In Our Hands

Privatisation is the shackles that put profit before people, profit before workers rights and profit before aspiration. Privatisation does everything to undermine the work of the public sector; by pointing to the failures in society and labeling them as made by, because of and amplified by the work that is done in the public sector. As the fiasco with West Coast franchise has shown, there are some things that are better off under the watch of the public sector, the care of the public purse, and the guidance of the First Lord of the Treasury. Public ownerships can sometimes mean a public success.

Privatisation of our key public services is happening all around us, it is already underway. In the National Health Service, the reforms that have been pushed through have open the flood gates for profiteering businesses to, as the Conservatives and other like minded right wing economists suggest, serve the public the same quality but at a more “cost effective” price rate. The Localism Act emphasises this distorted and dangerous belief. It paves the way for private companies to run our local services. Even the Department for Education- with its ideologically lead academies scheme is effectively handing the keys to the next generation to the private sector. Key aspects of our lives are no longer under the control of the government but big business. Never, in the history of our country, have we been so powerless over what are supposed to be our public services.

The public sector is an amazing, cost effective establishment punching well above its weight. Let’s look at the cost effectiveness that David Cameron has labelled “crazy” in the sector seen in these time of hardship as out of touch. Compared to the private sector, having a dynamic and accountable public sector can keep costs down. For example: a local council employing engineers, electricians, accountants and parking wardens directly know best where and when to use these services. Instead as it stands, money is wasted (not invested) rushing out contracts to the private sector that inevitably runs a second class service. Second class services for the public sector. Second class services than run over budget, over time and lead to bigger payments. Three letters signify the shambles of public sector work in private sector hands: PFI. Not only did these Public Finance Initiatives fail the tax payer, they failed the patients, the pupils and the public which were guaranteed far too much and received far too little. Back to that local council: with a stronger buying power, strong employee base, fair workers representation in the form of unions, equal pay and with all work under one identifiably council roof- costs are kept low, costs remain low. The council in turn becomes the efficient model that has so longer been looked for in government.

The Word ‘public’ means so much more than just the ‘divide and conquer’ technique that the government has been using over the last few months. It means putting faith in services that should never have been ripped away from our control in the first place. Transport is just one area of policy which has suffered at the hands of the government selling out to the company which guarantees simply the biggest return. Success should not be measured in profit made, but service delivered- a service that’s quality will ultimately higher in the public sector designed to turn the cogs of government. Virgin Trains, the attacker in the dispute over the West Coast train line franchise forgets that it was the original operator that let down the public. Carriages that were promised- delayed, profits that were predicted- inaccurate, passenger number estimates- false; the one who they come knocking to when things go wrong- the public sector. It is time to say enough is enough. The public sector cannot be used and abused. It cannot simply contract out vital services and expect to pay out as a safety net later on. Paying out twice is simply unacceptable. Under public ownership we know what we would be getting for our money, what prices to put in place. Because the public sector hasn’t been intent on rising prices and attacking the wallets of the commuters, the patients, the motorists or the council tax payer- it has been the decisions taking by those at the other end of the contract who have abused the rights of their staff (seen in strikes by East Midlands Trains earlier this year), shunned away from investment and adamant on raising profit pound by pound- recession or no recession.

Nationalisation, the only alternative for certain services now seems more tempting than ever before. Transport back under central (or local) government control, clearly defined policy for energy with the capability to address fluctuating oil and coal prices, the ‘N’ very much back in the NHS- where it belongs. Not only would policy be clearly defined and consistent, there would be an organisation to turn to when things went wrong, people were unhappy or problems needed sorting out. Instead of a minefield that makes up these corporate contracts- the council, the department, the secretary of state and ultimately elected officials become responsible for seeing their plans through to the end. Is that so much to ask for, so much to expect?

Accountability is only one aspect- the amazing work done by millions in the public sector could regain the momentum to the economy. The millions more fairly paid workers, working in a fair public sector could push the limits of production to new levels. Re-investment would be king over profit making and with value for money already in place price stability and firm economic outlooks could become the norm.

For many, nationalisation was seen as a curse on our society. It was branded as something that should never be allowed to happen again. Yet this is the only process that can put the public first. It is the only system that can pull our trains, power plants, health services, education and council services back from the brink. It is the precise process that needs to happen, and need to happen now. As Labour preaches about a ‘One Nation’ society- perhaps it is time to put the theory to test and prove what one nation really is and what one nation can really do. One nation fuelled with nationalisation.

BY: James Wand