I welcome the proposed suspension of water charges in this Bill. It is clear that the people are not going to accept water charges. They have shown this through the major demonstrations on the streets to oppose this unfair tax. The recent figures from Irish Water show a significant drop in the number of people paying water bills. This number will grow as people realise that these charges will eventually have to be scrapped, irrespective of the findings of the expert commission.
The majority of Deputies returned at the last general election were against the imposition of water charges and were for the abolition of Irish Water. I believe that a vote by democratically-elected representatives would be the best way to solve this issue. We need to find a way to use our current funds to make up for the under-investment by previous Governments. Let us look for opportunities to reduce waste throughout public services. Let us reduce our reliance on outside consultants and agencies and let us provide a water service that our citizens deserve. It is of the utmost importance that a referendum is held to ensure that water remains in public ownership.
I live in inner city Dublin in the Liberties. People stop me on the street. One of their fears is that even though the cost of water may be only €3 per week, the reality is that people have to pay for extras and it is all too much. The cost of going back to school is extraordinary, including books, uniforms, etc. There is widespread fear of the company going into privatisation. It can be rather daunting to have extra payments on top of everything else.
We charged for water in the past through central taxation. In charging for water we have a duty to deliver it for the people. I hope the water commission will find alternatives for us to the current regime, but I look forward to the day when we have a vote on water charges. I said it last week and I will say it again: I will be standing with the thousands of families throughout the country. I will be opposing extra water charges. It is awful for people who cannot afford it. In this context I am supporting the Water Services (Amendment) Bill.