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Contact: Steve Platt, Democratic Services Officer
Apologies for absence
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Etheridge.
To approve the record of the meeting held on 25 August 2022.
The record of the meeting of the Committee held on 25 August 2022 was agreed and signed by the Chairman as correct.
Urgent matters by reason of special circumstances
The Chairman will announce any late items which do not appear on the main agenda but which he/she has agreed should be considered by reason of special circumstances to be specified in the report.
There were none.
Members are invited to disclose any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Significant Interests in accordance with the Member Code of Conduct. Guidance on this is set out in agenda item 4.
Disclosable pecuniary interests
There were none.
Other significant interests (OSIs)
There were none.
Councillor Tejan declared an interest in the work programme item as a board member of Kyndi.
This report sets out activities and progress on work areas within the Portfolio of the Leader of the Council, which all fall within the remit of this Committee. This information is provided in relation to the Leader of the Council being held to account.
Members considered a report which set out activities and progress on work areas within the terms of reference of this Committee covered by Councillor Alan Jarrett, Leader of the Council, these being strategic leadership of the Council, communications and marketing, and finance.
The Leader responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows:
· City Status and City of Culture bids – In response to questions on the unsuccessful bids and whether the concept of Medway was misunderstood, the Leader said that whilst the decisions had been disappointing, the bids had provided the Council with a cost-effective opportunity to promote Medway as a place. He did not rule out future bids, saying that the Council had learnt something from each unsuccessful bid. For example, in comparing Medway with Chelmsford, it had been clear that Medway needed to develop a coherent city centre. The significant redevelopment works currently being undertaken in Chatham would create a city centre to be proud of.
· Councillors serving as members of Boards of Local Authority Trading Companies (LATcos) – The Leader did not agree that the advice of external auditors had been ignored. He took the view that it was best for Medway to make use of the talents and relevant expertise of Portfolio Holders as these meant they were well qualified to serve on the boards of LATcos.
· Future of Chatham Docks – The Leader advised that it was a matter for the owner whether they wanted the docks to remain as solely employment use or continue with their aspirations for mixed use. He said that Members had rejected regulation 19 and planning applications which had been refused by the Planning Committee might be allowed on appeal as the Council did not have a five-year land supply.
· Innovation Park Medway (IPM) – Asked for an update on interest from businesses, the Leader advised that the groundworks for the southern site had been completed, and heads of terms had been reached with the anchor tenant. Regarding the northern site, the groundworks were well under way and heads of terms had not quite been reached with the first tenant. There had been a large number of enquiries from potential tenants for the site but a firm line was being taken to ensure the occupiers met the Council’s aspirations and criteria for IPM.
· Medway Development Company (MDC) seeking to reduce the level of Section 106 agreements – The Leader took the view that developers that signed up to Section 106 agreements should deliver them. It would be very important for the Hoo development because the housing infrastructure project funding of £170 million was for roads rail and strategic environmental management schemes. Therefore, the additional infrastructure requirements would need to be funded by Section 106 funding. The Leader said that the Planning Committee had very firm views on Section 106 agreements which he agreed with.
· Impact on the Council’s regeneration programme of the increased cost of building materials - The Leader expressed the view that the selling point of units ... view the full minutes text for item 332.
This report sets out activities and progress on work areas within the Business Management Portfolio, which fall within the remit of this Committee. This information is provided in relation to the Portfolio Holder for Business Management being held to account.
Members received an overview of activities and progress made on work areas within the terms of reference of this Committee covered by Councillor Gary Hackwell, Portfolio Holder for Business Management, which were:
Councillor Hackwell responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows:
· Review of Gun Wharf to expand the level of customer focus and reduce the need to additional buildings – Councillor Hackwell advised that there was a review of all Council buildings and their use. One idea under consideration was the use of community centres and hubs to provide the ability for residents to meet with Council officers via MS Teams. This would avoid the need for customers to travel to Chatham to meet with Council officers whilst enhancing the customer experience.
· Telephony service – In response to the confusion some customers had experienced regarding the Council’s phone numbers, Councillor Hackwell explained that this had been addressed by offering the same options for customers, irrespective of whether they dialled 336000 or 333333.
Asked how robust the quality assurance system was regarding missed and dropped calls, Councillor Hackwell said that the new Mitel system provided much more data. Around 30,000 calls were received each month and the one area where demand significantly outstripped available resources was Revenue and Benefits. Following analysis of the data, which shows that many calls related to residents’ Council Tax account, work was in hand to provide a digital version of the account which residents could access online. This would be further developed to enable residents to make changes online, for example to their direct debit. The next initiative would be e-billing for Council Tax.
· Staff retention – Asked how high staff turnover was managed within the service, Councillor Hackwell said that many recruits saw Customer Contact as a good entry route into the Council, from where they could progress onto higher graded positions within the Council.
· The condition of the Gun Wharf building – Asked if there was a strategy for improving the environment within Gun Wharf, Councillor Hackwell said that property fell within Councillor Gulvin’s Portfolio but agreed that there were areas of the building that could be tidied up. However, this would require funding to be available for this purpose.
· Communication of proposed Ward boundary changes – Councillor Hackwell said that this information was already available online through Medway Mapping. He added that he would also investigate whether Ward boundary changes could be added to the web page where residents could find out who their local Councillors were.
· Robustness of Overview and Scrutiny Committees – With reference to the improvements that had been made in relation to the Children and Young Peoples Overview and Scrutiny Committee as part of the response to the inspection of Children’s Services in 2019, such as training, data workshops, and the provision of information outside of Committee meetings, Councillor Hackwell was asked if this model could be rolled out ... view the full minutes text for item 333.
This item advises Members of the current work programme and allows the Committee to adjust it in the light of latest priorities, issues and circumstances. It gives Members the opportunity to shape and direct the Committee’s activities over the year.
The Committee agreed to note the report in the basis that the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Opposition Spokesperson would soon meet with officers to discuss the work programme at the next agenda planning meeting.