FAQs for Authorities

Read the answers to our Frequently Asked Questions about eligibility, funding, submitting an expression of interest, the selection process for Associates, matching, onboarding, what happens once in placement, and the L&D Course.


Who can recruit an Associate?
Public Practice invites Expressions of Interest (EOIs) from public organisations that are:

  • Local authorities

  • Groups of more than one Authority

  • Development Corporations

  • Publicly led delivery vehicles

  • Hospitals or other public bodies

Can we apply to recruit for more than one Associate?
Yes, Authorities are welcome to apply to recruit more than one Associate. A separate Expression of Interest form should be submitted for each different post.

Where are placements located?
Public Practice offers placements to all local authorities and public organisations in England.

Can we apply to recruit an Associate starting on a different date?
Public Practice offers two intakes for placements each year, one in the spring (1 April) and the other in the autumn (1 October). Authorities for whom the programme dates are not workable are encouraged to contact Public Practice.

When do you issue the Authority Agreement?
Upon the submission of an EOI, we will now assess it against the candidates who have applied to become an Associate and issue you with our Authority Agreement within 5 working days. A template of the draft agreement can be requested from [email protected]

Please sign the Agreement by 14 December at the latest to be eligible for shortlisting. You will only be invoiced for our fee if you successfully recruit an Associate.

What approvals are required to be able to recruit an Associate?
To recruit an Associate, you must:

  • Be able to secure funding and HR approvals for a minimum of 12-month placement starting on the date of the cohort you are applying for (1 April or 1 October).

  • Have HR sign-off to recruit for a role through Public Practice, before submitting an EOI

  • Ensure that the programme is compatible with your procurement rules. Please speak to us if you have any procurement concerns, with our extensive experience working with Authorities we can help you navigate the process.

  • Be in a position to provide the selected Associate with a formal job offer and sign an employment contract a month before the Associate is due to start in post.

  • Roles must be established posts within an Authority – Associates are not to be employed as a contractor or via an agency.

  • You must have signed our Authority Agreement to be eligible for shortlisting. We will not invoice you for our fee unless you successfully recruit a candidate.


How are posts funded?

Typically, funding for placements is secured from a variety of sources:

  • Budget growth / restructures

  • Insourcing services

  • Internal / external recharging

  • Uplift in planning fees

  • Planning Performance Agreement fees

  • Design Review fees

This funding tracker, maintained by Public Practice, is for use by local authority officers who are looking for a quick way of reviewing the latest funding opportunities to consider applying for.

Is there a salary range?
Public Practice will recruit to roles with a full-time-equivalent salary range of £30,000 – £55,000. The salary will depend on the grading of the role and on the skills and experience of the Associate.

How much is the placement fee?
Upon entering into a contract with an Associate, your Authority will be asked to pay a placement fee to Public Practice of £6,000 (+VAT).

Is there an additional fee if we would like to keep the Associate on beyond the end of their agreed contract?
Authorities can agree to extend the contract with their Associates at the end of the original term. There is no additional fee if the Authority wishes to extend or offer Associates a permanent contract at the end of the agreed contract period.

Public Practice provides specialist skills to be placed within fixed-term, hard-to-fill positions at Local Authorities. We do not charge a retention fee if the post and the Associate are made permanent later on, therefore offering a highly competitive and cost-effective solution to your recruitment needs.

Public Practice is a ‘Black And Minority Ethnic’ female-led SME (micro-organisation) and a not-for-profit, social enterprise providing a unique Placement Programme, which includes both Recruitment and also Learning & Development Services. Due to this unique, combined service provision, it may be possible for a procuring body to make a direct award of a contract as the works can be supplied only by one particular operator.

Alternatively, an individual Placement Programme fee (£6k+VAT) falls under the threshold requiring the sub-central authorities to advertise the contract on Contracts Finder. We are a registered supplier on several local authority tendering platforms, do get in touch with us for more information.


How can my Authority express an interest in recruiting an Associate?
We ask you to book a call with us to discuss any roles before submitting an Expression of Interest to help us to understand the skills and expertise you need and the likely fit with candidates’ expertise and salary expectations. Expressions of Interest should then be made by completing the online form available on our website.

