Beyond belief that foreign governments own our vital assets

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From: Dr David Hill, Chief Executive, World Innovation Foundation, Huddersfield.

YOUR article concerning Yorkshire Water (Yorkshire Post, September 4) is very telling in explaining where this country has overwhelmingly lost its way over the last quarter of a century.

Apparently now mega-companies that have taken over our national utility companies and former national assets pay little to no corporation tax.

This is iniquitous in itself, as the people of this country provide all the cash for these vast organisations, but the most worrying fact is that all these companies can hold the nation to ransom and where we cannot do without water, electricity or gas et al.

Don’t rely on the regulator Ofwat either to safeguard the people, as my experience of these over bloated quangos is that they are limited in what they can do and impotent in many, many ways.

Indeed all these government quangos, if you delve into them, are a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

Why is it therefore that successive governments allowed this dire situation to happen and where other EU countries have blocked this ever happening?

Weighing up all options, it appears to be down to big business running everything these days, including the UK government as well who continually allow these national assets to be sold off. In Yorkshire Water’s case their owners are now Citigroup Alternative Investments, HSBC, GIC Special Investments – the private equity arm of the Singapore government and the Prudential Group’s Infracapital Partners.

It beggars belief that even foreign governments now own our vital assets and where it is about time that our political classes realised what they have allowed to happen and hang their heads in shame.

But will they? I very much doubt it.

From: Allan Davies, Heathfield Court, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire.

THE weaknesses of the UK car industry in the post-war period, as discussed by Malcolm Nicholson (Yorkshire Post, August 20), are readily explained and well documented.

There were too many separate makers each producing too wide a range of models and with models replaced far too quickly. Thus the industry never enjoyed the economies of large scale production needed to keep unit costs (overheads) down. Moreover with scarce research, design and development personnel thinly spread (production engineers too), quality fell below that of both German and American cars.

These results – high fixed costs per vehicle and poor quality – are beyond dispute.

Readers might look up how long it took the Germans to reach the million mark for production of the Beetle along with the time the UK took to reach the same mark for the Mini. In unit costs, I recollect that in the UK overhead fixed costs per model in the UK were $500 per model (£1=$2.8) and $50 in the USA. With, of course, a much larger market and fewer models and with far longer production runs and thus, far larger volumes per vehicle.

From: Philip Igoe, Member, Leeds Green Party.

THE news that Yorkshire Water has not paid corporation tax on their profits is a drop in the ocean when considering the problems from privatising the nation’s assets.

In the year ended March 2013 Yorkshire Water made a profit of £331.5m (up by 9.3 per cent compared to last year) and which represents 35.5 per cent of turnover. So, for every pound paid by a customer, 35p went to shareholders funds. The private monopoly increased prices by an average of 6.6 per cent at a time when inflation was under three per cent.

While the business ought to be focussed on delivering quality water and sewage services to the region, Yorkshire Water has a stated policy to ‘deliver real growth in dividends’.

Yorkshire Water is now part of a complex ownership structure involving a consortium of companies known as Saltaire Water Limited which is described as a ‘financial intermediary’ and with its ultimate parent company apparently Kelda Holdco Ltd, based in Jersey – an offshore tax haven.

Privatisation was sold to us as a means of returning the utilities held by the state to the general public through popular shareholding. Remember the ‘Tell Sid’ campaign to encourage us to buy shares in British Gas? In the case of Yorkshire Water, the ownership is now focused on the one share issued by Saltaire Water Limited and owned by Kelda Holdco Company.

It is time to look again at the whole range of privatised water, power and transport utilities and give thought to how they can best serve the general public rather than line the pockets of their elusive shareholders. The existing arrangements are seriously flawed and these crucial services, and the profits they generate, should be brought back more fully into public control, with their profits benefitting all of us.