A £1.13million boost to a service that deals with planning applications will relieve pressure on staff, a Lichfield District Council cabinet member has said.

The local authority’s cabinet agreed plans to restructure its development management team at a meeting yesterday (7th September).

The additional funding will be introduced in the period up to 2026 and will aim to increase capacity, add extra training and create new roles.

Cllr Angela Lax, cabinet member responsible for development management, said the service had seen a significant increase in demand.

Cllr Angela Lax

“Our development management team has been dealing with a 26 percent increase in its workload over the past year, which has resulted in some delays and complaints from residents and developers.

“Bringing in a new structure and posts should relieve much of the pressure on the team. It will also make sure we have the experience in-house to deal with upcoming major planning applications. 

“We are confident the changes will lead to faster processing times and better customer service, which should boost overall satisfaction with the service.”

Cllr Angela Lax, Lichfield District Council

A report to the meeting revealed the current challenges facing the development management team were impacting “significantly on the well-being and morale” of staff.

“While service improvements have been made and continue, many of the problems remain with retention of experienced staff within the service, ability to recruit to vacant posts and a significant dependency on interim or agency workers to fill roles and maintain service delivery.

“Reasons for people leaving the authority differ, but a common issue raised is the level and pressure of workloads and demands being made upon post-holders.

“There is a clear need to address the problems of retaining and recruiting staff, but also ensuring the service structure is right in terms of capacity, enabling staff to be adequately supported with manageable workload levels to do their jobs to the required standard and hence the ability to grow and develop the service as a whole.

“In addition to the impact on performance, the pressures placed on officers within the service is impacting significantly on the well-being and morale of individuals, with a number feeling overwhelmed by the levels of work undertaken and the subsequent need to undertake extra hours to meet the work demands placed upon them leading to stress and exhaustion.

“This has proven to be some of the reasons why members of the service have recently left the authority to work elsewhere.

“Without action there is a danger further staff will leave due to the pressures being experienced, performance will continue to decline and the problems that have been voiced – that the service lacks customer responsiveness – will continue despite the positive improvement that has been made to seek to address this particular area.”

Report by Cllr Angela Lax

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  1. The report submitted by Councillor Lax concerning the review of the Development Management Structure was presented to Cabinet on 7th September 2021. The document consisted of 10 pages and was written by an officer of the Planning Department. This report was discussed extensively on social media prior to the meeting of 7th September. Some very relevant questions were raised on social media. I therefore tuned into the Cabinet meeting with the expectation of members of the Cabinet firing pertinent questions at the officers. What did we get.? Absolutely nothing. This whole charade is purely a tick box exercise undertaken by officers of the LDC Planning Department. It is indeed apparent that LDC is losing staff in all departments. In any profession most officers are well aware of what is going on in other local authorities. In the case of Lichfield DC they will be aware of the Friarsgate and Leyfields and Netherstowe fiascos. Chief Executive tendering her resignation following these fiascos. It does not help matters when the report states” Expectations and behaviour of Members and vexatious customers impacting on staff confidence.”” Vexatious behaviour” for exposing sheer incompetence in the cases of Friarsgate and Leyfields.? This will certainly not be remedied by the payment of market supplements.

  2. Were customers ‘confident ‘ about members of LDC , both Officers and Councillors, they may not be inclined to make ‘vexatious’ comments. It should be remembered that in the case of the Leyfields Netherstowe debacle the Council Cabinet entered into an agreement to sell open space land before meeting the requirement that they advertise their intention to do so.

  3. SH.Spot on with your comments regarding officers and councillors. If people are not satisfied with the service offered by an organisation they take their custom elsewhere. In the case of non performing local authorities such as Lichfield DC this does present a problem. Non performing councillors can be removed at the ballot box, but how do you deal with non performing officers.?
    Leyfields is a case in point. Thanks to the diligence and sheer hard work of several residents of Lichfield the whole fiasco has been well and truly exposed. When you reach a position where the public of Lichfield have a greater knowledge than the paid officers then you should realise that you have a major problem. The recent silence of the councillors over Leyfields has been noticed .No doubt the councillors hope that everything will go away. Well it won’t.Silence implies guilt.
    Perhaps somebody should explain why the Council Tax payers should be required to foot the “compensation ” bill of £ 116667 which is being paid to Bromford Housing. Leyfields and Netherstowe quite easily surpasses the Friarsgate fiasco.
    Any wonder why there are retention and recruitment problems at LDC.

  4. I had a disappointing experience with a ‘Environmental Protection Officer’ at LDC. They had no interest in trying to help me and the ‘investigation’ was known existent.

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