Agenda and minutes

Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee - Thursday, 13th January, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber, Sessions House, Maidstone.

Contact: Emily Kennedy  03000 419625


No. Item


Apologies and Substitutes

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Apologies for absence had been received from Mr Holden and Mr Webb.


Mrs Hudson was present as a substitute for Mr Holden and Mr Rayner as a substitute for Mr Webb.


Mr Holden and Mr Wright were in attendance as guests.


Declarations of Interest by Members in items on the Agenda

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There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the meetings held on 21 September and 17 November 2021 pdf icon PDF 165 KB

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1.    The Chairman requested an addition to Item 23 of the 21 September 2021 minutes – and the following paragraph was added to point 2 of that item:


“The low uptake of 16-25 year olds taking on an apprenticeship, the significant barriers faced by them and the importance of increasing this number. Members agreed this would become a regular item at future committee meetings with focus on progress and what the Council and other parts of the public sector could do to ensure more young people enter apprenticeship programmes.”


2.    Matters arising from the 21 September 2021 meeting included an update on the Swanscombe Peninsula and Mr Murphy said the site had been confirmed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.


3.    Mr Meade requested Item 2 of the 17 November 2021 minutes – Declarations of Interest by Members in Items on the Agenda - be corrected to:


“Mr Meade declared a non-pecuniary interest, in Items 5 and 6 on the agenda, as the County Council’s representative on the planning committee of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation.”


4.    It was RESOLVED that, subject to the above amendments, the minutes of the meetings held on 21 September and 17 November 2021 were a correct record.


Verbal updates by the Cabinet Members and Corporate Director

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1.    Mr Hill, Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, gave a verbal update on the following:


(a)  The public engagement for the new library strategy – Let’s Talk About Kent Libraries - had received a good response. Mr Hill thanked those who had responded and invited Members to take part in a workshop session.


(b)  Mr Hill congratulated previous Corporate Director for the Council, Barbara Cooper, on receiving an MBE in the Kent New Year Honours List for 2022, along with librarian, Darren Smart, from Libraries, Registration and Archives who received a BEM for his long service to public libraries.


(c)  The John Downton Award for Young Artists, held virtually for the second year running, received 342 entries from 31 schools.  The entries were of a high standard and the winning items were hung in Turner Contemporary.


(d)  The Positive Wellbeing Service for vulnerable people suffering from loneliness and isolation had to date provided 40 people over the age of 65 with one-to-one support. The service had been nominated for a national and international social prescribing award.


(e)  Plans to install Changing Places toilets for visitors with disabilities, like those at Shorne Woods Country Park, were underway at Lullingstone Country Park and Brockhill Country Park.


2.    Mr Hill responded to the following questions from Members:


(a)  Asked about referrals to the Positive Wellbeing Service Mr Hill said a large number of referrals came from GP’s and referrals also came from community and voluntary sector services.


(b)  Asked about the geographical spread of the pilot Mr Hill said it focused on four areas within Maidstone, Swale, Folkestone and Hythe, and Thanet.


3.    Mr Murphy, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, gave a verbal update on the following, about which there were no questions:


(a)  The Department for Environmental Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) had invested to date just under £12million for the development of the Dover Port Health Authority generating approximately 200 jobs for local people.


(b)  Mr Murphy, along with Officers, had met with The Aylesham District Community Workshop Trust regarding an application to the Kent and Medway Business Fund to build 28 commercial units.


(c)  A presentation to 50 entrepreneurs took place at the Coachworks at Ashford at the end of 2021 regarding co-working and renting out space to SME businesses.


(d)  Mr Murphy paid tribute to Visit Kent who had worked hard in signposting businesses within the hospitality industry to the government’s Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant.


(e)  Discussions had taken place with Damian Collins, the MP for Folkestone and Hythe, about the future and utilisation of Dungeness Power Station and a meeting with Rolls Royce was planned to discuss the potential for Dungeness Power Station to be a preferred site for their fleet of modular mini nuclear reactors.


(f)    The Kent Broadband Scheme was progressing and BDUK had been instructed to enter phase 3 of the roll-out. Meetings were taking place in February 2022 with mobile companies who had expressed an interest.


4.    Mr Jones, Corporate Director for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.


Decisions taken between Cabinet Committee Meetings pdf icon PDF 127 KB

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1.    Mr Hill introduced the report, about which there were no questions.


2.    It was RESOLVED that the Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee noted that decision 21/00125, Kent Country Parks Playpark Equipment was taken between meetings of the Cabinet Committee in accordance with the process set out in the Council’s constitution.


Draft Ten Year Capital Programme, Revenue Budget 2022-23 and Medium Term Financial Plan 2022-25 pdf icon PDF 197 KB

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1.    The Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services, Mr Oakford, introduced the report published on 5 January 2022 and said the 2022-23 and medium-term budget proposals had been developed against the background of considerable uncertainty and volatility.  The capital programme had been enhanced to show a 10-year horizon covering 2022-32 which would ensure a more realistic capital programme with less slippage.  Mr Oakford said it was vital that additional borrowing was minimised to avoid unaffordable pressure on the revenue budget. Mr Oakford said the Council was required to set a balanced revenue budget for the forthcoming year (2022-23) which meant the net spending should equal the available funding raised from council tax precept, retained business rates growth and grant settlement from central government.  Mr Oakford said the Council was facing exceptional spending demands for the forthcoming year from a combination of the longer term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic which had significantly changed demands and costs for key services leading to additional spending associated with latent demand, increasing complexity, and changes in social and working lives, as well as economic impact from rising inflation.


