Denial… is all about water (charges). April 25, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
There’s a fascinating piece in the Sunday Business Post by Niamh Connolly which lays bare the thinking about water charges by some in the Labour Party, and it perhaps illustrates a gulf between their conception of reality and actual reality. Connolly notes that:
Labour TDs have reacted angrily to the handling of the water charges issue last week and will call on minister Pat Rabbitte to ensure that those unable to pay will not have their water turned off.
Labour deputies privately believe that Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan should have worked out a better strategy for communicating information about the new water charges regime.
But this seems to me to be an error on their part. It’s a shoot the messenger approach writ large. Of course Hogan misplayed this, but it’s not the misplaying that drives public antagonism to the charges as much as the charges themselves.
Note how one LP TD is quoted:
“Instead, the country went into convulsions at reports of a Ђ300 upfront charge that was in reality a Ђ40 charge for a meter that would not be paid for until late 2014,” said Whelan.
But it’s not just €40. Even if one uses the word ‘just’ in that context. Given that the same paper notes in the same edition that one calculation of water charges sees them at €500 per annum, and this is added to property charges that will equal or surpass that according to other sober calculations then this isn’t just miscommunication but a much deeper dynamic.
No wonder as Connolly notes: The problem is that the campaign on the EU treaty on the doorsteps could now become fixated on the household charge, property tax and water charges.
As Emma Kennedy in the same newspaper notes:
Irish families look set to face even more financial pressure in the coming years, with a property tax and water charges on the horizon. Anger is mounting, with protesters saying that the charges are unfair and an undue burden on those who are already struggling.
A report published by the ESRI last week suggested that the impact of a property tax on low-income groups could be cushioned by the use of an income exemption limit, below which the tax would not be payable. According to figures cited in the report, a property tax based on homeowners paying €2.50 for every €1,000 of house value would raise about Ђ500 million for the state’s coffers.
Another paper published by the same ESRI researchers two years ago calculated that, to raise Ђ1 billion for the exchequer each year, the average household would pay about Ђ950 per annum in property tax.
In other words these are significant figures being bandied about. And the flat component of water charging understandably exercises ire. Cliff Taylor itemises the total as;
… going to approach €1,000 a year and for a significant minority it will be a good deal higher.
But there’s more.
Labour has claimed political credit for its creation of a semi-state public utility rather than a standalone quango that could be privatised – a model that was favoured by some in Hogan’s department.
“We are looking at the next generation of semi-state jobs and Labour is of the view that this is a huge result. We’ve prevented Irish Water from being privatised even though elements wanted it to go in that direction,” Whelan said.
Except, except as the SBP also noted in this most recent edition and the previous one…
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment has contradicted comments made by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, who last week denied reports that the establishment of Irish Water could lead to job losses. The department has confirmed that “it may be that, in time, the numbers employed in the sector will be lower than those employed today.”
More than 3,600 local authority staff went to work in the country’s 34 city and county councils last Wednesday with new uncertainty looming over their employment.
The hundreds of engineers, hydrologists, administration staff, caretakers and general operatives working to deliver water to Ireland’s domestic and commercial water consumers cannot be certain that their jobs will remain beyond the next five years.
Is that a good news story? How is that ‘played’ for maximum benefit?
In tandem with the poll in the Irish Times that sees a clear majority, near enough 3 in 4 of respondents, in favour of income taxes over consumption charges one would think that social democrats might shift away from the current position they’ve adopted. One would think.