Agenda and minutes

Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee - Wednesday, 11th January, 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Hayley Savage  03000 414286


No. Item


Apologies and Substitutes

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There were no apologies.


Declarations of Interest by Members in items on the Agenda

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There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the meeting held on 22 November 2022 pdf icon PDF 4 MB

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RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 22 November 2022 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, provided an update on the opening of the Jasmin Vardimon Company studio in Ashford.  Mr Hill attended the official opening on 7 December 2022 and said the new building provided space for the company’s touring productions, rehearsals, training, educational and community classes. The building was part of the regeneration of a disused site on the Henwood Industrial Estate, called the Creative Enterprise Quarter.


2.          Mr Murphy, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, gave a verbal update on the following:


(a)  The Leader of the Council, along with Mr David Monk, Leader of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, and Mr Damien Collins, MP for Folkestone & Hythe, had written to the Secretary of State regarding a small nuclear reactor site at Dungeness.  Mr Murphy said discussions continued with Rolls Royce as well as other suppliers of small nuclear reactors regarding the site, and the Council was also liaising with the Environment Agency.


(b)  Mr Murphy visited the transport company Mesaroli at Discovery Park in Sandwich at the end of 2022, who were keen to expand in Kent and said the company Growup Farms was a recent addition to Discovery Park.


(c)  The No Use Empty (NUE) scheme was supporting the development of business units in Whitfield, Dover. The development would involve businesses such as a printing firm, a glazing firm and freight forwarding companies relocating in the area.


(d)  The Kent Rural Partnership included representatives from across the rural sector, and was initially focusing on education, research, and development.


(e)  A joint project was in place with Dover District Council for the provision of Broadband to multi occupancy buildings.


(f)    Mr Murphy invited Members to attend Business Vision Live on 10 May 2023 at the Kent Showground.


(g)  Recommendations had been put to the Canterbury and Sevenoaks Local Plan Regulation 18 Consultation and Members would be able to comment if they wished to.


3.          Mr Murphy responded to the following questions and comments from Members:


(a)  Asked about the potential for a programme of nuclear reactors across Kent, Mr Murphy said the Council was currently prioritising the site in Dungeness and there was the intention for more than one reactor, however, Mr Murphy agreed that a programme of nuclear reactors would be beneficial to meet increased demand.


(b)  Asked whether the work on nuclear reactor sites was running alongside a package of energy solutions, Mr Murphy said the opportunity at Dungeness was being investigated as part of a combination of energy sources such as offshore wind, solar power, heat source and hydrogen power.


4.          Mr Jones, Corporate Director for Growth Environment and Transport, gave a verbal update on the following:


(a)  As part of the Kent Resilience Forum teams within the Council responded to the tragic incident in the English Channel on 14 December 2022, and to the loss of water supply to residents and businesses across the county between 15 and 28 December 2022. Mr Jones thanked the Emergency Planning Team, the teams  ...  view the full minutes text for item 111.


Draft Ten Year Capital Programme, Revenue Budget 2023-24 and Medium Term Financial Plan 2023-26 pdf icon PDF 205 KB

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Mr Peter Oakford and Ms Zena Cooke (Corporate Director Finance) were in attendance for this item.


1.          Mr Oakford introduced the report and explained that, although funding from central government had been better than anticipated, it would not cover the Council’s expenditure.  Mr Oakford highlighted that inflation continued to be an enormous pressure and spending growth within the Council had increased by £216million. He said £40millon in savings was required and the Council was looking to raise its income by £16million from charges to some of its services.  Mr Oakford said it would be necessary to draw down from reserves which would weaken the Council’s financial resilience and insecure funding areas, which would normally form part of reserves, had been diverted into the base budget. Mr Oakford said a £12million risk reserve had been included in the budget to offset any challenges faced during the year but emphasised this was a small amount in relation to the Council’s overall budget. Mr Oakford referred to the assumed 4.99% council tax and social care increase. He explained that the Council’s Community Services Consultation had been launched and the Council’s contribution to the ongoing “safety valve” negotiations with central government would put further pressures on reserves in future years. 


2.          Mr Murphy said that Economic Development was looking to bring in an aspirational £1.5million income target from business rates, and officers were working to combine the Council’s partnership organisations, Locate in Kent, Produced in Kent, and Visit Kent, for increased efficiency.  Mr Murphy said an additional £200,000 income fund would be generated by the No Use Empty Scheme.


