The problem with privatising!

Rail, utilities, telecommunications, air travel and now, postal services. All of these amount to the large list of privatised British businesses. It is a controversial decision for any government to make and the decisive Mrs Thatcher did not care what the people thought of privatising these ‘classic’ British services. At the time, many felt that selling off the publically owned rail and utilities would lead to better a better customer service and a business which runs smoother. Train tickets are at extortionate prices and with gas bills set to rise a further 10% this winter it seems clear to me that service has not improved. Especially for the price of them!

The ideas of Mrs Thatcher regarding privatisation was that by selling these services off they would become greater assets to the economy if run by private businesses in search of profits. This is the classic idea of small government in action.

While these ‘private’ services were said to be running great and everybody loved them for quite some time. However, it has not taken long until people are fed up with waiting for trains that don’t arrive. Impersonal customer service with no accountability and profits for these companies is at an all-time high. The energy regulator Ofgem revealed this week that profits for the big 6 energy companies, British Gas, Eon, EDF, nPower,  SSE and Scottish Power were a 77% increase on profits from the previous year  is in the billions. A ‘YouGov’ poll suggested that 68% of the public wanted energy companies to be ran by the government and to be renationalised. This is the same poll which resulted that 84% of the population wanted the NHS to remain in public ownership, again this is something the current Tory led coalition are trying to put an end to. The railways scored 67% in favour of public ownership in this poll.Image

The recent victim of the horror that is privatisation is Royal Mail, the oldest publicly owned industry. Employing over 150,000 workers the government sold 60% of the shares in the company in October on the London Stock Exchange. But 10% of the shares were given to employees don’t forget that! The choice of a few thousand pound worth of shares spread over 3 years or a stable job delivering a world class service is a hard decision eh? And this is exactly what the Tory press want you remember. That shares are more important than a job. Now, the Business Secretary Vince Cable claimed that the enormous profits Royal Mail saw in 2012 was a fluke. But today, 27/11/2013, Royal Mail again reported pre-tax profits of £233m which is up £139m on this time last yea

The Labour Party has been attacking the privatisation with Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna claiming that Royal Mail was sold off on the cheap and was totally under-priced. Which it was but nonetheless, Ed Miliband’s Labour Party still refuses to commit to renationalisation of Royal Mail when (yes I’m this sure) they win in 2015. Furthermore, that ‘YouGov’ poll still claimed that 67% of the public wanted Royal Mail to remain in public ownership. If the Labour Party wanted to guarantee a victory in 2015 it would be committing to renationalise utilities, rail and mail.

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Jamie Scott

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