UNISON condemns water firms’ attempt to increase household bills

The union reiterates its call for renationalisation, to ensure “value for taxpayers”

Water contaminated with sewage and waste in a reservoir

UNISON has condemned calls from private water companies in England and Wales to increase bills to customers in order to invest in infrastructure and has reiterated its call for the industry to be renationalised.

The water industry has faced widespread criticism in recent years over the high volume of raw sewage discharges and the environmental impact on the rivers and seas – after paying huge dividends to shareholders instead of investing.

Despite funding of £56bn announced last year by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to tackle storm overflows – and topped up to £60bn in September this year – water companies want to increase household bills.

The companies are seeking approval from the regulator, Ofwat, to increase domestic bills by £156 a year to raise £96bn to modernise ageing infrastructure.

Only last month, the industry was ordered to pay back £114m to customers through lower bills after failing to meet key targets.

However, should the plan to increase customers’ bills be approved, it would mean that annual bills increase from 2025 to 2030 – with the general public having to pay for a situation that has been caused by the companies themselves.

Natalie Mladenovich-Haigh, chair of UNISON’s water industry sector committee, said: “Under these proposals, the public will pay for decades of profit extraction.

“Billions have been passed to shareholders while our waterways and sewage system have been starved of investment by regional monopolies and a regulator refusing to act in the public interest.

“The water companies must be renationalised. This will deliver a service that provides value for taxpayers ensuring the water needs of UK citizens are met by the public sector.”