The English model of privatisation is not normal, as 90 percent of the world runs water in public ownership.
Thames Water hit the headlines this week after it emerged that the utility giant is struggling under a £14 billion pile of debt.
The utility was privatised in 1989. Following decades of underinvestment and bumper dividends, the company is on the brink, and could potentially be taken into public ownership if further investment is not found.
As the government scrambles to put a plan in place to rescue England’s biggest water and sewage company, calls are escalating for the renationalisation of the nation’s water.
Gary Lineker’s tweet summed up the general feeling:
“Renationalise water: simple.”
In the wake of the crisis involving the water utility giant, We Own It, campaigners against privatisation, launched a ‘Take Thames Water into public ownership’ petition.
In a letter to Tory MP and secretary of state for business and trade, Kemi Badenoch, the campaigners urge for the company to be taken into public ownership, with several conditions. One requirement is that there is no bailout at the public’s expense, and that the government must use the law to protect billpayers and taxpayers, ‘not the financial institutions that got us into this mess.’
Another condition is that the new publicly owned Thames Water must give communities a role in governance and be accountable for a serious plan to tackle leaks and sewage and clean up the country’s rivers. The third condition stipulated by the anti-privatisation campaigners is to make the nationalisation permanent, not temporary.
We Own It notes how the English model of privatisation is not normal, as 90 percent of the world run water on public ownership.
‘Water is a natural monopoly, there is no market for consumers. We need to build on examples of best practice from Scotland and Paris,’ they write.
The pro-nationalisation campaigners point to how publicly-owned Scottish Water has spent £72 more per household per year – 35 percent more – than the English water companies. If England had invested at this rate, an additional £28 billion would have gone into the infrastructure to tackle problems like leaks and sewage.
The petition, which only went live this week, has already amassed over 15,000 signatures of its target of 22,000.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward