The draft minutes of Dartford Borough Council’s Scrutiny Committee meeting on 25 November have recently been made available.  Among the items on the agenda which were considered at this meeting was ‘KCC Refurbishment of Dartford Library / Implications for Dartford Museum’.

A lot of the background to this item has been previously been included in our article ‘So Why Was The Original Planning Application for Dartford Library Withdrawn?’.  This covers the original application, which had been considered by DBC’s planning officers who made the recommendation to the Development Control Board ‘that no objections be raised and the matter be referred to the Secretary State for decision’.  However, in the draft minutes for the meeting, it was reported that ‘an application for Listed Building Consent for internal alterations and stripping out of the ground floor library and museum area, forming new toilets, changing places facilities and two workspaces for the Good Day Programme with kitchenettes, had been withdrawn’.

Subsequently we learnt that a petition signed by 991 residents against the proposed changes had been presented to a meeting of Kent County Council by Councillor Jeremy Kite.  In September, an article was published on kentonline.co.uk which put the opposite view and reflected the views of some people who supported the proposals.

The Scrutiny Committee were told that the original aims of KCC’s proposals were to open up access between the Library and the Museum to provide a single level entrance, to encourage working together to provide a single heritage offering , to look at wider community use of the buildings by opening up more back-room space, to generate income and to carry out some general repairs.  These proposals had been put out to public consultation; there had been 349 responses to the consultation either as hard copy or online.  Of these 57% were in favour of all of the proposals, around 20% (67 people) were opposed to all of the proposals and 23% were in favour of some of the proposals and had made other suggestions – further details here.

The results of the consultation are due to be published on Monday 22 December, although it seems, from information provided at the Scrutiny Committee meeting, that final plans and decisions would not be taken until the New Year and that there were no firm dates yet.

Whatever the outcome from Monday’s announcement, perhaps it is time for Dartford’s candidates for next year’s Parliamentary and Borough elections, to tell the people what they think should happen regarding the future of Dartford’s Library and Museum.

Other items discussed by the Scrutiny Committee included:

  • Chairman’s Update – Flood Prevention – Members expressed their deep disappointment that officers from KCC had declined the invitation to attend the meeting to expand upon the limited information contained in the papers and to respond to Member’s questions.  However this subject was discussed at the Joint Transportation Board meeting the following week.  Although the draft minutes of this meeting on 2 December have not yet been published, we published an article on this on the same evening.
  • Dartford Citizens Advice Bureau - The meeting was told that the project involved an element of outreach work operating from a number of bases in the borough, including Swanscombe, Temple Hill, Darenth and St Mary’s Church.  There was also a presence on the Tree Estate on a pilot basis.  It was confirmed that once the Big Lottery funding ceased in 2015, these services would have to end unless funding could be found from other sources.  The CAB requires £160000 per annum to fund core services and that the Council’s grant of £99750 still left a £60000 shortfall to be funded from elsewhere just to keep core services going.  A further £20000 would be required to keep the outreach service going.  The CAB recognised the importance of accessing other funding streams and putting together strong bids but was competing for funding with many other organisations and charities.  However the CAB did have a funding strategy and over the last 6 years had bid successfully for funding of £582,000.  If it could not raise sufficient funds to cover core services, the Trustees would have to determine service priorities but inevitably this would result in a reduction to the services being offered.  Further details are included in the draft minutes.
  • Groundwork South Trust / SparkIT – The meeting was told that Groundwork was fully committed to making SparkIT a success and evolving it into a community hub that would become the centre of choice for digital learning among local residents.  SparkIT had forged partnerships that enabled it to deliver innovative training to meet a wide variety of local needs.  Groundwork had devoted its own resources, over and above the £14,000 it received from the Council, into growing and changing the functionality of SparkIT over the last year and on working with other partners to ensure that it could continue to remain current and to deliver on new needs. SparkIT was trying to do the best it could with limited resources.  It had run a twice weekly Job Club with input from Job Centre Plus in both Dartford and Gravesham.   Currently this assisted with developing basic computer and online computing skills and offered assistance with searching for jobs.  Apprenticeship training was also being provided once a week. These services were provided on a walk-in basis.  Further details are included in the draft minutes.
  • Emergency Planning and Business Contingency Responsibilities and Arrangements – These minutes include comments on the flooding in the Borough last winter, and in particular the coordination between DBC and KCC.

About the author

Andy Clark is retired after a long career at Lloyds Register and subsequently the Civil Service. He has lived in Dartford for his entire life.

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