There’s a line in one of the Horatio Hornblower books in which the Admiral of the Fleet tells the young hero it’s every officer’s duty to leave the navy in better condition than when he found it.
That’s a good philosophy for any organisation.
What a shame the Conservatives don’t have the same philosophy – about anything at all.
In particular, we see their actual philosophy – “sell it off and ruin it” – in action in the UK’s water industry, which was privatised by the Thatcher government in 1989.
A new report by Parliament’s public accounts committee states that privatisation has been such an catastrophe that there is a serious risk that parts of England will run out of water altogether within the next 20 years.
The report says that “ponderous” water companies – 70 per cent of which are now owned by foreign businesses – have made “no progress” in reducing leakage meaning that more than three billion litres of water leaks out of the system every single day.
That’s one-fifth of the UK’s daily supply!
The committee says the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has failed to provide enough leadership in telling the private companies how to balance investment in infrastructure and reducing customer bills, but This Writer thinks that is nonsense.
The private companies are neither investing in infrastructure nor cutting costs – they are literally draining us dry.
We pay too much for the water we get and the lack of investment in the UK system by its foreign owners means soon we won’t even get it!
This is a problem entirely created by the Conservatives with their ridiculous lie that private firms are more efficient, more economical, and cost the consumer less. They aren’t, they aren’t and they don’t.
And by letting these firms fall into the hands of foreign business people, it seems our money is being invested into the systems in their own countries, rather than in ours. It’s certainly boosting the treasuries of the countries where these firms are based in tax – rather than our own.
This is an English problem.
Scotland receives its supply from the publicly-owned company Scottish Water, which is the most trusted public utility in the UK. It constantly invests in its system, keeps customers happy – and paying less, and is even reducing its carbon footprint.
In Wales, three million people get their supply from the not-for-profit firm Glas Cymru/Welsh Water which, according to surveys, has sector-leading levels of customer satisfaction.
Customers in Northern Ireland do not pay water charges to their publicly-owned water supplier, Northern Ireland Water.
England is less lucky.
Northumbrian Water is owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.
Southern Water is owned by a consortium called Greensands Holdings Limited, comprising JP Morgan Asset Management (40%), UBS Asset Management (22%), Hermes Infrastructure Funds (21%) and Whitehelm Capital (8%).
Wessex Water is owned by a Malaysian firm, YTL Corporation.
Affinity Water is part-owned by US firm Morgan Stanley.
Bristol Water is part-owned by Japanese Itochu corporation.
South East Water is part-owned by Utilities Trust of Australia.
And Sutton and East Surrey Water is owned by the Japanese Sumitomo Corporation.
Other water firms are still UK-based – and some are only part foreign-owned.
Across the board, bills have increased by 40 per cent on average. Considering the efforts made by the publicly-owned/not-for-profit firms, it’s likely that some English customers have suffered much higher hikes.
Shareholders have received at least £56 billion since privatisation in 1989.
Six water companies have been found to be avoiding millions in tax.
Water makes big money.
But you can see that most of it has been going abroad.
It certainly hasn’t been used to plug any leaks!
The message is clear: public ownership is cheaper, more efficient, and guarantees that customers’ taps won’t run dry.
It seems the private shareholders are swimming in cash while ensuring that, in a very short time, you die of thirst.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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