Letter: Cuts hamper councils' recruitment and retention

Not long ago I spent an evening with a pile of recent copies of the planning press. I noted a theme of local authorities struggling to deliver planning services due to loss of staff and also the loss of status of planning at senior level.

The articles together made for depressing reading, but it’s little surprise given the budget cuts that seemed to have affected planning teams even more severly than some other local authority services.

One article summed up the situation, asking: "Why does planning struggle to recruit and retain staff at local authority level?" I would have thought the answer was obvious.

One local authority planner told me she has 85 applications in her in-tray and feels like she is on a treadmill.

Importantly, I also noted that an article on young planners in the East Midlands showed that nine out of the ten featured worked for the private sector and only one at a local authority. I make no criticism of them for this, but it represents a significant shift compared with some years ago.

Encouraging young people to understand what planning does and to consider it as a career has always been a challenge. I have previously been involved in environmental education initiatives to help get the message across, but with further cuts to local authorities on the horizon, it is difficult to be positive about a planning career in the public sector. But unless significant action is taken to address the problem across the country, who will be there to determine the applications submitted by their private sector colleagues?

Simon Williams, principal, Footprint Futures – Planning and Regeneration

Please submit your letters by emailing planning@haymarket.com 

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