The proposal was described by cabinet member, Coun Nick Oliver, as a ‘governance and transparency exercise’ at a meeting of the authority’s corporate services committee on February 10.
A holding company, Northumberland Enterprises Ltd, and up to 10 limited companies would be set up ‘to support the expansion of commercial business opportunities being developed’.
The council would be the sole shareholder, while ‘appropriate project management systems will be put in place to assure that the formation of the proposed company structure is robust, compliant with all the necessary regulations and statutory responsibilities’.
Committee chairman, Coun David Bawn, said this is not about privatisation. Coun Oliver added: “Not at all. It’s about commercialisation, where there are opportunities.”
Coun Malcolm Robinson said the report mentions ‘the delivery of integrated health and social-care services’ and ‘the delivery of education and training services’, which sounded more like in-house services.
Coun Oliver said the council would be offering services to third parties, and people in the county would not see changes in the services delivered by the authority.
Chief executive Daljit Lally noted that the only change would be that ‘residents may see additional services on offer to them’.
The report to councillors states that ‘the county council has already signed some initial memorandum of understandings/contracts which offer the opportunity for further commercial income to be generated’.
This proposal is separate to the authority’s wholly-owned regeneration and development company Advance Northumberland, formerly Arch.