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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 23/11/2004
Summary of the Evidence



Annexe 4
Summary of the evidence received at select committee mode meeting held on Monday 18th October 2004

The table below sets out the key issues highlighted in the presentations made to the Committee at its meeting on 18th October 2004:-

ORGANISATIONPRINCIPAL ISSUES
Waverley Borough Council
John Anderson
Best Value in 2000, CPA and PDG all served to focus minds on DC performance
Issues that arose from BV were:
speed of handling applications
consistency of advice
consistency of policy interpretation
inaction on enforcement
customer care
Also recruitment and retention a problem (will remain so into in the future)
Initially there was a mismatch of skills to tasks
In 2000 there was little evidence of a performance culture
Poor/antiquated IT systems
On the positive side – well respected and hard working staff, good decisions/outcomes, sound policy base with good Local Plan
Other pluses – innovative approaches rural economy Beacon Council, linking housing and planning
What did we do to improve:
Reorganised to match skills to tasks
Grew own planners – especially senior staff promoting from within
Recruited graduates but needs high level of supervision
New IT system through the back end of last year
Streamlining systems and processes (more to be done)
Performance management – monthly monitoring of individual performance, annual appraisal used as a tool
Priorities agreed with members’ and staff
Increase delegation latest in Aug 04 included single dwellings in scheme
Created Planning Customer Enquiry Team with PDG money – takes work off Planners now dealing with 80% of enquiries
Recent results show improving performance most recent figures Major 75% (target 60%), Minor 85% (target 58%), Other (householder extens etc) 87% (target 80%)
Other Applications account for 70% of all applications approx 150 per month
Workloads up 6% on last year
Volume of Appeals has taken of
Issue of Enforcement performance – members agreed main focus of DC activity would be applications this had a not unexpected detrimental effect on Enforcement – A concern for staff members and the public
Increase in fees next year could provide an additional 90,000 – but will this be discounted against any PDG award – it’s not clear yet
How will new Planning Act affect members’ role?
Three priorities were identified:
o Develop and expand Planning Customer Enquiry Team – it has had a good impact- is the front door to the service – needs appropriate people with right knowledge – needs to be on a sound footing cost to achieve this 60,000
o Enforcement 500 investigations a year in year 2000 was 300. We generate more complaints because of the decion info we supply to neighbours and from parishes and Towns. We’re not tackling the number of cases coming in – similar numbers to Reigate who have 5 officers we have 2. Knock on benefit will save Planners resource by freeing them up from this role
o LDF – Development Control deliver policy so an effective LDF meeting members expectations is important – but we need more resources to deliver this
All three priorities require considerable resources
Finally on Major applications Govt are promoting negotiations being undertaken up front prior to submission of application – the issue is how to ensure members and the public are engaged in this process of pre-application work – considering using the Cambridge City Council model.
Planning Officers Society (POS)
John Silvester
Transcript of Mr Silvester’s evidence is attached at Annexe A. Additional comments:
Confirmed retention of planning staff was an issue especially in the South East
A bursary has been established by ODPM to train 114 new planners
POS support enforcement breaches becoming a criminal office
Enforcement Officers Association operate workshops for enforcement staff
Epsom & Ewell Borough Council
Nick Ide
Member involvement in the Planning process was primarily strategic – members take a strategic view then let officers ‘get on with it’
Epsom and Ewell had been identified as a badly performing Council
Information and process mapping exercise undertaken to streamline and improve performance
Approach is to identify free up capacity without more resources
Currently two vacant senior posts
All householder applications are outsourced to WS Planning – based in Reigate
1,000 applications a year, 60 appeals (and rising)
High level of delegation between 90 – 95%
Good working relations with members
Planning Committee meets 10 times a year – mainly Major applications sometimes 12 items sometimes only 1 or 2
Customer Contact Centre provides first line of service to customers – screening calls is important
Were two years ago caught in not meeting ODPM targets - in particular Major applications – problem was compounded by staff shortages
Identified as one of 15 worst performing Councils
Now one of 39 most improved Councils
Received 330,000 PDG
Current performance 96% Major, 71% Minor and 85% Other – well exceeding Government targets
Six planks to achieve this
1. Streamlined processes – process mapped
2. ICT improvements – new much improved Planning system
3. Tracking and Performance Management – Played ODPM game – tight monitoring
4. Improved resilience by outsourcing all householder applications – originally forced to do this because of staff shortages (75% of all applications are householder)
5. Quality initiatives – example 100% of Major schemes are decided on within 13 weeks
6. Knowledge management – addressed problem of losing knowledge as staff moved on
