At a meeting of councillors last weekend, someone accidentally referred to the UK government department responsible for local councils by its former title of “ODPM.” It was pointed out that as this department had been taken away from John Prescott, it was no longer the “Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.”
“OK” asked a colleague, “what’s it called now?”
While trying to answer this question I came across a suggestion from one wag that, following the appointment of Ruth Kelly, this department should still have the acronym ODPM but this would now refer to “Opus Dei Promoted Minister”
To mark the long overdue end of John Prescott’s disastrous tenure as minister for local government, I am offering a small prize for the best suggestion for the real meaning of any huge number of acronyms introduced by the OPDM during the Prescott era emailed to me at
by the end of May.
This may sound like a joke, but the serious aspect is that during his term of office John Prescott and his civil servants imposed a massive bureaucratic burden on local government. I have suggested alternative meanings below for seven sets of initials covering just one aspect of local government with which I am personally familiar, namely planning.
Every one of the sets of the initials listed below is used in recent legislation to refer to a new document, or replacement of an existing document, imposing an extra workload on the planning department of your local council. The need to meet these requirements has forced almost all councils to take on more planners, who have to be paid from your taxes. So next time you wonder why you are forking out so much more council tax but can’t get anyone in your local planning department to pay an equivalent amount of extra time for your concerns, it’s probably because they are busy preparing one of these new documents required by central government.
I would not for an instant suggest that everything in the planning system is or was perfect, but neither do I believe that replacing one major document called the district plan with half a dozen documents called the Local Development Framework will deliver enough benefits to offset the gigantic cost to local taxpayers – e.g. you - of preparing the new documents.
So here some examples of Prescott Planning Acronyms and suggested alternative meanings. The “Official” interpretations of these initials are given at the end.
ACRONYM SUGGESTED MEANING
SCI ● Strategy to Consult and Ignore - OR -
● Sustained Concrete Inundation
LDF ● Lots of Development Forced
LDS ● Let’s Ditch Sustainability - OR -
● Local Decisions squashed
LDP ● Local Democracy Pilloried
AMR ● Another Massive Report
(some suggested this has a silent P for)
● Additional Mandatory Reams of Paper
( now that Ruth Kelly has taken over the department it could also be)
● Additional Micromanagement by Ruth
DPD ● Directed Prescott Development
SPD ● Surplus Prescott Development
The official meanings of these abbreviations are:
SCI = Statement of Community Involvement.
Mandatory document in which a council must spell out in great detail how it will consult the public and all interested parties on the new planning documents (and on planning applications.)
Unfortunately, the same legislation which requires this extensive programme of consultation also provides that a policy supported overwhelmingly by local people in their response to that consultation can be over-ruled by an unelected inspector appointed by the government even if all the elected councillors vote to support the wishes of their constituents. Hence my alternative, “Strategy to Consult and Ignore”
LDF = Local Development Framework
Collective name for the new-style suite of planning documents which every council with planning powers is expected to prepare.
LDS = Local Development Scheme
Mandatory published document setting out the three year work programme under which a council will produce the documents which make up the Local Development Framework.
LDP = Local Development Plan
Under previous planning law this means the master document summarising the planning policies of a council. At the moment most councils still have LDPs but these will be replaced by Development Plan Documents within the LDF as a result of recent legislation.
AMR = Annual Monitoring Report
One of many mandatory documents which legislation passed by the government requires councils with planning powers to publish.
DPD = Development Plan Document
The documents within the new Local Development Framework which effectively replace and most nearly correspond to the old Local Development Plan or District/Borough Plan. For a typical District or Borough council there will usually be three DPDs: a “Core Strategy”, a “Site Allocations and Proposals” DPD and a set of “Development Control Policies.”
SPD = Supplementary Planning Document
Under the old system, if a council wanted to add something to an existing local plan relating to a specific site or a particular issue, it could issue something called an SPG or “Supplementary Planning Guidance”. An example of an SPG might be a planning brief suggesting what development may be acceptable on a site. Under new laws, councils can no longer issue a new SPG though they can continue to use existing ones. However, under the new legislation a council can instead issue a new “Supplementary Planning Document” or SPD instead. Sound to you like a totally pointless change ? Yes, got it in one.