Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto of 2017 was not the disaster the leaker had hoped. Far from it. The promises to renationalise rail, post office, power and water were welcomed by the people, and brought Jeremy within 2,500 votes of victory.
Water, perhaps the Cinderella of the quartet, the least sexy utility, is at least as important as power, if not more so. Without clean, fresh water we will literally be dead.
But this essential for life, as much as the air we breath and food we eat, was handed over, debt free, by Thatcher to private companies to wring out as much profit as they could.
Shareholders of the nine monopolies have pocketed £57 billion since 1991, about £2 billion a year. That is £57,000,000,000 that could have been used by a Corbyn government to improve all our lives not just a few.
Anglian Water (covering the Eastern Region) paid out the most, £5 billion over the past 10 years while Southern paid out the least with a mere £900 million.
And while they have been raking in the billions the captive customer’s water bills have risen 40 per cent above the rate of inflation, which no pay rise will ever have matched.
So you would imagine the water companies are awash with money. They are not. They are in fact bloated with debt, £48 billion of it, nearly the same amount as paid to shareholders. The interest on these borrowings last year cost an eye-watering £1.3 billion.
Critics, such as the WeOwnIt campaign group, claim that while the diectors are milking us for every drop of profit, they have borrowed to the hilt to pay dividends rather than putting money into improving the supply of improved quality water, cutting leakage and reducing pollution.
As the Guardian reported this week, these same water firms poured raw sewage – including human waste – 200,000 into the rivers we take water for drinking, swim in and sail on last year.
But it is not just the shareholders who have their snouts deep in it, the company directors are also filling their pockets – with our money.
The paper reports that the highest paid directors gave themselves an 8.8 per cent pay rise last year, about £13 million. Severn Trent paid one director the most at £2.4 million, with United Utilities close behind with £2.3 million.
Renationalising the whole industry would have ended this rip-off of the public at a stroke. Perhaps that’s one reason it never happened. For now, we’ll have to rely on the water barons to once again promise to mend their ways and put our water first and not last.
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