In many areas around the country, double taxation remained in the form of refuse charges. Campaigns throughout the country - most notably in Cork and Drogheda - have continued against these charges. Now double taxation has also returned to the Dublin area, with a £150 refuse charge introduced by Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council and talk among councillors on Dublin Corporation of the introduction of a charge there too. No doubt before long the South Dublin and Fingal County Councils will also attempt the imposition of bin charges.
The overwhelming majority of waste produced in this country is produced by industry, big business and large-scale agriculture while only a small fraction is produced by domestic householders. The refuse charge is an attempt to shift the burden of paying for the waste produced by big business on to the ordinary worker. "It will further punish those who pay most tax and produce least waste instead of taxing those who pay least tax and produce most waste."
Another agenda at play here is the move towards the privatisation of services, which has already happened in several local authority areas. Privatisation leads to a decline in the quality of services, job losses and worsening pay and conditions for workers. When the service was privatised in Bray Co. Wicklow, the contract was awarded to Noble - a company which is known to be a major contributor to Fianna Fail.
Of course these agendas are not purely local. Privatisation of services and the introduction of 'local charges' are features of many so-called "Structural Adjustment Programmes" being forced on developing countries by the World bank and IMF.
Active campaigns have opposed the charges throughout the country, most notably in Cork and Drogheda. A campaign has been established in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown over the past few months and is in the process of building membership throughout the county.
Cork campaigners have been dumping non-collected rubbish outside City Hall, and are currently taking the Council to the High Court in an attempt to force them to collect everyone's rubbish. In Drogheda, with over 90% non payment in some estates, the campaign blockaded the bin lorries - one in an estate and the other in the depot - in late July, refusing to let them go until rubbish was collected.
In Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, the campaign has got off to a good start. There has been a march of 300 people to the Council offices in Dundrum, and over 1,000 people have attended public meetings across the county. Non-payment is very high, with only 23% fully paid up. In building the campaign, the experience gained in fighting the water charges will prove invaluable. The next stage will be to build the membership throughout the different areas and to strongly resist any attempt not to collect the rubbish of non-payers. No doubt the Council will be testing the mettle of the campaign from early Autumn - probably only on some routes at first.
We appeal to any readers in the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown area - or in any other areas where refuse charges exist - to get involved in their local campaigns, or to get in touch with us and we will pass on relevant contact details to you.
Conor Mc Loughlin
(Watson co-ordinator in the Campaign Against Service Charges in Dun Laoghaire)
1 Motion passed at founding conference of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Campaign Against Service Charges, 6/5/00)