Urgently needed: public ownership of the utility companies

Yes, public ownership!

Or else we face another painful hike in prices:

Bills could start rising again in the summer by as much as 25 per cent, or an average £250 per household.

Allan Asher, chief executive of consumer body energywatch, said: ‘Price rises on such a shocking scale would be catastrophic for consumers.’ Households are still digesting rises of about 15 per cent from earlier this year.

[…] energywatch warned this weekend that increasing utility bills by 25 per cent would consign another million households to fuel poverty.

And the possibility of disruptied service or even more price rises should the ongoing economic crisis hit harder:

Britain’s utilities have racked up £30bn of debt and could be the next casualties of the credit crunch, according to a report out today.

Some companies are so highly leveraged they may be unable to fund repairs if storms or flooding disrupt electricity and water supplies, warns Reynolds Partners, an independent investment bank.

John Reynolds, its chief, says: ‘I think that it is only a matter of time before there is a major shock and we find that a utility can’t afford to restore power to homes, hospitals or businesses. At that point the regulator would have to allow bills to rise to pay for the damage, or customers will have to wait longer than they should for normal service to resume, or both.’

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