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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 31/03/2008
Review of Planning Service - Establishment

31ST MARCH 2008

[Portfolio Holder for Planning: Cllr B A Ellis]
[Wards Affected: N/A]

Note Pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972

(Exempt) Annexes 2 and 3 to this report contain exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded during the item to which the report relates, as specified in Paragraph 1 of the revised Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-

Information relating to any individual.

Summary and Purpose

This report sets out proposals for a revised establishment structure to deliver planning services to meet current and future needs of the Council and its customers. ELOS is asked to consider the proposals and make any observations or recommendations to the Executive that will consider the report on the 8th April 2008.


The planning service has experienced a number of changes over recent times and is likely to be subject to future changes through legislation and governance arrangements for example, Local Member Review Boards and the Community Infrastructure Levy.

It is important that the service is fit for purpose and responds to the Council’s Corporate Plan objectives.

This paper focuses on proposed changes to the establishment. However there are other papers detailing other changes to the service that are integral to service delivery and outcomes. These include:

The national application form and validation standards known as 1 App.
Improving pre application advice and the introduction of charging for pre application advice.
The introduction of S106 community infrastructure tariff.

This report will explain, in relation to establishment changes, the following,

Background to the changes
Key objectives.
Outline of the proposed organisational design.
Budget Implications
Implementation arrangements

Members will be aware that structure is only one element of how an organisation functions. Managers have been active in considering other issues. These include

The overall strategy for delivering services.
The necessary staff required to meet service objectives.
The skills staff need to have to carry out their jobs successfully.
The systems that support those activities.
The management style appropriate to the organisation
The culture of the organisation and its impact on service delivery.
The resources required.

Environmental implications:

The service is key to achieving corporate objectives in protecting and enhancing the Borough’s environment.

Social / community implications:

The service is key in delivering through planning policies and development control decisions, development to meet social and community needs.

E-Government implications:

There are no e-government implications.

Resource and legal implications:

These are set out in the body of the report.

1. Background to the proposed changes - Why Change?
1.1 There are a number of significant drivers influencing the change process.

1.2 These are:
The current way of managing workloads is unsustainable. Members have received a number of reports over the last four years with regard to workloads and the Council in December 2006 agreed to explore strategies that reduced workloads per officer.
The workload pressures have affected morale within the department.
The development of staff to their fullest potential is being hampered by the current structure.
Customer satisfaction with the service is improving but a long way from being satisfactory.
Improvement in customer satisfaction is a key objective of the current administration.
There is a need to build greater rapport with Members who find it difficult to interact with the service.
The formation of the Area Planning Committees.
Current management issues concerning the capacity of the Head of Service to manage the breadth of the service without a recognised single manager of Development Control.
Continuing pressure to maintain speed of decisions.
Lessons learnt from the “Vanguard” process.
o The needs of customers
o The importance of effective pre application discussions.
o The benefits of integration and mutual support between support staff and planning officers
o The importance of access to experts.
o The need for management focus to be system orientated.

2. Objectives of the changes

2.2 In reviewing the organisation the following key objectives have shaped the thinking on organisational design.

2.3 These objectives support those of the Council’s Corporate Plan.

2.4 The key objectives to be achieved in a new organisational design are.

1. To design a friendly and accessible front-loaded service.
2. To improve customer satisfaction with the service.
3. To improve job satisfaction of staff.
4. To create improved access for and interaction with Members to the service.
5. To provide improved service planning and management.
6. To provide focused management on systems impacting on the service.
7. To provide greater opportunities for staff development and learning including career progression.
8. To develop greater productivity and flexibility in administration and technical support.
9. To reduce unnecessary workloads and associated costs.

3. Guiding Principles

3.1 The prime objective of the planning function is to achieve good development for our communities.

3.2 In order to do this there needs to be up to date and relevant policy. The Policy Team is currently in the process of developing the core strategy that will be central to this over the period to 2026. The “Big Debate” is underway with Members having considered the implications of housing delivery at a workshop on 23rd January 2008 and the Towns and Parish Councils were involved in a Discussion Forum on the 3rd March. This is, perhaps, the single most important work currently being undertaken by the Council, as it will influence the future of the Borough up to 2026. At the heart of the planning system is the principle of front-loading the decision making process with greater emphasis on community engagement and hence the importance of the “Big Debate” and the community involvement in that process.

3.3 The same principle applies to Development Control where greater emphasis is being placed on pre application discussion and the Development Control Consultative Forum is a highly regarded tool to involve members and the local community in sensitive or complex issues at a pre-application stage.

3.4 The Council has been successful in securing government funding to explore different ways of managing the development control work with the objective of improving customer satisfaction levels whilst maintaining speed of decision making. That work has been undertaken as a pilot together with Woking Borough Council and funding has been used to support both consultancy advice through Vanguard and additional temporary staff to create some additional capacity to carry out the work.

3.5 The “Vanguard process” has focused on how we can get applications in clean and good, i.e. they are error free and are approvable. To do this the service needs to offer much more advice at pre-application stage. Our customers have told us they want consistency of advice, certainty in that advice and a timely service. It is a service, they have told us, which they are willing to pay for. We also need to be proactive to help applicants and agents avoid mistakes.

3.6 We, therefore, need to create more capacity for officers to deliver this service. The Council has already agreed to the principle of charging users for the service and to reinvest that income back into staff resources. The 2008/9 budget contains provision for a further two planning officers, a technician and a S106 monitoring officer subject to those costs being recouped by charges.

