KCC to hold virtual meetings of members

KCC has begun the process of holding some of its member meetings virtually, without getting together in one place, because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In order to test the technology ahead of a formal meeting, an informal Cabinet briefing will be held on Monday, 20 April, which will be broadcast over the internet. The briefing will include an update from each of the Cabinet Members followed by a Public Health update from Andrew Scott-Clark and responses to the questions submitted by Members.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10am and the webcast will be available for viewing here: www.kent.gov.uk/webcasts

Council Leader Roger Gough will be hosting the webcast meeting

For further details of the viewing process, please see the notes below.

The council says it has been working at full capacity to respond to the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic and for the foreseeable future it will not be possible for it to conduct its business in the usual way.

Its Director of Governance, Law and Democracy, Ben Watts, said: “The Government has asked us to be creative within the law about how we manage our meetings to balance democratic accountability with the operational realities that are currently being faced.

“Over the past month, officers have been tasked by the Council Leader with developing a virtual solution to enable the conduct of meetings. Following the Government guidance on meetings and staying at home generally, the solution is an entirely online meeting that will also be broadcast live to the public and press through a weblink.

“KCC operates an executive scheme of governance and our decision-making, even in these unprecedented times, is published openly and transparently on our website.”

He said that although Government guidance provided flexibility about virtual meetings, many of the existing rules around the arrangements and calling of meetings continue.

Monday’s informal briefing will provide non-executive Members with the opportunity to raise questions to ensure that they are answered as part of this event. This will give them an opportunity to raise questions in a way that has not been possible during the Covid-19 shutdown. Within operational constraints, as many questions as possible will be answered.

Following that initial event, the council will be holding a more traditional public Cabinet meeting on Monday, 27 April, again broadcast live to the internet. In particular, it will be looking forward to the strategic, policy and budgetary challenges ahead and the role for Members as the country moves out of the current operational emergency.

Mr Watts said: “Officers are also working on the arrangements for any urgent Planning Committee business and then we will move on to putting a range of our other committee meetings in the diary, all broadcast live.”

How to view the meeting:

You can watch a Teams Live Event as an attendee using a desktop/laptop or android mobile device through the Microsoft Teams app or web browser, or you can join from an Apple mobile device through the app. We recommend joining via the app.

Once the app or internet browser has opened, you will then be asked to either sign in or join the meeting anonymously. Please join the meeting anonymously

If you click on the link before the event starts the screen will advise you that the Live Event has not started. The screen will update automatically when the event starts, and you will be able to see and hear the meeting.

You can also watch the meeting after it has started, if it is still in session, and use the toggle bar to move forwards and backwards.

Once the meeting has ended, click Leave. However, you are able to leave at any time.

To watch the meeting back visit https://kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/484791 

Question 1

Question by Mrs Dean answered by Roger Gough, Leader of the Council

On 1/4/20 KCC published a key decision authorising expenditure on Personal Protective Equipment for KCC staff and suppliers as KCC stocks were said to be exhausted. Can Leader please confirm that all KCC and suppliers have now received PPE to satisfy their needs currently and for the next month?

KCC has worked closely with its partners in the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) and MHCLG to source and distribute PPE. Since the 3rd April, KCC has made over five-hundred separate deliveries of PPE including several hundred thousand items.

KCC is handling almost all of the requisitions and deliveries for PPE on behalf of the KRF across Kent and Medway. By far the biggest demand has come from providers of adult social care that have been unable to source from their regular supply chains.

Recipients of deliveries from KCC also include but are not limited to: primary care providers such as GPs, pharmacists; emergency dentists; children’s homes; residential special schools; children’s social care services in local authorities; mental health community services; and mortuary and funeral services.

KCC did not stock the type of PPE now required for those who currently have close, unavoidable contact with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases, including highly vulnerable groups. Care providers sourced their own PPE prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 cases.

KCC and its partners have effectively mobilised a new supply chain in response.

The demand and supply of PPE is such that deliveries received, stock on hand, and the quantity supplied to those using it, lasts days rather than weeks or months.

KCC and its partners are sourcing, ordering and receiving PPE such that it has a reasonable level of confidence that it can meet demand. This cannot though be guaranteed due to the level of disruption in the supply chain internationally and nationally, as well the evolving and fast changing nature of demand patterns.

