The final straw

I dropped by The Raccoon Arms yesterday.

I have been a visitor to that hallowed establishment for a long time but I don’t think I have ever commented there.

Yesterday however, Anna turned her attention to the Irish Water business.  The arguments put forward by her readers generally followed the lines that water metering is a good thing as it prevents waste, and that the Irish shouldn’t be complaining about paying for a service they have received for nothing up until now.

On the face of it, that sounds like a reasonable comment but there are quite a few points I would like to make, and rather than clutter up the Raccoon Arms with my musing I thought I would put them here.  After all, if that is Anna’s reader's attitude it is also likely to be the attitude of a lot of others, including non-Raccoonites.

First of all, let’s put to rest this idea that we have been receiving our supplies for free up until now.  This is a common misconception and is a nice little sound bite for those who demand we accept meters.  Up until now our water supplies have been paid for through taxation just as our taxes pay for roads, street lighting and other such “free” services.  If they announced that they were transferring that portion of taxation to water metering, that would be fair enough, but they are not – they are introducing water metering in addition to the taxes which will not be correspondingly reduced.  This is an additional burden on top of the many taxes that we already have to bear.

Another little problem is that this new tax will presumably be classed as a “charge” or “utility bill” and will therefore be subject to taxation and VAT?  So we now have to pay tax and VAT on tax?

I have no problem with the concept of metering to conserve resources.  However we are constantly told about the amount of wastage in the system and by implication that metering will solve this.  It won’t.  The vast majority of leakage and waste is in the system itself long before the water gets to the household.  In some regions leakage through faulty mains runs as high as sixty or seventy percent as a result of decades of neglect and misappropriation of taxation.  Metering domestic supplies will have no effect on this whatsoever.

Then there is the problem with the company itself.  Irish Water has been set up as essentially a private company.  Like the other utility companies it can be sold off at any time by the government.  Yet this company demands that we supply such information as our banking details and out PPS [Social Security?] number which is for revenue purposes only and by law cannot be demanded by a private company.  There is widespread fear that this information can be sold off to the highest bidder, and that if the company were sold, that information would automatically transfer to the new owner.  Incidentally, their computer system failed on the very first day of operation and they have already managed to post over six thousand personal details to the wrong addresses so it’s money well spent?

As an aside, the setup of Irish Water has so far cost somewhere in the region of a billion [yup – a thousand million to set up a company], a fair chunk of which has come out of the National Pension Reserves.  This is before a single cent has been billed from the public.  And already they are planning to give themselves bonuses of up to 15% of their salaries?  Why couldn’t they just have used this money to upgrade a significant part of the water infrastructure?

Water is a unique utility.  There are alternative methods for heating, lighting and cooking but there is no alternative to water.  Anna mentions the prospect of drilling a private well but this is not only very expensive [despite some grants] but is also out of the question for the vast majority of households.

Since the bailout, Ireland has had to endure years of cutbacks, reductions in salaries [and pensions] and general misery.  While the Greeks rioted, the Irish bit their tongues.  Then we are told that as a condition of accepting the bailout we have to introduce water billing.  Yes – the EU demanded it.  Bear in mind that this is on top of a new “house tax” which was introduced last year, running to many hundreds of euros and you may understand why this water charge is seen as the last straw.  We are constantly being told that “Ireland is now on the road to recovery” yet they are intend on burdening us with yet more taxation.

We have had enough.

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The final straw — 9 Comments

  1. Interesting article – but you are totally misrepresenting what I said when you say:

    After all, if that is Anna’s attitude it is also likely to be the attitude of a lot of others, including non-Raccoonites.

    First of all, let’s put to rest this idea that we have been receiving our supplies for free up until now. "

    What I said was: 

    At the moment, water delivery is paid for by taxation – meaning that only those with jobs or businesses are paying for it. Water meters mean that everybody pays for what they use – shades of the Poll Tax and the ill named ‘Bedroom Tax’ here.

    Even the BBC coverage of this charge started off with ‘Tap water in the Republic of Ireland until now has been free’. It has never been ‘free’. Other people were paying for it – it didn’t get into your tap by dint of a leprechaun. Now that organisation so beloved of the left – the EU and the IMF – have insisted that the charge be equally apportioned.

    Now which bit of "It has never been free" led you to the idea that 'Anna's atittude' was that consumers were complaining about a service which had up til then been free? 

    Repeat after me – 'It has never been free' said Anna, 'It has never been free'. 

    Further, there was no implication that metering would reduce the completely solve the problem of leakage – merely that should the leakage be your responsibility, i.e. on your side of the meter – Irish Water were still prepared to pay for the repairs – initially at least. Presumably if it happens again, you will have to pay yourself. 

    Very glad to have you as a reader, but if you are going to link to my blog, do ensure that you are actually quoting me correctly. 

    • Welcome Anna!  My sincere apologies.  What I meant was that it appeared to be your readers' attitude [I have amended the text accordingly].  In my cack-handed way I suppose I was referring to the discussion rather than the post.

      There does seem to be a widespread attitude though that "we pay for our water so why shouldn't the Irish"?  Indeed that is one of the arguments put up by our government – "they pay for it, so you lot can damn well pay for it too".  Countries differ though, and while some may envy our "free water" we may look on in envy at others health systems [for example]. 

      Speaking just from a personal viewpoint, I would be more inclined to pay for a water service if I got any kind of value for money.  As it is, my water supply is virtually undrinkable, as it contains fluoride and chlorine [at times the kitchen smells like a public baths just from running a tap].  If they reduced my pressure, the system would have to go into reverse as pressure is nonexistent.  And to cap it all, we regularly lose water altogether for days at a time in Spring when the filter beds clog up. I am not alone in this, as there are swathes of the country under semi-permanent "boil water" notices due to contaminated supplies.  A proper investment plan to upgrade the system would be more in order than just burdening us with more taxation and wasting our money on setting up companies?

  2. "Anna mentions the prospect of drilling a private well but this is not only very expensive [despite some grants] but is also out of the question for the vast majority of households."

    I can remember many years ago reading of a Pub Owner (on the Yorkshire Moors?) who had his own water supply.   The Waterboard sent him a 'stiff' letter stating that they owned all the water and he must pay the water charge.

    His response was that when the Pub was flooded in winter – a regular occurrence – he would send them the bill for cleaning up the mess.

  3. Isn't it amazing that Oxfam only need £2 a month to supply water to an African Village, yet Scottish water charge me £200 a year to supply my house!

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