2021 Kent Labour Manifesto for the Kent County Council Elections
The Labour Manifesto for the Kent County Elections for 2021 is here:
FOREWORD by Dara Farrell – Labour Group Leader – Kent County Council
It is a pleasure to present Labour’s Kent County Council election manifesto, 2021. As a party we have been listening to you, the residents of Kent and working for you at County Hall on the issues you have raised with us. We have spent the last four years holding the Conservative administration to account, scrutinising their polices and constructively suggesting alternatives.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed how a decade of austerity and reduced budgets has weakened our public services to almost breaking point. The County Council must be at the forefront in driving post-pandemic recovery and our plans in this document, should the people of Kent put their trust in Labour, will help rebuild Kent from both this pandemic and a decade of austerity. Our policies on economic growth, investing and building resilience in the services and infrastructure that residents rely on are essential to this recovery.
Our social care plans which focus on being a caring service with time to care, ensure those working and receiving social care will benefit from a service that is fit for purpose. We feel that Kent County Council should play an active part in an education system providing a firm foundation for the success of our children and young people. There should be a genuine commitment from KCC in addressing climate change and a drive towards investing in prevention across all our services rather than ever more costly cures.
In Kent for too long Council tax has been rising above inflation with no signs of any improvement to services; this must change. Your Labour County Councillors will focus their attention on your priorities, ensuring Council services get on with the day-to-day services you expect and deserve and are effective and sustainable for the future.
As a party we have selected a diverse group of candidates. They are local residents, rooted in the places they call home and seeking to represent you, their colleagues, friends and neighbours. They are ready to work on your behalf, championing your priorities and challenging Kent County Council to put the residents of Kent first.
On the 6th May, in this election, you have the opportunity to draw a line under years of Conservative administration and elect a forward-looking Labour Council, with Labour Councillors that are at the heart of their communities. In this election you can do more than hope for change, you can vote for it! This manifesto is a positive vision for Kent, focusing on a Council delivering for the residents of our County and together with your help, we will make Kent a place to be proud of.
Thank you, Dara Farrell Leader of the Labour Group – Kent County Council Member for Ashford South.
A KENT TO BE PROUD OF
1. GETTING BACK TO BASICS
KCC should focus on making day-to-day services effective and sustainable for the future.
2. INVEST TO SAVE
By investing now, focusing on prevention, we will save taxpayers’ money.
3. TIME TO CARE
A social care and public health service fit for purpose. A caring council that values residents, communities, our NHS.
4. KEEP KENT MOVING FORWARD
Supporting Kent’s economy and investing in our infrastructure.
5. A FIRM FOUNDATION
An education system that empowers and supports the next generation.
6. PROTECTING THE GARDEN OF ENGLAND
Taking real action on climate change and enforcing against those who damage our environment.
FINANCIAL RESOURCING, BUDGET, INVESTMENTS.
• Council Tax will only be raised to invest in front line services when absolutely necessary.
• Labour recognises that public services belong to local people and when these services fail or fall short, steps will be taken to ensure people are put before private profit and services are brought in-house.
• Kent County Council will base contract commissioning decisions on quality of service, public good and value for money, exploring co-ops and mutuals where possible.
• Commissioning activity will be undertaken and overseen by qualified professionals in the relevant departments to improve efficiency and effectiveness of work.
• All contracts held by or with the County Council will be reviewed to ensure best value for money. All future contracts will have appropriate break clauses in them to ensure prices are competitive. Taxpayers money should be treated prudently.
• There will be a full root and branch budget review (a so-called ‘zero sum’ budget) and rebuild to ensure that every service provided and every pound spent is meeting the needs of the people of Kent.
• KCC should be transparent in its Pension Fund investments and ensure independent financial experts are involved in decision making.
• All Local Authority Trading Companies (LATCO’s) will be reviewed and judged against their initial business plans, current trading and performance. KCC companies should provide quality services and dividend to the Council and not be a financial burden.
• Labour will call for the reinstatement of the Revenue Support Grant to ensure Local Councils are fully funded. We are clear that Government should fund nationally incurred costs.
• Labour will continue to ensure KCC lobbies Government to refund all COVID-19 related expenditure and lost income. The Government stated at the start of the pandemic that it would fund incurred costs and losses by local authorities.
COUNCIL, DEMOCRACY & ACCOUNTABILITY
• The ethos of the County Council will be one based on providing a value for money public service, not running the County Council as a business.
• An open and democratic Council which welcomes scrutiny and brings decision making closer to local communities is vital. We will review the Constitution of the Kent County Council to ensure there is full democratic accountability. The Council will enable all members to serve the people of Kent in the best way possible and involving the public in decision making.
• Allowances for all Members will only be altered in line with the staff pay award at the basic rate.
