COUNCILS across Gloucestershire are set to undergo a radical shake-up as they bring most of their services in-house.
Most of Cotswold, Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire district councils’ services were transferred to Publica in 2017, by the then-Conservative administrations at the three councils.
This company, which is fully owned by these authorities along with Cheltenham Borough Council, has been delivering public services for the councils since then.
While Cheltenham was a founding member and full shareholder of Publica they only have their ICT services within the company.
However, the aim now is for councils’ to take back direct control of staff in a bid to provide better services and make savings in the long run.
Council chiefs say the Publica partnership has achieved the savings it was initially set up for but councillors are concerned about sovereignty and control as well as its ability to deliver further savings in the future.
This prompted the authorities to act now and a company called Human Engine was appointed to undertake the review of Publica.
This was triggered by a recent peer review of Cotswold District Council undertaken by the Local Government Association.
The move to take more services in-house is being driven by Cotswold and Forest of Dean councils.
All council services apart from customer services, employee services such as procurement and transactional HR along with ICT will be transferred to each authority.
It comes just days after meeting Cllr Bernie O'Neill (Prog Ind, Ruspidge), a former cabinet member for economy, proposed at full council that an immediate enquiry be undertaken into withdrawing services from Publica and bringing them back in-house.
Cllr Mark Topping, Leader of Forest of Dean District Council, said the council embarking on its own review of Publica would be a "highly questionable use of tax payers money" as a peer review into Publica was already "on the point of completion".
He therefore proposed that the council move to other business, which was carried.
Following this week's announcement, Cllr Topping said: “After five years of working together as a partnership under the Publica model it is only right that we learn from the experience in terms of what has worked well and where we could continue to evolve.
"A lot has changed in those five years and we feel that now is the right time for us to bring some services back under council control to meet our current needs and the challenges we face.”
The authorities anticipate that there will be some upfront “one off” costs associated with bringing staff back in-house but they believe the cost can be met from existing reserves.
And the first services are expected to be transferred next summer.
Publica management were briefed about the changes on Monday morning by Cotswold District Council leader Joe Harris (LD, St Michael’s) while staff were told in the afternoon.
The proposals will need to be formally ratified by all of the authorities’ cabinets.
In the short term, no jobs are understood to be put at risk by the changes.
Cotswold District Council’s cabinet is due to consider the proposals on November 2.