Planning chief Cllr Vickers, ever on the back foot, has her third letter defending her department published in the County Times in as many weeks.
Cllr Vickers wrote (15.10.15, p34 ‘Scrutiny process is welcome’) that she welcomes the Scrutiny and Overview Committee looking at adverse appeal costs in her department. However, she criticised member of pubic Mr David Shipton for his letter highlighting that adverse costs were £347,619 recorded in Quarter 4 of 2014/15.
Well if Cllr Vickers welcomes the process of scrutiny on her budget for appeals, as she says she does, why hasn’t she attended any of the Scrutiny meetings to explain what has gone wrong?
Having looked at the minutes of Scrutiny’s Finance and Performance Working Group held on June 18 and August 26 and the Scrutiny and Overview meeting held on September 14 they record that she didn’t turn up to any of those three meetings held over the past four months.
And there isn’t any report or letter from her analysing the problem either. Her actions don’t amount to welcoming Scrutiny’s work and working collaboratively with them to get to the bottom of the problem.
An officer’s report to Finance and Performance Working Group states nothing more than: ‘There have been a high number of difficult appeals and this has added to the costs for the department as a whole due to the time involved in discussing and settling legal fees, expert witness fees and costs awarded against the Council in a number of cases where Inspectors concluded that we acted unreasonably in refusing permission.’ (p73, horsham.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/23368/Agenda_150618-.pdf)
So why is her planning department acting in a way that has led inspectors to conclude that her planning department ‘acted unreasonably in refusing permission’?
It is that which she needs to urgently explain to Cllr Leonard Crosbie’s Scrutiny Committee rather than writing pithy letters each week criticising backbench councillors such as Cllr Christian Mitchell and members of the public David Shipton for highlighting this worrying trend.
I suggest that she writes a half page article setting out her analysis for exactly what has gone wrong and why and what she proposes to do about it.
Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON
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