The Audit Commission has urged local authorities to outsource more of their planning work to the private sector to speed up applications for building permission.
The commission said that councils must find more innovative ways to improve their services and should use private sector companies to take on mainstream planning services, according to the commission.
Outsourcing would ensure staff had more time to deal with other contentious issues, the commission said.
The private sector could be used to cover almost the entire planning service, from processing applications to appeals and development control functions, under the commission’s recommendations.
Councils could also share resources by using private sector suppliers for mainstream planning.
The commission said there was a national shortage of council planners with councils finding planning posts the most difficult vacancies to fill after social workers.