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Dan Hancox:

"The word remunicipalisation does not lend itself to catchy slogans. It is, perhaps, somewhat alienatingly wonkish: in-sourcing civic infrastructure is not generally thought of as sexy politics. But its popularity is on the rise worldwide. The Transnational Institute (TNI), a thinktank in Amsterdam, has been banging the drum for years. Its latest report, The Future Is Public, identifies more than 1,400 cases of remunicipalisation since the turn of the millennium, in more than 2,400 cities across 58 countries.

The local services brought back into public ownership range from social care programmes in Selangor, Malaysia to privatised housing in Berlin, Germany; from waste services in Winnipeg, Canada to public transport cleaning in Seoul, South Korea. The report brims with success stories: the Chileans benefiting from dramatically lower drug prices since 40 new public pharmacies were created; the 141 new publicly-owned telecommunication providers in Chattanooga, Tennessee providing internet service to locations where private companies had decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. There has been a 47% cut to electricity use in street lighting in the Bulgarian city of Dobrich since it was remunicipalised in 2018, when the local government installed energy-efficient LED bulbs.

The benefits of remunicipalisation fall into two broad categories: first, correcting what has gone wrong in our cities after decades of privatisation, profit-extraction and waste; and second, forging a new sense of the public good.

“The privatisation and outsourcing of the last 30-40 years has failed,” says Cat Hobbs of the Oxford-based campaigning organisation We Own It. . “It tends to cost us more, it means that we get worse services, we have less control over them, and there is less democratic accountability to us, the public.

“But it’s also a moral question. We’re often talking about natural monopolies like water, where competition doesn’t make sense, and the market doesn’t really belong. When we talk about ‘people not profit’, everyone understands that.”

The alternative, she argues, is one in which public ownership at the local level can ensure there are better, more stable jobs for communities, prioritising sustainability rather than dividends for shareholders. From social care to libraries to refuse collection, privatisation has cut these services to the bone." (