Any extra money Swindon Borough Council receives from an increase in the fees it charges to handle planning applications will not be ringfenced to bolster the authority’s planning department.

Votes by Labour councillors defeated a Conservative motion put forward by Councillors Dan Adams and Vijay Manro which said: “The recent amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests, and Site Visits), enables local authorities to implement annual fee increases of 10 per cent or by inflation, whichever is lower, commencing from 2025.”

It said that breaches of planning rules can have a significant impact on communities and that it was important for the council to be able to enforce its planning decisions and it resolved to: “Reaffirm our commitment to upholding planning rules through the effective use of enforcement, and ensure that all forthcoming increases be specifically allocated and ring-fenced for the exclusive use of the planning function including the planning enforcement resource.”

Cllr Manro said: “Justice delayed is justice denied and proper planning enforcement is needed. The enforcement team is not properly resources, which means those who flout planning regulations are getting away scot-free.”

But the council’s cabinet member for finance Councillor Kevin Small said the Labour group would not support the motion.

He said: “The act does not give us the powers to increase the fees, it gives the government the power to increase the fees.”

He added that ringfencing the money would help neither the council’s budget nor necessarily the planning team: “The cost pressures we are facing are higher than inflation so I doubt there will be any surplus money anyway.

“I fully agree that enforcement is important and there are measures in the budget for next year that will help that.”

Labour councillor Jane Milner-Barry quoted a report by the Royal Town Planning Institute which said that the number of planning officers in councils across the country had dropped by 43 per cent since 2010 and added: “The issue is the austerity brought in by the Conservative government.”

In the budget for 2024-25, which is not affected by the changes to the law brought in by the government, the council is increasing the fees it charges to process planning applications and for advice by five per cent across the board, except for the work involved in agreeing and monitoring developer contributions - section 106 agreements – which is going up by 10 per cent from £504 to £554.