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Date: 21 February 2006

Water Chair's forced resignation sparks concern in workforce

Trade unions representing Scotland's water and sewage workers have reacted with growing concern to the forced resignation of Scottish Water Chair, Alan Alexander.

UNISON's Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said: "Alan Alexander's resignation confirms our concern that Scottish Water is being driven to a short term fix for political reasons. As we warned last November, this approach will only deliver short-life assets of poor quality and leave yawning gaps in provision. The consequences will be an increase in internal flooding, sewer collapse and the risk of pollution. Scottish Water has already made efficiency savings faster than the privatised industry in England that now has to go through further increases in charges to pay for this short-term view that is being imported to Scotland.

"We also believe that the real agenda is a further effort to undermine the successful Scottish public service model and privatise Scotland's water. All around the world communities are rejecting water privatisation yet we have a regulatory body promoting it."

The trade unions previously warned that Ministerial directions for massive investment, over a short timescale, with no real charge increase, was a 'magic circle' that any sensible person could see would not be achieved.

They suspect that short term political demands to keep water charges down have triumphed over the need to rebuild Scotland's aging water and sewage infrastructure.

As the respected industry journal Utility Week editorial put it - 'It would be an act of almost criminal damage to see all the gains Scottish Water has made over the past three years destroyed in politically motivated cuts to water bills'.

The final determination also demonstrated the huge gap between those who build and maintain Scotland's water and sewage system and the Water Industry Commission (WIC) economists, who have largely imported their ideas from the very different, privatised system south of the border.

The WIC Chair is Sir Ian Byatt the former Director General of Ofwat who presided over the disastrous 1999 review in England. That review left English companies short of investment on the grounds that customers would rather have cheaper water and fewer environmental improvements. The 2004 Ofwat review then had to repair the damage increasing water bills in England and Wales by 18% over the current five year period.


For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 0845 355 0845 (w) 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)