The Labor Party is drawing up plans to create a new water regulator as it seeks to address public anger over the dumping of raw sewage into Britain’s rivers, lakes and beaches.
Under the proposals, a Labor government would merge most of the Environmental Agencythe pollution watchdog, with financial regulator Ofwat and the Drinking Water Inspectorate to create a new oversight body, according to people familiar with the plans.
The party would also create a separate flood agency with the remnants of the Environment Agency to protect communities in England and Wales in the event of extreme weather events.
With a general election scheduled for next year and Labor showing strong gains in the local elections This week, there is a growing focus on the party’s political agenda.
public outrage around the practice of water companies dumping raw sewage and storm water into Britain’s waterways has become a political priority in recent months.
The scandal sparked widespread protests and caused beaches to be closed for swimming for several days last summer and is expected to be repeated this year.
Ofwat regulates the water and sewerage industry in England and Wales, which is made up of privatized regional monopolies.
Sets out how much companies can charge customers and their required level of investment in infrastructureIt is reviewed every five years.
The job would maintain this regulatory model but extend the five-year term to encourage longer-term capital planning, according to people familiar with the plans.
Scotland’s water system would remain in state hands, while Wales could also receive its own separate deal with a separate economic regulator.
Labor declined to comment on the plans, but Jim McMahon, shadow environment secretary, previously criticized the current system of water regulation as not being “fit for the future”. Ofwat and the Environment Agency were contacted for comment.
Figures close to the Labor Party discussions said their proposals to overhaul the regulatory system have not been finalized and may not be announced until the party’s autumn conference in Liverpool.
Labour’s proposed reforms mark a sharp decline from former party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto commitment to renationalize water companies three decades after they were privatized.
Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, a pro-nationalisation campaign group, said: “Water companies and regulators have had over 30 years to get this right and they have failed.
“We need full public ownership, not more regulatory maneuvering, so that the money that households pay goes to stopping sewers and investing in infrastructure, not paying dividends and CEO salaries.”
Labor’s proposals could spark conflict with unions such as the GMB and Unite, which favor nationalisation, as the party initiates consultations with its members and other groups through its national policy forum.
Therese Coffey, the Conservatives’ environment secretary, has insisted the government has its own “fully budgeted and credible” plan, telling the House of Commons in late April: “Labor say their plans will not affect household bills, but they can’t say how much they’ll pay.” it will cost.”