Long term sickness and recruitment partly to blame for Fenland and Peterborough delays in validating planning applications

PUBLISHED: 11:29 27 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:29 27 February 2017

Photos from a meeting of Fenland Council Planning Committee with chairman Councillor Alex Miscandlon and senior officers (PHOTO: Rob Morris)

Photos from a meeting of Fenland Council Planning Committee with chairman Councillor Alex Miscandlon and senior officers (PHOTO: Rob Morris)

Archant

Overall they're claiming it a great success but the merger of the planning departments of Peterborough City Council and Fenland District Council are being hampered by long term sickness and recruitment problems.

A report to the overview and scrutiny committee of Fenland Council for next Monday says the percentage of applications validated within five days has dropped.

“2016/17 saw a significant decrease in performance compared to previous years,” says the report by Nick Harding, shared head of planning.

He says this has been “a consequence of the services areas being adversely affected by five reasons.

•An increase in the number of applications being received

•Gaps arising as staff have moved to new positions within both councils

•Unsuccessful recruitment at Peterborough City Council

•Long term sickness at Peterborough City Council

•ICT upgrades at Fenland District Council which impacted system availability.

“The impact of these adverse events has been partly mitigated through the sharing of a flexible resource between the two authorities,” says Mr Harding.

“However it is the part of the service which is most tightly resourced and the least resilient area. The nature of the job (specialised) is such that it not at all well suited to temporary cover being supplied by supply staff.”

% of applications validated in 5 days

Performance levels for Fenland Council

2014 - 73 per cent

2015 - 73 per cent

2016 – 58 per cent

Performance levels for Peterborough City Council

2014- 94 per cent

2015- 83 per cent

2016 – 66 per cent

However the scrutiny committee says the shared service arrangements – that went live a year ago- delivered £137,000 of savings for Fenland Council.

Performance indicators across both councils are being met “and the partnership has been a success,” says Mr Harding.

Both councils had seen a gradual increase in applications and the increase in workload has impacted on staff.

And the speed of decision making has shown “consistent performance” in the past three years, says the planning chief, with Government targets being “comfortably exceeded”.

Across both councils 98 per cent of major applications had been decided within 13 weeks and 95 per cent of minor applications with eight weeks.

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