Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Being elected drops your IQ

You know, all this time that I have been blogging, I have done Toni, Gordon and company a huge disservice. I had assumed that they were hideously corrupt, authoritarian, talentless fucks, but now it turns out that, in actual fact, the very mechanism of being elected causes one to lose one's reason. How else to explain this extraordinary piece of lunacy from Councillor—until recently, plain old—Gavin Ayling?
I am livid about the water ‘crisis’. Crisis is often an over-used word. A crisis really should be an event so sinister, so apalling that there is little hope of recovery.

Very true: I agree. Although, one might reserve the word for the catastrophic lack of investment in our public water infrastructure by successive government-owned water companies that is—to this day—causing immense problems.
So, in the strictest sense, this isn’t a crisis — rather a period of stupidity caused, bizarrely, by OfWat, Water Companies and the previous administration. Let me explain.

On you go, Councillor...
The Conservatives privatised the water companies. It was a part of the general privatisation agenda which we also force on undeveloped economies when they need money from the International Monetary Fund (but that’s another gripe).

I thought that Gavin was a Conservative; obviously I have this wrong: it must be the blue theme that made me think that. Anyway, yes, the water companies were privatised and, much like BT and the energy companies, the quality became a lot better. Prices rose, yes, but for two reasons:
  1. The price had been too low anyway. This wasn't "cheap" water: we all paid, for the government to subsidise the water companies, out of other taxes. That is either more money stolen from those who earn it or less money into your favourite schools, hospitals, etc.

  2. The public water companies had, as already mentioned, invested almost nothing into the infrastructure. This was, in fact, one of the main motivations for selling them off; the government could not afford the structural improvements, whereas private companies could raise money from the markets to do so.

As for demanding that developing countries privatise their water companies, well, that is something that I shall—like Gavin (and possibly in response to Gavin—address at another point.
Water is, in my humble opinion, an absolute. No-one in the West should want for water and no-one should be making a profit or loss out of its supply. In a modern country, water should be free and available to all.

Gavin, you are right: no one should want for enough water to stay alive. Demanding that you have enough water to run the sprinklers in your garden or wash your car every other day is just a wee bit selfish, no? Especially when you expect others to pay for it.
That water is charged for probably serves a social function rather than an economic one. Maybe people waste more water if it’s free at the point of use…

My god! There is a spark of sanity left inside Gavin's head! Praise be to the highest.

Yes, Gavin, well done. That is precisely the point.
But as a general point water should be free.

Oh dear god, I spoke too soon.

Gavin: water isn't free. The water that falls from the sky is, yes. But the water that we drink isn't. If water is "free", who exactly pays for:
  1. the water treatment plants,

  2. the treating of the water to make it fit for human consumption and irradicate all of those horrible microbes, like typhoid, that used to kill so many people in this country,

  3. the pumping of the water to our homes and the energy that costs,

  4. the maintenance of the infrastructure, i.e. the pipes, etc. that the water flows through,

  5. the pipes that carry the sewage out of our homes

  6. the processing of the sewage that comes out of our homes (that we don't want dumped raw in our rivers because of such incidences as The Great Stink).

We will pay: either directly, or through out taxes. Even Polly has realised that there is no such thing as a free lunch, why is Gavin having such a problem?
So I am shaking in anger that shareholders can be profiting while water companies have leaks that, at least in part if not mostly, are the reason for the drought order called for in Surrey.

Seriously, Gav, you aren't going to be able to use a hosepipe: you won't lack for drinking water. Oh, but while you are about it, why don't you berate the government for taking 40% of the water companies' profits, eh? Any time you like, Gav: on you go, son; I'll be right behind you on that one.

The rest of his post in pretty much in the same vein, but there are a couple more points of interest.
The water companies should be investing in new infrastructure at a frantic rate. They should be doing all they can to avoid drought orders and, ultimately, this should result in the complete spending of shareholder-returned profits until this is achieved.

Ultimately, if the shares don't pay dividends, shareholders will sell them. Then the price of the stock will drop, as will the value of the company. With a decreased market value, the water companies will not be able to borrow so much from the banks. This means that investment in infrastructure will actually decrease. Or, alternatively, water prices will increase.
Those of us who are unmetered are going to pay, now, for water we are denied while shareholders reap the rewards.

Well, the solution here should be to meter everybody then. That's fair, isn't it? So, you know, a family of four will pay for the water that they actually use rather than being subsidised by single people like myself. Rich people who have dishwashers will also have to pay rather than being subsidised by people like myself.

Of course, in Scotland, we have by far the best system, eh? Publically-owned Scottish Water's water quality is the worst in the country; the water and sewerage charges are included in our Council Tax bills: over the last 5 years, these charges have risen by an average of roughly 18% a year. But what really fucks me off is that, because they pay no Council Tax, students (and those on benefits) don't pay any water charges. I know students who have two showers a day, and others who will happily put only one or two items of clothing in the washing machine. Now we, the poor fuckers who actually have to pay (and remember, there's less than half a million of us, whilst there are a substantial number of students at Edinburgh University, Napier University, Telford College, Jewel & Esk College and the Edinburgh School of Art), are forced to subsidise this profligacy. It pisses me right off, I can tell you.

And as for this comment:
A water meter would be no use in student flat for instance, because there is no way of knowing who the used the water and knowing in advance how much the water would cost would avoid arguments.

Well, most students seem to work it out alright with the electricity and gas meters, so I'm sure that it is not beyond their wit to split the water charges equally.

Gavin: come back to us, please...

More on this over at Timmy's place.
It’s around somewhere, that Ofwat report on leakages from the four different water supply regimes we have in the UK. England, private for profit companies. Wales, not for profit mutually owned private company. Scotland (I think still) government owned company. Northern Ireland, direct supply from govt department.

Which system reduced leakages most? Yup, the first. It was the profit motivation wot did it.

And (H/T, Chris) yet more at EU Referendum.
I despair. Really, I do. The media is full of blather about the supposed drought in the south and whose fault it might be. Not one article, as far as I can make out, even mentions the EU Framework Water Directive (2000/60/EC) and the insane amount of money that has to be spent every year on the implementation of every single one of the items, whether they make sense or not. Only when they have done that can water companies even start to think about mending pipes and stopping leakages.

Gavin has either:
  1. lost his mind in the whirlwind of being elected, or

  2. is terminally stupid, registering "severe" on the Pat Hewitt Scale.

I hope that it is the former.


chris said...

There is an interesting post on EU Referendum as to the real reason why there is so much leakage, and it has nothing to do with the water companies. Personally I don't understand why anybody wouldn't want a meter. It makes you in charge of your bill, don't want to pay so much, don't use so much! I managed to halve my electricity bill last winter because it was metered as I used so much less than what they expected for the estimate.

RfS said...

I remember my gran used to spout this, but she is an unreformed red clydesider.

She used to turn on the tap at the house and claim that the water should be free because it fell from the sky. The irony of the whole "tap" thing was lost on her.

The very model of a modern scientific man

Your humble Devil was thoroughly amused by Neil Ferguson's fall from grace, and is very pleased to have found the time to outline Fergus...