My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Council Must Sack “Highway Robbing” Litter Police

In June 2016 Thanet District Council signed a 3-year contract with Kingdom Environmental Services to manage its litter and dog fouling enforcement services. Kingdom’s enforcement officers patrol the streets of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs issuing fixed penalty notices of £80 to anyone caught dropping litter or allowing their dog to foul. Thanet Council pays for Kingdom’s services by splitting the money raised from the fines, with the lion’s share of the cash going to Kingdom not Thanet Council.

On Monday this week, BBC Panorama broadcast an undercover expose of Kingdom in which it was alleged that its enforcement officers are paid bonuses based upon the number of fixed penalty notices they have issued. The BBC also exposed the use of highly questionable pressure tactics by some Kingdom enforcement officers and how some officers focused on soft targets – all to maximise the number of penalty notices they issued and the size of their bonus. The programme led me concluded that Kingdom was engaging in what seemed to be a form of legalised highway robbery! Last year Kingdom’s profits were £9 million, an increase of 30% on the previous year.

According to a recent Freedom of Information request Kingdom issued 3,891 fixed penalty notices for littering and dog fouling in Thanet at £80 a time that’s a staggering £318,480. Most of this cash goes to Kingdom According to its website Kingdom provides environmental protection services for 8 Kent Council including Thanet. The others are Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Swale, Canterbury, Gravesham, Dartford and Ashford councils.

It was reported by Kent Online that Maidstone Council has now suspended its contract with Kingdom and Swale council are reviewing the situation. On the basis of the evidence broadcast by the BBC I believe that Thanet Council should terminate its contract with Kingdom with immediate effect and bring the enforcement service in-house where it can managed and delivered and in fair, honest and transparent way, unlike Kingdom.


Here’s the link to the BBC article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39882434

Here’s a link to the Kingdom website http://blog.kingdom.co.uk/2016/09/kingdom-wins-new-three-year-contract.html

Monday, 15 May 2017

Official Taxpayers Foot Bill for Ramsgate Live Exports £5million Insurance Cock-Up

It’s official Thanet‘s taxpayer’s have been forced to foot the £5.1 million, live animal exports compensation bill, because of a  Council insurance claim cock-up.

The £5.1 million compensation was paid to individuals / companies involved in the export of live farm animals from the port of Ramsgate following a High Court case in December 2013 which ruled that TDCs decision to ban the cruel and barbaric trade  in 2011 was unlawful  and in breach of EU free trade regulations.
In 2016 I was approached by a source from within TDC who told me that some, or all,  of  the compensation payment, should have been covered by TDCs insurance policies, but that  the claim had been  “submitted out of time/ late    and that the insurance company had refused to pay out.
I wanted to double check this information and on 18 December 2016, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI)  request to TDC seeking clarification. My FOI request was rejected by TDC  for what I believed to have  been the totally unjustifiable reason of commercial confidentiality. Today, 6 months after submitting my FOI and following a successful  appeal against TDCs original decision, what my source had told me all that time ago has been confirmed  as being true. Here’s what TDC said.
“The Council confirms the claim submitted was unsuccessful; the insurers were notified about a potential claim too late to be accepted”.
So there you have it – a major  administrative cock-up by TDC  means that taxpayers have been forced to foot a £5.1million bill some, if not all, of which would have been covered by insurance payments has the claim been submitted in time. But it wasn’t.
I accept that these events go back 3 or 4 years and that TDC may arguably be a different organisation now. But the question must be asked why did  TDC  refuse to tell truth about this major administrative cock-up? Does TDC prefer to watch its corporate arse,   rather than being  open and honest  with taxpayers when it makes a blunder like this? What do you think?
One final point I was, and still am, a campaigner against live animal exporters from Ramsgate Port, or anywhere else. Contrary to what some people claim, campaigners against this cruel and barbaric trade never exerted pressure of Thanet Council, its officers or politicians to ban the live export trade from Ramsgate. We knew all along that the trade was permitted by EU law and that TDC was powerless to stop it. The decision to stop the trade; a decision which was ultimately to cost taxpayers dearly,   was as Mr Justice Birrs correctly  pointed out in his High Court Judgment of 2013  take by former TDC Director, Mark  Seed “but I infer that very considerable pressure was placed on him by the councillors at the meeting….Cllr Hart and Cllr Poole” who were at that time the Labour Leader and Labour Deputy Leader of TDC.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Thanet Council Parking Update & Missing Data

