Planning Inspectorate sees 14% reduction in numbers

The number of permanent staff employed by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) fell by nearly 14 per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12, according to its annual report.

The document, published at the end of June, says the average number of people permanently employed in full-time equivalent posts at the inspectorate in 2011/12 was 593 - down 13.6 per cent on 2010/11, when the figure was 686.

The document says that there have been "no compulsory redundancy departures" from PINS, but adds that 80 "exit packages" were agreed in 2010/11, at a cost of nearly £3 million. Net operating costs fell from £40 million in 2010/11 to £33.9 million in 2011/12, the report says.

There was a 14.2 per cent drop in the number of salaried inspectors, from 239 to 205, over this period, according to the report. Because a significant number of inspectors are at or approaching retirement age, a recruitment process is underway to hire 20 salaried and up to 20 non-salaried inspectors in 2012/13, it says.

Speaking to Planning, PINS chief executive Sir Michael Pitt said that the agency had made around £16 million of savings over the last two years by reducing staff numbers, cutting back on office space, changes to procurement and flexible working. Further savings would be made by replacing an old IT system, he said.

The report showed that PINS had met or beaten all its key performance measures in England, Pitt said. He said that results on the quality of inspectors' reports and timeliness were the "best ever", adding: "It has been against a backdrop of making a huge number of changes."

Pitt said that PINS faces a growing workload due to its merger with the Infrastructure Planning Commission and the "support we are giving to local planning authorities to deliver local plans" following the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework. "But we are confident we can handle that," he added.

However, John Silvester, publicity officer at the Planning Officers Society, warned that the increased workload resulting from the new framework and any rise in activity should the economy pick up could mean that "PINS may well find it difficult to cope".

The report is available via Planning

14.2% - Drop in the number of salaried inspectors employed by PINS between 2010/11 and 2011/12

15.3% - Reduction in the inspectorate's operating costs between 2010/11 and 2011/12.

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