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18 Nov 2004

Water Industry Commissioner guilty of 'breathtaking hypocrisy' - UNISON

UNISON - Scotland's largest utility union - attacked the findings of the Scottish Water industry Commissioner's (WIC) Customer Services Report published today, as grossly misrepresenting the picture, and relying on dubious figures.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Utilities said "Whilst we have our criticisms of Scottish Water, there is no doubt that it is the WIC's financial targets that have created their plan to halve the workforce by 2006. To now claim that these cuts should have no impact on customer service is breathtaking hypocrisy. Even his fellow regulator - the Drinking Water Regulator - last month pointed out that the impact of these cuts will be significant for both staff and the public. It is impossible to cut the workforce by half without impacting on the provision of clean and wholesome water and the safe and environmentally sustainable disposable of sewage. To say otherwise is to employ the logic of Catch 22.

"The WIC criticised Scottish Water for its handling of 2002's cryptosporidium scare in Glasgow. He was particularly scathing over Scottish Water's ability to put only 10 vans, onto the street. With these further cuts Scottish Water will be lucky to find a handful of staff who are able to respond to emergencies or more importantly have the experience to prevent problems occurring."

UNISON also points out that the WIC's comparisons with England are meaningless because they do not compare like with like, and they ignore the additional investment in the country.

Dave Watson says: "Once again the WIC relies on unfair comparisons and dubious figures to back up a false picture. No wonder his figures have been severely criticised in the past by several parliamentary committees. He has failed to recognise that the English companies have benefited from 25 years of additional investment and had their debt written off at privatisation. Over the past 13 years £50bn has been invested in water and sewage infrastructure in England and Wales. The equivalent figure in Scotland is £1bn. Scotland has a crumbling system that is only now being addressed with a £1.8bn investment programme.

"The persistent failure to recognise the achievements of Scottish Water, and the WIC's Catch 22 approach to Scotland's public water service, leads to the conclusion that this is really an attempt to promote the privatisation agenda that he started in the media a short while ago."


For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser - Utilities) - 07787 558 410(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)