Water charges - helping the wealthy become wealthier

From January 2015, every single household in the country will be expected to pay water charges. The Government indicates that this will raise more than €350 million for the full year. 

Contributing to this massive pot will be low-paid workers, the unemployed, the underemployed, those living in poverty, the disabled and pensioners. 

Also contributing of course will be the very wealthy but they’ll pay the very same for a litre of water as anybody else. So we’re all hit with the same charge. Sound fair? Well it isn’t! 

As you know, we already pay for water through our general taxation system which make is progressive – meaning the wealthiest pay most and the poorest and most vulnerable pay very little. 

There was never any debate about whether we wanted to change that system or not. Instead, our government hid behind the Troika shouting, “They made us do it”, despite the Troika not being prescriptive about how water was to be paid for.

Away from the water charges debate, Minister Michael Noonan (and the employer’s organisations including IBEC) is talking about cutting taxes for the “squeezed middle”. 

The Minister has indicated that his preferred method of putting money into the back-pockets of the “squeezed middle” is by increasing the threshold at which a person pays the high rate of income tax (41%) from €32,800 to about €36,000 for a single person (double that for a couple).

Although, according to the Minister himself, only 17% of workers in Ireland paid the high rate of income tax last year – so by increasing the threshold, we can assume that only the top 17% of earners will benefit from this cut in tax.

Coincidently, the cut in taxes, as proposed by the Minister, is set to cost the exchequer about €450 million – in the same ball park as the total revenue raised by water charges for 2015. 

If you were cynical, you’d think that the implementation of water charges was being used to offset those cuts in taxes that the Minister is harping on about. Surely not?

Surely our Minister wouldn’t be taking money from the low-paid, unemployed, the underemployed, those living in poverty, the disabled and pensioners – only to gift it to the top 17% of earners in the country. 

We know only too well what’s going on here. We expect our Government to redistribute wealth in a fair manner in order to help create a more equal society – which brings enormous benefits to all of us. Instead, what we’re experiencing is a massive redistribution of wealth from the poorest in our society to the wealthiest. That’s not good enough and we’ll remember it come election time.

All supporters are encouraged to attend the Right2Water National Demonstration on Saturday, 11th October 2014. Join the Facebook event here. Please come along and bring your friends, family and colleagues.

Article contributed by Mandate Trade Union.