2.    Mr Jones highlighted the challenges the Growth, Environment and Transport (GET) directorate was facing including market inflation, scarcity and price rises on contracts.  The budget reflected the changes in demand and recognised the need for continued investment. Mr Jones highlighted some headline figures from a capital perspective, the majority of which derived from external funding including match funding from developer contributions.


3.    Mr Hill said community services had experienced a difficult year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the exit from the European Union.  Country parks had suffered damage from increased traffic, the Libraries, Registrations and Archives division had worked hard to deal with increased demand and Community Wardens had proved to be invaluable supporting vulnerable residents.  Mr Hill thanked all staff for their sustained effort over the year.  Mr Hill was confident the community services budget would provide the resources needed to deliver community services to Kent residents. Mr Hill highlighted a small number of changes in the budget including the rolling programme for country parks, Public Rights of Way (PROW) and sports facilities. Mr Hill highlighted some savings including the first year savings from Digital Autopsy and a saving from Kent Sport. Finally, Mr Hill spoke about pressures including the removal of one-off savings introduced last year (2021 – 2022).


4.    Mr Murphy gave an overview of the economic development budget and highlighted a one-off cost allocated to economic development for a service re-design to accommodate the economic recovery plan which would come off the budget for 2022 – 2023.  Mr Murphy said there were not any new capital schemes for 2022-2023 but the No Use Empty Scheme, Kent and Medway Business Fund and the Broadband Voucher Scheme would continue. Mr Smith said a lot of the Economic Development Team’s work was self-financing (including the recycling of funds). 


5.    The Chair asked for a briefing note to be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


Growth, Infrastructure and Planning Reform pdf icon PDF 491 KB

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Ms Sarah Platts, Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Manager, was in attendance for this item.


1.    Ms Platts introduced the report and said much of the data underpinning the Kent and Medway Growth and Infrastructure Framework (GIF) would now need updating, since it was published in 2018. Ms Platts highlighted the current workstreams which were currently in place, gave a summary of the Council’s response to the Planning White Paper and an update on the Council’s resourcing to maximise the level of infrastructure funding.


2.    Ms Platts responded to comments and questions from the committee, including the following:


(a)  Asked about the timeframe on national planning reforms, Ms Platts said there may be a government update in spring/summer 2022.


(b)  Asked about the National Infrastructure Levy and the differences in value of land across the county Ms Platts said she felt the reform lacked in detail in respect of the infrastructure levy and Officers had raised this in response to the White Paper consultation.  The Chair raised the need for continued lobbying and presenting a case for change to government.


(c)  Members commented on changes within government policy and the pressures on two tier authorities in comparison to unitary authorities. Members spoke about the advantages of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) including how funding was released and distributed. Members noted the importance of the Council working with district colleagues to ensure that infrastructure was properly funded.


(d)  Asked about the methodology used to determine housing need and whether the population figures were accurate, Ms Platts advised that the methodology and numbers were set at a national level. 


(e)  The Chair asked that Officers keep the committee informed on planning developments.


3.    It was RESOLVED that the Growth, Infrastructure and Planning Reform report be noted.


21/00120 - Further Investment of Getting Building Funding (GBF) in third-party projects pdf icon PDF 339 KB

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Mr Chris Seamark, GBF Programme Manager, was in attendance for this item.


1.    Mr Seamark introduced the report providing a summary of the Getting Building Funding (GBF) government funding, the Southeast Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and the Kent based third-party projects, about which there were no questions.


2.    It was RESOLVED that the decision proposed to be taken by the Leader of the Council to:


  • Agree that the Getting Building Funding (GBF) will be used to support the Kent based third-party projects that are awarded GBF by the Southeast Local Enterprise Partnership’s Accountability Board.


  • Act as the accountable body for third-party projects within Kent’s administrative boundaries that are selected by the SELEP to receive GBF grant funding.


  • Delegate to the Section 151 Officer the authority to sign on KCC’s behalf a grant agreement or equivalent, where this is required to draw down funds following business case approval.


be endorsed.


Kent Scientific Services Update pdf icon PDF 162 KB

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Mr Mark Rolfe, Head of Kent Scientific Services, was in attendance for this item.


1.    Mr Rolfe introduced the report and outlined the work of the Kent Scientific Services function. Mr Rolfe said the laboratory had remained fully operational at full capacity throughout the pandemic and paid tribute to staff who had adopted significant changes in ways of working. The Service used apprentices up to degree level and they had proved extremely successful in bringing fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the service. Mr Rolfe highlighted the recent media and public interest in the work of the laboratory and specifically the detection of undeclared allergens in food and related safety implications.


