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Staff shortage threat to planning system

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The ‘creaking’ planning system is facing a staffing timebomb, a damning report by the New Local Government Network (NLGN) has warned.

According to the survey, local authorities will struggle ‘to employ enough staff to run its services’, with almost a third of council employees set to retire over the next decade.

The report, ‘Leading Lights: Recruiting the Next Generation in Local Government’, blames the crisis on a combination of ‘baby-boomers’ pensioning themselves off and a lack of interest from graduates.

A spokesman for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said: ‘There is definitely an ageing population in planning expertise and a problem with attracting new staff... If you start losing a certain amount of this “brain trust” it doesn’t just affect the timescales, it also impacts on the decisions being made.’

The RTPI’s fears were echoed by Peter Stewart, the RIBA’s spokesman on planning. ‘Staffing is [already] a real problem and it ought to be sorted out. Everyone in practice thinks it is getting worse,’ he said.

‘You get the impression that morale is low and there is already a lack of certainty and attention due to a high staff turnover.’

Report author Nigel Keohane admitted the research gave a ‘depressingly negative impression of working in local government’.

The report said more than two thirds of council staff are over 40 years old, while the number of workers under 25 is half that of the private sector.

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