Public ownership: a how-to guide

We know public ownership is hugely popular. This is how we do it. Let's nationalise, regionalise and localise to put people before profit.

It's time to take back what we've lost, protect what we have and start creating the public services of the future. 

Public ownership is vital to rebalancing the economy and putting people before profit. We can do it by bringing contracts in house as they come up for renewal, supporting local authorities to set up public companies and managing our national assets and infrastructure in the public interest. 

The debate around public ownership has shifted. The country is on the path to public ownership - but what does it mean to bring our public services into public ownership, how do we do it, and what would it look like?

To work this out, we're talking to our friends who are experts in their sectors, and looking at models from around the world. Read our how-to-guide, and watch our Youtube series 'The Path to Public Ownership' to find out more.

1) Take back what we’ve lost

Let's bring water, energy, railways, buses, the Royal Mail and care work into public ownership so they work for all of us.


83% of us want to see water in public ownership.
Money saved: £2.3 billion


77% of us want to see energy in public ownership.
Money saved: £3.2 billion a year


76% of us want the railways in public ownership.
Money saved: £1.2 billion a year


57% of us believe councils should have the right to set up their own local bus companies.
Money saved: £506 million a year
  • Reverse the recent government ban on new local public bus companies.
  • Help councils to set up their own municipal bus companies to compete with multinational companies. 
  • Give all local authorities the powers to franchise buses as we transition to public ownership.

Royal Mail

67% of us want to see the Royal Mail in public ownership.
  • Buy back Royal Mail shares. Profits were £373 million a year when the 500 year old company was sold for £3.3 billion in 2015, so this would be a good deal for the public purse (see our research with the New Economics Foundation).
  • Use the money saved on shareholder profits to treat workers properly and provide a better postal service.

Social care

74% of us want to see social care in public ownership.
  • Enable councils to bring outsourced social care services in-house, pay a living wage and end 15 minute visits. 
  • Explore new models for care like the Italian cooperative model and the Buurtzorg model in the Netherlands.
  • Move away from financialised residential care – build homes without the 12% profit rate. 

2) Protect what we have

It’s time to protect the public services we have for the future. Our precious NHS, our schools and education system, our council services, other valuable public assets and our green spaces need to be held in common for our grandchildren.


84% of us want the NHS to be in public ownership.
Money saved: £4.5 billion a year
  • Pass legislation to reverse privatisation and protect our NHS for the future - the NHS Reinstatement Bill
  • Scrap the internal market.
  • Stop Slashing, Trashing and Privatising our NHS in England, fund our health service properly across the UK.


81% of us want schools to be in public ownership.

Outsourcing contracts

 73% of us think that we should be consulted before services are contracted out to private companies..

National assets

Selling off profitable public assets doesn't make sense in the long term.
  • Give UK Government Investments (UKGI) a new duty to manage our assets in the national interest, not sell them off.
  • Require a referendum/public vote before any further sell offs.
  • Enable councils to manage assets like public spaces and housing for public good. Stop selling off council housing (in Scotland they've already ended the policy of right-to-buy).

3) Create new public ownership

It’s time to bring public ownership into the 21st century. We need new models that can help create and support new services that work for all of us, not just the big corporations. Social media creates a public space that should be democratically accountable. Technology - like new driverless cars - needs to be harnessed for the common good.

Driverless cars

Companies like Uber, Google and Apple are developing driverless car technology. It needs to belong to all of us so we can create efficient, green transport networks. We can work with cities across Europe and the European Space Agency to test out new public networks of driverless cars - ‘WeGo’ instead of 'IGo'.

Social media

There are no easy answers here but it's undeniable that Facebook – along with Google and Amazon – are new monopolies providing a key service that many of us rely on. We need an international conversation about how to make them accountable to us. There is already an initiative for democratic co-ownership of Twitter.
This is about public services that are more responsive and accountable to citizens and workers than ever before.

This how-to guide is based on our manifesto - read more:

Photo credits: clement127 / Bristol Energy / Transposition / Matt Buck / Ulleskelf / CQC Press Office / Thinkstock / National Assembly for Wales / Simon Greig / We Own It / GmanViz / CurvaBezier / iStock.