My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pimp Out My Councillor for £99.99 A Go

During a week in which a poll revealed 46% of voters  believe  MPs are  “on the take” (1), the Kent Green Party has accused the county’s  councillors of  “pimping out their services and influence for £99.99 a go”.

This hard hitting allegation follows the adoption, by KCC, the 12 District and many of the county’s 314 Town and Parish Councils, of the so-called “Kent Code of Conduct for Members (2)”
The Code, which replaces rules set by the now defunct Standards Board for England, regulates the ethical behaviour of most of Kent’s 2,500(3) plus councillors. Amongst other things it allows them to accept gifts and hospitality up to the value of £100 without any need to make a declaration (4). This is a 400% increase on the Standards Board for England previous declaration limit of £25 for gifts and hospitality.

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, who voted against Thanet Council’s decision to adopt the controversial gifts and hospitality rules said, “it’s  morally wrong for County, District, Town or Parish Councillors to accept  any form of payment or gift  from constituents, businesses, lobbyists,  or any other organisation. Permitting councillors to accept treats of up to £99.99 without any declaration  sends out all the wrong messages. It’s like saying  that Kent’s Councillors are free to pimp out their services and influence for £99.99 a go without anyone finding out. This ill-conceived Code is a charter for  corruption which reinforces the already widespread impression that most politicians have their snouts in the trough. It brings local government into serious disrepute”.
Driver’s views  are supported by the world’s leading anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, which in a recent report,  “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks”,  said that  Without transparency about gifts and hospitality, there can be no serious scrutiny of an important channel through which individuals or interest groups might seek to corruptly influence members (5)”.

Said Driver “I call on the County, District, Town and Parish Councils to review their Codes of Conduct and introduce changes which prohibit councillors from receiving any gifts or hospitality from constituents, lobbyists or any other organisations. I encourage the people of Kent to lobby their Councillors to put an end to this charter for corruption”

Notes

1.   The Guardian 26th December


2.   Kent Code of Conduct for Members


The Kent Code of Conduct for Members has been adopted by Kent County Council and the 12 District Councils. There are 314 Town and Parish Councils in Kent. Many, but not all of them, have adopted the Kent Code of Conduct of Members. Random internet checks revealed the following 10 Town and Parish Councils to have adopted the Kent Code of Conduct for Members Boughton Malherbe Parish Council, Brenzett Parish Council, Dymchurch Parish Council, Hawkinge Town Council, Hythe Town Council, New Romney Town Council, Mersham and Sevington Parish Council, Merewith Parish Council and Stanhope Parish Council.
3.   KCC has 84 councillors, each of the 12 district councils have on average 50 councillors and the 314 town and parish councils have on average 6 councillors. This gives an estimated total of County, District, Town and Parish councillors of 2,568.
4.   See paragraph 7 of the Kent Code of Conduct for Members.
5.   See page 45 of “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks”Transparency International October 2013 page 45
http://www.transparency.org.uk/our-work/publications/747-corruption-in-uk-local-government--the-mounting-risks

Sunday, 22 December 2013

East Kent Opportunties

According to the Thanet Gazette  East Kent Opportunities (EKO), a 50-50 land development  partnership  between   Kent County Council and Thanet District  Council, has decided to appeal against Thanet Council's Planning Committee decision to reject EKOs application to develop 550 houses on agricultural land  adjacent to the New Haine Road.

This is a bizarre decision which  means  that Thanet Council is appealing against its own planning decision. Planning appeals can be very expensive, especially if lawyers become involved. But does that really matter to the Council, because at the end of the day council  taxpayers will have to foot the bill for Thanet Council fighting itself!

Interestingly  Councillor Clive Hart, the Leader of Thanet Council, is the Council's nominee to the Board of EKO (and I understand one of  its 2  Directors).  This is same the Clive Hart who constantly reminds us, despite the evidence of  the TranEuropa £3.4million debt scandal,  just how well his administration has managed the Council's finances.

It's reasonable to assume that as an EKO Board member/ director,  Councillor Hart must  have been directly involved in approving the decision to appeal against Thanet Council's Planning Committee. If this true then Councillor Clive Hart, despite his efforts to portray himself and his administration as prudential financial mangers, is actually taking a decision which is likely to cost the Council he leads tens of thousands of pounds. Surely this must be a conflict of interest which I hope he has declared.

I was however  heartened read that Councillor David Greene has expressed his concern about the ridiculous spectacle of Thanet Council fighting Thanet Council at the public expense. Does this mean that at long last some members of Hart's Cabinet have developed backbone enough to challenge the incompetence, secrecy and bullying which have become a hallmark of Thanet Council in recent years?

