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Union calls for nationalisation after figures reveal 85% of Anglian Water is owned overseas

PUBLISHED: 15:38 29 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:40 29 December 2018

A GMB study has found that 85% of Anglian Water is owned by overseas shareholders. Picture: Archant

A GMB study has found that 85% of Anglian Water is owned by overseas shareholders. Picture: Archant

Archant

A study has found that 85% of Anglian Water is owned by overseas shareholders, prompting calls for the water industry to be nationalised.

A member of an Anglian Water team at work detecting and repairing leaks. Picture: Anglian WaterA member of an Anglian Water team at work detecting and repairing leaks. Picture: Anglian Water

Nearly 30 years on from the company’s privatisation, the GMB trade union representing water industry workers has found that 33% of Anglian Water is owned by a pension fund in Canada.

Another 32% belongs to the Commonwealth Bank in Australia, while a further 20% is owned by Australian pension funds.

The figures are taken from an investigation into company accounts as part of GMB’s ‘Take Back the Tap’ campaign, which calls on Environment Secretary Michael Gove to put water into public ownership.

Tim Roache, GMB’s general secretary, said: “As we approach the 30th anniversary of water privatisation, it is time to return England’s water services to public hands.

“It is a scandal that the water that falls from England’s skies is in fact overwhelmingly owned by overseas profiteers.”

Recent GMB investigations into England’s nine privatised water companies have revealed that dividends worth £6.5bn were paid to shareholders over the past five years, with £1.4bn in 2017 alone.

But Anglian Water has emphasised its desire for increased investment at a domestic level.

“Our proposed business plan from 2020 outlines plans for £6.5bn worth of investment across the Anglian Water region, 30% more than ever before,” a spokesman said.

“Our shareholder’s dividends have been slashed until 2025 to fast-track funding to begin this work early. The vast majority of our shareholders are long-term public sector employee pension funds.

“If the water service were owned by the government, it would simply not be a priority for investment. Since privatisation, customers are five times less likely to suffer from supply interruptions and 100 times less likely to have low water pressure.”

With GMB launching its Take Back the Tap petition, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has pledged to set up a new publicly owned water system, while leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the 2018 GMB Congress about his commitment to bringing water back into public ownership.

Mr Roache added: “This is yet another damning example of a failed privatisation and Labour are right to promise action.

“GMB is campaigning to Take Back the Tap and return England’s water to its rightful owners.”

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