Coun Keir Morrison guest column: Severn Trent profits should be used to boost flooding defences

Hucknall flood.'Thoresby Dale flood.
Hucknall flood.'Thoresby Dale flood.

Last week I read with great interest the profits Severn Trent Water have posted for the last financial year – a staggering £518 million.

Severn Trent made this profit on a turnover of £1.54 billion, up 2.2 per cent on 2012-13. The firm’s activities are controlled by the regulatory body Ofwat, which monitors both price increases and the amount of money Severn Trent has to spend on infrastructure like sewage & drainage systems.

This got me thinking- why is a basic human necessity like water a privatised commodity? Why are customers ripped off year after year with price hikes? Why don’t Severn Trent invest in flood defence mechanisms and upgrade the Victorian sewerage systems in Hucknall? Is this a lot to ask of a company making £518 million profit per year?

I also find it rich that Tory Mark Spencer MP harps on about how much he’s fighting the case for flood hit victims. Well, that’s very good Mark, but research by the official House of Commons library found that the amount spent on flood defences between 2007 and 2011 (Labour government) was £2.37billion, while the amount spent between 2011 and 2015 (Coalition government) will be £2.34billion - a £247million cut in real terms.

Maybe he could explain why his government is making these huge cuts to the flood defence budget and putting the wellbeing and safety of the people of Hucknall at risk, next time he writes into the paper….

I, like many others, am sick to the back teeth of private companies milking customers with rip off prices, shoddy services and the Coalitions privatisation ideology.

Take the Royal Mail for example - a successful, profitable, publically run service that has been prosperous for many years.

In the last year, the Coalition has completed its ideological agenda to carve up Royal Mail and flog it off to their pals on the stock market. Who loses out? The taxpayer of course - because services like this are sold off on the cheap and we receive a bum deal.

The Tories have always had the same mantra when it comes to privatisation (or outsourcing as some may say) – ‘nationalise the debt, privatise the profits’

I have nothing against entrepreneurship or private companies that are fair, accountable and transparent with customers & consumers but there has to be a line or legislation put in place to stop exploitation and predatory capitalism.

Over successive governments (mainly Tory) we have lost some great public services, British Rail, energy utilities, Royal Mail, the probation service, land registry and most recently the NHS, amongst many others.

I say it’s about time we took these services back into public ownership.

They should be ran by the people, for the people. This would provide more jobs, accountability, transparency and fairness.

Take a look at the railways: we should take back parts of the network as and when contracts expire, this would ensure the public purse wouldn’t be financially burdened with buy-out clauses or fees.

Even backbench coalition MP’s and traditional non Labour voters are beginning to realise that industries such as rail and energy should be renationalised.

But don’t just take my word for it, look at the facts – In November 2013 YouGov commissioned public research on what people’s opinions were on re-nationalisation. YouGov research for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies found voters of all politics united in their support for nationalisation of energy and rail. 68 per cent of the public say the energy companies should be run in the public sector, while only 21% say they should remain in private hands. 66% support nationalising the railway companies while 23 per cent think they should be run privately.

The British people also tend strongly to prefer a publicly-run National Health Service and a publicly-run Royal Mail (which they were, until last year).

Nationalisation isn’t some wacky ancient Karl Marx theory that should be consigned to the dust bin of history.

It should be explored as a viable, credible option with the interests of the Great British public in mind.

Political parties of all colours would be unwise to ignore the growing public opinion to re-nationalise industries, and if they do ignore this idea, they will be punished come May 2015 general election.