PRESS RELEASE KENT LABOUR
RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 23 March 2022
KENT TRAVEL SAVER – DECISION TO HIKE PRICES CALLED INTO KCC SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
On the 10th February 2022 at the Kent County Council (KCC) budget meeting the Conservative administration voted to increase the cost of Kent Travel Saver (KTS) bus pass by 21% taking the cost from £370 a year to £450.
The Kent Travel Saver provides around 14,000 pass holders, who in the main are, secondary school students aged from 11 to 16, discounted travel on buses from 6am to 7pm on weekdays as a key method of getting to their place of education.
However, since this decision was made by the Conservative Administration at KCC during their budget meeting there have been efforts to challenge this decision given the current Conservative cost of living crisis including a petition against this rise by a local parent attracting over 7,000 signatures.
This Decision to implement to price hike has now been formally taken by the Conservative Administration at KCC and has therefore made this eligible to be called into the Scrutiny Committee of KCC which takes place today at 2pm at County Hall. Labour County Councillor for Canterbury City South Mel Dawkins has called this in as Kent Labour feel it is not in line with the current policy framework of the Council.
This price hike contradicts KCC’s own decisions and policy including the climate change commitment the Kent and Medway Lower Emissions Strategy (KMLES) as well as in the Kent Environment Strategy (KES).and policy to mobilise modal shift towards sustainable transport, active travel and behaviour change and encourage more residents on to buses and other forms of public transport.
The decision by the Conservative Administration to increase the cost of KTS is going to have a financial impact on families who are already struggling with the price and therefore many will need to find other means to get to school. This increase just sends the wrong message to our families and community with bus prices in Kent are already high and without the pass, can make it financially impossible to use this mode of transport daily.
The administration says that Kent Travel Saver passes are only discretionary anyhow and because of budget constraints had no other option than to increase. But in reality this is a political choice and the Kent Labour Group, proposed an alternative budget, that found a way to freeze the cost but the Conservative Administration at KCC chose to vote it down and put further pressure on hard working families.
County Councillor Mel Dawkins says, “Kent County Council need to live up to their climate change commitment and its implementation to aim for a modal shift towards more sustainable transport and bus usage. The Kent Travel Saver rise is a step in the wrong direction, contradicts KCC’s own policy framework and leaves our families footing the bill.”
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR
Release – for immediate release 17/03/2022
Statement on behalf of Kent Labour and all Kent Labour County Councillors: P&O Ferries Staff Terminations
We stand in solidarity with all those affected today, the staff and their families, and our friends and colleagues in the trade union movement against the callous behaviour of P&O Ferries today in the sacking of 800 staff including many in Kent. The way that this has been done is shameful and disgraceful and the management and owners of the company and their parent company should hang their heads in shame and should also be offering their resignations. If the reports are true that these qualified and experienced staff are to be replaced on the same routes and ships with cheaper labour then this is even more shameful.
Not so long ago this company applied for taxpayers money to bail them out while at the same time according to our colleagues in the RMT also were due to pay out a huge dividend to shareholders. They also received furlough taxpayers money from Government for staff during the pandemic despite this huge alleged dividend.
We call on the Government and local authorities to intervene to ensure that local jobs here in the County of Kent and across the Country are safeguarded and protected, that there is a full investigation and inquiry with accountability into this shambles and that efforts are made to reclaim any taxpayers money that has been paid out to this private company at the expense of the taxpayer so this can be redistributed to support staff and families affected.
County Councillor Dr Lauren Sullivan – Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Group
County Councillor Karen Constantine – Deputy Leader of the Labour Group
County Councillor Alister Brady
County Councillor Kelly Grehan
County Councillor Mel Dawkins
County Councillor Jackie Meade
County Councillor Barry Lewis
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR
Release: For Immediate Release – 24-2-2022
Labour Group response to Conservative led KCC cuts to bus services consultation
The Conservative-led administration of Kent County Council have released today a consultation on cutting bus services across Kent. Thanks to public transport privatisation (unlike London) companies can chose to run what services they like based on profit alone and not public need with the state and Councils having to pick up the tab by subsidising these routes that are needed, if not profitable, to keep communities connected.
The Conservative KCC Budget recently proposed and was agreed by the Conservative Administration to cut many of these services and now with this consultation the Conservatives are leaving residents to fight for the scraps of money remaining and putting community against community for bus services that are, in some cases, literally lifelines.
