New ground-breaking company will safeguard local services
From November, staff at West Oxfordshire District Council will be working for a new local authority-owned company, as part of an innovative move to make much-needed savings and protect and improve services for local residents.
The formation of the company is being hailed as a ground-breaking achievement in local government circles but this should be seamless from the perspective of local communities.
Essentially West Oxfordshire District Council will not change – it will maintain its independence and keep its own separate identity. Local councillors will continue to be responsible for the standard of services that are provided as well as setting strategy, making policy and taking decisions.
West Oxfordshire staff, along with employees from Cotswold and Forest of Dean councils, will transfer into the Publica Group, an organisation that is jointly owned by each of the councils.
The benefits of partnership and shared services aren’t new to West Oxfordshire as it first started working with Cotswold District Council in 2008 with the appointment of a shared Chief Executive.
Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, Cllr James Mills, said: “Although we have been working together for many years, this is an exciting time for us as we take the next step of shared working with our partner councils to create a jointly-owned public company.
“Publica is a creative and enterprising solution to our modern-day challenges and I am confident that our communities will benefit from the continued shared experience and expertise this brings by our working together with those from other councils.”
“By creating one company with staff from each Council, we can reduce management and administration costs, share workloads and learn from each other’s expertise and knowledge.
“Residents will see little or no change to frontline services and decisions will continue to be made by locally elected councillors taking the needs of the local community of West Oxfordshire into account.”
Additional notes to editors
This month sees the ninth anniversary of a very successful partnership between West Oxfordshire and Cotswold District Council. It began with sharing a Chief Executive and now the councils share a range of managerial and support services that have grown to around £1.9m a year.
In 2012, West Oxfordshire and Cotswold took the partnership a stage further by creating Gloucestershire & Oxfordshire Shared Services (GO Shared Service) along with the Forest of Dean and Cheltenham Councils. GO Shared Services provides a shared human resources, finance and payroll function.
Last year, shared services were extended to include ICT, public protection, building control, legal, property and customer services. A Joint Committee was established to oversee the partnership.
West Oxfordshire District Council has seen how collaboration and partnership can generate savings and also benefit services offered to the local community. Over the last ten years the Council has saved £9m which includes savings delivered through its shared environmental services company, Ubico.
The creation of Publica Group is the result of West Oxfordshire and its partner authorities seeing these savings being made without any adverse impact on local authority services.
Existing West Oxfordshire District Council employees will transfer to Publica in November under special arrangements that safeguard them and protect their terms and conditions. Once employees from all the councils are together in one company, the next stage will be to look at how service delivery can benefit from the new company set up.
Publica will also start recruiting new employees and will move away from the traditional public sector pay and benefits package by offering something new with greater choice for new employees.
The Councils together are expecting to see savings of around £5.6 million per year by 2020, and £41 million in total over the next ten years.