Councillors in Stevenage are to consider whether the council could take a more ‘commercial’ approach as part of a drive to increase income and safeguard jobs.

Increasing financial pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic means funding for many council services is considered “unpredictable”.

So now, as part of a draft ‘co-operative commercial and insourcing strategy,’ Stevenage Borough Council is set to look at ways it can provide many of its ‘in-house’ services to commercial customers.

Unusually, a wide range of services – including bin collection, grass cutting and CCTV services – are already run in-house in Stevenage, rather than contracted out.

But now, the council is looking at whether they could provide their in-house services commercially to local organisations and businesses.

A report, to be considered by a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, says this would “create additional sustainable income streams”.

And, says the report, “it will be able to offer greater protection and safeguarding around jobs and key services provided for the community, and will support post-Covid recovery”.

The report does not give any specifics about the services the council would look to offer commercially, but it does point to Oxford Direct Services – set up by Oxford City Council – which offers maintenance, construction, recycling, pest control and tree removal to other local authorities, businesses, schools and residents.

The council says it will also look to develop a ‘commercial culture’ to ensure that innovative ideas are nurtured and are given the right environment to develop.

However, councillors also stress that social value considerations will be embedded into commercial activity and support community wealth building in Stevenage – ensuring that there is a positive impact on the local economy.

The report says that all commercial investments, actions and decisions will be ethical in nature and have a positive impact on the community.

On Wednesday, the council’s executive will be asked to approve the strategy and to agree to the establishment of a new ‘commercial and investment executive committee’.