Five ways democratic public ownership will revolutionise our lives

Public ownership can work for everyone

virgin train waverley

For forty years, we’ve been sold the lie of privatisation. But now it’s more obvious than ever that privatisation of our public services has been a complete disaster.

Most of us agree that services would work better in public ownership.

But how do we make sure that public ownership is efficient, effective, accountable, caring, green, innovative – and successful?

In our new blueprint for 21st century public ownership, we set out ways to make public ownership so wildly successful that it can never be dismantled.

But what would this new democratic public ownership look like, and how would it affect our lives?

Here are 5 ways that public ownership in the 21st century will revolutionise your life,

1.Public services will work for all of us, not just shareholders

When our services are owned by us, they’ll work for us. When you pay your water bill, you’ll know that every penny of it will go towards the service, instead of lining the pockets of shareholders.

This isn’t just about the money. When public services are motivated by creating shareholder dividends, they don’t make choices that improve things for the people who use their services, the environment, or wider society.

Train operating companies, for example, currently spend thousands of pounds on blaming each other for delays so as to avoid paying compensation to their disgruntled passengers.

We already pay for these services through our bills and taxes – so it’s about time they worked for us, instead of unaccountable shareholders.

2. You’ll be able to genuinely participate in the running of your services – but only if you want to!

Under privatisation, we have very little say over how our public services are run. You can lodge a complaint with your energy company, but if you want to suggest a new way of doing things, then you’re on your own!

But why shouldn’t we be able to feed into how our services run? Why shouldn’t a mother with a pram be able to suggest ways to make her daily bus journey easier?

We’ve proposed the creation of an independent, democratic organisation – called Participate – which operates at the local, regional, or national level, depending on the service.

You’ll be able to vote for your local buses rep or your regional water rep, and this person will be responsible for listening to and acting on your views.

The idea is that everyone feels able to participate at the level that works for them – whether that’s voting online, or attending meetings.

3. Bus services for everyone!

Under public ownership, gone are the days of bus and rail routes closing down because of a lack of funding.

When our public transport is owned and run by the public, instead of by private companies competing for routes and fares, we’ll be able to cross-subsidise from busy routes to keep essential, but less well-used, routes open.

4. Accountability goes further

Public services should be accountable and responsive to the people who use them, and to anyone affected by them.

They’ll be run and managed day to day by professionals, but held to account by a supervisory board representing not just workers and users, but civil society and the environment, too.

5. We can solve 21st-century challenges – like inequality and climate breakdown

There is a lot more awareness now about the scale of the climate crisis than there was just a few months ago.

It finally looks like action could be taken – but as long as our energy and transport systems are owned by private, profit-making companies, we can’t reduce our carbon output anywhere near quickly enough. We need public ownership to save the planet.

Other complex challenges, like inequality and an ageing population, require big changes to the way our society operates. When we own our public services, we’ll be able to make these changes by working together across sectors.

Sound good? We think so!

You can read our full report here and let us know what you think by tweeting us using the hashtag #WhenWeOwnIt.

We’ve had 40 years of disastrous privatisation. Now the game is up. Let’s create public services that really work, for everyone.

Ellen Lees is a campaigner for pro-nationalisation campaign We Own It

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One Response to “Five ways democratic public ownership will revolutionise our lives”

  1. Anthony Sperryn

    One of the biggest obstacles to implementing these proposals s the concept of “cross-subsidisation”. This is anathema to present-day accounting practices, which need to be substantially modified (with a few other things, besides).

    When Blair (and/or Brown) sat down with Branson to consider the NHS, the politicians are alleged to have said: “We want to make it all more efficient by chopping it up into bits and introducing competition”. Look what has happened since.

    Yes, we need efficient use of cash and capital, but, with an odd taxation system, the distinction between capital and income is blurred. Short-term returns (on which participants mostly get their bonuses) are all that matter. That must change.

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