New chapter and Verse as councils set up commercial company

Submitted by Emma Squires | 28/08/2015

A new commercial facilities management business is to be formed by two councils and a local provider; as they look to develop savings and income to help support key services in the future.

Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council recognises that major Government funding is likely to continue to dwindle in the future.

The councils have already seen cuts of around 50 percent to their Revenue Support Grant in the last two years while politically they have tried not to pass on the impact of these funding cuts to Council Taxpayers.

Instead the two councils are looking at commercial opportunities including this Joint Venture Company to deliver facilities management at its buildings, delivering catering, cleaning, courier services and security.

The two councils had been using several different methods of service provision but concluded that the formation of a Joint Venture Company with the publicly owned commercial organisation, Vertas (previously called Eastern Facilities Management Solutions – EFMS) would allow the council to improve the service, make the most savings, share in the profits, while offering the flexibility to add other services at later dates as demand requires.

The move is set to save the two councils in excess of £40,000 per year – before it begins to explore the commercial opportunities to provide a greater range of services and sell them to other businesses and organisations.

The formation of the new joint company, called ‘Verse’ has been prompted in part by one of the councils’ own facilities management contracts with an external company coming to an end.

Ian Surtees, Group Managing Director for Vertas, said:

“It has always been our passion to put the customer at the heart of everything we do; this partly involves striving to meet the ever changing demands of budgetary cuts without compromising on the quality of service we provide.

“It is of utmost importance to Vertas to focus its efforts on giving back to the local economy, we feel strongly that the creation of Verse will provide great career opportunities for those living and working locally.

“Our Joint Venture opportunity will allow us to work even closer with both St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath through a partnership approach to further develop and improve the provision currently in place; thus allowing the councils to focus on protecting front line services, something we all care very much about.”

Cllr Peter Stevens, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Operations, said:

“This makes sound financial sense and gives the council a greater stake in ensuring visitors, whether it is to our public buildings, cemeteries, parks, heritage sites or other facilities, have the best possible experience.”

Cllr David Bowman, Forest Heath District Council’s Cabinet Member for Operations, said:

“This is another chapter and Verse in the West Suffolk story as we look to deliver better services while saving money and creating an opportunity to bring in a commercial income. Most importantly the cash generated from this will go some way to helping support and protect the key services that our residents, our businesses and our communities value so highly.”

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