this poem is rededicated to the protesters in Jobstown, Sligo and elsewhere
On this day of tear-gas in Seoul
and windows broken at Dickins & Jones,
I can’t help wondering why a history
of those, who made their point politely
and then went home, has never been written.
Those who, in the heat of the moment,
never dislodged a policeman’s helmet,
never blocked the traffic or held the country to ransom.
Someone should ask them: “Was it all worth it?”
All those proud men and women, who never
had the National Guard sent in against them;
who left everything exactly as they found it,
without adding as much as a scratch to the paintwork;
who no-one bothered asking: “Are you or have you ever been?”,
because we all knew damn well they never ever were.
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Let’s recap. The Government has been forced to:
- Stop Irish Water’s access to PPS numbers
- Provide certainty to household payments
- Reverse the sanction of reducing water flow to a trickle for non-payers
- Provide new statutory guarantees to keep water service under public control
- Scrap the system of social protection subsidies and tax breaks which would still leave hundreds of thousands of people in work without financial support
- Delay the introduction of bills
- Increase the cap from nine months to at least four years
- Make the roll-out of water meters redundant in the medium-term
- Introduce new governance measures (probably when the Evira/Irish Water boards are reviewed in a few months’ time)
The Government has u-turned so much it doesn’t know which direction it is going (if there are other u-turns and cul-de-sacs please let me know).
And now the Government looks to u-turn itself back into re-introducing the household charge – that pathetic, fiscally useless, regressive tax.
It appears the Government will introduce a two-tier charge on all households connected to the public mains (approximately 80 percent of all households). A charge for a one-person household will be capped at €176 per year; for a household with two or more adults will be capped at €276 per year. All households can avail of a Department of Social Protection rebate of €100.
Let’s be clear about this: this is a household charge (or a home tax if your will – since it won’t be confined to property-owners; it will apply to tenants as well). This is no different to the household charge except that the charge is higher and differentiated by the number of adults in the household.
This has nothing to do with water, except that you just happen to use water. The water allowances will remain in place. But for all practical purposes the cap will be the effective charge.
The goal of conservation has been undermined. A household that conserves water will be, for all practical purposes, charged the same as a household that leaves their en-suite Jacuzzi on all night. Theoretically, one could reduce their charge through conservation – but any reduction would amount to only a few cents per week, such is the impact of the cap. The incentive is small to the point of near non-existent. And this looks likely to remain in place until at least 2018 and maybe longer.
It is worth noting that the cap will act like a flat or fixed charge. Prior to the local election the Labour Party made much play of the fact that they stopped the imposition of a fixed charge for water. Now the Government has u-turned itself into just that – a fixed charge.
And the flat or fixed charge will be regressive. We can see the trajectory of the cap as it impacts on household income. This uses the data from the Household Budget Survey 2010. The magnitude might be slightly different today but the distributional impact will be pretty much the same.
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