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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 04/07/2005
Resource Planning



Summary & Purpose
The purpose of the report is to:-

1. stimulate a discussion about how the remainder of the Planning Delivery Grant should be used with a view to reporting to the Executive; and

2. raise awareness of alternative options to resolve the case load issue identified by the ODPM evaluation.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive


APPENDIX E
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

MDERNISING PLANNING SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP-
29TH JUNE 2005

ENVIRONMENT AND LEISURE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
4TH JULY 2005

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Title:
RESOURCES FOR PLANNING

[Wards Affected: All]
_________________________________________________________________________

Summary and purpose:

The purpose of the report is to:-

1. stimulate a discussion about how the remainder of the Planning Delivery Grant should be used with a view to reporting to the Executive; and

2. raise awareness of alternative options to resolve the case load issue identified by the ODPM evaluation.

_________________________________________________________________________

Quality of life implications – social, environmental & economic (sustainable development):

E-Government implications:
There are no direct e-government implications.
Resource and legal implications:
The resource implications are set out in the report. There will be a need to agree appropriate contracts with external consultants if the outsourcing option is agreed.

_________________________________________________________________________

Introduction

1. The Government is determined to improve planning services across the country in line with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. It is using a 'carrot and stick' approach to encourage local planning authorities to improve to meet its targets. The stick consists of an inspection regime with associated league tables and naming and shaming. The ultimate sanction is the threat of direct intervention where the planning service can be taken out of either political or officer control.

2. The first part of this report updates Members on the latest ODPM evaluation report. It then suggests a number of options that could be considered to address the resourcing issues raised. The second part of the report seeks Members' views on how the remainder of the Planning Delivery Grant might be used.

ODPM evaluation

3. Attached at Annexe 1 to this report is the draft final report from Addison Associates which accompanied their letter of 20th June 2005. The report recognises the significant improvements made since the Best Value Review of 2000 but recommends that the Council remains a 'red light' authority as the evaluators have significant doubts as to whether government targets will be met and sustained by March 2007.

4. Obstacles to sustained performance are listed as:-

1. Achieving a sustainable case load for officers (maximum 150)

2. The decision making process ie. Area Sub-Committees

3. Maintaining manageable levels of staff turnover

4. Achieving required mix of skills and experience for effective major application processing - eg urban design

5. Delays in planned improvements

6. Management arrangements and guidance for Section 106 agreements

Action is already in hand for obstacles 2-6 as set out in the improvement plan. However, the concern about high case loads can not be resolved without either further resources being made available or the Council resolving to broaden the permitted developments applying in the Borough.

5. The options for resolving this difficulty are as follows

Possible Solution Comment
1. Do NothingThe service is unlikely to make the necessary improvements required. High and unsustainable workloads in time is likely to impact on staff morale and the ability to recruit and retain staff.
2. Recruit additional case officers It is unlikely in the current market that experienced planners could be recruited

It is likely that 'raw' recruits would be available but this will place further burden on experienced officers regarding training and development .

Even if recruited further accommodation would be needed.

This option would require a further 3 case officers to meet the maximum 150 cases per officer as measured across the department. This cost would be in the range of 94,000 to 153,000 including all costs
3. More Resources from LDF work to Development ControlThis would be at odds with the corporate plan to develop the planning function as a shaping and facilitating one.

This would significantly prejudice the Council's ability to meet the statutory targets for LDF production.

It is the most important part of the planning system and without up to date policy and guidance the quality outcomes of development control decisions will suffer.
4. Outsource 'other' applicationsThis would be the quickest way to resolve the problem. This would involve contacting external planning consultants to consider and make recommendations on a significant quantity of 'other applications'. This would normally be charged at a percentage of the application fee ranging from 50% to 80%.

This strategy was adopted by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and more recently Surrey Heath Borough Council.

This strategy would result in a net increase in costs as a proportion of the fees would follow the application.

It would also require a further structural change as staff are redeployed to focus on minor and major applications. A residual 'Neighbourhood' team would manage the contractors and maintain a capability of dealing with these applications.

No additional accommodation costs would be incurred
5. Extend Permitted Development rightsPowers now exist for Local Planning Authorities to create Local Orders extending permitted development rights.

In theory it would be possible to reduce the number of planning applications submitted by creating Waverley's own permitted development scheme. For example all householder developments that met the criteria in the Council's extension guide could be regarded as permitted development. Given that 78% of applications are 'other applications' this could significantly reduce the workload. The Council would no longer receive fees in respect of these applications.

6. In circumstances where urgent action is required to avoid further government intervention and scrutiny and attract further PDG in future years it is recommended that option 4 be explored as the quickest and most cost effective solution. Members' guidance is sought on these options.

Background to Planning Delivery Grant

7. The Government has been focussing on improving the planning service as it sees this area of service as critical to a number of policy priorities: in particular meeting housing need and the drive for sustainable communities. To ensure continuous improvement in achieving these outcomes the Treasury established a number of Public Service Agreements (PSAs) across all government departments. The PSA of particular relevance to Planning is PSA6 which specifies that all planning authorities are to complete local development frameworks and perform at or above best value targets for development control by the end of 2006/07.

8. The Planning Delivery Grant (PDG) was established to improve performance and more recently now includes elements for the Local Development Framework, customer care and e-planning. Both the establishment of planning standards and PDG are part of the wider agenda to modernise the planning service which includes changing the culture of planning from reactive to pro-active and also securing an improvement in resourcing.

9. In 2004/5 PDG of 96,000 was received. In 2005/06 425,800 was received initially with a further amount due for Plan-Making which is anticipated as being 54,500. PDG money has to be split into capital and revenue expenditure in the proportion of 25:75. The capital allocation of the original grant and the anticipated grant is therefore 120,000 and revenue 360,300.

Allocation of PDG To Date

10. A proposed allocation of the PDG money, as it was known at that time, was approved at the Executive on 7th February 2005 and this has been further refined. The table below shows the current allocation of PDG.

PDG Revenue Proposed
PDG Capital Proposed
Enforcement Team
78,865
Capital Costs of new staff (PCs etc)
23,500
Development Control Staffing
37,553
Positional Accuracy Work - mapping
6,000
Planning Enquiry Team
56,982
Premises/alteration/furniture etc
48,000
Policy Staff - LDF & Urban Designer
59,524
Equipment and services for Image Processing
14,000
Consultant - Performance Improvement
25,645
Software - complaints/enforcement
3,000
High Hedges legislation
10,000
Web site
4,000
Section 106 work
10,000
TPO equipment and services
5,500
Other Staffing Costs (recruitment etc)
11,390
Section 106 consultants
15,000
Total Revenue
289,959
Total Capital
119,000
PDG Allocation
360,300
PDG Allocation
120,000
Unallocated Resource
70,340
Unallocated Resource
1,000


11. As will be seen from the revenue table an amount of 70,340 remains unallocated and it is proposed that this sum is used for those resources which were identified in the Executive report as necessary but were reliant on further PDG funding.

12. These resources are:

Compliance Officer 26,800
LDF Support Officer 19,909

Recommendation

It is recommended that:-

1. the Special Interest Group consider the resourcing options to manage the case load issues and advise the Executive accordingly; and

2. consider the proposed allocation of PDG and advise the Executive.

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Background Papers (DoPD)

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

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: John Anderson Telephone: 01483 523298

E-mail: jaanderson@waverley.gov.uk

Comms/SIGS/05-06/030