Labour plans to take water industry back under public control
The 10 Regional Water Authorities of England and Wales were sold off in 1989 by the Margaret Thatcher government, as part of the overall drive by the conservative party to privatise vast sections of British industry.The water industry's overall debt of £4.94 billion (1989 prices) was written off by government as part of the total privatisation package.
The justification for this particular industry being sold to the private sector, was the same fiction as was spread to legitimize all the other privatisations taking pace at that time and since. We were informed that, "Privatisation reduces costs, brings down prices and improves services for the customer". In fact, the complete opposite has been shown to be the truth. Over the last nine years, the privatised water companies have increased charges by 46% in real terms, doubled operating profits which have increased by 142% in eight years, reduced overall investments in the water industry, jeopardised public health by cutting off supplies to some customers, (although this sanction was subsequently made illegal), and been responsible for a catalogue of leaks, spills and contamination's which have resulted in the industry being taken to court and fined. The water companies shareholders however, have enjoyed substantial payments in the form of ever increasing dividends as company profits have risen substantially.
There are some industries which are far too important to society to be left to the vagaries of the private sector and "the markets". Water supply is but one such industry. About 4/5 or 80% of this planet is covered in water. It cannot be right for a few private companies to make massive profits for their "shareholders" by selling water to people at extortionate prices. We can understand and accept that the water infrastructure, drainage and industry investments must be paid for and planned, but the evidence shows us that the water companies are investing but a fraction of the necessary sums, as money is paid out in the form of dividends or retained as balances on the accounts.
The Labour party manifesto pledge to take the water industry back into public ownership, has,not surprisingly, drawn much criticism from the media under such lurid (and inaccurate) headlines such as "Labour would bankrupt Britain", or "Manifesto proposals would create a gaping £58 billion black hole”,paid for by British families".
The dilemma for the media and for the conservative party, is that the pledge to take the water supply back into public ownership is yet another Labour proposal which has substantial support amongst voters. The hysterical attack upon this policy and the other measures presented in the Labour party manifesto, illustrate the extent to which the conservatives and media recognise their position is weakening by the day and that they have nothing to offer in response.
The Labour party manifesto pledges will transform peoples lives and that Labour are proposing a government for the many not the few.