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Cancel for Clean Water Campaign

A Campaign for a Mass Cancelling of Direct Debits to the Water Companies

We, the customers of water companies in England and Wales, can no longer tolerate the complete lack of accountability now in full view as our water companies continue unabated their catastrophic pollution of our waterways.

We are appalled that the interest on the massive amount of debt held by our water companies is passed straight on to us in our bills.

We are outraged that 28% of every bill paid - more than one quarter – goes to servicing that debt. Moreover, the money we are paying in this way is often held in surplus, meaning we are in effect acting as a cash cow for water companies.



We pledge to CANCEL our Direct Debits, and to demand of water companies that they return any monies held on surplus.

Full explainer: A Financial Model Based on Debt

Water companies charge customers on a system called the Regulated Asset Base, which creates incentives for companies to acquire debt. The cost of the interest on that debt is passed straight through to the consumer’s bill. 

It is currently estimated that in the 35 years since privatization, the cost of servicing that debt now represents 28% of every bill paid. In another 35 years servicing debt will represent the lion’s share of charges on our bills.

This is unsustainable.

While there are substantial financial and legal protections for the water industry, accountability to us, their customers, has been eroded.

Water companies in England and Wales are shielded legally by the Water Industry Act 1991, which protects the companies from the consequences of environmental harm.

The act makes it a statutory duty for consumers to pay bills – much like council tax – while ensuring companies cannot be privately prosecuted for the pollution they cause.

Only government bodies can hold water companies to account: on environmental compliance, this is the Environment Agency, and financially, it is OFWAT.

However, the Environment Agency has failed to monitor and hold water companies to account. Meanwhile, each five-year business plan by water companies has been implemented with the full approval of OFWAT.

Now, as noted by the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee in a letter to the Chief Executive of OFWAT on 21 February, OFWAT is incapable of using its full powers against water companies without risking a failure of that business, precisely because of their indebtedness.

Professor Richard Murphy, of the Corporate Accountability Network and Sheffield University, notes that all water companies are now ‘environmentally insolvent’ as they do not have the £260bn needed to fix the sewage crisis.

In England and Wales we were asked 35 years ago to accept water as a privatized monopoly on the basis that the industry is regulated. 

It is clear that regulation has failed.

In the place of such failure, we insist on accountability to protect the consumer and the environment.

Water companies have no other revenue apart from that charged to their customers, for whom there is a statutory requirement only that they pay their bills twice a year. There is no requirement to pay by direct debit. 

Therefore, we pledge to cancel our direct debits, and demand that any monies held on surplus are immediately returned and that the water companies bill us twice a year accordingly.

We are no longer prepared to be treated as cash cows by the water companies.

We are no longer prepared to see our seas, rivers and natural resources polluted with impunity.

We pledge to Cancel for Clean Water.

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