Managers and would be convened and chaired by Secretary General of the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government.

“It is not the householder, but the water distribution network, that is the biggest culprit when it comes to water waste. The State’s water distribution network is antiquated. In some local authority areas up to 60% is leaking away.

“Capital investment in water has been cut by nearly €200m since 2010 to €331 million in 2012, with more cuts planned until the budget is just €266 million. With average leakage at a staggering 41% we understand that there needs to be an increased level of capital spending on the state’s water infrastructure. The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government must return to at least 2011 level of investment. While the Minister’s proposals are focused on the domestic householder there is no mention of the debt owed by the commercial sector where only 52% of water rates are collected. So it appears that households are being penalised for lack of building regulations, leaking pipes and poor governance. The Government must take action on the outstanding water rates owed to the state by the commercial sector.

“The crisis facing water supply does not start or finish at the border. Recognising that river basin districts cover both sides of the border, it is essential that there is coordination of the water sector. We need to develop an all-Ireland strategy on water provision. There is a requirement on both the northern Assembly and the Government to collaborate on the delivery of services where shared resources, joint capital investment in infrastructure and procurement amongst other matters would clearly prove beneficial on an All-Ireland basis.

“What the government fails to realise is the level of anger that exists on this issue. It will be opposed at every opportunity both in Leinster house and out there in the community. Communities have had septic tank charges imposed on them, followed soon after by Household Charges. Water meters and charges will be resisted every inch of the way by Sinn Féin and the general public.”

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