Agenda item

Leader's Time

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 K Mills, included the following matters in his report:


(a)  To welcome the new staff who had joined the Council. He stressed that the most important asset for any organisation was its staff. He also thanked those that had left the organisation for their service. He expressed regret that the advice he had been provided meant that he couldn’t identify any specific individuals by name without their permission as he would have liked to do so.


(b)  That the introduction of the European Entry Exit System (EES) from October 2024 would be major concern for the district. He would be meeting with residents and businesses about it. However, DDC was not the highways authority or the police authority. He would be inviting the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) to address local business and residents about it as he was not satisfied with how traffic has been managed in the past. He stressed the importance of junctions being policed and that large lorries should not be allowed into the town. He advocated that Sevington should be used as an overflow carpark. Residents of Aycliffe and Capel had been adversely impacted by traffic in TAP, etc. in the past. He called upon all groups to work together to achieve a resolution.


(c)   That he had written to the Chancellor to ask for an extension to the Household Support Grant which was due to end in March 2024. It had been a vital lifeline for those families in need.


(d)  To welcome Laser Light Communications Inc to the district who were opening a cutting-edge communications centre in the district. It would create 80 high end jobs at the Western Heights.


(e)  To express concern that there was no update on the Levelling Up Fund bid for the Port of Dover as there was a time limit on this funding.


(f)    To thank staff for their hard work at Christmas 2023. He felt that the Council had a lot to offer the community and that programmes could be expanded further. The Council could when working with other organisations deliver much more.


(g)  To reflect on the Deal Christmas Tree. The tree delivered was not what had been ordered and it was corrected within 48 hours with the help of a local trader.


(h)  To thank all those that responded to the Car Parking charge proposals. The Car Parking Strategy review, which had been funded for the last 18 months but not undertaken, would now go ahead. There would be consultation with the town and parish councils over the proposals.


(i)    To advise that following Cabinet accepting the recommendation from Overview and Scrutiny Committee in respect of the Special Designated Road status, he had written an open letter to the Government. The local MP also wrote three days later to advocate for the same thing. The Junior Transport Minister had visited the district but was too busy to meet with the Council’s leadership or officers.

The Leader of the Council then invited the Deputy Lader, Councillor J L Pout, to provide an oral report to the Council as part of his Leader’s Time.


(j)    Councillor J L Pout advised that the media had picked up on the story of what was happening between the Dover Port Health Authority and DEFRA. The Dover Port Health Authority had a long history of protecting the UK.


The Government had advised that checks would move to Sevington, 22 miles away from Dover, which would require a change to the law. The Dover Port Health Authority had been asked to continue with checks and would also move work into Coquilles. However, the Council’s funding had been cut and it was difficult to see how it could do more work for less funding.


The Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee had written to the Secretary of State to raise a number of serious issues including DEFRA’s plan to cut the funding for Products of Animal Origin (POAO) checks at the Port of Dover, moving checks 22 miles away to Sevington and asking for an explanation as to how the cut in funding had been calculated by DEFRA and what impact they thought it would have on UK biosecurity. One of DEFRA's main goals was supposed to be improving UK biosecurity. There were also concerns as to whether a vehicle would drive 22 miles from Dover to Sevington as directed.


The Leader of the Main Opposition Group, Councillor T J Bartlett, included the following matters in his report:   


(a)  To thank those that had left the council and wish them well for the future.


(b)  To express support for the retention of the Household Support Grant.


(c)   To welcome the news of the Parking Strategy review and ask that parish councils be consulted as part of it. To enquire how he felt the “Free from Three” Christmas Parking scheme had gone.


(d)  To express pleasure at the turnout in the Market Square Christmas event despite the weather and thank the teams responsible for delivering it.


(e)  To thank the Leader for keeping him involved in the Bench Street Levelling-Up Project. To ask for an update on the Maison Dieu works and to ask whether the cross-party working group would be continued.


(f)    To ask if there were any updates in respect of the Regent and the Roman Painted House. He had advised a resident to write to the Leader in respect of the Roman Painted House as he didn’t know the current position.


(g)  To seek reassurance that the recent IT issues that have affected Members and the public have been resolved and suggest a cross-party discussion with Members responsible for IT.


(h)  To offer his support to Councillor J L Pout in respect of the issues at the Port of Dover and advise that if there was anything cross-party that could be done, he was happy to offer help. He took on board the comments of Councillor J L Pout.


(i)    To welcome the comment from the Leader about involving more organisations in community events as this was something he was passionate about.


(j)    To welcome any new businesses to the district and in particular at the Western Heights.


In response the Leader of the Council advised:


(a)  To welcome the cross-party support in respect of the Household Support Grant and ask the Opposition Group to apply any pressure that it was able to on the Government. He advised that he had signed a letter on behalf of the Local Government Association with other Councils of all political compositions.


(b)  In respect of parking charges, he would be looking to engage with parish councils and residents. He didn’t believe that one size fitted all in respect of parking charges.


(c)   He had been advised that the responses in respect of Christmas Parking were split 50/50 on whether it was a good idea or not. He had asked officers to gather more detail so it could be properly assessed to see what had worked and not worked. It was important to help businesses in these difficult times.


(d)  That he had no update in respect of the Regent. In respect of Maison Dieu, he would look into the issue of the working group. He welcomed cross-party support where there was a consensus on the matter.


(e)  To welcome the letter on the Roman Painted House. He had asked officers to look into the matter.


(f)    Thank the work of IT officers in resolving the recent problems. The Council had not been as badly affected as others in East Kent.


The Leader of the Council then invited the Deputy Lader, Councillor J L Pout, to provide an oral report to the Council in respect of IT.


Councillor J L Pout advised that nearly all systems used by residents were available online again. Those that weren’t available when he was last updated may by now be working. Emails had been sent to all Members updating them on the situation.


Councillor J L Pout also welcomed the offer of help in respect of Port Health.

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