Cutting costs in planning

I overheard someone at this year’s RTPI conference say “If we were car manufacturers, we’d be talking about a 4-day week”. It’s true – it seems the response to the financial pressure is cuts. One-way, expensive cuts that (however well directed) will result in some of your collective brains and experience leaving the building.

I’m not naive. There is nothing that focuses the attention better than someone turning up late to your efficiency benchmarking session because they’d been summoned to the chief exec to discover their job was part of someone elses idea of efficiency savings. The pressure is real and, for all practical purposes, permanent. But…

But nonetheless I think that a failure to consider a 4-day week (or similar, temporary, collective approaches) is to miss a trick. In our work on the MEPS benchmarking I get to see application volumes for many authorities. The results are clear – workload has bounced. Many authorities are seeing application numbers and fees they haven’t seen for several years.

Plus ca change …
Many people longer in the tooth than me will remember the mistakes that were made in the previous recession. You can’t predict the bounce – the work sneaks up on you.

And yet here we are. Many people are about to adjust their services to reflect work volumes in 2009. They will do so using costly redundancies and lose their most employable people. What will they do in 2 or 3 months ? When work is up, service is down and planners are (again) accused of keeping jobs locked up in filing cabinets they certainly won’t have the option of asking people to go back to working 5 days…

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