Roban hails more efficient Planning department, but UBP’s Swan raises concerns – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Roban hails more efficient Planning department, but UBP’s Swan raises concerns

Planning Minister Walter Roban said the Planning Department has improved efficiency and has made customer service a priority.

But Opposition Leader Kim Swan said bureaucracy in the Department has lead to frustration in the public.

“The Ministry's optimistic look at the situation does not reflect the opinion of the public,” Mr Swan said.

As part of the recently released 201½012 budget, the Department of Planning faces budget cuts of nine percent, around $403,000.

The bulk of the cuts came to the money spent annually on professional services and materials and supplies.

Mr Roban said that in the last year, the Ministry had worked to create a system where simple applications and important national projects, such as the new hospital building, could be fast tracked.

He noted that despite the grand scale of the hospital project, the application was processed in eight weeks.

“That experience has aided the planning department in moving forward with other matters,” Mr Roban said. “I'm trying to make my Ministry's goal to make Government work better.”

He said planning officials have been working with agents to make sure that application appear with all the necessary information in order to expedite the process.

And while the Ministry started the 2010-2011 year with a backlog of 150 applications, that backlog now stands at 38, with the oldest application having come forward in the first week of January.

He also added that the Planning Department would soon be moving forward with creating new building codes to take into account, and encourage, the adoption of photovoltaic and solar systems.

While Mr Swan acknowledged the cuts made to the budget since last year, be said that since 2003/2004 the department had seen the amount of work fall and salaries rise.

“The amount of people has stayed the same, the amount of salary has gone higher and that is a concern,” he said.

“The numbers of people who are working with the Department has remained the same but what they have to deal with has decreased.”

He said that the public feels frustrated by the Department, but former Planning Minster Glenn Blakeney responded that in many cases the Department was being blamed for delays caused by improper applications.

“A lot of the perceived problems are caused by the people who do not make sure they have the prerequisites met,” he said.

Mr Roban agreed, saying: “The problems people are complaining about, some of them are essentially inflicted by them or their agents who use Planning as a whipping scapegoat.”

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Published March 08, 2011 at 8:54 am (Updated March 08, 2011 at 8:54 am)

Roban hails more efficient Planning department, but UBP’s Swan raises concerns

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