My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

KCC Tory Councillors = Shameless, Grapsing, Carpetbaggers!

Hypocrites is too kind a description of Kent County Council’s  67 Tory Councillors.

Members  of a party which has championed austerity for almost a decade. Members of party which has implemented  draconian cuts in our schools, hospitals, social care services and town halls; which has slashed benefits for the poor  and vulnerable and imposed 1 percent wage rises for nurses, teachers, ambulance crews etc; these shameless  carpetbaggers were the first in line to get their greedy snouts into the trough  by awarding themselves a massive 15% increase in their councillor allowances.

In an outrageous example  of “do as I say not as I do” double standards these so-called politicians voted to increase their allowances by an extra £247,202 when compared with  the previous financial year 2016/17. Adding in expenses, subsistence claims and pension contributions for  some of the 81 councillors  means that Kent County Council will spend  somewhere close to £2.5 million paying its councillors in the forthcoming year.  That’s  the equivalent of £1.66  for every man, woman and child living in the KCC area.
 According to research conducted by the Tax Payers Alliance, KCC councillors were already amongst  the top 5 groups of best paid councillors in England and Wales so why did they want even more? With a pay rise of over a quarter of a million pounds, they must now surely be the wealthiest group of  councillors in the country! Hardly an accolade to be proud of  when many in the county are struggling hard to get by.
The question must be asked are these councillors worth it, or are they overpaid?  And what sort of message does their greedy grasping behaviour send out to the public? Especially in an area like Thanet with the highest rates of unemployment, child poverty, low pay and  poor housing in south east England. The antics of these councillors, including Thanet KCC councillors  Ken Gregory and Emma Dawson who both spoke enthusiastically in favour of the increase at last week’s County Council meeting, reminds me of the 2010 MPs expenses scandal which exposed the self-serving attitude of many of our politicians and which brought politics into massive disrepute. I fear that those KCC Tory councillors who voted to give themselves a pay rise last week will also bring the County Council into massive disrepute, not that it wasn’t already regarded as unfit for purpose and out of touch by many people, myself included.
On a more positive note I must congratulate the KCC Labour Councillors who opposed the increase, especially councillor Tan Dhesi from Gravesend who gave a great speech and Green Councillor Martyn Whybrow who also opposed the increase.  It’s a shame the LibDems didn’t oppose the rise. But they wanted their own “modest rise” of 3.3%  
Here's my version of the allowances which will be paid to KCC councillors, including the  15% increase,  in 2017/18. This does not include payments for some councillors who are members of the KCC pension scheme. The travel and subsistence is based on 2016/17 figures. Nice work if you can get it.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Thanet Tops East Kent Councils Fat-Cat Pay League Despite UKIPs Promises

According to its draft accounts for 2016-17 Thanet Council employs 5 officers who earn more than £100k per year. The total cost to taxpayers for employing these officers is £597,050. Here’s the breakdown post by post. The salary bill is inclusive of employer pension contributions.

I’ve checked the draft 2016-17 accounts of our neighbouring East Kent councils: Ashford, Canterbury, Dover and Shepway to see how many officers they employ on salaries of £100k or more including employer pensions. I have set out the results in the table below. The comparison reveals that TDC employs 5 officers on more than £100k, whilst Dover, Canterbury and Shepway employ 4 and Ashford 3. TDCs annual cost for employing 5 £100,000 plus staff is £597,050 that’s £116,063 more than the nearest comparator Shepway which has an annual cost of £480,987 for employing 4 staff on salaries of over £100,000.

Each of the 5 East Kent Councils are of similar population sizes and provide identical services. Indeed some of the services such as Human Resources , Housing and IT are shared between the 5 councils. So why should there be such large discrepancies in the top officer pay bills? And why should Thanet, the most deprived of the 5 East Kent Council’s with the highest unemployment and the lowest average wages, be employing the largest number of £100k plus officers? These discrepancies don’t appear to make any sense and I have been unable to discover a logical explanation.

