Agenda item

Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 7)

Mr M Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Economic and Commercial Services, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within their portfolio and to answer any questions.

 

Minutes:

Mr Kiddle-Morris spoke to the Commission in his capacity as Executive Member for Economic and Commercial Services.  He explained that he was still new to the job, only having been appointed on 9 November 2009.

 

The key objectives of the Portfolio were to:

 

§                     encourage inward investment and diversification into the local economy;

§                     promote the start-up and growth of local businesses; and

§                     promote the development of a more skilled workforce.

 

The two branches of the Portfolio were Asset Management and Economic Development.

 

Asset Management covered the following areas:

 

Building Services

 

§                     Facilities Management (Elizabeth House, Breckland House and the Guildhall);

§                     Car Parks, Roads and Footpaths

 

Commercial & Industrial Property

 

§                     Commercial Property Portfolio (about £2million revenue)

§                     Land Sales – Active Land Management

§                     Commercial Development

§                     Lease Cars

 

Economic Development was a more nebulous, unstructured but very successful department.  Its main areas of involvement were:

 

§                     Business support

§                     Supporting local employment through skills development

§                     Growth Point – Programme Management for Moving Thetford Forward

§                     RevActive supporting business development

§                     Thetford Enterprise Park

§                     Snetterton Utilities

§                     Dragons Den

 

Mr Kiddle-Morris explained that he had not known much about the Portfolio when he had been appointed but he understood the importance of preparing for future growth when the economy picked up.  Therefore, going forward, they would be looking at the properties owned by the Council and ensuring that they were suitable for use now and capable of meeting future needs.  He wanted to ensure that there were small starter units available to encourage businesses.  He was aware that some villages had quite large industrial estates and he hoped to be able to put small units there to make the local economy more sustainable.

 

A Member supported this but said that it would be necessary to liaise with the planning department to ensure applications for rural businesses were supported.  He felt that there was a need for a Council-wide policy.  Mr Kiddle-Morris said that this had to be tackled through the LDF process.

 

The Vice-Chairman felt that business start-up and specialist advice was vital for small business people and should be advertised by every means available.  He was also concerned that the Council should work with other district councils and Norfolk County Council to ensure ‘joined up’ economic strategies and policies.  He complimented the Executive Member on his plans for the future and asked him what he considered to be the most important strand of the Council’s economic strategy.

 

Mr Kiddle-Morris said that the rural economy was the key issue.  Work was already being done, in conjunction with Norfolk County Council, to tackle the problem of poor broadband availability as this was vitally important to businesses.  It was suggested that BT should be invited back to speak to the Commission.

 

A Member asked about the lack of skills in the district and Mr Kiddle-Morris said that they were facilitating training for specific workforces, but that they were not equipped to provide basic skills.

 

An Attleborough Member was concerned about the lack of information he was receiving about the Council’s response to the travellers at Victory Park and this concern was echoed by another Member who said that Ward Representatives should be kept in the loop about what was happening in their areas.  Mr Kiddle-Morris asked the Deputy Chief Executive to e-mail the Member with an update.<1>

 

The same Attleborough Member asked about the Snetterton Market planning application.  He felt that the Market was the gateway to the Snetterton Circuit and needed a Master Plan to ensure that it was not developed piecemeal.  He also felt that it would be a good place for new small business units.

 

The Chairman said that there was a need to link economic development and planning – they could not be divorced from each other as they were inextricably linked.  Jobs, housing and infrastructure could not be generated without a Master Plan but there did not seem to be one.

 

Mr Kiddle-Morris agreed that his Portfolio and the Planning Portfolio needed to be in close contact – and they were.  However, he felt that Government policy was written on urban grounds and it was dictating what they were trying to do.

 

A Member asked about the future, when the A11 had been dualled.  He was concerned that there would be people and jobs but no overall plan and no power either.

 

Mr Kiddle-Morris said that power and infrastructure were the shortcomings.  Something had to be done, now, to ensure that the district was ready for the business that would come in when the A11 was dualled.  Work was already underway to try to sort out the power, water and broadband issues.  He said that there were some businesses interested and some schemes under discussion, but the details were confidential at this stage.  In response to a question he said that the project for Snetterton Heath had a projected timeline of three years.

 

The Chairman thanked Mr Kiddle-Morris for his presentation.