The economic system in Britain, in its current guise, has a number of fundamental structural flaws that undermine economic strength and societal well-being. The predominance of private property ownership has led to a lack of long-term investment and declining rates of productivity, undermined democracy, left regions of the country economically forgotten, and contributed to increasing levels inequality and financial insecurity. Alternative forms of ownership can fundamentally address these problems.
These issues are all the more pronounced given the increasing levels of automation in our economy. Automation has an emancipatory potential for the country’s population, but the liberating possibilities of automation can only be realised – and the threats of increased unemployment and domination of capital over labour only countered – through new models of collective ownership that ensure that the prospective benefits of automation are widely shared and democratically governed.
Cooperative ownership has the ability to increase employment stability and increase productivity levels, as well as making firms more democratic. To support the expansion of cooperatives in the UK it is necessary to improve their access to finance, and examples from Italy and Spain point in the direction necessary to achieve this. Cooperatives can further be supported by national legislation and a re-worked government procurement policy.
Municipal and locally-led ownership can improve service provision and guarantee that economic prosperity is not concentrated in certain regions of the country. A variety of policies, including place-based budgets,increased powers being handed to local authorities, and the relocation of various major institutions outside of London can foster this type of ownership.
National ownership of certain industries promotes long-term planning of the economy, helps to provide modernising infrastructure, quality health and social care, and to combat climate change. Examples around the world point to the positive contribution of national ownership, but in the UK national state ownership has historically tended to be too centralised, with power in the hands of a private and corporate elite. To improve national ownership in the UK requires taking measures to increase the democratic accountability of state ownership.
To turn the proposals of this report into practical and popular policy will necessitate, amongst other things: the examination of sectors of the economy which may require national government intervention; the drawing up of a list of policies to develop and to have an open consultation with stakeholders on the biggest proposals; the establishment of a network of activists/experts to discuss governance issues in collectively/publicly owned organisations; and the preparation of a policy document for publication ahead of the September Party conference.
Table of Contents
ONE: Why alternative ownership models are needed
TWO: Increased automation in the economy
THREE: Different models of alternative ownership
b) Municipal and locally-led ownership
c) National ownership
FOUR: Next Steps
APPENDIX 1: Overview of cooperative structures and legal forms
APPENDIX 2: Overview of cooperatives and procurement processes
APPENDIX 3: The problem of service provision by private sector firms