Members received the Leader’s Report. The following issues were discussed:
· The improvement journey in Children’s Services - The final Ofsted monitoring visit that was due to take place in the next month, ahead of a full reinspection in spring / Summer 2023. There had been significant improvements in areas such as leadership and staff training. While recruitment of staff remained challenging, capacity had been added to the Service to mitigate the risk of vacancies and there was a focus on staff retention and wellbeing. A cohort of newly qualified social workers were now in post. Concern was raised in relation to workforce planning, increasing demand and the need to ensure the Council received adequate funding.
· Higher Needs Block Special Educational Needs (SEN) Funding – concern was expressed about the level of funding and why the amount available had decreased.
· Innovation Park Medway - The first building on the southern site was anticipated to be completed in 2024 while the first premises on the northern site were expected to be occupied in Spring 2024. £400,000 of funding had been secured from the Getting Building Funding towards the Runway Park. Events were due to take place shortly to celebrate the completion of infrastructure works and to announce the first tenants on the northern and southern sites.
· Strood Riverside - Designs for the floodgate had been finalised and shared with the Rochester Bridge Trust for approval and work was taking place to reinstate a path.
· Rochester Riverside – 440 units were now occupied.
· Future High Street Fund – a third party operator had been appointed to input into the design phase of the Innovation Hub and procurement for the design phase was imminent.
· Brook Theatre – Design work was underway for the refurbishment of the theatre with the theatre due to close in April 2023 to enable this.
· Levelling Up Round 2 – There was disappointment that the Council had not secured funding from the second round of Levelling Up despite having put in two bids. £14.4million had previously been allocated to Medway in Round 1 and bids would be made in Round 3.
· Gillingham was highlighted as an area of Medway that needed investment. Some investments already made were highlighted, such as the opening of the Learning and Skills Hub at Britton Farm.
· Work with Mid Kent College to look at investment in a College of Art to replace the University for the Creative Arts which planned to leave Medway.
· Greenspaces funding – the Council had been awarded £85,000 from the Levelling Up Parks Fund to deliver improvements at Luton Millennium Green.
· Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Highways – work had reached design stage 2. Initial assessment results had been received and environmental mitigation workshops had been held to identify the measures required.
· HIF Strategic Environmental Management (SEMS) – A review of existing survey data for Deangate parkland had been undertaken and feasibility studies had begun on the community park proposal. The Hoo Wetland reserve planning application was due to be determined in March 2023 and the SEMS Public Rights of way project would begin the feasibility phase shortly.
· Integrated Care Strategy – The Kent and Medway Integrated Care Strategy was being developed and would build upon work previously undertaken across the system.
· The Hoo Peninsula – concern was expressed that planned development could threaten wildlife. The previous closure of Deangate Ridge Golf course and the future provision of leisure services in the areas were also highlighted.
· Cost of living – concern was expressed about the cost of living, the affordability of council tax, the financial difficulties being experienced by some Medway residents and the need of some to access Warm Banks, which was a situation that it was suggested no one should be in.
· The Medway Tunnel – Concern about the Council’s ownership of the Medway Tunnel and the cost of maintaining it. It was also stated that the cost of running the Tunnel was less than the amount of funding received.