3.          Mr Hill explained that although savings would be made within his portfolio, all services would continue.


4.          Members made the following comments:


(a)           Asked about the reduction of £200,000 to the Library, Registrations and Archive budget, Mr Hill said the savings were efficiencies within the back-office function and the changes would unlikely be seen by residents. 


(b)           A Member commented on the reduction of £500,000 to the Community Wardens budget and the consequences of that within communities. Mr Hill acknowledged the importance and benefit of Community Wardens and agreed this was disappointing but said it was unavoidable.  


(c)       Members commented that a summary of changes to services (that fell under the relevant Cabinet Committee), would be helpful for future committees to enable easier scrutiny at cabinet committee level.  


5.          Mr Sole proposed and Ms Meade seconded a motion that “the Cabinet Committee recommends for consideration at Cabinet on 26 January 2023 that the £10,000 Combined Members Grant be retained for each Member.”  Members voted on the motion and the motion was lost.


RESOLVED that Members’ comments on the draft capital and revenue budgets relevant to this committee, including responses to consultation, be noted, and reported to the Cabinet on 26th January 2023, before the draft was presented for approval at County Council on 9th February 2023.


Kent and Medway Business Fund Bi-Annual Monitoring - Q2 2022/2023 pdf icon PDF 347 KB

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Sir Paul Carter and Mr Martyn Riley (Project Manager) were in attendance for this item.


1.          Mr Murphy provided a brief introduction and welcomed Sir Paul Carter, Chairman of the Kent and Medway Business Fund Committee to the meeting.


2.          Sir Paul Carter provided an overview of the achievements of the Kent and Medway Business Fund since its inception in Kent.  He reflected on the history of the fund, including its performance and track record, and the future of the scheme. 


3.          Mr Riley introduced the Kent and Medway Business Fund bi-annual monitoring report on the progress of the Kent and Medway Business Fund. He referred to the summary of the report which included figures up to the end of September 2022. 


4.          Mr Riley, Mr Murphy, and Sir Paul Carter responded to the following questions and comments from Members:


(a)  Members commented on the success of the scheme for both the Council and businesses, and its benefit to Kent’s economy including the creation and protection of jobs.


(b)  Members discussed the importance of publicising and raising awareness of the scheme, within relevant networks, to suitable businesses.


(c)  Asked about equity investments in businesses, whether owners provided personal guarantees, and whether the exits so far from equity investments had been successful, Sir Paul Carter said security was not asked for and a couple of the equity schemes had significant potential, with one being partially exited with a reasonable return on investment. He said future success would depend on the global economy and highlighted, in particular, the life sciences area which showed potential for positive outcomes. 


(d)  Asked about the varying costs across Kent in terms of the creation and protection of jobs, Mr Riley said the difference in cost reflected the different sectors and use of investment.  For example, the tourism industry could produce more jobs compared to a sector that required capital for machinery.  Mr Riley said it was difficult to influence how investment was spent but the use of apprenticeships was encouraged.


(e)  Asked whether there was a forum for businesses involved in the scheme, Mr Riley said links were established based on monitoring information and where potential was identified, for example, companies where production was similar or where complementary services could be beneficial.  A newsletter was circulated regularly to raise awareness of achievements on the loan scheme. Mr Murphy referred to partner organisations, for example, Produced in Kent and Locate in Kent, as a way of reaching out to businesses and the Council’s work with the Kent Chamber of Commerce and Institute of Directors. 


5.    Mr Riley presented a series of slides (attached to these minutes) and provided a summary of the report by SQW - Evaluation of the Kent and Medway Business Fund - which looked at the achievements of the scheme and its future.


6.    Mr Riley responded to the following questions and comments from Members:


(a)  Asked about the initial amount of funding from government and the current value of loans outstanding, Mr Riley  ...  view the full minutes text for item 113.


Youth Unemployment and Apprenticeships pdf icon PDF 149 KB

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Mr David Knox (The Education People Apprenticeship Lead), and Mr David Smith, (Director Economic Development) were in attendance for this item.


1.          Mr Murphy introduced the item and referred to the Employment Taskforce, chaired by Mr Gough and said the Council worked closely with educational and business establishments.  He said the report was also being presented to the Children, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee and discussions were taking place to determine how the matter would be addressed between the two cabinet committees. 


