Tuesday: Cabinet "away day" (held in the exotic venue which was, er, the Civic Centre in Folkestone.
Briefing on a number of "cross cutting" issues for the Council to all Cabinet Members and Labour Leader Connor on a variety of issues including the huge budget challenge we face, and schemes like the Folkestone Levelling up project, Folca, Coast Drive, Biggins Wood, Highview, Ship Street and more. Lots of information in one day!
The Full Council agenda for Wednesday 21st was published. I'm really pleased to have got the motion to formally start work on taking on Council to a committee system by May 2024 on there: I'll be working on Wednesday to take all my colleagues with me in support. Its a slight change, on advice from the earliest draft, but made the cut:
From Councillor Tim Prater, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance Committee Governance for Folkestone & Hythe District Council This Council resolves: 1. That the Committee System model of governance is adopted by Folkestone and Hythe District Council with effect from the Annual Council meeting in May 2024. 2. That a Constitution Working Group is convened, comprising of the Leader of each constituted Group (or their nominee) plus one Independent. The Working Group is instructed to consider and make recommendations to Full Council on the composition and terms of reference of committees by January 2024. 3. That the Independent Remuneration Panel is instructed to review the Scheme of Members’ Allowances in light of the revised model of governance and make recommendations to Full Council by January 2024. 4. That the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Constitution Working Group, redrafts the Council’s constitution to fit a committee system of governance and presents the revised constitution to Full Council for adoption by March 2024. This Council acknowledges that there will be a cost implication to this proposed change in Governance. A budget is to be made available of up to a maximum of £100k taken from general reserves in agreement with the S151 Officer and the Finance and Governance Portfolio Holder.
Also good to see the innovation, suggested by Connor, of Cabinet member / portfolio holders written reports to Council, allowing Councillors to ask rather more informed questions of cabinet members than has previously been the case. Its an important step towards a more transparent Council, but I blew it a bit. Having been clear that reports should be around 3 paragraphs, mine weighed in at 2 pages. Sorry, but I had a lot to say!
Wednesday and a Cabinet meeting: due to the timing of work after an election a very thin one item agenda, but a helpful warm-up. Got to ask a few questions in detail, all of which were responded to well.
On Friday 16th I got to be present at the offical opening of the new toilet block and kiosk by the amphitheatre in the Lower Leas Park.
Lovely facility, and the lights and hot water for the toilets themselves are powered from the solar panels on the green roof: great to see.
Suggested we could try to add a water bottle filling point there, and some signage to tell people about the solar panels, what they power, and some idea on how much they are saving us! Not sure the Council officers were delighted by my sugfgesting more work for them, but they promised to look at it...
There is a disabled toilet with good access built into the block, but what I had missed is that a SEPARATE and additional new "Changing Places" toilet will be installed this winter right at the foot of the Park by the car park AS WELL, with full hoists etc for those that need that help. Genuinely awesome news: more good things to come.