Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting (Agenda Item 5)
To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.
Councillors Chapman-Allen, Gould, Sharpe, Turner and Wassell were in attendance.
Mr Roger Atterwill, Chairman of Swanton Morley Parish Council had requested the opportunity to address the Commission. He was invited to speak for up to three minutes.
Mr Atterwill read from a list of questions (copy attached). As the Commission had not received a copy of the list in advance of the meeting he was advised that some answers were not immediately available. He confirmed that he was happy to provide the list in writing and receive the replies in the same format.
The Executive Member for Planning, Building Control and Housing advised that a rolling programme of training was provided to the Planning Committee and some training on Housing would be taking place soon to explain how the planning process could contribute to affordable housing. Training was carried out by the best source available, which could be Officers, Lawyers or external providers, depending upon requirements.
The Director of Planning & Business Manager (Capita for Breckland Council) was able to advise that Capita currently had 49 full and part time staff. He acknowledged that they were experiencing some turnover.
With regard to response times to telephone enquiries he confirmed that the department did not operate an answerphone service as generally people did not like to leave messages. The target was to respond within 48 hours. Turnaround on calls was good and he could supply statistics on that and on Customer Satisfaction.
Regarding the website upgrade they were taking a collaborative approach. There had been some teething troubles. The upgrade was intended to make the system more user-friendly and enable a document search on larger applications. Some functionality had been lost, including the ability to bookmark, and the Project Group were working with the software provider to address those issues.
Councillor Kybird had used the system earlier in the day and found that only one document could be opened at a time whereas previously many documents could be open at the same time.
Councillor Joel was pleased that the upgrade included dates which made it easier to follow the chronology of the application.
Councillor R Richmond agreed with Councillor Kybird that it seemed to have been a step in the wrong direction only being able to open one document at a time. He reiterated the concern about the failure of designated officers to get back to the Clerk. He gave a recent example where it had taken three weeks for the officer to respond and said it was not an acceptable situation and it was not an isolated incident.
For clarity, the Chairman noted that the Town or Parish Clerk was the single point of contact for all communications between the Parish and the District.
Mr Atterwill asked where that was written down in the Council’s policies and he was advised that it was Local Authority practice. Councillor Rogers confirmed that Norfolk County Council procedures also channelled all queries through the Clerk.
The Director of Planning & Business Manager agreed that it had been an entirely unacceptable time to have to wait and he apologised for that. He asked to be alerted if similar problems were encountered in future.
It was confirmed that Mr Atterwill’s questions would be answered in writing.