River Wissey Lovell Fuller


July 2006

Ron addresses some pressing problems facing our local community

A National Grid for Water

There were a number of industries and businesses that at one time were nationalised and operated by the state. Without question in some instances operation and control by the state was inappropriate and privatisation was an obvious and welcome action. In my opinion, however, there were a number of industries/public services where the advantages of privatisation were questionable and others where I saw privatisation as plain wrong. Among the latter were railways, postal services, water supply and electricity generation. In the event the promised advantages of privatisation have not manifested themselves in the railways or in the water supply and, in the case of electricity supply it has increased the difficulty of national planning for future energy use. Sadly privatisation has also resulted in the loss of a number of excellent government research establishments. In the good old days of a national electricity generating industry and the good old CEGB, we established an electricity supply with a national grid that was the envy of the world.

When it comes to water supply we have areas in this country where water shortages occur on a regular basis; hosepipe bans and drought orders are not unusual and, in extreme cases, domestic users can be forced to collect their water in containers from stand pipes, just as, in years gone by, villagers carried their buckets to the village pump. An appalling state of affairs in the 21st century, especially so with the high water charges demanded and the high profits being generated for shareholders. The only significant response from the water companies has been to ask the public to ease their problems by conserving water. Privatisation has been a costly failure for the consumer, as many predicted it would. We have had a big increase in charges whilst there has been a fall in the quality of service and an increase in the loss of water due to leakages - all manner of excuses are made to explain why it is proving difficult to cure all the leaks but, as one observer pointed out recently, if the gas industry tolerated leaks on such a scale there would be numerous disasters, if the gas companies can produce a near 100% leak proof system, why cannot the water companies. The water industries in Scotland and Wales were not privatised and the Scots and Welsh have benefited as a result. Welsh Water, a monopoly in Wales, is a model of a 'not for profit' organisation, it has managed to provide an excellent service whilst producing successive cuts in their charges.

There is no shortage of rainfall on this island, these local shortages are due to problems of unattended leaks, inadequate storage facilities and an inadequate distribution network. It suits the companies concerned to blame the consumer for profligate use rather than address the real causes. Had we retained a nationalised industry the possibility of establishing a national grid for water supply would have existed; with the present fractured industry, however, the chances of ever getting the individual companies to agree to funding such a grid are zero and the only chance that exists of achieving it must be through a government sponsored initiative. In fairness to Anglian Water they seem to have done more to ensure that supplies can be maintained and we must be thankful for that even though they do know how to charge.

Double British Summertime

Those who are as old as I am or perhaps not quite so old will remember that during the war we had British Summertime in the winter and Double British Summertime in the summer when the clocks were put two hours forward of GMT. In mid June it did not get really dark until after 11.00 p.m. and it still was light in the mornings well before 6.00 a.m. It is very difficult to see any disadvantages of that arrangement, certainly there are clear advantages in that 1) we would be in line with western Europe, 2) people out on the roads in the evening would spend less time driving in the dark and 3) we would spend less on electricity lighting our homes and streets, it might even make a small contribution to reducing global carbon emissions. When the clocks are put back in the autumn they could be put back to normal BST which would give us lighter evenings and would maintain chronological harmony with western Europe, although I accept that there are arguments against abandoning GMT in the depth of winter, but, as I have commented before, whichever time zone we have GMT or BST, I cannot understand why, when the clocks are put back only 57 days before the winter solstice we have to wait for 90 days after the solstice before they are put forward again.

Ron Watts

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