The Commercial Strategy recognises the growing need for the council to supplement its budget to protect essential services and ensure financial sustainability, placed at risk by the continued reduction in funding from central government, as well as the uncertainty of Brexit and the lasting damage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Commercialisation is not new to St Helens Borough Council, which already has a range of commercial activities, generating an income of around £42m from sales, fees, charges and property letting, as well as £10m income from the supply of services to schools, while the council has also delivered significant efficiencies through transformation and digitisation.
Going forward the council will look to ensure the best value for every pound it spends by generating additional income and reducing costs, in a way that is unique to St Helens Borough. The focus is not solely on finances, but rather there is a balance with broader social, environmental and economic benefits that supports the council’s corporate priorities and assists in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The strategy highlights the importance of adding value to services and limiting any potential financial impact on communities and residents, and will align with, and rely on, complimentary activity such as the council’s wider transformation programme.
Adoption of the strategy follows the introduction of a new Assistant Director of Commercialisation who will lead on these plans.
Labour Councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, the council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Reset and Recovery, said:
“As a result of austerity, local government has been under immense financial pressure in recent years and has been forced to do more with less to overcome funding gaps.
“Put simply, the more money that we can generate, along with the culture of entrepreneurship the council is fostering, the stronger our financial position and the less vulnerable to risk our services will be.
“But the focus of this strategy is not solely on income. This is about the council becoming more business-like and embracing good practice from all sectors to add value to our services and secure our finances – particularly now as we look towards our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic – in a way that benefits local businesses and communities.
“Every pound we can generate by competing in a competitive market is a pound less that we have to ask the public for, or a pound less that we have to cut due to Government cuts in funding.”