The bedding plant murders

Yesterday we debated water in the Commons. Only the UK and the monopoly left overs from a nationalised industry could conspire to turn such a plentiful resource into something expensive and precious in short supply. Were we ever to have a couple of hot dry summers again doubtless the industry and its regulator would be out there again with hosepipe bans, exhortations for us to go around in dirty cars and requests for us to share a shower.

So I asked whether we could have some competition for retail water, as they now have for large quantities of industrial water. The latter policy has brought the price down as you would expect, whilst the regulated price of householder water has continued its inexorable rise. I am pleased to say I got an encouraging answer for a change. It is true it was from the Conservative spokeswoman rather than from the government, but we live in hope.

The Minister did agree with me that the best way to help those on low incomes afford their water was to cut the price. He, however, wanted to cut the price of water for those on the lowest incomes by increasing its price for everyone else. What we want is a policy to lower the price for all. Competition would probably take 20% off the water price, and create an industry keen to supply more and sell more. After all, most of the time there’s plenty of it about. So much so that the current authorities have difficulty in preventing it flooding all too many homes too often.

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9 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Did we not privatise the Water Companies ??

    Thought the French owned some of them.

    Just like we privatised the other Utilities, think the French own some of those too.

    What do the French pay for their own water and power, anyone know.

  2. Simon D
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    The problem is not just price. Anybody who has had a professional encounter with a Water Authority will realise quickly that it has its own special mindset and rules – bully the customer and get rid of him and the problem as quickly as possible. This is achieved by establishing an unhelpful call centre which denies access to professionals within the Water Authority who might either know what they were talking about or have an inclination to help. My authority is also open about its "limited resources" and "need to prioritise".

    Another part of the agenda is to spend as little as possible on customer service and maximise the return to Group Global Head Office. My Water Authority is part of a multinational located on another continent – why should it worry about petty water problems in England thousands of miles away.

    Be warned – under the present set up don't have a problem with your water or drainage. You will find yourself alone in an unequal struggle with big battalions. It came as quite a shock to me until I worked out what was going on.

    Water Authorities need to feel the heat of proper regulation and to understand that customer service is just as important as telephone number salaries and bonuses at Head Office. Challenging levels of customer service is the price that should be paid by foreigners being allowed to print money through running UK water monopolies.

  3. THE ESSEX BOYS
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    A problem we perceive with the water companies is not unlike that of the banks in that they regard the cash flow from ordinary customers as the fuel for financial speculation.

    Thames Water is one we know that had – perhaps still has – an investment and diversification team seeking non-related business opportunities.
    Retained profits should be used for creating increased reservoir capacity, eliminating leakage and researching the diversion of excess flood water into the supply system. Instead reservoirs have been sold off for speculative gain since privatisation.

    Furthermore, as with all utility organisations the water suppliers should not be allowed to use 'green' issues to mask increases in consumer costs.

    Water is such a precious resource that it must be the sole focus of those who have been granted the privilege of supplying it!

    YES..increased competion IS the proper solution.

  4. JT
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Or, just tell the water regulator to act in the consumer interest.
    Set a price and investment level that is in the public interest – build in a low yield for monopolyand impose it.
    If the monopoly can't deliver — it can sell up
    But, the reality is that it will be able to.

    can you really have genuine competition when it comes to utiliies ? two pipes to each house ? two resevoirs ?
    etc

  5. Alan Wheatley
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree.

    As to the places where there is too much water, I despair at policy that continues to agree to more building on flood planes. I recall a government minister when challenged on this responded that London is built on a flood plane and to prohibit more building in London would be folly (or words to that effect). I supposes this is par for the course with this government: obscure mistakes by supporting more of the same.

  6. Steve Cox
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Yes, water is stupidly over-priced in the UK (like so much else), but I thought that was largely due to various EU directives about cleaning up rivers, and treating sewage, and so on? And a few weeks back there was that eejit who advises Gordon Clown telling us that we are so short of water that we must stop eating meat. As usual with this catastrophe-laden government, a few days later Cockermouth was virtually washed away. If it wasn't so sad it would be hilarious.

    Anyway, it's not just the cost of the water itself that is a rip-off, it's the standing charge that is constantly going up much faster than inflation. And then there is, of course, the scandal of double-charging. On one side these lovely utilities charge us for providing water, and on the other they charge us for taking it away in a sewerage charge. How do they know that I don't throw half my water onto the garden?

    I've come to the conclusion that all large organisations – especially local councils and central government – couldn't give a fig for us as customers (although we are actually their paymasters as well). Large-scale capitalism as well as Nu-Socialism have lost the plot and become completely out of order. We need a country of small central government, small local government, and small companies. Where large multi-nationals are unavoidable, then they must be subjected to the most rigorous regulation.

  7. crowbait
    Posted February 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    John.

    A small point: I happened to see part of the Commons Live

    featuring your goodself and approx. 10 or 12 other members.

    Earlier today the so called Defence Secretary was seen

    presenting his green paper describing how he proposes to

    defend this country and its interests. Once again it seems no

    more than a handful of members were present.

    Where on earth are the other 600 and odd members? Are

    they all down the pub? Is this about par for the course?

    Reply: Yes attendance is very poor for many debates at the moment. Labour find it almost impossible to get supporters in to the chamber.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted February 3, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Well noticed!

  8. Adrian Peirson
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    We all have thousands of gallons of water fall on our roofs each year.
    It tastes nice, though you do have to ensure it hasn't beeen contaminated, say for example by collecting off a tarmac roof which puts oil in the water.
    We need to all think about getting off the Communists control grid because they intend bringing us to heel.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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