06:33 GMT05 July 2020
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    British pressure and campaign group "We Own It" has today published a new model for public services in the UK. Focusing on the public ownership of water, energy and public transport, the group’s report represents a reply to the Labour Party’s consultation on democratic public ownership in 21st Century Britain.

    Sputnik spoke on the matter with Cat Hobbs, the director and co-founder of the We Own It Group.

    Sputnik: Can you tell us a little more about this report… what does this report contain and represent?

    Cat: This report is about what public ownership looks like in the 21st century. What we've seen over the past 30 to 40 years is that privatization has completely failed. We've seen costs go up; people's bills have gone up, whether that's public transport fares, water bills, energy bills. We've seen lots of scandals with private companies failing to deliver what we're trying to do is say ‘what would it look like if we ran our public services to people rather than to profit?’

    Sputnik: Now for the majority in Britain, the story of privatization is a story of nearly forty years of failure. To what extent is this true and why is bringing things like utilities and rail back into the public ownership a better system?

    Cat: I think what we see when services are privatized is it's really inefficient because it means wasting lots of money on shareholders and it means that when private companies fail we actually have to pick up the pieces — the public has to pick up the pieces when it goes wrong. For example, with Carillion collapsing, the public sector had to step in and we're not actually getting any benefit from these private companies being involved.

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    Their priority is to make a profit for their shareholders, rather than investing in good public services and the kind of future that we want to see. We have a privatized national grid, and they are failing to connect up renewable energy projects across the country because that's not their priority. If we brought bought the grid into public ownership, then we could make sure that we're connecting up the new green, decentralized energy that we need to see in the future.

    Sputnik: Looking to the future and going forward; what are the next steps for campaigners who are looking to move away from the system of privatization we have now to a one of public ownership?

    Cat: What we want to see is publicly and companies that have a number of duties to make sure they're delivering for everyone. For example, an active duty to decarbonize, a duty to make sure that everyone can access public services and that they're affordable and accessible, a duty to work closely with communities to make sure that public services are working for communities in their spaces and a duty look after our public assets and our public land, and to make it possible for all of us to get involved in our public services. So that's a key thing.

    Then what we want to see is that we have publication that really put citizens and communities at the heart of it. When you've got a public company, we want to see that being held accountable, not just to government but also to the people who use public services, the workers and the trade unions and also civil society, social environmental groups.

    Sputnik: So what does this mean for Scotland? As we know, the distribution of public services in Scotland differs to that of England; how would this plan from your group fit into Scotland?

    Cat: That's right. So we've been pointing to some of the examples in Scotland, because actually, Scotland is really leading the way as you know, in doing more publication than England is doing. So in England, all of our water companies are private monopolies, whereas in Scotland you've got Scottish water, which is providing a much better service; investing a little more, looking to the future and what they can do for the environment.

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    They are also making sure that those services are affordable for people. Scottish water is a great example of public ownership that's already happening and another example is Lothian Buses, which is publicly owned, providing the buses for people in Edinburgh and doing a fantastic job and winning awards. We've got these kinds of examples that we can build on in Scotland and hopefully what we can see is with more deletion, more powers for local authorities. We can make sure that we will really build on those examples for the future.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Cat Hobbs and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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