Utilities industry defends privatisation as Labour promises water nationalisation

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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn Delivers His Keynote Speech To Party Conference
Jeremy Corbyn wants to bring water back into public ownership (Source: Getty)

The utilities industry has defended the benefits of privatisation after the Labour party promised water nationalisation in its general election manifesto today.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has outlined plans to create nine new public bodies to run the water and sewage system in England. The party claims the move would reduce average household bills by up to £100 a year.

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But the leading membership organisation which represents water service providers has said that the policy “does not do justice” to the water industry.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of Water UK, said: “Since 1990, the water industry has invested over £130 billion in better services. The quality of bathing and drinking water is up, and customer satisfaction with water and sewerage services is over 90 per cent.

“Access to private capital and other sources of funding, repaid through dividends and interest payments, has been key to that record of success.”

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Meanwhile concerns that London-based SMEs would miss out on savings on their bills were raised by utilities consultancy Utilitywise and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Brendan Flattery, CEO of Utilitywise, said: “Utilitywise welcomes any government intervention to reduce the cost of utility bills for businesses and families, but with the water market becoming deregulated only six weeks ago, we need assurances that nationalising the water market won’t have unintended consequences on the cost of water for thousands of businesses across London.”

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Figures released yesterday by Utilitywise showed that businesses in London and the South East could collectively save as much as £39m on their water bills following the opening up of England’s water market to competition earlier this year.

Andy Poole, specialist water policy advisor at the Federation of Small Businesses, added: “We believe the new water market will bring opportunities for many small businesses to take advantage of the different services and tariffs on offer. Competition should drive up services, standards and trust for small business customers.”

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