• A single Kent County Council plan for Kent will be created to which all corporate functions are accountable. These will be broken up by Cabinet Portfolio/Department and based on the Administration Manifesto to ensure progress is measured against delivery and there is visible accountability for action.
• The structure of the County Council will be fully reviewed with the aim of scaling back management (especially Senior Management) and reinvesting the money saved in front line services.
• We will hold an internal inquiry into the Councils response to the pandemic, learning lessons and ensuring our services are fit for purpose.
• Service decisions will be based on qualitative and quantitative plans and evidence ensuring we only collect the data we need for the services we deliver, thereby freeing up front line staff to deliver for the people of Kent.
• We will scrap the Total Contribution Pay (TCP) system in Kent County Council and ensure our staff are recognised for the work they do. Labour supports moving away from local pay bargaining and supports ‘the Green Book’ national terms and conditions which will ensure all staff are on fair pay earning the living wage as a minimum.
• We will abolish additional top-up pay or ‘Market Premiums’ for senior staff and senior staff pay will be reviewed. A review of senior management structure will ensure we have the right talent in place to serve the people of Kent.
• There should be no staff in KCC on a zero hours contract; all staff should be employed on a contract that carries a wage.
• We will support staff Diversity Groups to ensure that Council employees are represented and are educated on such matters. All policies will go beyond minimum standards of equality, diversity and inclusion.
• We will have an estate that is fit for purpose and meets the needs of delivering for the people of Kent.
• We will continue to oppose costly local government reorganisation that takes Councils further away from their communities. Unitary authorities are not the answer unless they are small enough to have clear direct links with local towns and communities. We will oppose any centralisation of powers that reduces local democracy through power grabs by KCC
including the establishment of large unitary authorities in Kent and the removal of other powers and roles to Government or to County Hall. Thus we will oppose a County wide unitary authority.
• We will engage in a positive proactive relationship with staff trade unions recognising the benefit they bring in representing the views of those who deliver services.
• Where KCC does not have the powers by statute to take decisions on matters that affect Kent, we will lobby Government for those powers and seek to devolve these further to local communities.
SOCIAL CARE – TIME TO CARE
• The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how Social Care services have been fragmented, underfunded and neglected in Kent by the Conservatives. Paid and unpaid carers are an absolute lifeline for many people and they have put their own health and the health of their families at risk to look after people in need. We believe that in Kent it’s ‘Time to Care’.
• We will seek to mitigate the problems caused by the long overdue Government Green paper on the future of adult social care.
• We will reform and properly fund Kent’s capacity to deliver domiciliary care to nationally set care sector standards, ending 15-minute visits and providing professionally trained staff with paid travel time contracts and regular hours.
• Social care commissioning should be made more ethical and responsive to need. We recognise that some of the biggest financial challenges facing local government are as a result of demands for social care.
• Where possible all social care services should be in house. Social care should achieve value for money but this should not be at the cost of the terms and conditions of those who receive care and those that work in care.
• Contracts should ensure that staff receive a high quality of supervision, training to agreed standards, career progression opportunities and appropriate pay. The real living wage level will be the starting rate.
• We will put our service users at the heart of their care packages as they are experts by experience and we will listen and work together to provide better quality of life.
REBUILDING THE KENT ECONOMY
• Labour will lobby the Government to ensure Kent isn’t left behind in the Government’s attempts to level up the North and will ask for additional powers to help stimulate the economy.
• Any applications to Government infrastructure funds under Labour will support economic development as opposed to just house building.
• Labour will prioritise genuinely affordable homes within the no-use-empty scheme.
• Labour will extend and expand the Kent and Medway Growth fund.
• Labour will support and invest in green sustainable jobs and industry.
• Labour will listen to local small and medium businesses as they know best the support they need to grow and develop. A Labour led KCC will give support for local volunteering, work placements and create and sustain meaningful apprenticeships so that businesses have access to a trained and experienced workforce.
• Labour will support moves towards more sustainable models of business, such as Community Mutuals and Cooperatives, where local people and communities have a stake and are at the heart of business.
• We will use the buying power of the Council and its pension funds to promote sustainability and take urgent action on the climate emergency. This could include funding Council and Social Housing recognising, however, that housing is a Borough and District responsibility.
• We will embrace support and partnership for District and Borough councils for regeneration of their high streets
• We will lobby for additional help for those who are self-employed and especially for those who have been ‘excluded’ from help during the covid-19 crisis. This includes also supporting and funding a skills agenda allowing for upskilling and retraining of Kent residents who require it.
• Recognising the changing nature of Kent’s employment market, we will reinvigorate Kent adult education to ensure it offers opportunities to continually retrain as part of a lifelong learning approach to employment.
