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Note: In response to COVID-19, the Government has legislated to permit remote attendance by elected members at formal meetings. This is conditional on other elected members and the public being able to hear those participating in the meeting. This meeting of the Cabinet will be streamed live and can be watched via the Media below
Apologies and Substitutes
There were no apologies for absence.
Declaration of Interests by Member in Items on the Agenda for this meeting
There were no declarations of interest.
Cabinet Member Updates
(1) Mrs Bell reported that KCC was supporting a new urgent campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse and signposting to help and support. Over 2 million people a year in England and Wales experience domestic abuse and 14% of children and people under the age of 18 will have lived with it at some point.
It was reported that domestic abuse had a negative effect on businesses, forced employees to take unplanned time off work and decreased productivity. It cost UK businesses almost £2 billion a year.
Lockdown had heightened the risk to victims and Kent Police saw a 12% increase in domestic abuse crime reports between March and July 2020. KCC had been working with multi agency partners to ensure a coordinated and widespread support structure was available. The campaign was called, “Domestic Abuse - it’s everybody’s business”. A programme of free events had been organised by Kent Integrated Domestic Abuse Service.
KCC was backing a winter campaign called ‘Knock and Check’, which was asking residents to help the most vulnerable during winter months. This tied in with the select committee on social isolation which had made recommendations including raising awareness of social isolation and loneliness. The details of the campaign were available at: KentCF.org.uk/knockandcheck
The Kent Together contact line callers would be doing contact tracing calls, following GDPR training and liaison with the districts. Advisors would establish contacts, give advice on isolation and testing, signpost and upload details to national contact tracing system.
(2) Mrs Chandler reported that work had continued in response to the Written Statement of Action relating to special educational needs and disabilities. The quarterly monitoring meeting took place on 16 October and was very positive. The Department for Education had acknowledged improvements across the programme, in particular improvement on relationships on “Kent Parents and Carers Together” and partnership working across all stakeholders.
Key projects with health partners had been reinitiated following the first wave of the pandemic and the local offer has been upgraded with a new ‘local offer’ team.
It was reported that school engagement had improved. A countywide discussion around inclusion had been initiated with engagement from over 120 schools shaping a new vision for inclusivity for children with special educational needs. Significant resource and effort had been put into the timeliness of the issuing of Education, Health and Care Plans. The backlog was reduced and it was anticipated that this would be cleared by spring 2021.
The new SEND strategy had been drafted and was due to go out to public consultation at end of November.
KCC held a virtual ceremony for Kent Foster Carer Awards, which recognises the inspirational work done by those working with fostered children helping them to reach independence. A record 149 nominations had been received and the nominations were open to others such as social workers, nurses and teachers, in addition to foster carers.
There was a virtual launch for the Adoption Partnership South East which was formed in response to a government mandate ... view the full minutes text for item 180.
Covid-19 - Public Health Update (presentation)
(Andrew Scott-Clark, Director of Public Health and Jo Allen, Communications Partner, were in attendance for this item)
(1) Mr Scott-Clark reported a steady upswing in cases of Covid-19 since 20 September in Kent. The rate had been relatively low in Kent until that time and it was thought that Kent was around 4 weeks behind the average rate for England and therefore, it was felt that the second lockdown would reduce social contact, which was felt to be driving the pandemic. The national data up to 2 November 2020, showed a differential pattern across Kent, with a large upswing in Thanet and Swale districts.
In September and early October, the statistics for some boroughs had been affected by students who had tested positive for Covid-19 and then these cases had been assigned back to students’ home GP surgeries. Cases were increasing in the working population but there were concerns regarding protecting the older population. There had been greater upswings in cases in the older population in Swale, Gravesham and Dartford.
Work was being done by Public Health to manage outbreaks in schools, care settings and workplaces, including some of the county’s hospital trusts. It was reported that Medway NHS Foundation Trust had experienced some issues over the previous weekend and other Trusts had seen an upswing but so far, it had not impacted on their functioning.
The number of cases in Kent was comparable to other areas in the south east and there were fewer cases in Kent than other areas in England like Leicester or parts of Wales.
Work was being done with Public Health England and NHS to manage outbreaks in vulnerable settings as well as work with other partners around enforcement of restrictions.
Developing the local “Test and Trace” system had some initial issues, but these had been resolved and the next step was to get onto the national system. KCC was working with Department of Health and Social Care around coming out of lockdown and making sure testing and systems were in place going forward.
Congratulations were given to the Communications Team who had worked hard with district and NHS partners to ensure joined up communications messages.
(2) Ms Allen reported that the “Protect Kent and Medway” campaign had localised national messages and was developed with Medway Council, the NHS, district and borough councils. It also had given Public Health colleagues a brand through which they could talk to the public.
As part of the campaign, a website section had been created which had over 40,000 page views as the public were looking for trusted information and advice, as well as looking for service updates and numbers of cases on the website.
Social media posts had been used to get messages out to target audiences. The public were not only accessing these posts but were re-sharing them. There was a lot of engagement with the social media posts and the public wanted to have conversations about what was happening in their local areas. The key messages ... view the full minutes text for item 181.
Covid-19 - Economic Update (presentation)
(Barbara Cooper, Corporate Director for Growth, Environment and Transport, and David Smith, Director of Economic Development, were in attendance for this item)
(1) Mike Whiting reported that KCC had responded to support business and employment.
Covid-19 had multi-faceted impacts and these impacts were considered likely to persist. A survey conducted by Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce showed that more than half of businesses felt that their ability to trade as viable entities had been put under threat. There had been fall in output in Kent between March and May 2020 worth an estimated £2.3 billion. Some sectors, such as hospitality were hardest hit during the first lockdown. The continuation of people working from home and decline in public transport use had all had a wider impact on local supply chains and economies.
It was anticipated that there would be a 12% loss of GDP in 2021. Despite the introduction of the furlough scheme, universal credit claims had trebled since March and unemployment had risen dramatically between March and September. In response, KCC and partners in Medway had taken immediate actions such as setting up a business helpline and freezing repayments on business investment loans.
The Kent & Medway Economic Partnership had developed an economic renewal and resilience plan with 5 channels of work priorities which was to be reviewed in the autumn in line with developments nationally.
(2) Mr Smith reported that KCC had been leading the work on the Kent and Medway economic renewal and resilience plan with agreement and support with colleagues from the other local authorities, the universities and business community.
The 5 channels from the plan were outlined with measures to support businesses such as helplines, an economic dashboard and communications messages. It was agreed that the weblink for the economic dashboard would be shared. There had been a significant increase in interest in ‘Locate in Kent’ with 118 projects in the pipeline.
It was reported that Mr Whiting was an executive member of the Straits Committee which was planning for the new relationship with neighbouring departments in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and France and work was focussed on the key challenges following the ending of the transition arrangements for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
It was also reported that the Leader was chairman of an Employment Taskforce which had been meeting with key partners to look at Kickstart Placement and Apprenticeships, skills hubs and academies. The taskforce was working to the Kent & Medway Employment Action Plan.
(3) Ms Cooper reported that the traffic management plans were aiming to keep Kent ‘open for business’. Traffic management plans were still being refined but work was being done so that ‘real time’ information would be available showing congestion hotspots. Work was being done with hauliers in east Kent to make sure they have their own permits so they are not caught in Operation Brock or traffic management plans. This had been extended to business in Faversham and Teynham in recognition that there were businesses there which fed ... view the full minutes text for item 182.