Question 2

Question by Mr Brazier answered by Mr Oakford, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services

The Kent Environment Strategy commits the authority to reduce its carbon footprint yet Members are often required to travel considerable distances by car to County Hall for meetings where their physical presence is not actually necessary, causing that footprint to be extended, while also occupying road space and wasting time. The current emergency has caused the Council to embark on training its Members to meet remotely by electronic means. Will it continue to use these means after the emergency is over?

You are right to draw attention to the work underway to explore the best way to use technology to enable effective meetings to take place and to train Members where necessary as part of this.

It is only with the recent publication of regulations by the Government that formal meetings could take place virtually without requiring a quorum to be present in the same room and the Monitoring Officer and his team have been working hard to ensure procedures for managing these meetings are robust and do not disadvantage anyone participating or viewing the meetings online.

Further detail on this work can be found in the Cabinet paper that was published on Friday. Kent County Council is committed to holding virtual meetings wherever it is possible and practicable given the environmental benefits. The current regulations are only temporary so it may not be possible to hold formal meetings virtually over the longer term.

However, we are committed to look at the way in which we conduct our meetings and briefings in an effort to reduce the need to travel by car as often.

Question 3

Question by Mr Daley answered by Clair Bell, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health

How many care home residents and care home staff (carers and other support staff) in Kent have died from CV19 to date? These cases have not seemingly been added to the total figures being published, which are therefore lowering the true extent of the ongoing situation in the County. This may indicate that there are more cases needing Social Service support to families.

The recording of deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19) is complex and the system of death certification in the UK can be delayed for numerous reasons, not least due to the certification and registration process but also can be delayed by coronial investigations.

The system is not designed for real time reporting in the extraordinary situation of a global pandemic.

Daily reporting by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is taken from daily returns of death numbers occurring in hospital among people who have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Office of national Statistics (ONS) is now publishing weekly reports of total deaths due to coronavirus where coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate and this report does show higher total deaths than from just hospital data but is only published at national level, and currently not at more local levels.

Locally, Public Health are working with registrars to understand the local picture with the same local issues of delay, certification and registration.

At the time of writing this – Friday 17 April – our most up to date figure for total Kent and Medway deaths is 337 where coronavirus (COVID-19) was recorded on the death certificate.

The majority (83%) were in hospital with the remaining 15% in other places including, care homes, nursing homes, own home or a hospice.

The figure includes all Kent and Medway registrations and thus may include people who were normally resident outside the county.

In response to the last point, there is no evidence to indicate that there has been an increase in the need for social care intervention or support as a result of this very unfortunate situation, however if anyone makes contact with adult social care seeking assistance or support, a full assessment of their eligible needs will be completed.

If the individual is assessed as requiring social care intervention, a suitable package of care and support will be put in place. However, if the individual is assessed as not requiring social care intervention, but does require some form of advice, guidance or support, they will be signposted to an appropriate agency.

Question 4

Question by Mr Bird answered by Roger Gough, Leader of the Council

What arrangements are in place to ensure appropriate cost sharing with Medway Council of the additional mortuary places which KCC is establishing for Kent & Medway, and are cost sharing arrangements stipulated wherever KCC is required to provide mutual assistance to other authorities?

The Council has to date committed just over £2.1m for additional temporary body storage for Kent and Medway. This is for a 20 week lease, and does not include transport nor decommissioning costs. Further costs may be incurred depending on the progression of the virus.

We have already had a number of discussions with MHCLG officials and provided them with our initial estimates. We are expecting the costs incurred by the council to be met in full by the government.

Council officers from Kent and Medway are working together on this project and are also in discussions with the MHCLG to ensure the commitment for full funding is met.

Where cost sharing arrangements are appropriate, these will be considered as part of the project. Kent County Council and Medway Council are both signatories to the South East Seven Mutual Aid Memorandum of Understanding, as well as the Kent Resilience Forum Mutual Aid Agreement.

Question 5

Question by Ida Linfield answered by Clair Bell, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health

What is the County Council doing to ensure that necessary testing is in place for residential and community carers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents and to inform the process of the gradual lifting of the current lockdown arrangements?

Testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) is commissioned and provided by the NHS. Analysis of samples, requires specific technology known as a Nucleic Acid Amplification test (NAAT) and has originally been only conducted in Public Health England Laboratories.

NHS laboratory capacity has been rapidly expanded nationally and locally through local Kent and Medway Acute Trusts where the capacity has been ramped up to meet the wider system needs.

Testing is a complex clinical pathway which requires protocols and standard operating procedures. The pathway includes the need to ensure swabs are taken in the right conditions, laboratories meet the required standards and results are provided back to the individual being tested with the appropriate advice based on whether the test is positive or negative.

On the 15th April the Secretary of State announced a broadening of testing to Care Home residents and Social Care staff including:
• All symptomatic care residents
• All patients discharged from hospital before going into a care home
• frontline Social care staff

KCC through the Director of Public Health (with the DPH of Medway Council) co-chairs the Health and Care cell of Kent and Medway’s Strategic response to COVID-19.

Through this and working groups led by the NHS involving members of both Children and Adults Social Care Directorates we are pleased to say testing is now being offered through East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust to Care Staff and to care home occupants.

Plans are rapidly being put into place for West and North Kent working with Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, Medway Foundation Trust and the Southeast Coast Ambulance Service to enable testing to be widened to the care staff and care home residents in the rest of the county and Medway.

We also understand that both the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted are playing a role in ensuring their registered providers have access to testing alongside local systems.

This work is developing fast and further enhancements and plans will be announced locally and nationally.

Question 6

Question by Mr Hook answered by Clair Bell, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health and Sue Chandler, Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services

Many Kent residents have and will suffer bereavement as a result of Covid-19. Bereavement, however caused, can have a serious mental health impact and adults and children. What is the council doing, and what more can be done, to make appropriate specialist bereavement support available to Kent residents to signpost our residents to those services?

Bereavement has a big impact on adults and children.

COVID19 places a national focus on this issue – alongside the impact of ‘lockdown’ and social isolation and the restriction on grieving and funerals. It is important to note that bereavement and grief are also natural, if extremely painful, facts of life.

The big change that has occurred is the impact of the loss of ability of families and loved ones to create rituals and support each other physically in the time of crisis and the sudden impact of COVID19.

For most people grief and loss can be managed via support from a person’s social and family network and/or a range of services that are available locally and nationally and will not have a serious mental health impact.

Many people cite distress from organising the funeral process during the COVID19 crisis as a difficulty as well as the financial worries that occur at these difficult times. There will also be people who will seek solace from their religious and spiritual networks.

For a small minority of people, the impact of bereavement will have serious impact, and this will need input from mental health services and/or specialist bereavement services.

Specialist services are accessible via Kent and Medway Partnership Trust’s (KMPT) single point of access. Also, there are specialist bereavement services delivered via Cruise.

They provide face to face, telephone, email and website support and tailor their support for parents, military families, schools and traumatic bereavements e.g. natural disasters. Details are on KMPT’s website. There are also accessible NHS counselling services (IAPT) provided by a range of counselling services across the county.

What is KCC doing?

The council has a range of information and resources available for anyone going through a difficult time – including bereavement.

This includes Every Mind Matters campaign and resources. A multi-disciplinary team consisting of KCC, the NHS and voluntary sector partners are developing a range of resources for mental health and wellbeing together on a single web page and pulling together the most accessible place people can access the information e.g. social media and through local community networks.

KCC commissions the Live Well Network; Shaw Trust and Porchlight are working with care navigators and social prescribers in ensuring that people get the support and information they need.

Funding has been enhanced for Mental Health Matters – a 24hr phone line with trained advisors that can signpost and help people who need support.

KCC commissions the School Public Health Service which continues to operate, albeit a reduced digital and telephone offer. All referrals including the Emotional Health Service are through the Single Point of Access (SPA). Chat health text-based support around mental and physical health is available.

Higher level need for CAMHS is provided by North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NEFLT). All available services are on the Kent resilience hub.

Clearly the recovery phase of the COVID19 epidemic will need public mental health to be enhanced and there is a developing focus on the needs to support this – from the council and from KMPT and primary care. This will ensure that the information to gets to the people at the right time.

