England’s private water firms are under fire once again today, after reports that they could be set to raise bills by as much as 40%. The touted rise comes as the water industry faces significant pressure to tackle the scandal of sewage being pumped into waterways.
Private companies currently operate thousands of sewer overflows which are used to discharge raw sewage into Britain’s rivers and seas. Last year, private water companies released raw sewage into rivers and seas in England for more than 1.75 million hours, with an average of 825 sewage spills per day.
Critics of the water companies argue that they have prioritised providing returns for shareholders, rather than investment in infrastructure that would have tackled the sewage crisis. Since privatisation in 1989, water companies have paid out more than £70 billion to shareholders.
Anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It has branded reports of major bill rises ‘outrageous’, and has called for water to be taken into public ownership. The group’s director Cat Hobbs told Left Foot Forward: “It’s outrageous. We’ve seen decades of underinvestment in our water system, and now we’re expected to foot the bill for infrastructure improvements.
“What have private companies been doing with their enormous profits for the last 34 years? They’ve paid out £72bn in dividends to shareholders. That’s money that could have been reinvested into our infrastructure to prevent the mess we’re in now. Publicly-owned Scottish water spends £72 more per household per year on tackling infrastructure problems.
‘The Home Secretary has side-lined Parliament to sneak in new legislation via the back door, despite not having the powers to do so.’
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is facing legal action over her latest draconian piece of legislation which attacks the right to protest.
Last week, the government launched its most brazen attack on the right to protest yet, with amendments to the Public Order Act 1986 which would significantly lower the threshold for police intervention on protests, and it would empower officers to impose conditions – including changing timings, locations and routes, and imposing noise restrictions – on protests they believe “may” cause “more than minor” disruption.
Now Liberty, the UK’ s largest civil liberties organisation, is taking legal action against the Home Secretary.
The group says that using secondary legislation to bring the powers into force ‘violates the constitutional principle of the separation of powers because the measures have already been rejected by Parliament’.
“By bringing in these powers, the Government has been accused of breaking the law to give the police ‘almost unlimited’ powers to shut down protests due to the vagueness of the new language”, it adds.
Catching up with articles published by Left Foot Forward, an excellent UK political blog.
Thérèse Coffey gave landowners what they wanted, putting at risk public access to thousands of miles of historic paths
Public access to thousands of miles of historic paths in England could be lost due to a government U-turn, following successful lobbying by wealthy landowners.
An investigation by openDemocracy found Environment Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, U-turned on a government commitment to remove restrictions on registering a claim to protect lost paths in England, after receiving a letter from landowners.
Via a freedom of information request, openDemocracy revealed that Thérèse Coffey’s U-turn came after a request was made by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), who represent owners of rural land, property and business.
The letter expressed ‘concerns’ about the complete removal of the cut-off date due to land managers ‘uncertainty’ over what they referred to as, ‘frivolous claims of historic rights on their land holdings’.
The letter then asks the MP to consider a new deadline of 2031, shortly followed by Coffey announcing the government U-turn, which appeased the landowners request. It seems it didn’t take much to sway the minister in the interests of the wealthy, at the expense of the general public.
Green Party peer Jenny Jones gives her account of the parliamentary battles over the Tories’ protest laws
Last night, the Labour Party made a disastrous misjudgement that will impact on hundreds of thousands of people attempting to protest and exercise their democratic rights in the coming years. By failing to support my Fatal Motion that would have stopped serious disruption being defined as anything “more than minor” Labour have managed to alienate lots of their natural supporters.
Many of the 64,000 people who signed the petition asking them to act like an opposition, are now wondering why Labour let them down and why the media don’t report this stuff?
Perhaps Labour felt that they could sit this one out and no one would really care. After all, political journalists and media organisations like the BBC very rarely report on anything that isn’t a Blue/Red clash. So many issues and viewpoints are excluded simply because they don’t fit this cosy Blue/Red duopoly. The narrative was that if Labour wasn’t backing the Fatal Motion then it wasn’t worth reporting on and all my attempts to generate coverage were met with silence, with the honourable exception of James O’Brien on LBC and the Guardian.
What Labour under estimated is the power of social media and influential commentators like Carol Vorderman and Marina Purkiss. The Vlogger, Peter Stefanovic reached over a million people with his first video outlining what was going on. He explained the constitutional issues in a way that the BBC’s one attempt at coverage failed completely to understand, as our state media bought the government narrative that this was a law aimed at Just Stop Oil.
Meanwhile, Labour’s regret motion, a loud tut tut in parliamentary terms, led to a Daily Mail front page attacking them for supporting Just Stop Oil. The result is that many voters see them as a pointless and feeble opposition, while the government label them as on the side of disruption.