PUBLIC HEALTH & NHS SCRUTINY
• The Labour group will actively oppose any attempts to privatise the NHS.
• We believe any reconfigurations of Kent health services should be based on the needs of the communities in which they serve. We will demand the NHS demonstrates community need and involvement in any plans for reconfigurations in Kent.
• Ensure public health spend is directed towards initiatives that have real impacts in consultation with those that need the services, particularly in the field of preventative services, such as those for alcohol, substance abuse, and gambling addictions.
• We will scrutinise all health system decisions on a line-by-line basis to ensure that all Kent’s residents have their health and well-being needs met.
• A Labour led KCC will continue to fight for parity between mental and physical health, particularly to ensure adequate funding for preventative services.
• As part of co-commissioning arrangements, we will prioritise reducing the waiting time for Children and Young People Mental Health Services (CYPMHS
formally known as CAMHS).
• We will focus funding into improving free NHS mental health services, for example by having more trained therapists paid for in Kent. There will be a shorter waiting list for those who need help.
• We will expand and develop services which address loneliness and social isolation.
• We will hold the NHS to account for the safety of patients accessing services including maternity services.
• We will work closely with NHS Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) funded services to ensure care home residents receive the same levels of clinical intervention and treatment as those enjoyed by the general population.
• We will lobby for local elected accountability for health matters.
HIGHWAYS, TRANSPORTATION, WASTE & INFRASTRUCTURE
• Labour led KCC will end the Conservative policy of ‘managed decline’ of our highways.
• We will start by getting the basics right, fixing potholes and broken pavements properly and ensuring drainage systems are not blocked.
• Our approach to highway maintenance will be underpinned by prevention rather than reaction. Local communities will be supported in highlighting issues of concern. The requirement for accidents before action is putting residents at risk.
• As a KCC responsibility, we will carry out work to ensure that pavement and road weeding, grass cutting and basic maintenance are done as a priority.
• We will provide vastly improved cycling infrastructure to increase participation projects. Projects will be introduced with the support of the local community.
• We will deliver meaningful changes in response to COVID-19 and the climate emergency to reduce air pollution, increase use of public transport and reduce congestion.
• Labour will promote the further development of electric buses across the County and encourage a shift from car use to public transport with a commitment to reducing carbon emissions.
• We will seek to protect and enhance urban and rural bus services.
• Labour will sympathetically consider community calls for 20 miles per hour speed limit restrictions and lower traffic neighbourhoods outside schools and other appropriate areas across the County.
• Unlike the Conservative Government and Conservative run Kent County Council we will continue to oppose a Lower Thames Crossing east of Gravesend and support schemes which invest in our current infrastructure to make it longer lasting and sustainable.
• We will work with Highways England to introduce ‘rat run’ protections and enforcement for both urban and rural communities that are blighted by transport issues when the main road networks fail.
• Labour will lobby for national infrastructure investment to make the movement of goods across the County and country easier and cheaper and to help remove congestion.
• Labour will lobby for a transport for London model of public transport management in Kent. This will ensure the system meets the needs of residents rather than private shareholders.
• Student bus passes will be free under a Labour administration; costs and inaccessibility of transport should not be a barrier to education.
• We will seek to introduce means tested bus pass prescriptions for those under 65 deemed socially isolated, or that can demonstrate a need.
• We will review the timing restrictions on the over 65s bus pass.
EDUCATION, CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE
• Kent’s children deserve well-funded schools which provide opportunities for all, regardless of background. We believe that education is a matter of fairness and that all schools should give the same high standard of education. Grammar schools should be open, accessible and inclusive. We believe the assessment process should be fair and a true assessment of ability.
• The pandemic will have had life changing impacts on young people and their education. We will work with children, teachers, school staff and parents to coproduce the response to the consequences of Covid-19 on their attainment and wellbeing.
• Children and young people should not be going to school hungry. KCC must continue to provide free school meals to all children in need during term time and out of term time. We must not allow Kent children to go to bed hungry. Nutrition is vital to the physical and mental development of children.
• Labour will call on the Government to restore local accountability of local schools through elected members. Kent County Council as the local education authority should provide oversight with qualified educationalists and accountable leadership in place to support schools in partnership.
• Schools should be at the heart of their communities and school land should be held for the benefit of their communities. Schools should be hubs for educational, social and leisure activities. Buildings should be made available for community groups.
• KCC should support schools in offering a wide range of extracurricular activities.
• We will campaign for an end to academisation and we will return to a locally accountable network of state funded schools.
