Data blog: Councils move out of special measures zone

The number of councils eligible to be placed in special measures for taking too long to decide major applications has more than halved, from 15 to six, according to official figures published yesterday.

Ipswich: performance data shows sharp improvement (picture by Martin Pettitt)
Ipswich: performance data shows sharp improvement (picture by Martin Pettitt)

In September, when the last set of official planning statistics were published, eight district planning authorities and seven councils responsible for deciding minerals and waste applications were caught beneath the threshold for being placed in special measures. Bromsgrove District Council in Worcestershire - already in special measures - was also beneath the threshold for designation.

The September figures showed the proportion of appliations decided on time in the two years to the end of June 2015. The councils looked to have been caught by revised special measures criteria, which have raised the threshold for designation from 40 per cent to 50 per cent of decisions made on time.

But new figures, published this week by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), show that the number of authorities now eligible for special measures designation has dropped from 15 to six, based on figures covering the two years to September 2015. Bromsgrove - which was placed in special measures last December - is now the only district authority beneath the 50 per cent threshold. The number of county matters authorities beneath the threshold has dropped from seven to five, according to the figures.

A closer look at the yesterday's performance statistics and the previous set of data shows a considerable improvement in the performance of some local planning authorities.

Ipswich Borough Council decided 48.5 per cent of major applications on time in the 24 months to June 2015, but this figure had risen to 67.9 per cent in the 24 months to September 2015, while Blackburn with Darwen Council recorded a similar improvement, from 48.7 per cent to 64.9 per cent.

The DCLG’s table suggests that the change in performance may be down to a data reporting issue, as opposed to a genuine improvement.

It notes that the data for a number of the authorities that saw their figures improve - including Merton, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Blackburn with Darwen, and Ipswich - "includes some historical figures for this authority that have been reported to the department since the end of the data collection period for this release that are not used in the rest of the publication".

The department said that this was in the "interest of providing the latest data available of local planning authority performance".

Planning understands that no decisions have been taken by the DCLG about new special measures designations.

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