Staff cuts in North 'may hit planning decisions'

Planning decisions in Northern Ireland could be reversed if the environment minister goes ahead with staff cuts, an Assembly committee warned today.

Around 300 civil servants from the department are to be redeployed with most coming from the Planning Service.

In April there was an £8m funding gap at the department because of a reduction in planning application receipts.

The committee asked minister Edwin Poots for detailed financial plans because it was concerned about the delivery of frontline services. However the department has said it intends to go ahead with its redeployment of staff before the plans are produced later this year.

Environment committee chairman Cathal Boylan said: “This is of great concern to the committee. We consider it unwise to make significant staffing changes now, and then assess the ability to deliver the service at a later date as this might risk some decisions being reversed.

“We will be watching carefully to see that every opportunity is taken by the department to ensure the Planning Service continues to deliver a high standard of service, and one that is value for money.”

Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) members protested in April outside planning offices. The redeployments represent around a third of Planning Service staff.


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