Friday, 29 November 2013

Thanet Greens Energy Profits Immoral as Excess Winer Deaths Rise

Thanet Greens have blasted as “immoral” the massive 77% increase in the domestic profit rate of the Big Six energy companies (1) whilst excess winter deaths rose to 31,000 – a staggering 29% more than the previous year (2).

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, said: “It’s immoral for energy companies to be increasing profit margins by such high rates when thousands of people across the country are needlessly dying each winter because they cannot afford to keep warm.
“Instead of talking about getting rid of the ‘green crap’, as Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly called fuel bill environmental levies, the Government should be rolling out a major programme of home insulation and energy efficiency focused on those most likely to be facing fuel poverty, or with medical conditions placing them at risk of  cold-related death. There must also be an independent public enquiry into the vast profits made by the energy companies and steps taken to ensure that a greater portion is re-invested in ensuring that fuel poverty and excess winter deaths become a thing of the past.”

Latest figures show that there were 630 excess winter deaths in Kent during the winter of 2011-12. The highest number of deaths was in Canterbury with 120, followed by Thanet with 90. The lowest rates were in Dartford, Dover, Gravesham and Maidstone, where 30 deaths per district were recorded (3).
According to Government research, 53,272 Kent households (an average of 9% of total households) are in fuel poverty (4). In some areas of Kent the number of households in poverty is much higher than the county average. In Canterbury, Thanet, Swale and Dover fuel poverty rates of between 17-22% are concentrated in some of the most deprived wards (5).

“With wages and benefits frozen or reducing in value, and energy price rises many times greater than inflation, thousands of Kent people will find themselves in fuel poverty with many having to make the choice between eating and heating,” said Green Party Thanet Councillor, Ian Driver.

Notes



3.   Excess winter death figures for Kent districts winter 2011/12 

Ashford
50
Canterbury
120
Dartford
30
Dover
30
Gravesham
30
Maidstone
30
Sevenoaks
40
Shepway
70
Swale
30
Thanet
90
Tonbridge and Malling
40
Tunbridge Wells
70
630

 Data extracted from ONS data (table 3) at

4.   Figures extracted from the latest Government Fuel Poverty Statistics for 2011 (low income/high cost table), which can be found here:
 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2011-sub-regional-fuel-poverty-data-low-income-high-costs-indicator

5.   Figures extracted from above table and attached to this e-mail.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

610 Thanet Households Victims of Bedroom Tax

6,921 households in Kent have had their housing benefits cut as a result of the Government’s bedroom tax according to figures released by the Department for  Work and Pensions (1).

The figures, which cover the period April until August 2013, are the first to identify how many households have lost housing benefit payments since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013.
In August, the most recent period for which figures are available, 788 people living in Swale lost an average of £900 per year in housing benefit, making it the worst affected district in Kent.

The least badly affected district is Dartford, where 365 people have lost an average of £894 per year in benefits.
In Thanet 610 households have lost on average £770 per year in Housing Benefits.

An estimated £6 million will have been slashed from Kent’s housing benefit payments by the end of the first year of the bedroom tax. The average loss per Kent affected household has been calculated to be a staggering £868 per year.
Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver,   said: “The bedroom tax is having a major impact on the most vulnerable and low-paid people in Kent. There are simply not enough smaller rented properties to move into, so people already living on a low income are being forced to cut back even further on essentials such as food, heating and clothing. This ill-conceived policy will force thousands of families in Kent into poverty.”

Evidence is now beginning to emerge that many households caught by the bedroom tax are falling into rent arrears. A survey carried out by the National Housing Federation estimates that more than 50% of housing association tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax have fallen behind with rent since the introduction of this policy (2).
The Green Party opposes the Bedroom Tax. It is unfair and targets some of the most vulnerable and deprived  people in society. The Party calls upon Kent Councils not to evict anyone falling into rent arrears as a consequence of the bedroom tax. The Green Party, alongside many charities, disabled groups and trade unions is campaigning for the  immediate abolition of the bedroom tax.             ENDS

Notes

1.   The Impact of Bedroom Tax on Kent.

Local authority
Households hit by bedroom tax
Average amount lost per year
Estimated total loss of benefit payments for 2013 -14
Ashford
604
£807.76
£487,428
Canterbury
534
£829.66
£442,686
Dartford
365
£894.33
£315,360
Dover
621
£750.90
£465,750
Gravesham
712
£812.32
£578,144
Maidstone
636
£904.89
£574,944
Sevenoaks
480
£976.35
£468,480
Swale
788
£899.77
£574,944
Shepway
453
£775.12
£351,075
Tonbridge and Malling
660
£1,013.02
£668,580
Tunbridge Wells
458
£986.07
£451,588
Thanet
610
£770.84
£469,700
 
