IS it time to take privatised water companies back into public ownership?

The concept of re-nationalisation is no long anathema after the Tories reluctantly agreed to take over the running of rail services on the East Coast Main Line. So perhaps we should take a look at other public utilities as well?

According to research carried out by the University of Greenwich, English consumers are paying £2.3bn more a year for their privatised water and sewerage services than if the utilities had remained in state hands.

They calculated the cost of privatisation to each household as over £100 a year.

This despite the very favourable terms of privatisation. The Government assumed the sector’s £4.9bn of debt so the water companies could start with a clean slate. In fact, it actually sweetened the deal with a £1.5bn taxpayer-funded dowry.

Granted, water companies have invested a huge amount of money to improve crumbling infrastructure since privatisation.

But the improvements have been largely financed by commercial borrowing.

According to the GMB union, Richard Flint, Yorkshire Water’s CEO, earns much more than the Prime Minister.

No doubt he does, but Yorkshire Water counters that it is only paying the market rate for a top-class CEO. In that respect he is no different to other water company chief executives.

By any standards, Mr Flint’s salary package is an eye-watering sum. Would the chief executive of a nationalised water company earn as much? We suspect not.