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Water privateers are siphoning profits into overseas tax havens, Labour reveals

BRITAIN'S top six water companies are piping their profits to shareholders based in overseas tax havens, Labour revealed today.

Businesses based in tax havens own stakes in Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, South West Water, Southern Water, Thames Water and Yorkshire Water Services worth a total of £14.5 billion, the report found.

The study also revealed that offshore businesses earned an estimated £246 million in dividends from the water industry last year.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The privatised water industry has shelled out over £13bn in dividends since 2010, and now it’s clear that much of this money is extracted by businesses that are ultimately based in tax havens.
 
“Rather than the scandal of rip-off prices and huge dividend payments, we will bring [water companies] into public hands, so we see more investment and lower bills.”

Labour said it would end private ownership in the sector to stop households being “ripped off by freeloading water companies” and to ensure that profits are reinvested to give households better services and lower bills.

Northumbrian Water, which reportedly paid out the highest sum in dividends, £119m, declined to comment, while a spokesman for Southern Water told the Star that the figures were “completely inaccurate and damagingly wrong.”

He claimed that external shareholders received no dividends in 2017-18, despite the reports recording payments of £54m.

“All of our operations are in the UK,” he added.

“All companies in the group are UK domiciled for tax purposes and we paid £69.7m to the Exchequer last year.”

A Thames Water spokesperson insisted that the firm did not pay external dividends last year, would not do so in the rest of the current regulatory period and would pay only “modest dividends” of about £20m a year for 2020-25.

An Anglian Water spokesperson responded that the majority of shareholders are “long-term public-sector employee pension funds.”

The report comes after water companies recently faced greater scrutiny from the industry watchdog after posting poor customer service records.

Bristol Water, SES Water and Southern Water have to provide quarterly reports of how they plan to reduce complaints after 3.5m customers raised issues with them.

The watchdog’s annual complaints report probed how suppliers responded to 200,000 customers being left without water due to bad weather in March.

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