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Agenda item

Draft Publica Business Plan 2022 - 2025.


To provide the Committee with an overview of the Draft Publica Business Plan 2022 – 2025.


That the Committee notes the Draft Publica Business Plan 2022 – 2025 and provides comment where needed.



The Chair welcomed officers to the meeting, and asked for introductions,

Bill Oddy the Group Manager - Commercial Development, introduced the following officers who were in attendance:

Jan Britton the Managing Director of Publica

Beth Boughton the Managing Director of Ubico

Chris Urwin the Finance Director of Ubico

Jan Britton attended the meeting to receive questions from the Councillors regarding the Draft Publica Business Plan 2022 – 2025.

Councillor Poston asked if he could carry forward the recommendation from the Audit and General Purposes Committee, for improving the rate of response of temporary shortages for Publica staff, particularly in the planning service. He advised that he had looked at the plan but could not see any positive way to address the issue. Mr Britton directed the Committee to the ’People’ section of the plan which summarised improvements in retaining and attracting staff, including the introduction of career grade posts in development management.

Councillor Langridge thought it was an excellent document, but was concerned that engaging with residents seemed to be reflected by online engagement, and wondered about those residents who were unable to engage digitally. Mr Britton confirmed that online was a good move forwards, however, they would not be turning off the telephones or written communications. Councillor Langridge advised that he had residents complaining that they could not talk to officers directly, and that everything was being directed via Customer Services. Mr Britton advised that the plan was to enhance officers’ knowledge within Customer Services to enable them to answer first tier questions, for example how much a planning application would cost to submit. This would allow officers within the wider teams to concentrate on specialist issues and most residents queries should be resolved by Customer Services. Councillor Langridge also commented on staff pride at working for Publica and asked if there were plans to engage with staff to make them feel proud. Mr Britton referred to the ‘People’ section of the plan, which provided information about the work being undertaken with staff within Publica.

Councillor Saul asked about Publica’s Social Value Policy. Mr Britton confirmed that embedding Climate and Social Values was important and Publica would take the lead from the Council’s policies, rather than develop separate policies.

Councillor Cooper followed up on Councillor Langridge and Councillor Postan’s comments. He too was concerned about the older generation and people who were unable to communicate on-line for Council Services, he was also concerned about the staff vacancies and the time it took to fill these vacancies.  Following a query about the average time to fill a vacancy, Mr Britton explained that Publica factored in a 5% vacancy rate, within the staffing budget.  As they did not have a separate budget for recruitment, they often ran with a number of vacancies together when recruiting, which took time.

The Chairman asked Elizabeth Griffiths, the Councils Chief Finance Officer, to come back on the vacancy statement.  She advised that officers had not been asked to build in a budget for recruitment and that the Council had never been asked to increase the budget to cover recruitment costs. Following a query from the Chairman relating to interim staff, Mr Britton confirmed that there was a small budget for this.

Councillor Dent referred to the plan on page 7, and asked what the financial objectives were for 2023 onwards. He also referred to Section 3 of the plan, Financial Implications.  He queried the dates for the business case as there appeared to be a misalignment and asked what the financial objectives up to 2025 were.

Mr Britton explained that each year a financial business plan was supplied, and within that reference would be made to past years business cases from when Publica was first set up.  He advised that there should be further savings for future years and he was working with Frank Wilson, the Group Finance Director to project future savings.

Councillor Levy noted that WODC were losing staff to other neighbouring Councils and queried if this issue had been resolved. Mr Britton confirmed that the situation had improved as they had introduced a two tier career grade. Previously, staff had been reaching the ceiling of their grade and were then leaving to join other Councils at a higher grade, enabling them to progress in their career. Now they would be able to progress via the career grading schemes, which would assist with staff retention and continuity. In addition, by using apprenticeship levy funding, Publica had introduced a development management scheme, and staff would be training on the scheme from one to three years.

The Chairman noted that the plan referred to Councillors being informed, including Town and Parish Councils and asked how this would happen.  Councillor Cotterill thought communications had been poorly managed and asked how this would be effectively managed in the future.

Mr Britton confirmed that recently they had opened dialog with presentations and question and answer sessions. He added that he would look into how the relationships could be reflected more within the plan. He was able to inform the Committee that they were working with the Communications Team on creating some short films to be available to Councillors and staff on what was happening within Publica.

The Chairman noted that the business plan was dated to 2025, but felt the milestone objectives were missing along. Mr Britton confirmed this was a three year plan that would be refreshed annually. Stakeholders were more receptive to a refreshed plan annually, this is referenced on page 4 of the plan.

Mr Oddy referenced the on line engagement point raised and advised that whilst rolling out the green waste bins, 6,000 letters were sent to residents, with2,500 people telephoning the council and 22,000 renewing online. Mr Oddy also referred to the carbon literacy training commitment in the plan which, following feedback from other Publica Shareholder Councils, would be amended from silver to gold level.

Councillor Postan referred to the large area that the Shared Lead Flood Risk Management Officer covered  He did not feel that minutes of scrutiny meetings always captured the mood and felt that if Publica management attended more of these meetings they would be able to reflect on the mood, in relation to the service provided.

Mr Britton acknowledged the point and believed that many of his managers attended Scrutiny Committees, which he received feedback from. He advised that he would look at attending more meetings in the future but could not commit to attend all meetings.

Mr Britton acknowledged that Mr King covered a larger area than he did before but highlighted that he now had three assistants working with him, which he didn’t have before. However he did understand that all Councils were having budget cuts and gone were the days where Councils had rows and rows of desks with staff to answer every query, but the partnership did offer the benefit of substantial expertise across the partnership which would not be there if operating alone.

The Chairman thanked the Publica Management Team for attending and answering the Councillors questions.


Resolved that the Committee noted the Draft Publica Business Plan 2022 – 2025.


Supporting documents: