Cllr. John Leahy is of the opinion that the government has created a mess out of it’s efforts to implement water charges; ‘When one studies the government’s plans with regard to water charges one can only conclude that they have really landed the Irish people in a right mess. Irish Water is proving itself to be yet again another quango we could do without. It spends millions of euros on consultants and seems in no way answerable to the public. Now we have the government abdicating responsibility with regard to the charges and the regulator is setting charges which will put much of the public at their wits ends. All of this on the back of the fact that in many cases water supplies are not up to scratch. It is simply unbelievable to think how the government has been so hamfisted in it’s approach to the implementation of water charges’. The councillor also believes it is not too late for the government to look at disbanding Irish Water; ‘ This is all very similar to when the government of the day created the HSE. We then had health boards, the department of health and the newly formed HSE at the time. The situation just got worse and worse and the HSE grew more and more out of control whilst at the same time swallowing up vast amounts of money. Irish Water while it wouldn’t be on the same scale is going down the same path. The public is simply fed up of it all. If it is the government’s desire to keep with water charges they maybe better served with leaving it to County Councils. Irish Water is proving itself to be a quango we don’t need. While the government may believe that it would be losing face it would infact be doing the public a great service by disbanding Irish Water before it really begins squandering more and more public money’
Cllr. Leahy went on to question the whole concept of water charges. While he accepts the need for the government to find revenue to see that water is supplied to the public, he believes that the whole water charges method is deeply unfair; ‘On one hand you have the government saying they are looking at reducing income tax and on the other hand you have them taxing people on their family homes and taxing water. It is simply ridiculous. Income tax is the fairest method of collecting money. Begin at the top and tax those who can afford to pay more and then progress down along and collect a little from the smaller earners. This is much fairer than having everyone paying a flat rate. You still collect the money you need but it is done in a fairer manner. This money can then go to pay for water and for community projects.’ said Cllr. Leahy. The councillor believes that the government is opposed to this as it is more interested in protecting those who earn more. He went onto say; ‘One can only reach the conclusion that protecting high earners is at the core of their thinking. They throw out statements like you can’t tax work. This is just silly talk. I am a worker and whether I pay tax in the form of water charges/ household charges or more income tax, it is all the one. The only difference is that household charges/ water tax result in everyone paying at the same rate. The millionaire pays at the same rate as the low paid worker. The instrument of income tax would be a much fairer method of the government getting the money it requires’
The councillor concluded; ‘This government has seemingly revisited the programme of government with the aim of putting an emphasis on fairness at it’s core. All I can say is, they are off to a very bad start with what has been announced with regard to water charges in the past week. There is nothing fair about their approach in this regard. I have relayed my views to likeminded independent colleagues who are TDs. I have no doubt that they will continue to take the government to task on the national stage.For my part I will continue to speak out on behalf of the public within Offaly’.