Magazine article Public Finance

A Different Type of Vehicle

Magazine article Public Finance

A Different Type of Vehicle

Article excerpt

When a major bus operator went under and local bus routes faced the prospect of being discontinued, Cheshire East Council turned to its alternative service delivery vehicle to plug the gap.

The council had set up Transport Service Solutions (TSS) after its aggressive cost management and outsourcing had reached their limits and were no longer enough to secure the future of bus services. The operating model needed to change.

TSS, a limited company, delivers all school bus and community transport as well as local bus services. Its success saw it crowned the alternative service delivery model of the year at this year's Public Finance Innovation Awards.

Bringing in staff with commercial skills, applying zero-based budget setting, streamlining procurement procedures, negotiating simpler contracts and replacing the council's ageing fleet of special educational needs buses allowed the company to provide transport for more than 35,000 people each day while saving more than ?800,000 over the first 15 months of operation.

The council aimed to provide a better service for its residents. It developed a detailed business plan and marketing strategy, complemented by quarterly performance auditing and a positive brand identity.

TSS says these measures allow it greater flexibility to help it improve customer satisfaction.

"In a period of doom and gloom in the public sector, this has re-energised people," says TSS managing director Kevin Melling.

"Everyone in this climate of austerity is thinking where is the next saving going to come from. …

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