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HomeNewsRising Water Bills in Leeds: Should We Consider Returning to Public Ownership?

Rising Water Bills in Leeds: Should We Consider Returning to Public Ownership?

Yorkshire Water bills could increase by 46%

Water companies in England and Wales are poised to unleash a financial storm on their customers, with demands for bill increases ranging from 24% to a staggering 91% over the next five years. The consumer watchdog’s figures highlight Southern Water’s audacious request for the highest increase at 91%, while South Staffordshire and Cambridge Water seek the “modest” low end at 24%. Here in Leeds, Yorkshire Water is suggesting a raise by as much as 46%.

Funding Promises or Just Empty Pockets?

These water firms justify their eye-watering demands by promising £100bn of spending to replace ageing infrastructure and reduce sewage discharges. However, this latest attempt to squeeze more from consumers comes ahead of a critical meeting where the industry regulator, Ofwat, will decide on these proposed charges for the period between 2025 and 2030.

A Track Record of Failure and Mismanagement

The calls for drastic bill hikes come against a backdrop of heavy criticism aimed at water companies for widespread leaks and excessive sewage discharges. Under-investment has long plagued the country’s water infrastructure, yet these private entities now claim they need more public money to fix their own failures.

Public Outrage and Regulatory Response

A survey, mandated by Ofwat, reveals that fewer than one in six customers find these proposed bill increases affordable. Despite this, the regulator is expected to approve at least half of the requested hikes, and in some cases, even more. This raises the question: who is the regulator really serving?

The Case for Public Ownership

Mike Keil, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), acknowledges that the proposed bill rises will come as a “massive surprise” to many. While improvements require investment, the scale of these increases is shocking, pushing many to question the current model of private ownership.

Shocking Figures: A Breakdown

  • Southern Water: 91% increase to £915 a year by 2030
  • Thames Water: 59% to £749
  • Hafren Dyfredwy: 56% to £676
  • Severn Trent: 50% to £657
  • Wessex Water: 50% to £822
  • Yorkshire Water: 46% to £682
  • Dŵr Cymru: 43% to £702
  • United Utilities: 38% to £666
  • South East Water: 35% to £330
  • Pennon: 33% to £644
  • Portsmouth Water: 31% to £157
  • SES: 30% to £315
  • Anglian Water: 29% to £682
  • Northumbrian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water: 26% to £530
  • Affinity Water: 25% to £294
  • South Staffs & Cambridge Water: 24% to £221

Source: Consumer Council for Water

Estimate are for average bills. Costs will vary depending on a property’s rateable value

Southern Water’s Tarnished Legacy

Southern Water, owned by the Australian firm Macquarie, has a dismal track record. During Macquarie’s ownership of Thames Water, the company paid more in dividends than it made in profits for five out of ten years, while its debt skyrocketed from £2.5bn to over £10bn. Now, Southern Water claims it needs significant investments to address its unique challenges, yet it is the public that bears the cost.

A Broken System Demands Change

With Water UK, representing suppliers, claiming bill rises are “never welcome,” the time has come to question the entire framework of private water ownership. The public, burdened with exorbitant costs and subpar service, deserves better.

A Call to Action

Water services in Northern Ireland and Scotland are publicly owned. Perhaps it’s time for England and Wales to follow suit, reclaim control of their water resources, and ensure that investments are made in the public interest, not private profit.

What do you think, should water ownership be brought back into public hands?

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