Becoming more commercial

Every council has its own unique challenges, its own assets and opportunities. At a recent ‘Commercial skills for councillors’ masterclass, I shared two case studies from Trafford Council.

Lancashire County Cricket Club (LCCC) approached Trafford Council with an investment proposition. Its plan was for a four-star, 150-bedroom hotel, replacing the current one at Emirates Old Trafford.

This was a £12 million project, with the potential to create £1 million of employment a year, and to generate an extra £2.3 million income to the area.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority had agreed to give a £5 million loan from its investment funds and the club had already secured £3 million through a bond. The plan hinged on further investment, of £4 million, from Trafford Council.

In taking the decision, we first considered the risk, any reasons not to invest and any potential impacts were we not to invest.

Commercial support

Councils are increasingly developing a more commercial approach to their activities, to help generate income, protect valuable frontline services and ensure positive outcomes for local communities. The LGA can help you and your council become more commercial and generate more income, with a wide range of guidance, case studies and support programmes on offer.

Please visit www.local.gov.uk/commercialisation to find out more.

You can also book your free place on our ‘Profit with a purpose – commercialisation’ conference on 15 January at www.local.gov.uk/events.

Members considered the proposal and judged our appetite for risk and what level we were prepared to bear. We performed due diligence on the proposal, which involved robust challenge. Alongside the commercial assessment, members also considered the positive impacts to sporting excellence in the borough with the ongoing renovation of Emirates Old Trafford, with this development helping to secure and sustain this fantastic asset in the borough for years to come.

In no small way, this development helped Emirates Old Trafford secure a package of international fixtures through being selected as host venue for an Ashes Test in 2023 and the new eight-team T20 competition that starts in 2020.

As a result, more than one million visitors are expected to visit the ground over the course of 61 days of cricket in 2020 to 2024. The direct economic benefit to Manchester is estimated to be worth more than £83 million.

The council is charging a commercial margin on the investment, helping generate much-needed additional revenue to support frontline services.

Separately, Trafford Council identified unrealised potential in its Grade II listed town hall building. The canteen based there offered good-quality food, but was neither profitable nor dynamic.

The council decided that it was right to continue to offer food at the site and that the area had potential, but that it lacked direction and a strategy.

Situated with LCCC on one side and Manchester United FC on the other, the building was in a prime spot to attract
match-day visitors. As a result, the council piloted ‘Pie and a pint’ – a venue for sporting visitors to socialise and get good quality, reasonably priced food and drink before attending the match.

The approach involved rebranding the canteen and a linked marketing campaign, using a mix of social media and flyers. It was so successful that the pilot was scaled up and has now become a regular fixture on match days.

‘Pie and a pint’ subsidises the canteen, ensuring it can continue to offer good-quality, reasonably priced food.

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