Four council partnership (2020)

Publica Group

Cotswold, Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire District Councils, along with Cheltenham Borough Council agreed in June 2014 to form a four council partnership in order to make substantial savings whilst continuing to deliver services locally.

This began its life known as the 2020 Vision Partnership. The aim of the partnership is to save £5.6m per year by 2020 – collectively it is projected to save the councils £41 million over 10 years.

The Partnership is on its way to achieving its financial targets and, in order to meet the next stage, the Councils have agreed to adopt a local authority owned company approach to run their services. Publica Group will provide all the services currently provided directly by Cotswold, Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire District Councils plus ICT, HR and finance for Cheltenham Borough Council.

This will enable the Councils to make the savings required while continuing to provide services locally.
Publica Group will become operational in the autumn. 

Residents and customers will still be dealing with the councils as they always have and the Council will still be responsible for services to its local communities.  

Each council will still have its own elected councillors and they will continue to make decisions taking account of the needs of their local community. There will also be staff working in each location, as at present.

What this means on the ground

The partner councils have been sharing human resources, finance and payroll services since 2012 in what is known as GO (Gloucestershire Oxfordshire) Shared Service and, building on this foundation, in April 2016 extended the shared services to include:

  • Information technology
  • Public protection
  • Building control
  • Legal
  • Property
  • Customer services
  • Revenues and benefits

(Not all councils are necessarily involved in each of these as some have different arrangements.)

The partners set up a Joint Committee in early 2016 to oversee the next stage of the Shared Services Programme, and are now working towards establishing the local authority owned companies to run the services from autumn 2017. The companies will re-design services following establishment and will be looking to expand trading opportunities to increase income.

The four council partnership serves around 388,000 people in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire and covers 2511 square km.

2020 Partnership Joint Committee meeting agendas and minutes

The minutes of the 2020 Partnership Joint Committee meetings are available on the Forest of Dean meeting system:

How the 2020 partnership is evolving

  • April 2014: £500,000 Transformation Challenge Award (TCA) Grant awarded by central government to strengthen the partnership’s shared working arrangement and develop proposals.
  • September 2014: Additional £400,000 TCA grant to fund one-off costs of implementing future shared management arrangements.
  • November 2014: Further £2.9m TCA grant received. The latest share of money will help to fund further development of joint working to include exploring shared ICT technology, establishing interim management arrangements to implement change, and expanding depot services for environmental services provider Ubico Ltd.
  • Autumn 2014: Business case for the 2020 Vision and interim management arrangement proposals was reported back, and agreed, by each council.
  • Early 2015: The councils established a Member Governance Board and an interim management team (made up of a Partnership Venture Managing Director, a Lead Commissioner and a Programme Director) to progress the 2020 Vision programme before setting up more permanent arrangements.
  • Late 2015: All partner councils voted to go forward with the 2020 Vision programme.
  • Early 2016: A Joint Committee was established to put in place the changes required. From April shared services were extended to include: information technology; public protection; building control; legal; property; customer services; revenues and benefits. (NOTE: not all partners will necessarily be involved in each project.)
  • Summer 2016: The newly transformed joint Public Protection service went live shared by Cotswold, Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire District Councils.
  • Late 2016 onwards: Councillors agreed to the setting up of local authority owned companies to deliver services. Staff will transfer to these companies in autumn 2017. Work to set up these companies is now ongoing.
  • April 2017: The companies will become legal entities.
  • Autumn 2017: The majority of staff from the three councils will be transferred to Publica in autumn 2017 by a TUPE process. Certain statutory roles will remain with the councils.
  • Autumn 2017 onwards: Companies will re-design services and look to expand trading opportunities to increase income.