SWINDON Council plans to bring most of the functions of Swindon Commercial Services back in-house as the company struggles with the public sector spending cuts.
SCS, based at Waterside Park, on Cheney Manor Industrial Estate, was spun-off as a council-owned company in 2010, allowing it to compete freely in the market and provide services to other organisations, producing extra income for the council and improving the efficiency of services.
The council says that, from 2010 to 2012, there was a steady increase in the value returned from SCS.
However, this position reversed during 2012/13, with SCS unable to absorb cost pressures experienced during the year, meaning the return to the council was significantly below the expected level, adding unexpected, late pressure to the council’s ability to deliver balanced budgets for 2012/13 and 2013/14.
The council says the Government has reduced the funding available for almost all public bodies, which were primarily the target market for SCS.
This has reduced the amount of work available, increased competition and tightened profit margins.
Now a special meeting of Cabinet will take place on Wednesday June 26to discuss plans to transfer back to the council the majority of the front-line and support services provided by SCS, including waste collection, but not the treatment, construction and management of buildings, and grounds maintenance.
SCS would be retained as a smaller specialist wholly-owned council company, concentrating its services on new and emerging green energy markets, such as refuse-derived fuel and photovoltaic cells, where there is perceived potential for growth.
The council says the transfer of the remaining operational and support services back to the council is intended to enable it to respond to current economic circumstances and develop fully integrated, high quality services.
Coun Mike Bawden, the cabinet member for strategic projects and transformation, said: “I believe it is prudentto re-focus efforts on those areas where we believe there is potential for growth and bring other services back in house.
“This will give us more flexibility to respond to the financial environment weare facing while delivering quality public services.” The plan, which needs approval from special committee or full council in July, would involve the transfer of 550 staff under rules which protect their terms and conditions.
But the council says the move would create net savings of £1.86m, with £1.352m coming from staffing and insurance savings as there would be some duplication in management after the transfer and this was where the bulk of staff savings would be made. SCS managing director Bill Fisher took early retirement this year and his role is being covered by council board directors.
In January, SCS, which employs 770 people, started a staff consultation on plans to shed up to 70 jobs to cope with expected ongoing reduced funding from council, as well as other public sector clients.
Council director Bernie Brannan, who is employed by SCS three days a week as the interim managing director, said SCS was disappointedsome of its work was being taken back, and was proud of what it had achieved in the last three years, but it understood why the council was proposing this.