Benchmarking – improving planning services

(this article is reproduced with the permission of the journal of the TCPA)

The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) is a government-funded programme of improvement for local authorities. Eighteen months ago we began a project for managers of planning services. This is the story of one authority, Hastings Borough Council, who were in our very first benchmarking group of six coastal authorities in the South East.

The most common performance measure published by planning authorities is National Indicator 157 (NI157), on speed of determining planning applications. Hastings’ performance against NI157 (centre top in the chart above) showed a slight decline over the last four years compared with that of its peers. Our work with this group was designed to get underneath and behind this sort of statistic to help unpick what was really going on and so help them to understand the implications for costs, time and performance. Continue reading

Submission to the CLG Select Committee

[This is the summary of the report submitted by PAS in February 2007]

This evidence is submitted by IDeA Planning Advisory Service (PAS) and is based on information collected and observed since the inception of PAS in late 2004. The evidence submitted is focussed on planning skills in the local government sector and cannot be read across to other public agencies or to planning undertaken in the private sector. Key issues presented in this submission:

• The working world of planners and politicians in local government has changed and will continue to change substantially over the coming years. Not only has the system framework fundamentally altered, and continues to incrementally change, but the issues that are being addressed through the planning system have increased in complexity and profile. The expectations on planners, politicians and the system itself to deliver have never been higher.
• Those occupying a management role in planning will not always have invested in the necessary skills. The new integrated environment that planners work within requires a broader range of competencies, including partnership working, resource management, teamwork, procurement and project management skills which are not commonly found.
• Additional skills around understanding development economics and infrastructure valuation will be required with the introduction of an infrastructure levy.
• Councillor skills are immensely variable and in the absence of a consistent approach to training and development across the country this situation is unlikely to change. If the proposal to introduce Local Member Review Boards is pursued then the capability of councillors will need to be addressed.
• The current approach to planning is a shared enterprise needing the engagement of leaders and senior managers in local government and partner organisations, delivery bodies and the private sector to understand the nature of the changes taking place and to develop their own roles. Planners will not be able to do this in isolation.
• PAS is funded until 2011 and will work closely with partner organisations to deliver a range of support that meets the changing needs of planners in the public sector