My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

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”

 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Bahhumbug A Tale of Two Car Parks!



Famous Author Charles Dickens
Gavin Waite is Thanet Council’s Director of Operational Services. He’s in charge of refuse collection, street cleaning, grounds maintenance, ports and harbours and crematoria services. He gets paid somewhere in the region of £90,000 per year for this job and is reported to  spend 4 days per week in Thanet and 3 days per week ooopp Norf  where I come from.

Mr Waite is also the TDC Director responsible for proposing and steering through the recent  massive increases  in car parking fees in Thanet and the development of plans for new on and off street parking scheme which are likely to sweep across Thanet in coming months. Many people have argued that the astronomic increase in parking fees and the proposals for an  unprecedented expansion of new parking schemes across Thanet  amounts to an unjustified and unfair stealth tax.
 
According to Mr Waite’s Linkedin profile he was educated in Beverley a beautiful Yorkshire market town which I know well and have visited many times. Beverly also has, in common with Thanet, links with Charles Dickens who is said to have modelled Ebenezer Scrooge on a character he encountered on a visit to the Beverly area. Inspired by the Charles Dickens/  Ebenezer Scrooge/ Gavin Waite links between Thanet and Beverly I thought it might be interesting to find out whether Thanet and Beverly have similar parking fees. Here’s what I found out.
 
Council Director Waite  
 
Dickens Character Scrooge  



 

 
I'll let you decide who is the car parking scrooge. Beverley council or  Thanet District Council. I think the tables make the answer clear. Bahhumbug fuckers!