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  • KCC Chair salutes nation’s military

    Kent County Council’s (KCC) Chair today marked the start of this year’s Armed Forces Week by raising the Forces’ flag over County Hall and paying tribute to Britain’s military personnel.

    The Armed Forces flag flying over County Hall alongside the Union Jack flag

    The Armed Forces flag flying over County Hall

    Speaking at the flag-raising ceremony, Lesley Game said the annual campaign was a time to recognise the vital role the Armed Forces play in protecting the nation, both at home and overseas, and to remember those who have given their lives so others can have securer futures.

    Following swiftly on from the 40th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Falklands on 14 June, Councillor Game said it was also a moment to honour the brave troops who fought in this brief but bitter war, several hundred of whom were killed in action or severely injured.

    Lesley Game will also mark Armed Forces Week’s dedicated day to celebrating Reservists tomorrow (21 June) with a reception at Invicta House, Maidstone, for KCC Reservists, military and business representatives and the Lord-Lieutenant of Kent.

    Oliver Richardson – KCC’s Armed Forces Champion – will also attend the Reserves Day gathering and Kent Reservists and Veterans are welcome to come along.

    Personnel from 579 Field Squadron and 3 Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment will staff an Information Stand in the Atrium of Invicta House on Tuesday, from 9am, so residents can find out more about life in the Reserves and the crucial role they play in national security – from countering security threats, peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts abroad to supporting communities at home..

    KCC Chair Lesley Game, who is also Chair of Kent Civilian-Military Partnership Board, said: “The defence of our country, its people and their interests, is fundamental to our wellbeing and prosperity and those who assume the responsibility of delivering it take on a vital and sometimes daunting challenge.

    “The men and women in our Armed Forces, past and present, who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice have consistently risen to that challenge in magnificent fashion to keep Britain safe and free, no matter the difficulties that they continue to face.

    Lesley Game delivering her speech at today's gathering in front of County Hall

    Lesley Game told gatherers that Armed Forces Week was a time to remember all those who give their lives for others

    “Regulars, Reservists and their families, who bear so much on our behalf, and especially those in Kent, have more than earned the nation’s gratitude. We salute them all.”

    Kent is home to three regular Army bases, with over 2500 service personnel and 1000-plus service children and their families living in the county. Kent also hosts 8 Reserve Centres with 486 Reservists and 5,860 Cadets.

    In October 2018, Kent County Council was granted a Ministry of Defence Gold Employers Recognition Award from His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex. The honour formally recognised KCC as a military-friendly employer for providing outstanding commitment and continued support to the Armed Forces, including the many Reservists, Veterans and Cadet Adult Volunteers who work for, and with, us.

    The Armed Forces community includes Regular, Reserves, veterans, spouses and both Cadets and Cadet Force Adult Volunteers from our four Cadet services – Sea Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force, RAF Air Cadets and the Combined Cadet Forces.

    Hundreds of events take place across the country every year to mark Armed Forces Week, Reserves Day and Armed Forces Day.

    To find out more about supporting the Armed Forces, visit the ‘Supporting Armed Forces’ section on KCC’s website here

  • KCC Chair remembers Falklands veterans

    As the nation marks 40 years since the end of the Falklands War, Kent County Council’s Chair has paid tribute to Kent’s military personnel who fought in the brief but bitter conflict.

    Head and shoulders photo of KCC Chair - Lesley Game

    Kent County Council Chair Lesley Game

    Ceremonies are taking place across the country throughout this week to remember the events of four decades ago which culminated in Argentine forces surrendering to British troops as they re-took the Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic.

    Portsmouth and Southampton, where rapidly convened Task Force ships were dispatched to reclaim the islands, were among those commemorating the 40th anniversary of the end of hostilities on Tuesday (21 June), including with church services and a fly-past by a Chinook helicopter from RAF Odiham.

    Veterans also gathered at Maidstone’s Invicta Barracks to honour those who died in the campaign.

    On Monday (20 June), Lesley Game will also remember Falkland Veterans at a flag-raising ceremony at County Hall to mark the start of Armed Forces Week 2022.

    Supported by KCC’s Armed Forces Champion, Oliver Richardson, Councillor Game will also host a Reserves Day reception next Tuesday (21 June) at Invicta House in Maidstone. Kent Reservists and Veterans are welcome to come along in uniform.

    Former Welsh Guardsman Mr Richardson served from 1982 to 1993, including in the Falklands, as well as Northern Ireland and the Gulf War.

    KCC’s Armed Forces Champion, Oliver Richardson, leaning against the staircase in County Hall, Maidstone

    KCC’s Armed Forces Champion, Oliver Richardson

    Kent County Council Chair Lesley Game, who is also Chair of the Kent & Medway Civilian-Military Partnership Board, said: “The Falklands conflict claimed several hundred lives and left many of our brave service personnel with injuries, both physical and mental, which they continue to endure to this day.

