Agenda item

Delivery of Planning & Building Control services (Agenda item 10)

Report of Councillor Sarah Suggitt, Executive Member for Strategic & Operational Planning, and Rob Walker, Deputy Chief Executive.


Sarah Suggitt, the Executive Member for Strategic & Operational Planning presented the report that was in respect of the Planning & Building Control service that had been contracted out to Capita for the past 14 years.


The current 15-year Capita contract would end in June 2024. Within the contract, the Council had a unilateral right to extend the agreement by a further 5 years, but to do so confirmation must be provided12 months in advance.


Given the scale of importance that this opportunity provided, an exercise had been carried out to fully understand the options available.


The options identified were to extend the contract, to retender, to share the service or to bring it back in-house.   


Various difficulties were highlighted with these options including procurement rules, other local authorities’ appetite to share the service, the contract being quite inflexible, and the market changes for outsourcing such products had changed significantly.


The recommendation was therefore to bring the service back in-house.  This would mean a natural end to the contract.  The contract was taken out for 15 years and this was the aim of the Council.


The TUPE process would commence to transfer all Capita staff back to Breckland Council.  There would be no re-design initially but this would provide an option for Breckland to have a defined future fit model for the future.


As would be expected for any long term relationship, the past 14 years had shown many ups and downs but Councillor Suggitt was keen to point out that this Council had a strong relationship with Capita.


Nationally, Capita had provided support and resilience to this Council which it would be forever grateful. Locally, this Council had an exceptional Planning & Building Control Team, they had a great reputation, respect amongst their peers, had demonstrated great performance, and had an enviable position in terms of recruitment, retention and development. This was a huge credit to the management team, that despite factors such as Nutrient Neutrality, the Government White Papers and the update of the Local Plan, this Council still had a team that showed such great credentials and a service that this Council should be proud of.      


Despite all the technicalities, the biggest impact would be on the staff, and all were reassured that support would be available to guide everyone through the process.


Annual savings of around £200k would be made, and this Council would also receive all future income from major planning applications.


This was an important first step in where this Council sees this service going.


The recommendations were read aloud and proposed accordingly and were seconded by Councillor Kiddle-Morris.


Councillor Clarke said that as a long standing Member of the Planning Committee he was pleased that this service was coming back  in-house and paid tribute to all the staff in the planning department and looked forward to an even better service in the future.

Councillor Atterwill raised a question in regard to the future fit part of the process and in relation to the third recommendation and asked if Members could be given assurance that if, for example something different was planned for building control, would such a matter be brought back to this Council for a decision.  He was pleased; however, that this service was being brought back in-house and paid tribute to Simon Wood the Director of Planning & Building Control who had been very approachable and a stabilising force in the department and he hoped that this would continue.


Members were informed that conversations would continue, and she hoped that all Members would take part in the decisions in future.


Councillor Birt also supported the recommendations due to the budget savings and would prefer the budget to remain the same to enable a much better service to be provided in future.


Councillor Bambridge pointed out that he was a Member of this Council when the contract was signed and stated that during these 14 years he had little to complain about but felt that this was the right time to bring it back in-house as the team did provide an excellent service.


A vote was taken which was unanimous, and it was:




1.      upon expiry of the initial contract with Capita for Planning & Building Control Services in June 2024, that these services be returned to the Council;


2.      the Deputy Chief Executive, in consultation with the Executive Member for Strategic and Operational Planning, be given delegated authority to take the necessary action to formalise the end of contractual arrangements with Capita for the Planning & Building Control Services; and


3.      the Deputy Chief Executive, in consultation with the Executive Member for Strategic and Operational Planning, be given delegated authority to take any necessary actions for the return of the Planning and Building Control Service to the Council and associated changes in budget and establishment.

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