Take Thames Water into public ownership

Dear Rt Hon Jonathan Reynolds MP, Secretary of State for Business and Trade,

As Thames Water collapses, we call on you to take it into public ownership, with three conditions:

  • No bailout at our expense - the government must use the law to protect billpayers and taxpayers, not the financial institutions that got us into this mess
  • New publicly owned Thames Water must give communities a role in governance and be accountable for a serious plan to tackle leaks and sewage and clean up our rivers
  • Make it permanent not temporary
Photo of thousands of people outside Parliament. People hold individual letters on huge boards spelling out NHS privatisation kills.
23,364
Target: 34000

Last signature: Katrina North London, 20 hours 13 min ago

The government must take Thames Water into special administration and KEEP it in public ownership. This means copying the model of Railtrack becoming publicly owned Network Rail NOT the model of Bulb being temporarily nationalised then returned to the private sector.

Thames Water is collapsing because it has racked up nearly £19 billion of debt. In 1989 it started out with zero debt. It has spent the last 34 years profiting at our expense. The company has paid out £7.2 billion in dividends and in 2022 paid out £37 million of “internal dividends” to its parent company.

The largest stake in Thames Water is owned by a Canadian pension fund. Other shareholders include companies owned by the governments of Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and China.

The government's priority should be protecting the public from the mess caused by these financial institutions. Protecting billpayers and protecting our water and our rivers.

Regulation is no solution - there is a revolving door between Ofwat and the water companies. Cathryn Ross, the interim co-CEO of Thames Water previously worked at Ofwat.

Publicly owned Scottish Water has spent £72 more per household per year (35% more) than the English water companies. If England had invested at this rate, an extra £28 billion would have gone into the infrastructure to tackle problems like leaks and sewage.

The English model of privatisation is not normal - 90% of the world runs water in public ownership. Water is a natural monopoly, there is no market for consumers. We need to build on examples of best practice from Scotland and Paris.

The government should set up shadow water authorities in every region to take over if the private companies fail. These should be democratic structures with a voice for communities, focussed on providing the best service, cutting leaks and cleaning up rivers and seas.