2.          Mr Smith introduced the report and highlighted the link between supporting the financial growth of companies and the provision of employment opportunities. He summarised the background to youth unemployment and apprenticeships in the workplace in Kent.


3.          Mr Knox presented a series of slides (attached to these minutes) and provided an overview of apprenticeships within the Council.


4.          Mr Knox and Mr Smith responded to the following questions and comments from Members:


(a)  A Member noted that most apprenticeships were within the field of adult social care and commented on the importance of encouraging businesses to provide apprenticeships with clear signs of promotion. Mr Knox said the government launched last year Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agencies for small businesses to work with other employers to provide skills for apprentices. 


(b)  Asked how much of the 75% of the levy allocated within the Council was used, Mr Knox said this information could be provided outside of the meeting.


(c)  A Member asked about the strategic role of the Council in terms of skill development as a government priority of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and whether the Council was hoping to use the fund for additional apprenticeships across the county. Mr Smith said strategic discussions between the Council and the districts, as well as local colleges and The Education People, would take place regarding the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and it was agreed this would be added to the Cabinet Committee’s work programme for a future meeting.


RESOLVED that the report and presentation be noted, and the Cabinet Committee for Children, Young People and Education would be invited to consider the same issues at one of its future meetings.


Performance Dashboard pdf icon PDF 207 KB

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


1.          Ms Kennard introduced the Performance Dashboard for Quarter 2 of 2022/23 and highlighted the key areas of performance.


2.          Ms Kennard, Mr Murphy and Mr Hill responded to the following questions and comments from Members:


(a)  A Member asked, where services had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, for figures before pandemic to be included in future reports. Mr Hill said libraries were currently at 64% of the pre-pandemic figure.


(b)  Asked about KPI ED08 - Developer contributions secured against total contributions sought ­– and the indication that the amount would be less than hoped, Mr Murphy said the year-to-date figure was now nearer to £18million and the figure fluctuated depending on local plans and delays for developments to proceed. 


(c)  Asked about the varying timeframes used for the graphs on page 5 of Appendix 1, Ms Kennard said this would be reviewed.


(d)  Asked about the recording of library data when considering viability, for example in relation to Folkestone Library which was currently closed, Mr Hill said usage of libraries would take account of any extraneous factors.


RESOLVED that the performance report for Quarter 2 of 2022/23 be noted.


District Visits Programme 2023 pdf icon PDF 112 KB

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Mr Rob Hancock (Programme Manager) was in attendance for this item.


1.          Mr Murphy introduced the item and said Members’ comments had been taken on board and issues resulting from district visits would be reported at future meetings.


2.          Mr Hancock introduced the report and said the visit to Maidstone on 20 January 2023 had been postponed and further visits would be arranged for 2023.  He said future reports to the committee would include a dashboard recording outcomes from visits.


RESOLVED that the Cabinet Committee noted the report and agreed to receive a dashboard at future meetings monitoring progress on matters raised.


Community Wardens and Positive Wellbeing pdf icon PDF 434 KB

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Mr Mike Overbeke (Group Head, Public Protection) and Ms Rebecca Law (Business Development Manager) were in attendance for this item.


1.          Mr Hill introduced the item and said the Positive Wellbeing intervention activity, which was an important part of the work of Community Wardens, supported many lonely and isolated people in the county and made a significant contribution to the Council’s adult social care service.


2.          Mr Overbeke and Ms Law introduced the report.  Ms Law provided an overview of the programme and shared feedback from residents who had received the service.


3.          Members acknowledged the significance and importance of the Community Warden service and how it made a difference within communities in terms of preventative working, social prescribing and supporting the NHS.


4.          Ms Holt-Castle said the team had been working with the University of Essex in evaluating the social prescribing project, and with the University of Kent to evaluate the impact of the Community Wardens, to demonstrate how social prescribing could delay pressures on Adult Social Care and a report covering the work would be brought back to the committee in due course.


5.          Mr Hill thanked Members for their support.


RESOLVED that Members’ comments on this programme and the potential to incorporate the Positive Wellbeing intervention activity into the Community Wardens service delivery model going forward be noted.


Work Programme 2023 pdf icon PDF 109 KB

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RESOLVED that the Work Programme 2022/23 be noted, subject to the addition of


·       UK Shared Prosperity Fund