An open letter to the Prime Minister

Picture of the Thames Water logo flowing into a drain with the text "Why should the public pay for Thames Water's failures?"

27 March 2024

Open letter: Don’t bail out Thames Water, nationalise it permanently

Dear Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,

Thames Water has failed. It’s on the point of collapse after racking up unsustainable debt of £18 billion at the expense of the public. Data just released by The Environment Agency shows a rise of 136% in the number of sewage spills lasting more than 24 hours. The average duration of Thames Water's sewage spills in 2023 was the highest of all the private water companies. Meanwhile, its shareholders have received £7 billion in dividends since privatisation. This model is broken.

Nowhere else in the world runs water the way that England does, it is an extreme ideological experiment. Water is a natural monopoly. Thames Water’s 15 million “customers” have no choice as consumers.

Now is the time to make Thames Water accountable to its real stakeholders - bill-payers, workers, communities and environmental groups as well as democratically elected local councillors. We call on the government to defend the public interest, end the rip off and clean up our rivers.

Right now the government seems to be planning to bail out Thames Water. This would be financially irresponsible and morally wrong.

Here’s what you should do instead:

1) Say no to Thames Water’s requests to increase our bills by 40%, reduce caps on sewage fines and allow shareholders to receive dividends

2) Set up a shadow water authority to cover Thames Water. The board of this organisation should include citizens, workers, communities, environmental groups and local councillors

3) Use your legal powers to put Thames Water into Special Administration on grounds of insolvency AND performance. Ofwat and the Environment Agency should use these powers for all water companies where there is a performance issue of violation or breach of environmental law or duties

4) Transfer Thames Water to the new publicly owned water authority. Transferring the company’s assets will achieve more effective performance. Publicly owned Thames Water won’t need to spend money on dividends and its debt can be refinanced more cheaply so more money can be invested in infrastructure to stop leaks and sewage

5) Protect Thames Water company land and assets in public hands for the future

We the public have already paid for Thames Water’s mistakes. Why should we pay yet higher bills and see our rivers filled with sewage? We refuse to pay for this company’s reckless asset stripping.

7 out of 10 people believe water belongs in public ownership. Don’t bail out Thames Water - take it back, permanently.

Signed by:

Cat Hobbs, We Own It

Ash Smith, Windrush Against Sewage Pollution

Ed Acteson, SOS Whitstable

Kathy Whysall, a member of Oxford Rivers Improvement Campaign

Keith Petts, Boycott Thames Water

The Henley Mermaids

Picture of the Thames Water logo flowing into a drain with the text "Why should the public pay for Thames Water's failures?"

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Eileen Jepson replied on Permalink

Public services should not be run for private profiteers/asset strippers. What is their incentive to spend on maintenance? Nil.

Dr D Wilosn replied on Permalink

ALL water should be in public ownership. It is an essential resource, and no one should be allowed to profit from water.

Billions in profit go to shareholders, many are outside the UK, and the public gets saddled with the repair bills.

Brenda Wilkinson replied on Permalink

Thames Water has proved that it is totally unfit to run a water supply company.

Get rid of the directors, bring in Good people who know the industry and will work for a reasonable salary.

Syeda Nahar replied on Permalink

It's too essential a service to leave in the hands of careless private corporations. It's a public good and should be owned by us.

Rashid Ahmed replied on Permalink

Good letter, let me know how I can help

Liz McKendry replied on Permalink

It makes economic sense to nationalise natural monopolies. It’s so obvious.

Lucy Dickinson replied on Permalink

Thanks to all the campaigners who have uncovered this awful situation. Please can we do something to ensure that our rivers get cleaned up.

Stephen replied on Permalink

ALL public not be run by private companies that rip off

their customers

Keith Hylands replied on Permalink

not just Thames, but all the water companies should be handed back to public ownership. Service before profit.

Anneli Harrison replied on Permalink

We are an island surrounded by polluted waters and rivers and shareholders making huge profits. How dare they try and put the cost of years of under investment on us. Nationalise now!

Eric Silvester replied on Permalink

Sue the shareholders who have milked Thames Water with outrageous dividend!

Les Copland replied on Permalink

The state of our water companies and the crimes against the environment they're committing are a disgrace! Privately owned utilities is a failed experiment and must be taken back under public ownership. How can companies provide a quality public service when their main focus is on profit.

RON HOLMES replied on Permalink

We can't live long without water. Makes no sense for it's provision to be in the hands of private companies and their profit motives.

