Skip to main content

There's a simple solution

Ofwat challenge to Thames Water

Gummy water regulator Ofwat may appear to be talking tough on Thames Water's £29-a-year smash and grab on people's wallets but it remains to be seen whether it'll deliver more than merely a lippy nibble next month.

The Australian-owned firm has been a cash cow for a gaggle of chancers ever since its privatisation in 1989.

Then - and those watching the Royal Mail tragedy take note - it was flogged off by Thatcher for a quick buck as part of her "shareholder democracy" con.

Rather than it actually being owned by all of its customers the spin was that individuals would profit more by owning stock market shares in the firm.

What a scam that turned out to be. Some people did indeed make a few hundred quick quid - if they had the money to stump for the initial rights issue - but ownership was quickly snaffled up by big business.

The simple fact is that these opportunistic privateers wouldn't be interested in the water sector or any other monopoly utilities if they couldn't make a lazy quick buck.

Which begs the question, why do our politicians let them get away with it?

Owned by the state we'd have the control to keep bills down and channel any surpluses elsewhere in the economy.

In the current dire economic situation both of these options would give the government of the day powerful levers to be able to influence events.

Instead the ideologically driven non-entities masquerading as our rulers see their role as being to look the other way while their City mates chow down on our hard-earned cash.

All the regulation in the world won't change that.

If Ofwat really went for the jugular it wouldn't be long before it was abolished or the management pack reshuffled.

It knows that its role is to act as a shrivelled fig leaf to cover the privateers' unmentionables while they get on with the serious business of shafting us.

No wonder an increasing number of people can't be bothered getting out of bed to vote - they think that it will make little difference to the things that really matter in their lives.

Of course Thames Water is just one of a host of fly-by-night rip-off operations where private owners should be booted out in the interests of the majority.

It was reported earlier this week that only a quarter of tenants ever "switched" their energy firms.

On average, said Ofwat's similarly dentally challenged cousin Ofgem, people are being ripped off at the rate of £190 apiece by not doing so.

Its response? Publishing "new guidance" to tenants telling them to spend their stolen moments of rest, when they are not slaving at the coal-face in order to put bread on the table, hawking around the internet trying to find a "cheaper" energy firm.

So the regulator can't even be bothered to act to regulate prices. It's up to "consumers" to do the heavy lifting.

It's regulation, Jim, but not as we know it.

The answer, of course, is simple - and it's a guaranteed vote-winner.

Rip up the contracts and take a leaf out of Scotland and Wales's book, where water prices are kept low because the state's got a hand in it.

To borrow the catchphrase of one of the crummy comparison sites set up to leech off the system, "Simples."


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 9,100
We need:£ 8,900
15 Days remaining
Donate today