Water UK defends sector as GMB launches nationalisation campaign
Water UK has warned a renationalised water sector could suffer from a lack of investment as GMB launched its 'Take Back the Tap' campaign to take the industry back into public ownership.
The trade union has released details from its joint investigation with Corporate Watch into water company accounts showing that nine privatised water company bosses received £58 million in salary, bonuses, pensions and other benefits over the past five years.
It also showed that the bosses of England’s privatised water and sewerage companies together received £11.3 million in 2017 alone.
GMB said the average pay including salary, bonuses, pensions and other benefits totalled £1,254,000 last year – a figure that is six times higher than the pay and pension of the UK Prime Minister – and highlighted the National Audit Office report showing that consumer water bills in England and Wales have increased by 40 per cent above inflation since privatisation in 1989.
GMB general secretary Tim Roache said: “It is a national scandal over the last five years England’s hard-pressed water customers have been forced to splash out £58 million through their bills to go into the pockets of just nine individuals.
“Privatisation of the water industry has been a costly mistake and these eye-watering sums are further proof the water industry must be returned to public hands."
Labour has vowed to return the industry to public ownership if it gains power, and Roache used the party's 'for the many, not the few' slogan as he tried to rally support for GMB's campaign.
“GMB is urging people and politicians to Take Back the Tap and make our water services work for the many and not the few," he said. “Water is the most natural monopoly and should be in public hands.”
However, Water UK, which represents the water companies, emphasised the progress that has been made since 1989 and warned that if it were to be renationalised there was a risk that investment might be cut to balance the books.
“Water companies have invested around £150 billion on improvements and infrastructure in the last 30 years, and continue to spend £8 billion a year to keep on improving," Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said.
"Thanks to this large investment, we’ve seen leakage reduced, drinking water quality improved, a better environment, and bills are roughly where they were 20 years ago – about £1 a day – and people need to ask themselves whether a water industry owned and run by the government would invest the same money and deliver the same good results for customers.
"Since privatisation, customers are five times less likely to suffer from supply interruptions, eight times less likely to suffer from sewer flooding, and 100 times less likely to have low water pressure.
"If the water industry was owned and run by the government in England, it is far from obvious that it would be a priority for ministers, given the pressures they face to spend on areas like health and education.”
- Water Industry Achievement Awards 2016: finalists announced Entries for this year's Water Industry Achievement Awards are in, and the judges have made their very difficult decisions.... Read More >
- Fast-track price determination a credit positive for Affinity, says Moody's Ofwat's decision to pre-qualify Affinity Water and South West Water (SWW) for a fast-tracked price determination will be... Read More >
- SSW consults on its draft business plan for 2015-2020 South Staffs Water (SSW) has put its draft business plan for 2015-2020 out to public consultation. The proposals outlined... Read More >
- Interview: Ofwat director Trevor Bishop Ofwat director Trevor Bishop explains why the regulator wants to ensure wastewater resilience becomes just as central to... Read More >
- Developer services charging: an analysis of PR19 business plans Fair Water Connections managing co-ordinator Martyn Speight provides an initial evaluation of data, specific to water... Read More >
- Bridging the gap: Tackling diversity in the water sector The water industry faces a substantial skills gap in the coming years, but could a greater focus on gender and diversity... Read More >
- Fostering a safety culture in the water industry Having the right culture is often the key to achieving excellence in safety compliance and performance. Here, David... Read More >
- Working together to make our waters healthy again New collaboration between water companies and NGOs is required to raise the ecological status of our watercourses, which... Read More >