The Conservative Administration at KCC have chosen to disregarded potential future funding that may have come with the long awaited Government National Bus Strategy and are ploughing ahead nonetheless with cut bus services that may prove to be unnecessary. The Government have promised to via their National Bus Strategy to invest in and indeed subsidise buses and routes soon which may render the proposed local cuts premature should Kent be successful in being invested in by the Conservative Government.
The Kent County Council Labour Group again have highlighted the false economy to remove some of these less profitable bus services. School children are in the fore front of these cuts and their families are forced to choose between expensive taxis or walking long and potentially unsafe journeys to receive their education. The Conservative Administration are looking to make cuts here which are counter-productive overall and without any long term thinking, something that is clear within the department that deals with this as shown by the recent SEND School Transport chaos.
The Kent Labour Group recently showed in their Alternative Budget proposals (which can be found at www.kentlabour.org.uk) presented at the Kent County Council budget meeting, that the cuts were financially illogical and recommended a fully costed and legal alternative that removed bureaucracy and red tape at KCC instead of bus services and also the Labour Group Alternative Budget proposed stopping the overspend and duplication of contracts commissioned to the private sector. This Alternative Budget was defeated by the Conservative Administration who voted to cut services, like buses, instead.
There is an alternative to these bus cuts, and we urge the public to object to these needless cuts by expressing their views in the consultation which will force the Cabinet Member County Councillor David Brazier to change his mind and not chose between what services to cut but to cut the need, and indeed the architects, for these proposals in the first place.
County Councillor Barry Lewis – Shadow Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
“These draconian cuts to bus services will imprison many people that rely on these bus services including to shopping and visiting friends and relatives. Ironically, we call on the Conservative Government to step in and protect the people of Kent from these cuts by their Conservative colleagues at County Hall and fully fund local government for the services it delivers and deliver on their National Bus Strategy – Bus Back Better which was published last year and not cutting bus services like Conservative Led KCC.”
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR
Release: For Immediate Release – 20-2-2022
SEND Home to School Transport Failure : KCC is failing SEND families – again
Kent County Council Labour Group are appalled at the situation caused by budget decisions of the Conservative Administration at Kent County Council which has been allowed to occur with home to school transport for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) children. Currently children whose assessed needs mean they attend Special Schools can be placed far from home – meaning it is impossible for parents or carers to take them at the same time as siblings and working arrangements.
Families were told on the 15th December 2021 that due to an increase of 20% of children in this cohort and with no increased funds made available by the Conservative Administration or the Conservative Government who are responsible for the chronic underfunding of local government for years, changes would need to be made to the present arrangements and they would hear the changes before 11th February 2022 (last day of half term).
On 11th February 2022 SEND families were told such arrangements were not yet in place and this left parents in limbo for the start of the new half term.
As the week has progressed many parents have received no further news. On 18th February many were told that if they did not hear by midday on Sunday they should make their own arrangements to get their child to school on Monday. Other parents were told that their children would be collected by taxi along with 3 other children at a much earlier time in the morning than they had previously been collected.
There appears to be no understanding of the impracticality of this chaotic failure for many families.
Kent Labour are calling for an explanation and some actual accountability for these failures.
Shadow Education Cabinet Member County Councillor Alister Brady said
‘We understand the need for cuts is being forced upon the council by the Tory government and KCC has chosen to pass on these cuts by transporting children in larger groups. We, as the Labour Group are not convinced that this takes into account the assessed needs of this cohort of children. We call for the postponement of this change to allow for more time to fully consider the impacts and ensure the every child and parent feels supported.’
Dartford North East County Councillor Kelly Grehan said
‘I have spoken to several families who are distraught over these changes. They speak of the relationships their children have built up with their drivers and the other children. It is well documented that children with autism, OCD, anxiety, or learning disabilities may have an especially difficult time adjusting to new settings and new people. The lack of information and planning has been very stressful for families who know the impact even small routine changes have on their children. I now seriously question whether KCC has any understanding of the reality of the lives of SEN families and just how let down they have been by the whole handling of this matter which represents more failures regarding SEN by KCC. Where is the accountability for these failures?’
