My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Thanet Council Bullies WhistleBlowers

I have  just received the following letter from Thanet Council. In  publishing the letter of the Montoring Officer  I believe that I  acted in the public interest and acted as a whistleblower. However I am a person of limited means and  will take the letter down whilst  I consider my position.

Dear Councillor Driver

 
Postings on Your Web Blog - 30 April 2014

 
I am writingto you in connection with your web blog and the publication of material on that site arising from the meeting of the General PurposesCommittee last night. During the course of today  (301

April 2014) you have published firstlya commentary onthe processbeing dealt with at the meeting last evening and secondly, later today you have chosen to publisha private & confidential letter written by me as the Monitoring Officer to the members of that Committeeclearly intended for their exclusiveconsideration.

 I regretto say that this is not the first time I have had to write to you expressing concern  about  publishing  private  and confidential  information  that   hascome into you possession even though you are full aware that when you became an elected member of Thanet District Councilyou undertook to comply with the Council's Code of Conduct including, (subject to a limited numberof exceptions, none of whichapply here) the requirement to keep the Council's confidential  Informationprecisely that - confidential.

 You were aware that the General Purpose Committee had a sensitivetask to work through in circumstances where due processand the duties owed by the Councilto its staff required the utmost confidence. Instead, by choosingto publish on your website details of the proceedings (which you only attendedfor a limited time) and by later publishing a leaked copy of my letter, you have chosen to drive a coach and horses through those principles.

 
As a result you have placedthe work of the GeneralPurposes Committee in jeopardy , published sensitive personal data in flagrant breachof the privacy rights of a numberof data subjects and, in my view, fatallyundermined the abilityof the Council to consider the issues raised by me.                 

 
You shouldalso be awarethat qualified privilege attaches when issuesof concern are raised internally but your conduct in publishing thesecan attract no such protection and as a result, you have placedyourself at significant personal risk of having multiple actions in defamation takenagainst you by all those named in your web-blog,If nothing else will persuadeyou to do the right thing, perhapsthe realisation that you have placed your home and personal assets at risk, will.
I therefore require you to immediately remove from your web blog all the matters referred to in this letter.I would also suggest that you seek urgent legal advice on how to mitigate your liability for your ill judged actions.

 




 
 


Yours sincerely

 

 Harvey Patterson Monitoring Officer Thanet District Council P 0 Box 9
Cecil Street Margate

Friday, 18 April 2014

Green Party Urgent Action to Tackle Kents "Killer Pollution"

Kent Greens are  calling on KCC to take urgent action to tackle the county’s “killer pollution” problem.

According to a major report published  by Public Health England (PHE) last week, 25,000 people, aged 25 or over, died from  cardiovascular and respiratory causes  linked to long-term exposure to air pollution in 2010 (1).
Kent has the highest rate of air pollution related deaths in South East England at 745. Neighbouring Surrey had 527 deaths, East Sussex 294, West Sussex 429, and Hampshire 294(2).

Out of the 12 Kent District Councils, Thanet had  90 air pollution related deaths, the largest number in the county. Canterbury was in second place at 81. The lowest numbers of air pollution related deaths  were in Ashford with 50 and Tunbridge Wells with 46 (3).
Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver,  said “Too many people are dying prematurely because of airborne pollution produced by  cars and industry. This pollution is also a cause of respiratory illness amongst children and young people and is a major contributor to climate change. KCC needs to urgently review this unacceptable situation and review and strengthen its strategies to reduce airborne pollution and premature deaths across the county”.

“Thanet and the other Kent councils should all  be investing more money in the development of better cycling facilities, the promotion of walking and the improvement and expansion of affordable public transport. There should also be an major increase in roadside vehicle emission testing to catch and fine  polluters”.
The PHE research  was published several days after a report commissioned by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, revealed that almost  42,000 Kent school students attend schools located within 150 metres of busy roads (roads with more than 10,000 vehicle movements per day), placing  their cardiovascular and respiratory health at  high levels of risk (4).

Ends
Notes

  1. Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014. http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607
  2. See above report
  3. Figures extracted from 1.Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014.



District

Attributable  deaths

Ashford

50

Canterbury

81

Dartford

54

Dover

61

Gravesham

52

Maidstone

75

Sevenoaks

57

Shepway

58

Swale

68

Thanet

90

Tonbridge and Malling

53

Tunbridge Wells

46

TOTAL

745

 

 

  1. Keith launches air pollution report in Canterbury http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2014/04/09/keith-launches-air-pollution-report-in-canterbury/

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thanet Council Independent Review Cover Up?

