Today at a press conference of Councillors involved in the Campaign Against Household & Water Taxes in Buswells Hotel, Dublin, chaired by Cllr Huey Lewis, the following comments were made:
Cllr Declan Bree, member of Sligo Borough and County Council:
“Councillors involved in the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes are calling on the public to Vote No to the Austerity Treaty because it is clear to us that the Treaty will demand savage austerity measures in the form of over €6 billion extra taxes and cutbacks. This will inevitably mean a massive hike in home and water taxes and further cuts in local services.
When the Fine Gael/Labour coalition took office, commitments were made about significant reform of local government to make it more democratic and more effective in responding to local needs. We were told the position of County Manger would be abolished and replaced with a Chief Executive, with a limited range of executive functions. However, all that has been delivered is austerity and cutbacks along with threats to abolish rather than empower.
Significant funding normally provided to finance local government is now being re-directed by the government to pay off private debts of speculators and bankers. Money which should be invested in local services, in road networks, in water and waste water infrastructure, in libraries, in sports facilities, in health and education services, is servicing private debt that local councils were not responsible for.
The government tries to justify the new Household and Water charges by stating that ‘we have to pay for local services’. But we already pay for local services through central taxation, motor taxation, items like planning fees, commercial rates etc. At Budget meetings of local authorities council officials clearly stated that the new Tax would not provide additional funds for councils. Managers are warning of further severe cuts in local services. The fact is the charges are part of an austerity strategy to make the mass of the population pay for the economic crisis – and we are saying to people that the Fiscal Treaty, if passed, will institutionalise austerity. Today, in accordance with the EU/IMF programme, every local council in the country is compelled to submit quarterly reports in a format prescribed by the Troika.
On Referendum Day people will be asked to endorse the Troika’s and Government’s austerity measures, including cuts in local services, cuts in health and education, growing unemployment, bank bailouts and extra taxes in the form of household and water charges. The ‘Fiscal Treaty’ is a banker’s treaty and the ordinary people of this State can make a resounding statement by rejecting the bank bailout and rejecting austerity by voting ‘No’ on the 31st May.
Cllr Louise Minihan, Dublin City Council:
This is an Austerity Treaty and years of Austerity Budgets have already seen essential public services and vital community and voluntary projects that are the backbone of many communities come under sustained attack. Funding cutbacks have had a devastating effect on such services, from youth to drugs projects, community childcare to CE schemes. In my own community in Ballyfermot, essential local services have had their funding slashed, for example the BCFE crèche essential for the education of many student parents, will be forced to close its doors in July.
Article 3 of the Treaty requires countries to reduce their ‘strucural deficits’ to 0.5%; Article 4 forces countries to pay back debts , that is the bondholders , at an even faster rate. Local councils will be starved of funds and forced to cut services. They will be under pressure to get costs off their books. They will have to offload services they currently provide and to reduce staff numbers. We have seen the disaster nationwide and in Dublin City of the selling off of the refuse collection, where ordinary householders are left to the mercy of private operators like Greyhound to charge whatever they like.
The same is planned for water, a core service provided by local authorities for years. The same European bureaucrats who are behind the Treaty have directed that water provision must be taken away from local authorities and charged for, so the Irish government have set up Irish Water, a centralised company. This would be a social disaster with private companies profiteering from a resource that was previously provided by councils. Irish people have a chance to shout stop to this trend by voting No on the Treaty.
Cllr Matt Waine, Fingal County Council:
Local councils had their funding slashed by this government when €170 million was withdrawn last year. This Treaty will lead to more cuts and offloading of services. But the passing of this Treaty would also no doubt be used by politicians as a justification for cuts. If communities protest, the parties behind the Treaty will shrug their shoulders and say ‘it’s the law’. They frequently cite EU law already as justification for property and water charges, for example.
As Councillors who have opposed the Household Tax, we appeal to the one million households who refused to be bullied by the government on the Household Tax not to be bullied on the Treaty. If those two million people voted against the Treaty, it would be defeated. We would also point out that the government intends to crack down on non- payers of the home taxes and to bring in water metering in the Autumn. A defeat on this Treaty would undermine them in that and would remove any mandate they claim for austerity taxes.