Leader of the Opposition of Kent County Council and Leader of the Labour Group, County Councillor Dr Lauren Sullivan said
‘When we were told the scale of the cuts to be made by the Conservative Administration of KCC at the budget meeting on 10-2-2022 we were not told the cuts were to take place the following week in such a haphazard and chaotic manner which builds on the past failures of SEND by KCC. There appears to be very little genuine consultation or conversations with parents about what the changes are likely to be and the potential impacts on their children. When we meet with SEN families I am always struck by the complexity of their lives and the amazing job they do for their children. I worry about the stress on these families – especially after the particular difficulties of the last few years. 67% of SEN parents who responded to a recent survey identified that their own mental health had got worse over the pandemic. I am now convinced KCC is adding to that stress and that cannot be acceptable and I join colleagues in calling for some accountability for these failures instead of the usual excuses and action plans.’
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR
Release: For Immediate Release – 12 August 2021
GCSE AND BTEC RESULTS DAY 2021 – MESSAGE FROM KENT LABOUR
To all pupils in Kent who are receiving GCSE and BTEC results today, everyone at Kent Labour would like to offer our congratulations on behalf of the Kent Labour Councillors – you should be incredibly proud. The pandemic has impacted you enormously, challenging you academically and mentally. As the country takes steps to normalcy, we look ahead to more settled conditions, but we understand that the completion of your courses under these conditions are an achievement in themselves.
If the results are not what you are expecting, please do not worry, there is help and assistance through your school’s support system. Seek advice and have comfort in the knowledge that there is a support network which will assist you in getting back on track.
County Councillor Alister Brady – Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Education and ICS says, “To all students who are collecting your results today, you should be incredibly proud of the way you have conducted yourself this year. The conditions have been incredibly challenging, completing your course is an achievement so I offer my heartfelt congratulations! Kent Labour hope the results are what you hope for, if they are not then please remember there is support out there for you. Talking about your aspirations will be key to attaining your goals. Speak to your school to gain advice on how your ambitions can be attained.
I would like to add a massive thank you to all school leaders, teachers, and support staff who have worked tirelessly through these difficult times. Whether through supporting remote learning or face to face teaching throughout the pandemic and making the school reopening a success – you are the key to our students’ successes. To all parents, carers, and families, your continued support and communication is incredibly valuable, we recognise your valuable efforts.”
County Councillor Dr Lauren Sullivan – Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Group says, “Kent Labour congratulate you as you finish this stage of your educational journey. The pandemic has negatively impacted education in the past year and a half, you all should be incredibly proud of your achievements. Results day is an emotional time, rest assured that support is there to help you on your educational journey – I wish you the best for your future endeavours and a very well done to all of you!”
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR
Release: For Immediate Release – 10 August 2021
A LEVEL and BTEC RESULTS DAY 2021 – MESSAGE FROM KENT LABOUR
Today sees the distribution of school assessment results for all students that took A Levels and BTEC assessments in the past year. Kent Labour would like to offer their congratulations to those students on behalf of the Kent Labour County Councillors for all their hard work, dedication and commitment to their studies in what has been a very difficult year and a half for all young people and those that support them.
We hope that the results are what you hope for and allow you to progress to your chosen destination be it further study, training or employment. Should you need any assistance or advice with your results then please use the schools support systems or indeed seek advice from a trusted source such as a college, university or training provider.
County Councillor Alister Brady – Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Education and ICS says: “Well done to all students on their achievements today. It has clearly been a challenging year for everyone which makes the successes today by students even more amazing. Kent Labour hope that these results are what you hope for and if not then please know that support is out there to help. Our thanks also to the schools, teachers and support staff that have worked throughout the pandemic as key workers for all they have done to continue learning and education.”
County Councillor Dr Lauren Sullivan –Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Group at Kent County Council says “Congratulations to all students on behalf of Kent Labour. The impact of Covid-19 on education in the past year has been immense but you should be proud of your achievements as you finish this stage of your educational career. I remember results day well and all the emotions that go with it and I would like to wish the students all the very best in their future endeavors”
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR
Release: For Immediate Release – 15 July 2021
KENT LABOUR COUNCILLORS STRIKE BACK AGAINST RACISM
On Monday Dartford North East Labour Kent County Councillor Kelly Grehan featured on the BBC to talk about Conservative MP’s comments in a party WhatsApp group about Marcus Rashford which have been well publicised https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-57807264
County Councillor Kelly Grehan – Shadow Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care on Kent County Council says: “It’s obvious that some people seem to take the view that young, black men from working class backgrounds who have made something of themselves should keep quiet. We have to wonder what motivates this view.
