Northern Ireland: ‘Top union urges water tax boycott’

Non-payment ’only way’ to beat charges

The following article appeared on the front page of the ‘Belfast Telegraph’, the most read daily paper in Northern Ireland

‘Top union urges water tax boycott’

The "tap tax" battle reached a new level today, after Northern Ireland’s largest trade union backed plans for a massive non- payment campaign across the province.

The decision by the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance boosts the prospects of a large-scale boycott of household water charges, which are due to be imposed next year.

But the Department for Regional Development (DRD) has warned that non-payment will adversely affect paying households and budgets for other public services.

Nipsa delegates adopted the confrontational policy at their conference in Newcastle yesterday – against the recommendations of the union’s leadership.

The successful resolution, backed by left-wing activists in the union, said a mass campaign of non-payment was the "only way" to defeat water charges.

The significance of the vote was today hailed by the We Won’t Pay Campaign, which is lobbying hard for a boycott of tap tax by households.

Spokesman Jim Barbour said: "The We Won’t Pay Campaign has been getting a huge response in the communities for our clear message that mass non- payment is the way to stop water charges.

"We already pay for water in our rates and there is no way we can be expected to pay for it twice.

"The fact that Nipsa, the largest trade union in Northern Ireland, has come on board is a major boost for the non-payment campaign.

"The New Labour Ministers should take note of the growing support for the We Won’t Pay campaign and bow to the wishes of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland by scrapping this charge."

The first water bills are expected to land on doormats around the province from the end of next year.

According to Government estimates, the charges will rise to an estimated level of between £315 and £415 by 2008.

A spokesman for the DRD, which is spearheading the tap tax blueprint, today said: "Water charges are required to enable the people of Northern Ireland to enjoy the benefits of sustained investment in water and sewerage services.

"Water reform will also reduce pressures on the Budget of the Northern Ireland Departments and allow resources to be allocated to other public services including health, education and transportation.

"A non-payment campaign would result in two possible consequences: firstly it would pass costs on to other charge payers; secondly it could deprive other public services of much needed resources."

Yesterday’s Nipsa conference session heard an impassioned call for a return of devolution in Northern Ireland.

The union’s general secretary John Corey told delegates: "All Northern Ireland’s MPs were elected last month on manifestos opposed to water charges.

"Yet a direct rule Minister wholly unaccountable to the electorate in Northern Ireland will spend the next year seeking to impose water charges on every household.

"It makes a nonsense of democratic accountability.

"We can only watch with envy as the devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales develop and progress their public services to suit the needs of Scotland and Wales."

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June 2005