By 1900, local authorities had succeeded companies and voluntary organisations as the major providers of utilities, schools and hospitals. This article examines why the role of companies and voluntary organisations diminished. It does this by comparing the financial results of companies, voluntary organisations and local authorities to identify the differing objectives they pursued. The results show that the priority for companies was short term dividend payments, while voluntary organisations put their charitable objectives first. In contrast, local authorities invested heavily to promote long term growth. Councils also pursued this objective by taking over a significant number of utility companies and voluntary schools.