Sunday, 28 November 2010

Workers' buy out for Botanic Nursery

The employees at Botanic nursey should be offered the chance of taking over the operation themselves. Well that was the proposal I put to Sefton’s cabinet on Thursday. The council had agreed that they could no longer afford to run the nursery themselves. Southport is proud of the floral displays around the town but sadly the market price is significantly lower than we have achieved in- house.

For some time now we have been buying in bedding plants. There is a lot of competition out there and if the nurserymen want to make a go of the business themselves I think that would be an excellent move. Over the years they have produced excellent results and I am sure that they could turn the Botanic operation into a viable business.

I am very keen on giving staff the opportunity to take over and run those bits of the council where a viable business can be built. Lib Dems have always advocated worker owned businesses like the John Lewis partnership and I am confident that if the staff owned and controlled the operation they could make a go of it.’

The Council agreed to investigate the option

I should say that during the exchange on Botanic Garden's nursery we had a fascinating insight into our local Tory's economic 'thinking'. Essentially the proposal to close the nursery arose because it was clear that we were buying in bedding plots significantly cheaper than the in house nursery was charging-with no discernible difference in quality . In the present economic climate it would be clearly wrong to continue to spend all that extra money. At this point up pipes one of the Tory cabinet members and starts arguing that it is better to have the service in house .......Now we had all been briefed how vastly more expensive the in house bedding plants were. We were paying more for our plants than the market price. Please bear in mind this area is rich with nurseries and the market for bedding plants is well developed with many suppliers. Part of me wishes that a few Tory backbenchers had turned up to hear their spokesman once again embrace municipal socialism, endorsing the policy that the council owned operation should be the  monopoly supplier of a service even though the price in lot higher!

I understand that one of the reasons for the higher price is the scale of the operation. It the employees took over the business they could concentrate on those niche markets where that is not such a significant disadvantage. Anyway that is up to them.

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