To receive announcements from the Leader of the Council
The Leader of the Council made the following announcements:
· Dartford Festival 2019
The Leader of the Council said that the Council continued to organise amazing events and that the Dartford festival was the pinnacle of these activities. The event was a raging success and the two acts on the Saturday evening had been particularly good. It was important that the Council gave something special back to local residents and once again the Council had delivered. He thanked Councillor Patsy Thurlow, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Arts and Culture, Adrian Gowan, Lewis Kirnon and their teams for all their hard work in organising the festival and making it so successful.
· New Council
The Leader of the Council noted that this was the first substantive Council meeting since the local elections in May. He welcomed new Councillors to the meeting and commented on the positive approach of the Labour Group so far, which he hoped would carry on and that the political groups would continue to work together productively in the future. He commented that it was important for the Council to fulfil the promises made during campaigning and that the Council had delivered all but one of the pledges made by his Group in their 2011 and 2015 manifestos, the only one that it had been unable to deliver in each case being the result of the approach taken by Tesco. This was now being addressed.
· Play Places
The Leader of the Council announced that the Council was actively looking at opportunities to establish new accessible play places. The Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Arts and Culture and the Lead Member for Open Spaces and Heritage were already working on the delivery of new play places and green spaces and this would be an important area of work for the Council.
· Leaders’ Advisory Group on Road Safety
The Leader of the Council reminded Members that towards the end of the last Administration he had established a Leaders’ Advisory Group on Road Safety and that he wanted to formally restart this work. He highlighted the good work already carried out by the Group and said that Kent County Council had recently made encouraging noises regarding the introduction of 20 mph zones and had given their support to go ahead. He intended to organise meetings of the Group during the Autumn to progress this important area of work.
· Road Safety Mirrors in Fleetdown
The Leader of the Council advised Members that new road safety mirrors had been successfully sited at a hazardous point in Fleetdown following a serious accident and represented a small but important success.
· Climate Change
The Leader of the Council said that during his recent holiday he had made the time to read extensively about climate change and he had been prompted to call the Shadow Leader of the Council to discuss this and ways that the Council could address these issues and that he had been receptive and supportive. The Leader of the Council said that climate change was one of the issues that affected everyone’s lives and he felt that the Council should take a leadership role. There had been leadership at national and county level but the Council dealt directly with the local community and had an important role to play. He said that whilst there might be honourable disagreements over approach and timeframes there was a clear need to do something and that the Council needed to take its responsibility to future generations seriously. He cited examples of projects already delivered by the Council in an environmentally friendly manner, the development of Princes Park stadium which had won awards for ‘green architecture’, the work to refurbish Central Park and at Hesketh Park, and new play spaces in Greenhithe and elsewhere. He recognised that it was impossible to change everything overnight but he wanted the Council to take a lead and be an exemplar; to take a lead in Kent and to be recognised as being at the forefront of activity to tackle climate change. He announced that he intended to establish a cross party working group to tackle this issue. He wanted to take a robust approach which delivered results but in doing so it was important to focus on what the Council could deliver and also to recognise the limitations on what it could do in order to establish realistic but challenging targets and deliverables. He informed Members that he had already shared his vision for the initiative with the Shadow Leader and that his Group looked forward to working closely across the Council on this issue. He felt that this was a good opportunity for the political groups to show mutual trust and to work together and that it was important to engage with the local community and to get it on-side. He recognised that Dartford had particular challenges around air quality and traffic congestion which needed careful management and the Council should not rely on others to address these issues. It was important to find solutions and recognise the need to break the cycle. The first step, however, was to engage with the community. He said that he was starting this work with hope and the promise to endeavour and that by working together the Council could make a real difference and that the Council worked best when it worked together towards a common goal.
The Shadow Leader of the Council thanked the Leader of the Council for his kind words and re-iterated that his group was committed to working as a community and that climate change affected everybody and the futures of their children and grandchildren. It was important to work together and to get this work underway. He noted that Gravesham had set targets for climate change by 2030 and said that the Council should be competitive and set a more challenging target and demonstrate that Dartford was the most progressive council in Kent.