Cumbria County Council’s response to the winter 2015/16 floods shows that public ownership is the best option in times of crisis. The council’s decision to bring its Highway and Housing services back in-house proved crucial during the floods, as the council was able to respond in an efficient and flexible way to the damage caused. The council could take action without the setbacks caused by outsourcing contract disputes.
From recycling in Aberdeen to social work in Buckinghamshire, councils across the UK are taking public services back into public control. What’s more, they’re making a huge success of it. We reckon that’s something to celebrate! Read more on our blog here.
We’ve paired up with LocalGov and selected some of the most forward-thinking examples of local public ownership from around the UK. You voted for the councils you think deserve a Local Public Ownership Award, and the results are in! Find out who our 2017 winners are.
Read more about all the fantastic in-house services nominated for an award in the case studies below.
Nottingham City Transport has been named UK Bus Operator of the Year for a record-breaking fourth time, as well as Top City Operator. It boasts an impressive customer satisfaction rate of 97%. The company’s modern, frequent buses have encouraged people to get back on the bus – bus passenger numbers have gone up in Nottingham since 2001 (while declining elsewhere).
In response to the shortage of social workers across England, Buckinghamshire County Council stepped in to expand the number of in-house, experienced staff in the area. The council offers competitive salaries and a development programme to experienced social workers. Between 2014 and 2016, the council reduced its dependency on agency staff from 37% to 20%, taking back profits and control for the public.
By taking back control over its waste and recycling services, Liverpool City Council has been able to work towards achieving its goal of a 55% recycling rate by 2020. Councillor Steve Munby noted how since these services were brought back in-house ‘we have greater flexibility in our operations and we see city centre recycling as a priority’. The council has managed to put recycling facilities in Liverpool city centre apartment blocks for the first time – something the private sector had insisted was too difficult to do.
In the 2016 UK Bus Awards, Reading scooped up the winning gold award in three categories: Top Shire Operator, the Environment Award and Putting Passengers First. Reading Buses runs some of the greenest buses in the UK and together with the council has been investing in the latest fuel technology to make the city cleaner and greener. Its ‘Planet Reading’ initiative encourages employees to think about their impact on the environment.
Robin Hood Energy is the first council-owned energy company in the UK. It’s a not-for-profit energy company which challenges the profit-making logic of the ‘big six’ energy firms by helping its customers to keep their tariffs low. Its mission is to provide low cost energy to households in Nottingham and beyond. No shareholders. No director bonuses.
In Slough, the council has cancelled its private contract for waste and created a new council-owned company to provide the service instead. The council found that it could save more money by insourcing than by outsourcing. The new company will deal with waste and recycling from December 2017, and can bid for commercial contracts to top up its income. The council has set itself a target of recycling 60% of its waste by 2028.
Ards and North Down Council household food and recycling campaign was set up to improve local household recycling services. In 2016 they implemented the first phase of their Sustainable Waste Resource Management Strategy which included an innovative approach to food waste recycling. The council achieved a 145% increase in kerbside recycling of food waste which moved them to the top of the Northern Ireland Council performance table and saved ratepayers £630K of landfill tax in just the first year of their campaign.
Bristol Energy is the second energy company set up by a local authority. Unlike the major energy companies, Bristol Energy reinvests its profits into the local community and helps their customers to save money by reducing energy consumption with the Smart meter trial. Bristol Energy also offers the option of a 100% renewable electricity tariff, highlighting a forward-thinking approach to public ownership.
Futures Advice, Skills and Employment is jointly owned by Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottingham City Council and is a social enterprise which provides jobs and skills advice, training and apprenticeships. Earlier this year it was Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ for its delivery of the National Careers Service (NCS) which supported 36,049 local people last year across the whole of the East Midlands. Futures is the country’s first NCS prime contractor to achieve this rating in the eight years of the service. Futures also manages The Nottingham Jobs Hub which is a publicly owned enterprise set up by Nottingham City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions to match jobseekers with local employers.
Arranging recycling for large blocks of flats is a difficult job that a lot of councils struggle to deal with. Aberdeen's communal food waste recycling project tackled the problem head on, by introducing large food waste bins outside large multi-storeys, and arranging for each flat to receive a supply of biodegradable bin liners and a kitchen waste caddy.
When bin collection is organised by out-sourced, private companies then the harder jobs like this one often get by left by the wayside. Aberdeen City Council has succeeded in providing food waste collection services to 30,000 communal properties across Aberdeen. They were recognised for their efforts as a nominee for The Scottish Public Service Awards 2016.
Impressively, Sevenoaks District Council does not outsource any of its services. They maintain a strong belief that they will succeed better with their own people and that public ownership is the best way to achieve outstanding results for their community. Investment in their staff led them to become the first public organisation globally to achieve Platinum IiP status (Investors in People) which is a accreditation of good people management practice. They are also the very first financially self-sufficient council in the country and were recently crowned ‘Public Finance Innovator of the Year’.