Lindsey German on … [Keith Starmer] , the establishment’s friend …
The fate of Thames Water should be the end of the privatisation model pioneered by Thatcher in the 1980s. The major utilities and public companies were sold off at undervalued prices, their shares rapidly snapped up by big corporations and investors, prices for consumers rose rapidly, and profits went to shareholders, not to investment. That’s why today the common refrain about most parts of public life in Britain is that nothing works. And it is epitomised by Thames Water drowning in debt and likely to be taken back into public ownership temporarily.
But any form of nationalisation is going to be resisted to the bitter end, not just by the greedy privatised companies themselves, but by the Tories and the increasingly right-wing Labour Party under Keir Starmer. The cheek of the privatised companies was illustrated when the head of another, Severn Trent, convened a meeting of all the water firms to explicitly discuss ways of resisting nationalisation. And it’s no use going to the supposed regulators for help. As the Observer reported, ‘27 former Ofwat directors, managers and consultants [are] working in the industry they helped to regulate, with about half in senior posts.’ So a number of those regulating the industry have moved over to take lucrative positions in…. the privatised water companies.
While investors take the money and run, working class people are left with dire and expensive services that fail frequently because there is no investment. The water companies are publicly disgraced because of their dumping of sewage in rivers and seas, rather than invest in new treatment plants. But in London (and no doubt elsewhere) there have been several burst water mains, risking lives as they cause disruption sometimes for months, because of lack of investment. In the southeast of England, drinking water supplies have failed ‘because of the hot weather’, in what must be the lamest excuse from a company supposed to provide just that.
The answer from government and industry alike is that future investment will have to be paid for by us, through much higher bills and higher taxes. Already gas and electricity is beyond affordable for millions. But the energy companies will set the benchmark for other industries as profits are protected. No wonder nearly 13 million adults struggle to pay bills.
dizzy: Under Capitalism failing companies would normally go bankrupt so that the companies’ debts would be transferred to it’s creditors. This is not the case with the banks in the banking crisis of 2008, the energy companies failures of recent years and it looks like failing water companies now. Instead of the companies creditors shouldering the debt as part of the normal process, the poor public is instead burdened with it. This is great for the banks of course because it means that they can borrow without any risk of default, knowing that they will profiteer from the public regardless.