Australian company Macquarie’s successful bid for the National Grid’s distribution business has been greeted with dismay today (Thursday) by public services union UNISON.
The union – which has thousands of members working in the utilities sector – says when Macquarie ran Thames Water, the end result was poorer customer service, higher bills, massive debts, complex tax structures and profits siphoned off to its parent company in Australia. UNISON fears a similar fate lies in store for the UK’s network of gas pipelines and the country’s consumers more generally.
When Macquarie owned Thames Water – from 2006-2016 – the water company made massive profits but organised its financial affairs to limit paying corporation taxes. In one year alone in 2013, despite achieving a turnover of £1.8 billion and profits of £550 million it paid no corporation tax at all. The likelihood of a repeat performance is high, believes UNISON.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The experience of Thames Water customers when Macquarie was running the show should have been a red flag to ministers and regulators as how unsuitable this company is to be in charge of the UK’s gas supply.
“Macquarie has poor form already – in building up huge company debt, repatriating massive dividends to the southern hemisphere and charging customers more for a much poorer service.
“The company has already proved it can’t be trusted with the nation’s water supply, but now it is to be in charge of gas pipes to millions of homes and businesses”
“The government has said it wants to invest in UK infrastructure, yet these are not terribly encouraging first steps. It suggests ministers have not given much thought to an industrial strategy, not do they seem to have much desire to retain key parts of the nation’s infrastructure in UK hands.”
The gas distribution business is a regulated private monopoly and has fixed returns, meaning the company running it cannot help but make money, says UNISON.
Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the largest union in the gas industry.
– Macquarie ran Thames Water between 2006-2016
– National Grid is selling a majority stake in its four regional gas distribution networks – East Midlands, West Midlands, North West England and East of England (including North London)
Alan Weaver T: 0207 121 5555 M: 07939 143310 E: firstname.lastname@example.org