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  6. Planning in frontline as councils cut services

Planning in frontline as councils cut services

Local authority planning, development and environmental services face major spending cuts during 2011/12 according to a detailed analysis of council budgeting compiled by the Audit Commission.

The watchdog’s report, Tough Times, noted that councils are having to cope with both a reduction in central Government grant-aid as well as a fall in income from fees and charges of five per cent in real terms.

The report highlighted that local authorities are not targeting cuts in a uniform fashion and that planning is one area where cuts will be disproportionate.

The commission concluded that spending on planning and development will fall by 28 per cent in single tier and county councils (STCCs) and 16 per cent in district councils on average.

Almost half of the savings needed in STCCs will come from planning, housing and cultural services, the report found.

It found that STCCs facing the biggest cuts were most likely to target smaller services. “Planning and development budgets will fall 50 per cent on average in these councils in 2011/12,” it warned.

The report also made it clear that many district councils were increasing fees and charges. Some 40 per cent are targeting planning fees. Few planned changes in service standards or eligibility criteria, the commission noted.

The commission stressed that services like planning and development could not deliver similar savings every year. “Many councils will face difficult decisions about how to meet their funding shortfall in the next few years.”

Access the Audit Commission report.

 

Roger Milne

24 November 2011