THE Government is considering a massive shake-up in the way the nation’s water and sewage services are handled which would allow thousands of local organisations and businesses to choose an independent supplier.
The environment department Defra commissioned a major enquiry into the way the privatised water companies operate – some have been the source of major criticism for inefficiency and over charging – from expert Professor Martin Cave and his report, issued yesterday, makes dramatic recommendations.
Extending competition will deliver real benefits for customers and the environment through lower prices, more choice, higher service levels and the better use of water
- the introduction of legislation to allow 28,000 then 162,000 large public and private sector organisations in England and Wales to choose their water and sewerage retailer for the first time
- retail divisions of water companies should be made legally independent from their network business
- a series of changes to incentivise new water and wastewater suppliers to enter the market
These recommendations aim to reduce costs and increase service levels for all customers; support the more efficient use of water; and help companies to better meet the challenges facing the industry including climate change, containing costs, rising consumer expectations, and water efficiency.
Launching the interim report, Professor Martin Cave commented: “Extending competition will deliver real benefits for customers and the environment through lower prices, more choice, higher service levels and the better use of water. These changes could benefit the economy by around £600 million over the next 30 years.”
Whether or not such changes would make much impact here in the Yorkshire Dales is a matter of debate. Although in the years immediately after privatisation Yorkshire Water had a poor reputation for waste from leaking pipes and pollution from poorly maintained sewage farms, it has invested millions in improvements.
Some of the biggest projects involved bringing steady water supplies to Yorkshire Dales villages which had often run dry in times of draught. Although the company’s charges have increased year on year, they are still lower than many water suppliers in other parts of England.