The mania for privatising our public utilities goes back fifty years, but is still clear in my memory. I recall particularly the pained observation by the Tory patrician, Harold MacMillan, that we were “selling off the family silver”. His concerns were not heeded and the fire-sale of railways, water, gas, electricity, telephones and prisons went ahead. Now, even schools, hospitals and health services are at the check-out … Irreplaceable goods being sold off cheap.
The folly of these policies is emerging in public consciousness, but, such is the distance from the original decision, politicians rely on our forgetfulness, make up lame excuses for current problems, and hope we’ll keep quiet.
Take Andrew Jones’s Central Office cut-and-paste job trying to excuse his vote to permit water companies’ dumping of sewage in the rivers and on the beaches: he says the problem has been with us for a long time, and it is too expensive to sort out, and we (you and me!) can’t afford it now.
Since the sell-off, many billions of pounds have been given to the shareholders in dividends. This cash, had we retained ownership, could have been spent on the maintenance and improvements needed now. Faeces in the rivers is of no concern to the shareholders, as they seek only more dividends. The tiny fines that have occasionally been meted out matter little compared with the huge profits.
Water and all the other utilities have been sold to those who have no interest in our safety and well-being. The whole sell-off remains a monumental disgrace, and no excuses can change it. We need to ‘take back control’ and demand public utilities are brought back into public ownership.
Harrogate and District Green Party