Agenda and draft minutes

Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee
Wednesday, 26th June, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Darent Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Georgina Little  03000 414043

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

156.

Membership

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Minutes:

The Committee noted that Mr D Daley had replaced Mr A Hook on the Committee.

 

157.

Apologies and Substitutes

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Minutes:

Apologies were received from Mr S Manion, Mr A Cook and Mr D Daley.

 

Mrs S Hamilton, Mr A Marsh and Mr A Hook attended as substitutes respectively.

 

158.

Declarations of Interest by Members in items on the Agenda

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Minutes:

Mr A Hook declared an interest in Item 8 on the agenda due to his previous professional involvement in the prosecution of doorstep criminals.

 

159.

Minutes of the meeting held on 7 March 2019 pdf icon PDF 316 KB

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Minutes:

1.    Benjamin Watts (General Counsel) addressed the Committee and provided clarity around the process of drafting minutes.

 

2.    RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting on 7 March are a correct record and that they be signed by the Chairman.

 

160.

Minutes of the meeting held on 9 May 2019 pdf icon PDF 425 KB

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Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the last meeting on 9 May 2019 are a correct record and that they be signed by the Chairman.

 

161.

Verbal updates by Cabinet Members and Corporate Director

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Minutes:

1.    Mr M Hill, OBE (Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services) provided an update to Members on the following:

 

(a)  The Kent school games which was held on 25th June 2019 was a Government led initiative designed to deliver competitive school sports for all young people. Mr Hill commended the success of the games with 700 participants and over 55 schools that took part.

 

(b)  The three-week local engagement exercise for the library opening hours had finished and Mr Hill thanked all Members who had encouraged public participation. The level of response had enabled the Libraries, Registration and Archives (LRA) Service to produce an opening hours template that had been tailored to suit customer need and meet an extensive range of preferences. Mr Hill informed the Committee that a revised library opening hour framework would be implemented in the autumn.

 

(c)   With regard to additional funding from Parish Councils to support libraries in their area, Mr Hill said that there were a number of complicated issues that needed to be addressed, and he had asked the cross-party Members Working Group to work in conjunction with officers to devise a policy on how funding contributions from Parish Councils could be utilised.

 

(d)  Folkestone library was closed on 12th June due to structural concerns caused through the penetration of heavy rainfall. Mr Hill was pleased to announce that the ground floor of Folkestone library had been re-opened, however, extensive investigative work needed to be carried out to review the damage and work required to fully replenish the first floor of the library.

 

2.    Mr M Dance, (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) provided an update to Members on the following:

 

(a)  The Kent Excellence in Business Awards was held on 20th June 2019. The event marked its 11th anniversary with over 650 in attendance.

 

(b)  The recent Business Advisory Board was well represented with a number of individuals in attendance from sectors around the county. Mr Dance said that the representatives provided an insightful synopsis of current affairs and the anticipated changes over the coming months leading up to Brexit.

 

(c)   Kent County Council was working with Pas De Calais, West Flanders and Zeeland on the European Straits Initiative to look at the multilateral cooperation of local and regional public bodies to enhance working relationships and share innovative technology around the importation and exportation of trade. Mr Dance welcomed Mr Smith (Director of Economic Development) to address the Committee and provide an explanation of how Kent County Council (KCC) was working with the European embassies.

 

Mr Smith said that the primary objective was to build good relations for the long-term between KCC and its European counterparts in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. He informed Members that KCC had received support from the National Embassies within the aforementioned countries who had also been in discussion with the Foreign Office to ensure that KCC’s work did not hinder the discussions and negotiations that were taking place around Brexit. KCC continued  ...  view the full minutes text for item 161.

162.

An Update on the Prevalence and Impact of Doorstep Crime in Kent pdf icon PDF 197 KB

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Minutes:

Steve Rock (Head of Trading Standards) and Clive Phillips (Trading Standards, Complex Investigations Manager) were in attendance for this item

 

1.       Mr Hill, OBE (Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services) introduced the report that provided an update on the prevalence and impact of Doorstep Crime in Kent and the actions to be taken by Trading Standards to improve information sharing and data intelligence. Mr Hill informed the Committee that since publication of the report, Kent Trading Standards had secured funding for an Intelligence Analyst for an initial period of twelve months.