KCC also commissions seven organisations to provide open access youth services for young people across Kent. In response to the Coronavirus crisis, these organisations have been hugely quick to respond, and are already starting to offer new, exciting and innovative online services that have never been delivered in Kent in this way before.

Through social media and online video platforms such as “Zoom”, Instagram and YouTube, they are leading the way in adapting to the times and making sure our young people have the support they need.

We have set up an Online Youth Services offer page, which brings together everything that is being offered in one place. This page is a work in progress and will be updated as required. The outreach has already proved hugely popular with more than 1,000 young people accessing and taking part in sessions in only a few days.

The outreach has already proved hugely popular with over 1000 young people accessing and taking part in sessions in only a few days. Our Commissioned providers will be working to further promote this space and I would encourage you to share with partners to get the message out there as much as possible.

KCC has been promoting and encouraging parents and young people to access resources, to help keep young people them emotionally healthy. The HeadStart Kent Resilience Hub is aimed at parents and carers but can be accessed by young people as well. MoodSpark has been developed for young people in Kent, with young people in Kent by HeadStart Kent.
A document on Coping with Stress has also been shared with the CYPE workforce, to use with young people and includes very helpful advice. This was provided by Yanina Dickinson, Emotional and Well-Being Practitioner for the 18+ Care Leavers Service.

The Educational Psychology Service provides a crisis support service for schools. This work is part of the core work provided for schools by the Local Authority to support the delivery of its statutory responsibilities under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004).

We have leaflets for schools about how to deal with different crisis including loss and bereavement and disastrous events which can be found our KELSI website: https://www.kelsi.org.uk/special-education-needs/educational-psychology/crisis-support-service
• A Haven of Normality: School (PDF, 551.3 KB)
• Child Bereavement Advice for Teacher (PDF, 542.4 KB)
• Coping with Disastrous Events (PDF, 69.4 KB)
• Death and Loss in Schools: Advice for Pupils (PDF, 544.0 KB)

Although I acknowledge that many children are not physically in schools at this present time, most families are still in touch with schools in a variety of ways.

There is also a wealth of information available online which we actively promote, such as the NHS advice page on what is available for parents and carers of children when sadly they suffer bereavement. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/bereavement-and-young-people/

Questions 7 and 8

Questions by Mr Chittenden and Mrs Cole answered by Susan Carey, Cabinet Member for Environment

Q7: Mr Chittenden
There are reports of a substantial increase in fly-tipping country-wide. Would the Cabinet member for the Environment update members with regard to consideration about the possible re-opening of re-cycling centres.

Q8: Mrs Cole
I completely understand the reason for closing the HWRCs but in light of the anecdotal evidence that there is an increase in flytipping and that residents are at home spending more time gardening and undertaking DIY jobs, can the Cabinet Member give assurances that the HWRCs are one of the first services to start up again when the lockdown is lessened by the government, and what is the Council’s plan to open the up, for instance longer opening hours to spread out the number of cars attending the sites.

It is important to separate fly-tipping from HWRC operations. Fly-tipping is an environmental crime mostly carried out by organised criminal gangs, not individual residents.

Data has been requested from all district and borough councils to understand the actual level of fly-tipping reports, rather than relying on anecdotal evidence, and this data is currently being prepared.

However, of the data seen so far, it presents a mixed picture, some districts have experienced a decrease in incidents, some with levels the same as they would normally see, whilst others have reported an increase. We are working with all district and boroughs as part of the Kent Resource Partnership to monitor this closely.

Where it is possible and safe to do so, all Councils will continue to clear fly-tipping and to investigate and take necessary enforcement action and covert cameras have been deployed at several hot spot areas around the County. I am also pleased to say that some of the covert cameras funded by KCC have captured evidence that should enable prosecutions for flytipping to take place.

Regarding the HWRCs opening, we will do so when this can be done safely for both residents and staff and in co-ordination with neighbouring local authorities.

Before the decision was taken on 23 March to close the HRWCs we had seen a big increase in the number of visits. They went up from an average of 600 visits a day per site to an average of 800 visits a day. Across our 18 sites this meant an increase from 10,800 daily visits to 14,400 or 3,600 extra visits.

