Alex Sobel MP calls to fix the “leaking system” of England’s water services

Date: 28.01.19 | in: community | Tags: ,

Alex Sobel MP has spoken in Parliament in a debate about the future of water services in England. For Sobel the privatised English system is “dripping in Conservative ideology, draining the public purse and rinsing our most valuable resource, all whilst drowning consumers in debt.” His remarks come at a time when there is increasing support for the re-nationalisation of vital services in this country and a swelling body of evidence to suggest that privatised regional English water services represent bad value for money.

Scottish Water, established under the Labour government 16 years ago, is publicly owned and over that time has managed to save customers an average of £42 a year, when compared to English consumers. Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) provides water services in Wales on a not-for-profit basis. Since taking over the Welsh water supply in 2001, it has paid £180 million back to customers via “customer dividends,” as well as providing many millions to support low income families and individuals through lower tariffs.  In 2017 it manged to invest £430 million in improving water systems in Wales. Welsh Water Chief Executive Chris Jones has said this was only possible “due to our not-for-profit ownership structure, which ensures we are always working to our customers’ best interests – providing the best services possible, at an affordable price, while ensuring we protect the natural environment on which we all depend, now and long into the future (quote from DCWW website).” These suppliers are amongst the most trusted service providers in the UK.

Conversely the English system, which operates through a system of private regional suppliers, offers the most expensive rates in the Union, whilst having collectively paid out over £6.5 billion to shareholders over the last 5 years. Many of these shareholders are infect foreign investment groups such as the Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund or Australian pension funds. The evidence clearly contravenes the staple Conservative party argument that privatisation leads to better choice and value for consumers of services.

In Parliament on Tuesday morning he asked fellow ministers, “Do we really think this is good enough?” and whether they felt it was right that there should be, “a two-tier system for our most fundamental services… our most basic human needs?” For Mr Sobel now is the time to look to the example of the Welsh and Scottish providers to fix “our leaking system,” in England, and to acknowledge that the value of competition does not apply to English water provision, where consumers do not have a choice of supplier and where these suppliers are not therefore accountable to their consumers.

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