A leaking water pipe

With the government in crisis talks about the impending collapse of Thames Water, campaigners have launched a petition demanding the ailing water firm be taken into public ownership. Anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It has launched the petition, which is calling for Thames Water to be taken into public hands on a permanent basis, rather than temporarily as the government is reportedly considering.

The petition, targeting business secretary Kemi Badenoch, is also calling for the government to use legal powers to protect billpayers rather than bailing out shareholders and creditors.

Thames Water is understood to be in dire straits as a result of the more than £14bn debt mountain it has accrued.

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It, said: “Yes we want to keep the taps on – that doesn’t mean bailing out the financial institutions that caused this mess. The government must take over Thames Water in a way that protects the interests of billpayers, taxpayers and the environment. Not the shareholders and creditors who have had a bonanza at our expense over the last 34 years.

“Thames Water needs to go into special administration and then stay in public ownership. This kind of model has been used before, with Railtrack becoming publicly-owned Network Rail.

“The situation is precarious with Thames Water and the other private English water monopolies. The responsible thing for the government to do would be to get ready for more private companies to collapse by setting up shadow public sector bodies in every region to take over from failing water companies. These should involve councils and communities in developing a plan to sort out leaks and sewage.”

We Own It argues that England’s privatised water industry is broken and that bringing the sector into public ownership will deliver better results for people and the planet. They argue that Scottish Water – which is still in public hands – invests more in infrastructure to tackle leaks and sewage. The group also highlights that the vast majority of countries have a publicly owned water system.

At the time of writing, over 5,000 people have signed the petition in less than 24 hours.

Polling carried out by Survation has found that 69 per cent of the public think water should be in public ownership.

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Image credit: Horst Guttman – Creative Commons