A LOCAL Sinn Féin councillor is calling on the government to reverse its decision to remove water services from local authority, as he fears privatisation will be an “unmitigated disaster” which will remove ownership of services from ordinary tax payers and place it in the hands of the “old boys” network.
At the recent meeting of Portlaoise Town Council, Cllr Alan Hand proposed a motion to call on the government not to proceed with the Water Services Bill 2013. He said that the bill removes water services from democratic accountability as a function of local government and, ultimately, from public control through the process of privatisation.
Cllr Hand pointed out that Bord Gáis will be the company charged with this, which he said could be disastrous.
“There’s a recruitment embargo across the board, yet the government have given sweeping powers to Bord Gáis,” he said, adding that it was worrying how much information on people the company was being permitted to hold.
“It’s privatisation, in the UK in the 80s they privatised industries and we saw deterioration. This will be an absolute, unmitigated disaster,” he told the meeting.
The councillor went on to say that the government will probably go ahead with the privatisation, and he suggested the council write a letter to the minister asking that places on the board of management be filled by way of open competition, instead of the usual “old boys” network.
Cllr Matthew Keegan asked the Sinn Féin councillor, if the bill is passed would he encourage people to pay the household charge.
“A set charge cross the board is not going to work,” replied Cllr Hand. “If it’s based on an ability to pay I would support it.”
His party colleague, Cllr Caroline Dwane added her support to Cllr Hand’s motion and said that people have ownership of services when under local authority.
Cllr Kathleen O’Brien said that under the new system things would not be the same and she remarked it was a sad day for local government.
Town clerk, Pamela Tynan informed the meeting that the minister had acknowledged receipt of Cllr Hand’s initial motion and they were now awaiting a response.