Agenda item

Borough Partnership Plan: Building a Better Borough

Minutes:

Councillor Ben Chapelard, Leader of the Council, presented the report as set out in the agenda.

 

Questions from Members included the following:

-       Community Land Trusts (CLTs), such as the scheme being discussed in Cranbrook, had not been mentioned under the priority of genuinely affordable housing and social rental housing but were mentioned in the submitted Local Plan with recognition that TWBC were to work with them going forward. Whether this would happen in the next 18 months was dependant on the progress of the Borough Partnership’s Affordable Housing Strategy.

-       Digital transformation was not to streamline staffing costs but to make efficiencies for staff, such as virtual assistance on the website for issues such as reporting bins and giving higher permissions to call centre staff to be able to complete tasks without referring issues back to other officers. These efficiencies in turn could make savings.

-       ‘User Pays’ was the idea that users of specific services would pay for them rather than being subsidised by the entire Borough, which was introduced as a guiding principle by a previous Conservative administration. Due to the ongoing financial situation, it was important to charge for those services such as car parking. Other ideas for services which would be user-paid were still in development and not for public broadcast at the time.

-       The inclusion of Great Hall and Torrington car parks in the list for consideration of disposal in the Asset Management Plan 2023/24 meant they would not be disposed of until a full review of the parking strategy for Tunbridge Wells so there was some time before they were in a position to sell and by that point technology would have moved on to the point the cameras would need to be replaced. Likewise, in that period EV charging was likely to become far more necessary as more people bought electric vehicles.

-       The length of time it took to produce the Plan was due to the Borough Partnership being a new administration and every new Cabinet Member needing to understand their Portfolio before being able to do anything. The Plan had been in place since November but Cabinet were bringing it through the Cycle now with much already completed or in motion.

-       The Champions mentioned within the Plan were unpaid positions, unlike in previous administrations, which were filled by Members with areas of interest which aligned with the ‘Focus on Five’ and who supported Cabinet Members in delivering those priorities.

-       Transparency was a priority with a joint approach between Councillors Hall and Hayward on both safeguarding finances and digital transformation.

-       The Parish Chair’s convention mentioned within the Plan was expected to be a big event to get all Town and Parish Councils together as the Borough Partnership put their new Corporate Plan together in the next 12-14 months. This involved deeper engagement to try and understand the perspective of the towns and parishes within the borough. The emphasis on Town councils as well as Parishes would be added to the Plan.

-       Cabinet had been ‘on tour’ to many areas in the Borough, and while attendance had been high in Cranbrook (approx. 35 people) others had not been so well attended and as a learning Council, it was understood that there were better ways for the Cabinet to engage with Parishes and Towns other than inviting them to Cabinet meetings in their areas.

-       The Borough Plan would go out to public consultation after it had been adopted by Full Council in Summer 2023.

-       Rather than the ‘user pays’ principle, new cycling lanes and cycling infrastructure were to be funded by a bid for Tranche 4 funding from Kent Highways, along with £25,000 of external money from Central Government to explore a low traffic neighbourhood in St. Johns and a cycle track between Langton Green and Tunbridge Wells.

 

Discussion included:

-       The Cabinet and Council were reminded that it was not unknown for Officers or Council leadership to attend Parish or Town Council meetings.

-       It was clarified that the Plan was going through the CAB process and being heard at all three CABs, where all the comments and advice given would then go back to Cabinet, who would consider all those matters and may then modify its draft before it went back to Full Council.

-       Councillor Chapelard and the Cabinet were thanked for their work.

-       It was noted that it was unusual that this Plan was going to Full Council for adoption prior to any public consultation. It was also felt by the same Member as if there was a lack of substance to the Plan and it was still a work in progress, but this was rebutted that the point of the Plan and it’s process was to be a work in progress.

-       The Chair summarised the comments made within the questions and debate which would be taken to Cabinet.

-       A request was made for a borough-wide map or list of EV charging points to be created, although it was noted that software does exist to map these points on their phones or cars.

-       Cllr Bailey wished for his vote against the recommendation to be noted along with his view that the Plan was not a fit and proper state to go to Full Council.

 

RESOLVED - That the Borough Partnership Plan at appendix A is noted and referred to Full Council on 1 March 2023.

Supporting documents: