To receive verbal updates by the relevant Cabinet Members
(1) Mr Hill (Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services) gave a verbal update on the following issues:
a) Mr Hill referred to the effects of the recent lockdown on community services and said that the effects had not been as severe as the first period of lockdown. Country parks and Public Rights of Way (PRoW) had stayed open and the community warden service continued to operate fully. Libraries had been more restricted, but there were 27 libraries open in Kent on a ‘select and collect’ basis, as well as the essential use of computers. The death registrations continued by phone as did face-to-face birth registrations. Marriage and civil partnership ceremonies at both KCC register offices and external venues could have no more than 15 people attending and under tier 3 wedding receptions were not permitted. Citizenship ceremonies continued on a restricted basis.
b) Mr Hill said that the Libraries, Registration and Archives (LRA) service were assessed externally every year as part of the Customer Service Excellence Award scheme. In usual circumstances, external assessors would visit to undertake the annual assessment, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year, the assessment would be virtual. He announced that Kent had received a full score of 24 compliance passes on the 24 elements of the CSE standard. He thanked officers within LRA for their dedication and hard work during these unprecedented times.
c) Mr Hill referred to Kent’s Sport & Physical Activity Service and said that the service had managed and co-ordinated delivery of Kent’s award commended project which had recently been announced as the winner of two national industry awards. The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery fund and had won the contribution to wellbeing award as well as being the overall winner of the 2020’s best community archive and heritage group. The award for the project explored, reserved, and promoted the rich history of sport in East Kent and the activities contributed towards improving the mental and physical wellbeing of older people, those experiencing social isolation and loneliness and those living with dementia.
(2) Mr Whiting (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) gave a verbal update on the following issues:
a) On 1 October 2020, Mr Whiting spoke at the Kent Construction Live conference, emphasising the importance of the construction sector as one of the largest sectors in the county. He said that that every £1 invested in the construction industry generated over £2 in a wider economy and that 60% of Kent’s new builds were delivered by smaller enterprises employing less than 100 people. He said that construction was a vital part of the recovery phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and referred to government’s white paper on planning reform and changes to the current system. Mr Whiting and the Leader of the Council, Mr Gough, had signed a letter to the Secretary of State in response to the government’s consultations. He added that whilst housing development was required to meet the needs of a growing population, Kent must remain a great place to live, work and spend quality leisure time, and that would be achieved through good investment in infrastructure.
b) In late October 2020, Mr Whiting met with the Straits Committee to discuss the way in which Kent’s Vision Strategy could be developed from 2021. He highlighted a Pen Pal scheme which Straits partners had been invited to join, with a view to extending the scheme to secondary schools across the regions of Belgium, Holland and France to give students the chance to communicate with somebody their own age in another European country. He added that as the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic improved, the scheme could involve arranged visits as part of the development work.
c) Mr Whiting had recently attended a freeports bid workshop which had been hosted by Dover port to note the government’s recent freeports consultation which was set out to provide a framework within which freeport bids were likely to be measured. Kent County Council fully supported the creation of a freeport in the county as it had the potential to bring new business and opportunities into the county.
d) Mr Whiting and the Leader of the Council, Mr Gough, spoke in November 2020 at the launch of the Kent Property Market report which was an annual report that Kent County Council and many of the Council’s partners subscribed to. Locate in Kent reported a very large increase in the number of companies that sought to invest in Kent, including many London-based enterprises looking for relocation properties in Kent. Mr Whiting said that the challenge was ensuring that those opportunities existed to attract extra businesses.
e) Mr Whiting said that although he was unable to attend the virtual Bee summit which had taken place on 16th November 2020, more than 200 people attended. He said that one of the aims of the important piece of work, which he had submitted to full Council during his time as Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste, was to help find and create suitable habitats for pollinators. He said that the summit being held virtually as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic had enabled greater use of technology and public participation. He congratulated Miss Carey (Cabinet Member for Environment) and all of those who had been involved in the campaign. He said Mr Holden had led Kent’s Plan Bee campaign, with the help of Allison Campbell-Smith (Programme Manager, Kent Ambassadors, Kent Vision Live and KEiBA) and that it was the most successful online event that Kent County Council had run since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 277 people registered. Mr Holden explained the campaign’s importance in an economic, environmental, and social sense and thanked Ms Campbell-Smith for her dedication and support in ensuring the campaign’s success. He added that the campaign would continue with more summits taking place and pollinator-friendly activities.
(3) A Member of the Committee commended the recent Bee summit and Kent’s Plan Bee campaign.
(4) RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted.