Labour Plans To Bring Water Industry Back Into Public Ownership

Shadow chancellor of the exchequer John McDonnell has unveiled the Labour Party’s plans to return the water industry to public ownership, using his keynote speech at the Labour party conference on September 24th to put forward the idea.


He explained that the sector would be run by local councils, employees and customers as part of a new ownership model that would avoid the central controls that have come to characterise post-war nationalisation, Utility Week reports.


Mr McDonnell went on to say that he and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey are working together to launch a consultation on how to improve democracy in the public services sector.


“Water bills have risen 40 per cent in real terms since privatisation. Water companies receive more in tax credits than they pay in tax. Each day enough water to meet the needs of 20 million people is lost due to leakages.


“With figures like that, we can’t afford not to take them back. But let’s be clear, nationalisation will not be a return to the past,” he said, adding that the plan isn’t to take power away from directors just for it to be centralised in an office in Whitehall.


In response, a spokesperson from Water UK said Mr McDonnell hasn’t answered any of the probing questions surrounding the risks involved in government taking over operation of water companies and no explanation was offered about how this government-run sector would match or beat the plans set out for the future.


The representative went on to say that the risk is still there that water issues would be way down the priority list for government funding, below education and health.


We Own It, an organisation set up to end privatisation for good so that people come before profit, explains that the government sold off the ten public regional water companies back in 1989.


Now, nine regional private monopolies run our water and sewerage systems, monopolies that are owned in the most part by private equity. So what this means is that the money spent on water bills goes straight to investors as far away as Australia, Malaysia, Canada and Hong Kong.


Domestic customers do not have a choice about where their water comes from and since privatisation, water bills have risen by 40 per cent in real terms. The group went on to note that 83 per cent of people are in favour of water being nationalised, suggesting that if this was to take place we’d save about £2.3 billion a year.


In Scotland, this has already taken place with Scottish Water – a publicly owned company – apparently the most trusted public utility in the whole of the UK. In Wales, meanwhile, a lot of the water is provided by non-profit Glas Cymru/Welsh Water, serving three million people and helping 60,000 low income customers pay their bills.


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