Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Tail wags dog in Barnet

We are only a few days in to the contract with capita and already decisions are being made because of the contractual relationship.  At the Planning & Environment Committee next week they are discussing the changes made to the planning application process.

To set this in some context, previously there were three planning committees which were delineated on parliamentary constituency boundaries, Chipping Barnet, Finchley and Golders Green and Hendon. That worked fine until some bright spark said let's cut costs and reduce the number of committees down to two. As a results committee meetings were stuffed and often overran. Rather than go back to three committees they decided to make it harder for people to object so that more applications could be dealt with by officers under delegated powers. Instead of three objections being required to trigger an application to be considered at committee, it now requires five objections.  These changes were made subject to a review and it is this review that is being considered next Wednesday.

In the papers they state that by maintaining this change it will save £60,000 a year. However I would point out that due national planning fee increases and some increase in volume of applications the Council has already forecast an increase in INCOME from planning of £1.7 million over the next ten year. I would have thought that maybe we could afford a better system that we had previously.

But here is the rub. At paragraph 9.9 in the report it says:

"The Planning Service forms part of the Development Regulatory Service (DRS) which will shortly be an outsourced delivery unit in the commissioning council. The successful bidder is fully aware that the costs associated with processing planning applications dealt with under delegated powers are significantly less than those costs associated with applications presented to Planning Committees. If the Committee did not agree to maintain current delegated powers then the successful bidder could have a case to ask the council to meet those extra costs".

Hang on a minute. What were all those statements about guarantees we were given. This is not about what is best for residents but what is best for Capita. I said this would happen but to happen so quickly is quite a shock. This is now the new world we live in where everything is considered not by its merits but by the contractual handcuffs of the contract. Welcome to the London Borough of Capita.

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