Being top of the East Kent councils fatcat pay league is all the more mysterious when its borne in mind that TDC is run by UKIP. This is a party which in its 2015 election manifesto proudly boasted that it would “Slash excessive pay deals and golden handshakes for council executives” and “Limit the number of highly-paid council employees”. Clearly Thanet Council’s UKIP Leader, Chris Wells has reneged on this election promise, just has he reneged on UKIPs manifesto pledge to end expensive council car parking. Its clear that UKIP and Chris Wells cannot be trusted to keep their promises to voters and this probably explains why they were wiped out in recent County Council elections.

Former Chancellor George Osbourne recently described Prime Minster Theresa May as a dead woman walking. I’m think the same description applies to TDC Council Leader Chris Wells.
meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image">

Margate Dreamland Goes Offshore (Part 1)

A week ago insolvency administrators Duff and Phelps published their latest progress report about the failed Dreamland Amusement Park operator, Sands Heritage Limited (SHL). It makes very interesting reading.

The most striking and worrying issue raised by the report is the administrators claim that it is “uncertain whether there will be sufficient realisations to enable a dividend to the non-preferential unsecured creditors of the Company (SHL)”. According to Duff and Phelps the non-preferential unsecured creditors are owed a staggering £5.79 million in unpaid bills. Lots of these creditors are small local businesses who provided goods and services to SHL and who can ill-afford to take even a small financial hit in these difficult times. This is not good news for the local economy.

Many people have argued that this unacceptable state of affairs is entirely the fault of SHL. It was SHL who was running the amusement park and taking the all operational decisions prior to its collapse into administration. It was SHL which had produced a business plan which proved to be wholly inadequate for the profitable running of the park and it was SHL who was behind the wheel when financial disaster struck. Whilst this is true, blame apportionment, especially for the failure of a large and complex project such Dreamland, is not that simple.

I have been arguing for a long time that although SHL may have been the author of its own downfall, the actions of Thanet District Council (TDC) were also likely to have been a contributory factor in the company’s collapse and the consequential £5.79 million debt mountain. My view is supported by SHL itself which in late 2015 is alleged to have threatened to take legal action against TDC for beach of contract which, SHL claimed, had caused it serious financial difficulties. SHL administrators, Duff and Phelps, repeated this claim in reports published on the Companies House website. To avoid an embarrassing court case which may have revealed the true extent of TDCs responsibility for SHLs financial difficulties, TDC made a payment of £950,000 to the company in late 2015. I have now submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the release of documents relating to the £950,000 payment, but TDC is claiming that these documents are commercially confidential and will not release them. I wonder what they are trying to hide?

But its not just TDCs alleged breach of contract which may have contributed to SHLs financial collapse. Questions have also been asked about whether TDC should have appointed the the company to run the amusement park in the first place. Less than 2 months before the park opened in June 2015 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) a major co-funder (over £5million) of the Dreamland project wrote a strident letter to TDCs Chief Executive Madeline Homer and the then Labour Council Leader, Iris Johnston, expressing great concern at the appointment of SHL as the Dreamland Operator and demanding to know on what basis the decision was made and why HLF had not been consulted. In subsequent correspondence between TDC and HLF it emerged that TDC had taken external legal advice about the appointment of SHL, which serves to demonstrate a serious degree of unease about the council’s choice of operator. 

More recently even TDCs own internal auditors have expressed reservations about the appointment of SHL as the Dreamland operator. In a report from December 2016 they say thatThe learning from this, and experiences across the wider East Kent local government umbrella, is that fledgling companies with no track record or accounts, set up for a particular purpose carry a greater risk than is being acknowledged through the due diligence checks being undertaken by these multi-disciplinary groups of officers and members”. So there you have it, what many people believe to have been an unwise choice of park operator by TDC, coupled with alleged contractual failures by the Council, are likely to have been important factors in the collapse of SHL and the astronomic £5.79 million debts which are unlikely to ever be repaid.

I hope that my FOI requests, one of which will shortly be considered by the Information Tribunal in London, will eventually force the disclosure of documents which are likely to proove that TDC badly mismanaged the Dreamland project and that this mismanagement contributed towards the collapse of SHL and the consequent financial mess.

But its not all bad news! The Administrator’s report also includes some very positive information about Dreamland, especially the massive £20 million investment which the Cayman Islands registered hedge fund Arrowgrass Master Fund has made in the park and its surrounds. Having visited the park since its makeover, I must say I am impressed by what has been done. But I do wonder why Arrowgrass Master Fund has invested so much money in Dreamland and why, despite the failure of SHL to make the park a success, it believes it can generate a decent return for its rich investors. Clearly Arrowgrass has spotted what it believes to be potentially lucrative and highly profitable Dreamland related opportunities.

