Nobody should be surprised by this. Yr Obdt Srvt (that’s me) stated that it would happen on This Site within the last few days.
It’s being reported that the privatised water companies in England have apologised for repeatedly pumping sewage into the country’s waterways and the sea around the British Isles – and have promised £10 billion of investment to modernise the sewer system.
But here’s the small print (courtesy of The Guardian):
Shareholders in water companies will initially fund the investments. However, the costs will be recouped from customers through unspecified increases in their bills determined by regulators, in a move which threatens to add further pressure to household costs.
So water customers are being made to pay extra for emergency work that should have been carried out since privatisation happened, and funded from the bills we have been paying.
The water firms have never done this, despite it being promised to us when they were originally privatised, because it would have interfered with their ability to pump £65 billion to shareholders in the same period of time.
As I write this, I’m watching the BBC’s Politics Live, on which Jo Coburn just said the water firms most recent annual payment to shareholders was £1.4 billion, up from £550 million the year before.
So they’ve nearly tripled the profits they’re paying shareholders while charging us for the investment in improvements that they should be providing from the cash they’re handing out in dividends.
Are you angry yet? If so, you’re still not nearly angry enough.
The panellists on Politics Live were angry, though:
(For completists, the full discussion is here.)
Despite handing out billions in dividends, it seems the water companies are also in debt:
Privatised water companies lined the pockets of shareholders with £65 billion, paid for by hiking bills & debts of £54 billion, polluted our rivers & seas & now want us to thank them for a pathetic £10b which we will pay for. They’re having a laugh. https://t.co/YzIFBLwSc2
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) May 18, 2023
And now they’re pleading poverty as the reason they’re going to take this extra cash from us (you won’t have any say in whether you pay it or not, remember; the water companies in each part of England have a monopoly there):
The head of the privatised water industry trade body pleading poverty as she explains why customers have got to pay for the work to stop them pumping sh*t into our rivers & seas
The private water companies have extracted £57bn in profits since privatisation. Time to nationalise pic.twitter.com/SXzijEpCgw
— Saul Staniforth (@SaulStaniforth) May 18, 2023
Already the government has been forced to defend the demand for you to pay more to get the improvements that British water was privatised in order to provide:
Clive Efford – I'm amazed that we're not having a statement from Therese Coffey… given the announcement by the water companies… issuing an apology for their appalling performance… then they tell us they're going to charge us all £10b to put it right.. pic.twitter.com/BR1fyFYH5a
— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) May 18, 2023
As you can see, Penny Mordaunt’s response was not satisfactory. In fact, in terms appropriate to the issue, it was, itself, sewage.
Labour’s Richard Burgon has the right idea:
Private water companies say they'll spend £10 Billion on tackling sewage spills.
But they've handed £66 BILLION to shareholders since privatisation – all paid for by you.
You'll end up paying for this clean up too.
Enough of this rip-off. Bring water into public ownership!
— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) May 18, 2023
The reason re-nationalisation is the answer is simple: it cuts out the parasites who’ve taken £66 billion that could have been used to modernise the water and sewage infrastructure.
Without those shareholders taking all that money and doing nothing to improve the system, water prices could have been much lower as well (and that was the other promise made to us when Margaret Thatcher’s Tories privatised water).
The whole process of water privatisation has been a massive con that has cost the British people tens of billions of pounds.
Amazingly, despite having had an opportunity to demand an end to it at eight general elections, the electorate has apparently been happy to accept this daylight robbery.
Are you going to accept this latest insult – not just to your finances but to your intelligence?
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