Tory leader of special measures council accuses party of localism betrayal

The Tory leader of the only council to be placed in 'special measures' has accused his party of reneging on its commitment to localism, saying that the centrally-dictated targets used to measure authorities' performance under the policy are anti-localist.

Pickles: special measures policy attacked by Tory council leader for being incompatible with localism
Pickles: special measures policy attacked by Tory council leader for being incompatible with localism

The planning department of Blaby District Council was designated under the Department for Communities’ and Local Government (DCLG) special measures policy after it decided fewer than 30 per cent of major applications within 13 weeks over a two-year period.

The status means that developers can choose to submit major planning applications direct to the Planning Inspectorate, bypassing the council.

In a letter to Planning, the leader of the Leicestershire council Ernie White complained that his council had been "named and shamed" for just one aspect of its planning performance and that centrally-dictated targets such as those used to put planning departments in special measures, were "incompatible with localism".

White wrote: "I plead guilty to being naïve. Naïve to believe that my party meant what it promised when in opposition, which was that localism would be the policy goal when in government and that decisions taken at a local level for the right reasons would be respected and decisions taken closer to the voting public were better than dictates from the centre."

In the letter, White listed the achievements of the council’s planning department including having an adopted core strategy with five year land supply, working on two neighbourhood planning projects and praise from the Planning Advisory Service for its management of an application for 4,250 homes, which it approved.

"Our planning department is not a failing department. Only in the bizarre world of our disappointing DCLG team in London is there any problem. There have been no complaints from developers, no complaints from our residents, now from the two main opposition groups on the council," White said.

White added that the council’s planning department had his full support and that of the opposition groups on the council. "They are doing a good job which is more than can be said for our DCLG team who need to get a grip on what is really important. It’s not speed that matters, it’s quality!"

The DCLG was approached for a statement but had not provided one by the time of this article's publication.

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