02/09/2003

Anti-water charges campaign launched

A campaign aimed at stopping the Government from introducing water charges in Northern Ireland has been launched.

The Coalition Against Water Charges launched their campaign against such charges on the basis that the provision of hygienic water is a fundamental human right; water charges are a double taxation; and water charges will contribute further to an inequitable society.

Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said: "The debate surrounding the imposition of water charges has been rooted in disingenuous spin emanating from government sources. Householders in Belfast and the remainder of Northern Ireland have been paying for water within their domestic rate charges.

"The claim that the European Water Framework Directive (Article 9) decrees that water charges must be introduced is incorrect. The imposition of water charges will lead to increased levels of poverty for those unable to pay and line the pockets of those charged with provision of water to our community.'

In May the Government announced its plans to introduce water charges to Northern Ireland.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Angela Smith claimed water charges would enable the Government to invest over £300 million more in public services every year.

However, a delegation from the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU), which later met Prime Minister Tony Blair to argue their case against water charges in the province, argued that such measures could result in a loss of a many as 600 jobs if current proposals are introduced.

Coalition Against Water Charges comprises of the Northern Ireland Committee - Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network; Communities Against Water Tax; and Water Services Trade Union Group sewerage services.

(MB)

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