One of the biggest challenges facing the local government planning sector is the backlog in planning applications, primarily due to limited resources. Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in a panel at the National Planning Summit to discuss how agile partnerships could improve planning processes for local authorities and tackle the backlog challenge.

I’m delighted that the Government is taking the issue of planning backlogs seriously with the announcement of a £24 million Planning Skills Delivery Fund (PSDF) over the next two years to help to clear backlogs, as well as funding to address planning skills gaps.

At Capita, we’ve been working in recent years to develop a talented team to be available to support the local government sector. We’ve achieved this in large part through a focus on entry level posts, providing a first opportunity for planners who did not have a job before. For those planners, we provide a clear career development path supported by a wide variety of work across different clients. This means when they are ready for the next step, they’re more rounded and ready to deal with challenges in whichever sector they choose next. As this approach has been in place for a number of years, we are now seeing the benefits of many of these planners now being well established in their careers and available to support work at all levels.

Innovation is a key part of what we do at Capita, so additional to this, we also look further afield and employ planners with RTPI recognised degrees in South Africa not engaged previously in working for the UK regulatory planning system, but who are already bringing new ideas and expertise when supporting our customers.

We’re seeing more and more local government customers asking for our services due to the need for flexibility and cost savings, and also to explore delivering services in a different way. And it’s easy to see why. It’s difficult for councils – and, indeed, most organisations - to achieve the perfect balance between resource demands and spend, especially as requirements change over time. In a modern world where you need to always demonstrate value for money, there’s a growing attraction for the flexibility that a partnership enables – that of providing strong protection against a sudden reduction in service demands and then the ability to quickly scale up when needed. This means local authorities only pay for the levels of service they need at any given time, transferring the capacity management risk to us in return for the payment of profit margins on commissions to a partner.

How we can help your organisation

If you have a backlog, and are exploring how you might be able to make a bid for funding, we’d welcome the opportunity to have a conversation about how we could potentially be a partner who will be honest and clear with you on their resource and abilities to work to desired outcomes and timescales.

We make sure we manage our caseloads carefully and have the ability and experience to recognise what’s possible. Throughout 2022 we saw very high levels of service requests, highlighting the challenge the sector faces, and we worked closely with our customers to manage this demand to understand when services would be available to make sure we deliver what we promise, as well as working through your backlogs quickly and effectively with our highly experienced, productive teams. We invest heavily in the right managers: our people experience a wide variety of work and develop new skills in their roles, and we believe in a culture committed to continuous improvement and operational excellence.


Find out how we can support your planning team and drive more efficiency in your processes:

Expert spotlight

Stephen ottewell

Stephen Ottewell

National Director of Planning, Capita

Stephen is Capita’s national director of local government planning, responsible for teams across the UK and South Africa. Enthusiastic and a driven leader, he has nearly 20 years’ experience in local government and is a well-known expert in the planning industry. Capita is the second largest provider of planning support to the public sector, operating as a trusted partner through a variety of long-term strategic alliances and short-term consultancy services.

Related stories



How can we help your organisation?

Scroll Top