A mother of three is so incensed by the Isle of Man’s new sewerage charge she has pledged to go to prison rather than pay it.
For Steph Humphries, whose oldest child, 17-year-old Aedan, has a muscle-wasting disease and is confined to a wheelchair, the latest cost is a step too far.
‘I’m a full-time carer for Aedan so I can’t work and have to rely on benefits,’ Ms Humphries, who lives in Castletown, said. ‘It’s hard enough to make ends meet on benefits without this new charge being imposed on us as well.
‘I think people like me who cannot work are just forgotten about by the government.
‘The cost of living has gone up and up, and now we are being hit with yet another tax. They can take me to court and send me to prison. It would give me a break and they would have to find a carer for my son.
‘We all understand there have to be cuts made and times are hard but it sticks in the public throat when they can give themselves a pay rise then attack the small person.’
She said decisions such as investing in Pinewood and bailing out the Sefton Group at the same time as squeezing more out of poorer members of society all contributed to a loss of public confidence.
‘I don’t have any support in caring for Aedan – which is a 24-hour job – and carers’ allowance is a pittance so in that sense I am saving the government money,’ she said.
After a debate lasting around three hours Tynwald members last week voted in favour of introducing a £50 sewerage charge for each property connected to the sewerage system. The fee kicks in in April and is expected to rise to £100 a year later.
At the same time as the motion was passed, a petition containing more than 6,300 objectors’ signatures was handed in to the court.
‘There were a lot of people on that petition. It was not a small minority,’ Ms Humphries added.
‘Quite a few of my friends have also said they are not going to pay and I very much doubt we are the only ones. What if everyone refused?
‘It’s like a kick in the teeth to us. I don’t think they have a clue about reality and how people are scraping money together to make ends meet.
‘There is real poverty in the Isle of Man but the politicians just don’t seem to be connected with the people they are supposed to be representing.’
Ms Humphries, 40, lives at Y Vaarney Yiarg and also has two daughters aged 14 and 16, who along with son Aedan all support her stand.
Introducing the Sewerage Charge Order to Tynwald, Water Authority chairman John Houghton described the move as the ‘only practical solution’ to prevent the authority going into deficit as government subsidy was withdrawn. He told fellow politicians he empathised with public concerns about the fairness of the charge.
Chief Minister Allan Bell said he felt politicians were basically in agreement but accepted the measures would need fine tuning in the future.
‘This is a one size fits all approach,’ he said. ‘I’m committed to some form of mitigation when we come to the next round.
‘No-one wants to pay for things they have previously had free of charge but we have to do it.’
Mr Houghton said he was sympathetic adding Ms Humphries or anyone else was welcome to contact him.
He said there would be no criminal sanctions for non-payment and anyone in difficulty should make that known. ‘This is a civil matter and no-one will go to prison,’ he said.