Swale Borough Council and its approach to recovery
The Leader introduced the report which set out the Council’s draft recovery plan, and its approach to the economic recovery from the effects of Covid-19. He explained that whilst there was a reduction in the number of cases of Covid-19, there was a daily increase of unemployment figures. He said that much would depend on the national recovery plan and that local government had a key role to play.
The Leader said that the Council had to be focussed and realistic of staff and funding resources. Any planned recovery would have to be flexible and evolutionary, and he highlighted the short, medium and longer term recovery phases as at paragraph 2.1 on page 5 of the report. He said that the recovery plan was built on the Council’s Corporate Plan and reminded Members that, if the draft Recovery Plan was agreed, there would be an all-Member forum to discuss it on 22 July 2020 that would move towards an adoptable plan sometime in the Autumn 2020. The Leader said the structure of the plan built on Cabinet priorities but were relevant to the changing situation. He went through the priorities at paragraph 3.1 on pages 6 and 7 of the report and drew attention to Appendix 1 on pages 9 to 12.
In the discussion that followed a Member commended officers for the work already carried out, and said that some measures to assist the local economy could be implemented quickly before the adoption of the plan. He suggested the following:
· 30 mins of free parking in all SBC car parks to kick start the recovery of the high streets;
· Tables and chairs outside hospitality businesses in marked areas of closed roads; and
· to build on the success of the volunteer scheme, introduce volunteer ‘High Street Angels’ to assist with social distancing in high streets.
The Cabinet Member for Planning said that much of the work going forward had already been planned before the pandemic. He suggested that Members could email their ideas to Cabinet Members and he praised Kent Police for their measured approach when dealing with issues that had arisen.
The Cabinet Member for Health and Well-being said that the Council had already been working well with partners and volunteers before lock-down and their assistance during the pandemic should be captured to assist in other areas in the future. She praised the community and voluntary sector and said that many organisations lacked funding. An officer was currently putting together a document to be available on the website of outside body grants available.
The Cabinet Member for Housing thanked officers for their efforts as the situation evolved and reminded Members that health and wellbeing of the public was still paramount.
A Member praised the work of officers and raised the following points:
· How would the Council fund the Affordable Housing priority as outlined on page 6 of the report?;
· questioned whether the refurbishment of Swale House was premature whilst considering what a post Covid-19 service provider the Council would be in the future?; and
· was there a priority order of actions for staff to focus on from pages 13 to 16 of the report?.
In response, the Leader referred to the North Kent Housing and Commercial Growth Business Rates Fund in the Financial Outturn report later in the agenda. He reminded Members that the Council would be using Business Rates reserves and borrow the funds necessary to meet the cost of affordable housing, but that a large amount of necessary social housing would be provided via the planning system. The Leader said that the Council needed to provide low-cost affordable housing. He said consideration had already been given to how Swale House would be utilised post Covid-19 when considering the refurbishment. Referring to the final bullet point, the Leader said that the actions from pages 13 to 16 would be phased and that he was conscious of staff resource.
The Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing stressed that good quality affordable housing was required, not just maximum numbers, and he reminded Members of the need for housing to assist the mental health sector.
(1) That the draft Recovery Plan set out in Appendix 1 of the report, subject to future amendments as the recovery phases evolved, be agreed.
- Recovery Cabinet report 8 july 2020, item 726. PDF 77 KB
- Appendix One draft SBC Recovery Plan July 20, item 726. PDF 100 KB