Leeds City Council is to set up a company to allow it to trade some of its services commercially to the private sector and others.
Councillors on the executive board have approved the establishment of Civic Enterprise Leeds, a company limited by shares and wholly-owned by the council, to allow it to trade its commercial and enterprise services externally to non-public bodies.
The group already has a turnover of £90 million a year, employing more than 3,000 staff and provides catering, cleaning, fleet and property services, along with facilities management and other shared services.
Its establishment is in response to changes in the law which mean that external trading, other than to public bodies, can only now be undertaken through a formal trading arm. Current clients include schools, council departments, neighbouring authorities, police and fire services, the NHS and a number of national fleet operators and property contractors.
Coun Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Despite the unprecedented financial challenges the council is facing we are determined to remain ambitious and visionary about the role public services play in our city. Having led the establishment of the Commission on the Future of Local Government last year, we in Leeds have been advocating a much more enterprising way of working- and this new company is good example of that.
“Local government has had a long history of enterprise, leadership and innovation. I want to recapture some of that spirit so that we help forge a stronger future for Leeds. This new company will allow a much more flexible way of working which will ultimately give us more capacity to support local employers and create local jobs. It builds on the existing success of a group of services brought together as Civic Enterprise Leeds.
“These services have an established track record with an annual turnover of £90m and 3,000 staff. The intention now is to expand those existing traded services. In the current climate we must work creatively to raise income if we are to maintain services within our communities.”
The company requires no extra resources, is expected to be self-financing and has the potential to develop new income streams for the council. The services currently contract with a number of voluntary organisations and social enterprises.
Its catering section sources fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat in the local region. A frozen food distribution centre opened in Cross Green last year, employing 40 people, after the group won a schools catering contract.
Civic Enterprise Leeds would allow the group to trade to non-public bodies in services such as lift maintenance, commercial catering and payroll, ICT or financial services.