The Report argues that Labour’s plans to bring industries including water, energy and rail into public ownership are right. However, it argues that for the full benefits for consumers, employees and taxpayers to be realised, democracy and accountability must at the heart of new publicly-owned models.

The Co-operative Party argues that public ownership does not have to mean a return to the models of the past and outlines a ‘21st century alternative’ that includes consumers and the workforce having a real say in the running of these industries in the future.

Advantages of the proposed models include:

  • An end to the widely acknowledged failings of privatisation.
  • Services directly accountable to those who use them and have a stake in their success: customers, employees, and taxpayers.
  • Improved productivity as a result of greater employee and customer involvement.
  • Making it harder for future governments to under-invest and re-privatise services – ensuring sustainable investment and stewardship for the long-term.

The report calls for:

  • Not-for-profit, regional water companies which are owned and run by accountable trusts made up of employees and consumers.
  • Rail services run by not-for-profit train service providers replacing train operating companies, and a new democratic ‘Guiding Mind’ for the railways to take over from Network Rail.
  • A new Energy Security Board, accountable to energy customers, employees and other stakeholders, and charged with securing the nation’s energy future; democratic regional distribution grids owned and run by consumer and employee trusts; a new generation of community-owned and co-operative renewable generation and energy supply; and a publicly-owned power generation company for large-scale generation.

The Report cites examples from across the UK and beyond, including Welsh Water (Glas Cymru), which became a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee in 2000 after “a peoples bid” to take it out of private ownership. Since then more than £180m has been returned to customers in dividends.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Co-operative Party General Secretary Claire McCarthy said:

Those who want to continue to defend the failed privatisations of rail, energy and water will no longer be able to use the smokescreen that any alternative means a return to the past.  What this document sets out is a radical vision for democratic public ownership for the 21st Century.

Public ownership is now a mainstream political position backed by the majority. The time has come to focus on how it can be achieved, and how we maximise the benefits to consumers, employees and the taxpayer.  We offer the proposals in this report as a contribution to these discussions.

Labour & Co-operative Party MP Gareth Thomas, who Chairs the Party, said:

For over a century, the Co-operative Party has championed accountable collective ownership and economic democracy.  The vision for the water, rail and energy sectors that we have set out today is radical and practical.  It will achieve the maximum benefits from public ownership by putting the public centre stage.


Public ownership that puts people first.

We're making the case for democratic public ownership of key national assets including railways, energy and water.

Receive a copy of our 'Democratic Public Ownership For the 21st Century' report, and to be a part of campaigning to make the plans a reality.