Labour pledges democratic ownership will hit water first

At its conference last week, the Labour Party confirmed water would be the first sector to be returned to public ownership should it win the next election, and published two papers fleshing out some detail.

Clear water – Labour’s vision for a modern and transparent publicly owned water system – earmarked Regional Water Authorities whose boards will be made up of local councillors, three trade union representatives, and one representative each of the community, the consumer and the environment. Ofwat’s regulatory responsibility will be absorbed into DEFRA and a new public regulatory system formed under the banner of a National Water Agency responsible for economic and performance standards and capacity-building.

Labour pledged all water company staff would transfer on a TUPE basis in the same roles, “except for senior executives and directors, whose posts will be re-advertised on dramatically reduced salaries capped by our 20:1 pay ratio policy”.

The party simultaneously launched a wide-ranging consultation within its own ranks, and among trade unions, campaign groups and industry experts on Democratic Public Ownership. It said this was intended to help design governance structures that will maximise participation and accountability. It noted its final proposals for governance structures in the publicly owned water system may be revised in light of this consultation.