This probably explains why, according the Administrator’s report, Arrowgrass recently acquired almost 99% of SHLs shares from the original shareholders including Nick Connington, John Adams, Robert O’Connor, and Christopher Webster, who all resigned as directors of SHL in May this year.

SHL is now almost 100 percent owned by an offshore hedge fund based in the “tax-efficient”, or as some people might say “tax-dodging”, Cayman Islands. The questions must now be asked who are Arrowgrass and what are their plans for Dreamland? I will be discussing this in Part 2 of this post which I hope to publish soon.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

TDCs £121,000 Boss In “Not on Duty” Rubbish Row

Social Media Mr Howes
TDCs £121,000 a year Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer, Tim Howes, appears to have become embroiled in an embarrassing social media row. 

Commenting on a discussion about dumped bags of rubbish in Ramgate and the lack of street cleaners to collect them, Howes, or someone purporting to be him says Did the council put this rubbish out in thin plastic bags? We all have to pay for someone else’s thoughtless actions”. When challenged as to whether he was Council’s Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer he curtly replied “Not at weekends!”.

Weekends or not, photos on the Facebook account of the Tim Howes who commented about the rubbish in Ramsgate bear a striking resemblance to photos on the TDC and Linkedin website of TDC boss Tim Howes. I therefore assume that the social media commentator is the same highly paid Tim Howes who works for TDC. If I am wrong and if this transpires to be a hoax then I will publicly apologies to TDC’s Mr Howes. In the meantime this episode has raised some very interesting questions, particularly about the nature of Mr Howes comments and the impression they create about TDC.
LinkedIn Mr Howes

First of all it’s worth knowing that its extremely unusual for a TDC officer to become involved in a general social media debate about the day to day operation of TDC services. Whilst a TDC councillor, and afterwards, I don’t ever recall a single instance of a TDC employee, especially a very senior employee, becoming involved in general day to day debate on social media debate about council business.

This is because TDC has a well established custom and practice whereby day to day social media commentary about council business is something which is left to elected councillors, some of whom are very active in this sphere of communication. The rationale behind this practice is that council officers, should endeavour to remain politically neutral and that engaging in social media debate about how the council operates could result in ill-considered comments being made which may be construed as being politically motivated.

But that’s not to say Mr Howes has broken any rules. On the contrary, TDC’s Constitution says that Employees' off-duty hours are their personal concern” and Mr Howes is technically correct to say, as he did, that he is not TDCs Director of Corporate Governance and Montoring Officer during his weekend break. So why not comment on Facebook if he feels like it?

Well its not that straightforward. What appears to be a carte-blanche to do as you will when off duty is qualified by a number of conditions set out in TDCs Officer Code of Conduct including the following - The public is entitled to expect the highest standards of conduct from all employees who work for local government” and - Local government employees are expected to give the highest possible standard of service to the public” then - Failure to meet such standards can result in adverse public comment to the detriment of the Council and the service and in certain circumstances can have serious consequences for the employee and put their job at risk”.

TDCs constitution also provides extensive guidance to councillors and officers, such as Mr Howes, about how to engage with the media, including social media, on matters relating to Council business like uncollected rubbish. It says they must “Consider the likely consequences for the Council of their statement”. It says they should “Consult with the Communications Team for the Council in advance of speaking to the press or to the media”. It says they should “Consider whether to consult other relevant members” . I would also image, particularly at at Mr Howes elevated level within the organisation, that there is also an expectation that he would have consulted colleague directors if he was making comments about the services they manage rather than his own, no matter how benign and non-controversial these comments might be. Taking these constitutional issues into account it should be asked -

1) Were Mr Howes comments about the rubbish “Did the council put this rubbish out in thin plastic bags? We all have to pay for someone else’s thoughtless actions” representative of the highest standard of conduct of a local government officer?. Personally I don’t think so. On duty, or off, surely Mr Howes, as one of the most senior officers at TDC should, rather than criticising others, have been proactive and demonstrated leadership by saying instead that he would make contact with the relevant service manager to have rubbish removed at the earliest opportunity.