The Government has made clear its intention to implement full border checks on food imports from this October.
There could be further increases in food prices yet, even after UK food and drink price inflation hit a 45-year record of 19.2 per cent in March, as a result of new border checks caused by Brexit.
It comes after the UK government this week published proposals to charge a flat-rate inspection fee of up to £43 on each consignment of food coming from the EU.
The decision to impose full border checks on food imports from the bloc, will hit smaller firms harder, industry leaders have warned.
Shane Brennan, the director of the Cold Chain Federation, told the Financial Times that the proposals made little sense, especially given that the government was actively discussing imposing price controls on UK supermarkets to keep down the cost of food.
He said: “It is crazy that one week the government is holding a crisis meeting in Downing Street to discuss out-of-control food inflation and the next is willing to nod through a multimillion new import tax on EU food imports.”
‘They have harmed the ‘very fabric of the country’.
Finally, someone has called a spade a spade. A former Master of Eton College has admitted that the school failed to rein in entitled Tories such as Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Kwasi Kwarteng, whose sense of entitlement has harmed the ‘very fabric of the country’.
In a scathing letter to the Times, John Claughton, who was a master at Eton from 1984 to 2001, said that the school, which has educated 20 Prime Ministers, now had a mission to ‘ensure that its pupils are saved from the sense of privilege, entitlement and omniscience that can produce alumni such as Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Kwasi Kwarteng and Ben Elliot and thereby damage a country’s very fabric.’
Claughton goes on to add: “Sadly, I failed in that purpose.”
The Sun forgets its owner’s taste for luxury travel in dig at Rachel Reeves’ business class flight to US
The newspaper didn’t dwell on Rupert Murdoch owning an $84 million private jet.
In a week dominated by yet more Tory sleaze and scandals, the right-wing media must have been desperate to dish some dirt on the shadow cabinet. Sure enough, The Sun came up with the goods, taking aim at Rachel Reeves’ trip to the US in business class.
The Murdoch-owned newspaper did not hold back in reporting that the Shadow Chancellor had been accused of hypocrisy for ‘taking the posh seat while attacking Rishi Sunak and the government for luxury travel.’ Reeves informed the newspaper that no taxpayer money was used to fund the trip, and that a donor paid for it.
This in itself contrasts to the Prime Minister’s luxury travel which has been funded by the taxpayer. In March, Sunak decided to travel to Southampton and back to London by air rather than by car or train. The PM’s official spokesman confirmed that the helicopter trip was funded by the taxpayer. Even the Sun had to reference the criticism the Prime Minister came under for the taxpayer-funded helicopter flight to Southampton.
… [Read more to get to Murdoch’s jet]
Left Foot Forward is one of this blog’s favourite blogs and is recommended. A selection of current stories from Left Foot Forward for your delectation ;)
The transport secretary Mark Harper has been accused of “muddying the waters” by presenting misleading narratives in the rail dispute, on BBC Question Time last night.
When answering questions on resolving the rail strikes, Mark Harper attempted to shirk responsibility by referring to train drivers pay and unused ticket offices.
It comes as the RMT union smashed their latest mandate for strike action, meaning members working for 14 train operating companies could strike again over the next six months.
It is their third mandate in the National Rail Dispute, with the latest receiving a 91% yes vote.
Mick Lynch, RMT general secretary said the mandate sends a clear message to employers of the “huge anger” amongst rail workers.
‘Why are they treating their own staff worse than anyone else?’
The government has been accused of ‘punishing’ their own staff and ‘making an example’ of civil servants by the leader of the union for civil service workers.
In an ongoing dispute over pay, job losses and redundancy terms, civil servants with the union Prospect are on strike today for a second time in what is the largest industrial action the union has taken in over a decade.
Their members’ pay has declined by up to 26% in real terms since 2010, with civil servants on some of the worst pay settlements in the public sector, having been dealt a recent 4.5% pay offer by the government.
The union have called for a ‘serious pay offer’ that recognises the cost-of-living crisis that their members are facing.
Rishi Sunak slammed for using taxpayer-funded helicopter for trip that would have taken just over an hour by train
The train ticket would’ve cost Sunak £30 return, yet he opted to travel by air, at a cost to the taxpayer in the region of £6,000.
The Tories would like you to believe that they care about climate change and the effective use of taxpayers’ money, yet their actions show the complete opposite.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is fond of taking helicopters and private jets for short trips and is now once more being slammed for using a taxpayer-funded helicopter to make a journey that would have taken little more than an hour on the train.
