At each meeting of the Full County Council,, Councillor's can ask questions of the KCC Leader, Cabinet Members or Committee Chairman. A Councillor can ask one question (submitted in advance), and may also ask a suplementary question relating to the answer provided.
Scroll down to see our most recent questions:
The conversion of Kent's streetlights to LEDs appears to be going well and feedback from residents on the new lights has generally been very positive. Unfortunately, Kent Highways continue to be let down by other contractors that fail to do jobs properly and on time.
At last Thursday's County Council meeting Rob Bird put the following question to Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport:
"Will the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport please say how much money has been allocated by the Chancellor to each of Kent's Districts under his £1.3bn road improvement plan, and say more specifically what he plans to do in the light of those allocations to ensure to ease congestion in Maidstone where there is gridlock on all road approaches and a clear need in the south for a southern link road?"
"Heavy rainfall in Maidstone quite often results in the roadway at the foot of the Broadway being flooded, compounding congestion in the area. Furthermore, in extreme conditions the subway also floods making it very difficult for pedestrians to cross this busy road.
Despite these matters being raised repeatedly with officers for many months and years, there appears to be no permanent solution in sight.
"Will the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport outline steps which the County Council will take to ensure that vehicles are not displaced into Kent for use in public transport or commercial services from London as a result of extended low emission zones in the capital and that the areas of greatest pollution in Kent also benefit from a statutory roll out of ultra-low polluting vehicles?"
Rob Bird, Member for Maidstone Central, asked Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, the following question:
"Up to now the works on the Maidstone Bridges Gyratory have progressed well and traffic flows have generally been well managed. Unfortunately, on Saturday 24th September scores of motorists spe nt 2 hours queuing to get out of the Fremlin Walk car-park because of congestion caused by the roadworks. We have recently learnt that this situation was exacerbated and prolonged because the Kent Highways Management Centre at Aylesford was not manned at week-ends.
Ian Chittenden, Member for Maidstone North-East asked Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, the following question:
"The number of sawn-off streetlight columns around th e County seems to be on the increase, most have been taped and left for many months. Not only are they a blot on the landscape, but the lack of light in localised areas increases safety risk for both motorists and pedestrians.
Trudy Dean, Member for Malling Central and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Kent County Council asked Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, the following question:
"Would the Cabinet Member for E nvironment and Transport please say what the Government's current policy is with regard to assessing submissions from Local Authorities and individuals to Planning Applications on the basis of the impact of traffic generation?
"Will the Cabinet Member for Environment Highways and Waste inform the Council why KCC Highways have still not produced a workable scheme for enabling traffic to enter and leave the Thanington Park development in Canterbury, despite the fact that permission for the development was granted by Canterbury City Council in January?"
"Given that the all-party Lords Science and Technology committee raised concern in April that the substantial EU research funds, currently available to the UK, would not likely be covered by future governments if Britain left the European Union, can the Cabinet Member for Economic Development explain the steps he will be taking to ensure that the expanding scientific sector in Kent does not suffer long term impact as a consequence of the recent referendum result?"
"Schools are making increasing use of the Internet and both primary and secondary school children are routinely expected to access the Internet for homework. This council has just undertaken a comprehensive review of social mobility issues in Kent's education system and the select committee has made some valuable recommendations. However, a number of children are potentially disadvantaged by the lack of Internet access or a computer at home. Can the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform please advise how many primary school age children in Kent do not have access to the Internet at home and, if this information is currently unavailable, would he arrange for this information to be collected from the county's primary schools?"
"How many Kent County Council employees and how many councillors have had their emails monitored in each of the past 3 years and for what purpose?"
To ensure the security and safety of the KCC network, there is continual electronic monitoring of the e-mail system.
In terms of individuals' accounts, between 2013 and 2015, over the past 3 years, KCC has monitored 108 employee accounts. There have been no requests to monitor any Members' email accounts.
According to the Safer Maidstone Partnership there were 709 reported road crashes in the borough for the year ending June 2015, almost 3% up on the previous year. It is recognised that the majority of these 'accidents' can be attributed to driver error; KCC's Road Safety Team continue to have a vital role.
