Jeremy Corbyn has launched a new attack on the water companies, accusing them of paying millions of pounds in dividends to shareholders based in offshore tax havens.

On the eve of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, the party released figures which it said show offshore businesses earned £246 million in dividends from the water industry in 2017.

It said shares in six companies – Anglian, Northumbrian, South West, Southern, Thames and Yorkshire – worth a total of £14.5 billion were held by businesses based in tax havens.

They included companies based in Luxembourg, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Jersey and Delaware.

Mr Corbyn said the figures show why Labour is right to commit to taking back the companies into public ownership.

“The privatised water industry has shelled out over £13 billion in dividends since 2010, and now it’s clear that much of this money is extracted by businesses that are ultimately based in tax havens,” he said.

“Rather than the scandal of rip-off prices and huge dividend payments, we will bring them into public hands, so we see more investment and lower bills.

“The next Labour government will end the privatisation of our public sector, and stop households being ripped off by freeloading water companies.”

Industry body Water UK said the sector has invested £150 billion since privatisation, with recently announced plans for a further £10 billion to improve the water network.

“In making the investment needed by the industry to tackle the big challenges posed by climate change and an increasing population, it’s not clear that government-owned water companies would win the fight for taxpayers’ money every year in competition with health and education,” a spokesman said.