The man tipped to be the country’s next Prime Minister has said it is “time for a rethink” about how water companies behave after learning that hundreds of homes in Reading were cut off from their water supply this week.

But in an interview with the Reading Chronicle, Sir Keir Starmer said he didn't think renationalising water companies was the answer. 

As previously reported, hundreds of people were affected and schools were forced to shut after their water was cut off or reduced due to “technical errors” at Thames Water’s Pangbourne plant.

The private water company, which is the sole provider in the region, apologised and set up water stations across Reading to provide residents with water.

Speaking to this newspaper, the Labour leader said the government had “lost its grip” on the water companies.

He said: “I think it is time for a rethink for how water companies behave. Water is a basic amenity and in 2024, this should not be happening.

“If you’ve not got that, you’ve got leaks or the pumping of sewage into our rivers and our seas.

“The government has lost all grip on water companies and if we get elected, we will get a grip of it.”

Maiden Erlegh School in Reading closed on Monday, with students learning from home, as it has also been affected by the lack of water.

Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said Prospect Park Hospital also lost running water for more than three hours on Saturday night.

The psychiatric facility, in Reading, was still experiencing issues with water pressure as of Tuesday.

When asked if re-nationalising water companies was the answer, Sir Keir said: “I don’t think nationalisation is the answer but getting a grip of it is.”

The UK is one of the only nations in the world with full privatised water, alongside the United States and Chile.

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government privatised water and waste in 1989 under the Water Act and in a move that raised £7.6billion.

On the 30th anniversary of privatisation back in 2018, Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said bills had remained low and there had been fewer leaks thanks to private investment while Conservative peer Baroness McIntosh of Pickering said water quality had greatly improved.

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