Council plans to purchase Via East Midlands

The county council is considering borrowing what is understood to be around £5 million to buy the other half of a company it set up, it has been revealed.

Pothole filling and repair work on the county’s roads are currently carried out by private company Via East Midlands.

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Nottinghamshire County Council currently owns 49 per cent of the company, while Cornwall Council owns 51 per cent.

Now Nottinghamshire County Council plans to buy out the Cornish share.

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It says the move would be ‘great news’ for the county, but opposition councillors have criticsed the proposal.

Councillor Kay Cutts is the leader of the council, and represents the Radcliffe on Trent ward for the Conservatives.

She said: “Our proposal to purchase Via East Midlands outright is great news for Nottinghamshire.

“It will mean that our highways and fleet management services will be wholly-owned and controlled by Nottinghamshire County Council, and that all the profits generated by Via will be re-invested in Nottinghamshire roads and highways.

“We will also see that Via grows and diversifies its post-Brexit business across the East Midlands, with its future revenues flowing back into our county.”

Corserv, a private company owned entirely by the unitary Cornwall Council, currently owns 51 percent on behalf of Cornwall Council, and confirmed it is ‘in discussions’ to sell the highways company.

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The exact price is commercially sensitive, and is not yet public knowledge, but it is understood to be around £5 million.

Via East Midlands was set up between Corserv and Nottinghamshire County Council in 2015, when Labour was in charge of the county council.

Corserv says since its inception it has delivered significant financial returns to both parties alongside improvements in service delivery and it is this that has led Nottinghamshire County Council to seek 100 percent ownership of the company.

Alan Rhodes is the leader of the Labour group at the council, and represents the Worksop North ward.

 

He said: “It’s extraordinary when we’re being told that the council is in such financial dire straits that they need to scrap our district and borough councils, and now we’re being told that we should go into £5 million of debt. You couldn’t make it up.

“Among the answers we require are:

Where is the £5m coming from?
What will the impact on the county council’s finances be, especially as the leader says we are skint?
What will be the benefits to Notts residents?
Are Notts residents funding another pet project?”
Jason Zadrozny is the leader of the Ashfield Independent group, and represents the Ashfields ward.

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He said: “One minute the county council tell us it is skint and needs to scrap our borough and district councils, the next they want to go on a massive spending spree to buyout Via East Midlands.

“I have never been a supporter of outsourcing taxpayers’ money so I am in favour of bringing services in house.

“Like hundreds of residents in the Ashfield District, I have serious concerns about the performance of Via East Midlands – especially their use of ‘Viafix’ to fill our pot-holes.

“I think spending this money will save money in the long run, give us total governance and accountability and allow us to improve a service that is currently woefully under performing.”

Elaine Holt, chairman of the Corserv group of companies, said: “We are proud of what we have achieved in helping bring Via to fruition and the role we have played in making it an success. We wish Nottinghamshire and Via well for the future. They have strong foundations on which to build a very successful company.”

A decision will be taken on the issue at a meeting of the council’s Policy Committee on Wednesday, November 14.