2) Did Mr Howes “Consider the likely consequences for the Council of his (my insertion) statement. Once again I don’t think so. Bearing in mind his blaming of others and his statement that he is not the £121,000 Director of Corporate Services at weekends I believe that Mr Howes may have generated a negative “jobsworth” impression of TDC which is not something which would normally be expected from one of of its highest paid officers.

4) Did Mr Howe’s comments “result in adverse public comment to the detriment of the Council and the service”? Yes, in my opinion, they did and this is precisely why I am writing this blog post because I believe Mr Howes was wrong to become involved in this Facebook discussion and because I believe his comments were not helpful. I am not alone in this view and others on Facebook were less than impressed with Mr Howes intervention.

5) Before making his comments on social media about rubbish collection did Mr Howes consult , as is constitutionally required, with TDCs Communictions Team? Did he consult with the Cabinet member with political responsibility for street cleaning Councillor Suzanne Brimm? Did he consult with the Director of Operational Services, Gavin Waite, who is responsible for managing the street cleaning teams? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I have a suspicion the answer may be no, which brings me to some much a more serious points.

It is my understanding that the number of street cleaners and refuse collection staff, who are virtually all employed via employment agencies, rather than directly by TDC, have been massively reduced in the past 2-3 years, which might explain why bags of rubbish are often left uncollected in Ramsgate and elsewhere in Thanet. I have now submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out by exactly how much the staffing levels of these services have been reduced over the past 3 years and I will post a blog as soon as I get answers from TDC.

But most worrying of all, recent and extensive media coverage about the aftermath of the appalling Grenfell Tower disaster has focused on an alleged culture of unresponsiveness, aloofness, disdain and a lack of effective team working at higher management levels in Kensington and Chelsea Council. This unacceptable management culture is alleged to be one of the reasons why Kensington and Chelsea Council is said to have failed abysmally to cope effectively and compassionately with the dreadful, heartbreaking, tragedy. It is also said to be one of the reasons why the Chief Executive and Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council were forced to resign and one of the reasons why the Government was forced to send in outsiders to takeover over the running of many of the council’s key services.

Not that I saying for a moment that TDC is in the same managerial position as Kensington and Chelsea Council. It is not. But Mr Howes comments, if indeed the commentator was Mr Howes, reflect, in my opinion, a lack of pro-activity and sympathy in heeding residents legitimate concerns and an unfortunate “jobsworth” attitude to the out of hours responsibilities of one of the Council’s most senior and well paid officers. Furthermore, his comments about services he is not responsible for managing, if made without consultation with colleague directors and cabinet members, demonstrate a worrying lack of corporate cohesion at the most senior levels within TDC.

Whilst these matters are clearly not on par with Kensington and Chelsea Council it is nevertheless important for the Leader of the Councillor Chris Wells and the Chief Excutive to investigate this incident and ensure similar comments are not posted by well paid senior managers again. As they say its always best for those in charge to nip even the most minor examples of bad practice in the bud before they become endemic within an organisation, preventing it from being as effective as it could be in the event of a major crisis.

Friday, 30 June 2017

TDCs Car Parking Car Crash

Thanet Council’s (TDCs) parking policy is beginning to look like a car crash. According to figures I obtained via a Freedom of Information request the number of vehicles using TDC car parks from the introduction of new parking fees on 1 April until 31 May 2017 has dropped by a staggering 18,794 compared with the same period last year. That’s a 14% reduction in car park usage which is almost certainly the result of the massive parking fee hike.
These figures suggest to me that both visitors and locals are parking in nearby streets which are free, or avoiding town centres and tourist spots altogether, rather than coughing up the exorbitant, rip-off fees (increased in some cases by 138%), which were introduced by the UKIP controlled council earlier this year. If this trend continues throughout the year then its possible that TDC will miss its income generation targets for car parks and may even earn less than last year.

