The independent London newspaper

It’s time to pull the plug on Thames Water

14 February, 2019

Cartoon by John Sadler

• “SIXTEEN tons and what d’you get? “Another day older and deeper in debt.” It goes on… “I owe my soul to the company store.”

In this case not coal but water. Some may recall this old song written by Merle Travis about debt bondage. It’s as relevant today as it was then.

Ignorant or indifferent to the continued rise of the selling off of people’s “private” data, councils have let tenants’ personal details by sleight of hand slip into the care of a murky business, Thames Water, (We bought up data on council tenants, admits Thames Water, January 31).

It no longer has to deal with the city’s boroughs when setting the water rates which clearly held down bills to the private sector too by way of people being able to compare.

It’s now every man and woman for him or herself in the face of those who own Thames Water. And who are they? Fifty per cent of Thames Water is owned by a series of investment companies, mostly sovereign wealth funds or pension funds owned by foreign governments.

Are Mr Ms Miss Everyone ready for this? What of its reputation? A record environment fine of £20.3million was paid out in 2018 for untreated sewage.

In June 2017 it had to pay out £65million to its customers in leakage penalties, and £100million in dividends to the shareholders of its parent company. And who might they be?

A consortium of Kuwaiti and Canadian investors has the largest stake, 26 per cent. It is represented by a holding company called Kemble Water Holdings, and it has another unit called, Thames Water Utilities Cayman Finance.

That’s whose hands each of us is in now. Are these investors cuddly and benevolent? Are they ready to make sure that today’s relatively well-washed do not descend into the great unwashed? As if. Time to pull the plug on this arrangement.

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