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More Migrants have crossed the English Channel in a small boat
More migrants have used a small boat to cross the English Channel, the sixth such attempt in a week.

Cremation prices 'to rise' in Thanet

Dean Kilpatrick

Local Democracy Reporter

Plans to increase cremation charges in Thanet have been dubbed "very unfair".

Adult cremations, which include use of a chapel for 30 minutes, will rise by 7% to £730 next year, if the proposals are approved.

Independent councillor Edward Jaye-Jones told Thanet District Council on Thursday: "With the number of years of austerity we've endured, is it justified for us to increase the charges by almost 30% from 2016, given the fact that we've got a very, very low wage scale in Thanet?"

Chief executive Tim Willis said: "Our costs do increase year-on-year quite significantly, and these prices reflect that."

Severe accident: A20 Kent westbound

BBC News Travel

A20 Kent westbound severe accident, from Elizabeth Street to B2011.

A20 Kent - A20 in Dover closed and slow traffic westbound from Limekiln Roundabout to Court Wood Interchange, because of an accident involving three vehicles and an oil spillage.

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

Library opening times up for review

Caitlin Webb

Local Democracy Reporter

Libraries could see opening hours cut as part of changes to free service as Kent County Council (KCC) looks to save about £1m.

However, KCC says no libraries are set to be closed and there are options to open their doors for longer hours.

Conservative councillor Jeremy Kite said: "They provide so much more than just book lending."

Liberal Democrat councillor Trudy Dean said libraries were under threat due to rising rents on the high street.

School book plea as nature words 'disappear'

Tanya Gupta

Pupils with The Lost Words
Joanne Silverwood
Pupils are using the book to get out of the classroom and explore the outdoors

Crowdfunders working to buy every primary and special school in Kent a book about the natural world have had to extend their deadline because of school numbers in the county.

The Lost Words was created by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris to bring "lost" nature words back into children's everyday lives.

They had the idea after it was spotted that nature words such as "acorn", "bluebell" and "kingfisher" had been removed from the most recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary because they were not being used enough, according to publishers Penguin Random House.

Picture of otters from The Lost Words
Rachel Clarke
Otter is one of the words that has been removed from a children's dictionary

Since publication of The Lost Words last year, crowdfunding campaigns have sprung up across the UK to buy copies for primary schools.

By 5 October - the anniversary of the book's publication - 20 communities had started crowdfunding and copies of the book were being delivered by bicycle in Dorset, by sea kayak to schools on islands, and in the company of owls in Suffolk.

However, while some counties found they could achieve their goal with a few thousand pounds, Kent needed £6,500, campaigners said.

They had hoped to raise that amount by Thursday, but have now extended the fundraising drive by 30 days - and expanded it to include Medway.

Dandelions
Penguin Random House
Dandelion is also among the words that have been "lost"

Sue Hatt, one of the organisers of Kent's scheme, said: "As soon as you have names you use them and you start to notice more. It's about raising awareness. Children become explorers, finding out about where they live.

"They have to play and talk to one another. It's about moving away from screen time and adding to their physical mobility."

And fellow organiser Rennie Halstead said while Kent is known as the Garden of England, many children in conurbations such as Medway, Maidstone and Gravesend only had Tarmac playgrounds.

"They are in need of this as much as any in an urban area," he said.

Under the scheme, schools receive a copy of the book and also teaching resources to help them run school activities. So far, the Kent campaign has raised £2,570.

PMQs: Corbyn and May on Raab and Dover-Calais trade route
Jeremy Corbyn taunts the prime minister about Dominic Raab's comments on Dover-Calais trade routes.

Seven suspected migrants found in lorry

Seven suspected migrants have been found in a lorry at Dover docks, the Home Office has said.

The men were discovered during a search of the vehicle which had arrived from Calais at about 14:50 GMT.

Three of the men presented themselves as Iranians, four as Iraqis.

One of the Iranian nationals has been taken to hospital. The others have been referred to immigration officers.

The Home Office said they would be interviewed and dealt with according to immigration rules.

KCC reviews how part-time staff are "appreciated"

Caitlin Webb

Local Democracy Reporter

Kent County Council is reviewing how part-time workers are "appreciated" following claims from the leader that they received fewer bonuses because they put their family before their jobs.

Councillor Paul Carter had said it was "human nature" that part-time workers had "different priorities" back in June.

A council report found full-time employees at KCC received higher appraisal ratings than their part-time counterparts.

