By embracing Margaret Thatcher’s Compulsory Competitive Tendering legislation in the 1980s, Norfolk County Council helped pioneer the use of private enterprise to realise public ambitions.
While the vast majority of Local Authorities paid only lip service to the Conservative government’s desire to see privately-run companies provide a host of public services, Norfolk County Council embraced the CCT legislation, the benefits of which are now clear for all to see. Last year, the three companies wholly owned by the County Council delivered £2.555m in profit, which is funnelled straight back into frontline council services as well as enabling us to keep council tax levels down.
The companies owned by the County Council have recently merged to form The Norse Group, as we continue to seek even greater efficiency from them. At first, the companies competed with the Council itself, which has seen Norfolk County Services (NCS) takeover the maintenance and facilities management of all council buildings, including schools. This not only drives down the cost for the council, but also ensures that employees’ lunch costs a lot less than it would otherwise. In this one example, you can see that on top of the profit made by Norse, other services which cost the council money are also significantly cheaper.
The success of the group now means that it is not only Norfolk which
benefits. Some 66% of Norse’s business now comes from outside of the
county with councils across the England now benefiting from the
long-term relationship with a Norse subsidiary. For example, NPS
Property Consultants, another of the companies, has overseen the
development of a new health centre for Luton Borough Council. It is
rather ironic that a Labour Council is benefiting from a Conservative
Council-owned company, based on Thatcherite legislation. This however,
demonstrates the key strength of Norse, in that it can compete in the
commercial environment to the benefit of people up and down the
It is astounding that other Local Authorities never followed this
model, and instead chose to carry out all property and waste management
work themselves, at considerable expense to the taxpayer. Nonetheless,
you will not hear me complain too much as it means more business for
Norse, which will continue to grow and realise even more cash for the
people of Norfolk.