David Smith (Director of Economic Development) was in attendance for this item.
1. Mr Smith introduced the report that summarised the process adopted by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), to award capital from the Growing Places Fund to new projects which would help unlock economic growth in local areas; and provided details of the Kent and Medway bids that SELEP had prioritised for investment.
2. The officer responded to comments and questions as follows:
(a) Mr Smith confirmed that Kent County Council (KCC) would be responsible for the repayment of the loan to the SELEP, plus any interest charge incurred as a penalty for late repayment. However, Mr Smith verified that KCC had no previous experience in dealing with such a matter to date and this was primarily due to the extensive management of each project.
(b) Mr Smith verified that the proposal for the Swanley Town Centre project did not need to be resubmitted. The method adopted by the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership was to prioritise those projects which were affordable and already at the delivery stage of the process. As the Growing Places Fund received repayments from loans upon completion of projects, this could potentially be reinvested into new or awaited projects in the pipeline.
(c) In response to concerns regarding the potential need to reassess the list of prioritised projects in light of Covid, Mr Smith assured the Committee that whilst the list was subject to change there was no justification to date to support this. However, the government had invited Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to put forward the projects which were urgently required in light of the pandemic and an extensive list of projects was submitted by the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership to SELEP. As a result, the government had announced that additional funding would be made available to each LEP across the country (including SELEP) which would fund those projects considered to be urgent as a result of the Covid pandemic.
(d) In response to queries relating to the No Use Empty (NUE) Scheme around the percentage of houses which had been prioritised for Social Housing as opposed to Affordable Housing, Mr Smith, in agreement with Mr Whiting (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) agreed to bring a report back to the Committee to cover Members questions.
3. It was RESOLVED that the proposed decision (20/00063) to be taken by the Cabinet Member for Economic Development, to:
(a) Note the projects in Kent that the South East Local Enterprise Partnership has prioritised to receive Growing Places Funding (GPF),
(b) Act as the accountable body for projects within Kent County Council’s geographical boundaries that receive GPF funding approval from the SELEP Accountability Board; and
(c) Delegate to the Section 151 Officer the authority to sign on KCC’s behalf a loan agreement or equivalent, where this is required to draw down funds following business case approval,