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Severe accident: A20 Kent both ways

BBC News Travel

A20 Kent both ways severe accident, between Bower Mount Medical Practice and the Premier Inn.

A20 Kent - A20 London Road in Maidstone closed in both directions between the Bower Mount Medical Practice junction and the the Premier Inn junction, because of an accident involving a car and a motorbike.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Arnhem veteran from Brighton given medal by Dutch government
One of the last veterans of the Battle of Arnhem has received the Dutch government's highest civilian honour.

Your views sought over county council budget cuts

Kent residents are being asked for their input on Kent County Council's future spending priorities, as the authority faces its "toughest financial challenge for many years".

The council said: "Coping with the demands of Covid-19 has required a huge increase in spending and has come at the same time as reductions in its income from council tax and business rates."

Peter Oakford, KCC’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We have to consider making some difficult decisions about where to reduce our spending.

"We are asking residents for their opinions so we can take those into account in drafting our next budget."

The online consultation runs from 14 October to 24 November on the council's website.

Covid-19 rates in Kent 'beginning to rise'

Andrew Scott-Clark, director of public health at Kent County Council
Mr Scott-Clarke said rates in Kent were "nowhere near the England average"

Rates of Covid-19 in Kent are “relatively low” but are “beginning to rise and that is a worry”, the county council’s director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark has said.

Kent and Medway are both on a medium alert level in the government’s new three-tier lockdown system, meaning residents will be subject to no further restrictions at this stage.

Mr Scott-Clark identified Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells as areas of concern but said: “We are working with those councils to make sure that all of the right measures are in place.”

He called on people to play their part by frequently washing hands, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and keeping to the rule of six.

'It could change rapidly'

“If we abide by those rules now, that will protect us, protect Kent and protect our loved ones,” he said.

James Williamson, director of public health for Medway added: “We’ve got a position that could change and it could change rapidly.”

He said a local tracing team would be supporting the national service and would “follow up at a local level people who have not been able to be contacted.”

Meanwhile, he said people with symptoms should get tested and abide by the rules on self-isolation.

“We have got a chance now," he said. "We’ve seen what has happened in other areas of the country."

The October floods of 2000 remembered 20 years on
Thousands of homes and businesses were devastated when floods swept through West Kent and East Sussex.

Brexit: Round-the-clock lorry park to open at Ebbsfleet

Ciaran Duggan

Local Democracy Reporter

A 24-hour lorry park is expected to be in operation at Ebbsfleet International station in 85 days’ time, it has emerged.

HMRC – which deals with custom checks – and the Department for Transport have unveiled proposals to hold up to 256 lorries in car park D of the railway land, which lies between Dartford and Gravesend.

The government says the Brexit lorry site will be needed for up to two years from 1 January, after the European Union (EU) transition period ends at the end of 2020 if a deal has not been reached.

Queuing lorries

About 143 staff are likely to be hired at the station, which will operate for seven days a week. The site will be made Covid-secure with hand santisiers provided and social distancing taken into account.

Between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00, lorry movement will be limited to a maximum of 99 per hour at the former Covid testing site, which shut down unannounced last month and moved to Rochester.

Plans have been made to manage traffic travelling from different parts of the UK into Kent and the Local Democracy Reporting Service understands the customs checkpoint will be used as a “net” to catch lorries heading to Europe.

Hauliers will be encouraged to upload their paperwork online before they travel from their depot, and will then be given a green, amber or red pass to show whether they can progress onto the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.

Dartford council’s main opposition leader Sacha Gosine (Lab) said he was “worried” about the plans. He said: “I have previously talked about the traffic issues in Dartford. It will be mayhem as the infrastructure on these roads cannot cope with these lorries.”

However, Dartford council’s leader Jeremy Kite (Con) said he “sympathised” with HMRC and added: “If they don’t plan for a worst case situation they would face criticism but when they do, it obviously focuses upon a preparation that we all hope won’t be needed.”