 

2.       Mr Phillips presented a short nationally funded film which highlighted the significant impact of Doorstep Crime (on vulnerable adults) and said that the preliminary analysis of data related to Doorstep Crime in Kent had revealed the recurrent inconsistencies in crime recording and therefore the data captured to date could not be relied on. Mr Phillips informed the Committee that primary role of the Intelligence Analyst would be to work with District and Borough Councils as well as other enforcement agencies to instigate and implement the sharing of victim data to ensure consistent information between all partner agencies and create an agreed single reporting method that could be accessed by all partner agencies.

 

3.    The officers responded to comments and questions as follows:

 

(a)  Mr Phillips assured the Committee that the units in the Public Protection group which included Wardens, Trading Standards, Intelligence and Community Safety, all worked very closely with Kent Police in pursuing criminals, safeguarding victims and raising public awareness through a number of educational campaigns. Mr Phillips said that all victims of Doorstep Crime in Kent had access to free telephone advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service and those who were deemed to be particularly vulnerable would be visited by a Warden, a Police Prevent Officer or Victim of Safeguarding Officer. He said that Wardens had attended a number of community groups to raise awareness of Doorstep Crime where the film had been well received.

 

(b)  In response to queries regarding the need for a single point of contact to report Doorstep Crime in Kent, Mr Phillips said that the reason why the emergency number ‘999’ was referred to in the film was because if a crime were in progress, the Police could be deployed immediately to respond and arrest criminals on the scene, however, Trading Standards did not have the capacity or same legal powers to act on criminal activity. Trading Standards was working with the charitable sector, specifically Age UK, to look at how they could utilise their befriending services. The role of the Victim Safeguarding Officer also involved working with the charitable sectors to identify what services operated within specific areas and ensure that vulnerable victims had the correct support from those service once the Safeguarding Officer’s role had ended. Supplementary to this, Mr Rock informed the Committee that all calls received by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service number were filtered through to Trading Services and then onto the Protection Intelligence  ...  view the full minutes text for item 162.

163.

Performance Dashboard pdf icon PDF 650 KB

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Minutes:

Helen Groombridge (Performance & Analytics Manager) was in attendance for this item.

 

1.    Mrs Groombridge introduced the Performance Dashboard which showed progress made against targets set for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) up to the end of March 2019 and welcomed comments from the Committee.

 

2.    RESOLVED that the report be noted.

 

164.

19/00046 - No Use Empty (NUE) update and continuation of the initiative pdf icon PDF 347 KB

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Minutes:

David Smith (Director of Economic Development) and Steve Grimshaw (Strategic Programme Manager) were in attendance for this item.

 

1.    Mr Dance (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) introduced the report that set out the No Use Empty (NUE) initiative and commended the scheme on its success.

 

2.    Mr Grimshaw provided Members with an update on the initiative, its future plans and sought the Committee’s support for the continuation of the scheme, including the authority to bid for additional sources of funding which would help contribute to the delivery of good quality housing in the county; and that the authority be delegated to the Director of Economic Development to ensure appropriate governance was applied when entering into legal agreements. Mr Grimshaw addressed the achievements of the NUE initiative and said that 5,911 properties had reverted back into use and that there had been a 40% reduction in empty homes since the launch of the scheme.

 

3.    The officer responded to comments and questions as follows:

 

(a)    Mr Grimshaw said that Kent County Council (KCC) took every opportunity to provide funding across the entire county, however the highest concentration of empty properties remained within the East. He assured the Committee that the NUE initiative had a proven track record and had been recognised nationally for its contribution in bringing long term empty properties back into use through other projects and funding opportunities that offered different loan products. This included interventions such as the Affordable Homes Project whereby the Homes and Communities Agency awarded £ 750,100to KCC for the NUE initiative to deliver an affordable homes scheme and Live Margate whereby the NUE was allocated £2m in 2018 from the Live Margate Project to bring long term empty properties back into use.

 

(b)  With regard to the renovation cost of commercial properties, Mr Grimshaw said that the average cost of renovation projects was between £50k to £60k per unit. He informed Members that the money from the growing places fund offered greater flexibility than the parameters set out within the main residential scheme.

