Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Opponent of water charges to be appointed to board

A leading opponent of water charges is to be appointed to the board of NI Water, the Belfast Telegraph can today reveal.

The move by Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy will be seen as a strong signal of his intention to snub growing calls for water charging.

Mr Murphy's appointment of trade union leader Peter Bunting as one of four new interim NIW directors is expected to be announced today.

Mr Bunting, from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, was at the forefront of plans for a non-payment campaign against water charges planned under direct rule.

He has also publicly warned Assembly ministers that they will face strong opposition if they try to revive the “tap tax” blueprint.

Mr Murphy and his Sinn Fein colleagues continue to voice their opposition to water charges.

But DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has been stressing the costs of continuing deferral, leaving the Executive to find an extra £200m a year on top of whatever public spending cuts are imposed from London.

Mr Murphy will also indicate that the current “governance arrangements” of NI Water are under review. He is believed to favour scrapping its status as a Government-owned company.

That would be another blow against the prospect of water charges and would also be viewed as closing down the option of the company being privatised.

The NIW boardroom vacancies arose due to the sacking of four directors in March, following an investigation into contractual processes. The four new directors being announced today are to fill the posts on an interim basis, until the future of NIW is settled.

Other names expected to be on the list are Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, a media company boss and former Sinn Fein councillor; Lawson McDonald, a retired civil servant; and Kevin Steele, a senior accountancy figure.

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