On a rainy lunchtime on the 13th January, Organise! members and supporters picketed the Alliance Party HQ in South Belfast in protest of their recent statements supporting the immediate introduction of water charges.
While we face a double-tax on water of up to £400 pa, on top of increased rates, the chief executive of NI Water Laurence McKenzie, faces a yearly salary of £250,000.
Over 40,000 homes across Northern Ireland had their water cut off over the festive period. As a result McKenzie faces the possibility of a £ 1/2 million golden handshake. Not a bad result – plus we can guess he wasn’t one of the thousands queuing for water in sub-zero temperatures!
NIW estimate that the cost of fixing the water system and bringing it into line with the rest of the UK is £50m a year over a ten-year period. That’s an estimated total of £500m! But whose pocket will this be coming out of? Logic would dictate that the executives of NIW and the politicians who have presided over the running down of our water service be made to pay for their own failures. But the reality is, as it always is, it’ll be the working class who are punished and made to fork out.
Alliance Party MLA Stephen Farry stated that “continually deferring water charges means even greater cuts in public spending”. Utter balls—the cuts and attacks on working class people were coming with or without water charges—and we know it.
He also stated that since the poor and vulnerable are more dependent on public services, it is somehow ‘unfair’ not to tax them £400 a year for water! “Avoiding water charges means deeper cuts in public services”, he says. No mention of removing the cap on industrial rates, or the cap on rates on properties worth more than £400,000.
This is no oversight – the Alliance Party, along with the rest of Stormont and Westminster, want the working class to pay for their and their cronies’ crises! Not big business or the super-rich, their partners in crime, but the layer of society least able to pay.
United working-class action has forced the deferral of water charges until this point, and we will continue to fight until they are defeated entirely.