Branch responds to Argus story on Planning

Planning Department in “meltdown” and “not fit for purpose”.

At UNISON’s Branch meeting this morning (Thursday) the Argus article regarding BHCC’s Planning Department was the subject of considerable discussion.
In particular, UNISON wishes to comment on the unfair, unsubstantiated and outright irresponsible claims of CouncillorTheobald, whose interests in the property sector are a matter of public record.
The allegations of “meltdown” and “not fit for purpose”, we note, are from an anonymous source, and Councillor Theobald, uses these on which to base his attack on the entire planning department.
The Leader of the Conservative Group, not even in passing, bothers to mention the extremely hard-working staff in Planning, whose commitment to the public of the City, as he should know, is beyond question. If he ever bothered to meet these staff, he could be informed of the many unpaid hours they put in to try and keep up with ever-growing demand.
Equally, Councillor Theobald, could receive first hand information as to the effects of his Governments budget cuts on this service. It is really very simple, Councillor – less money means less staff. Increasing demand with less staff leads to delays.
However, he goes further. There is, according to this experienced Councillor, a “very real prospect of government intervention looming”. Except that is an entirely untrue statement – that is, simply, not the case. But then never let the truth get in the way of political point-scoring!
He states “It has been clear for some time that businesses and residents have lost
confidence in our planning department”. If that is so, then why is the department inundated with work, and the vast majority of contacts reporting satisfaction with the assistance they receive.
There is, undoubtedly, a crisis in local government services, whether Planning, or care services, and right across the board. This is the direct result of Councillor Theobald’s Government.
Perhaps he would like to consider supporting the Local Government Association’s (Conservative run, at present) and plead with Chancellor Osborne not to cut Council budgets even further in the Autumn statement.
Or could it be that the Leader of the Conservative Group, just doesn’t care about the local services he was elected as a Councillor to run? His Party, historically, has a record of forward-thinking in establishing local democratic services for the good of the people -sanitation, roads maintenance, and, yes, planning, to name but a few.
Are the Conservatives so obsessed and ideologically driven, nowadays, with the public sector “bad”, private sector “good”, mantra, that they are completely divorced from reality?
Come on Geoffrey – support your staff, support the services, and, most of all support your
constituents.
Please accept an open invitation from UNISON to comeand meet with our many members in Planning, to hear direct, of their concerns, problems, and to talk about solutions.
This matter goebeyond Party politics – it is about the public and officers who serve the public. At the very least you should comment from an informed position.
Planning staff await your response.
Alex Knutsen
UNISON
Town Hall
Brighton

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