Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2


BV109—Percentage of planning applications determined within eight weeks

Annual performance

2000-01 (target)
2001-02 (target)
Contact officer: Trevor Whiteside—Team Leader, Best Value/Households
Management Comments

  December has shown an upturn in the eight week performance, following the slight downturn in November. The marked improvement has appeared in Non-Household applications. Household performance has again shown a slight fall, although remains relatively high. The overall figure for the quarter (Oct-Dec) stands at 62 per cent, which continues the improvement in performance for the year (41 per cent in the first quarter and 58 per cent in the second). The performance figure for all applications for the year to date is 54 per cent, which, although a marked improvement from previous years, is still below target.

  The improvement in the eight week performance level is reflected in the average time taken to deal with applications. The overall figure is now 10.9 weeks, having fallen from 11.2 weeks in November and 11.4 in October. The figure for the quarter is 11.2 weeks which again is an improvement from the previous two quarters (16.4 weeks in the first quarter and 12.7 weeks in the second).

  Caution however is still needed in view of the continuing instability of the service, particularly in terms of staff resources. There is still a high percentage of agency staff, mainly from the southern hemisphere. A significant number of these staff have taken their longer holidays at this time of year in order to spend Christmas at home. This, together with the normal holiday disruption at Christmas, is likely to affect figures over the next couple of months. In addition to this, three more staff are leaving the department between now and the end of January. Although attempts are being made to replace these staff with short term agency staff, the handover will lead to a certain degree of disruption. Until the department is established on much firmer foundations, performance levels will remain at risk and the predictability of the service will remain uncertain.

  The trends in performance continue to be encouraging, although the nature of the service remains fragile.

  Lord Falconer met the leader and Development Control Manager on 15 January to review Lambeth's handling time performance for the current year, compared to the target set in December 2000, that Lambeth and 14 other "failing" authorities should improve their performance to deal with 65 per cent of all applications within eight weeks for the year 2001-02.

  Lord Falconer noted the improvements made by the service since January 2001, but stated in his letter dated 17 January 2002 that "while you have set out a number of steps to deliver further improvements in performance, I remain concerned that the council has a long history of poor performance in development control that stems from a number of contributory factors. There is an urgent need for further measures to turn the service round."

  It was agreed at the meeting that an action plan would be prepared for a follow-up meeting with Lord Falconer, now set for 2pm on Monday 25 February 2002: the civil servants advising Lord Falconer require that action plan no later than 20 February 2002; the plan will be based on the Planning Service Business Plan (to be adjusted to reflect the current position re structure of the service) assuming that the growth items set out in the budget papers to Policy Committee on 28 January 2002 are agreed.

  The measures will include all available options to improve handling time performance (regardless of whether such options have previously been discounted by service managers), and will be based on an analysis of what scope there is to improve with available resources and additional staff (in particular a Development Control administration supervisor and additional area team deputy managers) which would be funded by the growth if agreed.

  The forthcoming Best Value review of the Planning Service will take as an absolute given the requirement to achieve 65 per cent handling times (and to move to achieve the higher handling time targets operative from April 2002): this would of course be set against other service requirements not least effective consultation and access to the planning service—something which would be facilitated by imaging current applications and implementing the LLPG project.

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Prepared 26 March 2002