More people at home were taking the opportunity to have a clear out at a time when our staff numbers were hit by sickness and self-isolation.

It was proving impossible to ensure social distancing between the people using the sites and between them and our staff. KCC’s Vice-Chairman, Graham Gibbens was at the Canterbury site himself on 22 March and confirms that it was not possible to maintain social distancing with the number of people on site.

We are also aware of the difficulties facing the Districts and Boroughs in maintaining a full kerbside waste and recycling service whilst coping with their own staff shortages from sickness and self-isolation.

HWRC staff have therefore been redeployed to assist with these collections in Swale and to ensure KCC’s Waste Transfer Stations remain open to receive household waste. This must be the priority as any interruption to this service would have an immediate impact on Public Health.

All KCC’s Waste Transfer Stations and onward disposal and processing contractors continue to work as normal, indeed many have offered to be more flexible and offer further operational support to District and Borough councils. Furthermore, those KCC Waste Transfer Stations that offer a trade waste disposal service will continue to do so, in order to support small businesses in this difficult time.

The situation is the same across the country with HWRCs closed as priority is given to supporting the kerbside collections which allow people to Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Nevertheless, our message remains that we will open HWRCs just as soon as Government advice and staffing levels allow us to do so safely. KCC officers are working hard to develop plans to re-open HWRCs once the time is right to do this, particularly considering the continued lockdown and likely high demand from residents when the sites do re-open.

In the meantime, we are currently drawing-up plans for KCC Waste Management to be able to provide a temporary bulky waste collection service, working with local suppliers, for our most vulnerable residents and key workers.

Depending on the continuing length of the lockdown we would extend this to benefit other residents. This way people can Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Question 9

Question by Mr Rayner answered by Mike Whiting, Cabinet Member for Economic Development

What, if any input do non-executive Members have in connection with KCC’s responses to borough/district local plans?
What opportunities are there for non-executive Members to influence KCC’s written responses and how and when to they occur?
Is Leader satisfied that the opportunities for non-executive members to influence the content of KCC’s replies to Local Planning Authorities (LPA) is entirely satisfactory?
What non-executive Member scrutiny process is in place, to ensure that KCC forward planning officers do not ‘dilute’ Kent Minerals and Waste Plan policies, in meetings or negotiations with LPAs, for the purposes of finding ‘common ground’.

I thank Mr Rayner for his question, which is in four parts. I will take parts one and two first.

All of the County Council’s responses to Local Plan consultations are officer responses, prepared on the basis of objective, professional judgements on a series of environmental and technical matters in accordance with national planning policy and guidance.

In line with the process I introduced last year, engagement is routinely undertaken with members whose divisions fall within the relevant Borough or District boundary.

Those members are notified of the consultations (including a link to the consultation document and the timeframes involved), and are provided with an opportunity to comment on, ask questions about or discuss the KCC responses with the officers drafting those responses.

Once completed, the draft responses are sent to those members for review before being submitted and the final versions of the officers’ responses are then circulated for information to the Planning Applications Committee members and via the Members’ Information Bulletin.

In respect of Mr Rayner’s third point. I have discussed this with Leader of the Council and am assured he is content with the processes in place to engage with local members, as agreed and implemented last year. In addition, as colleagues will be aware, all members of this authority, indeed all members of the public, can respond to local plan consultations in their own right.

Now to the final point raised by Mr Rayner about potential dilution of KCC’s Kent Mineral and Waste Local Plan policies. The Plan is adopted by the full County Council and forms part of the Development Plan.

This gives it very considerable weight in planning decisions both by this Council and other planning authorities and the Planning Inspector when examining the Local Plan.

In responding to a local plan consultation, the Cabinet Member and the relevant Officers ensure that the relevant policies of this council’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan and associated guidance are included in the response to Borough and District Councils, and through the process described above, local members have opportunity to review those responses before they are submitted to the local plan consultation.

Whilst it is recognised that in determining planning applications, Districts and Borough may have to balance a number of considerations, there is no dilution of the Mineral and Waste planning policies in KCC’s responses to those applications, particularly those relating to safeguarding mineral and waste resources.

KCC to hold virtual meetings of members was last modified: April 21st, 2020 by Murray Evans