Keith Hylands replied on Permalink

it should never have been privatised in the first place, it is obvious that profit is going to come before the public and I always believed that shareholders had to pay for any update needed, not the public, apperently not these days, it is all take and no give.

Sue Mitchell replied on Permalink

Nationalisation would be the best policy for the Nation

Rachel Watson replied on Permalink

Water companies are corrupt, doing the absolute bare minimum, while pumping money into private hands and sh*t into our waterways and letting infrastructure crumble. PUBLIC OWNERSHIP NOW!

Don Gilbert replied on Permalink

We should never have put our utilities into private ownership. Now we are paying the price for this decision. If Thames Water cannot resolve their debt problem, the taxpayer must not be used to bail them out. Ofwat should have taken firmer action a long time ago.

Anthony Payton replied on Permalink

After the Brexit vote that nice Mr Gove told us the environment would be safer in our hands than under EU legislation. What a load of shit from the chief turd.

PHILIP MICHAEL ... replied on Permalink

the water industry is a vital service we cannot return to the victorian era of public squaler and water bourne desease

Sharon Elizabet... replied on Permalink

Cambridge & Oxford Boat Race. Do not throw in the coxswain at the end of the races as tradition demands. The river is full of E coli.

Barrie Sharrock replied on Permalink

The grossly high-paid directors and greedy shareholders should pay to remedy the problems. Users of the service should not be bailing out a failed institution. All national services should be publicly owned and not run by civil servants but by ordinary people!

Maureen Spinney replied on Permalink

This should be seen as criminal negligence!

Jacqueline Wilde replied on Permalink

Water is life.. Water is a precious commododity, essential to the life and wellbeing of all our citizens, animals and plantlife, including our food on our islands. Water is free at source courtesy of Planet Earth.

Water belongs to all of us. The private profiteers have enriched themselves at our expense and are turning our waters into disease ridden swamps. Nationalise our waters now. Not a penny more for the criminal profiteers...rather a refund to pay for the much needed maintenance of our water that they have neglected for decades as they plundered our assets to enrich themselves with

high dividends. This must be considered a crime against humanity and a crime against nature.

Brian Claydon replied on Permalink

I remember when all utilities were in the government run & Mrs Thatcher had a beer in her bonnet about privatisation. A lot of ordinary people bought shares for pennies and made a fortune, what people fail to realise the utilities were all paid for by the tax payer they belonged to each and every one of us! Thatcher stole them and privatised them, now the tax payer is going to have to bail them all out, it's a national disgrace and heads should roll. It is legalized theft pure and simple!

Sarah Tobias replied on Permalink

All utilities should be publicly owned and prices to consumers kept as low as possible, with quality and commitment as high as possible. This country should get back to high standards.

D Braund replied on Permalink

Only a stupid country does not own its own water supply..

Linda Richards replied on Permalink

This scandal cannot be allowed to continue. Water-company shareholders have drawn profits for years at the expense of the public. Their lack of investment should not be rewarded with a temporary move back into public hands while their mess is sorted out and paid for by the tax payer. Water is our most precious resource and it is clear all across the country that privatisation has been a disaster. A weak Environment agency has compounded the problems.

All water resources in this country should come into permanent public ownership . At least then, if the tax payer and customers have to pay more, it will not be siphoned off by shareholders who do not have the needs and interests of this country at heart.

I have supported international water charities for decades and am appalled that this situation has been able to develop in our own country.

D Braund replied on Permalink

Only a stupid country does not own its own water supply..

Christine Bagguley replied on Permalink

Why should bill payers pay any increase when the company directors have loaded the company with debt whilst taking out huge salaries for themselves and rewarding share holders with unrealistically high dividends. Nationalise this company. Water belongs to us all not just the affluent few.

Caroline Scutt replied on Permalink

None of the essential services should have been privatised. This includes water, electricity,gas and transport. No other country in the world offers itself up to private investors, who just milk the system.

Ian Stansfield replied on Permalink

I never understood why water was privatised. All water companies should nationalised and run by people who know what they are doing and not for profit

Derek Smith replied on Permalink

What is worse is that at least two MPs are customers of Thames Water and they have stood by and let Thames Water act in a reckless way. We have already seen prices rise to pay for work that they have failed to do.

Ann Nightingale replied on Permalink

Utilities should never be privatise and profits siphoned off to share holders and not used to maintain the infrastructure for the public services.

Ann Nightingale replied on Permalink

Utilities should never be privatise and profits siphoned off to share holders and not used to maintain the infrastructure for the public services.