In early March, Thanet Council was visited by 4 Local Government Association Inspectors to conduct a Peer Review. The Peer Review is a critically important process which provides an independent assessment of how good (or bad) your local Council is. It’s the only way for residents to find out if their Council is good, average or appalling when compared with others.   Clearly  a lot is riding on the outcome of the Peer Review  for both senior council officers,  political bosses and most importantly, of course, for  the people who pay for and who are  served by Thanet Council.

The Review Inspectors are extremely knowledgeable. Some are senior Council managers with  years of hands on experience. Others are serving, or ex, councillors with track records of leading councils across the Country. Their job is to evaluate  how the Councils they review are   performing  in relation to setting priorities for the local area, financial planning, political and managerial leadership, governance and decision making and organisational capacity. At the end of the process a report is produced by the Inspectors which says how well, or otherwise, the Council is doing and what it might need to do to become better.  Councils  are expected to publish their Review reports so that residents can see for themselves how well their Town Hall is doing.
In Thanet’s case the Inspectors looked at reams of TDC  documentation before their visit in March, in what is called a “desktop audit”.  This was followed by a 3 day visit to Thanet where the Inspectors interviewed Council staff and councillors and sat in on a number of meetings. I had a one hour interview with 2  Inspectors which I must say was very thorough and quite challenging. It was clear to me that the Inspectors were the real deal. They  were not in Margate on a tick-box exercise or  jolly bureaucrats outing. They were here to do a proper job of work.

After their visit the Inspectors produced a  draft report which was sent to  the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader  almost three weeks ago. Since then silence!
I have asked to see a copy of the draft report. My request was denied.  0n 24th April there is a Full Council meeting. Yet despite the fact that the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader will have   been sitting on the draft Peer Review report for almost one month when the Council meets, this critically important document has  not been included on the agenda of that meeting. The 56 democratically  elected Thanet District  Councillors have a right to see the draft report. There is no legal reason why this report can be hidden or withheld from them.

Of course the Chief Executive and  Leader will rightly claim that they are checking the content of the draft report. But surely that can’t take a month or longer. This is an independent report and Thanet Council  bosses or political leaders  cannot veto or change the views arrived at by the Inspectors, otherwise the whole purpose of the review would be an utter nonsense.  The only thing the Council can do is to put right any factual inaccuracies and correct a few spelling mistakes and typos. This is a process which should only take a couple of days, especially bearing in mind  the critical importance of the review. But here we are  approaching a month after the draft was received by TDC and its still  locked away in the Council’s safe? Why?
I can only assume that the report is locked away  because it contains bad news. In fact rumours are already circulating that the report includes some very bad news indeed, especially regarding the managerial and political leadership of Thanet Council.  It’s mere speculation on my part but issues like secrecy, cover-up, maladministration, bullying, rock-bottom morale, will probably feature large in this report. In light of ongoing problems regarding TransEuropa Ferries, Dreamland, East Kent Opportunities, Planning investigations,  and Skateparks, the last thing the Chief Executive and Council Leader want is a report slamming the organisation they are responsible for running. So, in typical Thanet Council style,  why not watch your backsides and save your well paid jobs by hiding the report until the things gets a little better.

Shame on Thanet Council and its secretive, unaccountable bosses. I publically challenge you to publish the draft report of the Peer Review in it is full unedited version right now. For once be open honest and truthful. The people who pay your wages and allowances have a democratic right to know if you are providing value for money or not.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Margate’s Dreamland Becomes Margate’s Nightmare

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has warned that “ less than impressive”   financial planning  and project management is likely to mean that Thanet Council’s flagship Dreamland pleasure park project will not be open for business by the April 2015 target.

Speaking after a  briefing meeting for TDC  Councillors  on Tuesday 15 April. Driver said “Dreamland  is set to open in less than a year, but operators for the rides, stalls and  cafes are yet to be selected, as are the contractors who will  manage day to day park maintenance. This is a process which will  take many months and could easily be delayed even longer. Tenders for the repair and refurbishment  of the Scenic Railway and other rides have not been evaluated or  allocated to contractors  and there is uncertainty about  how many rides will be in place and operational on opening day”.
Driver also expressed his doubts about whether the remaining £12million project budget will be sufficient to cover the costs of  opening the park. “There is very little flexibility in the budget” he said. “officers were very evasive and unconvincing about contingency planning. There appears to be no  Plan B to deal with cost overruns such as  a higher than planned compensation payment for the compulsory purchase of the park,  or higher than anticipated costs for the repair of  the scenic railway and other rides. There are also serious doubts about whether the £2million already invested in emergency repairs to the Dreamland Cinema will ever be recovered from the owners”.

