John McDonnell welcomes We Own It report on 21st century public ownership

8 May 2019

Today, campaign group We Own It publishes a blueprint for public ownership in the 21st century, in response to the Labour Party’s consultation on democratic public ownership. 

Its report ‘When We Own It: A model for public ownership in the 21st century’ calls for public ownership of water, energy, public transport and the Royal Mail. It draws on best practice case studies from Brazil to Barcelona. The report has been welcomed by Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who described it as "brilliant".

The group says public ownership of key services - local, regional and national - would mean:

  • Developing an integrated public transport system that makes buses and trains the cheapest option, connects communities and reduces dependency on private cars.
  • Investment in cutting bills, reducing leaks, protecting rivers and installing public water fountains - still and sparkling - in every town.
  • Shifting the energy sector to focus on renewables and build good jobs in the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
  • Re-opening post-offices and integrating a post bank into the services they deliver.  

The report highlights four key steps for 21st century public ownership

  1. Creating new duties for the big challenges we face - like climate breakdown and inequality. Publicly owned companies would have a duty to decarbonise, to ensure access for all to crucial services, to work with communities and to steward public assets and land.
  2. Holding publicly owned companies accountable through supervisory boards that represent the broad, long term public interest, including public service users/citizens, workers, community groups and civil society. Companies would be managed by professionals day to day.
  3. Replacing inefficient regulators, using their budgets to create a new, independent, democratically accountable organisation ‘Participate’ with statutory powers, to represent the people who use public services. It would hold government to account, maximise participation and fight back against any threat of privatisation.
  4. Giving the public more power through new accountability mechanisms: open data and board meetings; public votes; shopfronts on high streets; citizens and workers funded to develop improvements; popular planning and budgeting meetings.

We Own It is asking members of political parties to pass motions in support of the report.

Speaking on the publication of the report, We Own It Director Cat Hobbs said:

“The story of privatisation is a story of nearly forty years of failure. We need to bring it to an end and open a new chapter. That chapter will be democratic public ownership - which can help us tackle major challenges like climate breakdown and growing inequality.

“We need to make sure public ownership is efficient, effective, accountable, innovative, caring and green. And make it so wildly successful so that no future government can dismantle it, and take us back to the dark days of privatisation.

“Our report offers a blueprint for that - a model of public ownership which is local, regional and national, and places communities, workers and people who use public services at its heart.”

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also responded to the report. He said:

“The new public ownership agenda is genuinely exciting, as this brilliant report by We Own It shows.

“Labour has consistently said we don’t want to copy the nationalised industries of the past but to come up with a radical plan for services run by workers and the community.

“We’ll read this report with interest when we consider all the submissions to our Democratic Public Ownership consultation.”

For additional information and further comment please contact Chris Jarvis: 07923 271 431

Image credit: Rwendland - Creative Commons.

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