A cabinet meeting has been told there is “no limit” to the number of council services that may be transferred to its wholly-owned company Qualis.

Epping Forest District Council set up Qualis Group at the end of 2019.

The group is owned by the council, which is the only shareholder, and consists of three companies: Qualis Commercial, Qualis Management and Qualis Living.

Qualis Management has been transferred the council’s housing repair service, with council tenants now left to deal with the company over maintenance and emergency repair services.

At cabinet on Monday, October 19, Cllr Stephen Neville asked if there was a limit to the number of council run services that may be transferred over to the company.

Cllr Aniket Patel, the portfolio holder for commercial and regulatory services, responded he ‘did not believe’ there was a limit and that every service would be judged on individual business case.

“We have got to look forward at what is the optimum way we can provide this service to residents”, he added. “Is it through the council, or is it through Qualis?”

When questioned by Cllr Rose Brooks over which services would be transferred Cllr Patel remained coy, but did say an appraisal would be carried out to identify which services would be better of under Qualis’ management and put forward to the council at a future cabinet meeting.

Cllr Stephen Murray told councillors he felt uneasy over the transfer of services.

The independent Loughton councillor has previously warned of a lack of public scrutiny over decisions made by Qualis – concerns which were rejected by council leader Cllr Chris Whitbread who promised “transparency” at all levels.

Cllr Murray said: “I really have alarm bells ringing as it seems to me Qualis will become a Trojan Horse were you offload as many services as you possibly can, so we will be watching really carefully.”

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