Dramatic fall in support for water nationalisation after revelations on pension cuts
- More than 4 million public sector workers to have pensions slashed under water nationalisation plans
- Fewer than 1 in 3 people now support water nationalisation
Support for water nationalisation has slumped following last week’s exposure of Labour’s plan to hit the savings of nearly six million pensioners if they take the English water industry into government ownership.
Only 29% of people would support water nationalisation if it cut pensions in the way planned by Labour, according to a new poll by ComRes for Water UK.
This compares to the 83% support for water nationalisation, often quoted by supporters of public ownership, from a poll carried out in summer 2017 long before details about Labour’s water takeover plans emerged.
The collapse in support for nationalisation comes as more details of the pension raid emerges. Research by the Global Infrastructure Investor Association (GIIA) shows that there are more than 4 million public sector workers with pension funds invested in the English water industry. They face losing potentially thousands of pounds if Labour goes ahead with plans to force through a cut-price takeover of the industry.
It was revealed last week that Labour briefing papers showed that a future government would plan to pay a fraction of the market value for the English water industry if it took it over, and that the Party accepted there would be an impact on pensions invested in the industry.
In total there are 67 UK pension funds identified by the GIIA with investment in the English water industry, with 4,011,717 members of public sector schemes and 1,768,942 in private sector schemes. Pension funds affected include the 158,099 members of the UK Mineworkers Pension Scheme, the 370,142 people in the Greater Manchester scheme for local authority workers, and the 134,339 members of the Merseyside local authority pension fund. Around 350,000 workers at Tesco and more than 300,000 BT workers would also be affected by the impact of nationalisation. A table at the end of this story gives the full details.
Responding to the new figures on a fall in support for water nationalisation in England, as well as the new information about the impact on pensions, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:
“More and more people are realising that spending tens of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to take over an industry that’s already reducing bills, increasing investment and cutting leakage doesn’t make much sense. When you add in the devastating impact on millions of pensioners it turns a bad idea into a deeply damaging one.”
ComRes was asked by Water UK to test public attitudes on what has been called Labour’s ‘smash-and-grab raid’ on the water industry. As well as finding the low levels of support for a government taking over the water industry, they discovered that only 22% of the public supported the attack on pensions which would happen as a result of Labour’s plans.
Since privatisation in 1989 around £160 billion has been invested in the water industry, with plans for another £50 billion over the next 5 years. Bills are roughly the same in real terms as they were 20 years ago and there are plans to reduce them by 5% in real terms over the next 5 years, meaning that by 2025 there will have been a decade of falling bills in real terms. Average water bills are now around £1 a day.
Leakage is down by a third since privatisation and is due to be cut by 16% by 2025 and by 50% by 2050. Water companies have spent around £25 billion on the environment since 1995, with 10,000 miles of rivers being protected and improved since then. Environmental work since privatisation has resulted in wildlife returning to rivers that had been biologically dead since the Industrial Revolution.
Customers are now 5 times less likely to suffer from supply interruptions, 8 times less likely to suffer from sewer flooding, and 100 times less likely to have low water pressure than they were when the industry was in Government hands.
Nationalisation would cost the British taxpayer £90 billion upfront, according to respected independent think tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF). This is money that could otherwise be spent on hospitals, schools and pensions. The cost is equivalent to the entire education budget, or enough to pay the salaries of every doctor, nurse and other NHS employee twice over.
The National Infrastructure Commission has said that significant ongoing investment is needed in the UK’s water infrastructure, estimated by the SMF to be over £100bn in the next decade. Were the taxpayer to fund these costs, investment would have to compete with other public services for Government capital spending. The SMF found that ongoing investment in water would account for over 13% of the UK’s entire capital spend. In comparison, building and maintaining schools and other educational facilities absorbs 18% of the capital budget.
|PUBLIC SECTOR PENSIONS INVESTED IN THE ENGLISH WATER INDUSTRY
|Name of Scheme
|Avon Pension Fund
|Cambridgeshire Pension Fund
|Cornwall Council Pension Fund
|Cumbria County Council Pension Fund
|Derbyshire County Council Pension Fund
|Devon County Council Pension Fund
|Dorset County Council Pension Fund
|East Riding Pension Fund (ERPF)
|East Sussex County Council Pension Fund
|Essex County Council Pension Fund
|Falkirk Council Pension Fund
|Flintshire County Council Pension Plan (Clwyd Pension Fund)
|Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF)
|Hampshire County Council Pension Fund
|Lancashire County Council Pension Fund
|Leicestershire County Council Pension Fund
|Lincolnshire County Council Pension Fund
|London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Pension Fund
|London Borough of Barnet Pension Fund
|London Borough of Bexley Pension Fund
|London Borough of Enfield Pension Fund
|London Borough of Havering Pension Fund
|London Pensions Fund Authority (LPFA)
|Lothian Pension Fund & Lothian Buses Pension Fund
|Medical Research Council Pension Scheme (MRCPS)
|Merseyside Pension Fund
|Northern Ireland Local Government Officers Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC)
|Nottinghamshire County Council Pension Fund
|Royal County of Berkshire Pension Fund
|Strathclyde Pension Fund
|Suffolk County Council Pension Fund
|Superannuation Arrangements of the University of London (SAUL)
|TFL Pension Fund
|The City of London Corporation
|Tyne and Wear Pension Fund
|University of Oxford Staff Pension Scheme
|West Midlands Pension Fund
|West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF)
|Worcestershire County Council Pension Fund
|University Superannuation Scheme
|PRIVATE SECTOR PENSIONS INVESTED IN THE ENGLISH WATER INDUSTRY
|Name of Scheme
|AA Pension Scheme
|Affinity Water Pension Plan
|Akzo Nobel (CPS) Pension Scheme
|BAE Systems Pension Funds
|BBC Pension Scheme
|BMW (UK) Operations Pension Scheme
|British Airways Pension Scheme
|British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme (BCSSS)
|BT Pension Scheme (BTPS)
|Church of England Investment Fund for Pensions
|Cooper-Avon Tyres Pension Trust
|DMGT Senior Executives Pension Fund (SEPF)
|Harmsworth Pension Scheme
|James Neill Pension Plan
|Liberata Pension Fund
|Lloyds Group Pension Schemes
|Marks and Spencer Pension Trust
|Nationwide Pension Fund
|Plumbing Pensions (UK)
|Port of London Authority Pension Fund
|Reed Elsevier Pension Scheme
|Santander (UK) Common Investment Fund
|Shell Overseas Contributory Pension Fund (SOCPF)
|Tesco PLC Pension Scheme
|Trafalgar House Pension Trust
|UK Mineworker's Pension Scheme (MPS)
|Veolia UK Pension Plan
|Grand total (Private and Public Sector)
Research by Global Infrastructure Investor Association (GIIA)