What type of specialisms can we recruit?
We recruit candidates from across the full spectrum of built environment and placemaking backgrounds, from design to development to delivery. We break these down into 6 specific role types:

  • Urban Design
  • Planning

  • Green Infrastructure

  • Economic Development

  • Property Development

  • Sustainability

What sort of roles can be put forward as placements?
Placements should ideally be place-based — for example centred on a particular town centre or growth area — or project-based — for example working on the production of a policy document or guidance - and have the opportunity for cross-cutting work across teams. Examples of past and current placements are provided on the Cohorts page.

How are Expressions of Interest selected?
Expressions of Interest are assessed and selected based on four criteria:

  • THE ROLE: fits within our role types and the type of candidates we attract to the programme. Preference will be given to new roles over pre-existing roles or vacancies, and roles where there are no internal candidates that meet the requirements.

  • DELIVERABILITY: Clear line management responsibility and buy-in, and the likelihood that necessary funding and approvals are secured in time for the programme start date.

  • IMPACT ON PLACES: the ambition of the authority, and the extent to which the placement will shape high-quality, equitable or sustainable places, through a set of clearly defined roles and deliverables.

  • COHORT MIX: Public Practice reserves the right to prioritise certain Expressions of Interest, to ensure a good mix of role types to ensure a multidisciplinary cohort, or to have a good range of geographies.

What are the next steps if our Expression of Interest is successful?
Upon your Expression of Interest being shortlisted for matching with an Associate, you will be required to:

  • Work with your named HR officer: On the Expression of Interest form, you are asked to provide the details of the HR officer who is supporting the placement. Public Practice will contact the named HR officer with guidance regarding the recruitment and employment of Associates to support the recruitment process.

  • Attend an Assessment Day: All shortlisted Authorities are asked to participate in a day-long online assessment day via Zoom to contribute to the assessment and matching of Associates. We expect that the assessment day is attended by either the officer submitting the Expression of Interest or the placement line manager. For Authorities we have not worked with previously, attendance is compulsory.

What if our HR department has any queries about the programme?

It is fundamental that HR colleagues are informed of the programme and process prior to submitting an EOI. Our HR guidance document should address most of the queries your HR Department may have. Please contact [email protected] to receive a copy of the HR guidance.

If HR colleagues have further questions, we ask them to book a call with us and we can present an overview of the recruitment, selection and matching processes and the overall programme to them.


How does the Associate selection process work?
Associates undergo a rigorous two-stage selection process before being matched to Authorities:

  • Stage One - Online applications: To apply for an Associate position with Public Practice, candidates must first submit an online application answering four specific questions that are anonymously assessed following best practice in non-bias recruitment.

  • Stage Two - Assessment Day: The second round of the selection process is an all-day online assessment, focussed on further testing the skills and experience of the Applicants, whilst also considering the most suitable roles for each. Candidates have a 30-minute public-sector-style panel interview and complete a range of activities, including a presentation and a group exercise.

Who assesses applications and applicants for Associate positions?

The assessment of Applicants at the online application stage is supported by a group of around 50+ expert assessors. Our expert assessors are experienced public sector placemaking practitioners. At online assessment days, you will contribute to the assessment of Applicants. At least one officer from all shortlisted Authorities will be expected to participate in one of the assessment days, for Authorities we have not worked with before attendance is compulsory.

What about Equality, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion?
Increased diversity of individuals taking up roles and working in public planning is a key outcome for Public Practice. We are committed to encouraging equality, equity, diversity and inclusion (EEDI) through our application, selection and matching process for Associate positions. Our approach is to recognise underrepresented characteristics and take proportionate action to support individuals with those characteristics to successfully apply for the programme.


How does matching work?
Public Practice takes the skills, experience, personal qualities and preferences of Associates into account when matching Associates and Authorities. Following the online assessment days, Public Practice will recommend a match with the Associate we feel is most suitable for the role. Please note that depending on the availability of candidates we may not be able to provide a match for every shortlisted Expression of Interest.

Will we have the opportunity to meet the Associate with whom we are matched?
When you receive a proposed match, you will be provided with an Associate Pack containing information on the proposed Associate, including: a bio, CV and work sample. We do not share references or right-to-work information. You will then be asked to meet your proposed Associate before confirming whether you would like them to be placed with you.

