Lee Colyer, the Director of Finance, Policy and Development, presented a risk management report, which described the authority’s arrangements for managing strategic risk. The report provided an update on the evaluated threat level, as well as the controls in place, for each of the 10 risks identified.
David Candlin, the Head of Economic Development and Property, was introduced to the Committee. Mr Candlin was the ‘officer risk owner’ for scenarios 2 (‘Being unable to maximise economic opportunities and resolve infrastructure issues’) and 10 (‘Development Programme’).
Under risk scenario 2, Mr Candlin advised that, while there had been no changes to the ‘current controls/mitigations in place’ as set out, there were a significant number of actions taking place under those summary headings. He highlighted the following as examples of the mitigation work being undertaken.
On the ‘delivery by the Highways Agency of A21 Tonbridge to Pembury dualling’, Mr Candlin said that the scheme was due for completion this summer, adding that an announcement was still awaited as to the final date. This scheme, Mr Candlin said, linked to the next one on the list, namely the ‘delivery of North Farm infrastructure improvements’, where he advised that the work had been completed during 2016/17 but that the extent of the benefit it had brought could not be judged until after the completion of the A21 dualling; this, he said, would be assessed during the course of the next 18 months.
Mr Candlin emphasised how the delivery of some other key infrastructure improvements was reliant upon successful applications for funding via the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and the Kent & Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP); he added that bids had to meet the Government’s strong focus on growth. Mr Candlin added that growth had to be viewed within the context of the constraints of the Borough’s Green Belt land and its significant Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status.
Mr Candlin drew attention to a number of proposed highway improvement schemes along the A264 which had not yet received any government funding – despite strong lobbying – due to very competitive funding bids elsewhere within the SELEP area. Mr Candlin said that expectations were higher for the provision of a cycle route on the A26, which had strong support from KCC.
Mr Candlin advised that the Borough Council was working with the Royal Tunbridge Wells Together Partnership, led by the business community. He added that the authority was assisting with the introduction of a business improvement scheme.
In terms of setting out its strategic direction, Mr Candlin said that the Borough Council was currently consulting on an update of its Economic Development Strategy and would be reviewing its Transport Strategy (in conjunction with KCC) alongside the Local Plan.
Members of the Advisory Board were asked for their views on the mitigation actions being followed.
Councillor Podbury referred to the work being carried out in support of town centre businesses. She asked whether that included the High Street and the Pantiles. Mr Candlin advised that both of these were considered to be part of the town centre, adding that the authority was also looking to help businesses based across the whole Borough.
Councillor Podbury also enquired into progress with the proposal to provide a zebra crossing in Major York’s Road. Councillor Barrington-King, Chairman of the Joint Transportation Board, was able to confirm that KCC had agreed to fund this scheme.
Independent member Mr Quigley focused on the problems of traffic congestion, which he said could sometimes act as a disincentive for businesses looking to relocate or to start up in the Borough. He asked what modelling was taking place as to future traffic issues. Mr Candlin said that part of the authority’s plans were based on a ‘modal shift’ of encouraging people towards alternatives to car usage, in other words: bus services; cycling; and walking. In addition to that, Mr Candlin advised that some specific highway improvements on the A264 formed part of the modelling, to help improve traffic flow. He also said that the most up-to-date traffic surveys confirmed that much of the town centre’s vehicles were not ‘through traffic’ as was sometimes claimed.
Councillor Barrington-King said that, as a County Councillor and who had responsibility for transport issues as Chairman of the Joint Transportation Board, he had regular meetings with KCC Highways officers, where it was clear that there was an emphasis on looking at ways to improve the traffic flow in Tunbridge Wells town centre.
On risk scenario 10, Mr Candlin advised that, again, there had not been any changes since the last report to the ‘current controls and mitigations in place’, a position which an internal audit study had confirmed as ‘sound’ in terms of the authority’s approach towards risk.
Mr Candlin added that, within the controls set out, there was an additional level which had been introduced, namely the establishment of a Programme Board, whose role was to oversee and monitor progress on all development and transformation projects. He circulated a copy of the type of monitoring paperwork the Programme Board examined on a monthly basis.
Beneath the Programme Board, Mr Candlin reaffirmed that individual officer groups maintained risk logs which were monitored by each project team. He added that, for example, the civic development risk log was kept in the Members’ Room for councillors to view, which was regularly updated.
Councillor Podbury asked who sat on the Programme Board. Mr Candlin advised that the Board consisted of the Chief Executive, the Director of Finance, Policy and Development, the Director of Change and Communities and the Head of Human Resources and was supported by the authority’s Business Development Unit. He added that lead project officers would attend and provide detailed updates, with meetings being minuted.
Councillor Podbury asked why there were no councillors sitting on the Board. Mr Candlin advised that the Programme Board dealt with the day-to-day business of project management, with the councillor Development Advisory Panel sitting above the Board. He added that member briefings – for all Borough Councillors – were also provided on the major proposed development schemes.
The Chairman thanked Mr Candlin for his update and for Committee members’ questions and engagement in the issue.
RESOLVED – That the risk management report and arrangements for managing strategic risk be noted.