A CUMBRIAN council has been urged to carry out "an urgent review" of vacant posts in their planning department "and the impact it is having on workload and customer service."

Eden District Council's planning department has been made the subject of a Local Government Association report following claims that its service is "on a wing and a prayer."

The report, published by the LGA's Planning Advisory Service recommended that Eden Council "undertake an urgent review of current vacant posts and the impact it is having on workload and customer service."

It was also advised to carry out "a focussed review of applications that have been approved contrary to officer advice to refuse."

Council bosses been accused by political opposition of mismanagement, leading to a high number of resignations and staff vacancies.

A controversial planning application, submitted by the council itself has been pointed to as an example of the issues it is facing.

The leadership has submitted an application to redevelop Voreda House in Penrith, into the UK's first net zero council office.

Plans were given the go ahead by the council's planning department on the third time of asking but they have been marred by accusations of "playing musical chairs" with the planning committee and mismanagement.

Jonathan Davies of the Putting Cumbria First political group has claimed that the issues are systemic at Eden Council.

"Right now Eden Council is in a hell of a mess with planning. The whole planning department is being administrated by other consultants working for the council.

"These issues are endemic in Eden Council, a lot of staff just want out. The council is being run now on expensive consultants. The chief executive at this moment in time is getting paid more than the Prime Minister."

Cllr Davies said: "Eden Council is just on a wing and a prayer. The focus on Voreda House is distracting from the focus on Eden Council's delivery."

But EDC's leader Virginia Taylor, who called for the report to be published, has said the council is suffering from a national shortage of planning officers.

She said: "There's a shortage of planning officers nationally" and the decision to send out the report last week was "simply because these accusations have been levelled."

The report said: "Eden DC has had significant staff turnover and an inability to appoint to key posts over the last couple of years. In addition, performance has been significantly affected both through homeworking and significant times of sickness partly due to Covid-19 related illnesses.

"It is to the enormous credit of officers that performance has remained very good as caseloads have mounted and it is difficult to assess average caseloads under such unusual circumstances."

Cllr Taylor said: "It's unique for us because we're not in a big labour pool."

"There's no disarray involved. There's a problem with too many applications and too few staff to fill the jobs nationally."

And the leader has denied claims from opposition groups that the Voreda House application was pushed through.

"There was no manipulation of the planning committee. There was a change of composition of the council following a by-election."