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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 18/09/2001
Development Control - Workloads and Resources



At its meeting on 28th August, the Executive Committee received a report alerting the Executive Committee to continuing rising workloads in the Development Control Service. This included not only planning applications but also planning appeal Inquiries and implications for land searches. The report proposed to roll forward the current supplementary staffing arrangements in the Development Control Section, accommodated from within the existing central staffing budget.

Following the meeting of the Executive Committee, three members of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee requested that Resolutions 3-7 below be matters for call-in:

3. Planning Officers each be allowed to work overtime reviewable on a six monthly basis, the cost of which to be capped at 10,000 in any one year;

4. the Administration Assistant’s post be filled;

5. any vacancies arising from the redeployment of existing staff to the Administration Assistant post be filled;

6. the Temporary Trainee Administration post be refilled on the basis of a new one year contract to a maximum salary grade of 10c; and

7. the Director of Planning and Development report on the long term strategy for the delivery of the Planning Service following the Best Value Inspector’s report.

With regard to Resolutions 1 and 2 these decisions are for approval by Council on 9th October 2001.
APPENDIX F

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

REPORT OF THE ENVIRONMENT OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE – 18TH SEPTEMBER 2001

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Title:

DEVELOPMENT CONTROL – WORKLOADS AND RESOURCES
[Wards Affected: N/A]
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Summary and Purpose

At its meeting on 28th August, the Executive Committee received a report alerting the Executive Committee to continuing rising workloads in the Development Control Service. This included not only planning applications but also planning appeal Inquiries and implications for land searches. The report proposed to roll forward the current supplementary staffing arrangements in the Development Control Section, accommodated from within the existing central staffing budget.

Following the meeting of the Executive Committee, three members of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee requested that Resolutions 3-7 below be matters for call-in:

3. Planning Officers each be allowed to work overtime reviewable on a six monthly basis, the cost of which to be capped at 10,000 in any one year;

4. the Administration Assistant’s post be filled;

5. any vacancies arising from the redeployment of existing staff to the Administration Assistant post be filled;

6. the Temporary Trainee Administration post be refilled on the basis of a new one year contract to a maximum salary grade of 10c; and

7. the Director of Planning and Development report on the long term strategy for the delivery of the Planning Service following the Best Value Inspector’s report.
________________________________________________________________________

Introduction/Background

1. The staffing resources available specifically to Development Control was considered in March 1999 in a report to the Environment and Planning Committee and more latterly as part of the Fundamental Service Review of the Development Control section.


2. In March 1999 it was agreed that the following additional staffing resources be allocated to Development Control:-

3. The number of planning applications received in 1998 was 2,100. Since this time there has been a continued increase in the number of applications received. The table below sets out the number of planning applications received each year since 1995.
4. When the figures for the first six months of this year are compared to the first six months of last year there has been a 17% increase in planning application numbers.

5. It can be seen that since the increased resources were agreed in March 1999, application numbers have increased by 12% to the year 2000 and potentially will increase by 21% by the end of 2001.

6. Up until the increase in resources in March 1999, the Development Control and Administrative Sections were staffed to deal with the levels of applications that prevailed in the early 90s (around 1,700).

7. Since March 1999, agreement has been given to an additional post in the Administrative Section and the Fundamental Service Review has identified the need for an Enforcement Manager and an increase in the hours of the Administrative Assistant dealing with enforcement issues. No increase since March 1999 has been allocated specifically to the Planning Assistant resources needed to deal with the processing of planning applications.


8. The problem of resources allocated to processing applications has been highlighted by the fact that the Planning Officer appointed on the temporary two year contract as part of the March 1999 proposals has indicated that she has been offered a post with another Authority and intends handing in her notice shortly. She has been in the post for around 18 months. In addition, one of the Administration Assistants responsible for the registration of applications has resigned. 9. Given the continuing increase in planning applications and appeals it is proposed that the following measures be put in place:-

10. The first proposal seeks to replace the existing Planning Assistant currently filling this post when she leaves. In order to recruit an appropriate officer it is considered that a new two-year contract should be offered.