But although this is an extremely important issue there is another story at work here too and that's the growing trend to develop prime green-field land in Thanet  such as the Manston Village site, the totally unnecessary Manston Parkway station and EKOs proposal. Thanet has the largest number  of empty residential housing units in all of Kent and a lot of potential brownfield development sites. We should not be sacrificing greenfield sites when there are alternative options in abundance.

Here is a song about opportunities which might well apply to EKO


Saturday, 21 December 2013

TransEuropa Ferries Scandal I'm Threatened with Gaol

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has been threatened with gaol if he makes public  the contents of a secret District Audit report.  

The report investigates complaints made by Driver, and others,  into how Thanet Council managed its payment deferral arrangements  with TransEuropa Ferries resulting  in a loss to council  taxpayers of   £3.4 million when the company ceased trading in April 2013.

Said Driver “I am furious that I am not allowed to make this report and its findings public. I believe that the people of Thanet are owed an explanation about how the Council and senior politicians managed the TransEuropa debt scandal. But if I say a word to anyone about its contents  then according to Section 49 of the Audit  Commission Act 1998 I can face  imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or  a fine or to both”.

 The report will be published by Thanet Council in 3-4  months time  once the Council and the complainants have made final  comments. But Driver wants the provisional report to be published now. He said “There is strong public interest in this issue. Its been  festering away for almost a year and the public have a right to know what happened. There is absolutely no justification for the Auditor to keep his report secret and threaten me with prison and a fine. Most of the information in his report is already in the public domain and TransEuropa Ferries is in liquidation so there can’t be any commercial reason for the report to be confidential. I have e-mailed the Auditor and asked  for his permission to make the report public. I will also be seeking advice to see if a case can brought against the Auditor to force him to make his report public”.

 “Too many important issues  at Thanet Council are hidden from the taxpayers. It’s time to have an open, transparent, council that doesn’t keep secrets from the people it’s supposed to work for. The District Auditor and Thanet Councils fixation with secrecy is contrary to the democratic accountability we should expect from our public bodies and I am not going to let this go”.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Thanet Council's Food Safety Service in Meltdown


Thanet Council’s Food Safety Service is in meltdown, placing the public at elevated risk of food poisoning or worse. The service was audited 2 years ago by the Government’s Food Standard Authority (FSA) which is responsible for the regulation of  local authority  food safety teams  across the country. The Audit was a disaster. The service was found to be failing miserably in virtually every aspect of its work (you can see the audit report here ). An action plan was approved by the FSA and Thanet Council was given 12-18 months to put things right. In July of this year the FSA carried out a re-visit  to check on progress, only to discover that things had become much worse. So concerned were FSA bosses that they took the unusual step of calling senior Thanet Council officers to an escalation meeting with their Head of Audit.

Exactly what was said at the re-visit and the escalation meeting remains a secret. Both Thanet Council and the FSA have refused to let me have copies of any reports, letters or e-mails related to these events. However, I have submitted Freedom of Information requests which should hopefully reveal what went on. In the meantime an insider has told me that the FSA was so angry about Thanet’s Council’s failure to

get is Food Safety Service in order, that they threatened to take direct control of the service themselves – a very rare step reserved only for the terminally dysfunctional.

On Monday the FSA published a revised Action Plan for Thanet’s Food Safety Service (you can view the plan here  ) which catalogues  a whole series of extremely serious service failures and demonstrates that even now, 2 years after the original Audit, the Thanet Food Safety Service is unfit for purpose and, I would argue, putting the health and safety of Thanet residents at elevated risk of food poising or worse.


According to the Action Plan, there is a massive backlog of food safety  premise inspections; the complaints process which allows the public to alert officers about unfit or dodgy food premises is in a state of near collapse; there has been no routine pro-active food sampling for over a year;   there is no accurate database of food premises in Thanet; records  of food outlet inspections and enforcements are incomplete and of poor quality;   food safety officers are not fully trained and several are unable to carry out a full range of duties; the documentation used by the service is incomplete and out of date; there is no effective system of internal quality monitoring resulting in  serious inconsistencies in the quality of inspections and enforcements; there is even doubt as to whether inspections and enforcements are being carried out in line with legal requirements. Quite frankly this is a service which rather than protecting the public from poor food hygiene and food crime is actually exposing the public to greater risk because it is not doing its job!

