Expand democratic public ownership

Expand democratic public ownership

New models of public ownership ensure control by users, workers and communities.

Many public services and utilities have been privatised over the last 40 years. These privatisations have repeatedly ended in disappointment and failure: overpriced services and substandard quality. Instead of unleashing competition”, privatisation has created private monopolies that put profit before people.

But reinstating public ownership doesn’t necessarily mean returning to the models of public ownership that prevailed in the post-1945 period. Many of these were flawed: too top-down and bureaucratic, lacking input from users, workers and wider communities. Instead, new models of democratic public ownership have been developed by We Own It, Thomas Hanna and Andrew Cumbers for the Next System Project, and Keir Milburn and Bertie Russell for Common Wealth.

These models are different but complementary. We Own It’s emphasises user involvement, including the establishment of Participate”, a new organisation representing users and citizens. Cumbers and Hanna propose a governing assembly for publicly owned enterprises, which gives equal representation to civil society, workers, community and government. Milburn and Russell outline a plan for Public-Common Partnerships” that bring together local government and common associations, such as co-ops or community interest companies.

Policy in practice

Projects that demonstrate the benefits or may be helped by polices like this.

  • Better Buses for Greater Manchester
    Passenger-led campaign for affordable, easy, reliable, regulated buses.
  • Save Druids Heath
    Residents fight council plans to rebuild their homes that ignore their community.
  • Goldsmith Street
    Winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling prize, these eco-friendly homes are one of the first new council housing projects in a generation.
  • Nottingham City Transport
    Largest local authority-owned bus operator in England tops customer satisfaction tables.
  • Preston Community Wealth Building
    Preston, recently named the UK's "most improved city", has pioneered more democratic ways to build local wealth.
  • Reading Buses
    England's second-largest municipal bus operator invests £3m a year into the network by not having to pay dividends.
  • North West Mutual
    Community bank will help local businesses and individuals neglected by mainstream banks.
  • North Ayrshire Community Wealth Building
    Scotland’s first community wealth building strategy aims to spread prosperity in an area with historically high poverty rates.
  • Islington Community Wealth Building
    Islington, with some of the richest and poorest residents in the country, aims to build a more democratic economy.
  • Lothian Buses
    The UK's largest public bus company returns its profits to the councils that own it.