The Ombudsman said they would not investigate the complaint from a person – Mr X – who alleged Calderdale Council takes too long to determine planning applications on behalf of his clients.
Summarising, the Ombudsman said they would not investigate the complaint because it did not meet its assessment code on how they decide which complaints to investigate.
The law says the Ombudsman cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a Government Minister, although they may decide to investigate if they consider it is unreasonable to expect the person to appeal.
The Planning Inspector acts on behalf of the responsible Government Minister and their scope includes appeals about delay, said the Ombudsman.
Through last year issues relating to the council’s Planning Department – which has also been engaged in preparation of, and hearings about, Calderdale’s draft Local Plan – have been raised by councillors.
In the autumn Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) and Coun Felicity Issott (Con, Ryburn) raised issues relating to enforcement.
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategy, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said then that issues was nothing to do with the quality and dedication of officers but a number of key staff had left the council – they were in demand with better pay on offer at some other authorities, and the issue of “poaching” had even been discussed at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
A small number of extra staff had been recruited to help deal with backlog, she said.
Coun George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) said using agency staff was not a long term solution and pointed out planning was a paid service.
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