1. Mr Hill (Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Affairs said the coroner for North West Kent had been investigating a death following a police shooting since 2016 and that there was a statutory obligation for such cases to be heard with a jury. Since the lockdown in March 2020 all inquest hearings had been held virtually, however, this method was not acceptable for this case. The coroner’s service had, therefore, worked closely with KCC’s infrastructure service to develop a Covid-safe way to accommodate a jury, the presiding coroner, the coroner’s counsel, and witnesses in a court setting using County Hall and a bespoke IT package. In addition, jurors were provided with iPads to enable them to access documents using a court document software package. Mr Hill said this was the first time this software had been used in a coroner’s court, the first complex jury inquest in England and Wales delivered with significant video conferencing functionality, and during Covid-19 restrictions. He was pleased to say that a number of compliments from the Police and the judiciary had been received on the successful staging of this complex event despite the many complications presented by Covid-19.
2. Mr Whiting said he had been working closely with Locate in Kent to ensure Kent was not left out of the government's levelling up agenda which was focussed on the Midlands and the North. He said it was important that ministers recognised that Kent had areas of high deprivation, which should be reflected in any plans to relocate government departments from London to other parts of the country.
3. Mr Whiting said the London Resort had submitted its application for a Direct Consent Order to government. He said that, while KCC was generally supportive of the project, which had the potential for to bring significant economic benefit to Kent, there were areas of concern including transport and environmental matters. Officers were, however, working through these issues with the development company and the three planning authorities in the area.
4. Mr Whiting referred to the Scrutiny Committee's timely short, focussed inquiry into the local farming economy and said it would help inform new strategies to assist farmers, who played a vital role in Kent’s economy and who had been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather in the last twelve months.
5. Mr Whiting said that KCC’s first Infrastructure Funding Statement was now live on kent.gov.uk and that it provided a summary of all financial and non-financial developer contributions, as well as information on Section 106, legal agreements under the Community Infrastructure Levy and examples of infrastructure projects delivered and planned.
6. Mr Whiting said that the Innovative Sector Exchange Project, a four-year project to bring together innovative technology and creative SMEs across Kent and regions in France, the Netherlandsand Belgium had come to an end last month. Over 300 SMEs had taken part in a range of seminars, advice sessions and company visits, with the project assisting those SMEs in the internationalisation of their businesses, in finding new customers and partners, and in boosting their innovation programmes. He also said that partners would take forward this work through the Straits Committee and that he had written to the Cabinet Office to make the government aware of the project and KCC’s commitment to continuing cross-border partnerships. He congratulated the project manager, Steve Samson, who had managed the project on behalf of KCC.
7. Mr Whiting said that he would be speaking at the launch of the Experience Project which was part of an Interreg initiative funded by an EU grant of over €20 million. The project, led locally by Visit Kent, was scheduled to run until June 2023 with the objective of attracting new visitors to Kent from across the Channel, focussing on outdoor tourism activities such as walking and cycling.
8. Mr Whiting concluded his update by referring to land sales made by East Kent Opportunities, the limited liability Joint Venture formed between KCC and Thanet District Council, at Manston Business Park to All Access Scaffolding Limited, a local SME employing 100 people and to three future land sales that would allow the completion of Maples Business Park which provided affordable and flexible workshop, storage, and office accommodation for dozens of SME businesses. He thanked Matt Hyland, Chelsea Green and Thanet District Council for their work and cooperation in this highly successful partnership.
9. The verbal updates were noted.