• Our education system should provide a firm foundation, as well as offering opportunities for people to continue learning throughout their lives. We will support and enhance adult education by creating learning opportunities for everyone to get the education, qualifications and retraining they need to succeed in life. Kent County Council as a local education authority should provide oversight with qualified educationalists and leadership in identifying the strategic needs of school age children in the county and work in partnership with local schools in addressing these needs. The structure of the County Council will be fully reviewed with the aim of scaling back management (especially Senior management) and reinvesting the money saved in front line services.
Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND)
• Labour will deliver dramatic improvement in SEND provision, addressing the failures identified in the 2019 Ofsted report for children with additional health, care and educational needs and its poor reputation amongst parents/carers, as identified by OFSTED.
• We will create training bursaries to address recruitment deficits in frontline roles such as social workers and educational psychologists. This will be repaid by service to the authority.
• Labour will call for pre-school provision to be standardised and to continue to be regulated and provided by the state. Staff should be paid a wage which reflects the value and importance of their work. They must receive high quality training, particularly in child development.
• We recognise the value of the Children’s Centres to parents and carers. We will ensure that these preventative services are maintained and enhanced, reflecting the needs of different families and their work patterns.
• We will create a play service (aged 5-11), staffed by trained and qualified play workers to address the gap in provision between Children Centres and a restored Kent Youth Service.
• As part of our Invest to Save programme, a Labour led Kent County Council will re-establish its preventative Youth Service with qualified and experienced youth workers running youth centres, outdoor education and projects. Through centre and outreach, the service will implement the National Youth Work Curriculum and follow National Youth Agency Standards. The service will support young people in gaining accreditation, confidence, self-esteem and life skills.
•The Kent Youth County Council (KYCC) will facilitate young people to influence and inform Council decisions that affect their lives or on which they have strong opinions.
• Kent County Council provides a service for Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers on behalf of the nation and this needs to be fully funded by Government.
• Foster carers provide a much-needed and valued contribution to society and the children they care for. We will work in partnership with our foster carers, those in care and care leavers to ensure that services reflect their needs.
• Social Work and Social Workers are essential and we will support measures to train, retain and enhance our offer while recognising and ensuring parity of esteem across all educational and social professions. The fact that casework numbers for social workers are too high in Kent is an ongoing failure. We will invest further resources to bring case numbers down and in preventative services such as children centres and youth work. Strong, well-resourced preventive services reduce the burden on acute more expensive provision and deliver better outcomes for children.
COMMUNITY SERVICES & COMMUNITY SAFETY
• We will invest in Library Hubs so that everyone has access to a library or library services in each District or Borough in Kent and make these services fit for a Kent in the 21st century.
• We will work with Districts and Boroughs to maintain and enhance the Gateway scheme where all Council services can be co-located for local residents to meet Council Officers and access services.
• We will work in partnership with Districts and Boroughs to enhance our joint sports, arts, heritage and tourism offers, ensuring that we promote the very best of Kent.
• While Policing is a matter for Kent Police and the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, we commit to work in partnership with and support the service but also hold to account the Police and Crime Commissioner and Kent Police in their aim to combat and, most importantly, prevent crime in Kent.
• Labour supports a new approach to KCC’s involvement in managing County Lines drug dealing gangs. County Lines is the process of drug dealing gangs from London expanding their work into Kent and the associated serious violence and risks to young people (often vulnerable children). Labour would support an approach which has seen a real reduction in County Lines where the focus is on arresting the controllers and breaking up the networks of links.
• Community Wardens are valued across Kent; we will sustain and enhance this service ensuring all areas both urban and rural benefit from this provision.
• We will commit throughout all our policies and services to recognise the diverse communities that makeup our County.
• In our diverse County, we commit to ensuring our policies and services are inclusive with equality and diversity at their heart.
PLANNING & THE ENVIRONMENT
• The environment and climate change are the biggest issues of our generation. We must do everything we can, in a sustainable way, to mitigate and reverse the effects of climate change and protect our rich biodiversity.
• We will ensure KCC buildings are carbon neutral by 2030 and mandate environmental impact assessments for all Council decisions.
• We will reverse household waste centre charges on Kent residents, which have led to increased fly-tipping.
• We will work with District/Boroughs and Kent Police to allocate resources to enforce and prosecute fly-tippers when offences are in both rural and urban areas.
• We will introduce a small business waste disposal scheme.
• We will identify potential sites for carbon capture in Kent and ensure the County is at the forefront of the carbon capture industry.
• Labour created the Green Belt. We will support rural communities in maintaining their character while working with Districts and Boroughs to ensure development harmonises with local communities.
• To retain the title of ‘Garden of England’ we will establish a Rural Affairs Service within the Council to act as a conduit to voice the needs of the rural communities of Kent and KCC.
• We will review planning rules to ensure all new homes have access to electric charging points and are built to a high environmental standard.
• We will ensure as a statutory consultee KCC will provide fair but robust responses to planning applications.
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