44% of council chiefs say planning should remain in-house

More than two-fifths of council leaders and chief executives think that planning services should remain in-house, according to a report published this week.

Town halls: council leaders say planning should remain in-house
Town halls: council leaders say planning should remain in-house
The report, published yesterday by think-tank Localis in partnership with consultancy Capita Symonds, found that 44 per cent of council leaders and chief executives believe that planning services "would have to remain in-house under any circumstance". This proportion was higher than for any other service area.

But according to the report, more than a third of the 82 council leaders and chief executives that responded to a survey carried out as part of the study think that there are no local services that could not be delivered by a third party - whether a private or a voluntary sector provider.

The report found that more than two-thirds of council bosses believe that a benefit of commissioning or working with private or voluntary organisations to deliver services is "making use of external expertise". More than half said that outsourcing could help deliver more innovative services, while 45.3 per cent said that it could make services more efficient, according to the report.

It urges councils to "give up some of their control and to embrace working with providers of all types to design innovative and efficient services".

The report adds: "We encourage the private sector to be more responsible, not just looking for quick profits by restructuring back office functions, but developing more long-term, mature and strategic partnerships that share both risk and reward with councils."

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin described the report as "an enormously useful contribution to the debate".

He said: "We absolutely have to find the means of allowing things to be done at a much more local level than they have been done before and within each locality find the means to allow things to be done by a much wider range of diverse providers."

Capita Symonds runs planning services in Salford as part of the Urban Vision joint venture and provides planning services for Breckland District Council.

Last month, North Tyneside Council agreed a deal with the consultancy that will involve the contractor running elements of the local authorities planning service for the next 15 years.

Catalyst Councils is available here.


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