"In the face of no further Housing and Planning Delivery Grant bolstering planning budgets, no doubt politicians and the general public will welcome the prospect of savings arising from budget cuts. They will not; however, readily accept that these come with a reduced capacity to produce work and deliver services to the same standards. We recognise that planning cannot be immune from sharing the burden of easing the huge budget deficit the country finds itself in but, nevertheless, it should be appreciated that planning is key to economic recovery" John Silvester, the Society's Spokesperson, told Planning magazine.
HPDG has been effective in many authorities in supplementing authority budgets thus allowing improvements in service which would otherwise not have been possible. It has not been effective in reaching those authorities that were already suffering, and have suffered even more so by not attracting the grant.
Many authorities have already been forced to make massive budget cuts which largely involve shedding posts in often already small services, this is because no one in Government has taken a stand about retaining capacity in planning services to prepare for the recovery; indeed some authorities are now experiencing a steady increase in application numbers added Silvester.
Silvester commented that "Planning is at the front line of economic regeneration and delivery. So, whilst we await a recovery, and an increase in fee income which will enable authorities to recruit again, there really ought to be a freeze on further job cuts in front line planning services. A new form of incentive or reward for local authorities that deliver new jobs would be welcomed."
The Society believes the top priorities for chief planning officers is producing sound plans and supporting and reassuring staff facing increasing workloads at the same time as facing pressure for improving service delivery. It might be useful therefore if managers within local authorities who have had to make cuts to deal with caseload problems were to look at the possibility of suspending or curtailing areas of more discretionary service.