Election 2017

Reality Check: Has privatisation driven up water bills?

The claim: The price of water has risen by 40% above inflation since privatisation.

Reality Check verdict: The figure is correct for the period since privatisation in 1989 for England and Wales. Most recent figures show the price of the average household bill in England and Wales fell by 2.6% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2014-15.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the price of water bills had risen 40% over and above inflation.

The Labour Party is announcing on Tuesday that it intends to take the water industry in England back into public ownership.

The manifesto says the current system would be replaced "with a network of regional publicly owned water companies".

Scottish water company Scottish Water as well as Northern Ireland Water are both publicly owned.

Welsh Water, a company owned by Glas Cymru, is a single purpose company with no shareholders, "run solely for the benefit of customers".

The figure Mr McDonnell quoted comes from the National Audit Office (NAO) report.

It says that the average household water bill in England and Wales has risen by 40% in real terms since 1989, when the industry was privatised.

The report points out that most of the rise happened at the beginning, between 1990 and 1995.

Since 1995, the average bill has risen by 9% in real terms.

More recently, between 2009-10 and 2014-15, the price of the average household bill in England and Wales fell by 2.6%.

Water bills represented 2.3% of average household spending in 2013, according to the report.

For the poorest 10% of the households this rose to 5.3%.

According to the NAO report, water companies offer financial assistance to their poorest and most indebted customers.

And Ofwat, the regulator of the water sector in England and Wales, estimated that, by 2020, 1.8 million people would need financial assistance to pay water bills.

Water UK responded to the Labour Party manifesto, saying: "Since 1990, the water industry has invested over £130bn in better services.

"The quality of bathing and drinking water is up, and customer satisfaction with water and sewerage services is over 90%."

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