Business plan vision fails to stem Labour enthusiasm for public ownership
Following the water industry’s pledge to boost spending and cut bills through to 2025, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn continued his party’s campaign to bring the sector back into public ownership.
On Friday, he issued the multiple criticisms of: quadrupled shareholder value since privatisation; investment lower than in 1990; household bills up 40%; and 7.5 trillion litres lost to leakage between 2010-17, which the party said was equivalent to the total volume of Loch Ness.
Corbyn said: “Water should be provided for public good, not private profit. Thanks to the failures of privatised water companies, our water infrastructure is crumbling, and people are forced to pay through the nose for services. Under Labour’s plans to bring our water system into public ownership, profits will be reinvested so that households across the UK have better services and lower bills.”
Rebecca Long Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary, added: “These figures show that the current water system is broken. It cannot be right that private companies are ballooning in value while customers pay the price in poor services and rising bills. These companies operate regional monopolies, giving customers no choice in who supplies their water. Labour will replace this dysfunctional system with a network of regional, publicly-owned water companies. Surplus profits will be reinvested in improving vital infrastructure and reducing customer bills.”
Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts responded: “As an industry we’ve invested £150bn since privatisation, which has helped to cut leakage by a third and improve services. Water companies have just announced plans to invest an extra £10 billion a year to improve the water network, cut bills in real terms, and reduce leakage even further - all based on the views of over 5 million customers.
“In making the investment needed by the industry to tackle the big challenges posed by climate change and an increasing population, it’s not clear that government-owned water companies would win the fight for taxpayers’ money every year in competition with health and education.”
Labour is expected to set out more detail of its nationalisation plan at its annual party conference later this month.