On 28 and 29th April 2017 I published 2 articles on my blogsite about Thanet Council’s use and reporting of its parking revenues. My articles were based on allegations reported to me by a source with a knowledge of these matters.
At 7pm on Friday 12 May 2017, two weeks after the publication of my first parking article,  I received an e-mailed letter from Thanet Council headed “Defamation pre-action protocol”. The letter said that my 2 articles were factually wrong and that I must remove them for my blog site or legal action against me would follow.  The Council has claimed that my publication of an allegation which had been reported to me,  that a senior officer’s salary was paid for entirely from parking revenues, was not correct.
Thanet Council has now informed me that the officer’s salary in respect of his new role is paid for by internal recharges as follows

Foreshore-Ge Maint 2.5%
Parks General (12.5%)
Crematorium (7%)
Toilets-General (2.5)
CCTV (5%)
Street Cleaning (12.5)
Beaches/Proms (2.5%)
Refuse-Domestic & Trade (6.25%)
Refuse-Recycling (6.25%)
Green Waste Collection (2%)
Bulky Waste Collection (0.5%)
Street Scene Enforcement (5%)
On St Parking (20%)
Off Street Parking (13%)

I would like to thank Thanet Council for providing this information and for pointing out that 33% of the new role is funded from parking revenues.
Thanet Council have also pointed out my sums were awry in my reporting of the money   generated  by the Council from  its parking operations. The RAC Foundation had reported that TDC parking services (on and off street) had generated  a surplus of £460,000 for the financial year 2015-16. This was based on TDCs submissions to the Government. However TDC on its website had reported a surplus  of only  £330,000 (I had mistakenly reported this as a loss). The difference between the two sets of figures is due to pension costs and capital charges of £114,000.  Full details of the pension & capital charges figures do not appear to be publically available on the TDC website. Perhaps in the future it might be wise for TDC to add this information so that no future misunderstanding could occur.

As I said in my original blog posts “if  TDC can demonstrate  to me and the public  that my source's  allegations  are untrue  I will immediately  take down my post, make  a public  apology,  and donate  £50 to the mental  health  support  charity  the Garden Gate Project.

I now issue an apology to TDC and have taken down the articles from my blogsite. I will be contacting the Garden Gate Project this coming week to arrange to pay the donation and will publish a receipt to verify the payment.

As they say you win some and lose some and in this instance I was  wrong. But we now know that 33% of a senior officer salary is funded from parking revenues and that during the financial year 2015-16 Thanet Council parking services generated a surplus of £330,000!

I note that TDC made a surplus of £698 from on-street parking in 2015/16. Under s55(3)&(4) of The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, there is a requirement for TDC to produce a report on how and on what they spent any surplus made from on street parking. However, scouring their website I have been unable to discover any such report  for 2015-16 or for any other years when surpluses were made(, 2012/13, 2013/14). Perhaps TDC can publish  the missing reports.
 
Furthermore paragraphs 34 (footnote to)  46, and 47 of the Local Government Transparency Code 2014 & 2015 require Thanet Council to publish estimates of all parking account income (on street, off street and penalty notices)  within one month of the financial year end;  publish a breakdown of how the council has spent  any year end  surpluses on its parking accounts(on street, off street and penalty notices), and publish the number of marked out controlled  on and off street parking spaces within its area, or an  estimate of that number where controlled parking spaces have not been marked out.

I have searched TDCs website to find this information without success. I wonder why important information about TDCs parking income and parking space numbers, which the Government requires to be made publically avaible,  appears to be missing?  This is especially worrying, because this information is likely to have a bearing on the  important public consultation  exercise underway about parking policy in Thanet? What do you think?

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Guest Writer Reg Bell On TDC Parking Plans

Thanet Council’s recent decision to massively increase parking fees in the district and its proposals to introduce many new paid for residential parking scheme across Thanet has sparked a big public outcry. My friend, and campaigner, Reg Bell, who is working with the community in Westgate on Sea to oppose the introduction of the new parking schemes has written an article about this issue which I am delighted to publish. I agree 100% with Reg and would encourage everyone in the areas where new parking schemes are proposed to follow Reg’s lead and organise public resistance and opposition against Thanet Council’s unfair plans for what amounts to be a stealth tax on motorists. Over to you Reg!

