Privatisation is where something that was once publicly-owned – run by the government or state – has been sold off to private companies who become responsible for their operation.
Private companies who provide these services are then pitted against each other in direct competition.
The idea is that this sense of competition drives up standards and leads to members of the public getting better value for money.
An example of privatisation in the UK is the telecommunications company, British Telecom (BT), which was privatised by a Conservative government in 1984 to make it more efficient.
Critics of privatisation argue that the biggest priority for private companies is to make a profit for their shareholders so they can’t claim to put their customers or service users first.