Very focused on targets – chairman of committee will not allow deferrals – which has helped targets
Recruitment and retention a problem introduced a fast track system for Planners – take on non-qualified planners – senior staff act as mentors – but it’s not easy
Traditional recruitment expensive and not especially successful 5,000 for a national press advert and still no appointment
Enforcement Officer came from a Finance Company
For major planning Applications apply a project management techniques – create project team including Police County Council and others – indicate early what is wanted for 106 agreement, timetable when information is required. Has proved a successful approach
Enforcement – use a team of two Planners plus dedicated Enforcement Officer and a Planning assistant
Used trainer from South Bank University to run courses for enforcement
Outsourcing – cases are processed and planning history carried out by Council – cases are collected once or twice a week by contractor – report comes back within 8 weeks for sign off by Mr Ide or his staff
Outsourcing provided the buoyancy to get out of the ODPM spotlight
Members contact the outsourcing company direct with any questions etc
All sites are visited by the outsourcing company
Charge is the basic application fee of 110
Outsourced Minor applications when Epsom faced particular staffing problems and this worked well
There is a move towards Development Management service rather than Development Control - the notion of the Management aspect under the new Act being far wider than the traditional Control role
Planning is changing the LDF sitting under the umbrella of a Council’s Community Strategy
Chichester District Council
Steve Carvell
Performance started from a low level – have received nearly 1million PDG funding over the last two years
This funding was used to provide a sustainable service
District is 300sq miles, population 110,000 – comprises city of Chichester, Petworth, Midhurst and Selsey otherwise rural – 3,500 listed buildings and two ANOBs
Poor performance identified in Best Value inspection in 2001/02
Fundamental service review identified main block to improvement was the range of competing priorities , caseload, telephone calls, replying to letters
Created a new staffing structure with North and South Area Teams, an Admin Team, Technical Support Team and an Enforcement Team
North and South Teams reflect the committee structure
A Tree Applications Officer was created to deal specifically with trees instead of Planners doing it
Increasing workload 1,800 applications in 1992 – 3,500 applications in 2003
Performance is directly related to staffing and caseload
Performance for year ending September 2004 (PDG period) was 61% Major, 68% Minor and 81% other
What helped this improvement:
o E-Govt initiatives , document management system, guidance notes on the web – led to reduced phone calls
o Procedures are documented
o 100% delegation but call back procedure if Parishes/Towns object plus ‘Red Card’ system for members
o Site visits reduced due to use of high quality digital photography
o Council’s Improvement Planning Group – comprises CEX, Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holders monitor and support services with problems – IDEA have recognised this innovation
o Managers hold performance management meetings with staff and in turn Mr Carvell meets the managers fortnightly – especially on major Developments
Have not experience same level of recruitment problems as others – but still have difficulties appointing an ideal candidate – more staff are now on training courses
Have outsourced Written Representations Appeals work – quite successfully and has been welcomed by staff
Section 106 agreements standard letter sent to all regular agents setting out Council’s expectations in terms of infrastructure contributions
Developing a project management Team approach and creating a Planning User Forum
On-line submission of applications to be launched which will build capacity
Chichester has introduced a Contact management Centre and Planning service will be integrated next year
Council took the decision to no longer allow planning decisions to be referred to Council – instead matters that potentially could be contrary to policy are referred to the Planning Applications Referral Committee (PARC) for decision
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council
Mark Harbottle
Recurrent theme of staff recruitment difficulties
Late 2000/2001 performance problems arising from loss of 3 staff – posts advertised but no applicants
As a short stop measure outsourced houselder applications (same firm as used by Epsom and Ewell)
Authority as a whole underwent a management structure review
Eventually increased salaries for advertised posts and ‘poached’ staff from neighbouring authorities – staff increased from 12 caseload officers to 15
Put on ODPM interim measure list for poor performing authorities and got a poor BV Performance Review (though with promising prospects for improvement)
93% of applications are delegated
Second year PDG was 497,000 and the borough was singled out as an improving authority
Introduced market supplements to staff
Grants to graduate staff through a bursary scheme
Looking now to recruit non planning graduates from the local market and train them – ‘grow your own’
The Council offers pre application advice via a Duty Desk
Staff are organised into 3 area teams
One Planning Committee only that meets every 4 weeks
Operates three Area Panels which meet monthly act as an informal meeting where members receive briefings - builds concensus and helps officers understand on issues members want covered at Committee
Comms/o&s3/2004-05/047