Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, spoke of his ‘fears’ after it was confirmed that Regional Water Utility Company, Northumbrian Water (NW), had received notification of a take over bid by a Chinese based bidder.
Tom said: “I am told that NW has now been told of a formal offer from the Hong Kong based investment company, Cheung Kong Infrastructure, a company headed and solely controlled by billionaire trader Li Ka-Shing.”
“I have concerns over this. Obviously, under current rules, such a bid is entirely legal, but all of us in the North East would need to be satisfied that this bidder would, if successful, be prepared to guarantee that NW’s existing investment programme for the environmental upgrading of their water and sewage services will continue in place.”
“Locally, we have existing commitments and ongoing work for the renewal of water pipes in East Cleveland and Guisborough, and promises to try and cure the long-standing problems of sewage outflows that are affecting bathing water and beach quality at Saltburn.”
“I would also want to see guarantees that jobs for NW’s many thousands of employees would be protected, and that any new owner would still call on the expertise of NW’s regional management and regional board members – people who know the region and its needs.”
“There are broader concerns too. The Office of Fair Trading have estimated that about a third of the UK’s total utility infrastructure – water, telecoms, energy and transport – is now under foreign ownership, meaning that services vital to the UK economy and the quality of life of UK residents, will ultimately be determined in boardrooms possibly many thousands of miles away. These services are too important to become the playthings of wealthy speculators. It is crucial to me that Labour looks to new measures of control and regulation for our utilities when it returns to power.”