The independent London newspaper

As pipes burst, shareholders soak up profits

08 March, 2018

Bottled water being handed out at East Heath car park

IS the Thames water company a secret supporter of Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell?

Ridiculous suggestion? Yet you might think someone among the foreign owners of Thames Water has a soft spot for McDonnell who is advocating the nation take back the privatised company.

Because this week, for the umpteenth time in the past year or so, Thames Water has had to apologise to residents for burst pipes.

And all this is surely good publicity for the Labour machine hellbent on renationalisation of our water supply.

This week, the pipes burst in Hampstead, among other parts of London. Last year they burst and flooded parts of Islington, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds of damages and terrible misery for residents.

Each time Thames Water blame the antiquated water pipe system inherited 30 years ago from the former publicly owned utility.

How much longer can they go on blaming the Victorian system?

After 30 years they should have been able to replace the bulk of it.

Nor can they blame lack of capital.

Year after year their efforts amass a tidy net return which is siphoned off as dividends to feed its shareholders.

If they paid their shareholders less and spent the money instead on their renewal of the system, perhaps we would suffer fewer bursts.

This, of course, is not likely to happen.

Built into the system of any privatised utility is the need to keep the shareholders happy – whatever the consequences for the public.

As if that wasn’t enough to justify the renationalisa­tion of the utility there is the other scandal – that the water supplier has managed to avoid paying its share of UK corporation tax.

What is sad about all this is that there is no peep of protest from the Treasury or from the mainstream media, with the exception of the Daily Mail.

If the press and TV documentary teams turned away for a moment from trivial and celebrity news, and carried out an investigation into the scandalous failures of Thames Water and the other regional utilities – all of which form a monopoly in their areas – they would be serving the public interest.

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