The difference is incentives.
If a private company runs badly, it goes bust. The theory is that this threat alone is enough to make a private company more efficient than a public one.
Its complete bollocks though, it works only in specific and pretty narrow fields. If you have an operation that is completely commercial and operates in a truly competitive environment then you would have some merit to this argument.
Private companies do tend to have more flexibility and also in the UK they also have better access to investment funding.
The model of privatisation in the UK has a well trodden path -
First ensure there is a public service imperative and burden the business to reduce any hope of profit. that was you can reduce its performance compared to a private company that provides similar services but without the public service imperative
Next, deny the opportunity for access to commercial investment funding and all the oversight that such borrowing would imply.
Next, if its a monopoly, then strip all the profits it has been making and do not use any of those profits for investment, better still, use those profits to give taxpayers a tax cut just before and election.
Make sure that as a nation you run it down over the course of a few decades, and then to sell it off you undervalue the assets remaining and sell it off. It helps if you can con the public into buying some shares of the organisation for something they already owned - its really a way of giving money to people who have a little bit over and can invest - so it does not benefit those who are struggling the most.
The run down of various public services has taken place despite different administrations having differing political outlooks, you can never get politicians to understand the meaning of on-going operational investments, and if you did, they would still have to sell that idea to an inherently selfish public who are incapable of understanding the very basic principle of deferred benefit. They never understood it as 2 years olds in the famous psych test, they don’t want to understand it now.
Of course this is all done to increase choice and competition, so it helps not to bother effectively regulating the market for the services it provides, and then you wind up with a private monopoly or a cartel.
So now you can look at telecoms, gas, electric, rail and now postal services and see fine examples of markets that are not operating freely at all.
You can also add that the profit motive works well enough for Rail company executives to cut maintenance, and end up with a significant number of serious accidents - and yes, I can cite for that in a number of rail accident enquiries.
Have you noticed how every single one of those former public service charges have risen well in excess of inflation? That’s good old privatisation for you - our Prime Minister keeps telling us were must all bear the burden of austerity, and yet the real profits- that is adjusted for inflation - are still rising and will continue to do so due to regulatory agreements that have already been made.
If investment is needed, instead of borrowing, what they do is put up the prices and state that the consumer must pay, and yet every year the share dividend has increased above inflation - this alone reveals how little choice and competition there actually is.
I can choose my energy supplier, but they all seem to put up the bills by almost identical amounts so there is no real choice at all. I can’t freely choose my water and sewerage supplier though, so you have a monopoly there, its nice to see the French holding companies doing so well out of it.
Of course, all private companies are fantastic, and those great institutions of commercialism - the banks - did well didn’t they? And they are exactly the reason we have austerity in the first place and need to sell everything off.
Now what was the big motivation for private companies to perform effectively and efficiently? Yes that’s right, the threat of going bust, yet you the public bailed them out. Too big to go broke, and if we didn’t allow them to keep paying themselves huge bonuses, why they would up and leave to other countries - methinks maybe they should just fuck off and screw up someone else’s economy.
If I was running an investment bank in , say Belgium, I can’t imagine I would want to take on the current set of wankers having seen their performance over the last ten years and how they basically screwed the whole world over. Regulate and cut their pay, maybe we need an avalanche of all nations to bring these selfish greedy idiots into line with real markets.