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Thursday 12 January 2017

Residents express increasing satisfaction with services as council business model goes from strength to strength


Builders, bus users and the bereaved are among the many that have benefited from improved council services, according to a report on the expanding network of wholly-owned companies operated by Cheshire East Council.

Research carried out in 2016 found increased satisfaction levels among residents, with refuse collection outperforming previous feedback results.

A report to the council’s CERF board (Cheshire East Residents First) shows that all seven of the council’s wholly-owned operators are performing well and, in most instances, beyond expectations.  

The group of companies is forecasting an overall profit of £612,000.

Overall satisfaction with council services, among its 374,000 residents, has risen again during 2016.

In 2010, soon after the council came into existence, satisfaction was rated at just 42 per cent.  In 2014 it was 54 per cent.  And in 2016 it rose to 58 per cent.

Councillor David Brown, deputy leader and chairman of Cheshire East Residents First, said: “This demonstrates that the business model, set up by the council, for delivering a number of council services is proving to be extremely successful.

“We will continue to deliver new initiatives that benefit our residents and businesses, increase the level of public satisfaction and ensure that our council taxpayers are receiving value for money.”  

The council’s environmental services company Ansa outshone previous achievements, with a 90 per cent public satisfaction rate for its waste collection, a significant increase of 15 per cent on 2014.

The company was a finalist in the national recycling awards and has retained the ROSPA gold award for the third year running for its health and safety training. 

It also secured a Green Flag award for Queen’s Park in Crewe and is now looking to attain heritage status for the park.

Established on April 1, 2016, the Skills and Growth company enjoyed a robust start to its first six months of trading and is forecasting an operating profit in its first financial year.

Supporting business and job creation opportunities, the company is delivering several highly successful schemes including Fairer Power, Connecting Cheshire Broadband, the Greater Manchester and Cheshire East Science and Innovation Audit and development of the Cheshire Science Corridor Enterprise Zone.

Generating an estimated £21.4m to the local economy, the company has engaged with 85 businesses and helped to create 250 high value jobs. 

Skills and Growth are playing a lead role with several projects including the Bentley Masterplan, the Life Sciences Opportunity Zone, Digital 2020 and young people’s survey.

The company has also established Cheshire East Energy joint venture with Engie, to explore the potential for district heating and other energy schemes. 

Orbitas is able to facilitate low-cost funerals and maintains the borough’s cemeteries and crematoriums.

It has launched a webcasting initiative that will allow relatives and friends, unable to attend a cremation service, to view the proceedings online.

‘Deceased Online’ is another online service allowing residents to trace ancestors buried in the council’s cemeteries.

The company’s handyperson service, offering inexpensive repair work for older and disabled people, recorded a 100 per cent customer satisfaction rate.

TSS (Transport Service Solutions) met the challenge of the GHA Coaches demise head on after the Wrexham-based operator folded overnight.

Within 24 hours TSS had restored 75 per cent of lost services and kept schools and families informed through social and broadcast media.

TSS operates a fleet of low-emissions vehicles, which have enhanced the customer experience and improved reliability for school contracts.

Customer satisfaction levels have hit 86 per cent.

Keeping the borough’s residents active and healthy, Everybody Sport and Recreation has passed another milestone, welcoming 2.8m customer visits – an increase of four per cent.

Membership has grown by more than 25 per cent to 11,000 in 2015-16.

The trust has witnessed a 10 per cent rise in swimming learners, while the opening of the £15m Crewe Lifestyle Centre, with 3,000 members, set a new benchmark in leisure facilities in the borough.

A recent survey found Cheshire East residents to be the most active in the North West.

Delivering a sense of place for the borough and our residents, Engine of the North continues to address challenging projects around land assets and spatial planning.

Engine of the North has undertaken public consultations on the master plans for a North Cheshire Garden Village at Handforth to provide 1,650 homes, including open space amenities, also for the south Macclesfield development area – to include a link road for the south of the town – an estimated 1,000 homes and 4,000 square metres of retail and employment land.

Bringing the council’s strategic land assets to the market is the company’s key role and it is also addressing the urgent need for affordable starter homes and speed of delivery in the borough.  Pilot schemes are coming on stream, which will use the latest modular systems for their construction.  

Civicance the planning and construction advisory service continues to grow, with the company developing partnership working with other local authorities.

Applying its expertise in site inspection work, plan checking and building regulations, Civicance is able to offer cost-effective and streamlined support to builders to enable a high standard of construction work in house building and commercial schemes.

It has also produced its own guide to home renovation to assist the DIY enthusiast and home maker.

In its first year of operation it recorded a turnover of £1.5m and exceeded its targets for delivering planning applications, inspections and land charge searches.

Cheshire East Council commissioned all these successful service providers and now has seven alternative service delivery vehicles (ASDVs) – one of these – Everybody Sport and Recreation operates as a separate trust and runs all the council’s leisure and sports amenities.

This body has a council member as its chairman, while the other six ASDVs are wholly-owned companies of the council and have a board of directors and a chairman, who is also a member of the council. 

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