Wednesday, 3 December 2014

As the East Coast Main Line shows, the public sector is just so much better at delivering essential services

What made me want to write this post was an item I heard on the BBC Radio 4 lunchtime consumer programme You and Yours. I heard about mobile phone customers complaining that they were paying £40 for nothing - no service at all. Some, but not all, of these people lived in the countryside and could never get a mobile signal in their home. I live in mid Cheshire and the mobile signal in my house is poor to say the least, sometimes I get cut off in mid call because the signal drops. The reality is that mobile phone reception varies wildly around the country and there just isn't a good universal service. 

So why is this? The answer is simple - privatisation. This is what you get in terms of service from private sector corporations. A couple of months earlier I caught part of a conversation on The World at One, again on Radio 4. This was also an argument about mobile reception and someone was saying that if the service was run by the public sector it would be universal - everyone in the UK would get good reception, regardless of where they lived. That was when he could get a word in edgeways because he was being shouted down by a representative of the private sector who ranted about how much better it was, how private was more efficient, blah blah etc.

More recently I heard someone from Stagecoach being interviewed on BBC Radio 4PM about why they and Virgin could run East Coast Main Line better than the successful public sector company that's run it for five years. The guy couldn't give a good answer to the question, he blustered and floundered and talked about new trains, which are being paid for by the government anyway.
East Coast Main Line

I'm sure you have heard that kind of stuff before. The reality is that the public sector can do many things much better than the private sector can, like running services we all depend upon,  and still make a profit which goes to help the taxpayer instead of going into the pockets of foreign shareholders. No wonder these private sector advocates bluster and flounder and have to shout their opponents down. Its because they know damn well they can't compete with a good public sector alternative on efficiency or price, and they know that they are riding the fat privatisation gravy train out our expense. So what we need to do is boot out the profiteers and bring essential services like railways, mobile phone networks, energy distribution and broadband supply back where they belong - into a sector we own and control - the public sector.