Agenda item

Publica Business Plan

Objective: To review the Publica Group (Support) Ltd Business Plan for 2022-25.


Gareth Edmundson (Chief Executive)

Jan Britton (Managing Director, Publica)


Jan Britton (JB), MD of Publica, told Members that the company is required to submit an annual business plan which is brought to O&S in advanced draft form to offer Members the chance to comment and contribute before the plan is submitted to the Cabinet. Cheltenham is an equal 25% shareholder, but isn’t provided with the same range of services as the other three partner councils, focussing on IT and HR-related services.


In response to Member questions and concerns, JB confirmed that:


-       taking into account that Publica serves four different councils with differing interests and priorities, its teams are structured in a range of ways – some completely integrated to provide service for 3-4 councils, some for two councils, and a small number of council-specific teams.  Economies and efficiencies of scale are important, but the sovereignty of each council is respected;

-       the portals referred to in the report are part of the Revs and Benefits system which has gone live for the other three councils, enabling the public to log into the system at any time.  Cheltenham offers a similar system, under a different name;

-       there is also a councillor portal project for the other three councils, a landing page where Members can go for information relating to the councils, contact information, press releases, applications – anything of interest to councillors;

-       the advanced climate emergency training referred to in the report is quite technical and aimed at those in the building service.  The Executive Director People and Change confirmed that carbon literacy training is planned for all councillors after the election;

-       with regard to data-driven decision making, data protection is set across all public sector organisation, and personal data cannot be taken from one area and used for another;

-       Publica is very conscious that however much 24/7 digital contact is to be desired, there are people who struggle with digital technology and prefer telephone or personal contact.  These services will be maintained, though not provided by Publica in Cheltenham;

-       Publica recognises trade unions for collective negotiation, and enjoys a constructive working relationship; management meets informally with staff reps as well as TU reps, to maintain good support for staff;

-       it is difficult to set key performance indicators to show progress towards zero carbon as monitoring carbon usage is an imperfect science.  However, the same formula is used year on year and the reduction in the number of carbon tons is used to measure progress;

-       public sector organisations continue to struggle with recruitment and staffing, but succession, retention planning and staff development have become more significant in recent months;

-       Publica is a ‘people business’, with 80% of its budget spent on employees, and got close to Investors in People (IIP) accreditation last year.  It is committed to having 10% of staff in some sort of leadership training, including junior roles, and is very close to that target;

-       Publica is fully committed to IIP- challenging inequality and being a disability-competent employer – these issues are part of management practice and not a separate function.  The Executive Director People and Change added that the council has committed to championing diversity within tech and digital employment by signing up to the national Tech Talent Charter;

-       it seemed counter-intuitive to have a separate section in the business plan for each of the four councils, even though Publica provides more services for the other three partner councils than it does for Cheltenham, which only shares in HR and IT functions; a blended document was produced deliberately;

-       with regard to general inequality in terms of pay, public sector bodies have had a duty to measure the gender pay gap for many years – this was bigger than realised at the start, but is now substantially less and continues to move in the right direction;

-       employee mileage reduced by 35-40% through the Covid period, and the target for employment travel and transport cost, as part of the move towards a more carbon-neutral environment, is now to make sure this doesn’t go up.  Figures show a reduction in staff mileage since 2019;

-       none of the four councils have completed a customer satisfaction survey since the second quarter of 2019, and there is no plan to do another one at this point.  However, Publica has open and regular dialogue with CBC, and would be informed by the CEO or directors if there were any serious problems. Through informal groups and monthly meetings with heads of service, Publica is aware of areas where senior officers think its performance needs to be picked up and where it is doing well. 


The Chair thanked Members for their thoughts and comments.




Supporting documents: