Council rapped over plans service

A COUNCIL has hit back after a recent report accused it of running a high-cost planning service and failing to deal with planning applications quickly enough. North Herts District Council has responded, saying that the report does not accurately reflect c

A COUNCIL has hit back after a recent report accused it of running a high-cost planning service and failing to deal with planning applications quickly enough.

North Herts District Council has responded, saying that the report does not accurately reflect customer satisfaction in the area and that it is "well ahead" of Government targets.

The Audit Commission, an independent body responsible for ensuring public money is spent correctly by local authorities, recently examined the council's planning service.

It has concluded that the council's department is only "fair" and ranks among some of the worst performers in the country.


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The report said that only three-quarters of planning applications are registered within seven days, when the local target is 100 per cent in five days, and recommended that the council must improve its online facilities and make the public's planning experience better.

Commenting on the report, a council spokesman said: "We are most concerned that this report does not accurately reflect what the users of the service want.

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"Our planning customer surveys show that we are in the top 25 per cent of district councils nationally for customer satisfaction yet the Audit Commission seems to have placed little weight on this.

"We have considered whether to appeal the outcome of the inspection but have concluded that we will not waste any further time on the matter and get on with providing a first class service to the people of North Hertfordshire."

The council also stressed that it was "well ahead" of Government targets which require the council to process 60 per cent of major applications in 13 weeks - since April 2005, 69 per cent have been determined.

A council spokesman said: "Much of the report is based on data from 2003/04 or before. The Audit Commission takes no account of how we are doing now.

"We have had difficulty in speed of processing applications in the past. We agreed an action plan and have substantially exceeded these targets a year ahead of schedule yet the Audit Commission say our rate of improvement is still too slow.

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