Public Ownership is Popular and Necessary


“We see private companies making obscene profits from what should be public services ran for the people not profit.”

Members of the National Policy Forum meeting this weekend should back public ownership, which can be a big vote winner for Labour, writes Matt Willgress

Not a week goes by without more stories about the scandals and problems besetting Britain’s private water companies, most notably the possible collapse of Thames Water.

69% supported nationalisation of water when asked by Survation last year, and this number is only likely to be increasing. The case for it is crystal clear. Water is a natural monopoly, there is no market for consumers – and that is why 90% of the world runs water in public ownership, including Scotland.

We Own It research notes that “Publicly owned Scottish Water has spent £72 more per household per year (35% more) than the English water companies. If England had invested at this rate, an extra £28 billion would have gone into the infrastructure to tackle problems like leaks and sewage.”

This contrast illustrates how in water – and many other examples of privatisation – we see private companies making obscene profits from what should be public services ran for the people not profit. These massive sums of money could instead be invested to improve services, to give their workers a pay increase and to lower costs for consumers. In other words, everyone would win other than the polluters and profiteers.

Water nationalisation has been established Labour Party policy for a number of years. But just as the situation in the real-world has made the need for it even more obvious, the front bench has moved further away from it, with media reports even stating that the shift in position is partly due to responding to water companies lobbying Labour to warn them off going down the road of nationalisation! Trade unionists and Labour members may find it hard to get a friendly meeting with Starmer and co. but clearly it’s not an issue for the fat cats and corporations that have done so much to ruin our public services and economy more broadly.

And as readers will know, this is the case with other parts of the economy too, including energy, where the Party leadership has made clear its intention to ignore Party Conference policy. Again, this is not to do with popularity – 66% support public ownership of energy.

Public ownership in this area is just common sense, with privatisation leading to higher bills and colder homes. Indeed, TUC research in 2022 estimated that British households would each miss out on up to £4,400 over two years because we don’t not have a nationalised energy generation company. Their research also argued that in Europe public ownership of generation firms has allowed other nations to keep down prices, reinvest in communities and deliver on industrial strategy.

The crises caused by soaring energy bills and the scandal of raw sewage being dumped into rivers have highlighted the failures of privatisation for millions in a very real way. And they have come on top of the problems after problems caused by railway privatisation over recent years and decades.

They also give the perfect opportunity to put forward a vote-winning a clear commitment to extending public ownership of key utilities and public services – including but not limited to energy, water, railways, buses, social care, the royal mail and the NHS. Whatever happens at the National Policy Forum this weekend, unions and activists will need to keep organising for such an agenda.

Featured image: We need publicly owned energy at the enough is enough demonstration on October 1 2022. Photo credit: Ben Folley/ Labour Outlook archive

One thought on “Public Ownership is Popular and Necessary

  1. As a Labour Party menber of long standing, I believe we need to.nationalise railways and energy. Abolish private schools. Give universities enough money so they don’t have to depend on foreign students. Above all, we need to fund the NHS properly so that doctors and nurses don’t abandon it for private hospitals or other countries where they lòok after medical staff better.

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