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 received an overview of progress on the areas within the terms of
Reference of this Committee covered by Councillor Alan Jarrett, Leader of the
· Strategic leadership of the Council
· Communications and marketing
Before Members considered the report, a Member remarked that this would be Councillor Royle’s last meeting of the Committee as he was standing down at the elections. Councillor Royle had served as Chairman of the Children and Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee for many years and was well-respected across the Council and would be missed. Councillor Jarrett concurred with the comments, noting that Councillor Royle had successfully navigated the Committee through many difficult issues.
Councillor Jarrett responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows:
· Pentagon Centre – in response to whether two further independent market valuations should have been obtained regarding the purchase of the Pentagon Centre, the Leader stated the advice received was from a nationally recognised firm at a cost of £50,000. For a major strategic project such as this obtaining more quotes would have been expensive, delayed the decision to purchase and not affected the eventual outcome. The Council also hoped to purchase Mountbatten House which would greatly enhance the opportunities to regenerate Chatham.
· Tourism – a Member asked what more could be done to promote Medway. The Leader commented that Medway was already extensively promoted and he hoped local residents would promote the heritage and history that Medway offered.
· Medway’s economy – noting the growth in the local economy, a Member asked what plans were in place to increase the pace of growth. The Leader replied that the economy had increased from £3.5b to £5.2b in eight years. Innovation Park Medway was expected to create 1,400 high skilled jobs and the large number of SME businesses in Medway, which the Council supported, added to the economy’s resilience.
· Alcohol Awareness and Domestic Abuse campaign – a Member congratulated the Communications Team on this very effective campaign.
· Marriage Brochure – in response to a question, the Leader made a commitment that the next version of this brochure would also include civil partnerships.
· Luton Road – a Member referred to a meeting with residents where the Council had promised follow up action which had not materialised. The Leader undertook to ensure this action was taken.
· City of Culture – the Leader concurred with comments from a Member that the Council should bid to become City of Culture 2025. Learning from previous unsuccessful bids for City status, he had concluded that Medway needed a coherent city centre. The Council would seek to achieve this in Chatham.
· Regeneration activity across Medway – the Leader agreed with a comment that there had been an imbalance in terms of regeneration activity across Medway. The focus had been on the west of the borough and more needed to be done in the east. He was looking to correct this imbalance.
· Review of Local Government Finance – the Leader agreed with a comment that the possible removal of deprivation from the fair funding formula was regrettable and the Council was making representations on this matter.
· Chatham railway station – the Leader agreed that lifts were needed at the station, as well as an overall refurbishment, and commented that a recent Government announcement had stated the station would be made DDA compliant, which presumably would include lifts.
· Strood road network – regarding the need for improvements to the main east/west road through Strood, the Leader acknowledged this was inadequate. Some improvements were planned and he would look at what further could be done.
· Rochester Riverside – a Member queried whether the composition of the Community Board represented all the communities affected by the development. The Leader commented he would be watching how this developed and hoped the new and existing communities would become inter-connected.
· Parking charges – a Member noted that income from car parking charges was £5m pa, the highest level in Kent, and that this should be invested in roads. An example was also given by a Member of what appeared to be ineffective road maintenance, which the Leader undertook to look into. The Leader commented the income figure was inevitably higher in Medway given it was the largest council in Kent with responsibility for off street car parks. Income from charges was used to fund roads and charges had only increased by 11% over the last 7 years.
· Crime Task Force – referring to a significant increase in knife crime in Medway and the recent creation of a multi-agency Task Force, a Member commented on the need for investment from the Council for this Task Force to be effective. The Leader replied the Task Force would be accommodated at Gun Wharf which meant rent etc. would be paid for by the Council. He would be keeping a watching brief on this.
· Investment in high streets – Members asked why the bid for Gillingham High Street to the Future High Streets Fund had not been made simultaneously with the Chatham bid, as indicated at the last Council meeting and whether this was due to a lack of capacity in the Council to deal with two bids at once. The Leader replied that there had been no change in the Council’s position on this and a bid for Gillingham would be made as soon as possible. Any requests from Directors to increase officer capacity would always be considered.
· Medway Matters – a Member asked why the administration had commissioned an extra edition of Medway Matters, contributing to an overspend. The Leader replied this had been done to ensure effective communications with residents.
· One Stop Shops – in response to a query about the extension of the One Stop Shop in Gillingham to other areas, the Leader commented this was a pilot and, if successful, could be rolled out.
The Committee thanked the Leader of the Council for his attendance.