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Generating income by delivering excellent services

Tuesday December 15th, 2015

By Jonathan Coyle, Director, Essex County Council Traded Services

Councils and local authorities around the country are under ever increasing pressure to reduce spend while still delivering essential front line services. In the face of these financial challenges, we decided to look at alternative options and instead of closing the funding gap by cuts alone we took an entrepreneurial approach to the problem. EssexTradedServices

We already had established enterprises within the council’s Traded Services division, including EES for Schools, which through its business approach is now successfully working with one in four primary schools in England. With these successful initiatives already delivering results, we were confident that we could look at other home grown businesses that had the potential to succeed and thrive in a commercial environment.

In order to provide a consistent approach to growing some of the council’s service areas, we created the Essex County Council Traded Services Business Incubator.

The Business Incubator process itself involves:

  • providing training and coaching to management teams to develop skill sets in business areas such as business development mapping, sales and marketing, brand development, people management, HR and culture, pricing and financial management
  • reviewing the management structures of the trading units to ensure there is a clear focus on sales;
  • performance managing the trading units;
  • delivering growth and moving trading units to the point where they are stand alone; and
  • sharing best practice and maximising learning in these trading units.

We assess the service areas within the council before they enter the incubator process to see whether they have the potential to operate in a commercial environment, this ensures that the incubator resources are used in the most cost effective way to deliver the best results. The successes of the incubator are now being recognised by councils around the country who are interested in working with us.

Some of the first service areas to have gone through the Business Incubator includeEssex Outdoors, providers of outdoor education centres, ELS (formerly known as Essex Legal Services) and environmental consultancy, Place Services, which are all delivering successful results:

  • Essex Outdoors now works with 44% of the Essex schools market and delivers a turnover of £3.4 million;
  • ELS has become one of the largest public sector law practices in the UK, employing over 100 fee earning staff and delivering a turnover of £10 million;
  • Place Services is now well established as a one stop environmental consultancy with a turnover of £1.9 million;

We are confident that we can continue to generate revenue to support essential front line services through our pipeline of new, innovative business opportunities to maintain our entrepreneurial vision for the future.


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