Corporate Performance Report: Q1 2020-21
Members of the Strategic Environment Committee were presented with an update against the Performance Management Framework, as introduced within the Council’s Corporate Plan, for Quarter One 2020-21 (April to June 2020).
The Assistant Director (Planning) introduced the report and informed Members that the entirety of quarter one was conducted while under lockdown
The Assistant Director (Communities) presented Members with a number of slides that outlined key information regarding the Economic Development Departments performance over quarter one; those slides could be found through the link below:
Following the presentation, the Assistant Director (Communities) fielded questions from the Committee and explained that:
· The team were currently awaiting further information on the Kickstart Scheme to be released from the Government; the Council were unaware why it had been decided that groups of thirty young people were the focus. The scheme was viewed as an opportunity to engage with local businesses in meeting the employment needs of young people locally.
· It I understood that payments will be not be made through the Council as an intermediary, they will be paid directly to the businesses and more clarity is required in respect of the role of an intermediary. There was a slight increase in town centre shop vacancies before Covid-19 which came about as a result of some of the shops in Town having to close due to the redevelopment/refurbishment of areas/properties. An example of that was a unit that was closed down and split into two as well a number of kiosks in the St George’s Centre which were closed during the refurbishment works. However, it is likely that the full impact of Covid-19 on vacancies was yet to be seen
· With regards to footfall, the town centre had already been facing an ongoing decline in the average footfall due to the rise of online shopping and the change in available retail shops within the Town. However, Gravesend was in a good positon going forward due to the new developments moving forward such as the Reef development, Heritage Quarter and London Resort; Gravesend also had good transportation routes to London via the high speed line
· With regards to the increased Youth Unemployment figure, the DWP had been encouraged to put in place local partnership work, alongside the large number of training providers out there; the youth unemployment rate had increased and actions in response will be reported back to Committee. The Senior Economic Development Officer had been in contact with North Kent College and held discussions around what they could make available locally. Discussions were also held with NWK for a joint approach to Comms such as a website portal which held information on available jobs/work experience in Gravesham and through social media to ensure that as many young people as possible were aware of the opportunities available to them
· Prior to Covid-19, the team held a firm understanding of the vacant units and the positon they were in; the owners or agents were contacted to find out if the unit had been placed on the market and was easily accessible to interested buyers/lettings. The last few months the team had been focused on business support grants for those affected by Covid-19 but the focus had shifted back to the teams normal responsibilities and empty units were being followed up
· The team had considered looking at change of uses for some units; one idea was to create Covid-19 secure business units where workers could hire a desk to work from if they were unable to work in their usual workplace or at home
· There would most likely be some benefits with regards to Business Rates next year and two thirds of businesses in the Town Centre had already benefited from the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme before the outbreak of Covid-19
· As part of a new package of support aimed at training and reskilling jobseekers, the DWP had doubled the amount of work coaches available to young people
· There were incentives for businesses to move into units within the Enterprise Zone; currently there were not many units in that location but the team were working on bringing further units there in the future. Any incentive could be useful , but could be targeted to attract the businesses that Gravesham wanted within the new developments in the Town
There had been reported cases where an incentive was given to a business for a certain number of years and then upon expiry of the incentive they left the Town. However, local experience suggests that has not been the case here. The Assistant Director (Planning) presented Members with a number of slides that outlined key information regarding the Planning Departments performance over quarter one; those slides could be found through the link below:
Following the presentation, the Assistant Director (Planning) fielded questions from the Committee and explained that:
· There were a range of mechanisms in place for when a member of the public wanted to contact the Planning Service; previously when a person sought pre-application advice they needed to phone into the office and make the payment in person/over the phone. With help from the Corporate Change Team and IT Services, the whole process has been shifted online; Planning Officers uploaded the information and pre-application advice to an online document management system which allowed the customer to access the information from home. The Planning Team had been working towards a paperless office whilst still maintaining an effective service to meet all of the customers’ needs
· The service has had a longstanding aspiration for an agent’s forum. The team had been investigating what other local authorities do. Rather than make assumptions, it was decided that the agents would be contacted to see what they most wanted out of the forum which, at least initially, would be virtual. A piece of work was ongoing to pull together a list of the key agents and create a list of questions for them to answer regarding what they wanted to be able to do through the portal e.g. virtual meetings/submitting questions/time scales etc
The Chair thanked Members for their in depth questions and thanked the Assistant Director (Communities) and the Assistant Director (Planning) for maintaining a high level of performance during a turbulent quarter.
- 1. Strategic Environment Committee - Q1 2020-21 Performance Report, item 40. PDF 86 KB
- 2. Strategic Environment Portfolio - Q1 2020-21 - Appendix 2, item 40. PDF 2 MB
- 200928 SECC PI 35, 36 Proposed slides AGENDA ITEM 5, item 40. PDF 23 KB
- Corporate performance report q12020, item 40. PDF 133 KB