Tag Archives: water

The case for state ownership or control of water and electricity

As many friends know, I now live in a seaside town in Greece.

I have been reflecting on the cost of living here and, in particular, the cost of water and electricity, compared to the UK.

I have just paid my first water bill. For six months I have paid 37€. It’s not that I don’t use water, I do. I have a washing machine and a dishwasher, I clean the car, I water the garden and of course I shower and shave daily. Compare that with the £25 a month I was paying in Mytholmroyd, which I left just over a year ago. I suspect it’s gone up now.

My most recent electricity bill was 134€ for a month and the Greek government subsidies me by 159€ a month. My house is all electric with AC units which double up as heaters in the winter and there are pumps on both the cold-water supply and the solar water heating panel. My cooker is electric. I believe that were I still in the UK I would be paying around £450 a month for my previous flat. This means that electricity in 74% more expensive in the UK even if I had no subsidy in Greece. With the subsidy my electricity bill is 280% less than in the UK.

Now, Greece is not a particularly wealthy country. It recently went through a major financial crisis and much that the state had done before has been lost. Water, however, is run by local councils. In the UK water is owned by private companies and the costs are exorbitant and the directors grossly overpaid.

My electricity company in Greece DEH is the former state-owned electricity company. Yet, it is not charging grossly inflated prices and people are being helped with their electricity bills. Sure, it’s slow to act and there are power cuts sometimes (mainly due to weather like thunderstorms), but it is providing a service at affordable prices. It is clearly regulated and behaves reasonably.

The conclusion I draw from this is twofold.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 34 Comments

Take Back Control

Until the 1980’s, when the utilities were privatised by Margaret Thatcher, they were in the Public Sector. And what a success privatisation has been. It has created dozens of millionaires paid for by the general public through higher gas, electricity and water bills!

The half-yearly profits of the utilities and their Chief Executive’s pay are obscene.

EON £3.4bn £1m
National Grid £3.4bn £6.5m
RWE £2.2bn £3.6m
Orsted £1.5bn £1.7m
Centrica £1.3bn £4.5m
SSE £1.2bn £4.5m
Uniper £1bn £1.6m
Scottish Power £925m £1.15m
Drax £225m £2.7m
EDF (£225m) loss £1m


Lightsource did not attend the meeting with the Prime Minister and their figures are not available.

The total disclosed half yearly profits are £14.9bn: which will be in excess of £30bn in the full year.

Instead of considering a windfall tax on these excessive profits (as has also been considered in respect of petrol) to provide help to those least able to afford their gas and electricity bills, if the gas and electricity companies were taken back into in public ownership these profits and the cost of excessive salaries could be used to reduce the bills for everyone. Instead of many Chief Executives and senior managers earning between £1m and £6.5 million per year there would be just two Chief Executives, one for gas and one for electricity, paid on public sector rather than private sector pay scales earning around £200,000 each. (The highest paid local government Chief Executive gets £185,000 for, arguably, greater and certainly wider responsibility)

So just how bad is the situation?

According to a report in The Guardian 2/3rds of UK households will be trapped in fuel poverty by January meaning their fuel costs will be 10% or more of their income. 18m families, or approximately 45m people, will be struggling to make ends meet. 86.4% of retired people and 90.4% of single parent families with two or more children will fall into fuel poverty.

This comes at the end of a decade during which the rich have got richer whilst the majority, subject to austerity, have got poorer. According to a report by the Paris-based World Inequality Lab, 2020 saw the steepest increase in billionaires’ wealth on record. In contrast 100m additional people, worldwide, sank into extreme poverty.

A consequence of this widening inequality is that, prior to the recent cost of living crisis, there were 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK. The Government had focused on making work pay, but two in three children who were in poverty had a parent who was in work. These parents were no more able to do anything to help their children than are older people who have no earning capacity or borrowing power, many of whom prior to the abolition of the “default retirement age” had been forced into retirement and condemned to spending the rest of their lives in poverty.

Children brought up in poverty are less likely to do well at school, more likely to have health problems, making a demand upon the NHS, and have a shorter life expectancy.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 51 Comments

Water shortages are not just the fault of the weather or climate

Areas of southern England and parts of continental Europe are now in officially in drought. Taps ran dry in Northend in Oxfordshire. The source of the mighty River Thames shrank back to more than five miles from its source near for the first time in memory. Hosepipe bans are in force and people are advised to reduce water use.

