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Public and Private Ownership of British Industry 1820–1990$
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James Foreman-Peck and Robert Millward

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203599

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203599.001.0001

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. Explaining the Shift to Public Ownership at the Local Level: The Halcyon Days of Municipal Ownership 1870–1920

. Explaining the Shift to Public Ownership at the Local Level: The Halcyon Days of Municipal Ownership 1870–1920

Chapter:
(p.162) 5. Explaining the Shift to Public Ownership at the Local Level: The Halcyon Days of Municipal Ownership 1870–1920
Source:
Public and Private Ownership of British Industry 1820–1990
Author(s):

James Foreman-Peck

Robert Millward

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203599.003.0005

Initially, local authority involvement was limited to the provision of railway track and by 1883 the local authorities owned one-third of the track mileage. The 1890s saw a rapid growth of electric tramways in which the municipalities were heavily involved. This chapter explains this shift to public ownership at the local level and proposes two fundamental causes. First, market failure arising from economies of scale and externalities provided the initial impetus for public intervention. Second, the form of intervention was affected by the unsatisfactory experience with arm's length regulation and by the sectional interests of ratepayers who used the opportunity of intervention to further their own needs. Before any of these issues can be addressed, it is necessary to sketch out some of the background of the new utilities.

Keywords:   local authority, track, track mileage, tramways, municipalities, public ownership, market failure, economies of scale, public intervention

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