2.    Mr Rolfe responded to comments and questions from the committee, including the following:


(a)  The Chair asked about the importing of food as a result of Brexit and Mr Rolfe said he was hopeful it would be a commercial opportunity due to the commencement of new border control points in July. Mr Murphy said, with reference to the Dover Port Health Authority, that Defra had suggested a significantly higher volume of import items would need to be checked. Prior to leaving the European Union one job role existed at Dover and this had increased to one hundred with further recruitment planned. 


(b)  A Member asked about engagement with Kent based universities and Mr Rolfe said the apprentices were Kent students who attended the Medway campus of Greenwich University. 


(c)  Asked whether capital investment in the service could lead to greater revenue and service expansion Mr Rolfe said there were areas of work that could be considered within existing skillsets, but significant investment would be required to increase the capacity of the laboratory.  Insurance work could be considered with the development of additional skills.


(d)  Mr Hill paid tribute to the entrepreneurial efforts of the service and the committee congratulated the service on its performance.


3.    It was RESOLVED that the report be noted.


Enabling Access to Employment - Presentation pdf icon PDF 484 KB

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Mr Ross Gill (SQW) and Mr Allan Baillie, Skills and Employability Manager – Adult Skills, were in attendance for this item.


1.    Mr Gill and Mr Baillie presented a series of slides which are attached to these minutes.


2.    Mr Baillie said the Skills White Paper published in January 2021 concentrated mainly on intermediate skills (including higher qualifications level 4 and 5) and further education reform. The production of the Workforce Skills Evidence Base enabled Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce to apply to the Department for Education for Local Skills Improvement Plan funding.  Mr Baillie said this was a short term piece of work, focusing on three sectors – engineering, construction and agriculture/horticulture – to produce a strategy for the future of further education provision in the county.


3.    Mr Baillie said the skill levels, particularly 3 and 4, in the county were below the national average and significantly behind the rest of the South East, and highlighted the need to bridge that gap by developing the pipeline, the existing work force and economic opportunities. There was a need to train, re-train and retain the existing workforce.


4.    Mr Baillie and Mr Gill responded to comments and questions from the committee, including the following:


(a)  Asked about the future of retraining to retain stability and growth Mr Baillie said it was important to instil the concept of lifelong learning and adaption to need within the workforce. Mr Baillie highlighted the importance of employers providing upskilling and retraining opportunities.


(b)  Members discussed the need to connect the output of the education and training with what the economy needed on a sustainable basis ensuring apprenticeships and other vocational programmes were recognised with high esteem and desirability. 


(c)  Asked about university student figures Mr Baillie said Southampton University produced a report on the destination of graduates and whether students worked in the city, near their home, or near the university they studied at, and most graduates gained employment near the university they attended.


(d)  Asked whether careers advice in schools was adequate and whether local colleges offered training courses for jobs that were in demand Mr Baillie said the education system was demand led meaning students did a combination of what the school could provide (in terms of cost and resource) and what the students themselves wanted to do.


(e)  Mr Smith explained this was an interim report to the committee and an action plan incorporating an economic strategy would come to a future committee meeting.


5.    It was RESOLVED that the content of the presentation be noted.


East Malling Research and Development Programme - Presentation pdf icon PDF 1 MB

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Dr Nicola Harrison, Programme Director, Growing Kent and Medway, was in attendance for this item.


1.    Mr Smith introduced the item and said an investment of £18million had been awarded by the government’s UK Research and Investment Programme to fund Growing Kent and Medway (GKM) and support growth in technology-driven horticulture, fresh produce packaging and food and drink processing and its supply chains.


2.    Dr Harrison presented a series of slides which are attached to these minutes. Dr Harrison responded to comments and questions from the committee, including the following:


(a)  Asked whether government arrangements ensured that GKM was industry led Dr Harrison said consultations were carried out with industry and partners worked closely with businesses daily. Dr Harrison said the programme was co-developed with industry and the project was business led.


(b)  Asked where GKM sat nationally and whether other local GKMs existed Dr Harrison said the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) led on the GKM programme and GKM was building a global reputation in the food sector with the ambition to create global recognition for Kent as a centre for food research.


(c)  Asked about engagement with local schools to promote GKM and encourage interest in research Dr Harrison said GKM was committed to engaging with the community and a social value framework had been developed to identify how this could be done.


(d)  Asked for clarification on the research of alternative proteins Dr Harrison said the focus was on crop proteins, fermentation proteins and algae proteins.


3.    It was RESOLVED that the content of the presentation be noted.


Performance Dashboard pdf icon PDF 208 KB

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Ms Rachel Kennard, Chief Analyst, was in attendance for this item.


1.    Ms Kennard introduced the Performance Report for Quarter 2 of 2021/22 and said there had been no significant changes since the Quarter 1 2021/22 report.


2.    A Member noted the percentage increase of disabled people participating in the Kent Active Partnership and thanked Officers for their work in achieving this.


3.    It was RESOLVED that the performance report for Quarter 2 of 2021/22 be noted.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 132 KB

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It was RESOLVED that the Work Programme 2021/22 be noted.