6,921
av loss  = £868
 £5,848,679

 Data extracted from DWP statistical tables at
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/number-of-housing-benefit-claimants-and-average-weekly-spare-room-subsidy-amount-withdrawal

2.   See National Housing Federation press release
http://www.housing.org.uk/media/press-releases/more-than-half-of-families-hit-by-bedroom-tax-pushed-into-debt

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Thanet Council Draft Filming Protocol

In advance of any plans to allow  the public to film, photograph or audio record meetings of Thanet Council or its Committees I have produced a draft Protocol which I have copied below. I would very much appreciate your comments  and feedback so that we can put together a half decent document which I will then submit to the leaders of the Council's main political parties and the Chief Executive, who I am sure will be delighted to agree and then implement the Protocol, long before  the Government forces TDC to so.

The agreement of such a  Protocol will of course mean that I can end my campaign to allow the public to record meetings and that expensive and unnecessary investigations and hearings into my undercover filming can be stopped.

Most importantly of all the adoption of this Protocol will mark a major step on the journey of TDC becoming more open transparent and accountable to local people. Just like the Independent Members of the Council's Standards Committee would have wanted before they were shamefully forced to resign


Thanet Council Draft Recording Protocol

1.   Recording and reporting of  meetings of Council and Committee

The Council strives to be open and transparent in the conduct of all its business. As part of this commitment the Council welcomes and encourages, filming photography, audio recording, tweeting, and text messaging and live blogging of all Council and Committee meetings.

The Council encourages the broadcasting of any recording of its proceeding via  social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blog sites and website  as an accessible and cost effective means of keeping residents informed of the Council’s decision making process

2.   Procedures and facilities  for recording  Council and Committee meetings

Anyone, including elected members, will be entitled to film take photographs, make audio recordings, tweet,  text message or live blog during any Council or Committee meeting.

 Anyone wishing to film photograph or make audio recordings of Council or Committee meetings  must advise the Chair of the meeting of their intention to do so before the meeting starts.

 There is a presumption that in all but a minority of cases, permission to film, photograph or make audio recordings of Council or Committee meetings will be granted.

 The Council will, where possible,  make available space for the reporting and recording of its meetings including access to Wi-Fi connections, electrical charging points, space for tripods and laptop computers.

 3.   Restrictions on the reporting and recording of Council and Committee meetings.

 If permission to film, photograph or audio record a meeting of the Council or Committee is granted the Chair of the meeting will ask any members of the public present, who does not wish to be filmed, photographed or audio-recorded, to identify themselves. The person (s) making such recordings will be instructed by the Chair of the meeting to excluded such members of the public from the recording. Failure to comply with such an instruction could lead to  exclusion from the meeting.

Filming, photography,  audio recording, tweeting, text messaging  and live blogging will be conducted without disruption to members of the public, council officers or councillors in attendance at the meeting.

The Chair of the meeting has the authority to order anyone filming, taking photographs making  audio recordings, tweeting, text messaging  or  live blogging to leave the meeting is they cause disruption to others.

UKIP Appalling Bad Taste & Arrogance

I don't often interfere in the personal affairs of others, but a statement by UKIP has made me so angry that I feel I must speak out.

It would appear that on hearing of Laura Sandys intention not to stand in the next General Election a UKIP spokesperson made the following, widely reported statement.

"We believe that fear of having Nigel Farage as an opponent in 2015 would have been instrumental in her decision."

Laura Sandys has made it perfectly clear why she has decided to stand down and it was nothing  whatsoever to do with the fear of fighting Nigel Farage at the next general election. To suggest otherwise is a nasty example of  cynical  political game playing which belittles and insults a serious life-changing decision made someone who has worked very hard for South Thanet residents.

The suggestion, implicit in the UKIP statement,  that Nigel Farage will have an electoral walkover in Thanet South is the height of arrogance. One thing I know is that the people of Thanet have very strong principles. They don't take kindly to people taking them from granted. Not do they like having people who have worked hard to help them, misrepresented and abused in the way that  UKIP has misrepresented and abused Laura Sandys.

In future UKIP please show some respect and decency to others faced  with difficult decisions. It's not much to ask a political party, or is it?

Apology to Roger Gale MP

I have asked for the following letter to be published in the next edition of the Thanet Gazette

Dear Editor
Roger Gale MP
I was recently quoted in an article making critical comment about the rental arrangements for   Roger Gale MPs constituency office.  It has now transpired that the information upon which the article was based was untrue and my comments unjustified.


I would therefore like to publically apologise to Roger Gale MP for making inaccurate and unfounded comments about him and for any distress my comments may  have caused to him.
I have written to Mr Gale offering my apology and will be publishing this  letter on my blogsite at http://thanetgreencouncillor.blogspot.co.uk/

 Yours sincerely
Councillor Ian Driver

Monday, 25 November 2013

Laura Sandys MP

I would like to pay a personal  tribute to Laura Sandy's MP. She has made an incredibly difficult decision not to stand at the next general election. This could not have been easy for her.