The annual staff performance report detailed how 28% of part-time staff exceeded expectations compared to 42% of staff that work all week.

This meant the full-time staff were more likely to receive a 5% bonus for their hard work last year. The council only awarded this to 6% of staff.

In a report published ahead of the personnel meeting tomorrow, the head of HR Paul Royel recommended action must be taken to "improve the management assessment process for all staff".

Ambulance boss to leave troubled trust

Mark Norman

Health Correspondent, BBC South East

Daren Mochrie
BBC

The boss of the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) is to leave the troubled trust after less than two years in the post.

Daren Mochrie was appointed chief executive in April 2017, seven months after the service was put into special measures.

He is to leave at the end of March to take up a post at the North West Ambulance Service.

His departure will leave staff uncertain about the future of a trust that serves nearly five million people across Brighton and Hove, East and West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, and North East Hampshire.

Last week, a Care Quality Commission report questioned whether recent improvements were sustainable.

Secamb
BBC

The trust has been struggling for the past few years.

In May 2016 its then chief executive, Paul Sutton, resigned after he was found to have authorised a covert policy which delayed sending help for some emergency call-outs.

Later that year it was put in special measures - rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission with the reasons including putting patients at risk.

Then in August 2017, an independent review revealed the trust had a culture of bullying and harassment - with concerns over "toxic" atmospheres.

New homes 'increase flood risk'

Caitlin Webb

Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors have raised fears the effect of building "huge numbers" of new homes will have on flooding, due to increased demands on the sewer system.

At a scrutiny committee meeting at Kent County Council, Councillor Tony Hills, said: "Climate change is undeniably having the effect of increasing the threat of flooding at the same time as major housing developments are taking place in Kent and the South East.

Chairman of the scrutiny committee Councillor Andy Booth praised the report but also raised his concerns about the effect of housing.

He said: "There are extraordinary levels of pressure put on both county and districts for building houses and homes - these are huge numbers that we are talking about and contemplating."

"This affects the delivery of water services and the management of flood risk."

Council outlines plans for disadvantaged children

Caitlin Webb

Local Democracy Reporter

Kent County Council have outlined their plans of action to ensure disadvantaged children are not missing out at school.

Parents on universal credit earning up to £7,500 per year are entitled to extra funding for their child's education, called pupil premium.

However the report revealed awareness of the funding available is a key reason why an estimated 21% of eligible primary school children are missing out on the benefits.

Councillors spent more than eight months gathering evidence of how funds are being spent to help school children from poor families.

This comes as there are fears money allocated for disadvantaged children is being used to keep schools afloat rather than help the children most at need.

Following the report from the cross-party select committee, the directorate for children, young people and education plans to reform how pupil premium is handled by schools.

To encourage take up of the scheme, KCC is running a series of focus groups with schools and is producing a toolkit for schools to use this feedback.

The company owned by KCC, The Education People, is being tasked with sharing the best practice for pupil premium children with schools across the county.

Council looks at taking back street cleansing

Dean Kilpatrick

Local Democracy Reporter

Street cleansing in Dover and Folkestone could once again be carried out by council workers if proposals to bring the service back in-house go ahead.

Both Dover and Folkestone & Hythe district councils have agreed to assess whether the work could be carried out jointly by their respective garden maintenance teams, with a new contract due to start in January 2021.

Veolia currently carries out both councils' street cleansing responsibilities.

Papers submitted to Dover District Council's cabinet on Monday said the authority had outsourced its waste collection contract for more than 20 years and while Veolia "operated effectively", the contract was "loss-making" to the company.

Dover council chief rejects lottery concerns

Dean Kilpatrick

Local Democracy Reporter

Dover's council leader has said he wants to "keep the ball rolling" for plans to launch a local authority lottery.

Members of the policy and performance scrutiny committee had called on Dover District Council to "not proceed further" with the scheme until clarity was provided over concerns raised by members.

Those included what would happen to the prize fund if the lottery was wound up, if there was a limit on how many tickets an individual could buy, and other safeguarding issues.

Conservative council leader Keith Morris said the committee posed "good questions", but told cabinet colleagues on Monday: "I feel content that we will be able to go forward on this."

Cabinet members unanimously rejected the recommendation to pause work relating to the lottery.

Kent Police seize 'thousands of pounds worth of cannabis bud'

Cannabis seized
Kent Police

Police have seized cannabis “bud” believed to be worth thousands of pounds after a raid in Sandwich.

