15 May 2023
The findings of an Audit Wales review will be used to improve the council’s planning service, Powys County Council has said.
The report, published today (15 May), follows a review of the service which took place in 2022 and contains a series of suggestions to help improve planning services.
The outcome of the review found that Audit Wales have concerns ‘about the fundamental strategic, operational and cultural weaknesses of the council’s planning service’ and that these weaknesses hindered the service’s ability to ‘consistently and sustainably support staff and members to deliver an effective service that helps the council achieve its corporate objectives’.
Following interim feedback, the council immediately set up a service improvement board to consider the findings, propose detailed responses and put in place measures to ensure that they are followed through and implemented by the service.
Cllr Jake Berriman, Cabinet Member for a Connected Powys, said: “We full accept the findings of this review and I would personally like to thank the auditors for the way that they have carried out this extensive piece of work and for the very constructive way in which they have acknowledged the things that we do well and focussed on helping us to get better and improve the service we provide to applicants and to the people of Powys.
“A lot of Councillors, Community Councils and individuals speak to me regularly about planning, and I know from past experience that it is hard to please everyone all the time, but the auditors have helped confirm that we have room for improvement and I am completely committed to using this report to help put things right and to work towards having one of the most highly regarded planning services in Wales.
“We have excellent officers working as part of a dedicated and committed planning team, who will embrace the report in full. Working with the service improvement board that I chair, it is their efforts that will ensure we rapidly improve the service so that in 12 months’ time, Audit Wales and service users will see a significant difference in our planning services.
“Our planning service plays an integral role in facilitating and delivering our Corporate Plan ambitions of a Stronger, Fairer, Greener Powys.
“The Audit Wales report provides a timely reminder of the strong and positive facilitating role that planning must play in supporting the people of Powys in having healthy and fulfilled, economically active lives, living in decent homes and part of resilient towns and villages. A Powys of sustainable communities supporting the recovery of our natural environment and cultural heritage.
“To do this effectively the management of development, including planning enforcement, needs to be more purposeful, integrated, timely and efficient, supported by new ICT systems which makes planning much more open, accessible, and responsive to the public.
“I very much hope that the planned improvements will assist us in regaining the public’s confidence in our planning service.
“Officers have already made significant inroads into reducing the planning application and enforcement backlogs built up over Covid-19, as officers were moved to temporary new roles, and new dedicated enforcement roles have been created to give the service the focus it deserves.
“I will be monitoring the situation carefully and welcome feedback from officers and the public as we continue to move the service forward.”
The Audit Wales report can be found by visiting www.audit.wales