Oxford City Council has today transformed its direct services operations into a wholly-owned social enterprise called Oxford Direct Services Ltd (ODS).
ODS will continue to deliver all of the Council’s statutory services currently provided to residents and business including waste and recycling, street cleaning, car park operations, parks maintenance and road repairs as well as additional services including garden waste collection, pest control, vehicle MOTs and building services.
In addition to providing these core services, over recent years the Council’s direct services has sold more and more services to businesses and other organisations. The income this has generated has helped fund core Council services, helping offset the cuts in Government grants to local authorities.
However, council departments can legally only make a certain amount of income from private work. The success that the Council’s direct services has had in trading has taken it close to those limits. By establishing it as a social enterprise it can continue to extend its commercial operations, so generating additional income for the Council to use for the benefit of the city and creating more jobs for local people. ODS aims to return £10.4million back to the Council over the next four years.
For Oxford residents, who rely on the Council to empty their bins and sweep their streets, there will be little obvious change. A seamless transfer will see all the high-quality services they need continue to be provided by the same frontline staff under the new ODS badge. But the focus on increased commercial activity will help protect front-line services and create more local jobs,
ODS staff have transferred to the new enterprise on the same terms and conditions, pay and pension arrangements they have had with the Council. The new company will be wholly owned by Oxford City Council, and the Council will be the sole shareholder. It will remain fully accountable to the Council and its elected representatives.
The new social enterprise company is also set to benefit Oxford in other ways. It will offer a skillful, reliable, established, experienced and locally-orientated work force as well as secure long-term locally-based employment prospects.
Gordon Mitchell, Chief Executive, Oxford City Council said: "The City Council’s Direct Services team has long served the people of Oxford by providing high quality, reliable services. Not only that, it has been successful in the commercial world and in doing so has brought income to the Council.
"Now, as a social enterprise, owned entirely by the City Council, ODS is set to expand its operations, benefiting all of its customers, including residents of Oxford.
"ODS is the ‘People’s Company’, with 100 per cent of its returns coming back to the city of Oxford, benefiting the community as a whole rather than private shareholders. That money will help offset the impact of the removal of Government grant funding we receive, allowing us to maintain – and improve - Council services."
Simon Howick, Managing Director, Oxford Direct Services said: “ODS keeps the city running day and night. We empty your bins, clean the streets, maintain the parks; and maintain your property if you live in one of Oxford’s 7,800 council houses.
“The City Council remains by far our largest customer and my number one focus will remain on continuing to improve the services we provide residents and businesses across the city. But we can also grow and continue to expand our commercial contracts with businesses and other organisations to generate additional income for the Council, while at the same time continuing to innovate and becoming more efficient.. This includes offering services such as building services, highways & engineering, commercial waste, Large Goods Vehicle and MOT testing, vehicle repairs, landscaping, grounds maintenance and pest control.
“Most ODS staff live in Oxford and so growing our business will also translate into increasing employment opportunities for local people.”
Caroline Glendinning UNISON Branch Secretary, Oxford City Branch, said: “Unison would like to add that the creation of Oxford Direct Services has been a good example of how good partnership working can work for the benefit of both employee and employer, it has been a long road, but the outcomes have achieved financial stability for the organisation and job security for our members.”
Stephen Davis,Unite Branch Secretary, said: “Unite the Union is pleased to congratulate the Council on the setting up of the Local Authority Trading company, Oxford Direct Services. This is a positive step in the right direction and consolidates on the visionary step taken a number of years ago to trade out of the misguided austerity measures forced on local authorities by the government. As a result of the trading, which brings much needed revenue into the council, it has been possible to maintain services and protect jobs. Our members of Unite have benefited from this, with no compulsory job losses, unlike many other councils that embarked on outsourcing and slash and burn strategies.
“Unite fully supports the new LATCo which the majority of our members will transfer into and we expect to fully support members and increase our membership as the new company will undoubtedly grow and prosper."