A BID to postpone the sale of a successful arms-length trading organisation providing services to schools across England and 20 countries overseas has been defeated.
Essex County Council says the sale of Essex Education Services (EES) would “unlock value for ECC and would enable the business to be developed to the next level.”
EES is described as a dynamic school effectiveness and improvement organisation, delivering sophisticated software, training and consultancy services to over 4,500 school customers.
But Essex County Council Lib Dem councillor John Baker, who instigated the call-in, said he was concerned at the loss of democratic accountability should the service be sold.
A bid to postpone the sale was defeated at a meeting of the Essex County Council People and Families Policy and Scrutiny Committee today, Thursday June 14, by seven votes to four.
He said: “Selling EES to a private company will, in my view, undermine democratic accountability over the education service in Essex and will not be in the public, that is, children’s and families’, interest.”
EES functions as an educational business with a range of direct delivery, training and support services, with customers who include ECC commissioners, schools, other local authorities and central government.
The council is now looking to sell the organisation via a competitive auction process to provide “a capital receipt for the council without the need to invest”.
A key EES product, Target Tracker, holds a 25 per cent market share in primary school assessment software.
ESS has grown steadily in recent years, but parallel schools funding has become increasingly constrained and new sales have not continued at the same rate of growth experienced as in previous years since 2016-17.
A statement provided in a council report to be discussed by Essex County Council cabinet on May 22 said: “It was decided that in order to continue to grow and meet the demands of its customers, significant investment would be required both in existing and new products, and also the capabilities of those delivering the services.
“It was recognised that whilst ECC has built an excellent and valuable asset in EES and whilst EES is generating significant revenue for ECC.
“However, as a mature and sensible investor it was recognised that EES may require specialist investment, meaning that ECC may not be the best long-term owner for the business.”