The economic growth team at Thanet council has been axed in the latest authority restructure.
The team was headed by former Director of Community Services Rob Kenyon who took voluntary redundancy from the role last October.
Mr Kenyon was responsible for economic development, regeneration, heritage, planning, building control, enforcement, housing, licensing, tourism, leisure, events, museums and community safety.
The restructure has removed the community services directorate, with work carried out by that department moved to other sections of the council or cut entirely.
One area that has been cut is the economic development team. Seven roles have been removed although The Isle of Thanet News understands three staff have moved to new areas within the authority.
One of the roles to be made redundant was Head of Growth and Development. This role was deleted and a new post of Head of Housing and Planning created to combine two manager posts.
Economic unit role
The economic growth team was created last year with some of the staff coming into TDC employ from April- May 2017.
The aim was to work with isle businesses and town teams and look at financial opportunities across Thanet, including bringing authority property assets back into use, bidding for funding and supporting job creation and inward investment.
The Isle of Thanet News understands that in one project the team was involved in talks with a former Sky TV executive interested in basing a TV studio in Margate but a source says the idea was not pursued by the authority.
Just over 5 months after the team began its work the restructure was announced, with the economic development function being one of the ‘discretionary services’ facing the chop.
Some of the functions have been incorporated into a new Corporate Account Manager post, others will be carried out by ‘joint working.’
A source told The Isle of Thanet News: “Thanet is the only council in Kent, apart from Dartford, that does not have an economic function. Dartford doesn’t need it in terms of GVA per head but Thanet council felt there was a need for this when they created the team. It was already financially tight then so what due diligence was done before employing staff for this team?
“In fact just two weeks before the redundancy risk was announced Thanet council’s chief executive signed off an article for Property Week on the expansion of the economic development team, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth.
“Other councils are investing in finding new sustainable income streams ready for 2020 when there will be no more revenue support grants from central government but I don’t think TDC has the wherewithal to deal with it.”
The source said Thanet’s opportunity to gain funding for economic growth was also hampered by low attendance of members and senior officers at Kent & Medway Economic Partnership meetings since December 2015.
They added: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you cannot expect to be considered for strategic support.”
A Thanet council spokesman confirmed the axing of the economic unit, adding: “It was a difficult decision because we recognise the importance of economic development. However, it is a discretionary service and one the council could no longer afford to directly support.
“The council will continue to undertake strategic engagement around inward investment by supporting a more partnership focused approach to economic development.”
In all ten roles were made redundant at Thanet council in the restructure but 14 new posts were also created.
The Isle of Thanet News understands some of the deleted roles were in enforcement, media and foreshores.
The corporate management team has also undergone some change. It was previously made up of the Chief Executive; Director of Operational Services; Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer; Director of Corporate Resources and S151 Officer and Director of Community Services.
The new structure is understood to be Chief Executive; Director of Operations and Commercialisation; Deputy Chief Executive and S151 Officer; Director of Corporate Governance and the new Corporate Account Manager post, although the changed roles are not yet updated on the TDC website.
The Deputy Chief Executive role is being carried out by previous Director of Corporate Resources, Tim Willis.
Thanet council says no functions have been outsourced as a result of the restructure which was implemented from April 1.
The restructure is aimed at making savings of £2million for the 2018/19 financial year. The move became necessary after proposals for an East Kent super council, which would have saved £6.8 million in the first two years for the four authorities involved, fell through last year.
This is excellent news. The council is not qualified to be involving itself in economic regeneration and, over the years, has made one poor decision after another, losing millions of pounds of public money. It’s high time economic regeneration was left to entrepreneurs and people with experience of running successful businesses.
With all the economic development / regeneration that is happening in Thanet, a competent development team that can steer what happens and ensures it is to the benefit of Thanet residents and not just property speculators & occasional visitors is more necessary than ever. But when the Council is run by people who are incompetent, corrupt and don’t believe in the value of the civil service / state then you end up with the UKIP/Conservative omnishambles we have today. The inability to put a Local Development Framework in place is a good sign of what is to come. Thanet is missing out on a massive opportunity today and we will count the costs for a long time to come.