In Council January '24

1 Feb 2024
In Council

January saw the continuation of preparing for the 24/25 budget focusing primarily on the Capital Programme from the proposed Medium Term Financial Strategy.  The Capital Programme can seem as exciting as well and confusing as amounts are proposed for improvements across the borough.  It is the first step of intent with figures after the 24/25 budget being fuzzy and most if not all expenditure still up for rigorous debate with approval of the programme not being an approval to spend.

Communities, Leisure, and Arts 9th January

CLA PAC saw the ongoing issue of the operation of Maidstone Leisure Centre brought on step closer to resolution with the recommendation that the extension of the contract with the existing operator Serco be noted without objections.

The capital programme also saw proposals for improvements to reduce costs of the existing leisure centre, a new gallery at Maidstone Museum, and refurbishing the kiosk at Mote Park, and a new £60 millions leisure centre for Maidstone all be recommended for inclusion and further discussion.

Planning, Infrastructure, and Economic Development 10th January and 29th January

Business in the PIED PAC in January included the Capital Programme from the Medium Term Financial Strategy, the biannual update to the Biodiversity and Climate Change Action Plan, and the potential formation of a Local Bus Focus Group to replace the Quality Bus Partnership closed by KCC.

The Capital Programme had few entries that related to the business of PIED PAC with amounts to the previously advised improvements to the Medway Street Car Park and public realm and greening in the town centre being waved through.  In a surprise amendment £12 millions was removed from town centre public realm and greening improvements between 2025 and 2028 being removed more of which can be read about here.

The Biodiversity and Climate Change Action Plan showed positive movement from the previous disappointing update.  The Local Bus Focus Group was approved with an amendment to report back after two sessions to ensure that action is being undertaken and the group does not become a “talking shop”.

Housing, Health, and Environment 16th January and 30th January

The HHE PAC discussed the capital programme (with housing being one of the largest areas of expense), the changes to bin provision and receiving an update on the 1,000 affordable homes all of which were noted and agreed as per recommendations.

Corporate Services January 17th

CS PAC was asked to consider their section of the Capital Programme and commercial proposals for the Archbishop’s Palace.

The Archbishop’s Palace proved contentious with the committee being presented a “take it or leave it” offer from one company to run the Palace.  Much of the debate was held in closed session due to the sensitive nature of the debate and in closed session two votes were held one to advise that the proposal as it stood should be rejected until a list of concerns were addressed, and a second that the proposal be accepted with the same list of concerns being passed to the cabinet for further consideration.  Both votes were tied with the chairman having the casting vote. The eventual decision was to accept whilst noting the concerns and councillors Conyard, Harper, and Thompson requested to have their objection noted in the minutes.

The Capital Programme asked the committee to run their eye over 36 areas of proposed investment the largest of these dealing with combatting housing issues within the borough which accounted for over £70 millions in 24/25 alone.