 

(c)     In response to queries regarding the delegation of authority for spend, Mr Grimshaw said that the current delegation arrangements in place for Economic Development was that Mr Smith (Director of Economic Development) was permitted to approve spend up to £1m, Mr Grimshaw as the officer could approve up to £500k, however in terms of the loans themselves, Mr Grimshaw said that most of the loans were significantly smaller and would be managed within the parameters and regulations imposed by KCC Finance. Mr Grimshaw assured Members that there was a process for assessment and approval, all of which required sign off by the appropriate delegated officer, the Head of Service or Director to ensure full control over spend.

 

(d)  In terms of the ability to provide funding for empty sites, Mr Grimshaw said that if a building had been demolished and that site was vacant, providing it had the relevant approval to create a commercial or residential property then Kent County  ...  view the full minutes text for item 164.

165.

Regional Growth Fund (RGF) Programmes Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 154 KB

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Minutes:

David Smith (Director of Economic Development) and Martyn Riley (Programme Manager (Business Investment)) was in attendance for this item.

 

1.    Mr Smith introduced the report that set out the results of Kent County Council’s (KCCs) monitoring returns that had been obtained in the period of January to March 2019, from companies that had received loans from the three Regional Growth Fund Programmes: Expansion East Kent, Tiger and Escalate. Mr Smith reminded Members that the schemes were funded through money that had been allocated by Central Government and therefore KCC were subject to the conditions imposed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in terms of its management.

 

2.    The officers responded to comments and questions as follows:

 

(a)  With regard to the recovery rate of bad debts, Mr Riley and Mr Smith informed the Committee that there was a recurrent issue whereby companies continued to argue their inability to repay KCC, however, a considerable amount of time continued to be devoted in recovering funds before issuing new loans. Mr Smith said that 80% of the original loans had been repaid in full and that KCC were in a position to reoffer the recycled money back into the market. Mr Riley assured Members that KCC had taken a flexible approach to re-payments and engaged with companies as much as practically possible to support them in their re-payments rather than issue legal action. In previous years there had been a number of Government funded initiatives that operated on a local level which offered support to companies and KCC had worked closely with those services. However, the change in economic circumstance meant that the Government stopped offering support and KCC took on the responsibility of all expenses. Mr Riley informed the Committee that there were very few schemes available that KCC could tap into; the Kent and Medway Growth Hub was established in an attempt to support companies who were in financial difficulty, however, with limited resources there was very little that KCC were able to do. Mr Smith provided assurance that the debt recovery rate within the last quarter had not deteriorated and that there had been no increase in red ratings within the debt recovery category.

 

(b)  Mr Smith informed the Committee that the current economic climate and future climate was significantly different to that seven years ago when the scheme was first launched. Mr Smith said that the recent evidence revealed a freeze on investment from a number of Medium enterprises and said that fewer applicant companies were approaching KCC with investment proposals that were compliant with the basic criteria of the scheme (i.e. was the company solvent, would the company produce new jobs, was the business plan deliverable and manageable). Mr Smith said that work was being done to refresh the offer in an attempt to attract more companies and that KCC were looking at opportunities to engage with Leaders, elected Members and officers from the District and Borough Councils to review ways in which companies  ...  view the full minutes text for item 165.

166.

2018/19 Growth, Environment and Transport Directorate Equality Review pdf icon PDF 267 KB

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Minutes:

Sarah Bedingfield (Service Manager - Innovation, Digital & Libraries) was in attendance for this item.

 

1.    Mrs Bedingfield introduced the report that set out the position statement for the Growth, Environment and Transport (GET) Directorate for 2018/19 regarding the embedment of equality and diversity within work programmes and organisational development. Mrs Bedingfield informed the Committee that the evidence for each project identified had been captured through the Members of the Equality and Diversity group having reviewed one another’s division. The GET directorate continued to take a firm approach to equality and diversity as it was integral to KCCs customer service programme and continued to improve the ways in which it understood and responded to customers and non-customers’ needs using customer data across all ten protected characteristics. Mrs Bedingfield highlighted to Members the key areas that had been addressed throughout the report which included: GET progress made against KCC equality and diversity objectives, the approach taken by GET to address equality and diversity, additional projects delivered in 2018/19 that were aligned to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC); and the promotion of equality and diversity awareness through the use of sensory equipment (Dementia Alliance Ageing Suit) to help the GET directorate to further understand the needs of its customers.

