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"Water Taxes will push people further into poverty and debt" - Stanton

18 December, 2006

Speaking during the Water Tax debate in the Assembly today the Sinn Féin Assembly Member for North Belfast Kathy Stanton said:

"The Anti-poverty network has estimated that within our existing, non itemised rates bills, we all pay roughly 37% towards water and sewerage provision. The fact that the Direct Rule Minister‚s proposed additional water charges will be based on the value of a person's house means that we will be paying twice. This is deeply worrying and concerning for low-income households, as well as for those on benefits or in receipt of pensions. The most vulnerable in our society are being asked to help foot the bill for the failure of British Ministers to invest in our infrastructure.

"The value of people‚s homes has risen dramatically over the years but their disposable income has deteriorated. Indeed it has been quoted that houses are rising at £100 a day

"As well as having to endure a higher cost of living people earn on average 20% less in the North than they do in Britain. This will simply push people further into poverty and debt. We already have the worst poverty figures anywhere in Britain or Ireland.

"It is ironic that last month we had the British Secretary of State publishing an anti-poverty strategy while at the same time the Minister for DRD is proposing charges that will significantly increase poverty levels - I ask where is the logic? Indeed this is a contradiction to the latest report from DRD, which claimed to reaffirm Government's commitment to effective protection for those on low incomes.

"Because of the failed policies of British Ministers the North of Ireland has lower wage levels, higher levels of family and child poverty and higher levels of inequality, disability and illness. In deed Save the Children estimate 1 in 3 children in the North lives in poverty. Fuel poverty is already a major issue, however, these plans could lead to many homes in socially deprived areas having to come to terms with water poverty.

"The raison d'etre of any private company is to prioritise profits for its shareholders and the only way to guarantee this is to continue to increase charges. We only have to look at past mistakes in privatisation of NIE and Belfast International Airport for examples.

"This transitional Assembly should ensure that people are put before profit and we should not allow the British Government to blame the people for not having adequate incomes, for being unemployed or for families and children having to live in poverty. It is government responsibility to protect the rights of citizens and water is one of the most basic rights.

"Sinn Féin supports the role of trade unions, water service employees and anti-poverty groups in their bid to ensure that the privatisation agenda is reversed." ENDS

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