Public Services, Private Profit

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There have been a series of standout stories in recent months that illustrate why it is folly for public services to be run privately for profit, rather than the benefit of the state and the people.

From the railways (East Coast rail being sold off again after being run vey successfully as a public concern, yet another round of above inflation fare rises) to the Royal Mail sell off (at ludicrously low prices, plus a threat to universal service provision) the legacy of privatization in the UK has been one of fragmented, overpriced services with reduced customer satisfaction… but it’s OK, because plutocrats, hedge funds and shareholders are making a killing.

That’s before we even get into things like telecommunications, energy, the NHS…

The conventional wisdom is that by making public services into private concerns and thus prey to ‘law of the jungle’ market forces they would become more efficient and provide better, cheaper services while not being a potential drain on the public finances.

It should be clear at this point that this is a false assumption, at least if you are looking at such services in terms of their value to the nation and it’s people.

Now, I’m a centrist by personal political bias and don’t advocate complete state control of all the things, but I believe that there is a balance to be found between public services being administered by the state for the benefit of all and the ability for private enterprise to flourish and offer competing services in pursuit of profit.

A nationalized public transport service (i.e. the railways) could provide an economically and ecologically effective and sustainable service, which would be of massive benefit to the people of this country as well as stimulating it’s economy by making it easier and cheaper for goods and workers to be transported quickly around the country.

Despite the decline in paper correspondence (albeit, offset by the increase in internet shopping and resultant deliveries) the Royal Mail, for all it’s flaws provides a vital service which is threatened in its scope and affordability by the privatized need to prioritize profit.

We need to look again at the policies implemented by thirty-five years and more of neoliberal governments to funnel ever more public services into the private realm, which has almost universally reduced the quality, frequency and breadth of service while increasing it’s cost, both to the public and the state in the form of subsidies (so in effect, the public… twice over.)

‘It’s good for business’ simply does not excuse such a massive failure of the public need and it’s been shown that egregious privatization of public services is not in fact, good business.

Public services should be run for the common good, not the profit of a few and the main Westminster parties need to be reminded of this.

 

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