Jeremy Hunt says he’s ‘very cross’ at Thames water asking for bill payers to ‘bail them out’ with bill rises

22 May 2024, 09:05

Jeremy Hunt said he's "very cross at them asking to be bailed out" by bill payers
Jeremy Hunt said he's "very cross at them asking to be bailed out" by bill payers. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Jeremy Hunt told LBC this morning that he is ‘very cross’ at Thames Water.

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Asked about the rising cost of people’s water bills and the looming rescue of Thames Water, Jeremy Hunt told Nick Ferrari: “I represent constituents who have been very badly served by Thames Water.

“I’m very cross at them asking to be bailed out by them with big increases in their water bills when their owners have ramped up debt in the company that has put them in a very bad state.

“What is very clear is that we need to invest more going forward.

Jeremy Hunt is 'very cross' at Thames Water

“Water companies will be spending £99bn in operating expenditure over the next five years.

“We’ve banned water company bosses from taking bonuses if their record on sewage leaks is too bad.

“We’ve said all the money from fines is going to back into cleaning up rivers.”

He said Ofwat will “not want to reward companies that have behaved badly.”

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Last week Thames Water’s biggest investor slashed the value of its stake in the company to zero in the latest sign of an escalating financial crisis for Britain’s biggest water supplier.

Canadian pension fund Omers issued a “full writedown” of its 31.7% stake in Thames’s troubled parent company, signalling that it believes its share is worth nothing.

Weeks ago Omers and the company’s other shareholders refused to give Thames Water £500m of emergency funding after branding its business plan “uninvestable.”

Other Thames shareholders include the British university staff pension scheme USS and the BT Pension Scheme manager Hermes. None have taken a dividend from Thames since they bought into the business in 2017.

Thames Water is racing to avoid a multi-billion pound taxpayer backed bailout.

The firm could have to be placed into special administration which would mean the government stepping in and temporarily renationalising the company.

Water regulator Ofwat is reportedly working on rescue plans for Thames that could lead to the water company’s regional monopoly being dismantled and sold off to neighbouring rival suppliers.

An Ofwat spokesperson said: “Safeguards are in place to ensure that services to customers are protected, regardless of issues faced by the shareholders.”

Last month Thames Water’s boss said bills need to rise by 40% by 2030 to pay for improvements.

Chris Weston insisted the firm was "quite a long way off" from nationalisation and "a lot that has to happen" beforehand.

However, he said it was "eventually possible".

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