Reg Bell
Proposed Extension By TDC Of Paid For Parking Areas
On 27th April 2017 Council Officers presented to the Council Cabinet details of a scheme to extend the areas of paid for car parking across numerou s sites within Thanet. This wide ranging proposal would affect large numbers of residents and visitors to Thanet. It would have a detrimental impact on those areas within the scheme which contain shops and business's and which service tourism to Thanet. The Cabinet agreed despite opposition to the proposal from a number of Councillors who spoke out against the scheme, to put the proposal out for public consultation before a decision to accept or reject the scheme is finally made . The time for public consultation is short - just 28 days from 4th May. If implemented the scheme will be completed in three phases within the next 18months. The details of the proposal can be found on the T.D.C. website.

A Review Of The Proposal.
The Executive Summary makes the contentious and unproven claim, that imposing parking charges will "benefit residents and local business". It provides no evidence to substantiate this claim and it goes on to say that the income "could be used to invest into further parking schemes" . It is clear from this statement that this scheme if implemented will lead to even further extensions of paid for parking within Thanet in the near future .
If this proposal is given the green light by the Council Cabinet and Councillors it will have the effect of giving "carte blanche" to further paid for parking extensions to be imposed. The proposal makes no reference to any proper assessment of there being any desire or necessity for change s to the present scope of paid for parking. Under the Department of Transport Traffic Management Act 2004 Operational Guidance to Local Authorities - Parking Policy and Enforcement, there are numerous  references to the Council's obligations on parking matters. This document is available on the internet.
The intention of this Guidance is to provide help to local authorities on how to approach parking issues. On page 14, para . 4.3 it says "the Secretary of State recommends that Enforcement Authorities consult locally on their parking policies when they appraise them. They should seek the views of people and businesses " On page 21 at para. 5.3 It says "Authorities should consider setting up their own user group for wider stakeholders such as businesses, representative organizations and the public. This should comprise representative s of motoring organizations, local residents and traders, socially excluded groups and others with an interest in parking policies. This group can be used to test proposals to ensure they meet the need s of road users" . If these recommendations had been followed, a consultation taken place or a consultative group formed, which had indicated a genuine and substantive desire for
acceptance of this proposal, you can be sure that it would have been included within the proposal as evidence , but there is not mention of such an exercise taking place. The conclusion can only be that the Council have taken no heed whatsoever of the Government Recommendations and that their anti-democratic conduct is therefore if not illegal, certainly is unethical. Putting this scheme out for public consultation at such short notice for only 28 days from 27th April does not provide sufficient time for a proper and reasonable impact assessment to be mad e by all those affected by the scheme . The view of the few who have seen the proposal is that the Council are attempting to rush through this scheme before objections can be effectively mobilized. At the very least, if the Council expect to retain any integrity of action at all they should extend the public consultative period. 

Photo Courtesy of Westgate-on-Sea Facebook Page
Recent significant hikes in the already established paid for parking areas have attracted considerable public criticism with the setting up of a petition to be presented to the Council and some people particularly Westgate on Sea business owners and Westgate Town Councillors along with Westgate TDC Ward Councillors, have already made public their opposition to this scheme . In the case of Westgate , what particularly drives their opposition is that the proposal claims "charging at some on street locations will help encourage drivers to park within the off-street car parks" . There are no off-street car parks close to central Westgate.
 
The Imperative Behind The Proposal.
Money is the root of all evil". A sentiment not strictly true as we live in a world where evil exists without financial dimensions, but it is true in this context. The proposal make s it clear that the sole reason for its existence is to raise income for the Council. In fact it is stated that an expected income of £90,000 in the first year of operation has already been written into the Council Accounts Estimate in a breathtaking  display of corporate arrogant assumption . The need for the Council to raise funds has been driven largely by reckless spending, incompetent financial decisions and severe corporate maladministration in recent years which has reduced the Council's contingency capability to about 25% of what it should be. None of this is the fault of the motorists who are being expected to help make up the Councils shortfall. The motive s of the Council are in direct conflict with the advice given in the Traffic Act Operational Guidance where on page 106 it state s unequivocally:- ''AUTHORITIES SHOULD NEVER USE PARKING CHARGES JUST TO RAISE REVENUE OR AS A LOCAL TAX." The Council are deliberately ignoring the Government advice available to them on this issue in their desperation to satisfy a short term problem, but the consequences of which would put in place restrictions and charges which would never be remove d and which would undoubtedly expand in scope and rise in price in the future whenever the Council feels the pinch. There would be no going back, if you are a motorist and live in Thanet this proposal would affect you even if you do not live directly or close to the areas presently targeted .

