With or without Irish water and water charges, fixing the water infrastructure will cost billions and be paid by the public – the question is how we pay.In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD for AAA-People Before Profit has said that the claim made today that abolishing water charges and Irish Water would cost €7 billion is “totally misleading and pure scaremongering.”
Deputy Boyd Barrett said: “With or without water charges and Irish Water, we need to spend billions on fixing the water infrastructure over the coming years and that will be paid for by the public. That has never been disputed by those of us campaigning against water charges – despite the deliberate attempts of the government to mislead the public and misrepresent our position. The issue at stake is: what is the fairest and most efficient way to fix the water infrastructure?
Our view is that domestic water charges are an unfair, regressive and inefficient way to try and deal with the massive problems in our water system. Firstly, water charges disproportionately hit the less well-off but secondly, hundreds of millions will be wasted on the needless administration of billing domestic customers, instead of that money going into actually employing people to fix and maintain the pipes.
Domestic water metering will achieve very little in terms of fixing leaks, as these meters will capture less than 10% of the leaks. The vast majority of the problems are in the mains infrastructure and domestic meters will not capture these leaks at all.
Furthermore, the big claim by the government for Irish Water was that it could borrow money off-balance sheet. This has turned out not be the case. In reality, the state can borrow money more cheaply than a private commercial utility.
The only benefit of domestic metering and charges is to the private contractors, consultants and highly paid executives who will make a fortune, while actually sucking money away from the frontline work that is needed to fix our decrepit water system.
In reality, domestic water charges and metering are an absolutely inevitable stepping stone to the privatization of water services and consequent ratcheting up of water charges to three or four times their current level. If this was ever in doubt, it has been fully confirmed by Eurostat who have made it clear that water charges will have to increase and state subsidies will have to go, if Irish Water is to pass their state aid test. In other words, for Irish Water to work in its own terms, it would have to be privatized.
In fact, the process of privatization is already well underway. Irish Water is public in name only, but already has over 25 private companies, including foreign multinationals contracted to do repairs, maintenance and operations -not to mention private contractors like Denis O Brien’s Siteserv and a plethora of private consultants making a fortune out of it. This is all money being drained away in profit-taking from the actual business of fixing the pipes and conserving water.
If anything, those of us who have led the campaign against water charges are more committed to investing in repairing and modernizing the water infrastructure, than those who support water charges.
By funding the repair and maintenance of the water infrastructure, through progressive central taxation, we will save hundreds of millions of euros over the coming years, allowing investment go straight to the frontline work that needs urgently to be done.
This way will also ensure the best value for money for the public, keep our water resources in public ownership and ensure that the method of paying for water services is socially fair.”