Agenda item

Cabinet Member Updates


1) Mrs Bell said that the overall Covid-19 rate had fallen by 3.9%. There were 7 school outbreaks in the county and 7 outbreaks in care homes. Dover had the highest rate of 1034 cases per 100,000 closely followed by Tonbridge and Malling and Gravesham. Tunbridge Wells had the lowest rate at 783 cases per 100,000. Covid-19 rates were highest in school age children, with those age 5 to 9 years old showing a 66% increase on the previous week and cases in children aged 10 to 14 years old had increased by 42% on the previous week.


Outbreaks recorded in the prisons on the Isle of Sheppey and at the asylum centres at Ashford and Folkestone were being managed. PCR testing has fallen in the last week but reporting of lateral flow tests had remained stable. There had been a decline in the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 and staff sickness rates across the hospital trusts had not increased.


The take up of the booster vaccination had continued to rise gradually. Dartford and Gravesham had the lowest rates of booster vaccination but rates of first and second doses were continuing to rise in 12-15 and 16-17 year olds.


There had been issues with sporadic ‘anti-vaxx’ protestors at certain vaccination clinics and Kent Police had provided support for the clinics.


The legal obligation to wear a mask in certain settings was being removed but KCC’s advice remained that the public should exercise caution and wear face coverings in settings such as supermarkets.


The government had announced that restrictions relating to Adult Social Care in England were to be eased from 31 January 2022. The limit to the number of visitors to care homes was to be removed, self-isolation periods were to be cut and care homes would only have to follow outbreak management rules for 14 days, not 28 days.


2) Mrs Prendergast said Covid-19 guidance in schools had been updated and face coverings were no longer advised for staff and pupils in communal areas of education settings. Directors of Public Health would only be able to recommend that staff and pupils wear masks in places where there were outbreaks or where the local public health situation justified it. This would require sign off from the Education Secretary. Circumstances in each school were different and some schools were experiencing significant levels of infection. KCC’s advice remained that dependent on the outcomes of their own risk assessment, they may decide to implement additional infection control measures. Officers were meeting regularly to exchange information and to ensure that schools were supported to best manage the change in regulations.


On the Isle of Sheppey, under the umbrella of the government’s raising school standards and Levelling Up agendas, the DfE approached KCC regarding development of a partnership project to improve school outcomes within a geographic area. Since then, work had been underway to develop an evidence based model building the community and wider assets on the island. The project aimed to separate the link between deprivation and educational outcomes in a sustainable way by working with a group of schools, rather than focussing on individual schools. During the development phase, KCC had established a link with the Breaking Barriers initiative, a national organisation commissioned by Swale Borough develop a targeted place based approach to improve adult opportunities. Bringing together this level of expertise, experience and resources has the potential to make sustainable change on the island. KCC’s focus would be on improving parental engagement.


Together with the Director for Education and the Lead Advisor for Education, Mrs Prendergast visited Goudhurst & Kilndown Church of England Primary School. The Executive Headteacher, Lindsay Roberts, had invited them to find out more about the impressive development work the school had been doing in collaboration with Kent and Medway Maths Hub and The Education People which had led to improvement across all ability levels.


3) Mr Brazier said he had attended the planting of trees on Highways land in Sevenoaks as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Scheme to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Around 500 trees were to be planted in the county.


News regarding the Department for Transport’s allocation of funds for the Bus Improvement Plan submission had not yet been received.


There was to be a Border Facility at Dover intended for animal products and discussions had started with DEFRA about project management of the scheme.


Mr Brazier and the Leader were to visit the Thanet Parkway train station which was under construction near Ramsgate. Completion was expected in 2022.


4) Miss Carey said that the consultation on the Household Waste & Recycling Centre booking system had shown that more people were in favour of retaining it and furthermore, the consultation had shown that people wanted same-day bookings. The findings of the consultation were reported to the meeting of the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee on 18 January 2022 and a clear majority of Members were in favour of keeping the booking system and same day bookings. Following the meeting, Miss Carey had taken the decision for the booking system to be retained. Thanks were given to the Waste Team who had been responsive and diligent throughout the process. A customer service improvement had come out of what had originally been a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Solar Together Scheme was a collective buy-in scheme for solar panels and batteries. It was open for householders and community buildings. Interest in the scheme was able to be registered and applications were to open on 7 February 2022. More information was on:


Matt Smyth, who was Partership Director at South London Waste Partnership was to join KCC as Director of Environment and Waste. 


5) Mr Murphy said there was partnership working underway with Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and their CEO, Jo James, to fill the vacancies at Dover’s Port Health Facility. Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce’s social media presence would be used to promote the job roles.


Commercial aviation had accounted for 2.5% of global carbon dioxide output per annum prior to the pandemic. HyPoint, a pioneering zero emission aviation company had located at Discovery Park in Sandwich. HyPoint made equipment powered by hydrogen. The company was to hold a virtual opening on 9 February where KCC would be represented.


6) Mr Hill said the Winter Olympics being held in Beijing was to begin on 4 February. There were two representatives from Kent, Matt Weston from Tunbridge Wells who was competing for a skeleton medal and Taylor Lawrence from Westgate-on-Sea competing in the 4-man bobsleigh.


7) Mr Sweetland said there had been an opportunity to consider the new People Strategy. The pandemic had led to key elements of the Strategy from 2017 being accelerated and it had been successfully delivered by the end of 2021. The new Strategy said KCC supported people to deliver to the best of their ability, celebrating the skills and talents of the diverse workforce. There was a clear link between these principles and the experience of residents and service users. The final version of the People Strategy was to be monitored through the Personnel Committee and key performance indicators.


KCC’s staff turnover was 12.1% which was considered a healthy level for a large organisation. This had dropped to around 9% in March 2021 but prior to the pandemic, the turnover was about 12.4-12.8%.


Staff sickness days had dropped significantly over the last two years. Mental health had been one of the top sickness issues reported. This was in line with the rest of the country. Steps were being taken to ensure staff were looked after in respect of their mental health.


The latest Staff Survey had shown that most staff wanted to work flexibly and were happy with hybrid working. It was recognised that not all staff were able to easily work at home and there were office spaces available. The numbers of staff preferring remote working had increased between January and July 2021. Productivity had not dropped and most managers had created effective ways of measuring staff output.


8) Mr Oakford said that work done by the Democratic Services Team deserved to be recognised. The team had ensured that meetings had continued in the last 2 years and KCC had maintained its services. The Schools’ Appeals Team within Democratic Services had been dealing with hundreds of school appeals, providing support and advice to schools across the county.


New graduates were being recruited by Governance, Law and Democracy (GLD) after other graduates within the service had moved on, having qualified for further roles within the organisation. There was to be recruitment of school leaver apprentices to work in Data, Democracy and Law.


Despite the pandemic, Democratic Services had delivered more meetings and more democratic activity than ever before. While some meetings have had to be held virtually, a full rosta of meetings had taken place throughout the municipal year. GLD were working on a range of solutions to improve efficiency, online access to legal, data and governance advice, helping with self-service and to ensure proper running of the organisation. Work had been undertaken in People and Communications to transform Members’ pages on Knet, which included information and resources to help them in their roles. The online resources were available alongside the support offer from Member Hub which had recently welcomed new team members. Thanks were given to staff who support Cabinet and Opposition Leaders. In an unprecedented time with considerable additional workloads across GLD, staff had worked hard to support the entire council and to support the outstanding services provided to Kent’s residents.