It doesn’t really matter which industry you work within, if you have cause to consult a government department in the course of your work, you’ll have found a completely different level of service as a result of the pandemic.
It’s all well and good asking people to work from home for employees’ health and wellbeing, but it seems that physical distance between team-mates, and stunted/restricted access to information, creates backlogs. There’s lots of anecdotal evidence that the backlogs within government planning departments in particular are having a negative impact on the operations of the construction industry.
Most planning applications come from individual homeowners looking to extend their homes or adapt outbuildings within their boundaries; however, slow turnaround times are also affecting plans for new houses getting underway, too.
According to Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, 2021 was a record year in terms of the number of planning applications they received. On top of the sheer volume of paperwork the planning department had to address, they were also short-staffed; three vacancies they advertised proved difficult to fill, and agency staff had to be drafted in to help the team get through the work.
It seems this is a common story amongst various councils.
Whilst planning officials would no doubt love more time to sign off applications, they are legally required to complete them within a certain timeframe, if they want to avoid government intervention.
Larger applications, such as those for new housing estates, have to be made public. The government has set a target of at least 300,000 new homes each year across the UK, to keep up with demand. If backlogs are occurring in relation to the processing time of applications from the bigger house builders, this can have a much bigger impact than Joe Bloggs having to wait a month or so before he can build a bedroom on top of his single-storey garage. Such impact as families having to endure a standard of living you wouldn’t expect in our civilised society in 2022…such as houses whose walls are covered in black mould, in dwellings where there are insect or vermin infestations, in places where a family of six are temporarily housed in a two-bedroom house. Though only a small proportion of new homes are allocated to social housing, the people waiting for them are often in desperate need.
And it’s not just planning departments that are prone to backlogs. Solicitors, estate agents, even contractors themselves, are in such demand that many are struggling to keep up. It only needs one supplier/provider/specialist to clog up the chain of red tape, site visits and sign offs before the whole operation stops.
A lot of companies took to working from home, as you’d expect, during the pandemic, but not all of them have returned, despite feedback that their standard of service has dropped. Whilst individual productivity may not be much different when comparing the output of remote workers to those in a shared office environment, the left arm knowing what the right arm is doing is definitely an issue. When everyone’s at home, you can’t walk from one desk to another to ask for/hand over documents. And though technology shouldn’t make the transferring of files any slower, it’s the overarching systems and processes that are nowhere near as joined up as they need to be when remote teams are involved.
The pandemic caused a practical backlog as well as a paper one. Builders, electricians, plumbers…almost every professional involved in the construction of new houses were forced to wait at home, twiddling their thumbs, until lockdowns ended and building was once again allowed to go ahead.
At some point, we hope, both operations on site and paperwork on desks will be up to date and progressing at the same speed they used to.
Electricals Online has a wide range of products, at great prices, for tradespeople across the UK. There are certainly no backlogs with us; if you place your order before 12pm, you’ll receive your goods the very next day, delivered to your home or the site on which you’re working.