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Shared Planning Service - Business Case

26/07/2017 - Shared Planning Service - Business Case

Matter for Decision

The report provided information regarding proposals for a new, transformed Planning Service between Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council. Approval of the Business Case was sought in line with the principles which were approved by the Leader following scrutiny in March 2017.

 

Decision of Executive Councillor for Strategy and Transformation:

  i.  Approved the Business Case for the new Planning Service attached was approved (see Appendix 1).

  ii.  South Cambridgeshire District Council was agreed to be the Employing Authority for this shared service.

  iii.  Agreed that delegated authority was to be given to the Director of Planning and Economic Development to deliver the phases of the proposal as set out in the Business Case.

 

Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.

 

Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable.

 

Scrutiny Considerations

The Committee received a report from the Director of Planning and Economic Development.

 

Public Question

A member of the public asked a question as set out below.

 

1.  Martin Lucas-Smith, Liaison Officer at Cambridge Cycling Campaign, raised the following points:

  i.  Wanted assurance that issues that were distinctive to Cambridge would remain a priority in the Shared Service.

  ii.  Asked if Planning Officers would still be based at the Guildhall, access to them was much easier and more preferable than travelling to Cambourne.

  iii.  Asked if the issues with the online planning software IDOX could be resolved?

 

The Director of Planning and Economic Development responded:

  i.  The objective of the Shared Service was to work with communities and have a clearer cross section of groups to ensure the needs of local areas were addressed.

  ii.  Confirmed that there were no plans for the planning team to vacate the Guildhall.

  iii.  ICT solutions were a priority. The Corporate Business Processing Manager was in the process of engaging with officers on site to identify key issues.

  iv.   A strong core planning team who knew the local area was essential, becoming less reliant on agency staff and assuming a sense of place.

 

Martin Lucas-Smith gave the following response:

 

  i.  Suggested that a workshop could be useful to provide feedback on some of the main IT issues.

 

Councillor Bick sought clarification on the following points:

  i.  Why South Cambridgeshire District Council would be the employing authority. Across the spectrum of shared services the City Council employed approximately 14.15% of staff which was the lowest out of all the corresponding authorities. He affirmed that the split did not seem balanced and the report failed to present a reason why this approach had been decided.

  ii.  Asked about what the disruption that the report’s joint planning services arrangements referred to in the report.

 

The Executive Councillor for Strategy and Transformation responded:

  i.  Confirmed that the Director of Planning and Economic Development reported to both councils so there was no imbalance.

  ii.  The approach to governance of the service was subject to review. The idea of joint governance had been suggested. Improvements needed to be made but nothing could be confirmed at present.

  iii.  There was no threat of offshoring services. A single set of terms and conditions would be agreed in time. Where staff were transferred their terms and conditions would be protected. The recruitment and retention of high quality staff was paramount to the initiative.

  iv.  Planning staff, including staff dealing with Cambridge applications, would continue to be based in Cambridge, and applicants, residents and others needing to discuss issues would be able to meet in Cambridge too, just like now.

  v.  In the future it was likely that more services would be shared so there would be future opportunities for the City Council to be the employing authority.

  vi.  Minimising disruption during the transition was a key priority, the way to ensure certainty from the outset was to roll out the changes in stages.

 

Councillor Bick requested that the recommendations highlighted in the Officer’s report be voted on and recorded separately. The Chair granted this request:

 

The Committee resolved by 6 votes to 0 to endorse recommendations i and iii.

 

The Committee resolved by 4 votes to 2 to endorse recommendations ii.

 

The Executive Councillor approved the recommendations.