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Birmingham City Council's controversial Business Transformation scheme run in conjunction with business consultants Capita has had mixed results - but that hasn't stopped the company seeking to expand its role in other areas of local authority life. As Barbara Panel reports, they've taken over planning and building control.

A Norfolk architect sent a cutting giving the surprising news that Breckland Council in Norfolk has passed over its planning and building control services to Capita Symonds.

Capita writes of its “ambitious plans to expand the new business by using it as a hub to offer Planning and Building Control services to other Local Authorities across East Anglia and the South East of England” adding that it is currently providing flexible planning support and expertise to approximately 45 local authorities across the UK.

Keith Gilbert, an Independent Breckland councillor, who was elected mayor in 2007, left a meeting at Breckland Council on the 12th May branding the authority a “disgrace to democracy”.

“The way the council is working makes my position worthless and I feel like full council meetings are now just a self-congratulatory rubber stamp.”

In the cutting he writes that of all the functions which Breckland is responsible for, planning is the one which should most be under its direct control: ”This is not about planning. Breckland's planning department has a very high satisfaction rating. This is all about giving money to a private company . . . Having planning applications decided by a private company seeking to make profit for its shareholders will lead to suspicions that maybe an application was approved for private gain, even if it is not true.”

Capita’s eyes are on planning in East Anglia and the South East of England, so why should we worry about council departments being privatised in Norfolk and elsewhere?

We should be warned: even though this less affluent region’s planning departments are not coveted by Capita, with this precedent approved, what is to stop other private companies from bidding to take over council departments in the West Midlands?



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