Officers discovered the Class B drug at a property in St Bart’s Road.

Kent Police said: “Along with the bud, mobile phones, thousands of pounds in cash and drugs paraphernalia were seized.”

A 55-year-old man from Sandwich and a 26-year-old man from Ramsgate were arrested on suspicion of drug supply, following the raid on November 1.

Sergeant Simon Drew, from Kent Police’s community policing team, said: “I would like to reassure residents that it is our priority to actively pursue those people suspected to be involved in drug supply and put a stop to it.

“Anyone who suspects drug activity is taking place in their town or street should call us straight away on 101 and provide us with as much information as possible. Any detail, big or small, can assist with inquiries and ongoing investigations.”

Council starts property development firm

Dean Kilpatrick

Local Democracy Reporter

Dover District Council is to set up a property development company in a bid to generate revenue.

Cabinet councillors today agreed to create Honeywood Property Services Limited, which is intended to invest in private residential and commercial properties.

Profits generated will help pay for public services amid funding cuts from central government, the council said.

Conservative deputy leader, Councillor Michael Conolly, said: “We have responded in various ways so that we've been able to maintain frontline services and a very low council tax rate in terms of east Kent.

“This is potentially another weapon in that process.”

It is proposed the company will invest £2 million a year for the first five years of its operation.

Loans made to the company will be charged at market rates, with money going to the authority's general fund.

'Football' war hero to be honoured

Robin Gibson

Reporter, BBC South East Today

On the centenary of the end of World War One, a statue to one of Kent's heroes is being unveiled at his former school in Dover.

'Unexpected bills' could lead to police recruitment freeze

Caitlin Webb

Local Democracy Reporter

Kent PCC Matthew Scott on patrol
BBC

Kent Police has been handed a £1m hike in its car insurance bill - equivalent to the combined salary of 30 police officers.

The increase comes as the force is set to pay an extra £4.5m for police pensions.

Crime commissioner Matthew Scott has written to Kent MPs to rally support, and says the unexpected bill increases may lead to another freeze in recruitment.

He wrote: "I want to boost police numbers again.

"With the support of Kent's council taxpayers, I'll have delivered an extra 271 police constables by January 2019, but some of these pending cost pressures are so dire I won't be able to repeat this achievement."

Chief secretary to the treasury, Liz Truss MP, has promised more money to help cover the costs for pensions in the public sector, including NHS staff, armed forces and teachers.

Mobile app for children in care

Caitlin Webb

Local Democracy Reporter

Mobile phone software that allows children in care to securely communicate with social workers is being launched in Kent.

Staff at Kent County Council have been given iPhones and tablets, allowing them to receive messages from vulnerable children and young people, using an app known as Momo (Mind of My Own).

A social worker in Dover told the council that a young person contacted them using the app when he was “feeling unhappy and low”.

He was referred to specialist mental health services, the social worker said, adding: “I genuinely believe this young person would not have contacted me without the Momo app.”

The software, which is used by more than 60 local authorities across the country, was trialled in north Kent. It is now being rolled out across the county.

Joanne Carpenter, of the Virtual School Kent, told a corporate parenting panel last night that feedback had been largely positive. However, a report to the council identified several “limitations”, with social workers unable to “communicate back directly to the young person through the app”.

Statue to World War One hero unveiled on centenary of the end of the war
On the centenary of the end of the war, a statue to Dover's Captain Wilfred "Billie" Nevill will be unveiled.

Sheerness Port 'has role in no-deal Brexit'

Sheerness Port
BBC
Mr Henderson believes the port could ease congestion at Dover

The port of Sheerness could play a key role in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a Kent MP has suggested.

Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey Gordon Henderson was speaking during a special Commons debate he organised.

He said Dover was at risk of gridlock in the event of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

But Sheerness is well-positioned to relieve the congestion, he added.

"It has a roll-on roll-off terminal that is available for use today," he said.

The Road Haulage Association said: "The road system around Sheppey is not adequate to handle the volume of traffic diverted from Dover.

"The journey time to the continent is also considerably longer than the Dover-Calais route and the real issue is customs checks and border delays which would bring chaos to any port without a proper implementation period.

"Lorries stuck in a queue for Dover wouldn’t be able to easily divert and if they did they would likely to be swapping one queue for another at Sheerness."

Will goods continue to move freely through Dover after Brexit?
A BBC inquiry into border issues outside the EU sees Switzerland acting as a post-Brexit Britain.