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FDC to set up shared planning service with Peterborough

Fenland's planners are set to team up with their counterparts in Peterborough to deliver an improved and more cost-effective service.

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Councillors gave the go-ahead to the proposal yesterday (July 23) when they approved a detailed report setting out the benefits of a joint operation.

The shared planning service will save Fenland District Council £137,000 a year and a total of £446,000 by the end of 2018/19, according to the report. It said Peterborough City Council will make an annual saving of £100,000 and £325,000 in total over the same period.

Councillor Will Sutton, FDC's Cabinet member responsible for planning, said: "This is a very significant step forward.  We have worked closely with Peterborough City Council over the past few years, with their planners helping to put our new Local Plan in place and providing other policy and development support.

"Now we are taking that partnership to a new level. Sharing resources will not only enable us both to deliver significant savings, it will also maintain and improve aspects of the service. In addition, it has the potential to generate extra income for both councils through trading planning services with other local authorities."

The report stressed that each council would retain "sovereignty" over planning delivery and keep their own individual planning committees.

It said: "It is clear that this proposal is not on the basis of Peterborough City Council taking over Fenland District Council's planning team, but focussed on an equal shared service delivery model that will deliver efficiencies, improve service resilience and seek to achieve additional income for both councils."

The savings generated by the shared service will play a vital part in helping to meet FDC's overall savings targets.

The savings required for 2016/17 are currently estimated at £1.8 million. However, the report warned that that figure could grow, with some people predicting that a further 3 per cent cut in local government finance could be announced in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's autumn statement.

The shared service will be fully in place by January 2016, following a period of consultation with affected staff and the finalising of the details of the working arrangements.

The plan reflects a growing trend in public service provision. FDC has already linked up with other councils in partnerships involving revenues and benefits and building control.

Councillor Peter Hiller, Peterborough City Council's Cabinet member for growth, planning, housing and economic development, said: "As close neighbours we feel this partnership makes sense for both authorities and for local taxpayers.  We have been working with Fenland's planning department for a number of years and this was an obvious next step.

"Peterborough has an award-winning planning service and by sharing resources between the two authorities we will look to build a team that can sell their expertise to other authorities; helping to generate income to protect other services.  Individual sovereignty will be maintained and councillors will continue to make decisions that affect their own residents."

Earlier this month Peterborough City Council won the Local Authority Planning Team of the Year award from the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Article added July 27, 2015