Total Places

Total Place is another initiative with the weight of delivering ‘step change’ in local government efficiency and service improvement on its shoulders. While I am a fan of the Total Place raison d’etre, I always feel sorry for the next ‘big idea’ asked to make up for all of the past failed attempts to deliver ‘enough’ step change. Total Place has 3 workstreams; Counting; Culture (wouldnt ‘counter-culture’ have been a great theme?) and Customer Insight. Boiled down, they’re about working better together on things, agreeing to deliver better things for communities over a wider geographical area, and achieving the Holy Grail of streamlining services to deliver savings’. Continue reading



[This article was originally published in Planning Magazine, September 2007]

The world of local government is shifting on its axis and not just as a result of the sheer weight of paper coming out of central government. The emerging improvement culture is causing a substantial shift of its own.

Last year’s Local Government White Paper set out the foundations and direction for this new culture through a move to the outcome-focused Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) which moves away from the CPA inspection regime towards sector-led improvement. This means local government taking responsibility for identifying improvement needs and acting upon them. This is a significant sea change for local government, one that has substantial implications for planners. In this world, the role of peer review and peer support is central.

In the move from CPA to CAA, the outcomes to be achieved will be set out in the Local Area Agreement (LAA). The government’s concern about continued performance is reflected in the new National Indicator, NI157, which looks remarkably like BV109. Notwithstanding this, we need to ensure that LAA outcome targets include elements that give planners and the planning service the opportunity to demonstrate how they create real change in communities. If this can be achieved it will help put planning centre stage within central and local government’s delivery framework.

But are planning services ready to embrace this opportunity? How well do you know your service? Is it fit for purpose? And, could you identify your own areas for improvement and change without an inspector telling you?

Do you know where to access help to make change? Do you think you can embrace the sector-led challenge for service improvement? There is no choice although there is an opportunity for planning services to lead the way. If you are struggling to understand how to make this real have a look at the PAS self assessment benchmark tool on our website.

To find out more about how the services offered by PAS can help, visit

Collaboration and sustainable outcomes

[This article was originally published in Planning Magazine, June 2007] 

Collaboration is a constant theme of both the Local Government and Planning White Papers. Collaboration, and other similar phrases such as partnership working and integrated services are consistently used within the sector, but how do we ensure these buzz words translate into practical and sustainable outcomes?

Put simply the objective of collaboration is getting the job done more efficiently and effectively to deliver better outcomes on the ground.

For planners collaboration really is essential. As planners, the issues that need to address are spatial, and as such they do not respect administrative boundaries. Therefore, in order to conduct spatial planning effectively we need to work collaboratively.

Planning departments in local authorities across the country differ in size, in the level of experience of their staff and in their capabilities. Issues such as budgets, geography and staffing levels also impact on how planning services are delivered. It is because of these differences planning services should be done in collaboration to ensure the best outcomes for communities.

Collaboration inevitably leads to change. In the way we work in terms of the way we utilise the skills and ideas of a collective group as well as change in the way we find solutions to issues. This change isn’t something that should cause concern; rather it should be embraced as a way forward in delivering excellent services. Stepping out of our comfort zones and utilising the advice and assistance on offer can only lead to better results for all. As planners we need to be able to match our resources to the demands of spatial planning.

PAS is currently working with pioneering local authorities to provide case studies on how best to put collaboration into action. It is part of the PAS’ aim to facilitate self-sustaining change and improvement PAS helps councils provide faster, fairer, more efficient and better quality services.

The work conducted by the PAS is also outlined in the Delivering the Difference: PAS annual report 2007, which was released on June 25. To find out more about the services offered at PAS visit