(1) The Leader updated the Council on events since the previous meeting.
Mr Carter referred to the significant progress that had been made in addressing issues which related to unmet asylum-seeking costs in Kent. He announced that Kent County Council had received an additional £1m from The Home Office within the new funding formula which would contribute towards unmet asylum-seeking costs, reducing the current figure from £1.5m to £0.5m. Mr Carter expressed his views in relation to the new funding formula and acknowledged the need for Kent County Council to continue lobbying the Home Office and Home Secretary for the post 18 grant to be modified to cover significant increased costs relating to asylum.
(2) Mr Carter referred to the national issue regarding high needs funding and to the lobbying activity which had taken place through the County Councils Network and Local Government Association (LGA) to acquire additional funding to incorporate into Kent schools’ budgets to fund high needs. He added that Kent County Council’s budget was overdrawn by approximately £10m through supporting Kent schools in relation to high needs.
(3) Mr Carter commended the positive announcement by Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, at a recent LGA debate on the 2019 Spending Review where she recognised that additional funding was desperately needed within special educational needs and children’s services. He expressed concern about the uncertainty around when the review would take place.
(4) Mr Carter referred to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report which stated that in England, County Council’s had experienced the severest financial challenge of all tiers of local government. He emphasised the importance of addressing the financial crisis within local government in the 2019 Spending Review and the new evidence-based fair funding formula. Mr Carter added that Kent County Council would continue to work with the LGA and lobby with government for a settlement in relation to the 2019 Spending Review, which fully funded the cost pressures in inflation on local government services.
(5) Mr Carter referred to the charging for non-household waste at Kent County Council’s household waste recycling centres. He confirmed that Kent County Council had reached a reciprocal one-year agreement with Medway Council in relation to the use of household waste and recycling centres. In addition, a new household waste and recycling centre would open in the Tonbridge and Malling area within the next 12 to 15 months.
(6) Mr Carter referred to the new non-household waste charge and confirmed that the estimated income from the charge would be between £1m to £1.4m per year.Mr Carter announced that Kent County Council would be establishing a one-year pilot and providing an additional £250,000 to renew the campaign against fly tipping in Kent, working closely with Kent Police, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, the National Farmers’ Union and district councils in Kent.
(7) Mr Bird, the Leader of the Opposition, started by expressing his concerns in relation to the threats of climate change and how climate change would affect every resident in Kent. Mr Bird reminded Members of the importance of preserving the planet for future generations.
(8) Mr Bird supported the comments made by Mr Carter in relation to the severe financial pressures faced by local government in England. He expressed his concerns in relation to the lack of special educational needs (SEN) funding in Kent and Kent County Council’s recent Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) report for children with SEN.
(9) Mr Bird welcomed comments made by Mr Carter in relation to the additional funding that had been secured for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and congratulated Mr. Carter, Mr Gough, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education and officers on obtaining the settlement. Mr Bird added that the most vulnerable children in Kent’s care system must also be protected against exploitation and be continuously supported to receive the best start in life.
(10) Mr Bird referred to comments made by Mr Carter in relation to the agreement between Kent County Council and Medway Council regarding household waste and recycling centres and welcomed the proposed new household waste and recycling centre in the Tonbridge and Malling area.
(11) Mr Farrell, Leader of the Labour Group, reiterated comments made by Mr Bird in relation to the lack of special educational needs (SEN) funding in Kent and the issues raised in the recently published report on the joint local area SEN inspection. He emphasised the crucial need for additional funding for children in Kent with SEN.
(12) Mr Whybrow, Leader of the Independents Group, welcomed the new Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council and wished them both a successful year, and paid tribute to Mr Angell. Mr Whybrow reminded Members of the importance of the discussion later in the meeting on the Climate Emergency
(13) Mr Whybrow expressed his views on the severe financial pressures that local government in England had been faced with, including the 2019 Spending Review and the new fair funding formula.
(14) Mr Whybrow welcomed the proposed new household waste and recycling centre in the Tonbridge and Malling area and commended the positive approach to tackling fly-tipping in Kent by contributing additional funds to the anti-fly-tipping pilot.
(15) In replying to the other Leaders’ comments, Mr Carter expressed the hope that the government would be able to move forward with addressing social issues as soon as possible and in particular referred to the social care green paper.
(16) In relation to addressing unmet asylum-seeking costs and the 2019 Spending Review, Mr Carter acknowledged that much could be done to support local government in the country to allow significant progress to be made on tackling wider social issues.
(17) Mr Carter referred to Kent County Council’s recent Ofsted report for children with SEN and said that although there was much to be done, Kent County Council was proud of the continuous investment into the delivery of special schools in Kent for special young people.
(18) Mr Carter referred to the importance of the proposed new household waste and recycling centre in the Tonbridge and Malling area and emphasised the need to continue to work closely with partners in addressing fly-tipping issues across Kent.