Both the fee hike and the proposed expansion of new fee charging parking schemes across Thanet have generated great public anger against TDC and a petition of almost 900 signatures.  This anger has been fuelled by the fact that UKIP councillors who run TDC and who put forward these plans, stood for election in 2015 on a manifesto which states that “UKIP believes our town centres should be vibrant and profitable and that means encouraging locals, visitors and tourists into town, by removing barriers that act as a disincentive, such as expensive or restricted parking”. Not surprisingly many Thanet residents have now branded TDC’s UKIP councillors as a hypocrites and this might be a factor in their humiliating defeat in the recent county council elections in May. And rightly so! A politician who promises one thing and then does the total opposite deserves to be punished by the voters.

Thankfully, many local politicians are waking to the fact that they may pay a high price for taking the piss out of voters and are now beginning to rebel against TDCs ill-conceived decision to hike parking fees and its hare-brianed plans to massively expand paid for parking schemes across Thanet.

UKIPs Chris Wells gone soon??
At a meeting of TDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 23 May councillors voted to recommend that UKIP Council Leader Chris Wells and his Cabinet colleagues “revert to the 2016/17 parking charges for the five seasonal car parks” Two weeks later councillors on TDC’s Joint Transport Committee unanimously voted to condemn the parking fee increases and the proposed on and off street parking expansion plans. Both committees argued that the fee hikes and parking expansion plans were unnecessary and unjustifiable. Both committees argued that the fee hikes and parking expansion plans would, as UKIP’s own Manifesto argues deter locals, visitors and tourists from our town centres and leisure areas because of “expensive or restricted parking”.

And its also the case that the new parking fees introduced by Council Leader Wells and his Cabinet colleagues in April make Thanet one of the most expensive places on the south coast to park. A quick internet check of Whitstable, Herne Bay, Hastings and Eastbourne revealed town centre charges ranging from 80p to 1.70 per hour and at Bexhill-on-Sea most car parking is free! Charges of up to £10.00 for 4 hours will undoubtedly deter tourists and locals alike from going to the beach or visiting Dreamland, Ramsgate seafront, or the Turner Contemporary and will seriously undermine the economic revival of Thanet

The stay-away motorists who are not using Thanet car parks, the growing public anger against TDCs parking policies, and the developing political revolt against the massively unpopular measures are beginning to isolate UKIP council leader Chris Wells and damage his credibility much like what is happening to out of touch Prime Minister,Theresa May. And just like Prime Minster May, Wells is becoming increasingly nervous and looking at ways to save his political skin and presumably his £22,600 council allowances as well. So much so that he announced in last weeks Thanet Gazette that “the cabinet will meeting shortly to reconsider this matter”.

And so it should because many people, myself included, believe the massive car parking fee increases and the proposed extension of new off and on street car parking schemes across Thanet are nothing less than an unnecessary and unfair stealth tax on locals and visitors alike. Thankfully this ill-conceived cash-grab has now blown up in the faces of those who thought it was a good idea. I suspect that at the next council elections in 2019 UKIP will pay a very heavy price for this debacle. Those UKIP councillors with any sense will of course already be in discussions with the Conservative, and possibly Labour Party, about changing sides my prediction is that Chris Wells will not be UKIP council leader much longer.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Thanet Council Tower Blocks - No Advice. No Policies

Staner Court Ramsgate
Following the horrendous events at Grenfell Tower  there has been much, well deserved criticism,  of  Kensington and Chelsea Council   and its arm’s length housing management organisation (ALMO) the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation  for failing to protect their tenants and failing to effectively manage the aftermath of the fire.

Many commentators have pointed to the harsh spending cuts imposed on councils by the Tory Government as a contributory factor to the disaster. Others have argued that the outsourcing, tendering and sub-contracting of council services and the relaxation of safety and building regulations are part of the cause. And some people have said that because the residents of the Grenfell Towers were poor, vulnerable and lacking influence their longstanding concerns about safety were ignored.  They are all right.
Local Government today is a confusing mish-mash of dispersed public and private operations, run on shoe-string budgets. Local Government today is much less democratic than it was 20 years ago with the influence  of councillors and residents becoming  more and more marginalised in favour of developers, investors, and the Cabinet system of management which places 95% of decision making in the hands of a tiny clique of political bosses and senior managers. All of these changes have in one way or another contributed to the horrific situation at Grenfell Towers and like everyone else in the country my heart goes out to the those caught up in the terrible events  and their friends and families.
Not in any way wanting to be-little the Grenfell Towers situation, I have looked at how East Kent Housing Limited (the ALMO responsible for managing council housing stock in Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet) have reacted to events at  Grenfell Towers and I’m very disappointed.
At the time of writing this article (Sunday 18 June),  no guidance or reassurance has been published on East Kent Housing’s website or facebook page aimed at the residents of the three council owned tower blocks in Thanet or any of the other  tower blocks they  manage in the Canterbury, Dover or Shepway areas. This is very worrying and is not acceptable.

