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Kent County Council calls off meeting amid rising Omicron rates

Kent County Council (KCC) have called off a meeting amid rising COVID infection rates.

The full council meeting was due to take place today but a decision was shared with members yesterday "following a consultation with all political Group Leaders".

Kent County Council headquarters at County Hall in Maidstone
Kent County Council headquarters at County Hall in Maidstone

Vice-Chairman Cllr Lesley Game said: “As a result of the significant increase in COVID numbers, and the troubling threat posed by the Omicron variant, I have, following consultation with all Group Leaders, taken the decision to cancel the County Council meeting today.

“Were there a number of very significant, substantive and time-sensitive items on the agenda, I may have been minded to proceed but, in the current circumstances, the right thing to do is cancel the meeting.

“We will reflect on the situation after Christmas before reaching a final decision on an alternative date, or the deferral of all business to other planned meetings.”

Despite the flexibility of Members to try and help the meeting go ahead, Mrs Game said in face of rising cases, and with so much still unknown about Omicron, she had a duty to consider the health, safety and welfare of all those who had been due to be in the Chamber at County Hall.

The Vice-Chairman added that while it would be preferable to return to the position where government allowed meetings to be virtual, and this was technically possible, an informal online briefing on Thursday could not replace the Full Council.

KCC Vice Chairman Cllr Lesley Game
KCC Vice Chairman Cllr Lesley Game

Mrs Game said KCC was now, as it did earlier in 2021, exploring alternative venues for a re-arranged meeting in the new year given the importance of the upcoming Budget County Council meeting where all Members will wish to speak and vote.

Mrs Game said: “I am grateful for the considerable flexibility that Members had already shown but as the situation and COVID picture has developed, and evolved rapidly, the current uncertainty and increasing case numbers makes it very difficult to adequately discharge our duties to Members, or to staff attending and supporting, the meeting - even with the hybrid (a mix of physical attendance and online viewing) arrangements.

“I am also aware that over recent weeks, and in the last 36 hours, a number of councils across the county and the country have cancelled meetings. The risks posed by COVID are being taken seriously by our elected colleagues in other authorities and it is important that we show similar due regard.

“As a large and respected Public Health Authority, we must show leadership in terms of risk management and demonstrate sensible decision-making in the face of health crises.”

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