After various contentious issues in September the chamber in October returned to normal day-to-day business. The issue of Oaken Wood is back with KCC, requested changes to the Biodiversity and Climate Change plan are with MBC officers to make and were not expected to be released, and despite an all councillor briefing on the Town Centre Strategy in September this has been delayed whilst changes are being made after a reaction that could be most kindly described as tepid.
Communities, Leisure, and Arts October 3rd
The running of Maidstone Leisure Centre, Mote Park Outdoor Adventure, and Lockmeadow Health Club was the primary business of this committee. Since no agreement had been reached with the current operator on an extension to their contract this will now be going out to competitive tender for operations after August 2024.
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development October 4th
After the controversy of recent PIED PAC meetings Octobers was in comparison sedate. The only points of note being a response to the Governments proposals for reforming plan making and an official response to Medway Unitary Authority’s local plan. Whilst the detail of their local plan is presently being worked upon councillors advised that the approach to say that we look forward to working closely with them especially in the areas of joint infrastructure and where we border.
Housing, Health and the Environment October 10th and October 30th
The HHE PAC had two relatively short meetings in October. The first on the 10th dealt with a recent motion about replacement bins which coincided with the policy being changed after frank exchanges from councillors, additional housing purchases for the 1,000 affordable homes policy and the adoption of the Air Quality Action Plan. Since time is required to gather information about replacement bins following the policy change a report should be made available after January, the purchasing of additional affordable housing was approved, and Air Quality Action Plan was adopted.
The meeting on the 30th perhaps holds the record for the shortest meeting at 11 minutes despite being a potentially thorny issue. Granada House at the bottom of Gabriels Hill is presently in the process of being renovated to ensure it is up to regulation. However, no contractor could be found to deliver the next stage of the project within the allocated budget, or even close to it. If this were funded directly by Maidstone taxpayers this would have been a huge issue leading to some very difficult budget decisions.
The work however is being funded by central government from the Local Authority Housing Fund due to expire next year, and with the original budget seemingly unrealistic the same fund would cover the difference. Cllr. Conyard managed to ask the first question to cut to the heart of the matter:
“Would the requested increase in funds negatively impact any other council projects or applications to the fund?”
With the answer being a very definite no the matter swiftly moved to a vote to approve.
Corporate Services October 11th
Although the main item on the agenda for the Corporate Services Policy Advisory Committee was rubber stamping the suggested renewal of the Council Tax reduction scheme this was not the main topic of discussion. Since the 12th of July members of this committee have made clear that the Biodiversity and Climate Change plan from the council was not good enough, it contains many worthwhile schemes, but no clear path to deliver them. Members of the committee were promised by the cabinet member responsible that an update report with a clear path would be created and released at the next scheduled meeting in November.
Overview and Scrutiny October 17th
Scrutiny this month started to investigate Environmental and Waste Crime Enforcement. This is ongoing work and whilst further information has been requested for the next meeting it is too soon to make any considered suggestions on improvement. Crime of this nature is something that all councillors take seriously, and members are looking forward to being able to make firm suggestions to improve this area for everyone.