Although there is now some rain in some areas, the water deficit in the soil is now so great a couple of days rain will do little more than revive those flagging garden plants and maybe perk up the lawns we seem to love so much.

This is not 1976 and we are unlikely to see standpipes in the streets at any point. But the current shortages do show how our water system is being pushed to the limits.

This article asks the question, why is England and its water companies so unprepared?

Climate change has made drought more likely but it is not the only factor behind the water shortages. A lot of the issues lie with the effectiveness of the water regulator Ofwat, the lack of a clear government strategy for new water resources and the lack of investment by water companies.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 15 Comments

Opinion: Water of Life

Today many Christians are celebrating Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus, whether you view him as historical figure, prophet or messiah, used many images in his teaching. One was water.

John 4:13-14 talks of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria at the well, and Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give them will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give them will become a spring of water in them. It will flow up into eternal life.”

Water is a precious resource. Just this week there was news of California entering the fourth year of drought. Governor Jerry Brown has introduced strict conservation measures to reduce water usage by 25%. California produces a third of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans, and prices in shops across the country are already reflecting the drought.

Global warming has brought this on. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains which supplies the water California needs is at a record low. The water California needs for households, crops and industry is not available. Sacrifices will have to be made.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 11 Comments

On Global Handwashing Day, Featherstone launches scheme to give 4 million access to clean water in Democratic Republic of Congo

Lynne FeatherstoneIt’s easy to take our access to clean, safe water for granted. Whether it’s water to brush our teeth, drink or wash our hands after we’ve been to the toilet, free availability saves lives.

If you live in sub-Saharan Africa, on average, only 60% of people, not much over half, have access to safe water supplies. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the average is 46%, but in rural areas can be as little as 20%. It’s hardly surprising they’ve recently had a major Cholera epidemic to deal with. This

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

Opinion: Water – time to see it as a national interest?

News that one of China’s leading wealth funds has taken a 9 percent stake in Thames Water is significant. The investment comes quick on the heels of a Gulf sovereign wealth fund taking a similar size stake in Thames Water’s parent company, Kemble.

It’s a measure of confidence in Britain’s infrastructure technology and role in the world as a safe haven for long term investment crows George Osborne. Liberal Democrats may be inclined to take a different view.

What Osborne fails to mention is that because of increased water-scarcity throughout the world – including the UK – water is set …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 7 Comments

Dan Rogerson MP writes… Welcoming help with water bills in the South West

This week, as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, details of a Water Bills Rebate Fund were announced, with a £50 rebate to be provided on water bills for households in Cornwall and other South West Water areas from 2013-14. Along with fellow Liberal Democrats, I have long campaigned on getting a fair deal for bill payers in Cornwall after the botched privatisation under the Conservatives in the 1980s left us with the highest water bills in the country, and following 13 years of complacency about the issue under the last Labour government. As such, this rebate is fantastic news …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

Opinion: A child dies every 20 seconds from lack of clean water

On 19 May, the summit of European-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific parliamentarians (the ACP-EU Assembly) at Budapest called for action to alleviate the global crisis in clean water supply.

One in six people in the world have no access to clean water. 2.5 billion are without clean sanitation and 1.5 million die every year from water contamination.

The report presented to the summit found that there are three main causes of water pollution: industry, agriculture and sewage. In developing countries 70% of industrial waste is dumped untreated into water. The most common source of water pollution, however, is faecal matter.

One of the Millennium Development Goals …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

Recent Comments

  • Roland
    Attach an Apple Air Tag to your sign, whilst it won’t stop the sign being removed, you stand a good chance of locating where it’s been taken to…...
  • John Marriott
    @Peter Martin Under PR I reckon that, with their current opinion poll rating of around 12%, the Lib Dems might expect to get around 78 seats at Westminster. @...
  • David Blake
    Many years ago, my girlfriend at the time was living in a flat owned by the local Conservatives. One weekend all the power went out. The fusebox was in the ba...
  • Tom Hannigan
    The 3 main parties in Ireland frequently nominate more than one candidate in our multi seat constituencies which can have 3,4 or 5 seats. It depends on what you...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Andrew, You seem to be somewhat contradictory on your "solidarity fund". Whatever you want to call it it will mean that if someone moves to Germany fro...