Medway Council’s Cabinet has today (Tuesday, 12 March) approved the setting up of a ground-breaking joint venture company to help it provide facilities management services across its property portfolio. The partnership between the council and the public-sector owned company Norse is the first of its kind in the South East and will both save money and create local jobs for local firms and apprenticeships. Medway Council operates from more than 140 buildings across Medway with a current value in the region of £1bn, which all need to be looked after. The council spends more than £7million per year on traditional facilities management such as cleaning, maintenance and catering and wanted to find a way of offering a better value for money service.

The council recently changed the way it procures services so that it spends public money better. Facilities management is one of the categories identified where the council hoped to cut costs. The council’s new category management approach had some early success when it tendered a home care contract which meant improved services to some of its most vulnerable residents while at the same time driving down costs by 16 per cent and promoting jobs for local firms. On the back of successfully contracting the home care service, the council is now turning its attention to services that maintain its buildings.

On the 30 October, Medway Council Cabinet approved the exploration of a joint venture with Norse but also to look at other ways to reduce overall costs. Over the past few months, the council has completed a due diligence exercise to make sure that this is the right solution for Medway. Councillors and officers visited Waveney District Council and Suffolk Coastal Council who have both been working with Norse for more than 10 years and spoke to other councils who have successfully partnered with them. The elements of the joint venture which were attractive to the council are the good mix of commercial intelligence and a public sector ethos, the opportunity to make savings more quickly than through a traditional outsource route. The partnership also allows the council a direct input into how the joint venture company plans and delivers services. There is also the opportunity to share in any additional income generated by the company across the South East.

Geoff Tucker, Norse Sales Director, said: “We are delighted to get the green light today to work with a progressive council like Medway, using our experience and commercial expertise to deliver cost savings, and at the same time preserving local jobs and maintaining high quality services. “Norse currently has 19 joint ventures with local authorities in the UK, and they have all proved successful in helping our partners respond to budget cuts.”

Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Finance Cllr Alan Jarrett said: “I am delighted that Cabinet colleagues have supported me so overwhelmingly to seek new and innovative ways to deliver our traditional facilities management services and to drive down the costs associated. “This will allow us to continue to protect front line services for the people of Medway while providing value for money. This ground breaking joint venture with a well established public-sector owned company, offers an opportunity for Medway to share in the profits the joint venture company makes by attracting new contracts from across the South East.”