by Rob Simmons
So the coalition government has recognised the problem of people here paying much much more for water than everywhere else in the UK.
Of course it must be welcomed that water bills in Cornwall will drop.
It must be welcomed that South West Water are announcing investement in sewerage works, flood defences and the water system.
But lets be realistic.
We’re still getting ripped off.
The government need to do more than divert taxpayers money to subsidising not only bills but South West Water’s parent group Pennon’s profits.
Water should be a human right.
We can’t live without fresh clean water – and there are obvious health benefits to a modern sewerage system.
So its reprehensible that we still regularly have raw sewage entering the sea from overflow drains during storms and heavy rain.
I don’t believe water should be a profit making venture – and I’m no fan of privatisation.
I don’t think public services and utilities should have shareholders and investors interests as a motivating factor in operation.
Public services should be run in the public interest, any savings that can be made should be to the benefit of the tax payer.
This is not the system we have with water.
It’s a very profitable enterprise.
The main concern of the Pennon group is South West Water, and the groups is in the FTSE 250.
In other words its in the top tier of UK companies.
As a press release from Pennon revealed late last year:
“South West Water is continuing its strong operational performance against the 2010/15 regulatory contract with further advances in operating efficiency and customer service. Rigorous cost control, efficiency delivery and stable interest costs are expected to deliver profit before tax for the half year for South West Water up 10% to more than £83m.
We expect to report Pennon Group profit before tax for the half year up over 3% to £111m and to announce an interim dividend up 6.6% to 8.76p per share.”
That’s a staggering amount of money.
Although it’s obviously good value for the company and it’s investors, we have to ask – is it good value for the public purse is it good value for users?
It’s lamentable that the last Tory government sold off the water boards. And it’s lamentable that this one’s only solution is to use more public money to further subsdise operating profits.
They say they’re cutting the cost of our bills – but in reality, they’ve billed the taxpayer twice.
First the Government have sat back while we’ve paid spiralling bills demanded by a private company for a public utility.
Then when the bills have become so high they’re an electoral risk – they announce they’ll subsidise the bills to keep them down.
But with whose money?
Maybe the government should have looked to the company itself to alleviate water bills?