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  • by Karma Loveday

We Own It unveils blueprint for public ownership of water

Campaign group We Own It last week published a “blueprint for public ownership in the 21st century” – focused on taking water, energy, public transport and the Royal Mail back into public hands.

The report, When we own it, was a response to the Labour Party’s consultation on democratic public ownership and said public ownership of key services – local, regional and national – would mean:

• investment in cutting bills, reducing leaks, protecting rivers and installing public water fountains – still and sparkling – in every town;

• developing an integrated public transport system that makes buses and trains the cheapest option, connects communities and reduces dependency on private cars;

• shifting the energy sector to focus on renewables and build good jobs in the transition to a zero-carbon economy; and

• Re-opening post-offices and integrating a post bank into the services they deliver.

The report also highlighted four key steps for 21st century public.

• Creating new duties for big challenges 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.”

• 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.

• Replacing “inefficient” regulators, and 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.”

• 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. Director Cat Hobbs said: “The story of privatisation is a story of nearly 40 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.”

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