We Own It manifesto 2017:
How public ownership can give us real control
Public services belong to all of us. We built them, we pay for them, we use them every day. Over the past 30 years, politicians have taken an ideological approach, selling off our public assets and outsourcing our services. But privatisation has failed again and again. Public ownership is highly popular, totally achievable and would save us money.
The number one reason people voted for Brexit was that they wanted decisions about the UK to be made in the UK. That means we need public services that are accountable to us, not to distant shareholders. Our new polling shows 73% of Leavers and 77% of Remainers want to see more or the same level of public ownership. Only 12% of Leavers and 13% of Remainers want to see less public ownership in the UK after Brexit. 77% of both Leavers and Remainers said that public services were an important factor in their vote in the EU referendum.
Public ownership is more popular than Brexit. It means we have democratic control and profits are reinvested to improve our services. We need to take back control – by moving forward into a future where public services belong to all of us. This is about public services that are more responsive and accountable to citizens and workers than ever before. Whatever else they’re saying in their manifestos, we want political parties to commit to three things:
1) Take back what we’ve lost
It’s time to make a break with the failed privatisations of the past and bring energy, water, railways, buses and care work into public ownership. Communities need real control over the public services that have been stolen from us over the past 30 years.
54% of Leavers and 52% of Remainers want to see energy in public ownership.
Money saved: £3.2 billion a year
59% of Leavers and 63% of Remainers want to see water in public ownership.
Money saved: £1.8 billion a year
- Bring the private water companies in England into public ownership, turning them into new public water companies for each region. Water is already publicly owned in Scotland and run by a not for profit company in Wales, but in England we have a private monopoly.
- Turn the regulator, Ofwat, into an accountable government agency.
62% of Leavers and 60% of Remainers think railway privatisation has been a failure.
Money saved: £1.2 billion a year
- Bring railway franchises in house one at a time, as they come up for renewal. There's no need to pay any compensation to train companies - when the contracts end, the services are brought into public ownership. The East Coast line example shows public ownership is more efficient.
- Keep Network Rail and its assets public.
- Gradually phase out the ROSCOs (the rolling stock companies) by buying trains directly on behalf of the public.
58% of Leavers and 60% of Remainers 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.
74% of Leavers and 77% of Remainers support bringing social care into 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.
79% of Leavers and 81% of Remainers are against the privatisation of the NHS.
Money saved: £4.5 billion a year
79% of Leavers and 78% of Remainers want schools to be in public ownership.
- Put a stop to academies and free schools in England - education is better when it's public and accountable.
- Focus on teacher training and funding our schools properly.
- Stop privatising our student loans - students and the public lose out from sales.
Selling off profitable assets doesn't make sense in the long term. The sale of our 500 year old Royal Mail will leave the British public worse off within 10 years.
- Give UK Government Investments (UKGI) a new duty to manage public 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).
62% of Leavers and 54% of Remainers support insourcing services instead of outsourcing to private companies.
- Bring outsourcing contracts in house as they come up for renewal - councils can save money and improve quality and flexibility by insourcing
- Increase capacity within councils and government to provide services in-house.
- Create new procurement rules on fair wages, the environment and the local economy.
- Stop the outsourcing of policy advice through the use of management consultants.
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.
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'.
There are strong arguments for the 'crazy' idea of bringing Facebook into public ownership - such as the need for user privacy and the potential of big data to solve global problems. Crucially too, the way we spend our time online could be managed better if designers were on our side, instead of being incentivised to capture our attention and keep us addicted. 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.
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. We also need to end PFI deals and protect our public services in future trade deals. This makes economic sense because we can reinvest in our services instead of wasting money on high interest rates and shareholders.
How you can help
- Ask your election candidates where they stand on this manifesto
- Share this manifesto online
- Donate to We Own It
Download the full manifesto pdf here: