Planning Officers have a trade union called the Royal Town Planning Institute. They didn't take kindly to the whistleblower's account in the Daily Mail of a Council's Planning Department, that I reported yesterday. It has been a classic "shoot the messenger" response.
The RTPI claims to have been “inundated with complaints” over the article. Their Head of Communications, Tino Hernandez, says:
“This article has caused a huge amount of anger and upset.
“We will be contacting the paper to complain.
“It is astonishing that a national newspaper believes it is has right to publish an anonymous attack on an unnamed planning department and its staff without seemingly checking a single fact with anyone.
“If the individual who wrote this story exists we believe they should be held to account for their allegations, which ought to be investigated properly and dealt with in the normal way. If false, then the person ought to face disciplinary charges.
“I don’t think anyone would recognize the ‘planning department’ described in the article where no emails are ever answered, no calls ever returned, all staff are earning at least £38k per year”.
So they swerve from suggesting the author doesn't exist to demanding he be punished for speaking out. They call for the formality of an investigation but have evidently already decided that the allegations are false. What gives the RTPI the "right" to suggest the author is not really a planning officer? Or to assume that the Daily Mail made no checks? Or that the article is untrue? Where is their evidence? The article says: "Even the office PAs are on a very respectable £38K." I don't interpret that as necessarily meaning that all the PAs in his department are earning that amount.
What if, for the sake of the argument, the allegations (or some of them) were to be proven? Does the RTPI believe that the culprits should be "held to account" – or just the man who blew the whistle?
A further insight into the views of planners come from the Planning Blog. ("Isn't Daily Mail reading contrary to the RTPI Code of Conduct?…")
One commenter, "John", says:
Bit of a contradiction – the guy in the article says he doesn’t know “what it takes to get fired in local government”, and yet his name (and that of his LPA) are kept secret “to protect his job”.
But what really makes it a challenge for RTPI to demand that such thought crimes be eradicated were the hundreds of comments posted after the article on the Daily Mail website from ordinary readers offering equivalent examples. Does RTPI claim they are all invented as well?