80% want public ownership option

80% of the public think there should always be a public sector bid when a public service is contracted out


A new poll finds 80% of the public think there should always be a public sector bid when a public service is contracted out. The public rejects default privatisation by 10:1.

4 in 5 people want to have a say over whether public services are privatised.

The poll was carried out by Survation and commissioned by We Own It, a new organisation which launches today with a report calling for a Public Service Users Bill.

The Public Service Users Bill would require public ownership to be considered before privatising or outsourcing services, as well as in the bidding process.

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It, said:

‘Despite what the government might think, people aren't sold on the idea of privatising and outsourcing public services. We hope that this report, and the clear public support for public ownership, will spell the beginning of the end for privatisation-as-usual. In the future, public services will need to be owned by and accountable to the people they serve.’

We Own It’s new report ‘Better in Public Hands’ says public ownership is making a comeback, and includes examples of effective public services from across the UK and the rest of Europe.

Damian Lyons Lowe, Chief Executive of Survation, said:

‘A clear majority of the general public, including Conservative voters, reject automatic privatisation of public services; 80% want to see public sector bids for all public service tenders, showing a clear desire not to see services simply privatised by default.

For public services that are operated by the private sector, the public would like to see far higher levels of transparency and accountability, with 88% both wanting higher transparency levels and an early end to contracts in case of poor service provision.’

Public Service Users Bill would require that private companies be transparent about their performance and financial data and answer Freedom of Information requests. Currently, private companies can hide contract details behind a cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’­.

We Own It’s report follows outrage over the recent tagging scandal, where private companies G4S and Serco were accused of charging taxpayers tens of millions of pounds for electronic tags on criminals who were dead, in jail or had left the country.


Key poll results - full results available here

80% believe that when a public service is put out to tender, there should always be an in-house bid to see if the service could be provided publicly at better value (87% of Conservative voters)

79% believe citizens should be consulted and have their views considered before any service is privatised or outsourced

69% of Labour voters believe the public sector is more accountable than the private sector when running public services

60% think local and national government should run public services in the public sector as the default, and only consider contracting out if this fails

90% of Conservative voters believe the government should be required to end private company contracts early when they are found to be doing a poor job of running public services, following public complaints

88% believe private companies running public services should be required to be as transparent about their performance and financial data as the public sector

48% (mistakenly) believe that private companies running public services are obliged by law to respond to Freedom of Information requests