"Although I am 110% behind the Dreamland project and hope it will be a runaway success, I am a  realist and have  an awful feeling that the project is beginning to  flounder because of less than impressive  budget and project  planning preparations. I‘m not the only Councillor to feel this way. A number of other councillors expressed concerns similar to mine during  the meeting and several more confided to me afterwards  that they doubt the project will be completed on time and on budget.  If  these doubts are proved to be right  then the only  option would be for the Council to borrow several  £million more  which will have to be paid for by the taxpayer.
A number of Councillors at the meeting also expressed worries about whether the Dreamland Trust, which will manage the  park when open,  is capable of  effectively  running a  complex theme park. One councillor complained that the Trust was raising public expectations too high and making unfounded claims about what will be in the park when it opens. Another complained about abusive remarks against the Council made by  Dreamland Trust volunteers and it was also suggested that a commercial company would be a more effective manager of the theme park  than a not for profit charity.

In a separate development, Driver has submitted a formal complaint about being denied the opportunity to copy financial information presented at the councillor Dreamland  briefing. “After the meeting had ended I asked a senior  officer to roll back the presentation slides so that I could take notes on the Dreamland  financial information. The officer refused saying that she did not trust me to keep the data confidential. I was amazed by this unprofessional and prejudicial response. At no point before or during the meeting were councillors advised that the information being presented was confidential. In fact most of it has already been published.  Also the taxpaying public have a right to know how much the Council is paying towards  Dreamland. This is yet another example of the North Korean style culture of secrecy and cover up which is a sad feature of Thanet Council and  which I determined to expose and end”.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Thanet Leader Hart SkatePark Hypocrite

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has branded Thanet Council’s Labour Leader as a “deceitful hypocrite” for approving the bulldozing of  the Little Oasis Skatepark, Cliftonville, in an “secretive SAS-style dawn raid” on the 27 March which destroyed thousands of hours of voluntary work and cost taxpayers £4,000.

According to a TDC press release, one of the reasons  for the raid was to clear the skatepark  so that the Council owned open land, on which the Skatepark was based,  could  be sold or rented to commercial  organisations who have expressed an interest in the site. But it has now been revealed that  plans to dispose of the open land conflict with the policy of the Council’s ruling Labour Group and also with TDCs Corporate Plan.
During the 2011 Council elections Thanet Labour published a  Manifesto which said  that they were “opposed to the Tories’ every move to sell off open spaces where it affects recreation and well-being”; that  “Labour will resist attempts to build on well-used community open green spaces” and  “Building on green field (undeveloped) sites will be resisted wherever possible”.

After taking control from the Tories in late  2011, Clive Hart became Labour Leader of Thanet Council. His first job as Leader was to produce a Corporate Plan setting out the  Council’s priorities. One of those priorities was entitled “Preserving our Public Spaces”, which said that open land  “enriches the quality of lives for our communities and visitors alike” and which the Council promised it was  “committed to preserving.”

It didn’t end there. The Plan said that  the Council would involve “the community in the planning, design and management of open spaces”; that it would consult “with the public on enhancement of public open spaces” and “increase the number of local residents and groups involved in the planning, design and management of public open spaces”.
But despite these clear, unequivocal, undertakings, when it came to dealing with the Little Oasis SkatePark, TDC Leader Hart  tore up his promises to the people. Instead of supporting a popular community use for public open space, he sent in the bulldozers. Instead of protecting public well used open space for the benefit of local people  he decided to sell it off. Instead of consulting and engaging with local residents about the use of public open space, he ignored the Little Oasis skaters and their incredible achievements and ordered a top-secret dawn  raid on a hugely successful recreational facility built and designed for the community by the community.

Said Driver “The Good Book teaches us that by their works ye shall know them. We now know Councillor Leader Clive Hart to be a hypocrite who has broken his promises not just in relation to Little Oasis SkatePark,  but also the East Kent Opportunities Planning Application at New Haine Road, Westwood Cross. Did he seek the permission of the Labour Councillors he leads to renege on these promises? Or did he simply go behind their backs?  Like most reasonable people I believe politicians should be truthful and honest with the public not duplicitous, deceitful and hypocritical. Its time for a change.
 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Little Oasis Bike Ride The People's Fight Back Begins

Today's bike ride in support of the Little Oasis SkatePark  was a great success. Organsised at very short notice over 100 people turned up, which shows the level of  anger and concern over the issue.


