Agenda item

Publica annual report

Objective: Consider the annual report: where is performance good, what needs improving, and where are they with the CT recommendations?


Jan Britton (Managing Director, Publica)

Bill Oddy (Group Manager – Commercial Development, Publica)



Jan Britton (Managing Director, Publica) (JB) introduced the annual report, explaining that the organisation worked with a lot of different councils, with CBC comprising about 4% of its work. The main services it provided were IT, HR and some financial processing.

The Chair moved into Member questions and debate:

  • One Member noted that the key performance indicators (KPIs) which had been the focus of previous annual reports were absent. Had these been deemed to not be a priority? JB responded that this report primarily aimed to tell a story of Publica’s continuing journey. They did keep copious amounts of KPI data, which was available if Members wished to see it, although the CBC-related data was relatively limited. Publica produced quarterly KPI reports for other councils for whom they provided more services.
  • One Member asked how they coped with conflicting priorities between partner councils. JB responded that he did not like the word conflict, and preferred to think of it as balancing competing demands and pressures. It was difficult to ensure that everyone always benefitted at the same time, and they inevitably needed to prioritise. He constantly communicated with chief executives in a collegiate way, and partner councils tended to understand that a bit of give and take was necessary.
  • One Member asked for more specifics about what exactly Publica was doing for Cheltenham. JB responded that with just 4% of Publica’s turnover being related to Cheltenham, there wasn’t a massive story to tell, but the focus was on IT and especially cybersecurity. This was an incredibly fast-moving field, and the incident at the city council highlighted its importance.
  • One Member asked how Publica was supporting its staff to get through the current cost of living crisis. JB responded that they made an annual commitment to be a real living wage employer, which was uncommon for a local authority provider – for example, CBC did not do this. They took employee wellbeing very seriously and provided an employee benefit program on top of salaries. There was constant dialogue with staff about their needs and issues.
  • One Member found the report interesting, and asked about what difficulties or areas of improvement there were. JB replied that partnerships always required constant maintenance, and there was no substitute for ongoing dialogue. His role was easiest when he was working with all the councils together rather than individually as a mediator. In the last year, all the councils had got round the table more frequently than ever before, and CBC’s Chief Executive had been key in this.
  • The Leader of the Council added that the leaders of all four member councils met prior to Publica board meetings to talk through the key issues they wanted to raise. There had been an away day in July as well to further strengthen this partnership. She was pleased with the working relationship between CBC and Publica.
  • One Member asked for more specifics on the increased efficiency referred to in the report. JB clarified that they were assessing options at the moment to increase efficiency and save money. As a provider of shared services, they could leverage their position to deliver change. In some areas, services could be completely integrated, while in other areas the focus needed to be on building a solid core and reserve. They were also looking at how they built pre-application planning services and the implications of this for the wider process. A further key consideration was asset management, and how to achieve best value from their assets.

The Chair echoed the Leader’s point about the strength of the Publica-CBC partnership, thanked the Managing Director for attending, and looked forward to the next annual report.

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