Manchester Town Hall Extension Dec 2019
The council is trimming budgets to aid the city's post-pandemic economic recovery

Manchester mulls planning cuts

Sarah Townsend

Eleven posts could be axed in the city council’s planning and building control department unless additional funding is found, as the local authority reviews budgets amid Covid-19.

Manchester City Council’s economic scrutiny committee was this week examining proposals to trim £2m from the Growth and Development Directorate over the 2021/22 financial year – equating to 22 posts – and £393,000 from the Planning, Building Control and Licensing Directorate over the same period.

The Growth and Development proposals are to be reviewed at a later date, so the committee focussed this week on the Planning and Building Control proposals.

Currently, 11 full-time posts are vacant out of a total of 130 and the council wants to hold these open and only fill them “if additional funding is identified”, according to a report to the committee.

The department operates on a fee recovery basis, and there are certain ringfencing arrangements in place governing how the fee income can be used, the report added.

For example, some elements of the planning service are statutory functions and “any cuts would need to consider these statutory functions”. The 11 posts do not all refer to local planning authority functions – they may relate to licensing or building control, the council stressed, when approached for comment by Place North West.

The report said: “These posts have been vacant for 18 months prior to a service redesign, which was postponed due to Covid-19 work pressures.

“The service has agreed to hold these posts as vacant until at least the end of the financial year – but a business case could be made in the meantime to fill the posts if the service required it.”

In total, £50m of departmental savings have been identified across the authority to help balance the books in the financial year 2021/22. The city council said in all its proposed budget cuts, it has given “consideration where possible to protecting front line services and the capacity to support the recovery planning”.

Manchester City Council last year unveiled its strategy to fuel the city’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Powering Recovery: Manchester’s Recovery and Investment Plan maps opportunities to exploit high-growth sectors, in particular ramping up delivery of pipeline property and regeneration schemes that drive innovation in health, science and technology, as well as projects to improve the city centre and its public realm and support the cultural and creative industries.

The budget report this week endorsed by the committee noted that the wider Growth and Development Directorate – the department responsible for overseeing much of the above work – “has a pivotal role in driving the sustainable economic growth of the city that benefits everyone.

“It achieves this by securing new commercial development, attracting inward investment, generating employment growth across the city, and also supporting businesses and communities to thrive.

“The directorate has the leading role in the economic recovery of the city following the decline due to Covid-19.”

 

 

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Cutting the Planning budget further would be disastrous for the city’s growth post covid. Planning officers are already being stretched too thinly and decisions are taking too long to be issued with damaging impacts on developers. Posts should be increased not decreased. Instead the city should bring in PPAs to ensure timey decisions and dedicated officers to major projects. These additional resources would be funded by the PPAs themselves. Developers would pay for a timely service as time is money to them.

By Terrible idea

To the poster who mentioned PPAs… What are PPAs?

By Raj

This is a disastrous decision. The planning team are already under immense pressure, there are huge delays processing applications, How will the city revive itself after covid if planning is further hampered? It has also been announced that further selective licensing is being implemented in Manchester to ensure properties are safer, better for the end user. With cuts in planning and BC it spells disaster for both development and licensing, these decisions seem very counter intuitive.

By Clearwater