The Skatepark was demolished last week in a secret dawn raid  on the orders of the Council Chief Executive Sue McGonigal and with the full support and backing  of Council Leader Clive Hart. No efforts were made by Hart, or the Council he leads,  to meet and consult  with the skaters and try to rectify the alleged safety problems.  Instead they responded like bullies, crashing into the park with their heavy artillery and destroying thousands of hours of voluntary work. 

But today's bike ride shows that Thanet youth will not be cowed into submission by our "irresponsible" Council Leader Clive Hart and his out of touch councillors. The bike ride was the first example of organised public resistance to Thanet Council's incompetence, high-handed arrogance and sheer stupidity,  which I have seen in my 3 years as a Councillor. I hope to see a lot more  resistance because speaking honestly Thanet Council and its political leader Hart have  lost the respect and confidence of many of the people they are supposed to be serving - the Pleasurama Development Disaster at Ramsgate, the secret TransEuropa Ferries £3.4 Million Debt Scandal. The outrageous East Kent Opportunities Planning Appeal which will cost Taxpayers £100,000, the soon to revealed Dreamland Funding Catastrophe,  and now the Trashing of Little Oasis SkatePark   Hart and his cronies are not fit to run the Council  Its time for a change. You can vote them out in 2015!!!

I am 100% behind the Little Oasis Skatepark. It should be rebuilt on the same site at the Council's expenses and to a design agreed by the skaters. It should be done as quickly as possible.


Friday, 4 April 2014

Clive Harts Irresponsible SkatePark Scandal

I was appalled by the article in today's  Thanet Gazette in which the Council's Labour Leader, Clive Hart,  described the  Little Oasis  skaters as an " irresponsible minority of people" . Unlike Clive Hart I met many of the skaters after the park had been trashed by the Council last week and not one of them appeared to me to be "irresponsible". On the contrary the people I met had freely devoted  many hours of their own time to  building the park. Some had invested their money in buying materials and equipment for the park and others had been  volunteering at the park to teach beginners s how to skate. To describe these people as "irresponsible" is arrogant and offensive and  Hart should apologise. The only irresponsible person I know of is Hart who, according  to the Gazette, sent an e-mail to  his Labour councillor colleagues ordering them to keep the dawn raid on the skatepark top secret.

I for one, find it hard to  believe  his claims in the paper and on twitter, that the decision to trash the skatepark was made Council officers and he had nothing to do with it!  Clive Hart is the Leader of Thanet Council. That makes him the most powerful politician in Thanet. The Little Oasis SkatePark is in Councillor Hart's constituency. Its inconceivable that Hart was not consulted and involved in discussions about a secret dawn raid on a  Skatepark in his own patch! His explanation fails to convince me. My freedom of information request might throw some light on what really happened here and just how truthful he is being.

Furthermore I am not convinced that trashing the park was the right answer. The Council should have temporarily closed the park, met with the skaters to discuss the safety problems and agreed a plan of works to put any problems right. Instead Hart and the officers arranged a clandestine SAS style raid to vandalise and destroy a massively popular facility for local youth, designed,  built and paid for by local youth.

Since becoming a Thanet Councillor I have been told time after time by Hart and senior managers that the ethos of Thanet  Council is to promote community development, encourage dialogue, engagement and consultation with the people, increase volunteering, get the different nationalities to integrate, get fit and healthy. Well in my book Little Oasis Skatepark ticked all these boxes many times over. But despite this, Hart and top Council bosses hypocritically destroyed something which was delivering Council polices in shovel fulls. Shame on Hart. Shame of Thanet Council!

Last but not least old people like me are always whinging about why young people don't get involved in politics and why young people don't vote.  Is it any wonder  why they are contemptuous of politics when you see how  harshly Thanet Council and its Leader Hart have treated them. I think even more of Thanet's young voters will be staying away from the polling stations next yearn precisely  because of Hart's irresponsible criticisms of young people and the aggressive, bullying  way in which the Skatepark was trashed. I would of course strongly advice you  not to turn your back on politics. Use your votes to throw  Hart and his colleagues out of office and join and vote for parties and independent candidates who  fight for young people.


See you on Sunday