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Public loses £37bn from utility firms

Shareholders get cash that could have saved our services

PRIVATISED utility companies have paid out £37 billion in dividends to shareholders since the Tories came into power in 2010, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will reveal today.

Over the last seven years, more than £10bn has been pocketed by National Grid shareholders, £6.3bn by BT shareholders and £5.2bn by investors in Centrica, which owns British Gas.

Train operators and privatised water firms also appear on the list compiled by the Labour Party in consultation with the House of Commons library.

Thames Water is shown to have paid out £1.7bn to shareholders, while Royal Mail investors received £635 million and those in Virgin Rail got £309m — all since 2010.

A total of £4.8bn in dividends was paid out this year alone.

The money could have been invested in public services, Mr McDonnell is expected to say as he restates plans to nationalise key British utilities and infrastructure.

Money that is lining investors’ pockets could have been invested in improving these services for the greater good of the public, he will argue at a conference in Lincoln.

“These figures show what could have gone into investment in these public services in order to expand and improve them or keep their charges down,” he will tell his audience.

“The last seven years of austerity has seen working families suffer from stagnant wages not being able to keep up with prices of items like energy bills, and underfunded public services — yet billions has gone into the hands of shareholders.”

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has set out plans to take back control of the trains, Royal Mail, energy companies and water firms — proposals which have proved popular with the public despite critics sneering that they would take the economy back to the 1970s.

Campaign for Public Ownership director Neil Clark noted that it was the neoliberal policies pursued by Margaret Thatcher after she took power in 1979 that turned public services into cash cows for private investors.

He told the Star that a “quadruple whammy” of profiteering, overcharging of customers, money being “haemorrhaged” out of the country through tax avoidance schemes and a subsequent lack of reinvestment have all left public services in need while very wealthy people get even richer.

“Public services need to be brought back in-house so that they can be run with democratic ownership,” Mr Clark insisted.


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