Water companies are showing us why they should be re-nationalised

Water companies are showing us why they should be re-nationalised

The UK’s privatised water companies are showing us why they should be re-nationalised, by complaining about regulator Ofwat’s demand that price increases should be restricted to £19 per year.

That’s £95 over five years. Water companies had called for £144 over that period, saying Ofwat’s figure won’t be enough to address problems including sewage leaks.

But this is a nonsense attempt to cover up for 35 years of asset-stripping and no investment.

Water companies are among the worst offenders in what might be described as the privatisation trap: water is a public service that must be provided to everybody – it’s a human right. This means the government must ensure that it continues to be available, no matter what the privatised companies do.

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And what they’ve been doing is taking billions of pounds of bill-payers’ money and farming it out to their shareholders, rather than using it to invest in improving the Victorian water and sewage system first.

This is a betrayal of the promises on which water was originally privatised in the 1980s; we were told that private investment would lead to a modernised water system – leak-free and unpolluted.

We were also told that our bills would be cheaper and the privatised firms’ latest demand puts the lie to that.

And the simple fact is that we have no reason to believe the privatised firms’ claims that they will use the money from increased bills on infrastructure improvements. They’re far more likely to increase their shareholder dividends instead.

The saddest part of this is the fact that the government point-blank refuses to entertain any re-nationalisation hopes.

That might be expected from a Conservative administration – Tories are the arch-privatisers, after all – but Keir Starmer’s Labour Party won’t do it either.

And this is insane. Think about the costs of borrowing to invest in improvements: This Writer has heard reports that borrowing as private companies will cost the water firms two-and-a-half times as much as if they were nationalised and borrowing under public sector conditions.

And there’s no guarantee that that money won’t go into the pockets of fatcat shareholders either. If these firms were re-nationalised, it would actually pay for improvements.

So much for Keir Starmer’s “Change”. It’s business as usual for the privatised firms – a grossly substandard service; rivers, lakes and other waterways clogged with poisonous human waste; and super-rich shareholders laughing all the way to the (offshore?) bank.

And how is this promoting economic growth?

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