Although I do not share Laura's politics she made a brave and  principled stand on issues which were not universally popular with her Conservative Parliamentary colleagues such as her support for equal marriage, her commitment to environmental  protection and green issues  and her opposition to live animal exports from the port of Ramsgate,

In addition to working tirelessly for her constituents Laura also supported and helped community organisations and charities working in her constituency. I got to know her when I was the manager of  Thanet Citizens Advice Bureau and her support helped the organisation continue its important work during difficult financial times.

I would like to wish Laura all the best and the greatest of success for the future. You will be a hard to act to follow.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Urgent Please Vote for Thanet Projects.

 On Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 November please vote for community projects in Broadstairs and Ramsgate to help them wing £50,000 each !! The projects are the Broadstairs Town Shed which is based in Pierremont Park and provides space for mainly older men for DIY activities. The other project is the Friends of Ellington Park Ramsgate to build a wildlife garden in the park.

These are fantastic projects developed by local volunteers. Lets give them all the support we can. Tune into ITV Meridian People's Millions on Monday and Tuesday and vote for Thanet. You know it makes sense!


 



Saturday, 23 November 2013

Thanet Standards Committee & TransEuropa


Some thoughts on the Thanet Council Standards Committee


 

 
Some thoughts on TransEuropa Ferries
 
 


Friday, 22 November 2013

Statement Re Thanet Council Standards Committee


Statement of Thanet Green Party Re Council Standards Committee meeting 21 November

Thanet Green Party condemns the shameful and unacceptable response by the two main political parties to the critical report aimed at improving Thanet councillors’ conduct.

The four independent members of the council’s Standards Committee, who produced the report, resigned immediately after the committee’s meeting on Thursday when the party leaders and councillors angrily denounced the  report’s findings.

The walk-out by the independent group followed these attacks and a decision by the committee to ask the authors to rewrite the report giving more evidence of their findings.

 Green councillor Ian Driver, who attended the meeting, said: “The resignation of the four independent members was hardly surprising considering the sustained and unfair bullying and browbeating they were subjected to by Labour councillors.

“This unfortunate event will serve to strengthen the public perception that Thanet councillors do not listen to their constituents and are out of touch, unresponsive and defensive. Instead of being an opportunity for Thanet Council and its councillors to move forward and become more open and democratic, the meeting last night took a big step backwards.This was a classic case of shooting the messenger.”

 The report’s authors report are non-party political and have broad range of expertise and experience in the world of  business, the public sector, management and communications. Their role is to act as “critical friends” to the council and provide advice about the development and management of ethics and conduct.

Pulling no punches, their report published earlier in the week, said that the council was seen as secretive; that councillors appeared to be out of touch; did not engage with or listen to  residents and community groups; and there was local suspicion of corruption. The report  also cited examples of councillors being rude and abusive towards each other and on occasion making threats to members of the public. The report  pointed out  that some councillors have disobeyed council rules.                     
Despite its highly critical findings, the report had intended to present and honest picture of public perceptions. Unfortunately, most of the councillors at the Standards Committee did not see it this way and were extremely angry and defensive.

Labour Leader Clive Hart, his deputy Allan Poole and Cabinet Members Iris Johnston and Michelle Fennel, attacked and verbally bullied the report authors in a quite extraordinary way. Instead of seeing the report for what it was – a starting point for an important debate and overdue change – they regarded it as personal criticism which it clearly was not.                                       

The views of Conservative Leader Councillor Bob Bayford,  who had pledged to support “steps which will change the public perception of council affairs”, were clearly not shared by his party colleagues.
Thanet Green Party noted that some councillors attempted to divert blame for the council’s poor reputation on Councillor Driver, who faces  disciplinary action for taking pictures of  council meetings— a practice allowed by most councils in Kent.

The Green Party supports Councillor Driver’s principled efforts to force more transparency and openness on to Thanet Council in his campaign to allow the public the right to film meetings.
Councillor Driver has been campaigning tirelessly against corruption, incompetence  and secrecy at Thanet Council. He was the first councillor to raise concerns about Pleasurama, the secret £3.4 million TransEuropa  debt, and the mismanagement of the Royal Pavilion lease disposal.

Councillor Driver made an audio recording of last night’s (Thursday)  Standards Committee meeting. The Thanet Green Party is happy to publish this recording. It can be accessed below.

Although the recoding may have been made in breach of council rules we believe that there is overwhelming public interest in making this recording publicly available. Let the people of Thanet judge for themselves how well served they are by their councillors.