Agenda and minutes
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No apologies for absence were received.
The minutes of the meeting on Wednesday, 03 March 2020 were signed by the Chair.
Declarations of Interest
Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox declared an interest in item 5 as he was the representative to the Gr@nd and on the Management Board of the GCLL.
Cllr Peter Scollard also declared an interest in item 5 as was on the Managing Board of the GCLL.
The Committee was provided with an overview of the impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic upon the practical delivery of the respective services within the Community & Leisure Cabinet portfolio.
The Assistant Director (Communities) informed Members of the strain the pandemic put on the services within the Communities directorate and the challenges that were faced to continue to support the Community and the welfare of the staff who worked tirelessly over the last two months. Many staff worked from home or came into the office daily while others who could not work from home or the office were happily redeployed in other areas of the Council providing support where it was needed.
Due to the constantly changing information, the Service Manager (Customer & Theatre Services) elaborated further on section two of the report regarding ‘protecting shielded and other vulnerable residents’:
· As of Mid-March 2.5 million people were identified as being clinically vulnerable nationally
· A letter from NHS was sent out to the identified people encouraging them to seek support by registering on the Government website; support included distributing food parcels to those in need
· On a daily basis, the Council team received 150 cases a day, seven days a week for Shielded people
· A team of 15-20 officers were trained and assembled through volunteering to focus on contacting all of the Shielded people on the list
· The Finance team tidied the data that was received, removing duplicate contact information as well as maintaining spreadsheets late in the evening and at weekends
· Each of the cases was assigned a rating of Green (no help was needed) or red (very vulnerable and needed extra support)
· The expected Gravesham caseload was around 2500 cases but as of last week the team had reached out to over 4000 people
· Another letter setting out the Council’s key contact information was sent to the Shielded group
· If a person on the Shielded group did not answer any of the team’s phone calls then the Safer Place Officers/CEOS carried out door knocks. If no contact persisted then the case was referred over to the Police to make a final visit
· To date, the team have made over 10,000 phone calls to every single person that was referred to the Council; those phone calls included scheduled follow up calls which are still ongoing. As part of those calls, emergency food parcels were distributed and befriending calls were made to the most lonely and vulnerable
· In addition to data from the NHS cohort, contact was received from the wider Community as a letter was sent to every household informing them how they could receive help from the Council
· An advice line and COVID-19 email was set up which was monitored 24/7 including evenings and weekends; they are both still place although the amount of contact received has been significantly reduced as many are now self-sufficient. Some of the weekly welfare visits are also ongoing to various vulnerable residents
· Over 3700 direct contacts were made to the Council and 1800 interventions were ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
The Committee was presented with a discussion document to assist with Post Covid-19 recovery Planning for Gravesend Town Centre.
The Director (Communities) advised that creation of the report started three weeks into the lockdown but it constantly changed as the Government released new guidance every day. The report strove to develop a plan for re-opening of the Town Centre and set out a full recovery plan.
The Director (Communities) advised that the year started with approved extra budgets for various events planned throughout the year however as the pandemic worsened, the Council was forced to cancel all events for public safety. As a result, the Town Centre also saw a dramatic decrease in footfall as most stores closed and the public only ventured into Gravesend for food shopping or emergency supplies.
The Director (Communities) informed the Committee that a team of officers within the Communities directorate formed a work group and created a Plan for Town Centre recovery which involved four main approaches, listed in full from pages 37-45 in the report. It was important that the approaches made were similar to other neighbouring local authorities so that there was unity across Kent:
· Actions undertaken during the lock down
· Planning for partial re-opening of the Town Centre
· Celebration/Commemoration events going forward
· Being part of the strategic plans for Kent
As mentioned at 6.3 of the report, social distancing measures for queuing outside of shops will commence from 15 June 2020 once the non-essential shops are allowed to reopen. The Director (Communities) explained to Members the team had been in discussions with the businesses in Gravesham to ensure social distancing was in place outside and inside the shops. In addition Parish Councils have been written to about social distancing in their village shops. There will be marshals in the Town Centre to ensure social distancing takes place and Parishes have been offered the services of volunteer marshals.
It was suggested by a Member of the Committee that the free period of two hours parking on a Saturday be extended to accommodate people who have had to wait in long lines, due to social distancing measures, to complete all of their shopping.
The Chair advised that car parking fell under the Leader’s portfolio and the point would be raised with him outside of the meeting.
Officers fielded questions and comments from the Committee and explained that:
· The Council was waiting for authorisation to purchase digital notice boards using Government grant money to promote local activities
· Due to the plans for socially distanced lines once New Road reopens its shops on June 15th the benches will not be replaced however they will be left at key places at the end of New Road in each direction. The marshals will assist any elderly or disabled people to one of the benches location if they were in need; they would also be on hand to talk to staff in shops to let them in as a priority shopper
· There is a comprehensive plan in ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
The Committee was presented with a discussion paper on the development of an arts and culture strategy for the Borough.
The Service Manager (Customer & Theatre Services) introduced the report, explaining that the document was a work in progress that set out the intended vision of the Town and the intention to make Gravesham a serious contender for external funding from organisations such as the Arts Council and attracting aspiring artists from London etc. Before any funding can be applied for, a clear Arts & Culture Strategy will need to be in place.
The General Manager – Woodvilles informed the Committee of the work that had gone into the Strategy so far:
· Lots of planning has been carried out around organising festivals, parades and community events in Gravesham. Lengthy conversations have been had with local artists about how to promote art in Gravesham, attract investment and further develop their interests
· At this moment in time, the Strategy is in the consultation phase; surveys have been posted to residents and a similar survey was also given to stakeholders to seek their views on the Strategy. The responses received from residents was overall very positive and there was a lot of enthusiasm from the public for a Strategy to be in place
· A questionnaire has also been sent out to the managers of cultural assets within Gravesham to scope out the current and projected footfall and income generated by the assets
· The steering group for the Strategy was also given a series of questions to consider
· The vision for the Strategy over the next ten years has stemmed from comments received from the local artistic community and hopefully Gravesham will become the cultural hub of North Kent leading on big events and community programmes
The General Manager – Woodvilles further explained key points from the report regarding the vision for Gravesham and the priorities of the Strategy:
· Growing a cultural and creative community
· Supporting and developing artists and creatives
· Vibrant and aspirational arts and cultural events programme
· Enhancing and promoting our assets and heritage
· Developing our children and young people creative
A few suggestions were made by the Committee:
· That the snake made of pebbles created by children living on Whinfell Way in Riverview be set in concrete or something similar to stand as a memory of something positive created during the COVID-19 pandemic
· All Members should be able to express their views on the Strategy by emailing the General Manager – Woodvilles with their comments
· Social media should be utilised to get the message out to a wider audience and seek their views via online comments and forms etc
· A permanent Arts Centre/gallery space for local artists to use and exhibit their work should be built
In response to the suggestions, the Chair:
· agreed that setting the snake in concrete was a good idea and promised to discuss it outside of the meeting
· The General Manager – Woodvilles had already put the message out over social media regarding the Strategy asking for the ... view the full minutes text for item 44.