Water, water, everywhere…

… and a storm in a teacup because of it.

First off: I’ll explain the problem for those of you who aren’t blessed with living in these parts. Unlike in the rest of the UK, Norn Iron has a publically owned Water Service, who received their funding from general taxation, instead of private firms earning their revenue from customers.

Obviously, this is not a fashionable arrangement. So, uk.gov has decided that they should spin off the Water Service, first off into a government-owned and -run company, then into something a bit more independant. And they’ve decided to stick a water charge onto the population to pay for said thing.

Now, here’s where the problems start. First off, all workers for the Water Service will stop being civil servants, and become employees. Which is a) a culture shock and b) generally bad for employee retention and benefits. Secondly, it looks like the population will have to pay for something that was previously free.

First problem: obviously, the transision must be very carefully handled, and the employees must be dealt with fairly. But I’m no expert on a) employee relations or b) how that part of privatisation works, so I’m not going to deal with it. That’s the job of the genius that came up with the plan.

Second problem: people will now have to pay for a service that was free. Except, as we all know, nothing is free. We all pay for it in the long run. And I, for one, would much rather that I paid directly for a service than it disappeared into the pool of general taxation. So, provided there is a corresponding shift in where the money goes (ie, don’t take it from people twice), I don’t mind paying a water charge.

But there is a third problem. And it is probably one that others won’t mind as much. It’s this bit:

Social Development Minister John Spellar insisted a plan to base the water charges on the value of property was the fairest method of assessment.

During the debate on Wednesday, Mr Spellar said metering would benefit the wealthy.

Better-off households would effectively receive a subsidy from the less well off because 80% of the cost of water services stemmed from delivery of the service rather than the actual amount of water used, he said.

How in the name of fuck is that the case? Should those well off pay more for a loaf of bread? How about we stop anyone earning over ?13k from buying Tesco Value; they obviously don’t need it, so the poor are subsidising their usage.

Pay for what you use, and set a price that reflects the cost of production. How is that difficult to comprehend? None of this basing it on the value of houses. That makes it a property tax, not a water charge. Some honesty, people.

(Even better, allow competition, and allow the market to set the price, but that’s many, many years off)

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