David vs Goliath in battle for water

The proposed takeover of Dee Valley Water by Severn Trent is turning out to be a battle of David versus Goliath proportions.

And its impact is rippling far beyond Wrexham and the Dee Valley because the City is taking a very keen interest in why Severn Trent is spending so much time, effort and money to take over Dee Valley.

As things stand, the takeover is on hold – waiting to see if a court decides that 445 new shareholders are allowed to vote. These are mainly local people, including some Dee Valley Water staff, who want to maintain the company and keep it separate from Severn Trent.

This would maintain jobs, keep local suppliers in business, ensure the current high standard of customer service and the lower bills consumers have enjoyed locally. The takeover would do the opposite and that’s why I’ve been clear that I’m on the side of David against Goliath in this battle.

Despite the odds, the slingshot of popular opinion has been used effectively by campaigners. The local community and workers have not taken this takeover bid lying down and have fought with every tool at their disposal.

What’s disappointing, from their perspective as well as mine, is that the Welsh water does not fall under the remit of the Welsh Government or Assembly. Back in 2006, the Government of Wales Act specifically excluded water from devolved powers for reasons the then UK Government never explained. A new Wales Bill, currently being debated in the Houses of Parliament, will also fail to pass on full decision-making powers about our water to the elected Assembly as things stand.

This isn’t good enough. Important decisions about the future of water in Wales should be taken here in Wales. It’s a vital – the most vital – of natural and national resources and we need to reverse the situation whereby decisions about the industry’s future are made in London and Coventry rather than here in Wales.

I’ve raised this in the Assembly and will continue to do so. The Welsh Government is there to lead, to speak up for the Welsh national interest. Water is just such an issue on which it should be shouting from the rooftops and speaking up for Wales if this government has any passion or vision for Wales, our natural resources and our people’s future prosperity. A failure to take sides and stand up to Severn Trent’s Goliath will not be easily forgotten.

Llyr Gruffydd can be contacted on 01824 703593, llyr.gruffydd@assembly.wales or @LlyrGruffydd on Twitter and Facebook.