    “Today we remember their huge personal sacrifice, and that of their loved ones. I also recognise the significant toll war can take on every aspect of life and am very aware that all too often the scars of military conflict are not visible.

    “As a strong supporter of mental health awareness, I urge any serving personnel, Veterans and their families needing help to contact one of the various support networks in Kent.”

    For organisations who offer a wide range of practical assistance to the military community in our county visit: www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-community/supporting-armed-forces/support-for-armed-forces-families

    Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982 claiming it had inherited the islands from Spain in the 1800s and wanted to regain sovereignty of them after 150 years of UK rule.

    The resulting conflict lasted just 74 days, but 655 Argentine and 255 British servicemen lost their lives, as did three Falkland Islanders.

    Medway’s renown Historic Dockyard at Chatham has been remembering the Falklands War through a photography exhibition.

    Map of the Falkland Islands

    Credit: The National Army Museum

    ‘Everything Changed’ showcases 40 images of occupied Port Stanley taken by photographer and journalist Graham Bound. You can read more about the exhibition here: thedockyard.co.uk/whats-on/falklands-40-everything-changed

    Armed Forces charity Royal British Legion Industries also staged the Falklands Forty Challenge in May and runs its Annual Cycle Ride fundraiser from Aylesford to Ypres in July. If you would like to get involved visit: rbli.co.uk/fundraising-upcoming-events

    You can also read more about the Falklands War on the National Army Museum website here: www.nam.ac.uk/explore/british-army-and-falklands-war

     

  • KCC call for Digital Champion volunteers

    Being able to use a computer, a smart phone and the internet has become key for accessing services and staying connected.

    The Digital Kent team deliver a number of projects to improve digital inclusion and capabilities across the county

    But not everyone can get online or knows how to use the web so Kent County Council (KCC) is looking to expand its network of Digital Champions to help charge up the cyber skills of our communities.

    To volunteer to be a Digital Champion you don’t have to be a technical genius, but you do need to be patient, understanding and a strong communicator. You also need to be over 18 years old and willing to support someone with their online know-how and confidence so they can:

    • Set up an email account and send emails
    • Use online GP booking services
    • Discover the benefits of online shopping and banking
    • Use social tools and apps like Zoom and Microsoft TEAMS, and
    • Use a phone, tablet, laptop to other digital devise.

    There is no strict commitment and champions can support family, friends, colleagues and the wider community in any of the following:

    • one-to-one sessions
    • group training and presentations, or
    • by creating handy guides and other useful materials for the Digital Kent website.

    In parallel, volunteers are supported to develop their own CPD-certified training skills and knowledge.

    KCC Leader Roger Gough

    Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “Digital technology has become a fundamental part of life. Accelerated by the pandemic, online is now a key way to use important services, such as healthcare and banking, keep in touch with family and friends, learn, watch news, TV and movies, and shop.

    “But we know from various research surveys that this increasing reliance on technology is leaving some people who have no access to a computer, or the skills or the confidence to go online, excluded.

    “That’s why we want to keep developing our current network of 115 Digital Champions and help tackle this digital inequality.

    “If you feel you have the skills to help someone in Kent get to grips with digital, please do apply. Visit the Digital Kent website to find out more and register your interest here: www.kent.gov.uk/digitalchampions

    Set up in 2021 as part of the Helping Hands COVID support scheme, Digital Kent received an initial £2.5 million to tackle digital exclusion in Kent. The programme was awarded a further £2.5m from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund.

    You can read more about the initiative and its wide range of partners at www.digitalkent.uk/information/projects

    And, if being a Digital Champion is not for you, take time this national Volunteers’ Week to check out lots of other volunteering opportunities in Kent here

  • Kent set for record-breaking Jubilee celebrations

    A dazzling record-setting range of Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday events being held across Kent is a fitting tribute to Her Majesty The Queen’s unrivalled 70 years of service to the nation, the Leader and Chairman of Kent County Council (KCC) said today.

    Kent is ready to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee in style

    On Thursday, Kent will light the most Jubilee beacons for an individual county in the country – 129 in total, 3 more than nearest rival Norfolk.

    And over the four-day break, Kent is set to host the likely highest number of street parties in one county. KCC’s Highways Team approved an incredible 575 road closures – trumping Hertfordshire County Council, recently reported to hold the record for Platinum Jubilee street party applications, by a mammoth 100.

    KCC has also granted a further 16 requests to hang bunting and signs from street lights so residents can deck towns and villages in red, white and blue for the peak of the celebrations marking The Queen’s longest reign in British history.

    Aside from setting records, the historic holiday is also a chance for the county’s communities to come together following the many challenges of COVID, Leader Roger Gough and Chairman Lesley Game said.

    Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “On behalf of KCC I would like to offer our sincerest congratulations to The Queen on her remarkable seven decades as figurehead for the UK and the Commonwealth.

