Liverpool Streetscene Services Ltd
The public realm service sector is dominated by a relatively small number of large national and, in some cases, multi-national organisations that deliver essential services to the local authorities and public sector bodies across the United Kingdom.
Organisations such as Amey, Veolia, Serco, FCC Environment, The Landscape Group, Quadron Services and Glendale are all household names in a complex industry. The services delivered by these organisations are politically charged and these organisations have traditionally dominated these markets.
In the past local authorities, and other public sector bodies in need of these services, have outsourced their requirements to these private sector organisations following competitive tender processes. In Liverpool, for a number of years, the streetscene, grounds and refuse services of Liverpool City Council (LCC) were delivered via a private sector contract (worth approximately £22 million). Two years ago, the council reviewed the position and felt that the private sector had lost touch with the environment that local authorities are now operating in. Approaches within the private sector seemed to still be focused on obtaining a percentage share of the contract value, which was perhaps leading to a lack of incentive to drive costs down. This was at odds with the direction that local government was taking, particularly in light of the Comprehensive Spending Review, 2010.
The council believed that it could achieve more for its residents and began to review the options available with the support of the local Trade Unions, one of these options being a Local Authority Trading Company (LATCo). In July 2015, the council’s Cabinet took the decision to cease procurement activity for a new contract and establish an innovative LATCo instead.
Liverpool Streetscene Services Ltd (LSSL) has now been established; a wholly-owned subsidiary of the council utilising the Teckal provision in procurement rules, enabling Liverpool City Council to grant public realm contracts without the costs of a competitive tendering process. It also provides greater control but at the same time flexibility in the contracts, enabling amendments to specifications and working practices more easily.
Overall, this is a highly flexible model, driven with the local workforce and trade union support, enabling the council to respond to the needs of a changing, developing and growing city at the speed demanded. Seasonal priorities are addressed, ideas listened to and resources targeted and deployed to where they are required, rather than being dictated by a rigid structure and timetable.
Our main customer is LCC. In 2016/17 93.4% of LSSL’s turnover will be derived from the delivery of the three discreet service areas.
LSSL also derives a small amount of income from commercial activities across the city. The income from this activity is £1.55m in 2016/17 and there are plans to develop this business without sacrificing either the quality of service LSSL provides to LCC or the Teckal status that allows LCC the opportunity to award business to LSSL without the need for a competitive tender process.
LCC’s decision to create their own, wholly owned trading company is in itself an indicator that there is willingness for LCC to continue to place the existing business with LSSL. However, this business will need to be conducted in a way that ensures the service levels and value for money elements are in line with LCC’s expectations. The senior management team at LSSL acknowledge that continued poor performance on any of the three contracts might well result in LCC looking once more to the private sector to provide one or more of these services.
Provided LCC’s requirements are met in this regard then the expectation is that the business between the two organisations will continue. This aspect of the business is quite different from the wider market, in that the future of the relationship really is in the hands of LSSL and its employees.
The commercial business is a very different proposition. This is a competitive market sector that has a large number of small-scale operators vying for the same business in an effort to realise relatively small profit margins. In order to maximise their profits a number of these small operators have taken to illegally dumping commercial waste, thus creating a problem for LCC contributing to a higher than average fly tipping rate. This in turn creates a burden on the already limited budgets, as a clean-up operation is needed.
LSSL can contribute to reducing these types of issues by increasing its market share in the commercial waste sector. An increased share would reduce the opportunities for other organisations, thus potentially reducing the amount of illegal fly tipping and increasing LCC’s dependency on LSSL as a strategic partner.
Successful, thriving and prosperous communities are characterised by public places, streets, parks and open spaces that are maintained, clean, safe, attractive areas that local people are proud of and want to spend their time in.
Public places play a critical role in creating pride in the places where we live which, in turn, is essential to building community cohesion, civic pride and successful communities. All of the aforementioned can result in significant improvements in people’s quality of life and Liverpool Streetscene Services Ltd play an important role in achieving this outcome.
If public places are not maintained and kept clean and attractive they tend to suffer from what is known as the ‘broken window syndrome’. This refers to a situation where, as an area deteriorates it has an effect on how individuals view and treat that local environment. It can often become a downward spiral that becomes harder to manage. Tackling anti-social behaviour issues which detract from this state such as noise nuisance, low level crime, litter, graffiti, fly tipping, dog fouling, general highways repairs and households managing their waste effectively is necessary to prevent and resolve ‘the broken window syndrome’. For many residents these issues are seen as a high priority as they affect their quality of life and level of satisfaction with their residential area.
This is the case for some areas in Liverpool and has led to them needing more support to become successful, thriving communities. To make the step change needed in some of these areas it is important that we target our efforts in developing community resilience and cohesion to support and enable residents to improve their own quality of life.
A stronger focus on these areas does not mean we ignore the other areas across the city but rather review the levels of service needed compared to other areas. It is important that we ensure our public spaces, streets and open spaces are fit for purpose and are maintained to the contractual standards that we have set. It is imperative that we utilise our resources and partnerships in a way that maximises impact, improves the local quality of life for individuals and families, whilst reducing duplication and cost. It is with these key factors in mind that we are now reviewing our efforts and resources in Liverpool Streetscene Services Ltd to ensure that they align with the needs of our local communities and keeps our city clean and green for use by all.
As one of the largest economic centres in the UK, outside of London, Liverpool demands the best for its residents, those who invest and work here and visit our city. LSSL is perfectly positioned to play a vital part in helping to deliver an improved experience for each of these groups.
LSSL’s workforce is made up of almost entirely local residents, each with social networks in the city and the wider region. LSSL cares about the local issues, not just the issues in Liverpool but also the issues within each ward, the issues in the streets that its employees live in and interact with friends, families and colleagues.
With the development of our communications strategy we are committed to build the LSSL brand to reinforce the existing partnership with LCC. Residents of Liverpool will recognise LSSL’s brand, they will associate the company with maintaining the cleanliness of the streets, with collecting their domestic waste and with maintaining green spaces across the city. Importantly they will also associate the brand with an upturn in the performance of these services since LSSL took them over at the beginning of March 2016.
The local and industry knowledge that exists within LSSL is without question one of its greatest strengths. The company recognise this and have made great strides to empower and encourage staff to allow them to grow with the organisation enabling them to meet their individual and collective challenges as they arise.
In addition, great improvements have been made with regard to relations with trade unions. LSSL understand the important role that trade unions have in making LSSL the successful organisation that it is and will continue to be in the future. Where other organisations have found this relationship a challenge, the management team at LSSL have built good relationships with trade union representatives and progress has been rapid when compared to that made by previous providers.
LSSL has also built solid, progressive relationships with other stakeholders, particularly elected members and key LCC staff. These relationships are the cornerstone of a successful partnership and LSSL will work diligently to preserve and grow them in the future.
These relationships evidence the unique capabilities of LSSL and set us apart from the competition.