Government commits £1million to planning recruitment drive

Local Councils are set to receive a skill boost to planning departments following a £1million cash injection by the Government, but is this enough to fix the issues they face?

The announcement made this week will see the funding utilised by social enterprise Public Practice to help recruit and develop skilled planners as well as sharing public sector best practice around improving communities. This follows a number of proposed changes to the planning system from the Government, including the introduction of a new infrastructure levy on developments.

With around nine-in-10 of the placements Public Practice has made in the past five years having remained in the public sector, the expectation is that this investment will support local authorities in the long-term in their decision-making, which will increasingly require broader expertise.

In announcing the funding, Housing and Planning Ministers Rachel Maclean said it was “essential” that planning authorities “have the skills and resources they need”, citing the importance of planning in shaping neighbourhoods with “the right housing and infrastructure to level up the nation”.

But with councils having faced reductions in Government funding by more than 15% between 2009/10 and 2019/20, according to the Institute for Government, and many facing multimillion-pound shortfalls in their budgets, questions remain as to whether this funding will go far enough.

Ros Trotman, Head of Development of Land, said: “With a lot of change being pushed in the planning world, there are some notable concerns that local authorities are not being equipped with the resources to deliver what is being expected of them and so it is good to see the government committing funding to recruit and train new planners, giving them the skillsets they need.

“Whilst Public Practice do seem to have achieved a great deal in their endeavours to bring talent into the public sector, the concern is that £1million will most likely not be enough to bridge the gap when so many local authorities are struggling with funding and recruitment. We could end up seeing some great planners being trained but not retained unless councils get the resources they need to keep them in the long term.”

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