Our Skills and Experience
- Project Synthesis for the Transformational Planning Project
- Transformational Planning - Hambleton Council
- Transformational Planning - Leeds Council
- Transformational Planning - East Riding Council
- Fast Implementation of News Systems and Proesses Case Study
- London Councils - Benchmarking for Planners
- Forecasting Planning White Paper
Benchmarking with London Councils / Capital Ambition
ValueAdding has recently worked with Capital Ambition (London Councils) to collect data from over a dozen London planning services in order to more properly understand how benchmarking can be used to help services improve at the same time as reducing their costs.
Our benchmarking report on this work shows how we are approaching the issue and what measures are being considered. The key findings of this report show that councils want to understand their planning performance in relation to a comprehensive series of measures, not just the traditional national indicators where the % of applications decided in a given time is declared. Indeed our report shows that this latter type of target can actually hinder planning authorities from improving performance. The full report and appendices can be downloaded via the links on the left.
Benchmarking is a tool that, when used correctly, will help departments to improve performance and reduce costs. However planning services have traditionally used government imposed targets relating to decision making speed or broad cost measures to compare performance and facilitate basic benchmarking; these have not been successful in identifying how improvements can be made.
Now that planning grants are being withdrawn and planning services are under severe cost pressure, partly due to the reduction in income from planning applications, the need to improve performance at the same time as reducing costs is paramount.
This document reports how a group of councils in London are exploring different benchmarking opportunities to help them improve and is published along with a short survey to which any planner may contribute. Whilst we recognise that it is often convenient to benchmark with near neighbours the principles discussed here are applicable wherever the planning service is located and the survey is designed to gather views of all those working in the profession on how best planning services may benchmark and use comparative techniques to help them achieve the twin objectives of reducing costs whilst improving service.
The Current situation
7 of the 11 authorities present reported that application volumes were down and four reported that volumes were holding up compared to a year ago. For most the largest downturn was in the number of Major Applications being presented and this had contributed to a significant drop in fees and S106 income.
In turn this has applied considerable cost pressures to the department budgets which were already under pressure due to the withdrawal of planning grants and the current cost restraints in local government as a whole.
This has resulted in the freezing of recruitment, reductions in staff numbers and the removal of agency staff. In some authorities there is a ban on using external agents for planning work. Some departments are being encouraged to reorganise and there are significant cost saving targets already in place for many equating to between 5% and 20% of budget.
Recharges were identified as an area of high cost and some dissatisfaction.