Agency workers drafted in to help Wakefield Council planning service amid staff shortage
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The authority warned last year it was struggling to keep pace with the huge volumes of planning applications being submitted, after a post-pandemic spike.
Three vacancies within the service are now being advertised, though the council admitted last month it was struggling to recruit people to fill the gaps.
Now a report on performance within the service, which will go before councillors for scrutiny next week, has detailed how officers are trying to get on top of the backlog.
It also revealed that the number of planning applications submitted to the council in 2021 was at a record-breaking high for a calendar year.
The report said: "Agency staff have been utilised through 2021 to cover the vacant posts and to deal with the extremely high volume of planning applications submitted over the last 12 – 18 months.
"Recruitment to the three remaining vacant posts was scheduled to begin during January 2022 and these posts are currently out to advert.
The council said that its reliance on agency staff in the service, "is only a temporary measure" and that salaries were now being benchmarked against other similar sized councils in a bid to stop officers from leaving.
Councils are required to process planning applications within a certain timeframe. Those that do not meet standards can be subjected to government intervention.
The report said that, "While performance did drop slightly through this uniquely busy period it is being maintained at a high level and well above any level where government intervention would be considered necessary."
Most planning applications are submitted by homeowners looking to make minor adjustments to their property.
While the majority are either approved or rejected by officers in private, more contentious applications, including ones for large new housing estates, are decided in public.
Local Democracy Reporting Service