11. The second proposal is to employ a Part Time Planning Officer for up to 15 hours a week. An officer has been employed during the Best Value Fundamental Service Review along with two other Part Time Officers to provide cover for the Area Planning Officer (APO) who undertook the lead officer role for the Review. The Officer providing the principal cover during this period used to be employed full-time as an Area Planning Officer by the Authority. The intention would be to employ her on a two-year contract for up to 15 hours a week.

12. Given the increase in application numbers, it is felt that it is necessary to provide additional resources to processing planning applications and that would be the purpose of this proposal. The planning officer involved has dealt with a number of major planning applications and appeals whilst covering for the APO and has provided an effective and efficient service.


13. The third proposal is to provide more flexibility to cover peak periods in workload. In view of the significant increase in application numbers and the peak workload period leading up to the committee agenda closing date this additional level of flexibility is considered essential. Clearly if planning application numbers continue to rise and the financial capping level appears as if it may be exceeded then this provision will have to be reviewed and the possibility of appointing additional staff considered.

14. The Council has a performance indicator in relation to the speed of determining planning applications. The indicator is that 70% of planning applications should be determined in eight weeks. At present on average the performance is falling slightly below that figure and the 12 month running total is currently 67%. There is a clear relationship between staff resources in Development Control and the speed of determining applications and meeting other service targets. In order to meet the performance targets the extra resources proposed above are considered necessary. 15. The fourth proposal is roll forward the existing staff complement in the Administration Team for the same reasons applying to the Planning Officer posts.

16. This increase in workload is also mirrored by a proportionate increase in planning appeals. The current budget for legal services to Inquiries is 20,000 and this may be exceeded based on current workload trends. This matter will be considered during the revised budget process.

Resource Implications

17. The estimated full year costs of the proposals would be as follows:-

a) Planning Officer at pay band 8c (23,112) (including employers National Insurance, superannuation and travelling allowance);

b) Part Time Planning Officer at pay band (14,034) (including employers National Insurance, superannuation and travelling allowance);

18. Fees for planning applications are set by the Government. There has been no increase in fees since October 1997. Fee income has, however, increased recently as a result of increased applications but has not kept pace with the estimated budget forecasts. However, it is anticipated the Government will announce a fee increase in October. There is no firm information at present as to what that fee increase will be.


19. Fee income in previous years has been as follows:-

1998/1999 418,785.56
1999/2000 418,532.12
2000/2001 425,743.95

20. Whilst there has been a significant increase in application numbers that increase has not been mirrored by a significant increase in fee income. The reason for this is because of the higher proportion of householder applications that have recently been submitted. Such applications whilst not generating high fee income can nevertheless be time consuming to process properly.

Consideration by the Environment Overview and scrutiny Committee

21. The Committee gave this call-in matter careful consideration and agreed to advise the Executive Committee that, subject to the clarification of Resolution three, to make clear that the total cost of overtime for all staff in the department be 10,000, the Executive Committee decisions be endorsed, as set out below:

Conclusion

22. In order to ensure the continued effective handling of planning applications appeals and the implementation of Best Value initiatives, the existing resources be rolled forward, the costs of which can be met from existing budgets.

23. It is considered that these measures are short term and that there is a need to re-evaluate the Planning Service in the light of the report from the Best Value Inspection, workload trends, customer needs, etc, and reshape the service in accordance with a longer term strategy for service delivery. A further report will be presented following the Best Value Inspection Report.


Recommendation

This Committee is asked to


Background Papers (DPD)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Brian Titmuss Telephone: 01483 869286
E-mail: btitmuss@waverley.gov.uk

Name: John Anderson Telephone: 01483 869298
E-mail: janderson@waverley.gov.uk