To consider and provide a recommendation to Cabinet on the proposals set out in the attached report.
Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development introduced the report that provided an update to the current Five Year Plan.
Councillor Alan McDermott, Leader of the Council supported the presentation and responded to any political issues raised.
Discussion and responses to Members questions included the following:
- The report set out the short and medium term approach with regards to recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic.
- It also proposed some future political priorities that could form a framework for future consultation on the next Five Year Plan. Consultation was expected to take place towards the end of 2021.
- The events of the year had resulted in high levels of uncertainty which had severely limited the ability to plan for the future.
- The report also noted that extensive and deep consultation that had been planned this year had not been feasible due to the constrictions of lockdown.
- In addition, the Council had had to reprioritise in order to meet the challenges of the Pandemic.
- Section 2 of the report considered the short term future and immediate recovery of both the Council and the Borough.
- The Recovery Plans were operational documents which had been reviewed by the Council’s Covid-19 Panel. The Plans were created by officers and intended to guide the Council through the next 6-12 months, to focus on recovery and to support the economy and residents in the Borough through the Pandemic and its after effects.
- The Recovery Plan themes covered, businesses, housing, financial inclusion, health, community safety, the voluntary and community sector, Local Councils and Council services.
- Section 3 of the report considered and provided updates on the remaining projects included in the current Five Year Plan. It also proposed the inclusion of 2 new projects; options for the Town Hall and options for the Assembly Hall Theatre.
- Section 4 of the report set out proposed future priorities that Cabinet had put forward for future consideration. The future priorities were expressed at high level and were:
o Sustainable Growth
o Green Environment
o Culture and Leisure
- These priorities would provide a framework that Cabinet could develop over the remainder of this year and next year including through public consultation.
- The report had been circulated to Parish Chairmen for comments on 3 November. It would go to the Town Forum on 19 November and Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 23 November. In addition, it would go to all 3 Cabinet Advisory Boards.
- Any comments/actions would then be incorporated into the report that would go to Cabinet on 3 December 2020.
- This report was the start of the Five Year Plan and suggestions as to content were very welcome.
- This was a political paper. Councillors were instructing officers on the way forward.
- Of paramount importance in the short term was to help residents and to ensure the economy improved in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding areas.
- There was recognition that the issue of funding would make it difficult to make any long term plans at this time.
- The Labour Group would be preparing a document giving feedback on the Plan which would be submitted to Cabinet before the 3 December meeting.
- The report suggested that the Council should be looking to bring private money in to fund large projects. This seemed a prudent way forward.
- A small digital survey was carried out using Local Magazine which was delivered free to all 46,000 properties in the Borough. Only 12 responses were received. But to note, it wasn’t a formal survey, just an open email for residents to submit their thoughts.
- It was noted that the introduction of Electric Vehicles was an important part of the green agenda.
- The existing Five Year Plan ran out in October 2022. As such there was plenty of time to hold another Councillor Convention.
- Consultation and engagement with Councillors and all residents throughout the entire process would be paramount.
RESOLVED – That subject to noting that there should be full and wide consultation and engagement with Councillors and residents throughout the entire process, the recommendations to Cabinet as set out in the report be supported.