Sunday, November 30, 2008

'Free market' fanatics call for Welsh water privatisation

You couldn’t make it up. You would have thought that after the disaster of railway privatisation the free market loons of The Adam Smith Institute, who came up with the whole barmy idea in the first place, would have done the honourable thing and left public life for good. But no, they’re still at it. The battiest think tank in the world wants to see the publicly-owned Glas Cymru- the company which owns Welsh Water subjected to the “disciplines of private sector ownership”. And we all know that that will mean: profits for the few, but much higher bills for householders.

In his brilliant post 'English Water, anyone', Charlie Marks writes:

Though Glas Cymru may not be perfect, it looks a damn sight better than what we have in England! We are being told that the only way to lower our bills is to have the profiteering water companies competing with each other. We have this with our gas and electricity suppliers - but do our bills come down? No, they compete with each other to squeeze as much money out of customers!

Privatisation has been a disaster. Public assets sold off at knock-down prices to the friends and sponsors of the governing party (Tories, now New Labour). Prices have been allowed to skyrocket -natural monopolies are milked for profit by colluding suppliers in gas, electricity, and railways. Rather than seeing greater private investment in our railways, more public money is invested in rail than ever before!

The likes of the Adam Smith Institute can try all they like to convince the public of the benefits of handing public resources over to big businesses. Their nonsense is only heeded by those politicians hoping to get cushy non-jobs in business after they leave office.

We need to return the privatised utilities to public ownership and democratic control, with the involvement of workers and consumers in the process of management.

Surveys of public opinion have never found a clear majority in favour of privatisation - and with the credit crunch being perceived as resulting deregulation and demutualisation, more and more people will begin to see the necessity of reversing the neoliberal era.

Privatisation of water and sewage services did not take place in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Scottish Water is owned by the Scottish government and both the incumbent nationalist party and the opposition Labour Party are committed to the company remaining in the public sector. The Scottish Tories are for privatisation, but are at pains to point out they don’t want what has happened in England! Northern Ireland Water priovides water and sewage services in the six counties; like Scottish Water it is still part of the public sector.

So, there’s Northern Ireland Water, Scottish Water, Welsh Water - how about English Water?

You can read Charlie’s article in full at the Campaign for Public Ownership’s website and at his own excellent pro-public ownership blog.

Meanwhile, I see that the Adam Smith Institute have got a new book coming out entitled 'Privatisation-Regaining the Momentum'. That's sure to be a best-seller this Christmas, isn't it?


Derek Wall said...

The present economic crisis, created by extending the market, is likely to be used to privatise more...see my post on this

David Lindsay said...

"That's sure to be a best-seller this Christmas, isn't it?"

No, because, after the utility bills have been paid, no one can afford to buy it.

Martin Meenagh said...

I'm not so sure the government could afford any more PFI schemes Derek. These massive hidden costs are coming around to bite, and according to one source the existing cost of serving them has risen by twenty-seven billion pounds in the past few weeks.

The truth is privatisation was never true privatisation; nobody was exposed to the rigours of the market that fevered marketeers tell us all about. Instead, the government, us, taxpayers, underwrote, subsidised, and oiled the way of these huge corporations from day one. If a few of them go bust, wait and see if the government doesn't just find that owning them and setting them up on a network rail model isn't better than expecting the brave market to pick up the pieces.

I think we'll see many more municipally and nationally owned transport industries, airports and co-ops fairly soon.

Now we need to ramp up nuclear power, reopen the coalmines on a cooperative basis--I liked Galloway's suggesting of buying Woolies and turning them into employee-owned shops on the John Lewis or Co-Operative society model today--and start sticking train lines everywhere.

Apologies to your green sensibilities. Great post, Neil and Charlie.

David Lindsay said...

Martin as a strong supporter of co-operatives, I think that something like Galloway's suggestion would be very good for the Co-op (there is always a Tesco or an Asda nearby, for those who cannot afford it; there is bother over the Co-operative Party's continued use of Co-op premises) and the John Lewis Partnership (which, as much as anything else, includes Waitrose).

israelite said...

Welsh Water used to be in private hands. But the privateers screwed up and it went bankrupt. And so it came back into public ownership.