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)