 

2.    RESOLVED that the report be noted, and that the Committee would continue to receive an annual report in order to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty 2010. 

 

167.

Kent & Medway Energy and Low Emissions Strategy - Draft for public Consultation pdf icon PDF 267 KB

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Minutes:

Carolyn McKenzie (Head of Sustainable Business and Communities) was in attendance for this item.

 

1.    Mr M Payne introduced the report that set out the final draft of the Kent and Medway Energy and Low Emissions Strategy which was due to go out for public consultation on 1 July 2019 for a period of twelve weeks. The draft strategy had been developed in consultation with officers across Kent and Medway districts and had been shaped by the Cross-Party Member Group whom Mr Payne thanked for their ongoing contribution. The report highlighted the specific opportunities and actions that needed to be undertaken for the economy, business and communities and identified the need for an evidenced-based pathway to deliver clean growth for Kent and Medway.

 

2.    Mrs McKenzie informed Members that the Kent and Medway Energy and Low Emissions Strategy was a sub strategy of the Kent Environment Strategy and reiterated that it had been delivered in partnership with district colleagues and stakeholders. Mrs McKenzie highlighted the keys areas for consideration which included the work that needed to be done with regard to the Kent Design Refresh, the emerging Enterprise and Productivity Strategy which looked to support the growth of low carbon goods and environmental services sector as demand for new technologies increased; Strategic Planning policies in relation to district heating systems and sustainable travel infrastructure, the importance of Community Wardens and the role they played in identifying vulnerable residents who could benefit from schemes and alerting Trading Standards to scams that they may be a victim of (specifically around solar panel installation/heating etc.); and finally the green space and Public Rights of Way hedge schemes to reduce carbon emissions. Mrs McKenzie informed Members that the Strategy did no highlight specific projects as these would be examined as they come forward via the appropriate business case and governance route. Mrs McKenzie said that the consultation was due to start on 1 July 2019 and welcomed Members suggestions as to where they felt the document should be presented.

 

3.    The officer responded to comments and questions as follows:

 

(a)  Mrs McKenzie assured Members that the National Grid was a key issue and said that there were a number of projects within the strategy that referred to energy investments, in particular, work was being done with the Tri-LEP Strategy that was linked to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership to look at where further funding could be encouraged to facilitate energy investment and infrastructure.  Mrs McKenzie said that the primary challenge was around funding and who would be responsible for driving and delivering those projects.

 

(b)  With regard to electric vehicles, the Government offered grants to support the wider use of electric and hybrid vehicles via the Office of Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV).

 

(c)   In response to queries regarding the insulation of homes, Mrs McKenzie acknowledged the impossibilities and expensive nature of insulating homes and said that the policy market around domestic sector retrofit needed to be reviewed. There was a Warm Homes Scheme  ...  view the full minutes text for item 167.

168.

Members' Recent Visit to Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) pdf icon PDF 129 KB

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Minutes:

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

 

1.    Mr Hancock introduced the report that provided an update to Members on the recent visit to Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and outlined the programme of future visits to Kent districts in 2019/20. Mr Hancock informed the Committee that the Member visit to Folkestone & Hythe on 14 June 2019 and the visit to Tunbridge Wells on 12 July would be presented at the September meeting.

 

The following visits had been confirmed:

 

·         Thanet – September 2019

·         Ashford – October 2019

·         Canterbury – December 2019

·         Maidstone – February 2020

·         Sevenoaks – May 2020

 

2.    The Chairman thanked Mr Hancock and all those involved for the hospitality and breadth of information that had been provided to Members who had attended the district visits.

 

3.    RESOLVED that the report be endorsed.

 

169.

Work Programme 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 166 KB

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Minutes:

1.    RESOLVED that the work programme be noted subject to the inclusion of an item on ‘Financial Relations with the EU’ to be brought back to the Cabinet Committee in October 2019.