• Could Gravesend be the best town in the South East?

    February 21, 2020 | Blog | admin
  • That was the ambition as council leaders came together to outline plans to fund services and drive development in Gravesend by forming a new Local Authority Trading Company (LATCo).

    Cllr John Burden, leader of Gravesham council, said the formation of the company – which will provide commercial services to the public and businesses with profits helping fund frontline services – followed successive cuts to funding provided by the central government.

    But he and other leaders are keen to promote the new business as more than a fund-raising exercise to cover costs – instead it’s a key part of Gravesham’s drive to become an entrepreneurial council at the heart of a radically changing borough.

    That ambition perhaps led to the choice of the company name Rosherville Ltd – Rosherville and its gardens having been once ‘the destination’ for fashionable Londoners seeking a holiday destination out of the capital – and Cllr Lenny Rolles, cabinet member for commercial services exuded a similar optimism.

    “We’re trying to do the best we can within there awful budget envelope that’s been given to local authorities, and something that reflects the council’s plan to be an entrepreneurial authority,” he said. “Ultimately we want to make Gravesend the best town in the South East, even the country.”

    And why stop there? The question sparked laughter as Cllr Rolles and Burden met with outgoing council chief executive David Hughes and his successor Stuart Bobby, but there’s a keen sense among them that Rosherville Ltd will help them lift the Gravesham community in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

    Having been approved by full council, Rosherville Ltd will formally launch in the coming weeks and will be followed by the formation of four subsidiary companies that will deliver specific services; operating vehicle workshop services from its Brookvale depot, housing management for non-council owned homes, repairs and maintenance, and property development.

    And with regeneration foremost in the minds of councillors, the development aspect will be key, as Rosherville can help drive forward plans set to be submitted by developers Reef.Cllr Burden added: “The regeneration of the town centre has been stalled for decades – we’ve now got an opportunity to ensure the delivery of the development.

    “It enables you to deliver essential housing for residents.”For outgoing chief executive David Hughes, it’s an exciting chance to see the first steps of long-awaited change in Gravesend before he steps down, bringing a new mix of residential, retail and commercial development to bring more people into the town centre.

    While some might be sceptical about councils being involved with a profit-making businesses, he said the concept was not as controversial as some might suggest.”I’m one of those sad people with a detailed knowledge of the history of local government,” he added. “People say there’s nothing new under the sun – if you go back to the late 19th Century local authorities were charging people for electricity and gas.”The concept of local authorities charging is nothing new.”

    Others might argue that a return to local authority practices of the 19th Century might not be a step in the right direction – and yet the ambition of the Victorians might not be a bad thing to tap into.Cllr Burden insisted the work of Rosherville would “never be at the expense of delivering our statutory responsibilities” and said extra staff could be employed.

    Cllr Rolles, cabinet member for commercial services, said the council had looked at other LATCOs operated by councils around the country in order to adopt “best practice” when operating their own and followed advice from Lawyers in Local Government, which has also drawn on the experiences of other councils.

    A shareholder group will be established within the council, which is the sole shareholder, to provide support for Rosherville Ltd.This group will be chaired by the chief executive and will provide legal, financial and practical advice to the leader in order that he can take informed decisions on behalf of the shareholder.

    Rosherville Ltd’s board will comprise five directors three of whom will be council members along with two senior officers of the council, with the council’s monitoring officer acting as the company secretary.The board will report to the shareholder group for most decision-making purposes, but to cabinet for more significant decisions, such as the appointment and dismissal of company directors.

    Special Thanks to Kent Online for their Article- https://www.kentonline.co.uk/gravesend/news/aim-to-make-best-town-in-south-east-220832/