FromTheMurkyDepths

Housing and Development in London

Greenwich borough, Plumstead

Greenwich council to pay consultants £45 an hour after numerous planning department failures

A succession of mistakes at Greenwich Council’s planning department has resulted in external consultants being called in to help.

Regional Enterprise Ltd will provide “planning application services” for the Council at a rate of £45 an hour. The total spend is expected to be £50,000 but could rise to £100,000.

EDIT: It appears Regional Enterprise Ltd is a joint venture between Capita and Barnet Council. Barnet’s Labour Cllrs have criticised the organisation. Still, desperate times…

Failures in the department include “an absence of performance management including coaching and mentoring staff and absence of good practice which leads to officers doing their own thing and duplicating work.”

The site of forthcoming William Hill

In just the past few months Greenwich failed to submit any evidence to William Hill’s appeal for yet another betting shop on Plumstead High Street despite the Planning Inspectorate, which handles appeals, contacting them numerous times for information.

The Planning Inspectorate labelled Greenwich Council’s behaviour as “clear, abject and repeated failure” and awarded costs against. Residents now have to pick up the bill. Here’s the ruling:

Greenwich’s planning department did it again with a plan for 22 homes behind the former east Greenwich library. The Planning Inspectorate labelled the council’s behaviour as “indefensible” on that occasion:

The council may also have failed to spot that space above shops on Plumstead High Street were being used as homes for years without permission or council tax being paid.

They also failed to decide in time on a 27-home development without a single affordable home in Greenwich, so that automatically went to appeal.

All that just in the past couple of months, so something had to happen.

Whilst calling in external help may help against any more failures and subsequent awards of costs against Greenwich Council, it’s still not going to come cheap.

How did it get to this stage?

Greenwich Council have received at least £45 million over the past five years from the “New Homes Bonus” scheme. An in-depth post on the scheme will appear later this week, but in brief it’s income from central government based on the number of homes built in an authority each year. Part of that should have bolstered planning staff to cope with increased demand.

Despite numerous failings of the department, no one has so far been held accountable, least of all the elected politicians in charge such as Greenwich Deputy Leader and Labour Councillor for Shooters Hill Danny Thorpe.

A day before news broke that Greenwich Council had not submitted any evidence to the planning appeal for William Hill, he derided the Planning Inspectorate for overriding Greenwich Council without mentioning the failure by the council to reply to the Inspectorate’s appeal for information.

He is giving no assurances that an investigation into the catalogue of failings will be made public. Last week the council blocked a Freedom of Investigation request into information. Appeals are now being looked into and questions asked to higher authorities.

The same old lack of transparency goes on. It’s the kind of thing that has led to numerous failing departments across Greenwich borough with some councillors appearing to back them up instead of asking questions on the side of residents.

When was the last time you saw a Greenwich Labour councillor reply to a concern on Twitter or Facebook and chase it up with a department and give a public reply? Almost never. Emailing them isn’t much better.

Continuing mistakes and frustration has seen independent parties spring up in recent weeks to contest next May’s local elections.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Tired but still standing

    Oh dear me.

    My maths says that £45/hour on an average working week of 37.5 hrs equates to £87,750.00 gross per annum or £58,674.68 after deductions. So the 6 months mentioned equates to half that figure. Nice work if you can get it as apparently “Furthermore, £45ph represents value for money as an hourly rate for an experienced case officer.” Perhaps if they had spent that money addressing the shortfalls within their dept, it would have been better for those in the dept as well as the public. Good as it is that the problem is being addressed, it is a sad indictment on any council in 2017 displaying poor management and basic controls and yet more firefighting which RBG seem so fond of. In addition, I see that have employed someone to action the Service Improvement Plan supposed to resolve this debacle.

    • Ray chipps

      Why employ consultants! The managers obviously can’t do this. Why are we paying them? Comfortable job at our expense? Ray chipps.

  2. GWEST

    Consultancy fees are just not comparable to dayjob salaries; this isn’t even that high.

    • Tired but still standing

      A veritable bargain then. It wouldn’t be necessary at all if the job was done properly in the first place. Moreover, the £45M received over the last 5 years should have been used to accommodate the increased workload and training requirements.

  3. James Simms

    The planning department at Greenwich council are a joke. They wait for every application to go the the last day before responding. The planners are always off sick and they hardly ever respond to emails

  4. Mr ip higgins

    Think they messed up further in Plumstead high st where the expo international supermarket (formerly rinse of orange/electric orange) have been buildings flats st rear with no granted planning apps on the rbg planning portal – council challenged as no documents evident ………. more flats no parking but they wouldn’t care they dont live here and see issues on a 24/7 basis

  5. Mark

    Public sector workers are lazy and completely non accountable for their actions. Unlike the private sector there performance is not assessed on their ability to do a job well. They can phone in sick for 6 months on full pay, return to reduce working hours on full pay, go off sick again for stress and its all at their tax payers expense. The whole lot of them should be sacked but that would cost the tax payer an additional 1 or more years of a full salary for a compromise agreement. The problem is no one across the board is really competent enough to do a DECENT job and majority of our MP’s across the country have the same work ethic hence our country which was called Great Britain is now a joke.

  6. Corina

    Would a motion of no confidnce in the current council yield anything good for the residents? Would this force a change in deficient departments?

  7. Daniel

    I was wondering how The Gym Group got a 24 hour licence in creek road right next to Greenwich Square. Now it all makes sense.

    Welcoming more anti social behaviour next to a national treasure.

    Good work Greenwich!!

    • Mark

      What’s anti social about a gym? The gym group does appeal to those who don’t have too much money but I don’t understand why they would cause trouble because they have to pay to use it. It’s not like after a workout they are going to start smoking and drinking outside .

  8. A N Observer

    The decision has now been called in.

    Unions have been warning for months about the pay and staffing in Planning (and been ignored).

    RBG pay less than neighbouring authorities so they can’t recruit and retain staff and it should hardly come as a surprise to them that the service suffers and back logs result.

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