To receive and consider the report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Overview and Scrutiny Performance Panel welcomed Councillor Bradley, Executive Leader, and Executive Member - Economic Development and Public Service Reform, Councillor Morwood, Executive Member - Planning and Development and Jonathan Noad, Director of Planning and Development.
Councillor Morwood highlighted areas of the report to Members.
There was an overspend of £56,000 due to the national shortage of building control officers, the Council had to hire from the private sector. Two separate unsuccessful attempts were made to recruit, the decision was made to focus on training officers internally with support provided by an external consultant.
The number of empty properties had decreased and was now below target.
Due to Covid-19, employment rates and the number of projected jobs created were below target.
Covid also impacted the business engagement service. Many businesses had struggled to maintain their position and survive.
Within the Enforcement Service, 100% of building control applications, both major and minor were decided in the timeframe, or granted extensions.
A correction was raised, paragraph 26, should read “the work noted in the report impacts climate change and sustainability targets of the Council’s Green Agenda and all environmental considerations are in place”.
Councillor Bradley stressed that Covid had significantly impacted the economy during the time frame of the report, noting that focus of many businesses had been survival, and the Council had a duty of care towards its staff which impacted the efficiency of the Council.
It was emphasised that the shortage of staff was not unique to Chorley Council, councils and businesses across the country were similar issues.
In response to a question from Members, it was confirmed that the employment target rate of 80% had been met but had not been for sustained significant periods of time.
It was clarified that within the targets, there were figures that were aspirational, and those that were interventional.
Jonathan Noad explained to Members that he would return with a figure of planning applications that had agreed extensions, and also to return with a figure of tree planting by ward. He also highlighted that the Council had overcome issues relating to building control due to lack of staff and difficulty in competing with the private sector. The Council had trained from within and the was awarded the ISO 9001 Quality Assurance. The Council was looking to gain a greater market share, currently 30% and overcome the issues that had been caused by Covid-19.
It was highlighted that Planning and Development was currently two sovereign services at Chorley and South Ribble, but resilience had been shared when required.
The external consultants were still in post and were deemed to be value for money. While efforts were made to recruit a named Enforcement Officer, enforcement continued. Staff were currently working in a hybrid capacity which was more productive than the full work from home model. A report relating to the Local Plan was to be presented at the next full Council meeting. The preferred option stage was expected February 2022.
It was added that with the consultant, the two officers under training were working at 50% and 75% while training and developing their skills to work towards the Level 4 and Level 5 diplomas in building control.
The previous six months, the Council’s Licensing enforcement had granted 102 premises licenses, 132 Temporary event Notices, 61 Taxi Licenses, 198 vehicle licenses.