 What To Do? To project your opinion either in support or opposition to this proposal in an effective way you should put your views preferabl y in written form to your TDC Ward Councillor - they seek office on the promise that they will represent your views in Council and will reflect those views when it comes to accepting or rejecting propose d change s to local legislation. Doing nothing is not an option. If the
Councillors do not receive sufficient weight of objections to the propose d scheme they may consider that they have no mandate for opposition. You can access the TDC website to get contact details of your Ward Councillor or simply phone TDC and ask "who is the Councillor for my area?"

Spread The Word. With such a short period of consultation it is vital that organisations throughout Thanet who represent resident's views should bring this matter before its members for discussion as soon as possible. Town and Parish Councils and Residents Associations should be at the forefront , but any organisation should get involved as this proposal is likely to affect so many Thane t residents. Tell your Councillor what you think and make it plain if you supported them at the last Council Election, that now you expect their support in return.

Reg Bell
Shop Proprietor
45 Station Road
Westgate on Sea

The views and comments expressed her e are entirely my own and have no political intent or effect other than to support true democratic process.
 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Thanet Care Homes 21% Are Poor

Four Winds Care Home Ramsgate - Inadequate Standard of Care
3 weeks ago the charity Independent Age published a report about the quality of care homes for older people in England. According to the report, which was based on  Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection reports,   whilst 74% of care homes in England were good or outstanding a frighteningly high 26% required improvement or inadequate. This report led me to conduct my own investigations into the situation in Thanet.  Thankfully, unlike other public bodies I could mention, the CQC makes its data easily available to the public. I quickly found out via an interactive map on the CQC website that there are 57 registered residential care homes in Thanet looking after children and  adults and people with a range of health problems including learning disabilities, mental illness, dementia.
Out of these 57 care homes 44 were rated as being good and 1 outstanding and 9 were rated as requiring improvement and 3 as inadequate. Of the three rated inadequate one is located in Ramsgate. It is the Four Winds care home on Brokenhurst Road.   Percentage wise this means that 79% of Thanet’s care homes are good or outstanding and that 21% require improvement or are inadequate. This puts Thanet slightly ahead of the national picture in terms of poor quality care homes. But the worrying fact remains that almost a quarter of the care homes in the district are sub-standard and providing totally unacceptable levels of care for some of the most vulnerable people. This is totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated.  
There must be a comprehensive national review of  residential  care, and care  in the community services. Services should be properly funded and provide the best possible standards of care. Staff should be fairly rewarded and not forced to depend on low pay and zero hours contracts. Services falling below acceptable standards should be closed down. This will not be cheap but a fair and progressive taxation system would more than cover the costs.  
Published and promoted by Ian Driver 45 Sea View Road. Independent Candidate Kent County Council Election 4th May. Fighting for Fairness.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Legalise It Now!

No ifs, no buts, no maybes - it’s time to legalise cannabis.