3.7 Principal Planning Officers will be required to act more as planning consultants and in an advisory role utilising their planning skills, experience and judgments. This will be to both external and internal customers. The more experienced the officer the more opportunities there will be for supervising, guiding, coaching and mentoring other staff in their development. This philosophy will also apply throughout the department, as we become a more learning and mutually supportive organisation. It is, therefore, envisaged that career development will be a great benefit to staff and the organisation as we continue to grow our own planners and technicians.

3.8 When tasks are allocated it is the responsibility of each individual to manage the task. If that requires help and assistance from others to complete it in a competent and effective way there is permission to seek out that help. This could be either management guidance or expert input such as trees, landscaping or Listed Building advice etc.

3.9 We are a service organisation and we need to frequently ask the question “how can I help”? We need to acknowledge that it is not possible to design a standard approach to our customer needs as many enquires are unique and need to be responded to in a tailored way. That will normally require the provision of appropriate information and advice and by the right people. That requires the development of appropriate skills and experience.

3.10 Management focus will need to be on customer needs and the impact of systems on those needs.

3.11 Performance management will need to focus on measures against purpose.

3.12 The Council has invested in a separate Enforcement Team and it is considered that this should continue to ensure that this important function underpins the planning system by remedying unacceptable development.

4. Outline of Proposals

4.1 Much of the change is focused on development control in forming two area teams headed by a new Development Control Manager post.

4.2 The attached diagram, Annexe A, illustrates the proposed structure. Within exempt Annexes 2 and 3 are two diagrams that illustrate the existing structure and proposed Phase 1 Structure with staff names assigned against posts (Exempt Annexes 2 and 3). The Phase 1 Structure (Annexe 1) illustrates a possible allocation of staff to the area teams but it should be noted at this stage this has not been fixed. Its main purpose at this stage is to assist members drawing comparisons between the existing and proposed structures.

5. Phase 1 Proposal.

5.1 The organisation would be constructed around the need to meet key customer expectations building on lessons from the Vanguard process and customer feedback.

The Head of Planning Policy and the policy team is retained but with The Landscape and Tree Officers joining the team from Development Control to consolidate the pool of environmental experts dealing with Climate Change, design, historic buildings and conservation areas.
Development Control Planning Officers will be organised into two area teams under the management of a Development Control Manager who will be assisted by two Area Team Managers. The Development Control Manager will be appointed from one of the two existing post holders currently in the roles of Major Sites and implementation Manager and Neighbourhood Team manager. The unsuccessful candidate will be offered one of the Area Team Manager posts. The second Area Team Manager post will be a promotion for one of the existing Principal Planning Officers.
There is also an opportunity to increase Post CA 27 contractual hours from 19 to 25 hours per week balanced by a reduction in agency commitment.
An expanded Business Support function to manage increasing demands in performance management, Land and Property Gazetteer and Section 106 monitoring, the web site and IT systems facilitating the delivery of information and services. An opportunity is also taken to create a customer champion post that will assist in the monitoring and investigation of complaints as well as providing some support for the Head of Planning.
The retention of the Support and Administration Team

6. Phase 2 Proposals.

6.1 Managers would wish to flag with Members exploratory work being carried out at the moment to integrate the administrative and support team functions into the area teams. This could be achieved on the anticipated retirement of the existing Support Team Manager. The advantages of this are seen to be that workflows can be managed as one process rather than a set of separate and discrete processes. In addition it is anticipated that this would further encourage learning and development within the teams enhancing service delivery. The details of these proposals are not advanced enough to include them in this report.

7. Some Headline Consequences of the Proposals

- Focus on customers rather than internal convenience.

- Focus on front-loading system.

- Focus on improving early member and community input.

- Planning Officers adding value through negotiation.

- Technical and support staff being integrated into whole process.

- Case officers will be expected to have responsibility for their casework from conception of development proposals to implementation.

- Officers from the relevant teams will service Area Planning Committees and provide clearer contact points for ward Members.

8. The Change Management Process

8.1 These proposals have evolved through a consultation and briefing process involving the Leader, Deputy Leader and Planning Portfolio Holder on broad principles; the Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Human Resources on finance and personnel issues. Staff have responded through a consultation exercise and staff-side were notified of that consultation. They have been copied this report with a view to making any representations to the committee.

8.2 Subject to the Executive’s and Council consideration it is proposed to implement the new structure as soon as practical after the 22nd April 2008. The first priority would be to appoint to the post of Development Control Manager and then to roll out the Area Team arrangements.

8.3 Some concern has been expressed about the implementation of these changes in the face of the departure in June of the existing Head of Planning. However Corporate Management Team are persuaded that the proposals are right for the current demands on the service and arrangements are being made for both an interim manager and a permanent replacement so that there is minimal impact on the momentum in implementing these important service improvements.

9. Costs

9.1 The budget implications for the phase 1 proposals are set out in table 1. There will be a small on going saving against budget of 100 taking worst-case assumptions about likely costs.

Table 1 Phase 1 Budget Implications

Maximum cost assumptions
Budget ChangeSaving against budgetNew Expenditure against budget
Deletion of post CA39. Vacant training post.13,900
Reduce hours of agency staff from 20 to 16 hours.5,000
Extend hours of post CA27 from 19 to 25 hours 8,000
Head of Development Control Post3,000
Area Team Manager7,800


That, the Committee makes any comments or observations to the Executive.


Name: John Anderson Telephone: 01483 523298
Email: john.anderson@waverley.gov.uk

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