April 23, 2024

I just got my water bill and nearly fainted – all this money in return for what?

Much has already been written about the failure of the privatised water monopolies to invest adequately over the last 35 years; we saw the consequences last year on our beaches and rivers, we saw it again on the Thames at the Boat Race this weekend and no doubt we’ll see it again this summer.

My water bill has now landed for next year with a 14 per cent increase on top of 10 per cent last year. Helpfully, it tells me that nearly 9 per cent of my money will go to “sharing success with shareholders so we can keep investing in our water and region”.

It is, however, stating the obvious that if you give funds away from the business, you cannot use those funds to invest in the business. Most water company shareholders are not in fact investors – unless they have contributed to share issues; they have simply bought their shares on the market, and the only risk they face is of poor management if they fail to hold the executive sufficiently to account. Is that risk worth a dividend?

For most of them, these monopolies are seen as cash cows with little real investment risk. Weak regulation, which has tolerated collective poor performance, has aided that view. Privatisation was meant to open up our infrastructure to greater funding opportunities to improve the networks in a way that public ownership apparently would not be able to. It is now long obvious that that model has not worked. The current challenges for the infrastructure are clearly huge but they have been entirely foreseeable.

What is worse is that the government says pathetically that sewage on the beaches and in rivers is “not acceptable”, but it is still happy to normalise it. Just how, in the UK in 2024, is there anything remotely tolerable about this situation? As a customer I would like to share success by swimming in the sea, but I can’t. It’s time for a change.

Charles Wood


Expose the loopholes

So, we are now told that the Conservatives supposed scrapping of the non dom tax status is riddled with loopholes. Why am I surprised ?

These loopholes need to be exposed because they paint an even deeper black hole in Tory finances which are already short by at least £46 billion.

We all know where the Conservatives really stand on this – and we all know that this exposure of even more incompetence would only result in even more cuts or even more higher taxes ultimately hitting the least well off.

Which is all the more reason for a proper windfall tax and real change from a Sir Keir Starmer-led Labour government.

Geoffrey Brooking


For the sake of mankind, we must end war in Gaza

My father fought in the Second World War in the fight against Nazism – and for freedom. One of the big drivers was the harm suffered by the Jewish people, which most of the world was rightly appalled at.

So, understandably, when Israel feels threatened it feels justified to retaliate – but there has to come a moment in time where you look at the wider picture and say: enough is enough, for the sake of the young and the old alike.

This war in Gaza has far out done its achievement and objectives. Let’s end it now, for the sake of mankind.

Paul Atkins


Raising the future

I read your editorial (Children’s NHS waiting lists must be a priority, 1 April) with interest and agreement – because if a country can’t prioritise its children, who appear now to be way down in the pecking order in this beleaguered world, it is a dire state of affairs.

They are our future – and to witness their mental and physical health concerns going from bad to worse is an indictment on us all.

Dr Camilla Kingdon is correct: they should be prioritised and not left languishing on endless waiting lists, with all the associated angst and concern metered out to their desperate parents. There is something so bleak about this and it should concern us all.

They are the vulnerable collateral damage of a system that needs proactive reforming, stabilising and a practical way forward.

Judith A. Daniels

Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Have we forgotten what peace looks like?

America, having spent hundreds of billions of dollars on supplying aid to Ukraine, has suggested no clear concept of what “victory” or eventual “peace” may (or should) look like.

Yet the ones who pay the price for this criminal idiocy are the people of Ukraine and the collateral disposables on both sides, whether Ukrainian or Russian soldiers. The eventual outcome of this war will not be decided by military means, but eventually through negotiations.

The urgent question which should be asked is: how long will the West will stand by and witness the destruction of Ukraine?

President Eisenhower so long ago stated: The biggest threat to our country is the military-industrial complex. As a previous supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, who better to know?

Clearly, history has shown that we have not learned from history: the ones who survive wars are invariably the ones who advocate war.

Gunter Straub


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