Susan Carey has written a report about some of the work KCC has done during the pandemic.
“People sometimes say they don’t get much for their Council tax but they’d soon notice if the services provided by Kent Police, Kent Fire & Rescue their District Council or the County Council weren’t there. Here’s some of the work that was done during the pandemic when more than ever we saw the value of key services.
Kent County Council was at the forefront of efforts to deal with the pandemic and our Director of Public Health became a familiar figure on local news bulletins. KCC set up a network of testing centres for those without symptoms and we’ve just completed 500,000 tests.
Here are a few more facts and figures about KCC’s work over the last year –
4.4 million items of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) were procured for KCC staff and others providing care to Kent residents.
89,912 m2 of roads were patched and 5,669 potholes filled (in some parts of the country work simply stopped on highways during lockdown but not here in Kent).
Over 950 adult education courses were converted to online delivery.
A temporary mortuary was created to provide additional capacity to assist Kent’s hospitals and our Coroners’ service also coped with the increase in its business. There was a 26% increase in death registrations for our registrars.
Use of our Country Parks increased between 50% and 220%.
Our business helpline received almost 16,000 calls and we had 4,000 webchats asking for advice. We have given a repayment holiday to 165 companies with outstanding loans from our Business Fund and paid £3 million in interest-free loans to \Kent businesses. (This is in addition to the £373 million paid out to businesses in Kent and Medway by the district councils on behalf of the Government.)
Our 24/7 Kent Together webpage and phone line received nearly 6,000 requests for help.
3,500 befriending calls were made by KCC librarians to vulnerable customers who use our home library service. (Our libraries are reopening in stages and the mobile service is already back in service).
5,101 extra people signed up for our virtual library and 368,388 digital items were borrowed.
A booking system was set up for our Household Waste Recycling Centres so that we could ensure social distancing on site. A survey of 9,500 HWRC visitors earlier this year found an overwhelming majority want to keep the booking system even when social distancing ends.
Trading Standards dealt with over 4,000 reports of scams, fake PPE and prohibited shops trading.
Our Community Wardens supported 4,500 vulnerable people and worked alongside the Community Hubs.
Our youth services went online with over 1,000 young people taking part in activities.
We supported families in need with food parcels and food vouchers over the school holidays. (We did so again over Easter).
We kept school transport running so that children still attending school could get there.
We supported 230 bus services across Kent, helping essential shopping trips and key worker journeys.
We finally got proper payment from the Government for the extra burden we bear in dealing with the large numbers of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children on our shores.
We’re working with care homes on measures to control infection and meet extra staffing costs with £32m of Government grant from the Infection Control Fund being paid via KCC to care homes.
On top of this we also had to prepare with Highways England, Kent Police etc. for widely predicted traffic chaos when the Transition period for leaving the EU ended on 31 December. What actually happened was a total closure of the border by France from Sunday 20 December. This was followed by a reopening of the border but with a requirement for Covid testing of drivers (a requirement that has now been dropped) which meant that thousands of HGVs were stuck in Kent. Plans were adapted rapidly with drivers fed and testing centres set up despite lockdown and despite Christmas.
One happy result of our exit from the EU was that the Government finally granted KCC powers from January 2021 to clamp illegally parked HGVs. As of 29 March, 1,985 HGVs have been clamped. Over 80% of these are foreign-registered vehicles. As word gets around of the new enforcement regime we hope these numbers will fall.
There’s so much more I could tell but I hope this shows just how much KCC has been doing to support us all. The next task, on which we’re already embarked, is to make sure Kent recovers from the damage caused by the pandemic, that we keep the gains from partnership working, the best of online services and build back better.”
KCC Cabinet Member for Environment
Member for Elham Valley