Call for staffing review as 800 case planning enforcement backlog revealed

Havering Town Hall

Upminster and Cranham Residents Association councillors are calling for a review into alleged staffing shortages at Havering Council - Credit: Ken Mears

Havering is facing hundreds of open planning enforcement cases and officers are "unable to keep up", the Recorder can reveal.

An email seen by this paper sent by the council's planning enforcement team revealed the extent of the backlog.

They wrote: "The planning enforcement service now has over 800 open investigations and officers are unable to keep up with service demand."

Councillors from the Upminster and Cranham Residents Association (UCRA) have submitted a motion to tonight's full council meeting, which highlights alleged staffing shortages and calls for a review into council recruitment.

They claim that those shortages have led to "high volumes" of work for staff in departments such as planning and highways.

But council leader Damian White said staff turnover "remains low" and that the authority is "fully focused" on supporting its workers to help residents.

UCRA's motion calls for a report to be prepared by the Conservative administration identifying measures "to remedy these shortages".

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Cllr John Tyler said Residents' Association councillors have spoken to "several" council staff who have left the authority and who he said felt "let down" by the council.

The UCRA member claimed they said their reasons included excessive workloads caused by cuts and a "distrust of senior management", including Cllr White.

Cllr Tyler said: "Havering Council should be an employer where people want to work and are respected, not one that is seen as an unattractive option.

"We are therefore calling on all members to support a review and report looking at preventing further losses and the recruitment of new staff."

Councillor Damian White, leader of Havering Council. Picture: Mark Sepple/Havering Council

Council leader Damian White said staff turnover at the authority "remains low" - Credit: Mark Sepple

The council is "committed to being an employer of choice", according to Cllr White.

He said: “Covid-19 has impacted on many of our frontline services, with many staff, including those contract staff, having to isolate or have been directly affected themselves by having Covid-19.

“This has led to some delays in services such as highways, including pothole repairs, but additional support has been brought in and our most urgent repairs have been dealt with promptly.

“We are one of the most effective councils in the country in our work on planning enforcement notices during 2020/21 and the number of cases identified are at different stages of investigation which includes legal processes.”

Councillors are due to debate the motion tonight (September 1).

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