Will the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport agree to come to Canterbury with relevant senior Highways officers to meet with representatives of the residents' associations of urban Canterbury to discuss their concerns about the traffic implications of the major expansion of the built area of Canterbury, and to explain the County Council's ongoing strategy to mitigate the pressure on the urban highways network that will cause?
Over 100 acres of the former Aylesford Newsprint site is currently in receivership and a master plan for its development is being consulted upon. Can the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport confirm that KCC is engaged with this process and in his reply can he confirm that KCC will use its influence to gain much needed infrastructure improvements including
Many thousands of children attend primary and secondary schools within the built up areas of Maidstone, a borough known to have very high levels of air pollution.
The recent joint report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Royal College of Physicians (*) stated that "Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution which plays a role in many of the major health challenges of our day". The report recommended that "Air pollution monitoring by central and local government must track exposure to harmful pollutants in major urban areas and near schools" and that local authorities should "Act to protect the public health when air pollution levels are high."
The progressing of Member Highway Grant projects can be lengthy as well as costly and I am aware that officers even after repeated phone calls are often left waiting months to receive an update from our chosen supplier. Once updates have been received the question remains is the project value for money, with an example being that one of my projects was estimated to cost close to twice the price quoted by another KCC approved independent contractor. Therefore, will the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport explain how he plans to make improvements to encourage Members to continue to fund highways projects for the benefit of Kent's residents?
Will the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform advise what steps he will take to ensure that Kent pupils will continue to benefit from a good education at those schools which have previously chosen and performed well enough to remain under Kent County Council's control and which will soon be forced to become Academies?
When the consultation was recently announced for the closure of 4 care homes in Kent, including the Dorothy Lucy Care Home in Maidstone, we were informed that the centre was no longer fit for purpose and that the council was working with care providers to find "alternative services".
Given the Care Quality Commission's glowing report of the centre just two years ago, where no concern was raised on the buildings suitability, can the cabinet member please explain which alternative local services have been found by KCC to ensure that residents continue to receive care to the standard observed at the Dorothy Lucy Centre.
In recent years Kent County Council has been successful in reducing the demand for long-term residential care. However, as people live longer and dementia becomes more prevalent, the scope for further reductions may be limited.
Earlier this month BUPA has put up sale notices for 200 of its 290 care homes citing the sharp cuts in Government funding for the elderly. It was reported in the Financial Times (9th October 2015) that the UK's four biggest care home-owners, which are predominately focused on the state-funded market, that there is a risk of a "catastrophic collapse" in the sector.
The A20 between Borough Green and Coldharbour, Aylesford has been accepted as exceeding its capacity by Kent Highways, and is subject to high levels of congestion daily. It is also the emergency relief diversion route for M20 when closures occur. Can the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport please update the Council on the current progress on feasibility studies to relieve congestion particularly at junctions? In his reply will he please include the feasibility work being done on j5 slip roads to M25.
In recent weeks we have seen two large charitable organisations fold through economic problems, Kids Company and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.
Kent County Council relies on many local and national Charitable and Voluntary organisations for the delivery of a wide range of crucial services. Is the Leader satisfied that adequate checks are regularly made on the financial soundness and governance structures of these organisations, as I am concerned that KCC's commissioning arrangements could jeopardise the financial stability of these organisations.
At the beginning of August local and national media reported on the case of Lithuanian workers who had been held in Maidstone houses and forced to work in a chicken farm just a few miles away. Unfortunately there may be many similar cases here in Maidstone and in other parts of the county.
There has been a marked increase in the number of out of county pupils taking the Kent Test for starting school in September 2015 and being assessed as suitable for grammar school, compared to the previous year. I believe KCC is required to open its test to anyone who applies to be tested and that the authority also receives basic need allocations for the additional school buildings that might be required, but would the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform please provide further information with regard to this worrying situation, including where the out of county pupils will be offered grammar school places.
