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Council agrees £155,000 cash injection to keep local plan on track

Town hall chiefs in Wycombe have agreed to spend more than £150,000 to fix problems in its planning department.

Councillors on Wycombe District Council’s (WDC) cabinet approved the cash injection at a meeting on Monday due to ‘significant strain’ hitting the department.

The aid is supposed to be a short term measure, largely intended to pay for the final steps in submitting the Wycombe District Local Plan, which is due to be finished later this financial year.

Explaining the reasons behind the need for the money, Cllr David Johncock (Con, Flackwell Heath and Little Marlow), cabinet member for planning, said: “A major effort is required to complete the site development briefs for the sites released over a year ago.

“A number of staff have moved on and work to complete the local plan has taken a lot more work than was anticipated.”

A report prepared ahead of the meeting requested councillors approve a one-off payment of £155,000.

According to this paper, this will allow the council’s planning department to recruit extra staff and carry out a review of the service to ‘[reduce] the level of taxpayer subsidy to the service to the minimum’.

“This review is not about cost cutting regardless of the quality of the service,” said Cllr Johncock. “A key part will be to understand what the costs are and the quality of service to be delivered in the future.”

He added: “We need to make our staff more efficient and effective and bring about a planning department for the 21st century.”

The meeting also considered the council’s latest service performance report for the fourth quarter of the financial year, January to March.

According to this, WDC missed its target for preventing people in the district from becoming homeless.

It had aimed to keep 60 people off the streets per quarter, or 240 across the financial year, but missed this objective in every quarter to end 2016/17, having helped 193.

Defending the figures, Cllr Katrina Wood (Con, Tylers Green and Loudwater), the leader of the council, said: “For the number of people prevented from becoming homeless, it’s a subjective one to measure.

“It does include people assisted through the homelessness assistance fund. But we also have high market rents here [in Wycombe District] which can prevent people from affording them.”

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