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Government drive failing to recruit planning officers

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The government drive to tackle a shortage of planning officers is failing to stem the flood of students going into the private sector, a committee of MPs heard yesterday.

Robert Upton, general secretary of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) told the House of Commons communities and local government committee's inquiry into planning skills more funding is needed

He also warned that local government faced an image problem with two out of three planning students trained using public cash recruited into the private sector.

'Pitiful' amounts of cash to develop officers

Mr Upton said there was a real failure on the demand side, because some local authorities had a "pitiful amount of money" to support planners and there was little time to release planners for training due to staffing constraints.

The government or the National Audit Office needed to develop its performance management regime so there was a focus on professional development for planners, he insisted. He called for money to be provided for the training budgets of local authorities and warned that the situation might deteriorate when the planning delivery grant was replaced.

He added the RTPI had revised its routes into membership, so it was possible for more people to be drawn mid-career into planning while the body had also launched online training programmes.

Mr Upton called for a fresh wave of bursaries for undergraduates on top of the 100£9,000 bursaries for postgraduate students currently provided by the Department for Communities & Local Government . The programme was launched in 2004.
He added that it was a “mystery” how the DCLG worked out the number of bursaries on offer.

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