1. Mr Hill, Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, gave a verbal update on the following:
(a) The public engagement for the new library strategy – Let’s Talk About Kent Libraries - had received a good response. Mr Hill thanked those who had responded and invited Members to take part in a workshop session.
(b) Mr Hill congratulated previous Corporate Director for the Council, Barbara Cooper, on receiving an MBE in the Kent New Year Honours List for 2022, along with librarian, Darren Smart, from Libraries, Registration and Archives who received a BEM for his long service to public libraries.
(c) The John Downton Award for Young Artists, held virtually for the second year running, received 342 entries from 31 schools. The entries were of a high standard and the winning items were hung in Turner Contemporary.
(d) The Positive Wellbeing Service for vulnerable people suffering from loneliness and isolation had to date provided 40 people over the age of 65 with one-to-one support. The service had been nominated for a national and international social prescribing award.
(e) Plans to install Changing Places toilets for visitors with disabilities, like those at Shorne Woods Country Park, were underway at Lullingstone Country Park and Brockhill Country Park.
2. Mr Hill responded to the following questions from Members:
(a) Asked about referrals to the Positive Wellbeing Service Mr Hill said a large number of referrals came from GP’s and referrals also came from community and voluntary sector services.
(b) Asked about the geographical spread of the pilot Mr Hill said it focused on four areas within Maidstone, Swale, Folkestone and Hythe, and Thanet.
3. Mr Murphy, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, gave a verbal update on the following, about which there were no questions:
(a) The Department for Environmental Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) had invested to date just under £12million for the development of the Dover Port Health Authority generating approximately 200 jobs for local people.
(b) Mr Murphy, along with Officers, had met with The Aylesham District Community Workshop Trust regarding an application to the Kent and Medway Business Fund to build 28 commercial units.
(c) A presentation to 50 entrepreneurs took place at the Coachworks at Ashford at the end of 2021 regarding co-working and renting out space to SME businesses.
(d) Mr Murphy paid tribute to Visit Kent who had worked hard in signposting businesses within the hospitality industry to the government’s Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant.
(e) Discussions had taken place with Damian Collins, the MP for Folkestone and Hythe, about the future and utilisation of Dungeness Power Station and a meeting with Rolls Royce was planned to discuss the potential for Dungeness Power Station to be a preferred site for their fleet of modular mini nuclear reactors.
(f) The Kent Broadband Scheme was progressing and BDUK had been instructed to enter phase 3 of the roll-out. Meetings were taking place in February 2022 with mobile companies who had expressed an interest.
4. Mr Jones, Corporate Director for Growth Environment and Transport, then gave a verbal update on the following, about which there were no questions:
(a) The Library, Registration and Archives service had ensured facilities stayed open throughout the pandemic and Mr Jones specifically recognised the Registration Team who had worked hard to keep death registrations up to date and to ensure ceremonies took place.
(b)In December 2021 the government announced a further allocation of Covid-19 funding.
(c) The Public Protection Group had been sharing information with the public regarding scams, counterfeiting illegal goods, doorstep crime and the Trading Standards Checked scheme. So far this year there had been 11 billion views of their information.
(d) Mark Rolfe, Head of Kent Scientific Services, had been seconded to head up Hampshire’s Trading Standards Service for two days a week, signifying the quality of the Council’s Trading Standards Service.
(e) The service had been working with government to understand when The Levelling Up White Paper would be produced and what it would involve.
(f) The service was awaiting announcements regarding the Shared Prosperity Fund, and Officers had been working with district and borough colleagues in preparation of it becoming active.
(g) Work with National Highways had been underway regarding the Lower Thames Crossing and an economic element would be included in the plan going forward.
5. The Chair emphasised the usefulness of briefing papers for Members of the cabinet committee ahead of changes taking place and white papers being released.
6. It was RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted.