Water

Spectator:

Last week Michael Robinson of the BBC presented a superb documentary on what Thames Water had done to London and the southeast. Most infamously, the company poured 1.4 billion litres of sewage into the Thames near Marlow alone, destroying fish and fouling the home lives of river-side residents. The residents were also its customers.

Not that Thames Water seemed to care. Water is a private monopoly. Why should it bother itself about the feelings of people who had nowhere else to go?

After hearing how managers ignored warnings from workers about persistent equipment failures, Judge Francis Sheridan encapsulated their attitude when he said that the company had presided over ‘a shocking and disgraceful state of affairs’.

As shocking is the way that the former owners of Thames, the Australian bank Macquarie, was able to pass its costs on to the public. Macquarie took on £2.8 billion of debt to buy the company; it then loaded £2 billion of Cayman Islands debt on to Thames Water and its customers, despite giving assurances to the water regulator Ofwat that it would do no such thing. Macquarie has taken its profits.

Though my current bete noire is gas and has been since 2009, water has also been iffy and is charging insane amounts from me for quite limited usage. Years ago I complained to United about the meter downstairs, that it was racking up numbers on the dial which did not accord with the water used – I filled a kettle to 1.5 litres to test it and passed that result on.

First they tried to tell me that the old meters actually understated usage and I retorted that I’d just given them figures that showed the opposite. Moreover, that was now recorded on their files.

They’d send someone. Thank you.

They did send someone who promptly put in a ‘smart’ meter without my permission. I understood the meter was being changed like for like. No need to go on because you’ve probably had similar.

They are criminals. There is no redress.