To receive an oral report at the meeting from the Leader (and Cabinet) on the business of the Executive or on any topic or subject that it is felt should be brought to the attention of the Council.
In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 10 (Leader’s Time):
(a) The Leader (and Cabinet) shall have up to 15 minutes to make within this report any statements that they wish on any topic or subject that they feel should be drawn to the attention of the Council.
(b) The Leader of the Main Opposition Group (or their nominee) shall be allowed up to 10 minutes to respond.
(c) The Leader of the Council shall be allowed up to 5 minutes to exercise a right of reply (or 25% of the time given to the Opposition Group Leader(s), whichever is the greatest).
The Leader of the Council, Councillor T J Bartlett, included the following matters in his report:
(a) To thank those Councillors who supported and voted for the Local Plan at the meeting of the full Council the previous week. The Local Plan established the general scale and distribution of new development which was required to meet Districts needs to 2040. The Local Plan was available for inspection from Friday 21 October to Friday 9 December 2022. He thanked the Policy and Projects Manager and her team for their hard work in getting the Local Plan to this stage.
(b) To wish Alan Kemp the best for his retirement. Mr Kemp had been with the Council since 8 July 1974 in a variety of roles and had retired on 30 September 2022.
(c) That he had attended the Dover Jobs and Skill Fair held jointly with the Department for Work and Pensions, Dover Harbour Board and East Kent College. The Fair had been attended by over 700 people with 800 jobs on offer from 60 exhibitors. He thanked Stagecoach for providing a free shuttle bus service from the town centre throughout the day and emphasised the importance of partnership working between the Council and other organisations.
(d) To advise that Dover Port Health authority had needed to reduce its number of employees and was not be able to use the newly renovated building that it had been expected to move to. The Council had written in May to the Prime Minister and raised several urgent concerns. Although a response was received the Council was still waiting for a more detailed response to the issues raised.
(e) To advise that earlier in October 2022 the Dover Port Health Authority had taken part in a multi-agency exercise at the Port of Dover and had seized 2 ½ tonnes of illegal pork products over a single weekend. The seizure was from only 22 vehicles as part of the work to mitigate the risk of African swine fever entering the UK. The local MP, Natalie Elphicke, raised this in Parliament and called for greater investment in border controls, highlighting three areas of concern - the illegal entry of people, preparation for new checks on legal travellers and preventing the importation of illegal dangerous food and goods.
(f) To advise that the community team had been working with 30 different agencies in respect of the cost of living crisis. A number of independent local charities were holding ‘Heat Eat and Meet’ events encouraging residents to save energy and money as well as providing an opportunity for people to interact with other people. Additionally, many church groups had set up Warm Banks to support people.
(g) To highlight the work being undertaken by community services in respect of the Inspire Project which had helped over 2,000 individuals. He thanked everyone who had made the work of the Inspire Project possible.
(h) That the community team had been recognised for its work at the Reconnect Awards evening where they were awarded a highly commended.
(i) That he had been invited to attend St Andrew's Church, Buckland in September for a well-attended Community, Heritage and Fun Day. Bishop Rose had been present and made a dedication to the 1,000-year-old yew tree in the churchyard.
(j) That there had been a significant increase in the footfall numbers for the Dover Town area. The footfall numbers were based on mobile phone data compiled by Hug Software and provided information on dwell time, density, hour and catchment area. There were similar monitoring arrangements in place for Deal and Sandwich and if Members would like further information this could be provided.
(k) The footfall numbers for Dover Town benefited from the new Market Square which had been the venue for well attended local entertainment over the summer.
(l) To congratulate Deal Market on its 323rd Birthday.
(m) That Dover Town had been looking much smarter with shops being painted and it was encouraging to see the improvements to the town. There was funding to spend on the subway and a meeting had been held with officers and the Mayor of Dover. The Council was waiting to hear the outcome of the Levelling Up Bid that it had submitted. The Dover, Deal and Sandwich Town Centre Officer was credited with driving some of the improvements and the positive working relationships she had built with businesses and local residents.
(n) To welcome the start of work on the Guildhall Forecourt Project in Sandwich.
(o) To welcome the completed refurbishment of the female toilets in King Street, Deal by DDC’s Asset Management team. The male toilets were currently in the process of being refurbished. The next project would be the Stembrook toilets in Dover. The Council’s Asset Management team had also made improvements to the Walmer Bandstand, the Tram Shelter in Elms Vale and the Skate Park in Pencester Gardens.
(p) That works were underway at the Maison Dieu thanks to the extra £1 million in funding from the National Lottery. Once the work was completed sometime in 2024, the Maison Dieu would be the premier heritage, cultural and community venue in Dover. The workshops being held during the works continued to be popular.
(q) To announce that the Council had won an award for its business support during covid from the Federation of Small Businesses. He thanked the Strategic Place Tourism and Town Centre Manager and her team for their hard work in supporting businesses in the district.
(r) That he had attended ‘Skatefest’ in Dover earlier in the month and was pleased to see so many people enjoying the skate park. There were competitions, demonstrations and live music.
(s) That the Dover Fast Track project was progressing well with no major disruptions. There would be some road closures around Guston and the A2 over the next few months due to infrastructure and road widening works. The contractor Colas were continuing to communicate with residents and would be attending Guston Parish Council to meet with local councillors and residents.
(t) That the Council continued to work with partners to ‘Keep Dover Clear’ and there had been no major problems since the summer. He was holding regular meetings with Doug Bannister and was encouraged by his appearance at the Transport Select Committee in respect of the biometric passport checks that were due to be implemented from May 2023. The Council continued to press the case for TAP to be moved away from Aycliffe.
(u) That following the consultation held on Tides, there had been feedback received from residents which would assist the PAG in its work of exploring options for a new Leisure Centre.
The Leader of the Opposition Labour Group, Councillor K Mills, included the following matters in his report:
(a) To emphasise that the Council’s greatest asset was its staff. He wished Mr Kemp an enjoyable retirement.
(b) To express concern over the significant reductions in staffing for the Port Health function and the costs incurred by the tax payer. He stressed the frontline role that Dover played in respect of the UK’s borders. He criticised the silence from the local MP on the cuts to Port Health staffing.
(c) That he hoped that Levelling-Up bid was successful.
(d) To criticise the local MP for making no reference to the volume of illegal drugs entering the UK.
(e) To express concern over the potential impact of biometric checks at the Port of Dover on keeping traffic flowing. To stress the importance of moving TAP away from Aycliffe and highlight the suffering it caused to local residents. He called for whoever was blocking this move to be named to residents.
(f) To highlight concerns over how the long term housing needs of Ukrainians in the district would be addressed.
(g) To raise concerns that the Department for Transport land at Guston could be used as a lorry park and to ask what assurances had been obtained that this would not happen.
In response the Leader of the Council advised:
(a) To agree with Councillor K Mills that the Council was fortunate to have such good staff.
(b) That he would find out the costs of the job cuts at the border facility. He advised Members that he had met two Port Health staff members at the job fair.
(c) To advise that he would raise the issues of biometric checks and drug smuggling with the local MP.
(d) To advise that he was not aware of problems with housing Ukrainian families locally.
(e) To agree that it was important to do something to help Aycliffe residents in respect of TAP.
(f) That he would try and find out what was happening with the future use of the border facility at Guston.