You may be preparing to hold an examination and in the throes of wondering how to go about getting a Programme Officer. So, to kick off this week, I’d like to share my top 3 ways to find a Programme Officer.
Note, I have addressed this to planning authorities but the process is the same if you are looking for a Programme Officer for a Transport and Works Act Order inquiry.
1. Recruit from within the Local Authority
Local Authorities may appoint someone who is already within the Authority either as a temporary ...
employee position or "borrowed" from another department (say, as a secondment). The legal department is commonly used to find interested parties as they are used to adhering to set procedures and regulations. The Planning Inspectorate runs a course for Programme Officers twice a year, useful for first time Programme Officers.
Pluses You will likely get someone who is familiar with the Local Authority, their surroundings and administrative work at a reasonable cost. They will be living within commuting distance of the Local Authority already, so no special arrangements will need to be made during hearings.
Downsides They will probably have no experience of the examination process and therefore may need more hand-holding. They may still “affiliate” themselves with the Council and will need to make sure they maintain impartiality. You will need to cover the usual benefits of holidays, sickness leave etc. The planning team will need to provide separate office accommodation in the building for the duration they are in post.
2. Appoint an experienced Programme Officer
You can get a List of approved Programme Officers from the Planning Inspectorate which gives all the names and contact details of experienced Programme Officers across the country. Expect the most experienced to operate as self-employed consultants working on a flexible basis from their home, perhaps covering multiple examinations at the same time.
Pluses You will get someone with experience who understands the process and is used to the varying demands of the role. So, they will get on with the work quicker and you just pay for their hours of work and any arranged expenses. Inspectors often prefer experienced Programme Officers too as it means less hand-holding for them to do too. There is no need to provide office accommodation in the run up to hearings.
Downsides Remote working means that the Programme Officer will not be down the corridor for a quick face-to-face chat . You may have to pay for expenses for the Programme Officer to stay locally during the hearings. The hourly rate pro rata will be higher than the in-house option (although bear in mind that the overall cost may not be higher as experience usually comes hand in hand with greater productivity and efficiency).
3. Appoint a Programme Officer through an "agency company"
There are a couple of companies like this and they are listed on the Planning Inspectorate’s Approved List of Programme Officers. They are experienced Programme Officers who have set up as a company and manage a small group of Programme Officers listed on their books, by finding work and then allocating a Programme Officer to the job.
Pluses You should get a Programme Officer with some experience, who is used to the varying demands of the role. The person will also have the advantage of support to draw on from this company, in terms of advice and back -up. For example, if the PO is ill during the hearings, then a replacement may easily be available to cover the work.
Downsides It may be impersonal as you may not know the specific Programme Officer upon appointment as you will be dealing with the company. The costs may be higher than dealing with an experienced Programme Officer direct.
And failing that, there is always a regular job advert in a planning magazine!