Parliamentarians have been warned about the risks involved in any move to nationalise the water industry, with investment, service improvements, environmental standards and low bills all under threat.
Speaking at a Water UK parliamentary reception in the House of Commons on Tuesday 10 July 2018, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:
“There’s no denying that it has also been a time of intense scrutiny in the industry – ranging from last year’s Labour Party manifesto commitment to take English water companies into state ownership, to the challenges directly posed to companies by the Secretary of State and Ofwat.
“On nationalisation, we would say this raises big questions. The prospect of a state-owned sector struggling, as it did 30 years ago, to be a priority for public spending with potential negative impact on services and the environment, carries risks which need to be considered carefully against the positive work achieved to date by regulated private companies and how they are addressing the challenges which lie ahead.
“Consider, for example, the £150 billion invested by companies in improvements since 1989, and the £8 billion a year which they continue to invest. Then there’s the fact that customers now are 5 times less likely to suffer from supply interruptions and 8 times less likely to suffer from sewer flooding, and rivers that had been biologically dead since the Industrial Revolution have revived, with the return of wildlife. This has been achieved with customer bills averaging about £1 a day – bills which went up immediately following privatisation, reflecting a near doubling of investment compared with pre-privatisation levels, but which now are pretty much the same in real terms as in 1994, and which are due to be 5% lower by the end of the current industry five-year planning period in 2020.
“All of this is happening at a time when satisfaction levels achieved by companies are high, and 86% of the public say they trust their water company – which is higher than some other sectors I could mention.
“But despite these and other achievements, there is keen recognition also that there is much more to be done on delivering for customers, environmental improvement and transparency, as highlighted by Michael Gove, among others.
“The sector is diverse and the issues impact companies differently, but all are determined to demonstrate their longstanding commitment to work in the public interest.”