What makes me angry is the fact that until last week, Thanet Councillors and the Thanet residents had been kept in dark about this extremely serious failure. The FSA re-visit took place almost 6 months ago and it was not until last week that anything was reported to Councillors. In my opinion this matter is so serious that is should have been reported to the first available meeting of the Council after the re-visit. It was not. Like Pleasurama and the TransEuropa debt scandal before, Thanet Council and the Labour Party Political bosses in the Cabinet  did what they do best and hid the truth about this matter from most of its elected councillors and all of the public. This is particularly shameful and disgusting because this scandal involves public health, especially youngsters and older people who are most susceptible to food borne illness.
 What also makes me angry is the pathetic  lack of action by the FSA. They knew that Thanet Food Safety Services had been in a  state of more or less total failure  since 2011. When they revisited in 2013 they said themselves that things had actually become worse – that’s why they had an escalation meeting. But instead of taking decisive action against a service which has been failing for more than 2 years and compromising the safety of residents and visitors, they have given Thanet Food Safety Services another  4 months to improve.

I have now written to the Chief Executive of the FSA expressing my dissatisfaction about their handling of the situation and have asked that they assume the management of Thanet Food Safety Services with immediate effect. I have also written to the Secretary of State for Health asking that he intervenes. Although I am sure that the overwhelming majority of food outlets in Thanet are excellent, its simply not right that our food safety is left to a service which has been unfit for purpose for more than 2 years and which is placing the health and safety of residents at risk
I will keep you updated as the situation develops. But  please don’t be scared off going out for a celebratory meal over Xmas. I might even see you in one Thanet’s excellent curry houses as I did with a reader of this blog just last week!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Kent Greens Oppose Freedom Pass Changes

The Kent Green Party has condemned KCC Plans to place a cap on the value its young person’s Freedom Pass.
In a report to be presented at Friday’s (13th December) Environment, Transport and Waste Cabinet Committee meeting (1), it is proposed to limit the 11-16 year old Freedom Pass to journeys up to the value £350. The current Freedom Pass allows unlimited journeys within Kent. 

The report also proposes the introduction of a new Freedom Pass for 16 – 20 year olds which will be limited to journeys up to the value of £250. Both passes will cost £100 to buy and when the limit is exhausted young people or their parents will have to top-up the card by purchasing extra credit.
The changes hope to save £7million as part of KCC drive to reduce it costs by £239 million over the next 4 years.

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, said “The plans discriminate massively against Thanet families. It is estimated that 28% of our young people live at, or close to, the poverty line. This is by far the highest rate of child poverty in Kent. To force the parents of these young people to find extra money to  top their sons and daughters Freedom Passes when they are already struggling to make ends meet is totally unfair. It will cause great hardship to those least able to afford it”.
Green Party KCC Councillor Martin Whybrow said that he will be opposing the plans. He pointed that apart from families on low income and dependent upon benefits, “young people living  in rural areas who have to make longer journey’s to school or college will also be losers. Their credit will be used up much quicker than those living in urban areas of Kent and their hard-pressed parents will be forced to find extra money to top up their passes”.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thanet Labour Block EU Vote. Legalise It. Shanty Town

Here's a video blog about Thanet Labour Councillors blocking a discussion about the EU Referendum and a few words about drugs legalisation and the Shanty Town Xmas party on 14 December with the great Dennis Bovell! Might see you there.



Here a video which sums up my reaction to Thanet Council  Labour Group's  crude and cynical manipulation of the EU motion at last weeks Council meeting. They're Unbelievable.


Friday, 6 December 2013

COUNCILLOR "OUT TO GET WORROW & BREAK HIM" - SAYS STANDARDS INSIDER

At the Council meeting last night I said that the Standards regime was being corrupted and abused by politicians hell bent on destroying opponents and settling personal scores. Some members of the Council, hurled abuse and vitriol at me for having the gall to say this. Well lo and behold less than 24 hours after making this statement I have been passed a copy of an e-mail which was copied  to an extremely senior Thanet Council officer. I believe the e-mail to be from someone closely connected with the Thanet Council standards regime to another person closely connected to the Thanet Council Standards regime . The e-mail explains that the author was told in February this year, by someone who is now a very prominent UKIP councillor that he is "OUT TO GET WORROW" and intends to "BREAK HIM".

Here is a copy of that e-mail which for obvious reason I have redacted. I am appalled but sadly not surprised by the content of this e-mail. Politics in Thanet is a lot more than disagreements in the Council Chamber. It gets very nasty and very personal and can have a major impact on people's private and family lives. This has happened to me as well.

Is it any wonder that many people  believe Thanet Councillors are dysfunctional bullies. I think this e-mail proves this beyond doubt.

Hi ....

 It was nice to see you on Thursday evening, and fascinating to see how Council failedto engage with the large numberof Notices of Motion and questions beforeit.

