Let’s put our institutions back into public hands
The idea of privatisation is to increase competition, and consequently create services which offer better value for money to the consumer, as they are having to constantly compete. It should also increase efficiency, and the amount of choice available to consumers. That’s the idea anyway. In practice, there are numerous shortcomings which sacrifice consumer interest for profits of those who are at the top.
Firstly, the idea of increased competition is completely thrown out of the window when there is only one company in each area: this is what we have seen with our rail network. A monopoly occurs when there is only one company in the area, which gives them free reign to charge as much money as they want with little motivation to improve service, as customers are stuck with them either way. This problem was demonstrated very clearly to me on a recent holiday to Lisbon, where the trains are state run. In England, a 40 minute train journey out of Norwich costs £14.60, whereas a journey of the same length out of Lisbon costs just €2.15. The fact that trains in Portugal; and other countries such as Germany, Spain, France and Italy; are funded by the people for the people, makes them accessable to almost anyone.
Another problem with privatisation in Britain is that the general public who use the service have very little say in what happens, and because of this they end up being ‘short-changed’. It was recently reported that Royal Mail was undersold by £1bn – this money could clearly have been used to reduce the amount of cuts in the public sector. Typically, privatisation causes jobs to be lost, due to a demand for greater profit and efficiency. While this may be the norm for companies whole sole purpose is to make profit, it should not be for public services which are designed to provide for the general public.
It is also difficult to talk about this subject without discussing the NHS, which was recently ranked first out of the eleven western countries in an american study, showing that the Conservative’s attempts to portray that it is failing are unfounded. This, however, has not stopped their attempts to break it up and sell it to the highest bidder. These companies may appear to offer a better service, but the bottom line is that their main priority will be profit – not patients – and this is unacceptable when it comes our most valuable institution.
Privatisation also increase the gap between the rich and the poor, due to redistributing wealth. This occurs when assets own by the state (everyone), are sold to rich companies and individuals, allowing them to become richer at the expense of the public. It is clear then, that the way to improve services is not to privatise them in the hope that they become more efficient, but nationalise them and run them for the benefit of the people. This idea is supported by the majority of the public, even those who would vote for a Conservative government which is set on privatisation. For example, 68% of people think that the energy companies should be publicly run, with similar figures for the railway and (the now privatised) Royal Mail. It is now up to the opposing political parties to put nationalisation at the front of their campaign for the next general election, raising the issue with the public and putting in place a solid plan to bring our country back into public ownership.