Furthermore, I searched  the East Kent Housing website to find their policies and procedures for fire risk management and managing major emergencies which might affect their properties and tenants. I found nothing,  which considering East Kent Housing's claim that it's "strong on health and safety" is something of surprise.
As the residents of the Kensington and Chelsea have been saying loud and clear this week and as many  experts have been saying  too, spending cuts, outsourcing, complex management arrangements etc do not absolve  local councils and their housing management organisations from protecting their tenants from harm, providing them with the  right advice when its needed and having  the right policies  and procedures in place to manage and deal with serious situations.
I say shame on  East Kent Housing for letting down their tenants by failing to publish advice, policies and procedures at a time when their tenants are understandably worried and need reassurance. Perhaps what's been said by many people this week is true, that council bureaucrats and their political bosses have developed an arrogant, disdain for the tenants they are supposed to be responsible for.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Terror Alert Severe As TDC Privatises CCTV

With three appalling attacks in as many months and MI5’s UK terror alert classified as severe,  UKIP controlled Thanet District Council (TDC) is  considering offloading the management and maintenance  of its  CCTV system as part of  cost cutting exercise which I believe  will threaten  public safety and allow criminals to escape detection.

TDCs CCTV system comprises of 103 cameras located across Margate, Westbrook, Cliftonville, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. Allowing for contributions from on-street parking income and TDCs housing revenue account, it costs £252,580 per year to operate. However, the system is in need of urgent modernisation. Many of the cameras date from the 1990s, have poor image quality compared with modern cameras, and are now becoming unreliable.

In 2014 TDC set aside £440,000 to update the system. But instead of using this money to develop a state of the art 21st century CCTV security infrastructure, TDC looks set to strike a highly questionable deal which will result in the closure of the Council’s CCTV control centre with up to six redundancies being made, the handing over of the monitoring of Thanet’s 103 cameras to Canterbury City Council’s (CCC)  CCTV team, and agreeing a 10 year contract with BT to maintain the Council’s  CCTV infrastructure.

The details of this deal, which are set out in a report which will be discussed by TDCs ruling Cabinet next Thursday (15 June) are scant and unconvincing. There is no information about how much BT will be paid for its 10 year infrastructure maintenance contract with the Council. Nor is there any information about how much CCC will be charging to monitor Thanet’s 103 cameras. The only meaningful financial information provided in the report is a claim that revenue savings of “around £119,000” might be generated by the proposal from year 2 onwards. Plus the possibility of a one-off £300,000 windfall from selling off the CCTV control centre  at Hawley Square Margate.
If I was a councillor I would refuse to make a decision based on the appallingly inadequate financial information contained in this report. I would be demanding a fully costed financial appraisal setting out all of the charges before I agreed to offload the Council’s CCTV operation to third parties.
But even if full financial information were to be provided the report totally fails to address itself to the extremely important operational issues which will be raised by handing over TDCs CCTV monitoring functions to CCC. For example does CCC’s   monitoring team have sufficient capacity to properly supervise up to 2-300 cameras operating across the 2 districts at the same time?  Bearing in mind that the 2 districts attract millions of visitors each year and that Canterbury is also home to tens of thousands of students, does the CCC monitoring team have the capacity to handle pressure points such as summer weekends or major events? Also how would the CCC monitoring team   manage major emergencies happening in the 2 districts at the same time? Last but not least, how will it be possible for  the CCC monitoring team to develop the  intimate knowledge of Thanet’s streets and geography required to detect and follow events and guide the emergency services towards  these events when, as the report states, TDC’s  CCTV staff are likely to made redundant? None of these critically important operational issues are mentioned by the report making it, in my opinion, a weak, ill-considered document which, in its current form, is not suitable to be presented to the Cabinet.
If I was a Cabinet member, especially in these times of heightened public safety sensitivity,  severe terror alerts and the fact that Thanet has some of the highest crime rates in Kent, I would refuse to look at any  proposals to change CCTV management and monitoring  arrangements unless and until they included a comprehensive public safety risk analysis.
But worst of all, as the report itself notes, the proposals being presented to the Cabinet meeting next week will have a “significant effect on communities”. If this is the case then why the fuck have TDC failed to consult with the public about how a very  important system for monitoring and managing their safety is likely to operate in the future? Not to consult on an issue as important as this is an insult to the residents of Thanet and a profoundly undemocratic action, especially from Council which is run by political party (UKIP) which has had a lot to say about  law and order and terror in recent weeks.
Personally I think the current report should be withdrawn because its totally inadequate and unfit for purpose and that a new, more detailed and comprehensive report,  is produced which is subject to a full public consultation before a final decision is made.

