A double glazing maker owned by Birmingham City Council has returned to an even keel after years of struggle, it has emerged.
Erdington-based Shelforce, which specialised in providing employment for disabled workers, has shed 40 jobs in the last 12 months, 11 of them compulsory redundancies, and reduced the size of its production unit in a bid to stay afloat.
It boomed during the last decade when the council was refitting its 65,000 houses with double glazing under the £100 million decent homes programme – but struggled to win new orders, throwing its future into doubt.
Now the city council is to transfer Shelforce into the arms of its wholly owned company Acivico where it will become part of the firm’s design and construction wing.
A report to the council’s cabinet meeting next week recommends the transfer is approved.
The report states that, after several difficult years, including a £1.8 million deficit last year, the company is now moving towards its break even target.
But it has come at a cost with the workforce cut from 63 to 23 – of which only 13 have taken alternative roles withing the city council. Three have retired.
Bosses have reported a 375 per cent increase in efficiency after upgrading the manufacturing techniques.
Coun Tahir Ali, cabinet member for development, transport and the economy, said: “The Shelforce workforce has dramatically improved its productivity and efficiency since the redesign and is now being managed in a commercially-focused way.
“There is a real drive to meet customer requirements, with much better quality control, improved delivery scheduling and better communication.
“I’m really pleased to say the workforce is pulling together as a team, they are far more confident about themselves and the future of the company and there is a real culture change. I wish them all well for the future and hope to see Shelforce become a really successful social enterprise.”
Acivico, set up two years ago, is the council’s wholly owned company which is able to trade commercially in a way which council departments are not. Authority bosses hope the firm will return a profit to the council.
Shelforce is among a range of council services which will be transferred to Acivico, with the others Civic Catering, Building Cleaning, Security and Birmingham City Laboratories.
The cabinet decisions will launch a period of consultation with 346 staff and unions affected.
Coun Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We are set to lose two-thirds of the council’s controllable budget in the period between 2010 and 2018 due to government funding cuts and increased pressures on existing services.
“This means we have to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding ways that savings can be made, or in the case of Acivico, how we can maximise the income generating potential of the services we have.
“The four areas of business we have identified for possible transfer into Acivico offer first-rate services that definitely have growth potential on the open market – this proposal will enable them to trade more freely with the world outside of the council, and I am sure they will be seen in their respective fields as attractive options by people and businesses that require such services.”
The services will be given protected exclusivity contracts with the council until March 2017 after which they will be expected to compete with outside providers for the work.