On Sunday I was on the Folkestone Harbour Arm alongside Jim Martin, Connor McConville and Jenny Hollingsbee to see the Thalassa off on behalf of the District Council.Thalassa is the key part of the Tall Ships project, and its crew of teenagers from England and France crew the ship, take it in turns to cover the four-hourly watch shifts and undertake tasks such as putting up sails, adjusting rigging and duties in the mess. The project is supported by Folkestone & Hythe District Council, The Sports Trust and Boulogne Town Hall.
Even with my most rose tinted specs on, I'd have to say the weather was "patchy". Additionally, the timings were thrown rather to hell by the French half of the crew being stranded for over 2 hours at Dover on a broken ferry! However the ship got away that afternoon only an hour later than expected and still on the high tide, waved off by relatives, the public, and Council representatives (including me!).
On Wednesday we had the first meeting of the Constitution Working Group tasked to deliver a committee system by May 2024. We were read the minutes of a previous incarnation of this Work Group in 2019, which was set up in response to a motion I had put four years ago on the Committee system, but with its Conservative majority was NEVER going to recommend doing so. The new incarnation of the Working Group has a very different remit and energy: we come to deliver a Committee system, not to bury it.
The meeting was productive and focused. The very helpful Philip from Bevan Brittan (our legal support in making the change) worked us through the process, the decisions we need to make, and the speed needed to deliver it.
It's absolutely clear that to deliver the change we want in the time we need to minimise the number of committees (we said streamlined: it will have to be), give the different committees their own responsibilities (delegations) and be pragmatic on getting the system in place for May. As I said last month: it might not be absolutely the structure everyone wants, but hopefully one all are happy with. Having got it in place, we'll have the opportunity to review, and tweak it. Ice-cream for all....
And then on Wednesday evening: a Cabinet meeting. I got to move the first 4 papers (provisional financial out-turns, and the 2022-23 Annual Performance Report and Draft KPIs 2023-24), which with a failing voice (I have some sort of cold!) was an interesting challenge, but sadly for all involved, it held out.
I should say a huge thanks to all in the Finance team involved in getting those out-turns together: with over 5,000 budget lines its not a simple job. The out-turns remain provisional until the external auditors sign them off, and due to sheer pressure of work we are now not expecting them until October. I'd also like to thank the Finance and Performance Scrutiny Sub-Committee for their review of those papers the previous week, and I was pleased to accept their proposed additional performance indicator into the report.
And also at that meeting, I was also delighted to second the motion to do the work necessary to get the hoarding down around Princes Parade. We said we'd save it. We will. We are.