Even then I doubt I would agree to the hiving off of CCTV management, monitoring   and maintenance to third parties because community safety should be the responsibility of the local authority and not be privatised to someone else. And most importantly of all community safety should not be compromised or weakened by a back door cost cutting exercise.


Monday, 5 June 2017

I’m Voting Labour Despite & Because Of

Some of my readers have become alarmed and confused  by my unexpected appearance in a recent Tory election leaflet. So have I. Rest assured that I was not consulted about the inclusion of my image in the leaflet and contrary to  rumours nor have I joined the Tory Party. Although I have great respect for Craig MacKinlay’s  hard work on Live Animal Exports and  his ideas for the future of Ramsgate Port, I am,  and I shall remain a lifelong socialist and trade unionist,  and I  will not be voting Tory in the  General Election. Nor will I be voting for the LibDems, UKIP, or my former political party the Greens. I will be voting Labour and urge you to do likewise.

I have decided to vote Labour despite the fact that  Labour Councillors, when running TDC  from 2011-15, through their utter incompetence cost taxpayers  at least  £14million in unnecessary expenditure (£3.4 million uncollected TransEuropa Ferry fees, £5.1million Live Exports compensation, £2million Dreamland overspend, £5million operational loses at Ramsgate Port and much more).
I have decided to vote Labour despite the fact that  Labour Councillors, when running TDC  from 2011-15, opportunistically supported Manston Airport; threw their weight behind the environmentally damaging Thanet Parkway Station;  failed to resolve the disgraceful Ramsgate Pleasurama scandal allowing the freehold to fall under the control of a   Panamanian registered company and drew up, in secret,  plans for the dirty, polluting  industrialisation of the Port of Ramsgate which will irreparably damage the revival of tourism in the town.
Last but not least I have decided to vote Labour despite the fact that the party locally appears to be riven by a vitriolic, nasty, and allegedly bullying, internal civil war.  A civil war which has witnessed the anonymous and widespread circulation,  in and outside of the party,   of information, aimed at damaging the South Thanet Labour Party Candidate Raushan Aara,  and the announcement by a senior party officer and  husband of the unsuccessful applicant for the post of election candidate, Karen Constantine, that he will not be voting Labour  on June 8th 2016 .
All of this personal bitterness and rivalry, incompetence and lack of political principle, whilst sickening and depressing to me,  and many others,  has not put me off voting Labour on 8 June. Why? Because this General Election is much bigger and important than the damaged egos of self-promoting wannabe career politicians and much bigger and important than the mistakes,  cockups and unprincipled betrayals of a bunch of councillors who had the temerity  to describe themselves as  socialists.
The General Election on 8th June is bigger and much more important than all of the nasty, vitriolic  internal  shit which has been a sad and pathetic feature of Thanet Labour politics in recent years. It  offers a once in a generation  chance for people to reject Tory austerity and vote for desperately needed investment in schools, social housing,  health care and public services, including our security services,  and the introduction of popular measures such as the nationalisation of the railways and water companies and for a truly ethical foreign policy.  
The General Election on 8th June also provides an opportunity for people who are passionate about  the environment to vote for a Government which will work with the rest of the world to tackle climate change and the destruction of our  environment. And call me an old-fashioned idealist if you must, but I am genuinely inspired by the slogan “For The Many Not the Few”