With the backdrop of the Child Sex Scandal in Rotherham and the release of Ofsted's report "The sexual exploitation of children: it couldn't happen here could it", Debbie Jones, Ofsted's National Director for Social Care, said it "cannot be acceptable that local authorities and partners are still failing to grasp and deal with abuse effectively". She stated, "We are calling on all local authorities and their partners to ensure that they have a comprehensive multi-agency strategy and action plan in place to tackle child sexual exploitation,"
Energy bills can be a significant expense for our schools. In recent years a number of schools across the country have arranged for solar energy companies to install panels on their premises. Thus the schools have significantly reduced their electricity bills and significantly reduced their carbon footprint for zero capital outlay, a true win win.
Given the outstanding A level results achieved by students at both Simon Langton Grammar Schools, Girls' and Boys', in Canterbury, and their ongoing success at university, will the Cabinet Member for Economic Development say what he plans to do to attract high tech physics-based companies to East Kent, to build on and develop this undoubted local strength?
I am sure members will agree that Kent's community wardens provide a valuable service, preventing low level crime in local communities. In reducing warden numbers from 79 to 40 across the county as outlined in the public consultation, there is a real risk that the scheme will become inadequate, local crime will increase and long term viability of community wardens called into question.
With an apparently increasing likelihood of the Ebola virus eventually coming to the British Isles, would the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Public Health please advise what preparations KCC's Public Health team have already made or are making for the immediate containment of any case - or epidemic in Kent - should this sadly come to pass.
Given the persistent excess of demand for Specialist Children's Services, and of unit costs, over the level budgeted for in this financial year, will the Cabinet Member for Specialist Children's Services specify what action has been taken to reduce the forecast deficit in the budget for which he is responsible, and how he proposes to eliminate the deficit by the end of the financial year?
Most of us love Kent's green landscapes but as I travel along the roads in Maidstone and the surrounding countryside I have noticed that much of our greenery has become overly rampant. More and more roadside signs are obscured, some are completely hidden and footways are becoming impassable.
In most cases residents, farmers and other landowners are responsible for cutting back hedgerows bordering their properties. However, it is Kent County Council that is responsible for safety on our roads.
Given the increasing number of residents of Kent falling into food poverty, as evidenced by those needing to make use of Foodbanks, will the Leader
At September's Kent County Council meeting Councillor George Koowaree, Member for Ashford East, asked the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, Mr Brazier, to give his backing for funding to improve the access in and out of Barrey Junction on the A2070 now that Secretary of State for Transport has approved the construction of J10a on the M20.
For a number of years Kent County Council has allowed sponsors to advertise on roundabouts in Kent.
Counties such as Surrey use advertising as a means to directly enhance roundabouts with additional planting and regular maintenance, Kent has no such scheme.
In Maidstone for example, where the majority of roundabouts sit on prime entry roads for visitors to our county town, shrubs and trees are typically choked by grass and weeds. Beyond some low level grass cutting, there is minimal maintenance and there have been no new planting programs for many years.
Will the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health inform the Council how many users have taken Direct Payments since the new contractors have been in place, and how this has affected staffing levels in the department responsible for assessment and in the processing of invoices?
There were 6100 people who were receiving home care arranged by the council when the new Domiciliary Contract came into effect. As part of this, all of those who were affected by the changes were reminded of their right to ask for Direct Payment instead of services. As of 28 August, 1694 of these people had expressed an interest in finding out more about Direct Payments. Of the 559 who have progressed to a detailed assessment, 376 have chosen to go on to take a Direct Payment.
Given that there is a commitment to engage Members at their local level in the shaping and commissioning of KCC services, and that many of our services require cooperation with district councils, will the Leader inform the Council of the recent active steps he has taken to engage district council leaders in constructive conversation about developing closer working between the County and District Councils?
Now that the Secretary of State for Transport has given the go ahead for J10a of the M20 in Ashford will the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport take a lead in influencing the Minister to increase the funding for improving Barrey Junction on the A2070 so that drivers can turn right and, for those who want to visit the commercial site coming from Junction 10, can do so safely?
A number of schools across the county are introducing schemes to provide students with tablet PCs. While some schools have a policy not to charge for such devices, some clearly are charging parents, in fact the fees can be significantly higher than devices generally available.
Can the Cabinet Member confirm how many schools have such a tablet PC scheme and how many chose not to charge for such provision and would he agree that a school charging for devices used for educational purposes is the thin end of the wedge of paid-for education provision?
