Ireland is unlikely to ever get a high quality and environmentally responsible water infrastructure if the Government reverts to funding the service solely from general taxation, according to IMPACT.
In a submission to the Expert Water Commission, which was set up by the Government to look at water charges and investment needs, the union says that other public services – like health and education – will always ‘trump’ water when finite resources are allocated out of general funds.
The submission says the scale of investment currently needed to bring Ireland’s water infrastructure up to scratch is estimated at €5.5 billion between now and 2021. It says this itself is evidence that the old funding approach “is incapable of providing the necessary investment to develop and maintain quality services fit for the 21st century.”
It goes on to say: “There is no evidence that the political system will allocate adequate resources to water through general taxation and, were it to do so, the level of general taxation would have to be higher.”
The paper calls on the Commission to recommend that significant capital resources are allocated, with guaranteed funding streams for a publically-owned water utility and the local authorities directly responsible for water service delivery.
IMPACT also calls on the Commission to address concerns over water privatisation, and says it would support a referendum “to give constitutional protection to the public service status of the State’s water and waste water services.”
The submission highlights the need to maximise income from commercial water users. “This should especially be the case for large commercial water users, particularly those providing non-essential products or services,” it says.
The union says resistance to domestic water charges, which are uncontroversial in other European countries, was caused by factors other than the principle of paying for water or the scale of the relatively-modest charges introduced.
In the absence of guaranteed investment from general taxation, IMPACT says the public could support domestic charges if there was “a generous allowance of free water, based on the essential requirements of individuals and families, but with significant charges for those whose usage goes above this allowance.” It adds that provision should be made to avoid penalising “people or families who are not profligate water users, but whose needs are significantly above average, eg, because of medical conditions.”
IMPACT, which represents over 1,000 water workers, also calls for respect and protection for staff who have been unfairly criticised – and even physically attacked – because of “policy decisions over which they have no direct or indirect control.”
Read the IMPACT submission HERE.