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Water Charge FAQ - your questions answered
This water charge FAQ from the WSM answers your questions about the water charge and the growing resistance to it. If there is a question you want to ask that is not here or if you think one of the answers could be improved contact us via https://twitter.com/wsmireland or https://www.facebook.com/WorkersSolidarityMovement with your suggestions.
Who is liable for the Water Charge?
How will Irish Water know who to charge?
Does the landlord or tenant have to pay the water charge?
My landlord is increasing my rent in anticipation of the water charges, can they do this and what should I do about it?
How much is the Water Charge?
What should I do with the Registration form?
Will returning the registration packet with ‘No Contract, No Consent’ give me legal protection?
What happens if I don’t return the Irish Water registration form, or return it blank?
When do the first bills arrive?
What are the penalties for not paying?
I’m self-employed. Are there any implications for getting tax clearance cert?
Can I defer payment?
Is it a criminal offence to boycott the registration of the water charge?
I have sent in (or intend to send in) my registration form, can I still participate in the non-payment campaign?
Where does Denis O’Brien fit into all this?
Why oppose the water charge
Why shouldn’t water be a commodity?
Isn’t the water charge a conservation measure?
And even if large swathes of people begin conserving water in order to save on the charges, Irish Water will simply have to increase their prices, since they will need to cover all their expenses and make a profit. The actual amount of water that’s used isn’t a particularly large factor in the cost of water provision: maintenance, repair, treatment and running costs form the bulk of costs.
A public education programme about the need for water conservation would have a much greater impact on water usage than the imposition of meters and charges.
Why, then, is the charge being imposed?
Household Charge, Property Tax, Universal Social Charge, Pay Cuts, Welfare Cuts, Cuts in Social Services… the list of austerity cuts and extra taxes is almost endless. These are all imposed on us in order to pay off the gambling debts of bankers and financial gamblers. The water charge is another that they hope to add to the list.
The other principal motivating factor behind the imposition of the charge is to line the water service up for privatisation (see below). The government have said that they have established Irish Water as a semi-state company so that it can borrow money on the financial markets in order to upgrade the pipe network. What will most likely happen if they get their way is that when the programme of upgrade is finished (and paid for by us) the company will then be sold, which will ultimately result in our water service being owned by multinational companies who will make exorbitant profits while we pay increased charges.
Will Irish Water be privatised?
Indeed EU competition laws will probably dictate that once the charge is established the provision of water will have to be opened up to ‘competition’.
What’s wrong with privatisation?
How will the water charge be defeated?
When the bills arrive in January, and people are deciding whether or not to pay, they will make that decision based on what they think everyone else is doing. So between now and then we need to create a momentum of opposition to the charge that will give people the confidence to make the decision not to pay.
Remember, if someone is making a decision not to pay on their own, that’s a very scary thing to do. If they’re making it in conjunction with their family members, neighbours and workmates it’s a lot less scary. And if they’re making it in the context of knowing that there is massive opposition and that hundreds of thousands of others are making the same decision, that gives a huge sense of confidence.
And if there are hundreds of thousands of households not paying that gives us huge power, and will force the government into a re-think.
Can my water be disconnected if I don’t pay?
The work done in building the campaign locally in the coming months will ensure that threats to reduce water to a trickle can be faced down.
It is of course possible that they could change the law to allow disconnections. Again though, if we have a strong campaign involving hundreds of thousands of households, will the government want to attempt to take us on?
Will they stop the charge from my wages or Social Welfare?
But remember that the primary motivation for introducing the water charge is to make the service ready for privatisation. To do this they want it to have an independent ‘revenue-generating’ stream. So having the Revenue Commissioners collecting it will not suit their purpose.
Again, though, they could of course change the law. Whether they will do so or not depends on two things - the strength of the boycott ie how many hundreds of thousands of households are refusing to pay and the strength of the protests - how many people are getting out on the streets and showing their opposition.
Could I be taken to court for not paying?
This worked very successfully during the campaign against water charges in the 90s. When non-payers were taken to court (only a tiny percentage ever were), hundreds of their neighbours and supporters turned up to support them. The campaign legal team challenged all aspects of the cases in the courts. Campaigners knew that even if they were successful in the courts the government could change the law but used legal challenges to delay and frustrate the councils’ attempts to get court orders.
This can be done again. The key thing is having huge numbers of non-payers. The court system is already over-stretched so it would be impossible to take legal proceedings against hundreds of thousands of people. And any court cases can become a rallying point around which we galvanise huge protests. the government will be aware of this too and so will be reluctant to take court cases.
Should I just vote for Sinn Féin or other anti-water charge candidates to abolish the water charge?
Even from the perspective of a party which is opposed to the charges and says that it will be a red line issue in terms of negotiating a programme for government after the next election - surely it would greatly strengthen their hand in those negotiations if there are hundreds of thousands of people not paying. If, on the other hand, we have paid the charges - even if we have done so under protest - they will be an established fact and the chance that their abolition can be negotiated will be practically nil.
Should we be concentrating on preventing the installation of meters?
In any community where people can organise themselves to hold similar protests, we would greatly encourage it. It shows the government that there is opposition and it gives people the confidence to organise together and get a sense of our power.
What if we can’t stop them installing all the meters?
Surely if we get enough people into the streets the government will have to abolish the water charge?
So yes we need large protests. But we need to remember that the government can ignore protests if all we do is protest, Protests should be seen as a necessary part of building people’s confidence and thus making a mass boycott possible.
What can I do to stop the water charge?
Remember the charges cannot be defeated by political parties, trade unions or community organisations - although all have an important part to play. They will only be beaten by the active involvement of tens of thousands of ordinary people - people just like you. If each one of us plays our part we can build an unbeatable campaign.
Can we defeat the water charge through the courts?
Is it true, as some groups have suggested, that there can be no legal charge in the absence of a contract between the user and Irish Water?
What the Irish Water Service Act 2013 does, among other things, is transfer the ownership of the national water infrastructure to Irish Water, and grant them both a statutory right and duty to levy and collect charges from “consumers”. This means that, legally, you do not have to consent to the charges; they are being imposed upon you. In real terms this means that returning the Irish Water application packs with “no consent, no contract” or burning them, does not alter the legal position; you are still liable for the charges.
Also the courts have stated that artificial legal entities/legal persons (Irish Water) must also be protected by the laws of the State against unjust attacks on their property rights as corporations are viewed by the courts as legal persons with certain rights. In the hierarchy of rights it is likely that the courts will favour property rights.
In McKenna v an Taoiseach, the courts held that ''Not every grievance can be remedied by the courts…judges must not…be led…into areas calling for adjudication on political and non-justiciable issues.” “The plaintiff’s complaint…is a complaint of political misconduct on which this court can express no view.”, meaning the courts cannot interfere with the workings of the allocation of resources, or what is in effect taxation by the government.
It is highly unlikely (or even impossible) that the courts will rule against the government. A pertinent example of this was the Blake v the Attorney General (1981) case, where the Rent Restrictions Acts (1946-67) were struck down as violating landlords' property rights. Here we saw a small group (landlords) dictating the law through the court/constitution to the government.
Should we be asking others not to pay, considering the risk?
What can we do to lower the risk of non-payment?
This water charge FAQ answers some of your questions about the water charge and the growing resistance to it. If there is a question you want to ask that is not here or if you think one of the answers could be improved contact us via https://twitter.com/wsmireland or https://www...;with your suggestions.
Want to help convince your neighboors that organisation and non-payment are the way to defeat the water charge? http://www.wsm.ie/wsm-water-charges-leaflet-2014