Water firms `not doing their job'

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The Independent Online
The water companies have cut capital investment by pounds 361m since privatisation and produced plans to renovate Britain's most important sewers that would take 425 years.

These statistics, culled by the Labour Party from an analysis of data from Ofwat, the water regulator, will fuel the political row over the activities of the privatised water utilities.

When they were sold off, the Government argued that, in the private sector, they would be able to raise more cash for investment.

Although they did put significant sums of investment into the system in their first years of privatised life, that has steadily fallen, as government subsidies to the sale have declined. Capital investment in 1990-91 was pounds 2.7bn, rising to a peak of pounds 3.3bn in 1991-2 but dropping in 1995-96 to 2.3bn.

Yesterday Frank Dobson, Labour's Environment spokesman, condemned the companies, saying: "They are not investing enough to keep up with the deterioration of the pipes and sewers and what's just as bad is that the regulator is letting them get away with it.

"It's further evidence that they need to be more tightly regulated in the interests of the customer and the environment. The racket continues. They're coining money but not doing their job."