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Molloy - British Minister fails to make case for Water Charges

8 June, 2003

Former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, Sinn Féin's Francie Molloy has said that Angela Smith has failed to make the case for the imposition of Water Charges.

Mr Molloy said:

"Angela Smith has failed to convince people that the attempt to impose Water Charges is either justified or will lead to improvements in water services.

"The terms of the debate set out in the current consultation are totally unsatisfactory. The debate should be about what are the benefits of water charges and what are the real costs but instead Angela Smith is acting as if imposing a water tax is a foregone conclusion and the debate is being framed about what mechanism she will use.

"The £400 million under spend revealed last week puts into perspective the potential to generate money from water taxation.

"Trade Unions, local government and across the political spectrum there is vocal opposition to the imposition of Water Charges. It is time that Angela Smith listened to what people really think. The consultation process is bogus. We need to go back to the drawing board.

"The comparison with the UK is also fraudulent. Large amounts of capital were invested into both Wales and Scotland prior to moving towards a 'self-financing' model. Here we have had decades of under investment that Angela Smith now proposes that we are penalised for. Similarly to compare rates here with UK models is wrong because they are based on entirely different models of local government service provision. We are not comparing like with like.

"The British Treasury is determined to see water charges imposed here regardless of strong local opposition. Unions, political parties, community organisations and individuals need to stand up and be counted and force Angela Smith to reconsider.

People are angry. They know that they already pay for their water through their rates. They know that the record of the water services is very poor and that the most recent Public Accounts report highlighted massive levels of water lost through leaks, literally money down the drain.

"My concern is that this is the first step on the road to the privatisation of water as part of a wider privatisation agenda set in train by Mark Durkan's flawed Reform and Reinvestment Initiative.

"The consequences of this project which includes substantial rates increase, imposing water charges - the so-called Durkan taxes, the Strategic Investment Body as currently constituted, the wholesale stripping of public assets and privatisation have not been properly thought through.

"British Treasury officials must be laughing up their sleeves at the gullibility and short sightedness of our own local Finance Ministers for buying into this double taxation and privatisation model so readily." ENDS

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