Given that winter is only two months away, will the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport list the measures already put in place by agencies, including KCC, to prevent flooding in each of the locations where it occurred last winter; and will he also list the measures judged to be essential to prevent flooding in those locations, but for which the funding has not been identified, and inform the Council of the subsequent assessment of risk of flooding, in terms of red/amber/green ratings, in each of those locations.
At the meeting of the County Council last Thursday, Martin Vye, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, asked the Conservative administration for an urgent risk assessment of those places in Kent that flooded last winter. He said: "We are less than two months away from winter. Already we have had significant downpours causing local flooding. I want to know what risk local residents are facing."
In a packed Town Hall Thursday night Lib Dem Councillors defeated a destruct ive plan for a high density housing estate on school playing fields in Boughton Lane, Loose. The 220 unit estate if permitted would have led to fragmentation and direct destruction of part of ancient Five Acre Wood, contrary to national planning policy.
At the County Council meeting on the 17th of July Martin Vye, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Kent County Council, asked what the administration are doing to combat extremism and racism in Kent schools.
He said: "the widely publicised investigation into certain Birmingham schools has made us all think about what values individual schools are promoting. The answer I got from the Cabinet Member for Education is that in Kent it is left to the police to investigate, and tackle, the problem of extremism if it exists in our schools. I was told that the police have been conducting visits to schools, under the national PREVENT programme, and have talked with a number of school pupils referred to them."
In view of the Church of England's decision to withdraw from all connections with pay day lending firm Wonga, can the Cabinet Member for Finance and Procurement please say what action KCC has taken to withdraw from all connections with such firms, to issue consumer advice to our own staff and report on the performance of KCC supported alternative products.
With increasing demands on teachers it is vital that schools are led by Headteachers who are healthy, motivated and happy in their roles. Across the country it is increasingly difficult to find suitably qualified Headteachers who are capable of taking on the stress and challenge of improving under-performing schools.
Can the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport provide details of any planning applications where KCC has raised flood risk concern in the last year?
Earlier this year KCC raised no great concern with a housing plan for Langley Park and subsequently the planning application was passed. At the time land at the south of the site was severely affected by flooding at Brishing Dam (prompting KCC emergency planning response). Given the cost of flood response, can he assure members that KCC will now provide a clear opinion to planners on the suitability of housing development, based on the latest flood risk data and the lessons learned from recent flooding in Kent?
Given the recent well-publicised measures taken by the Government, OfSTED, and the local authority with regard to certain schools in Birmingham, will the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform outline the measures taken by his Directorate to monitor the possible transmission of dangerous extremist views in schools in Kent; and will he list the number of racist incidents logged in Kent schools for each of the last four years?
When they released Maidstone's draft housing growth plan recently, the Conservative cabinet at MBC surely hoped that nobody would notice the lack of traffic strategy for the borough.
This brought into sharp relief at Thursday's full council meeting at KCC when County Councillor Brian Clark, supported by Maidstone Lib Dem members, asked the head of Highways a simple question:
KCC used to count vehicles on roads across Kent (the "Kent Traffic Counts program") to predict the effect of new house building and make sure that house builders pay for any required road improvements. KCC cancelled the program in 2011.
Councillor Ian Chittenden has found that KCC now relies on figures commissioned by house builders themselves. He commented, "These companies would save on the cost of road improvements like wider roads, roundabouts and traffic with lower vehicle numbers, making this a conflict of interest. If the numbers turn out to be too low, congestion will result, creating a cost which will eventually have to be paid for by the tax payer".
Given that the President of the Family Division of the High Court has said that local authority lawyers need to get involved advising and assisting their social work clients earlier than is often the case, can the Cabinet Member for Specialist Children's Services give the Council a firm assurance that the present system of billing by Legal Services is not rationing legal advice to Specialist Children's Services to the point where the expeditious progress of cases through the courts, relating for example to taking children into care or making Adoption Orders, could be compromised?
Will the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport give an explanation as to why the Drover roundabout in Ashford has been left to turn into a meadow, is it to make the cow sculptures feel at home?
Mr Chairman, it is a disgrace that first impression for people coming into Ashford is to see this eyesore.