Miliband sets sights on water industry reform

The Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he will “scrutinise” water companies, following his attack on the big energy companies in recent weeks.

This is Labour’s strongest hint yet that it will target water companies as the debate on the cost of living rages on.  

Miliband said: “I think we should be looking at all markets to make sure they are working properly and that includes the water industry.”

At the Labour conference in September Miliband pledged to freeze energy prices until 2017 if the party was elected in 2015 and it appears Labour’s next move to win over consumers through water sector reform.

“I think the water industry is something that should be scrutinised to make sure it is working properly and make sure it is working properly for the benefit of consumers, because I know concerns have been raised.

“Some people will say this is an anti-business agenda. I think it is a pro-business agenda that you have got to reform markets that are not working properly.

“I’m proud Labour is championing this agenda and I think it is consistent with believing what a market economy can do, and water is part of that.”

Trade association Water UK, said it was “more than happy to talk to Miliband about any issues in the water sector”.

A spokesman said: “Water companies offer a wider range of help and support for their customers to ensure bills are affordable and we would welcome the opportunity to talk to Ed about this.”

Maria Eagle, shadow environment secretary, said Miliband was right to address rising water bills.

“One in ten households, more than two million, spend more than five per cent of their income on water according to the regulator, and customers in Britain face some of the highest bills in Europe.

“Despite this, David Cameron still refuses to require water companies to introduce a social tariff to help those who are struggling and under the current voluntary arrangement, only three companies have introduced such a scheme. That’s why Labour will use the forthcoming Water Bill legislation to propose a national affordability scheme,” she said.