Planning Benchmarking Service

Local authority planning functions have been significantly impacted by funding challenges over the last 10 years. In addition, inconsistencies in planning policy across the UK continue to create barriers to effective and sustainable development for housing and infrastructure. Our Planning Benchmarking Service can help councils understand how well local planning systems compare across a range of areas.

In developing this new planning service, CIPFA is providing local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland with constructive guidance towards a programme aimed at effecting key planning area changes, particularly in terms of sustainable development and the use of land in connection with strategic infrastructure.

CIPFA’s planning solution is aimed at individuals with a responsibility for all aspects of planning pertaining to a range of infrastructure projects. The tools will enable practitioners to carry out interactive comparisons against different sets of performance indicators, using local authority and sector groupings, as well as providing data analysis performance in a range of planning areas.

Heads of Planning Scotland Heads of Planning Scotland logo testimonial

In 2018, Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) selected 12 Scottish local planning authorities to participate in the Planning Service Costing Project. The activity was supported by the Scottish Government and involved a benchmarking exercise to support information pertaining to development management application cost recovery.

The exercise was carried out in advance of a planning bill review, currently going through parliament, which could potentially raise planning fees for applicants. Trevor Moffat, HOPS | Improvement Service – Planning Project Officer outlines the project aims and his thoughts in this testimonial.

Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) benchmarking testimonial

Why use CIPFA’s Planning Benchmarking Service?

Coupled with the reform of the planning systems, local government has faced funding reductions since 2010. According to the 2018 NAO report 'Financial Sustainability of Local Authorities', there has been a 49.1% real-terms reduction in government funding for local authorities between 2011/12 and 2017/18. Responding to this challenge, CIPFA has not only continued to press for adequate funding but also sought to develop sector-led tools such as the Financial Management Code and Resilience Index to support those with responsibility for balancing the budget.

Planning has faced similar funding challenges and this is where CIPFA's Planning Benchmarking service can help. Local authorities will gain an independent perspective of how well local planning systems compare on a range of areas. CIPFA's Planning Benchmarking analysis gives local authorities the ability to drill down into performance gaps to identify areas for improvement. Planning managers will be able to develop a standardised set of processes and metrics that enable a mind-set and culture of continuous improvement.

The Planning Benchmarking Service comprises:

Report (1): Planning Interactive Profile – Measures covered include:

  • Application income as a percentage of handling cost
  • Cost per productive hour spent handling applications
  • Cost per productive hour spent on planning policy
  • Total cost per application for major-non-residential, local non-residential, all dwellings, householders, heritage, and all others
  • Cost of all aspects of the application process eg receipt and validation, consultation, evaluation and negotiation, committee reports and appeals
  • Direct staff cost per hour
  • Costs of different aspects of staff cost eg legal, ICT and other support services
  • Overhead charges per hour
  • Total cost of basket
  • Number of applications valid on receipt
  • Number of applications withdrawn
  • Number of zero-fee applications
  • Rates of appeal, delegation and overturn
  • Enforcement action and notices served
  • Cost per allegation received and enforcement appeal

View sample report

Report (2): Planning analytical report – Includes data, infographics and text to deliver an analysis of local authority’s performance in a range of planning areas.

This is a PDF report places your authority’s planning department among the benchmarking group by displaying key statistics in the form of tables, charts and text enabling you to make meaningful comparisons.

Using this format, costs and processes are broken down and a performance summary shows how your planning service compares. This provides an effective way of gauging your authority’s efficiency relative to others.

With this information, practitioners can then investigate the reason for their authority’s relative position by consulting more granular data exhibited in the appendices located at the back of the report. These pages display raw statistics alongside group averages and this provides the opportunity to seek precise areas for improvement. 

View sample report

Report (3): Overview summary report – This report provides a written analysis of comparisons, trends and performances across the benchmarked group.

Report (4): Customer Feedback Survey – Carried out among customers who have used the authority's planning service during the period benchmarked. The survey will be tailored according to members preferences and cover the customer experience during all stages of the planning process.

[Optional] Report (5): Bespoke tailored report – For an additional fee we can also provide a detailed and bespoke analytical report offering insight and analysis using your own local comparisons and performances. These are created using CIPFA’s Nearest Neighbour Model and statutory data sets; occasionally expert guidance from CIPFA’s panel of planning experts will be sought.

View sample report

Planning Benchmarking Service features

  • Categorise and count planning applications, demonstrate how to analyse planning staff time etc
  • Create time-sheets for each employee and then read back the data from each time-sheet into a main database
  • Provide complex analysis of over 1,300 fields to produce reports
  • Compare the cost of application for both residential and non-residential dwellings
  • Evaluate staff costs based on ten different activities split over each of the seven application types.

Subscription details

The Planning Benchmarking Service begins with the completion of a questionnaire by planning staff to record their use of time for the agreed period of analysis. After processing the recorded data, you will take delivery of your reports (1–4 as stated above), providing insight and comparisons of your local authority data set with that of others in the group.

The fee for the Planning Benchmarking Service including the Customer Feedback Survey is £2,950 plus VAT.

If you require a bespoke report (as stated in 5 above), there will be an additional fee of £1,000 plus VAT.

What is the next step?

To speak to an adviser, please click on the blue 'contact us' button and leave your details, or email the team directly.

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