No one should be ‘kept out of politics.’ I find it hard to understand how anyone can look at Marcus Rashford, a 23-year-old man who has used his wealth and fame to ensure the voices of impoverished children are heard in a negative light and should instead be recognised as a role model for his community work as recognised by HM The Queen with his recent honour https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/54476721 . Without his intervention I’ve no doubt the government would have persisted on their cruel policy of leaving children without meals in school holidays, which we know would have affected them for the rest of their lives. Mr Rashford’s reading programme has also bought a love of reading to many children who lacked it. Had Mr Rashford not got involved in politics many children would be having worse lives.”
This week Gravesham Borough Councillors on a cross party basis joined Cohesion Plus, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant and members of the community in a rally to show Gravesham is united against racism which is a model for the county.
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR – 12 July 2021
Release: For Immediate Release
SCRUTINY OF THE KCC RECONNECT PROGRAMME
Last week all Opposition parties on Kent County Council supported the formal Scrutiny Call In of the Reconnect Programme decision by Cabinet of the 24 June 2021 and this was heard at the Scrutiny Committee of the 7 July 2021.
This was the second attempt at call in as the first one on the original paper and start up decision taken by Cabinet on the 15 March 2021 before the election for some reason did not meet the criteria for Scrutiny despite support from two Political Parties. This original paper also did not go for pre-Scrutiny as is usual at the Children, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee because the paper missed the publishing deadline.
So given the rushed nature of this programme with much in the way that remains to be set up and established it was important that in fulfilling our part in the democratic process to scrutinise and ask some important questions.
For the avoidance of doubt the Labour Group supports some of the aims and objectives to Reconnect but also feel that Scrutiny both pre and post decision is an important part of the democratic process to ensure that policies formed by Officers and agreed to by the Administration are fit for purpose for the people of Kent and should be taken into account by Officers and the Administration during the decision-making process. These are not mutually exclusive. There should be a presumption in favour of Scrutiny to ensure that all decisions (from both Cabinet Member and Officer under delegated powers) are as rigorous as possible taking into account all of the options available before and post decision.
In regard to the Reconnect Programme County Councillors were also told at the Scrutiny Committee that there is an urgency to this programme hence the rushed nature of it. While we agree to there being an urgency to the needs of the young people the Labour Group cannot help but wonder if the timing was partly to do with the then up and coming election and wonder if the same urgency was thought about during the failure of the Administration during austerity which saw much of this universal provision cutback and then a series of issues in SEND, mental health provision and other issues.
The important questions we sought to ask on Reconnect were:
- What research and qualitative data will be provided to County Councillors on a regular basis to know that children and young people have indeed ‘Reconnected’?
- Children and Young People should be at the heart of decision making about decisions that affect them. Could the Administration and Officers produce and publish the evidence and data that led to the creation of Reconnect and detail how many children and young people were involved and where in the County they are from?
- How with the Reconnect Programme ensure that all monies reach the frontline and directly impact children and young people and not go into overheads?
- How will children and young people be involved in the decision making of funding?
- How does the Administration and Officers know what the children and young people of each Borough and District want to Reconnect on? Are there differences across Kent and can they publish the evidence of this engagement?
- On the subject of Partnerships which will be absolutely essential to the success of this programme can the Administration and Officers outline what discussions they had with the key partners such as Borough and District Council’s, Leisure Providers and Commissioned Services before the programme was launched? What feedback was received and evidence of this?
- Local Children’s Partnership Groups are not part of the formal governance of this authority so what legal advice was received to ensure that they have the power to take delegated decisions of this authority?
- What happens if a provider that has received funding has not met the requirements of the programme? Is there a clawback provision so we can reinvest in young people?
- Why not invest this in house and use the qualified expertise we have within the authority?
- What agreement was in place before the decision was taken to then require the mandating of the requirement of their resources? (Section 5.5 of the Cabinet Paper)
- What resourcing will take place to ensure those services external to KCC can meet the additional burdens this programme will place upon them.
- Given that the programme is time limited what are the plans for post August 2022 to ensure children and young people remain ‘reconnected’?
As can be seen above these are deep, searching questions about this programme that have not been answered, partly as there seems to be a requirement under the current leadership of the Scrutiny Committee to keep things brief, but £10M is a serious amount of money and should be spent directly at the frontline with proper accountability of this programme to ensure it is fit for purpose and value for money.
