IS the risk of making cuts to the Planning Service really worth it?

The head of property, planning and property protection, Gwilym Davies appeared in front of Powys County Council’s (PCC) economy, residents, communities and governance scrutiny committee to explain the £464,000 of cuts/cost reductions that have been proposed for his service.

At their meeting on Wednesday, January 29, the councillors looked at cuts/cost reductions totalling just under £4 million in the Place and Corporate”Services.

In total PCC need to make £11 million of cuts in the 2020/21 budget which also proposes to increase the council tax by five per cent.

Mr Davies explained the proposals he had brought to the table were:

  • Increase the Strategic Property income target by £100,000 by renting out council building space.
  • Redesign of the Development Management and Planning Policy teams – £196,000
  • The proposal would involve the redesign of the senior management of Property, Planning and Public Protection – £168,000

Cllr David Selby,  (Liberal Democrat – Newtown Central) said: “I read the impact assessment on reduction in planning services, there are concerns in there about our ability to deliver a statutory service with fewer planning officers.

“Can you asure us if you carry out this restructure with less people in the front line that we can deliver the correct statutory services and cope with the enforcement actions that are required on a day to day basis?”

Mr Davies replied: “If you remove staff it will have an impact.

“This is a redesign to keep as many full time (jobs) in planning service for the key role which is processing planing applications to promote the economy.

“I think it needs to be monitored very closely.”

Cllr Selby continued: “Your impact assessment however warns us as a council that the chance of it not working is quite severe.

“Is the risk worth it for the savings?”

Mr Davies, answered: “The budget is less so there will be less of a service.

“I am concerned about the potential impacts on service provision and the ability to complete the work.”

Corporate director of resource and transformation Vanessa Young wanted Mr Davies to explain how the use of “digital” resources would help.

Mr Davies explained that an online form would be available for people to fill in giving details of planning breaches that would need investigation and possible enforcement action.

He added that this would improve the quality of information received and that this would be seen by the planning committee soon.

Cllr Selby added: “It’s very clear in my view that this committee needs to register its concerns that the cabinet needs to look very carefully and perhaps more information is needed before they approve these cuts.”

Committee chair Cllr Mathew Dorrance (Labour – Brecon St John) added: “The head of service has given an assurance that it can meet its statutory duties based on these proposals but it’s high risk.”

At the end of the discussion Ms Young insisted on pointing out at that the impact assessment’s actual conclusion on the cut is that it’s a “medium risk.”