Author Archives: Adam Penny

Mutualisation of public services needs to go up the agenda

One of the most interesting developments in domestic politics of recent years is the return of the debate over nationalisation in many public services: notably rail and utilities.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto put nationalisation firmly back on the agenda. Seeing as that is the case, I would argue that this offers the opportunity to make a strong case to the public for the largely ignored, but very credible model that mutualisation offers.

There is no disputing that there are many flaws with the privately-owned models that have been adopted for many public services, but equally it’s worth remembering that fully nationalised industries have had more than their fair share of problems.

In both cases, it stems from the innate conflict between the interests of shareholder interests and the interests of the workforce. In the privatised case, the interests of the workforce become a peripheral issue in favour of maximising returns, often leading to short termism, lack of public accountability, and a disenfranchised and disinterested workforce.

On the flip side, the weakness of nationalisation is that government control of the organisation means that management is heavily influenced by public opinion, which inevitably leads to a situation where unions can politicise the issues towards favouring the interests of the workforce over and above the interests of providing a good service to the public. Rewind 40 years and we can see these problems at their worst, with the nation pretty much crippled by the dominance of unions influencing public opinion and making sensible management in the public interest all but impossible.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments
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