Residents deserve a voice on water privatisation

Thirty years ago this week, the Conservative government privatised the country’s water supply, handing over public ownership of our water to private companies.

The results have been disastrous. It’s estimated that since privatisation, our water bills have increased by 40 per cent in real terms.

Research from Greenwich University has found that English people are paying £2.3 billion more a year in water and sewerage bills than if our water companies had remained public.

According to WeOwnIt, water poverty – or the effect of people struggling to pay their household bills – will double in a decade.

Privatisation of our water has been a tragedy for our environment too. We have lost the public scrutiny we desperately need to safeguard this precious resource.

With news last week that Southern Water has been fined a record £126 million for wastewater and sewerage spills, as well as deliberately misinterpreting performance, the evidence tells us what we knew already: privatisation of water is bad for us and the planet.

There is a way out of this mess. Sicty per cent of the public in a YouGov poll want to see water back in public hands.

Greens want to see the council explore the option of “self-supply” water.

This would grant the council a licence to directly buy water services – cutting out the retailers (water companies) and their profit margins.

On top of lowering bills, the city’s water supply would be brought under direct democratic oversight – including wastewater management, giving us the opportunity to do more for our environment.

In Blackpool, the council say this approach will save £194,000 over three years and improve customer service.

Crucially, councils who opt to “self-supply” are also given a say in how water is managed nationwide.

Brighton and Hove was one of the first cities to start providing water to the public with our Brighton Hove and Preston Waterworks company.

Greens will continue to fight for an end to water privatisation – and while that fight goes on, we want to see residents given the democratic oversight over water they deserve.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the opposition Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

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