    “Throughout huge times of social change, The Queen has been a constant and reassuring presence, representing the very best of Britain at home and abroad, setting an exceptional example of public duty and commitment to helping others.

    Lesley Game, centre, volunteering with Thanet’s Kitchen Social – the Chairman’s contribution to KCC Members giving 70 hours of service in honour of each year of The Queen’s reign

    “The Platinum Jubilee is a fantastic opportunity for us in Kent to recognise all that she has achieved and has represented for these 70 years.

    “I am of course extremely proud that our county will also be setting its own records during this landmark occasion.

    “Our Highways Team has worked incredibly hard to review and approve the hundreds of road closure applications we received. We hope waiving the fee to apply has made things that little bit easier for residents to get together and mark this once-in-a-lifetime moment.”

    Chairman of Kent County Council Lesley Game said: “On behalf of Kent, we send The Queen our very warmest wishes for the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee and hope all our residents enjoy this special holiday.

    “Be it at home, or at the many events planned for the Bank Holiday break, we hope you create some life-long happy memories together with family and friends, colleagues and neighbours.”

    You can find out about all the local events planned on KCC’s Platinum Jubilee page on the LetsTalkKent website

    The page includes:

    The Lord-Lieutenant of Kent. Credit: Stewart Turkington

    The Lady Colgrain, The Lord-Lieutenant of Kent and Her Majesty’s official representative in the county, added: “The Queen is the longest reigning monarch in 1,000 years of British history.  She has given 70 years of dedicated selfless service to this nation and Commonwealth and continues to contribute at an age – 96 – when most of us are well and truly retired.

    “We have enjoyed welcoming her to Kent and Medway on many occasions over the past seven decades.  Her Majesty is a very special person who has made our monarchy admired across much of the world.

    “We are living in historic times and must never take her immense contribution for granted. She is a rock of stability in difficult, challenging and uncertain times.”

    With lots of road closures for street parties happening across the county, if you need to drive in or through Kent over the extended Bank Holiday be sure to check your route before you travel and allow plenty of time for your journey.

    There’s also lots more travel advice on the KCC website – just click on this link: Check before you travel – Kent County Council and look out for #EverySingleJourney tips on our social media channels.

    Kent residents will also be able to enjoy the national Platinum Jubilee celebrations on TV and online over the weekend. Highlights include:

    • Thursday 2 June: Trooping the Colour and Platinum Jubilee Beacon Lighting
    • Friday 3 June: Service of Thanksgiving, St Paul’s Cathedral
    • Saturday 4 June: The Platinum Party at the Palace
    • Sunday 5 June: The Big Jubilee Lunch and The Platinum Jubilee Pageant

  • Illicit tobacco dealers targeted

    Thousands of illegal cigarettes and hundreds of illicit vapes were seized by Kent Trading Standards and Kent Police in the latest operation to tackle the unlawful tobacco trade in the county.

    piles of illegal tobacco products in a cupboard

    Just some of the products discovered by officers

    Working in partnership with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the multi-agency team carried out targeted raids on several retail premises, private residences and vehicles thought to be involved in supplying illegal tobacco.

    Part of the ongoing national initiative to crack down on the illicit trade – Operation CeCe – officers visited locations in Dover, with Dover District Council in attendance, and Thanet, over a two-day period.

    Supported by a specialist search dog team, officers were able to locate concealed stores of illegal tobacco, including stashed behind a bathroom mirror. In total the team visited: 4 retail premises and 2 private residence and searched 2 vehicles where, in total, they recovered approximately 15,400 cigarettes, 10kg of hand-rolling tobacco and some 400 illegal vapes.

    An additional 3 mobile phones were also seized along with a vehicle that had been storing tobacco; 1 person was arrested for questioning.

    Clive Phillips, Operations Manager for Kent County Council Trading Standards, said: “The sale of illicit tobacco brings organised crime into communities and undermines local legitimate businesses. It also makes smoking more affordable for young people and those attempting to quit.

    Search dog by car containing tobacco products

    One of several highly-trained search dogs that helped uncover the illegal goods

    “We will work with our enforcement partners using all available tactics to disrupt this activity and protect the safety and rights of the residents and businesses of Kent.”

    Shops selling illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously through 0300 999 6 999 or by visiting www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk

    Inspector of Dover Community Safety Unit, Paul Barrell, said: “Frequently the cash raised from selling illicit tobacco will be used to fund organised criminal groups as they carry out other illegal activities.

    “Our officers have a good local knowledge of the communities they patrol and will regularly work with other agencies to gather information and identify offenders in order to deal with this issue robustly.”

    Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

    “Having removed 13 million illegal cigarettes, 4,300kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 110kg of shisha products from sale in the first year of the operation, the National Trading Standards’ initiative, in partnership with HRMC, continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”