Water companies hit out at Labour for calling them a "national scandal"

Helen Cahill
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Corbyn outlines his economic policies (Source: Getty)

Water companies have hit out at Labour after the shadow chancellor John McDonnell described the industry as a "national scandal".

Labour attacked the water industry today, saying the private sector was handing out "scandalous" amounts in dividends, which have totalled £13.5bn since 2010.

Read more: Labour's John McDonnell says public ownership plan will "cost nothing"

John McDonnell has doubled-down on his pledge to renationalise the UK's water, energy and rail industries, insisting that it would not cost nothing to taxpayers.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of industry organisation Water UK, has condemned McDonnell's attack on the sector, saying that private companies have invested heavily in water networks and have brought down costs for consumers.

Roberts said: "It's wrong for Labour to suggest that our water system is broken.

"Water companies secure capital provided by lenders and shareholders, who need water companies to make a return in order to finance significant improvements to the industry."

He said that the water sector was "starved of cash" under public ownership, and that private firms have invested in reducing leakages, and have improved water quality.

Read more: Water bills are going up by two per cent

The private sector invests £8bn every year into water services, he said, and bills will be falling over the next few years.

Speaking at a conference in London this weekend, McDonnell said Labour's nationalisation plans would be "cost free".

"The next Labour government will put democratically owned and managed public services irreversibly in the hands of workers, and of those who rely on their work," he said.

"We will do this not only because it’s right, not only because it’s the most efficient way of running them, but also because the most important protection of our public services for the long term is for everyone to have and feel ownership of them."

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