Leeds City Council is to establish a trading company in a bid to sell services to other bodies and move into new markets.
Civic Enterprise Leeds, a group set up in March including the council’s facilities management, business support centre and commercial services and which has a £90m turnover and 3,000 staff, is set to create a wholly-owned company later this year so that it can trade its services.
Leeds leader Keith Wakefield (Lab) said the creation of the company - covering services such as catering, parks, electricians service and fleet services - would allow the council to support local employers and create local jobs.
“The council is not sitting back in a fatalistic way [at this time of austerity], it is prepared to show leadership not just for the city but also saying that public services can be ambitious and visionary about their future,” he said. “I am very proud of what we are trying to achieve.”
Cllr Wakefield, left, said contracts with suppliers could not provide the same reassurance. “How do we know that they are giving local employment - they are multinationals,” he said.
Under the plans due to be discussed at an executive board meeting next week the trading company will not be held at arms length and the 3,000 staff involved will not be transferred out of council employment.
The move is expected to expand existing traded services, such as a seven days a week hot meals service provided to adult and children’s services which is already used by private individuals and other non-council customers.
Cllr Wakefield said this particular service had already helped improve residents’ diets and sourced food locally.
The Civic Enterprise Leeds group, which was set up in March this year, is also expected to offer commercial advice to other parts of the council which are hoping to spin off or improve their viability, such as the schools music service which now had to recoup its costs from schools.
The decision to set up a company so that the group can trade comes after the Commission on Local Government called last year for councils to be more enterprising, citing local government’s historic role in areas such as infrastructure investment and local economies.
Cllr Wakefield, who chaired the commission, said: “Local government has been caught up with a managerial style and forgotten its history of enterprise, leadership and innovation.
“It is not about ticking boxes on targets or outputs. This is about trying to make local government really come alive in local communities by showing enterprising spirit and keeping things bubbling.”