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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 Scrutiny Committee will be streamed live and can be watched via the media link below
Mr R Gough, Leader of Kent County Council; Mr P Oakford, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services and Mrs C Bell, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health were in attendance for this item.
1. The Chairman introduced the Leader, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health and invited them individually to provide verbal overviews of their decisions taken and portfolio developments during the pandemic.
2. Mrs Bell outlined the public health developments which had occurred since the Director of Public Health’s update at Cabinet, 30 November and noted the swift pace of change. She confirmed that there had been close and successful cooperation between KCC and care providers.
3. Mr Gough confirmed that Kent council leaders had met weekly to discuss Covid-19 specifically. He noted further that there had been a significant increase in Covid-19 cases across Kent during and following the second national lockdown and that rates were uncomfortably high and widespread.
4. Mr Oakford gave an overview of the central government Covid-19 grant funds received by the County Council. He confirmed that funding had been received under differing conditions which had included ringfenced and un-ringfenced grants as well as grants taken on behalf of care and other service providers. He confirmed that grants to the value of £176m had been received, £142m of which had been for direct use by KCC.
5. Mr Oakford noted that investments had been made in digital infrastructure and cited the adaption of working practices across the organisation, as a result of the pandemic, as the grounds for investment. Miscellaneous additional costs to the County Council which included school and mortuary costs were detailed.
6. The Chairman asked Mr Oakford whether strategies had been developed to reduce operational business costs whilst retaining quality and innovative services. Mr Oakford confirmed that a centralisation of performance analytics across the authority had begun and that a strategy to streamline legal advice had been researched. Mr Oakford reassured the committee that the upmost caution would be taken to uphold the quality of services, especially when related to vulnerable people.
7. Mrs Bell was asked whether there had been new channels of cooperation and inter-service work with health partners in Kent. She confirmed that Adult Social Care and Public Health had worked closely with all Kent NHS Trusts throughout the pandemic and cited cooperation with the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust on the redesigned hospital discharge process as an example.
8. Mr Gough was asked how KCC had worked with other local partners during the pandemic and what measures had been implemented or considered to support town centres across the county. He noted that, alongside the cooperation with districts laid out in his opening remarks, KCC had strengthened ties with Kent’s universities and that Covid-19 rates amongst university students had been lower than originally anticipated. Mr Gough affirmed that support for town centres would manifest in cooperation with local districts and future infrastructure propositions ... view the full minutes text for item 21.