County Councillor Alister Brady – Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Education and ICS says: “For some children and young people this is too little too late, as for years, due to the cut backs and austerity that this Tory-led KCC has imposed on local communities, they have already been disconnected even before the Covid pandemic hit. We must continue to hold the Administration and Officers to account in Scrutiny Committee and elsewhere over the course of delivering the Reconnect programme.”
County Councillor Dr Lauren Sullivan –Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Group at Kent County Council says “The fact that there are so many questions does call into question how this programme, while admirable in its aims, will be able to evidence the quality of delivery and sustainability of reconnecting children and young people with the possibility of snatching away this hope in 2022, when the program ends, along with the fear of all other universal open access children’s and youth provision being further eroded due to the continuing budget pressures.”
PRESS RELEASE – KENT LABOUR 17 July 2021
Release: For Immediate Release
KENT LABOUR RESPOND TO TORY LED KCC ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THE KENT TEST WILL TAKE PLACE IN SEPTEMBER AS USUAL.
Conservative Led Kent County Council have announced that the Conservative Government (department of Education) have removed the guidance from Local Authorities the ability to delay the selection tests. This is despite the huge disruption of learning and opportunities during the pandemic for children which is still ongoing that they wish to, again, put ideology before children.
Kent Labour believe that every child needs to be treated fairly based on their wide range of skills and knowledge gained throughout their primary education phase and if Kent wishes to continue using selective education then it has a duty of care to all children to ensure such a test is fair, open, inclusive, accessible and transparent.
County Councillor Alister Brady the Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Education and Skills says: ‘Any test should be a true reflection of the skills gained over a sustained period of time with everyone treated equally and fairly. This pandemic has exposed some of the deep rooted problems in Kent such as with poverty, including digital poverty and educational attainment and rather than helping to mitigate that and doing the right thing to, at the very least, postpone this test until they can prove all children have had the opportunity to catch up to pre pandemic levels the Conservative Administration together with Senior Officers at KCC are further entrenching this unfairness. We call on KCC to postpone this test and work with schools as well as children and the families to ensure that any such test reflect the need for fairness. If other systems are good enough for those at GCSE and A Level then what is the excuse this time here in Kent?’
County Councillor Dr Lauren Sullivan the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Group agrees: ‘Fairness should be at the heart of all that we do, yet once again the Conservatives have shown that this doesn’t matter and will put their narrow ideology before their duty of care to the children and young people of Kent.’
Press Release: 18th June 2021
Release: For Immediate Release
Kent Labour call on KCC to Renew Carers Strategy
Kent Labour Councillors have called upon Kent County Council to produce a new Carers Strategy, on account of the present document not having been updated since June 2009.
The document was produced after the Labour Government produced a national carers strategy in 2008 which sought to ‘put carers at the heart of communities’ and set out the government’s 10-year strategy for giving support to carers. When publishing their response document, the following year KCC ‘committed to deliver the national strategy in 5 years rather than the suggested 10.’
Adult Social Care Shadow Cabinet Members, Cllrs Kelly Grehan and Jackie Meade have highlighted the inadequacy of the situation.
Labour spokesperson for Adult Social Care Kelly Grehan (Dartford North East) said ‘1 in 9 adults in Kent are Carers, that’s over 151,000 people. The Theme of this year’s Carers week was ‘making carers visible’ but it seems like in Kent they have been forgotten, with a strategy not revisited for 12 years, despite the claim when it was published that it would be met in five. Kent’s carers deserve better than this. Among those providing more than 50 hours a week of unpaid care, this comes at a cost that is equivalent to the loss of 18 days in full health for every 1 year spent caring and expectations on carers are growing – with 7 in 10 carers doing more – on average an extra 10 hours caring/week – during coronavirus outbreak. Yet here in Kent there is no updated strategy of support.’
Cllr Jackie Meade (Folkestone East) said ‘Carers save this country a fortune by providing 90% of the care delivered for the princely sum of £67.25 per week. We owe it to them to support them. As a former carer myself I know the importance of carers and I am furious that here in Kent they are reliant on a strategy which was written four Prime Ministers ago. Sadly, so much has changed since then with austerity and not for the better.’
Young carers have also been, seemingly forgotten with them last discussed as an agenda item at KCC in 2010 – a lifetime ago for many of Kent’s young carers.
KCC Young Carers Update (2010) https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=12969
National Strategy (2008) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-national-carers-strategy
State of Caring Report (2020) https://www.carersfirst.org.uk/kent/state-of-caring-survey-2020
For more details contact Kelly Grehan 07983535659