This is a version of the update I recently gave to Sevenoaks Town Council. It gives you a flavour of the pertinent issues running at the moment. As always, do contact me about any county council issues of concern to you.
The county is in the middle of its budgetary discussions. There have been many warnings about the financial position. Broadly the council has made £800m of savings since 2015. The ratio of the central government grant to the take from council tax has altered over that time from 75% to 25%. And council tax cannot be raised by any more than 5% without a referendum. So, with inflation running at 10% even the maximum council tax rise will not cover the inflationary pressure.
It has been exacerbated by KCC budgeting for a 3% rise in Feb 22 when inflation was already running at 6%. Even though a £25m risk fund was created ,the gap in this financial year has risen from £40m to £70m.
That has prompted the recent letter from Leaders of Kent and Hampshire county councils to Michael Gove, to ask him to either change the statutory responsibilities or fund the council properly.
The last 6 weeks have largely been about the 20mph consultation. There were almost 1500 responses and these are currently being analysed independently of KCC. They won't receive the results until the end of November 2022 and there is quite a tight turnaround for the report to go through its directorate checks before it goes to the JTB on the 13th December.
Eardley Road has been resurfaced. I had an update on Wickenden Road which will have implications for all the concrete slab roads that are in such a poor state of repair. They have found a cheaper way of repairing them, but it is still a significant investment.
I've also had a request for yellow lines on the remainder of Solefields Road, which is currently subject to desktop analysis.
The Special Educational Needs (SEND) transport report came to the Scrutiny Committee at the start of November. There are some significant issues that have been identified, not least that a £2m savings measure never went through the key decision-making process.
OFSTED followed up their 2019 report into KCC and NHS SEND provision in the county. It identified there had been no significant improvement in the 9 areas of weakness identified in 2019. That is borne out with the kind of cases I deal with on a weekly basis. The first decision will be whether central government commissioners take over the service. Then there will be some second-order decisions about a revised plan for SEND and how to improve the service to meet statutory obligations.
As part of the period of Remembrance I delivered assemblies at Walthamstow Hall and West Heath Schools. I also did a visit and an evening's training with the Cadet Detachment in Sevenoaks School.
In the last month we have had a an ASC away day, hearing from Service users and discussing some of the more difficult aspects of service provision. The Cabinet Committee took papers on:
ASC is under a lot of pressure. The carer market has collapsed. It is no longer a functioning market (These Officers' words, not mine). Without significant investment and workforce planning it will be a very difficult winter. The ASC risk register red risk is the length of time it is taking to undertake the care needs assessments. Like most of this area, if the gap between a need being identified and resolved is left too long, the need often becomes more complex and then becomes more expensive.
The uptick in Covid 19 at the start of October as well as the onset of the Flu season has meant hospitals are severely stretched and the threat of industrial action is a very serious possibility.
Mrs Prendergast was moved as the Cabinet member for Education the day before the OFSTED report came out and Mr Love is now the Cabinet member. The responsibility for SEND has been given to him.
A Conservative Member from Folkstone and Hythe was found to have attended rally's of an organisation called the New British Union an openly fascist group. He has had the Whip suspended.
Civil service unions have been balloted for industrial action and have reached the threshold for strike action.
Cllr Richard Streatfeild MBE
KCC Sevenoaks Town