More Derbyshire council staff set to be outsourced

Friday, October 2nd, 2020 12:49pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Dozens of Derbyshire grounds maintenance staff are next in line to be outsourced to Suffolk County Council in a further bid to save money.

Last month, Derbyshire County Council finalised a transfer of more than 900 caretaking, cleaning and property design staff to a joint company it has formed with Suffolk, 180 miles away.

Vertas Derbyshire Ltd was formed between Derbyshire and Suffolk to take on the caretaking and cleaning staff and Concertus Derbyshire Ltd was formed between the two councils for property design staff.

The reasoning for the transfer was the possibility of financial savings with Derbyshire facing a steep cuts target of £65 million or more by the end of the 2024 financial year.

However, despite pledges to show what financial savings and profits could be earned through the joint venture companies the council has yet to shed any light on the potential benefits.

Now Derbyshire County Council is looking to transfer its 41 garden maintenance staff to Vertas Derbyshire Ltd.

This comes after a report from Ernst Young that Derbyshire’s “facilities delivery” team “does not compete in the market”.

The firm said: “In a highly price-elastic market, and a well-established market for the services, efficiencies and management focus could be achieved through a form of outsourcing.

“The analysis suggests corporate property should look to divest itself of facilities delivery to enable a greater focus on core operations.”

The council’s property division had contained 1,500 staff, though this had included 940 who have now been outsourced. This further outsourcing move would reduce the number retained by the council in-house to 519, a third of the original amount.

A council report on the latest outsourcing plans says: “Extending the services provided by Vertas Derbyshire Ltd was envisaged when the outline business case was considered and grounds maintenance is within the expertise of the Vertas Group.

“It is also a complementary activity to caretaking and cleaning for example for schools where a ‘one-stop’ facilities management offer can be offered.”

The staff would be managing the parks and grounds of schools, churches, sports clubs, leisure centres, care homes and children’s centres.

The council has again not provided any detail of the potential savings or financial benefits of the proposed transfer.

However, it does say that profits would be created through “operational efficiencies”.

A report on the plan says: “The council’s finance team have been working with the Vertas finance and operational teams in order to develop a joint understanding of what efficiencies and improvement opportunities could be realised through the formation of the joint venture. “Financial modelling has been undertaken by the council and Vertas to help understand any efficiencies and new business opportunities that Vertas intend to bring to the joint venture.

“The financial benefit to the council would be reflected in a reduced service cost for the soft grounds maintenance operation and through the receipt of annual dividend payments from the joint venture back to the council.

“The council would benefit from the receipt of dividends on profits generated by the Joint Venture, which would be achieved by generating new and additional commercial sales opportunities to schools and external clients and through operational efficiencies and cost control.”

The council says more money could be saved by leasing its tractors, mowers and hedge trimmers to the joint company.

Alongside this, it puts forward the idea of disposing of some of the grounds maintenance buildings across the county as another cost-saving measure.

It says: “The grounds maintenance service uses numerous locations and buildings. The intention is to review these locations with the desire to reduce the number, and therefore the associated costs, of the accommodation.

“Any buildings that are not required for the grounds maintenance service will be considered for alternative use or disposal.

“It’s worth noting that no potential reductions in council building locations have been factored into the calculations.”

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