From this point, it is your responsibility to oversee the recruitment of the Associate, from arranging interviews and making offers, to ensuring contacts are issued on time. Public Practice will be on hand to support throughout this stage.

What happens if the proposed match is not suitable?
Should you consider that the proposed Associate does not fit the role or your organisation after meeting them, you will have the opportunity to decline the Associate. There is no guarantee that Public Practice will be able to offer a second match.

What happens if an Associate does not want to be placed with us?
Where an Associate does not feel the placement is suitable, Public Practice will seek to find another suitable Associate but there is no guarantee that a second match is available.


How are Associates employed?
Associates are directly employed by their host Authorities for 12 months or longer. You will be expected to provide the Associate with an employment contract in the same way you would any other employee. Most Associates are employed by Authorities on fixed-term contracts, though some Associates may wish to join you as a secondment from their existing employer. We are also open to Authorities employing Associates as permanent employees if it is preferable for both parties. We do not accept Associates being employed as freelancer contractors or via agencies or umbrella companies.

What are the pay arrangements for Associates?
As the Associate’s employer or secondment host, your organisation will pay the Associate directly or through their existing employer. The Expression of Interest form asks for an expected salary range, and Associates will also provide their current salary in their applications to Public Practice. When matches are proposed, Public Practice will share salary information with both parties. The final pay arrangements are to be negotiated between you and the Associate.

What are the arrangements around working hours for Associates?
As the Associate’s employer, you will need to discuss and decide on the Associate’s working arrangements with them. Public Practice is open to Associates being full-time or part-time, or having other flexible working arrangements, such as compressed hours. The only stipulation from Public Practice is that 6% of their time in post is spent attending a learning and development course led by Public Practice, and that the Associate’s overall time commitment is a minimum of 3 days per week contract.

What pre-employment checks do we have to carry out for Associates?
You should follow your normal full procedures with regard to pre-employment checks when taking on an Associate. Public Practice does not conduct pre-employment checks on behalf of Authorities.

What will our relationship be with Public Practice?
Public Practice acts as a broker, finding Associates to fulfil roles within host Authorities. Public Practice also delivers an L&D Course to Associates to support their transition into their new roles in the public sector. You will be asked to sign an Authority Agreement with Public Practice. The agreement sets out the terms of the relationship between your Authority and Public Practice.

What onboarding procedures are there?

Public Practice is available for an onboarding call with HR and any other contacts before the placement begins to ensure contracts and payments are processed. At the start of the placement, Public Practice will arrange a welcome session for all line managers and placement hosts. At the same time, a longer two-day induction will be given to Associates preparing them for their placement and our programme.


What performance review mechanisms does Public Practice use for Associates?
You will be expected to use your internal performance review processes to monitor the performance of Associates whilst they are on placement. Public Practice will provide Authorities with a regular opportunity to book a call in with a member of the team at any point during the placement if there are any issues to discuss.

What happens if we want to terminate the contract of the Associate before the end of the placement?
If, for any reason, you conclude that the performance of the Associate is unacceptable, we ask that you let us know as soon as possible before taking any action. Public Practice will work with you to attempt to address any problems and support with any sourcing of alternative Associates if the situation allows.

What happens if the Associate cannot or does not wish to complete their placement?
In the unlikely event that an Associate cannot complete the full placement, Public Practice will seek to replace the Associate if the situation allows.

What happens beyond the end of the 12-months?
The Public Practice programme runs for 12 months. If an Associate is employed for a longer period than 12 months, they will continue in their placement at their host Authority but will no longer be required to attend the learning and development course run by Public Practice (6% of the contracted hours).


How does the L&D Course work?
Candidates that are successfully recruited by authorities take part in our L&D Course. The L&D Course is designed to smooth the transition from the private into the public sector, it has a proven record of improving retention, with 90% of our Associates remaining in the public sector beyond 12 months.

As part of agreeing to be part of our programme, you must allow your Associate to attend our 16-day L&D Course (including an induction) during their working hours across the first 12-months of the placement, with the first 6 months being more intensive L&D days are on Fridays, Associates on full-time contracts are required to attend all 16 course days, for a 0.8 FTE contract 13 days and for a 0.6 FTE contract 10 days.