PINS could face 'real problem' in recruiting inspectors, says chief executive

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) is experimenting with a new recruitment process for inspectors, with an emphasis on recruiting from a 'wider pool of disciplines', but could still face a 'real problem' with future recruitment needs, its latest board meeting minutes reveal.

Planning Inspectorate: recruitment issues flagged in latest board minutes
Planning Inspectorate: recruitment issues flagged in latest board minutes

The inspectorate’s latest board meeting minutes include a discussion on recruitment methods for new inspectors.

According to the document, PINS chief executive Sarah Richards said that the body had reviewed how it approaches the recruitment of inspectors "to maximise the opportunity".

Richards said that the testing of candidates had previously been done "on the basis that they needed to come in as ‘fully formed’ inspectors". She said that this does not have to be the case and the new process "is to seek those with the right potential".

Secondly, she said, PINS was "seeking candidates from a wider pool of disciplines in a way not done before".

Work is being done by staff at the inspectorate as part of "workforce planning", Richards said, looking across the sector at where it will be recruiting inspectors in the next five years.

"As we look for four-five years’ experience, those people will already be employed in a relevant job now," she said.

Richards added that "early indications" suggested that there is "a real problem" in this area.

The workforce planning review "will be the evidence base that the organisation can use to decide whether to fundamentally change the way we recruit, the skills we look for and so on", she added.

Elsewhere, Richards said that the offer of more part-time working could be used to entice suitable candidates.

"We currently only offer part-time as blocks of time rather than days per week. Although there would be some problems to overcome, it would be possible to change this, which could currently be putting some people off, particularly those with caring responsibilities who need predictability", she said.

A PINS spokesman said: "The previous inspector recruitment [process] was restricted in terms of its advertising. We advertised more widely for the current recruitment and this new approach has resulted in a significant increase in interest in becoming an inspector - we received over 180 applications.

"This large number of applications demonstrates clearly there is a continued appetite for planning and other professionals to work for the Planning Inspectorate as we aim to enhance our contribution to the planning system."

"Effective workforce planning is vitally important to ensure that the Inspectorate have the right number of inspectors to meet demand. We need to keep an eye on future supply of suitable inspector candidates. Our current workforce planning review demonstrates that we need to continue to attract and develop candidates who have the transferable skills to become a planning inspector."

Last week, a former inspector claimed that poor pay is to blame for a decline in the performance of PINS. He was responding to a Planning article that analysed the latest PINS performance data.

Last September, PINS launched a recruitment drive for 30 new planning inspectors.


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