Wed 17 November 2004
Don't hand over water-charging decisions to London - UNISON call
UNISON, Scotland's utilities union, has circulated all Scotland's
MSP's urging them not to hand over the final appeal on increases
in water charges to the Competition Commission, a London-based quango.
The proposals are contained within the Water Services (Scotland)
Bill that will be debated by the Scottish Parliament today (Wednesday).
Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Utilities said, "The
Executive wants to wash its hands of this final decision and to
pass the buck to a London quango that mainly deals with private
companies. This is a loss of democratic accountability. There is
no evidence that the Competition Commission will be sympathetic
or even understand either our separate Scottish setup, or the public
service nature of our water industry."
UNISON, Scotland's largest water union, also points out that the
Bill seeks to establish a regulatory and licensing regime that applies
to privatised utilities, and that the Environment Committee has
expressed widespread concern over the impact of this on important
Scottish policy like investment, charges, social inclusion, economic
competition, and environmental sustainability.
Dave Watson said: "These two approaches are simply incompatible.
What the Executive must do is provide a statutory framework for
a fully public water industry."
The union does however, welcome some other aspects of the Bill,
such as the creation of a broader-based commission and welcomes
the Environment Committee's support for prohibiting competition
in the domestic sector, and its criticisms of the financial memorandum.
Dave Watson would like to go further. "Many of the licensing difficulties
highlighted by the Committee report would disappear if non-household
competition were also prohibited." He said. "The competition and
associated business separation is an unnecessary and costly distraction
from Scottish Water's key objectives."
[Notes to the Editor: A UNISON briefing paper on the effect of
this change is available from the contacts below. See
also the MSP Briefing]
For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish
Organiser - Utilities) 0845 355 0845(o) 07787 558 410(m) Chris Bartter
(Communications Officer) 0870 7777006(o) 07715 583 729(m)