During the evening, I was sitting in the public gallerybehind a (senior UKIP Councillor), who took to the habit of passing me notes regarding Cllr Worrow and the various NoMs.  I thought nothing of  it .  I understand that he recognised Peter , next to whom I was seated.  However, at the end of the meeting, he informed me that he "is out to get Worrow”  and to "break him”    I have no idea what he means by this, but Peter suggested that I should let you know about the conversation.
I hope thatit means littleand that it amounts to nothing more than political posturing. See you soon.
Kind regards
 

Thanet Labour Group Blocks Debate on EU Referendum

A motion to support a referendum on EU membership was put before a meeting of Thanet Council last night. The Council's ruling Labour Group blocked this motion on the grounds that decisions about EU membership are not within power  of Thanet Council to make  and that therefore it was not appropriate to discuss such a subject.

This is rather a strange argument to use. Thanet Council has  previously voted to condemn the Bedroom Tax, to support Equal Marriage, to support  changes to animal transport laws - all of which I supported and  all of which are issues, like EU  membership,  which the Council does not have the  power to decide on. So why did the Council Labour Group, decide to use this  disingenuous reason to prevent a debate? Simple because if there had been a debate the Council Labour Group would have been forced to reveal that its political bosses in Westminster do not want to allow the British public to have a referendum on EU membership.

This dictatorial  arrogance puts the Labour Party at odds with the vast majority of  Thanet residents and the rest of the country, who want to have an open and frank discussion about our future in the EU. Pro or Anti  EU, we have a democratic right to discuss and vote on this issue. The Labour Party and it representatives  on Thanet Council are clearly turning their backs on the fundamental democratic rights  of local residents when all other parties are supporting and encouraging it. I suspect this  North Korean style of approach towards electors will cost them dearly.

I must say I was disappointed by the poor turnout of Tory Councillors (yet again). They were 6 councillors short. Had they all turned up it would have been possible to have forced some very close votes and perhaps won a decision to discuss the EU situation. Here is a recording of the debate - it would have been much better if the Council   had allowed the public  to film the meeting rather than employing private security guards at great public expense to oversee the riotous public in the gallery. Although last night the guard seemed to by paying particular attention to me - I wonder why? 

Councillor Blames Public for Thanet Rubbish Collection Fiasco

I couldn't believe my ears and neither could people in the Public Gallery at last nights Council meeting. Labour Councillor Allan Poole shamefully tired to blame the public for the  problems many residents  have experienced in the past month. Apparently nobody took the time to read the leaflets and put rubbish out on the wrong days. Listen for yourself. Is it  any wonder people think that Thanet Council and most of its councillors are dysfunctional and out of touch.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

What can I say that hasn't been said?  Goodbye the legend. The struggle continues.

 .

Thanet Labour Oppose EU Referendum

Last night Thanet Council discussed the following motion

“The future of the UK’s relationship with the European Union is a vitally important issue for the people of East Kent, including Thanet.This Council supports the EU Referendum Bill currently before Parliament which makes provision for the UK to hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union before the end of 2017.”

The Council's ruling Labour Group were clearly whipped to vote  against the motion. The motion was defeated.
 
Many people in Thanet have strong opinions for and against  membership of the EU. They would welcome an open and frank debate about this important subject and the  opportunity to use their votes to democratically decide what our future with the EU might be.

By voting against the motion  the Thanet Council Labour Group has demonstrated that it  is totally  out of touch with the strong  public interest in our EU membership. By voting against the motion the  Labour Party  is placing itself in opposition to  the right of  the men and women of  Thanet to have an informed debate and democratic referendum on this extremely important issue. This ill-judged decision will be of great comfort to UKIP in forthcoming elections.
 
The Green Party fully supports a full and frank public debate and vote on our membership of the EU.

I have a recording of the debate which I will post shortly so you can hear how your elected Labour Councillors want to deny your democratic right to have referendum.
 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

John Cooper Clark @Margate Theatre Royal

Must confess that this is the first time I have ever been to  the Theatre Royal. What a brilliant place! Its like a Georgian time-capsule. I hope that they will put on some more shows that will drag me in. John Cooper Clarke, even though he had a bout of flu, was tremendous. I haven't  seen him live since the first time around - 77ish if I remember and some of you around at that time will  correct me if I am wrong but he used to be backed by 2 musicians - the Invisible Girls - I believe - one of whom was the late and great Martin Hannet.

The audience was exactly what I expected. Lots of people around mine and Mrs D's age who were into punk when if first kicked off  and who still have an interest in this phenomena and lots of their kids who mum and dad had  quite rightly brought up to appreciate the incredibly creativity of punk and post-punk - possibly event a smattering of grand-kids.

Cooper Clarke treated us to old and new material, was incredibly funny with it and, apart from the odd Council meeting or two,  I haven't laughed as much in ages