Sunday, April 27, 2014
A new commercial arm of Huntingdonshire District Council could be up and running in 2015/16, looking at making money to reinvest in services.
Executive leader Councillor Jason Ablewhite told The Hunts Post the move would initially cover three key areas where HDC believes it could increase revenue – leisure, CCTV and its document centre.
“They should be making a profit for the council,” he said. “Robin Howe, executive member for healthy and active communities, will be looking in the next council year to start a commercial arm with a view to doing that.”
The idea of generating money from some of HDC’s services has been a long-time aspiration of the council, and further details of its plans were revealed by this newspaper when the council’s Facing the Future documents – containing more than 400 ideas for saving money, changing the way HDC works and bringing in extra revenue – were published last month.
Rapidly disappearing grants from central government also means HDC has to look at cutting costs and making money in order to balance its books.
Some of the Facing the Future ideas will now move forward, with HDC looking at investing in a wireless CCTV system that would give it the flexibility to provide security camera coverage for private businesses as well as other public organisations.
And this could have implications for Huntingdonshire’s town councils, which help to fund the CCTV service.
“If you get this service to be profit-making then [town councils] may only have to contribute for cameras where they want particular coverage and we would be happy to do this for them for a fee,” said Cllr Ablewhite.
Leisure centres, which for years have been subsidised by the council, will need to make a return. HDC has invested in upgrading facilities at some of its sites – St Ives being the latest where £3.8million was spent updating changing rooms, adding tenpin bowling alleys and a new cafe.
This has helped to move the St Ives centre into profit. Investing in the centres for a return is part of HDC’s vision for the leisure centres – previous ideas included in Facing the Future documents suggested closing the smaller centres at Sawtry and Ramsey but this will not be taken forward, HDC has stressed.
Commercialising HDC’s document centre will see it go head-to-head with a number of businesses in the district to offer services such as graphic design and printing.
The team – which operates from Eastfield House – already offers its services to charity and voluntary organisations but under a future HDC commercial arm would likely market itself to both private and public sector organisations.