To consider the attached report, including the Planning Performance Report.
Contact Officer: Kate Mulhearn (01296) 585724
The Audit Committee had a role to monitor the effectiveness of risk management and internal control across the Council. As part of discharging this role the committee was asked to review the Corporate Risk Register (CRR). The CRR provided evidence of a risk aware and risk managed organisation and reflected the risks that were on the current radar for Strategic Board. Some of the risks were not dissimilar to those faced across other local authorities.
Since June 2018, there had been a number of changes to risks as follows:-
· 2 New Risks had been added:
o Impact of Brexit – a working group had been established to assess the impact of different scenarios and risks to AVDC.
o Deterioration of quality of planning service delivery – statistics indicated that planning performance was improving, although ongoing concerns had been raised over the quality of service.
· One risk had been closed:
o Failure to effectively engage with Members and the community around the Council’s vision and strategy.
· 2 Risks had reduced:
o Organisational culture does not enable the strategy (Connected Vision, Connected Culture and commercial targets). The behaviour framework and values were becoming embedded into ongoing programmes and business as usual. As such, the risk had been reduced from Medium to Low.
o Fail to manage and deliver major capital projects on budget and to time – Pembroke Road redevelopment. The budget had been approved and the tenders received were within budget. Planning approval had also been obtained. As such, the risk had been reduced from High to Medium.
The background and comments against each risk was included in the report, as well as a summary in relation to residual risk ratings. There were now 26 risks on the Corporate Risk Register. The risks in relation to the Commercial Property Investment Strategy, the impact of BREXIT and the quality of the planning service delivery had not yet been fully assessed and rated.
When the Audit Committee had last considered the CRR in June 2018, Members had requested that a new risk be added to reflect the risk posed by a deterioration in the quality of delivery of the Planning Service. A report on planning performance in Quarter 1 of 2017/18 (April-June) was attached as an appendix to the risk register report. The Assistant Director (Customer Fulfilment) and the Group Manager – Commercial and Built Environment Services attended the meeting and provided a detailed explanation of the report, as well as answering questions from Members. Members requested information and were informed:-
· that Members should contact the Group Manager – CBES if they believed any planning applications were not accessible on the Council’s website.
· that it was the Council’s aspiration to determine 100% of planning applications within the determination periods set by Government targets. However, planning in a significant growth area like Aylesbury Vale was particularly challenging, in particular in relation to recruiting experienced planners and obtaining necessary information from statutory consultees such as the BCC Highways Department. The Council had recruited 16 planners in the last year, with a further 3 vacant posts still to be filled.
· that all local authorities were experiencing difficulties in retaining good planners, especially as they could get remunerated better for working for private companies. However, the range of work that planners could do in Aylesbury Vale, as a growth area, was attractive to some people. The Council’s Planning Service had also recruited graduates over the last 2 years who were working towards becoming qualified planners over time.
· that information on the Council’s planning performance was publicly available and was also reported regularly to the Development Management Committee.
· it was acknowledged that the Planning Service and the numbers of planners would likely need to increase in the future in response to the growth that would accompany the Expressway, east-west rail and the housing numbers in the VALP.
· that the Council was generally successful in dealing with planning appeals, with considerably less than 1% of planning applications received ending in non-determination findings.
· that Members who had queries on individual planning applications should contact Officers after the meeting.
· that the Council’s planners spent the majority of their time on site visits or considering and writing up reports. However, Members or a Parish Clerk who had a particular technical question could schedule a phone call with a Planning Officer.
· that the Parish Liaison Officer (PLO) was in a team with 3 other people, who were able to provide cover when the PLO was not in the office.
The Committee was of the opinion that given the range of challenges facing the Planning Service the Strategic Board should continue to consider the capacity and performance of the planning service to support continued extensive growth in the Vale.
Members then considered the other CRR risks and challenged robustly some of the assumptions made in the CRR, both in specific and general terms.
Members commented as follows:-
(i) Risk 11 – (Failure to deliver a sound VALP) – the risk needed to be reviewed and updated having regard to the recent communication from the Planning Inspector.
(ii) Risk 9 (Fail to manage and deliver major capital projects on budget and to time – The Exchange) – Members discussed the challenges in attracting food and beverage market providers (restaurants/cafes) and were assured that the Council was doing all it could to secure tenants for the Exchange.
(iii) Risk 21 (Support for Universal Credit) – an explanation was provided of the existing controls that had been put in place to mitigate this risk. A review of Housing Benefits, which would consider the impact of Universal Credit, was included in the 2018/19 Annual Internal Audit Plan, to be reported to the Committee in January 2019.
(1) That the current position of the Corporate Risk Register be noted.
(2) That the feedback from this meeting, in particular in relation to the new risk ‘Quality of Planning Service Delivery’, be reported to Strategic Board when the CRR was next reviewed.