Agenda item

Attendance of the Leader of the Council

This annual report provides an account of the role of the Leader of the Council. It details their ambitions for their areas of responsibility, how they have and will undertake political challenge and leadership and what their priorities and ambitions are for the year ahead.




The Leader of the Council introduced the report, he commented that he welcomed the opportunity for scrutiny which improved decision making and the role of the Chairperson being undertaken by a Member of the opposition group had been positive in that goal.


The following issues were discussed:


One Medway Plan, Adult Social Care – A Member commented that there was inconsistency in care received by service users and he was concerned how complaints about that care were treated. The Leader of the Council agreed that there were difficulties in the adult care employment market and recruitment remained a challenge in the sector nationally. There had understandably been a focus on children’s services in Medway in recent years, and a parity of focus was required between adult social care and children’s social care going forward. He added the Council benefited from positive relationships with health providers but needed to ensure discharge from services was happening at the right point as an example where outcomes could be improved.


Household Support Fund -  A Member commented that the extension of the Household Support Fund for another six months was welcome. The scheme had been used to provide free school meals for children outside of term time and he asked if the Council would give consideration to extending this offer to children who are home schooled. The Leader of the Council undertook to consider this if the Council had the power to do so, in addition families who were in receipt of benefits could access other support such as Medway Go in school holidays.


Medway Matters – A Member commented that it was welcome that Medway Matters had been retained, and that the number of issues had been reduced to save costs. The Leader stated he felt the changes had worked well and the Medway Matters Live events had been positively received, the administration would consider changes to the What’s On guide in the future, though no decisions had been taken.


A Member commented that as a Councillor he would not require a posted copy of Medway Matters and an early electronic copy would be sufficient. The Leader agreed this would be considered.


Council Questions – A Member commented that the addition of supplementary public questions was a positive move and asked if consideration could be given to extending this to Member questions at Full Council meetings also. The Leader of the Council thanked the Member for his comments and agreed this was something that could be considered, however, Council meetings were already very long and he would not want them to be even longer. The Leader had meetings with group leaders on a monthly basis so there may be other avenues in which those discussions could take place.


One Minute Medway -  The Leader of the Council was asked for his thoughts on One Minute Medway videos, he informed the Committee they had been widely viewed on social media platforms, particularly Facebook. He was pleased that the recently announced 40% discount ticket for the Historic Dockyard for residents had been announced via a One Minute Medway video.


A Member welcomed the One Minute Medway videos, though suggested the production values be improved. The Leader of the Council acknowledged that the videos sometimes had background noise, however he wanted them to be completed out in the community rather than based in an office in Gun Wharf and although the technology could be improved, this would cost additional resources.


One Medway Charter – A Member commented that the One Medway Charter was a positive for the area, the Leader of the Council agreed and the public statement that Medway organisations would work together was welcome. This was a new approach, however, it would take time to push forward change for Medway.


Relationship with local MPs – in response to a question what role had the local MPs taken particularly in the difficult financial circumstances, the Leader replied that he had a cordial relationship with MPs, there had been useful discussion, and at times there had been forthright debate, however they have been able to disagree agreeably.


Medway 2.0 - a Member commented the increased investment in Medway 2.0 was positive, with £2 million budgeted for investment in the forthcoming year, however he requested the plan to be considered by the Business Support and Digital Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Leader stated the plan was wide ranging and he expected it would be considered and monitored by the Business Support and Digital Overview and Scrutiny at least twice in the next year.


Finance – in response to a question why CIPFA were brought in at a late stage in the budget process, the Leader of the Council replied that the administration was in place in May, then internal processes were followed with a collaborative team approach before bringing CIPFA in.  The Council could have taken the decision to hold a referendum on increasing Council Tax more than the capped rate, however this would have incurred significant costs and might not have been agreed.


A Member asked when the Council would be able to set a balance budget following the £15 million borrowing required in this financial year. The Leader of the Council explained that the Council had been given the flexibility to borrow via Exceptional Financial Support Scheme. The Council had, however, been prevented from raising council tax above the capped rate. This meant it would likely take an additional year to balance the budget and the Council would potentially be in line with the London Borough of Bexley where a balanced budget was expected in three years. The Leader added that if there was a change of government nationally, a more bespoke response would be expected for councils in financial difficulty.


Financial Reserves – a Member commented that the Leader had criticised the previous administration for using reserves, yet the current administration had also done this, the Leader of the Council acknowledged that he made critical comments in the past particularly where a budget was built on using reserves. In 2023-24 the budget was planned by the administration using an amount of reserves which were greater than the reserves remaining, making the budget for 2024-2025 extremely challenging.


University of Kent – A Member asked if the Leader had received any reassurance that the University of Kent remained committed to its presence in Medway. The Leader of the Council acknowledged it was disappointing that some courses by the University of Kent would no longer be offered in Medway, recognising in particular the interaction between Councillors and students of the Centre for Journalism. The University had appointed an officer specifically for the Medway campus and the University was a signatory to the One Medway Charter which was positive.


In relation to schools, the Leader of the Council commented around 25 schools remained under local authority control. The Council was not pushing for them to convert to academies, it was the choice of the school. There may be a level of schools under local authority control below which the Council would not be able to effectively resource schools, but that position had not been reached.


Chatham Docks – in response to a request for an update on his meeting with Peel and Chatham Docks the Leader was pleased to report that the meeting took place and there was now an ongoing dialogue between the parties which had not been in place for a number of years.




1.     The Committee noted the report.


2.     The Committee requested the Communications and Marketing Department provide early electronic copies of Medway Matters to Members in lieu of a posted copy.


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