Sunak took a chopper to Southampton to attend a GP surgery and pharmacy to promote the government’s latest intervention to reduce the strain on GP practices.
According to train timetables, had the Prime Minister taken the 8:35am train from Waterloo he would have arrived in Southampton at 9:50am. That Sunak decided to fly to the port city and back via helicopter has led to some Tory MPs fearing that it will cement Sunak’s image as an out of touch Prime Minister.
The train ticket would’ve cost Sunak £30 return, yet he opted to travel by air, at a cost to the taxpayer in the region of £6,000.
One Tory MP told the Guardian: “Is it unfair to say that the weekend was about a powerful unelected individual who is unfeasibly wealthy and lacks the common touch … and King Charles III?”
‘The segment of concern gave a wholly biased account of the verdict in the trial of Donald Trump for sexual assault’
Ofcom has been sent a strongly worded letter from two leading Green Party politicians, calling for the media regulator to revoke the broadcasting licence given to GB News after the scandal hit channel was once again found to have breached broadcasting regulations.
Molly Scott Cato, Green Party Speaker on Economy and Finance and Councillor Jack Lenox, Parliamentary Candidate for Lancaster, have shared a picture of their letter on Twitter, with Lenox tweeting: “Jacob Rees-Mogg’s defence of Donald Trump’s sexual abuse is disgusting. And his brazen attempt to mislead the public is a grotesque abuse of our broadcasting regulations.
“Today @GreenPartyMolly and I have written to Ofcom asking them to revoke GB News’ broadcasting licence.”
Ardent Brexiteer Rees-Mogg has been slammed for his GB News broadcast on the Donald Trump sexual assault trial. Rees-Mogg emphasised that Trump had been found ‘not guilty of rape’, and also questioned the US legal system. Rees-Mogg was joined on the programme by Kari Lake, a top Republican and well-known 2020 Election denier, as well as Nigel Farage.
A jury found that Trump had sexually abused magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll in a New York department store in the 1990s. The jury also found Trump liable for defamation for calling the writer’s accusations “a hoax and a lie”.
Reacting to Rees-Mogg’s comments on Trump, James O’Brien tweeted: “When Owen Paterson broke Parliamentary rules, Jacob Rees-Mogg attacked the rules.
“When a jury decided Donald Trump was a sex offender, Jacob Rees-Mogg attacked trial by jury. There’s a pattern here.”
Fossil fuel giant BP has one again reported eye watering profits. In the first quarter of 2023, BP made £4 billion.
The news has sparked outrage amongst opposition politicians and groups campaigning on the climate and cost of living crises.
Left wing faction Momentum compared Starmer’s shifting position to that of Nick Clegg, who famously went into the 2010 general election pledging to abolish tuition fees only to triple them when in government. A spokesperson for Momentum said: “This move wouldn’t just fly in the face of party democracy and the wishes of Labour Students. It would be a betrayal of millions of young people in desperate need of hope. The Labour leadership should learn from Nick Clegg’s failure, not repeat it.”
The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made similar comments. He tweeted: “Young people should not be saddled with a lifetime of debt just because they want to get an education. Abolish tuition fees, restore maintenance grants and deliver free education for all.”
Cullen commented that, although the outcome of today’s meeting appeared to be set, nurses will remain in dispute with the government over pay and staffing.
“Tuesday’s meeting with Steve Barclay appears a foregone conclusion,” said Cullen. “Different unions and different professions came to different, but respectable, conclusions on this pay offer.
“The deal being accepted by others does not alter the clear fact that nursing staff, as the largest part of the NHS workforce, remain in dispute with the government over unfair pay and unsafe staffing.”
Right-wing Liverpool Labour councillor Tom Cardwell has been outed apparently running a hateful troll account attacking local political opponents.
The ‘GorstSpam’ Twitter account was set up to attack Garston councillor Sam Gorst and other Liverpool Community Independent (LCI) councillors and candidates who left Labour over the Labour-run council’s swingeing cuts to services for the most vulnerable – and has put out vile misogynistic and homophobic content.
And Cardwell exposed his link to the account when he tweeted one message pretending to be Gorst, then immediately deleted it and was stupid enough to put the same message out on the ‘Spam’ account moments later
Right-wing Labour MP Jess Phillips has deleted a tweet in which she said she bought her first home at the age of twenty and described how it changed her and her children’s ‘fortune’
Phillips has previously told the Financial Times, presumably in an oddly-placed effort to boost her working-class credentials, that at age 22 she was living in a ‘squat’
Apologies that I sometimes lose it dear readers