Graham Wilkins replied on Permalink

Living on the Devon/Cornwall border unfortunately we are supplied by South West Water who are the very worst polluters in the UK. Water bills are set to rise to pay for long overdue investment which should have been carried out during the last 35 years. This confirms that all water companies are ripping off their customers. The Government needs to take control of all these companies now in order to ensure water security and the clean up of this polluted private system. It has not worked in 35 years so now is the time for change.

Keith Petts replied on Permalink

If you want to join our whatsapp group to discuss what you as a consumer can do to put pressure on Thames Water (canceling your direct debit, withhold or delay payment for the wastewater part of your bill) please email us:

Anne Howie replied on Permalink

I used to swim in the Thames as a child (60 years ago) and never got ill. The water companies should be ashamed that it is dirtier now. Lack of investment, undeserved bonuses - not a great advert for privatisation. We are going to pay one way or another so we might as well own it.

Sheila Davies replied on Permalink

For the people,not for profits

Sarah Batten replied on Permalink

Natural monopolies such as water should not be privatised. The personnel running the water companies have clearly been motivated by big pay cheques and dividends to shareholders at the expense of infrastructure and the environment. The environment agency have been hopeless in monitoring performance and appear to have no teeth. The taxpayer should not have to foot the bill on a temporary basis. If we have to pay to fix the problem, the least we should get in return is ownership.

Anonymous replied on Permalink

This needs the support of everyone it's the future together we can win the fight to clean our waterways up, for a better future environment for our children and there family, which is far better than skimming off the profits for shareholders,

Karen Hannigan replied on Permalink

All water companies should be publicly owned.. get it out of the hands of these criminals! That goes for all utility companies.

John Carter replied on Permalink

This is just another dogmatic policy (along with Railways and Right to Buy council housing) whose chickens are all coming home to roost now. The status quo is not sustainable, nationalisation is the only option otherwise our already dire water 'treatment' is simply going to get worse.

G Bennett replied on Permalink

This septic isle, set in a sewage sea.

The government should allow the company to go bust, be declared bankrupt and placed into official receivership and wound up. It should then intervene to buy up all its assets from the receiver. It would be much cheaper than taking it on together with responsibility for its billions of debt.

G Bennett replied on Permalink

This septic isle, set in a sewage sea.

The government should allow the company to go bust, be declared bankrupt and placed into official receivership and wound up. It should then intervene to buy up all its assets from the receiver. It would be much cheaper than taking it on together with responsibility for its billions of debt.

Anonymous replied on Permalink

If we are going to bail southern water out, then it needs to go back permanently into public ownership. Not bailing out for private industry ! Even the thought is outrageous.

marie hammond replied on Permalink

Water is the essential for ife. It was a crime to sell off our water companies to greedy people who paid themselves high salaries and instead of putting profits into improvement paid investors huge dividends over the years..Those same self serving investors now will not pay to rescue the company they have milked dry.

David Viles replied on Permalink

It’s scandalous that the UK is once again receiving the accolade of the ‘dirty man of Europe’. A vital public service where there is no possibility of healthy competition to priced down should never have been privatised. Water supply and waste water treatment must be returned to state ownership, otherwise the sad downward spiral will continue.

Kathy Marsh replied on Permalink

Water must return to public ownership it is essential to life privatisation has almost totally destroyed all our water sources.

Pete Barclay replied on Permalink

Not only have water companies not invested in new infrastructures - they have been selling off reservoirs during periods of drought and with no regard to an increase in population

Karl Smith replied on Permalink

Thames Water in private ownership has been milking its income to the detriment of consumers and those affected by sewage discharge, jf bailed out all recipients of salaries and dividends will have defrauded the rest of us via our taxes. f existing management remain in office and go unpunished theey will effectively be receiving HMG's acceptance of asset stripping at public expense.

Caroline Porter replied on Permalink

Thames Water has behaved atrociously allowing sewage to pour through rivers and streams and killing wildlife whilst trying to keep their behaviour secret. Their object being to keep the cash to pay big dividends to shareholders. Let's take water back into public ownershipand fix the damage done by privatised company.

Suzanne Thompson replied on Permalink

I agree with just about all of the previous comments. If it is renationalised there needs to be a mechanism which stops a future government from privatising it again - I really don’t see why a government which is only voted in for about 5 years should have the power to sell off national assets which have often been paid for by the whole nation for many years.

Anonymous replied on Permalink

Do you a nationalised water service, before Thatcher sold it off, would have been allowed to get away with the criminal filth that the water companies have?

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