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Oxford council forms own enterprise as private income nears legal limits

Oxford City Council has formed a wholly-owned social enterprise which will be responsible for delivering the council’s statutory services.

The enterprise, Oxford Direct Services Ltd (ODS), will continue to deliver the statutory services currently provided to residents and businesses by the council’s direct services operations, including waste and recycling, car park operations, park maintenance and road repairs.

It will also provide additional services such as garden waste collection, pest control, vehicle MOTs and building services.

Over recent years the authority’s direct services operations has sold more and more services to businesses and other organisations, generating an income which has helped to fund core council activities – which Oxford says has helped to offset the cuts in central government grants.

However, legally council departments can only gain a certain proportion of their income from private work, and its trading has taken the Oxford City Council close to these limits.

By establishing a social enterprise the council claimed that it can continue to extend its commercial operations, generating additional income for the benefit of the city and creating more jobs for local people.

The local authority has said that ODS aims to return £10.4m back to the council over the next four years.

Residents will reportedly see little obvious change in activity, with the same services continuing to be provided by the same frontline staff, albeit under the new ODS badge.

ODS staff have also transferred to the new enterprise under the same terms and conditions as they have with the council.

Gordon Mitchell, chief executive of Oxford City Council, said: “ODS is the ‘People’s Company’, with 100% 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 of ODS, added: “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.”

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