Mutuals could be a Trojan horse for privatisation, warned Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigade Union. One of the keynote speakers at Ways Forward 4, Mr Wrack argued that sometimes co-operatives and mutuals can get captured by the market conditions.
The private ownership of public services was “way too exploitative and inefficient”, he said. Mr Wrack spoke against the privatisation of fire brigades and agreed the debate around the public ownership of rail was important. An alternative should involve workers’ control and genuine involvement of the entire workforce with real power and collective voice. He said lessons could be learnt from co-operatives.
Another speaker at the event, financial writer Frances Coppola, talked about the relationship between competition and co-operation. “We’ve been led to believe that profits are always good, that competition is always better for everyone and that private is more efficient than public. These beliefs need to be challenged,” she said.
“We’ve come to rely on the financial sector. I question how helpful competition is; providers of loans need to compete to give better value to customers but when it comes to helping people better their lives, do we really need competition?” She suggested creating a national payment service in charge of all payments. “Who would own and control such an utility?” she asked, adding that changing ownership was not enough. “Ownership isn’t the only thing to consider. This is about changing the ways things are done.”
- You can find all our our coverage from the Ways Forward conference here.