Sunday, 17 January 2010

Press Release: Looney: Burst Pipes Should Not Be Stalking Horse For Water Charges & Privatisation

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has said that the recent disruption to water supplies should not be used as an excuse to introduce water charges or the privatisation of water services. Looney was commenting as local residents entered their second week of disrupted supplies, with residents Dublin 12, 6w and 24 suffering lengthy disruptions due to burst pipes on top of reduced pressure and the turning off of water during off-peak times.

Looney is leading the campaign on the Council against the implementation of domestic water charges which he says will be a double tax on working people. His motion to the Council in November, opposing water charges and favouring conservation measures, won support from all parties on the Council with the exception of Fianna Fáil. Now the Tallaght Central Councillor has said that arguments for water charges being advanced during the current water crisis are “opportunistic and cynical.”

“The problems sustained across the Dublin region as a result of burst water pipes and the ensuing problems with pressure and difficulty sustaining reservoir levels have led to considerable difficulties for local people,” said Looney.

“As a result I have had an unprecedented amount of calls, emails and other contacts from residents in my local electoral area – particularly the communities of Fernhill (Manor Estate), Cherryfield (Walkinstown) and Greenhills in Dublin 12, and parts of Dublin 6w. Local people were particularly concerned with the lack of information provided and the failure of the Council to deal with direct phone calls to the main switchboard in Tallaght or the emergency number in Deansrath in the early part of last week. Therefore, throughout last week I endeavoured to keep people informed of the updated status of water supplies and burst pipes through Facebook and Twitter, as well as more conventional methods – with an excellent response.”

“Having spoken to senior engineers I am aware that it may be a matter of weeks if not months before water supplies are restored to normal levels. Local people are entitled in the short-term to more accurate information on pressure reduction and pipe repairs, as well as to solutions in the medium- and long-term. Although South Dublin has a better record of water retention than other local authorities, we still lose a fifth of our water supply through leaking pipes and are badly affected by neighbouring counties with whom we share the water network who lose more. If we are serious about water conservation, the Government should enable a major scheme of pipe and network repair across the country, giving a boost to jobs as well as ultimately saving money.”

“But we should beware of those who seek to exploit the current water problems as a means to introduce a regressive water tax which would hit working people, the unemployed and those at the margins of society the hardest. Fianna Fáil and the Greens have already made it clear that they want to hit people who already pay for water through general taxation with an additional water charge. Such a departure will be viewed as a tasty opportunity for profit by large multinationals who will lick their lips at the drip-drip to water privatisation. The experience both in Ireland, in terms of waste charges, and abroad in general, is of taxes first, followed by privatisation, followed by worsening services and asset-stripping.”

"In spite of support for water charges from conservative parties, commentators and interest groups, I will continue to lead the opposition to water charges and privatisation in our communities and in the Council Chamber in the months ahead.”