Prohibition of cannabis has been a total, unmitigated, and expensive multi-£billion, failure. More and more countries around the world are now beginning to either decriminalise or legalise the recreational use of cannabis.
In the USA, once the international leader of the “war on drugs', 8 states including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have all legalised the production, sale, medicinal and recreational use of cannabis, with more states planning to hold referendums on this issue soon. The Canadian Government is on record as saying it intends to introduce legislation to make it lawful to produce, sell and use cannabis by 2018, making it the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to totally legalise cannabis.
So what about the UK? Well as someone who has used cannabis and several other recreational drugs I think it’s time for the government to legalise the production, sale and use of cannabis as quickly as possible. There are many powerful financial arguments to justify this and also lots of social and health reasons too. But let’s begin by looking at the economics of legalisation.  
First it’s costing an absolute fortune to police cannabis. According to data I obtained from Kent Police 6,072 cannabis related cautions and warnings were issued in the five years between 2010 and 2015. During the same period 4,170 people were charged with cannabis related offenses including production, supply and possession. That’s a grand total of 10,872 cautions, warnings and charges related to cannabis production, supply and  use, which is the  equivalent of  6 police actions  per day over 5 years.  Medway topped Kent’s cannabis crime league table with 1,772 warnings and charges issued during 2010-15. Thanet was second with 1,182; Maidstone third with 1,176. Dover had the least recorded cannabis related crime with only 446 Police warnings and charges between 2010-15.
Assuming the  average cost of dealing with a cannabis related incident, including officer time and associated overheads,  is about £300 then Kent Police have spent  £3.26 million between 2010-15 on policing cannabis use in the county. But that doesn’t take into account the cost of intelligence gathering, surveillance, forensics, planning and executing raids, preparing and submitting evidence to the courts which I estimate will bump up the total cost of policing cannabis in Kent to at least £10 million over the 5 year period which works at to be £2million per year.
Is this money well spent? I don’t think so!  The 2015-16 Crime Survey of England and Wales estimates that 6.5% of 16-59 years olds have used cannabis at least once during this 12 month period. Applied to Kent, which has an estimated population of 1,019,000 16-59 year olds, this means that at least 66,235 of the county’s residents would have used cannabis during 2015. Yet during this period  Kent Police  issued just 792  warnings, penalty notices, and charges, sometimes  dealing with same person more than once.  This works out to be  a detection rate of just 1% at a cost of more than £2 million per year. These figures demonstrate that despite a massive investment of public money the war against cannabis in Kent has most definitely been lost.
Source State of Colorado Government Website
I think it would be safe to say that every other Police Force England and Wales is in the same position as Kent - spending loads of money fighting cannabis use for no discernible results. Just imagine how much money could be saved on policing costs if cannabis was to be legalised. In fact a growing number of senior police officers and Police and Crime Commissioners are now beginning to openly talk about this.
But it’s not just police budgets which will benefit from the legalisation of cannabis. Making the production, sale and use of cannabis lawful would generate massive additional taxation streams worth £billions a year.  A report commissioned by the Liberal Democrat Party in mid-2016  estimated that the legalisation of cannabis could raise £1billion a year in extra taxation. A report published at the end of 2016 by the Conservative-supporting Adam Smith Institute  estimated that a legalised cannabis industry would be worth an estimated £7billion a year.
In the USA we now have some real-life examples of how much tax can be raised from a legalised cannabis industry. According to figures produced by the US state government of Colorado, cannabis related taxes, licences and fees generated $127 million (£98 million) in the financial year 2016-17. This is a state which has only one twelfth the population of the UK. Just image how much tax could be raised in the UK though the legalisation of cannabis. This single measure could generate desperately needed income for the NHS, social care and schools.
There is no doubt that cannabis, just like any other drug, can cause harm. But it is an established fact that cannabis causes much less harm than alcohol and tobacco, which are both legal drugs. But the legalisation of cannabis and regulations governing its production and sale, can be used to manage most of the adverse effects and reduce harm to users.
Legalisation of cannabis would reduce the power of the criminal gangs who currently control much of the cannabis trade and would also create tens of thousands of new legitimate jobs and business opportunities in its  production and sale.  In my opinion the financial, social and health benefits of legalising and regulating cannabis massively outweigh any of the risks that  might be associated with its change of lawful status. 
 Published and promoted by Ian Driver 45 Sea View Road. Independent Candidate Kent County Council Election 4th May. Fighting for Fairness.

No To Grammar Schools

This month two  of the of most influential teaching trade unions, the National Association of Head Teachers  (NAHT)  and the National Union of Teachers (NUT)   both voted to oppose Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, plans to increase the number of grammar schools in England. And they are right! An overwhelming majority of the research conducted into grammar schools concludes that they are unfair, divisive, do not promote social mobility and discriminate against children from poorer backgrounds.

I am not prepared to support a discriminatory  education system which divides children at 11 years old. Nor I am prepared to support an educations  system which unfairly favours children from better off backgrounds. High quality education should be available for all children without selection and free of charge. Every child, irrespective of their family background, should have an equal chance to achieve their full potential.
Having a fair, properly resourced,  and non-selective education system is extremely important, especially in an area such Ramsgate which has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the country and a poor record of educational achievement. If I am elected to Kent County Council on May 4th I will oppose any plans to expand grammar schools and will fight to have existing grammar schools turned into non-selective schools.

Published and promoted by Ian Driver 45 Sea View Road. Independent Candidate Kent County Council Election 4th May. Fighting for Fairness.