Labour wastes another £50,000 on Greenwich Council planning chaos

Labour-run Greenwich Council is set to spend £50,000 of taxpayer funds by hiring external consultants at £45 an hour to resolve problems in the council’s Planning Department. Conservative councillors have criticised the continued failures behind the move as “yet another example” of the council’s waste of taxpayer resources.

The problem of delays in processing planning applications was first raised by Conservative councillors last October. At a council meeting last December, the Labour cabinet member responsible, Danny Thorpe, assured opposition leader Cllr Matt Hartley that the problem would be addressed from January 2017.

Despite this assurance, a significant backlog remains nine months later, and more recently, the Council has been admonished for making major mistakes in handling planning appeals. These mistakes have included failing to present evidence to the Planning Inspectorate in objection to a new William Hill on Plumstead High Street, and failing to properly record its rejection of a phone mast on Siebert Road SE3.

Both applications are now going ahead due to the council’s mistakes. In the case of the former, the Planning Inspectorate accused Greenwich Council of “clear, abject and repeated failure” to present evidence to the applicant’s appeal.

The council’s report on its decision to bring in external consultants itself details a catalogue of failure in the planning department, including “too large caseloads to properly manage and ensure quality assessments and decisions, an absence of performance management including coaching and mentoring staff,” and “an absence of good practice which leads to officers doing their own thing and duplicating work”.

Councillor Matt Hartley, Leader of Greenwich Conservatives, said: “Labour councillors have failed, failed and failed again to sort out problems in the planning department – and now the Greenwich taxpayer is footing the bill. This desperate move to bring in external consultants is yet another example of the waste of public funds that residents have had to put up with for far too long.

“We need an urgent review into what has gone wrong, and a clear plan for how Labour councillors intend to prevent a repeat of the delays and mistakes we have seen over the past year.”