21 May 2006

Privatisation warning... from wihtin the water service!

Sunday Life

By Joe Oliver
21 May 2006

A water Service executive broke ranks last night to claim that the industry would be privatised by 2010.

And he warned that 800 jobs would be slashed in the process and householders - already struggling with rising rates and utilities bills - would face rocketing costs when a privatised company is given free rein.

The shock claims by the senior manager come as opposition mounts across the province to the introduction of water rates.

Already households can expect to pay an average £350-£400 when bills start dropping through letterboxes next April.

At the same time the Department for Regional Development will set up a new Government-owned company to be known as Northern Ireland Water Limited.

But our well-placed 'mole' revealed: "This step represents nothing more than a prelude to privatisation. It is being set up to handle the backlash of opposition to water charges, ensure a steady flow of income for improvement programmes, and to introduce efficiencies of between 20-40 per cent by 2010.

"The effect of this will be the loss of around 800 jobs, and you need look no further than a report commissioned by the DRD to see the real intention of water reform."

That report 'Strategic and Financial Review of Water Service' was published last month.

And the consortium behind it, including bankers and accountants, stated: "We believe the weight of empirical evidence supports the conclusion that the greatest efficiency improvements are realised when companies enjoy independence from government."

This would mean an "arms length relationship with no scope for political interference" but would rely on "private sector participation".

Said our source: "This more than anything reveals the Government's true hand and illustrates the intention to privatise the industry."

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