Agenda item

Cabinet Member Updates


(1)          Mrs Bell said the authority, as part of its public health responsibilities, regularly reviewed its care settings to identify any issues that might contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.  She also said that on Friday 17 July East Kent Hospitals Trust announced its intention to test its workforce over the following five days to get a snapshot of the number of staff across all sites who might be carrying the Covid-19 virus asymptomatically and to help Public Health England understand more about the spread and prevention of the virus.  The Trust intended to publish the results of the staff testing.


(2)          Mrs Bell said the government had announced new powers for local authorities to impose restrictions on movement to deal quickly with local outbreaks of Covid-19. Upper tier councils now had the power to close premises, public outdoor spaces and prevent specific events taking place without having to make representations to a magistrate.


(3)          Mrs Bell said the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics indicated that the number of smokers in Kent continued to fall and was at a record low. The number of smokers in Kent had dropped from 15% in 2018 to 13.7% in 2019 which was below the national average.  She was pleased that more people than ever were quitting, and young people were not taking up smoking in the first place.  Although the number of smokers in Ashford, Canterbury, Folkestone, Swale, Tonbridge and Malling, and Tunbridge Wells had fallen, work was underway to understand why some parts of the county, including Dartford, Dover, Gravesham, Maidstone, Sevenoaks and Thanet, had shown an increase.  She said KCC commissioned the One You Smoke Free Service through the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation and was  taking part in the national #QuitforCovid campaign.


(4)          Mrs Chandler said that since the 1 June, 70 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children had been transferred to other parts of the country under the National Transfer Scheme, however, in the same period there had been 116 new arrivals including 12 over the weekend.  Mrs Chandler said she had attended the opening of a new facility, The Nest, which provided short breaks for 13-17-year-olds who were in Tier 4 accommodation.  The original idea for the facility had come from parents, the building was operated using NHS funding and the aim was to prevent young people from going into secure accommodation.


(5)          Mr Long said all children would return to school in September and work was underway to create a socially distanced environment.  He said there were practical difficulties to overcome and that announcements would be made when solutions were identified, and decisions made.  He said he planned to make a decision on a proposal to postpone the Kent Test to mid-October. (Post meeting note: this decision was made on 22 July).  Mr Long also said that, from the beginning of September and to an extent over the summer holiday, schools would be working to help children catch up on education lost as a result of lockdown and especially for those children who had suffered a disproportionate disadvantage.  He said the government had promised £1 billion but details of how this might be split between schools and other organisations were awaited.  KCC did not expect to receive assistance from the fund and its role, would be to advise and assist schools. 


(6)          Mr Payne said that KCC had been successful in 100% of the bids it submitted to the government’s Active Travel Fund, however in order to be eligible to apply for the second tranche of funding, these schemes had to be fully implemented within eight weeks.  He said the authority intended to make ambitious bids for funding from Tranche 2 that would have significant benefits for cycling and walking while at the same time being mindful not to place public transport at a disadvantage and considering the needs of other road users.


(7)          Mr Payne said that, along with all 15 members of Transport for the South East, KCC had sent a letter consenting to the establishment of Transport for the South East as a sub national transport authority.  He was also pleased to announce that KCC in conjunction with Amey PLC had made a successful bid to the ADEPT Smart Places Live Labs project for £2 million which would be used for projects including researching the use of graphene for road surfaces which had the potential to increase durability and longevity. 


(8)          Mr Whiting said that he continued to develop KCC’s Renewal and Resilience Plan which involved meetings with numerous local organisations, and councils in Essex and London, as well as discussion with Kent businesses and the Institute of Directors.  He said the plan would be formally launched at a special meeting of the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership in early August.  He also said that the establishment of an Employment Task force would be finalised this week and that the Growth Hub Helpline was continuing to prove its worth.  It had, to the end of the last week, taken 7,964 calls, conducted 1,809 webchats and its specialist advisers had provided 2,951 intensive advice sessions.  Mr Whiting said that he had opened a Kent stakeholder meeting on innovation and co-operation attended by representatives from KCC, Kent universities and business as well as Locate in Kent and the Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of the meeting was to agree Kent’s ambitions for cross-border co-operation on innovation, which would feed into the Straits Committee strategy, and Kent’s response to the specific West Flanders proposal.


(9)          Mr Whiting said he had written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government expressing his disappointment at the government’s decision not to involve the UK in future European Territorial Co-operation (Interreg) programmes. He had also responded to the government’s consultation on a proposed Freeports policy and he promoted the establishment of such a facility in Kent. He said he had followed up his meeting with the Minister for London and had offered Kent’s support for cross border joint working for key infrastructure schemes such as the Lower Thames Crossing, Crossrail to Ebbsfleet extension, Thanet Parkway station and additional rolling stock for HS1.  Mr Whiting concluded his update by announcing Produced in Kent and Visit Kent had established a new HelpKentBuyLocal website to help residents find and book tables at local restaurants, cafes and pubs with a view to keeping the Kent pound within Kent.


(10)       Miss Carey said that all household waste and recycling sites in Kent were now open seven days a week and bookings could be made up to four weeks in advance with the limit of one visit per household per month increased to two. Feedback from residents was positive and capacity would be increased as fast as it was safe to do so.  She also said that KCC’s Planning Applications Committee had unanimously approved the plans for a new household waste and recycling centre at Allington which would relieve pressure on the Tovil site and bring the network of such sites to 19. 


(11)       Miss Carey referred to the update, on how KCC would deliver an accelerated target for net zero carbon emissions for its own services and business by 2030, given at the meeting of the County Council on 16 July.  Innovative work by Laser Energy had helped the authority model various strategies and she was pleased there was a plan to deliver the ambitious target.  The day after the County Council meeting, the final draft of the Energy and Low Emissions Strategy for Kent and Medway, which set out the plan for achieving net zero  for Kent and Medway, was considered by the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee.  She anticipated being able to adopt it on behalf of KCC shortly.


(12)       Miss Carey concluded her update by encouraging everyone in Kent to read the Management Plan for Kent’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and respond to the consultation before the deadline of 7 September.


(13)       Mr Hill said that 12 of the authority’s larger libraries, one in each district, had re-opened last week and it was anticipated that 30 would be re-opened by the end of September.  The initial services offered included public computer access and a select and collect book offer.  It was planned to re-introduce book browsing, re-start the mobile library service and re-open the archive research room over the coming months.  He also said: progress had been made dealing with the backlog of 4,000 birth registrations with 3,380 completed over the last four weeks; weddings and civil partnership ceremonies would start on 4 July in accordance with government guidance on social distancing and limits on the numbers attending; and citizenship ceremonies would re-commence as soon as possible.


(14)       Mrs Prendergast said that 52% of staff had responded to the recent staff survey and thanked all staff for their hard work during the pandemic.  She said a new campaign, Moving Forward for Kent, had been launched to help get the Kent economy moving following the pandemic as well as to support businesses and residents.  She said many businesses were using the hashtag # for Kent in their social media posts and using the campaign images in their promotional material.  She also said that the annual budget consultation had been launched and, to date, 886 responses had been received, which was higher than in previous years at the same stage in the process.


(15)       Mr Oakford said that KCC’s share of the government’s Covid-19 Financial Support grant of £500 million was £10 million which would contribute to reducing the authority’s budget gap. He also said KCC’s buildings were being re-opened with Aylesford Depot and five area offices scheduled to re-open this week.  Mr Oakford paid tribute to the staff in Democratic Services, who were supporting more meetings than normal, and he acknowledged the additional work involved in organising virtual meetings.