Council business opportunities

Posted on March 6, 2018 by Centre for Public Scrutiny.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Governance assurance for successful commercial growth

Many councils are being more assertive, and business focused in the way they operate, becoming more commercial and seeking new income to balance their books.

Council operated businesses are not new, they have been around for many decades. However, in recent years, numerous new models are being adopted. These include joint ventures, arms-length companies and alternative delivery vehicles as council strive for the most attractive and low-risk investment structures.

A problem can emerge in the governance and scrutiny of these ventures and a tension created between commercial confidentiality and democratic oversight. Successfully designing something that allows  democratic accountability without unnecessarily conflicting with commercial confidentiality is the key. And council members who are also board directors must be able to legitimately balance potential conflicting interests while  ensuring that taxpayer needs for prudence (as the ultimate shareholder) are being served.

CfPS can offer experienced consultancy:

  • Advise on governance and scrutiny models and their suitability.
  • Support members and officers in balancing the scrutiny, transparency and commercial confidentiality issues.
  • Advise and work with members and officers on conflict of interest in scrutiny.
  • Provide expert training and development using CfPS subject specialists on commercial scrutiny.

Commercialisation workshops:

A two-stage workshop for members and officers to agree an approach for the scrutiny of local commercial ventures,  and other trading ventures in which the council is engaged.

  • Workshop 1: with officers, to understand the nature of the commercial challenges and opportunities that the council and its partners are faced with. Explore and challenge what kind of member involvement and oversight might be appropriate.
  • Between workshops 1 and 2: interviews and coaching on issues raised.
  • Workshop 2: officers and members coming together to develop a light touch (and scalable) model for members to  exert oversight over commercial activity, in both planning and delivery.
For more information about this or other CfPS consultancy and training products contact CfPS on 020 3866 5100  |


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