EXCLUSIVE: Enforcement ‘creaking and inefficient’, relationships ‘fuzzy’ and no financial control concludes planning findings

15:24 11 April 2014

Fenland Hall, March

Fenland Hall, March

Archant

An inquiry into the planning department of Fenland Council has concluded enforcement is “creaking and inefficient”, it lacks “”performance and financial management” and relationships between staff and councillors are “fuzzy”.

The devastating assessment has been revealed in confidential papers leaked from within the Conservative group of Fenland Council.

The quotes come from minutes of the last group meeting and reflect the views of outgoing leader Alan Melton.

Cllr Melton said today the minutes were accurate “but you shouldn’t have had them since they are confidential- but in essence they are true”.

He said he addressed colleagues following a meeting with the Planning Advisory Service, an outside agency undertaking a review of planning within Fenland at the request of the district council.

“Planning Advisory Service had concluded their review and a draft report promised within three weeks,” the minutes reveal.

“Preliminary findings had been shared. Some issues of serious concerns with both members and officers. Enforcement was creaking and ineffective, no performance or financial management, no unit costs nor business centre costs”.

The report also reveals that Cllr Melton mentioned the PAS had found “relationship between senior managers and members was fuzzy with no clear demarcation lines.”

However one bright note was the PAS assessment of the committee structure which they described as “good and governance role was clear”.

But they also have criticised “poor body language which indicated relationship problems between members and officers”.

The report by PAS is expected to ensure more rigorous pre-application processes and local councils invited to have more input into projects which will help their communities. This, concludes PAS, is currently “sadly lacking”

The report to councillors also pointed out that “public image of the planning service and committee is poor. Suggest record or tele-record all committee meetings. Committee procedures must be tighter.”

The final report from PAS is expected to be handed to the new leader once he or she is appointed after May 1.

Next step will be an action plan and ongoing monitoring of new procedures.

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