I am always concerned about rubbish. Not just if it’s on our streets but I’d also add weeds growing on roads, roundabouts and pavement verges as well as my own truly hated anti-social behaviour leaving a long-lasting stain – that of graffiti.
Kent County Council, as is true of many upper-tier authorities has severe financial constraints. Most of the pressure is due to such authorities having to fund adult and children’s social care.
On elderly care I have been making the observation for years that an inbuilt conflict exists between the NHS and county authorities. The NHS understandably wants to ensure that elderly patients, once well, can return home with a care package or to family supported living, or to a more appropriate form of community care. It is wasteful for a hospital to provide what could be known as ‘hotel services’ once someone is well enough to be elsewhere. The blunt term of ‘bed-blocking’ is often used to describe this issue which then causes pressure throughout the hospital right back to A&E.
The county authority will, in many cases, have to pick up the bill for providing the community care in whatever form it takes, hence a funding conflict arises which does nobody any good. I see elderly care in all its forms as part of health provision and have long advocated that this should be funded by central government.
On children’s care, this may take the form of an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC), but with it often comes the obligation for the upper-tier authority to fund individual school transport, often by taxi and in severe cases to fund specialist out of area residential provision which can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds per youngster, per year. All of this is often unknown and unbudgeted but are statutory services the county has to provide.
I comment on the above to give some context as to why Kent County Council is suffering financial stress. In trying to budget, local authorities of all types then look at what are known as ‘discretionary’ costs, the costs over which they do have absolute control. It’s the waste, weeds and clean-ups that often bear the brunt of spending cuts.
And so it is that Richborough Household Waste and Recycling Centre is now in the crosshairs for closure. KCC have offered three options to attempt to save £1.5 million over the next two years. They have looked at usage and population densities, and under such blunt measures, Richborough finds itself at the bottom of the league. We’ve been here before with a similar threat that was overturned in early 2012. Many will be aware of my opposition to the requirement, introduced during the Covid period (for no great reason I can fathom, these being very open spaces), and now permanent, of having to book a slot to visit a waste site. This restriction and other charging measures has reduced use and the taxpayer bill for these sites by £5m over the past ten years.
The KCC document recognises the additional distances that many East Kent residents would need to travel, which in itself seems a retrograde step in terms of carbon footprint, and as ever there is no consideration of the clean-up costs often falling to lower-tier authorities, and most certainly landowners in cleaning up fly-tipping. I would highly recommend that residents ensure that their voice is heard if this proposal goes further and a full public consultation results.
It is with great disappointment that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill in its current form has been discontinued. The part of main interest to South Thanet residents was the provision to ban live animal exports for fattening and slaughter, hence stopping the foul trade that we had seen for many years through Ramsgate Port. This Bill was becoming what is often called a ‘Christmas tree Bill’ whereby other interests were being added to it, notably to use it to stop drag hunting and this is before it may have suffered further dilution from its main purpose in the House of Lords.
The plan is to implement measures piecemeal through other legislative means so I’m sure we’ll get the long fought for absolute ban in the end. We have not seen such live exports through Ramsgate since we left the EU, as new requirements on the Calais side were not put in place to comply with EU veterinary health regulations. So, currently, Brexit has delivered what we all wanted. Never forget, whilst an EU member this trade could not be stopped under any circumstances as such live cargo were simply treated as goods and could not be unilaterally prevented from being traded under single market rules.
I’ll be heavily involved in Parliament on housing, the Renters Reform Bill and am contributing to the national debate on Inheritance Tax, much in the news at present. I’d be pleased to receive your thoughts.