A NEW era for local authority services has begun.
Yesterday saw the official launch of Norse South East – a joint venture company which will provide operational services to the 120,000 people living in Havant borough.
Emptying around 50,000 wheelie bins, keeping streets clean, and maintaining parks was previously done by an in-house team of employees at Havant Borough Council.
But now the council has formed a new partnership to carry out the work – a move that will save the authority £2.5m over the next five years.
The council’s vehicles operating from the depot in Southmoor Lane have been given a rebrand and the 118 council employees have been transferred to Norse.
Employees’ uniform will change from yellow to orange, but that is about all that will change from the residents’ point of view, say council leaders.
The motto of the rebrand is ‘new name, same service’.
Havant’s chief executive Sandy Hopkins said: ‘The newly-formed joint venture will change the way this council will do business in the future.
‘This is by no means a merger or privatisation, it is exactly what it is – a joint venture, two companies in the service sector working together to deliver high quality services for our customers.’
Instead of cutting jobs, it is hoped the deal will create more jobs.
Ms Hopkins added: ‘Norse South East will have the freedom to bid for extra work, such as commercial waste collections, grounds maintenance, catering, cleaning, vehicle maintenance including MOTs and facilities management, and it has the expertise and equipment to do so.
‘There will be a lot of opportunities opened up.’
The council will be able to share the income from the extra work and this will help support local authority services.
Paul Gissing, a HGV driver for the council for 13 years and assistant secretary of Havant’s Unison branch, was happy that Havant was not transferring services to a private company.
Employees will have the same terms and conditions as when they worked for Havant.
He went to see Norse’s other operations, including at Norfolk, and was impressed.
He said: ‘The fundamental thing about this joint venture is the guys know their jobs are safe. The basis of the service will not be touched.’
The contract has been signed for 10 years.
Peter Hawes, managing director of Norse Commercial Services, said: ‘We are delighted to have formed this joint venture with Havant Borough Council, the first of its kind in the south.’