In a searing piece for The Guardian, Patrick Collinson reports on the extreme manner in which the rising cost of necessary utilities has far outstripped increases in averages wages over the last decade. Collinson references a study from Santander that found that the costs of utilities including gas, electricity, and water, as well as services for TV and phone, have each increased in excess of average wage increases since 2006. While wages have increased by 19 percent since 2006, the average gas and electricity bills have increased by 73 and 72 percent, respectively.
Collinson points out that it is the profit motive of private companies that fuel this trend, noting that some utilities have handed out massive pay raises to executives and made large payouts to shareholders while consumers struggle to afford basic necessities.Largely to due to privatisation.
He also shrewdly observes that privatisation is largely to blame, citing a study from the University of Greenwich that found that we now pay £2.3bn more per year for water than we would if it had remained state owned.
“Is the rise in bills a failure of privatisation? Mostly. But it’s also a failure of the sector regulators who are immersed in the neoliberal consensus that private markets and competition always provide the best outcomes for consumers. They can – but very often do not.”