Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 1st November, 2023 10.00 am

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

Contact: Anna Taylor  03000 416478


No. Item


Declarations of Interest

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There were no declarations of interest.


Minutes of the meeting held on 13 September 2023 pdf icon PDF 240 KB

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1.  The minutes were approved by the Scrutiny Committee.

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 13 September 2023 were an accurate record and that they be signed by the Chairman.


Securing Kent's Future - Budget Recovery Strategy pdf icon PDF 205 KB

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All Cabinet Members and Corporate Directors were in attendance for this item.

1.  The Chairman explained that the Scrutiny Committee wishes to see more regular items on the budget at its meetings, as every Councillor was aware of the pressure and demand being placed on local authority finances. Many authorities had already issued S114 notices, but he remained confident that the Council could work together for the benefit of residents in a transparent manner through continual engagement between the Scrutiny Committee and the Executive. The Scrutiny Committee needed reassurance and evidence to ensure the budget was on-track for delivery, and the choices available to the Council were clear. This included good agenda-setting and Work Programming by the Scrutiny Committee, early engagement from the Executive and clear expectations set by all parties. The Council were in a challenging situation and a close working relationship was needed to ensure good outcomes. The Chairman thanked the Executive for attending the meeting and answering questions.

2.  The Leader of the Council set the overall scene of the budget and outlined the scale of the challenge, including the important role of scrutiny and good governance during this time. There continued to be in-year financial pressures, which had become apparent at the end of June 2023, whereby the savings plan introduced at the beginning of 2023 was being outpaced by spend in areas such as Adult Social Care, placements within Children’s Services, and home to school transport including SEND transport. This spend was largely due to increasing costs rather than an increase in volume and demand, and the Cabinet had met in August and October 2023 to discuss these budget pressures and set the direction of travel. The Leader outlined the four strategic objectives of the Saving Kent’s Future report which were bringing the 2023/24 budget back into balance; delivering savings from identified opportunity areas to set a sustainable 2024/25 budget and MTFP; policy choices and scope of Council’s ambitions; and further transforming the operating model of the Council. There was also focus on the strategic business plan and decisions being made to integrate strategy and finance through a long-term plan, which would be an iterative process. The Leader also wanted to work closely with the Scrutiny Committee, and this would be done through frequent Cabinet meetings to discuss the budget and linking these to the Scrutiny Committee meeting timetable.

3.  Mr Oakford outlined that there remained a £26m gap in the 2023/24 financial year which needed to be closed by March 2024 to ensure a balanced budget. He thanked Mr Rayner, and officers within directorates, for their hard work on trying to close the budget gap, which would be partly achieved through increasing asset sales, and how these monies would be invested in further assets to increase revenue; reviewing all non-essential and non-committed spend; considering recruitment to vacant posts and the numbers of agency staff; and by considering reserves. There was also £46m of savings identified for the 2024/25 financial year but remained a £35m  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Thanet Parkway Railway Station Project pdf icon PDF 441 KB

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Mr N Baker (Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport), Mr L Burchill (Major Capital Programme Manager), Mr S Jones (Corporate Director of Growth, Environment and Transport), Mr J Ratcliffe (Transport Strategy Manager), and Miss A Roscoe (Principal Transport Planner) were in attendance for this item.


1.  Mr Baker introduced the report and explained that the decision to undertake the Parkway project had occurred before he had become Cabinet Member but was seen as an infrastructure first project. Concerns had been raised regarding the finances for the project, but it had been completed within the budget envelope and had secured external funding.

2.  Mr Jones added the project had evolved as it had progressed, and experienced risks and challenges in delivery and funding. These challenges had been outlined in the ‘lessons learnt’ section of the report.

3.  Members raised the following points:

a.    A Member felt that the Parkway station would help to address the poverty imbalance between East and West Kent and would promote economic growth. The report had considered the parkway stations in Warwick and Southend, which had been successful, well-utilised, and had good facilities.

b.    A Member felt that Thanet Parkway station had negatively impacted local villages, through increased light pollution, and had not improved the local economy in Ramsgate.

c.    Members questioned the cost of the project, and if any of these costs would remain ongoing. Mr Jones confirmed the project had been completed within budget envelope, and not increased the financial burden on the authority. Any ongoing costs had been mandated through the planning process, but some costs were being disputed.

d.    A discussion was held regarding the number of passengers using the station. Mr Jones confirmed that although numbers were currently low, train operators remained confident that these would improve, and passenger targets would be met.

e.    Members discussed the risks and challenges of the projects, and what lessons had been learned. Members felt that they needed more oversight of the project when it met important milestones. Mr Jones explained that the team had provided regular updates to the Cabinet Committee and Portfolio Holder, but one of the lessons learned had been that the project had progressed quite far with external partners before being presented to Members. Mr Baker added that a balance needed to be struck between proper scrutiny and the project moving forward at a timely pace.

f.     A Member felt that the project was unnecessary as it did not significantly reduce travel time between Thanet and Stratford or St Pancras. He felt that the station was not being utilised by enough passengers and was not wanted by local residents.


RESOLVED that the Committee noted the contents of the report.


Vehicle Crossings (dropped kerbs) pdf icon PDF 116 KB

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Mr N Baker (Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport) and Mr S Jones (Corporate Director of Growth, Environment and Transport) were in attendance for this item.


1.  Mr Hook outlined the reasons for the report as many residents requested dropped kerbs from the Council, and these requests were rejected due to Council guidelines. Council guidelines stated that a driveway needed to be at least 5m in length, but he was proposing to reduce this figure, as many cars were shorter than this, for example a Fiat 500 was 2.5m in length and a Ford Focus, the UKs most popular car, was 4m in length. He felt it would be good to remove cars from parking on the roads and would increase the number of households able to charge electric vehicles. 

2.  Mr Baker explained that national guidelines were a 5m driveway for a dropped kerb, and 3m if cars could park horizontally or at an angle to their house, and if the Council reduced this figure, KCC could be liable if an accident were to happen. He explained that he would raise Mr Hook’s query with the team. Mr Jones added that the team also had to consider the possibilities of cars obstructing footways by overhanging their drives.

RESOLVED that the Committee considered and noted the report on vehicle crossings.


Kent Flood Risk Management Committee Annual Report pdf icon PDF 105 KB

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Mr T Hills (Chairman of the Flood Risk Management Committee) was in attendance for this item.

1.  Mr Hills introduced the report and thanked officers for their hard work in its production. He outlined the topics that had been covered since October 2022 and explained the future activities that the Committee were planning to undertake, for example the Met Office would be attending a meeting to provide an update following Storm Ciaran, and Southern Water would be attending a meeting in 2024 to discuss flooding. 

2.  The Chairman felt Southern Water needed to be held to account by the Committee over their continued policy of sewage dumping, particularly off the North Kent shoreline. Mr Rayner added that sewage was also dumped by Southern Water in the River Eden, close to wear people swam in the lake at Hever Castle. Mr Hills explained that Southern Water had been fined £90m for sewage dumping, and had introduced pilot schemes in Margate and Deal, but felt that these schemes needed to be implemented faster and on a wider scale.

RESOLVED that the Committee noted the Kent Flood Risk Management Committee Annual report.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 182 KB

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No Members had anything to add to the Work Programme.


RESOLVED that the Committee considered and noted the Work Programme.