Woman set fire to flat and claimed baby was inside

A woman who set fire to an apartment and lied to firefighters that a baby was inside the smoke-filled property has been jailed for three years.

Samantha Spencer
West Yorkshire Police

Fire crews used breathing apparatus and forced entry to Samantha Spencer's flat in Bradford in May.

Bradford Crown Court heard there were 28 apartments in the block and many of the residents were vulnerable.

Spencer, 29, admitted arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

She also pleaded guilty to further charges of common assault and harassment towards two other residents.

The mother-of-two ran back into the block of flats when police officers arrived at Bentley Carter Apartments, but she was chased and arrested.

Hardship fund for councillors losing their seats

Ciaran Duggan

Local Democracy Reporter

A “hardship fund” is being proposed for cash-strapped Kent county councillors who lose their seat after next year’s elections.

Kent County Council’s (KCC) head of governance, Benjamin Watts, has called for a wide review looking at options open to County Hall to help councillors who find themselves short of money after leaving office.

The KCC chief officer says he is “concerned” on a “humane level” that some elected members may find it difficult to find new work due to mass job cuts and a far more competitive labour market.

He said: “I am a little concerned that if in May we are still where we are now, and, we have some members who have been with us for some time and don’t retain their seat, that we may have some individuals in a hardship situation.”

The basic allowance for a KCC member is around £16,000 for the financial year. Some receive extra payment for committee chair roles or being cabinet members, but councillors are not entitled to redundancy payments and the majority are unable to contribute to pension schemes whilst they are serving.

KCC’s main opposition leader Rob Bird (Lib Dem) warned: “It is something we need to look at very carefully and be sensitive to public opinion. Clearly none of us would want KCC to be out of line with the sector at large.”

Election plans to be drawn up amid pandemic

Ciaran Duggan

Local Democracy Reporter

County Hall

Concerns have been raised about local elections in Kent next year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic will likely change the way the votes are carried out in May for the Kent County Council elections and the poll for the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner position.

More than 50 by-elections will need to be resolved across the county in 2021 along with a referendum over the Lenham neighbourhood plan within the Maidstone area.

KCC’s head of governance, Benjamin Watts, said: “The current guidance is that those elections will be taking place and we are working towards those.”

However, issues related to the election count, such as putting protective measures in place to allow voters to socially distance at venues, were raised by councillors during a virtual KCC meeting yesterday.

Mr Watts added: “We are looking at the KCC election being counted on the Friday as it was four years ago and we have had conversations about the idea of counting by division to allow candidates to attend with social distancing in place.

“Over the course of the next few months we will be firming up arrangements.”

Thanet care homes 'effectively in lockdown'

Ciaran Duggan

Local Democracy Reporter

Thanet care homes are effectively in lockdown as coronavirus cases reach their highest levels in Kent since June, according to a care home manager.

Maria Kallis, who runs Eaton Lodge Nursing Home in Westgate, is one of 40 managers in the district raising concerns about the “confusing” and “conflicting” guidance from national and local health authorities.

They have resorted to “comparing notes” in a private WhatsApp group as some families have told staff they are “frightened” to send their elderly relatives to nursing or residential homes in the area.

Although the rate in Thanet remains low at about seven new weekly cases - nearly five cases per 100,000 people - there remains fear from staff around the lack of clarity from the government and Kent County Council (KCC).

Ms Kallis, who has had no positive Covid cases at Eaton Lodge during the pandemic, said: “Most of the homes in Thanet are choosing to lock down because we are concerned for our clients.”

Eaton Lodge Nursing Home

Her 30 staff are tested weekly but there can be lengthy delays before the results come back, with some employees afraid to socialise outside of work in case they bring the virus into the care home.

A total of 21 elderly residents are staying at Eaton, due to tight restrictions that have been put on the home some have not been able to see relatives for more than six months.

KCC’s adult social care corporate director Richard Smith said the authority continued to work closely with the NHS and Care Quality Commission to ensure adequate arrangements were in place across the county.