Saturday, 7 November 2009

Labour Shadow Team comments & questions at Thursday evenings TDC Cabinet meeting.


From TDC budget matters right through to seagull proof waste collection bags, this week's TDC Cabinet meeting was full of questions, comment and useful suggestions from our Labour Shadow Cabinet members. Special praise must go to Cllr. Iris Johnston who really was on top form!

Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770

Page. 7. 2.4.6. The Council reported ‘smarter procurement’ procedures and councillor Johnston asked questions on the usefulness of the Schmidt street cleaning machine which was purchased in 2003 and rarely seen since.
An officer replied that he had already responded to Cllr Johnston ‘that afternoon’. Both that response and his email did not cover the poor cleaning record and availability of the machine which was purchased on the say so of former Councillor Ingrid Spencer for in the region of 80 to 90 thousand pounds.
Page.13. 3.4.9 Councillor Johnston asked for clarification on ‘£315k required due to KCC’ for ‘tipping away’. Which TDC are asking to be phased to assist the budget position. An officer explained that KCC now required this money for further ‘tipping’ at longer distances.
Page 15. 3.5.12 Councillor Johnston asked where the decision and paper trial on the agreement to give some members phones/BlackBerry's was noted. Eventually the Chief Executive said it was an ‘operational’ matter and didn’t need member approval. Cllr. Martin Wise said he never used his but wasnt giving it back because someone else might use it and create a large bill. Apparently the Blackberrys have been given to cabinet members to help them keep in touch with each other and staff.
(When Labour ran TDC all members bought and paid for their own phones and would see this as what their considerably smaller allowances were for. Councillor Johnston a former Deputy leader personally often spent £110 a month on her landline and mobile).
Both the Chief Executive and Leader said members needed to go away and look to helping cut the cost of support to all members but it seems the cabinet are not affected.
P20. 4.3.5 p21 4.5.1. Councillor Johnston asked of any further extension on contracts and referred to the importance of proper supervision and monitoring. Councillor Wiltshire appeared unaware of any other extension except that agreed with Mears for one year ‘to March 2010’
(On agenda item 5 2.2 and 9.1 Councillor Johnston raised the underspend of £78k attributable to ‘supervision and management’ at a time when more of both were needed. An officer responded and he would speak with Cllr Johnston.)
Page 32. Environmental action Plan Fund. Councillor Johnston asked for details of when the EAP group met and a break down of where they were spending funds. She referred to her constant request for help with flowers and improvements to Margate High Street which she has also brought up with Cllr Ezekiel. ( Flowers have not been provided in the High Street for most of the years since the Conservatives took control in 2003 and the flower beds have become giant ash trays) Cllr Shirley Tomlinson said she was aware.
Page 34. Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Grant.
LABGI. Councillor Johnston expressed concern about the lack of directing this fund to town centre businesses who were affected by out of town shopping. The Chief Executive said the money was never intended for this. Councillor Johnston asked for a full breakdown of where the monies had gone. Neither officers or members could elaborate except for the CE who said it had gone to ‘regeneration and economic development ‘ projects.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Cllr. Campbell gave the following observations of the report:

It is in part obscure, uses financial jargon that assumes an intimate knowledge of financial practices & does not put the figures into any context. This report will not aid your objective of “engaging local residents in the financial choices facing the council”

Top of page 8. What does “Take a medium term view of business improvements, to include a whole-life costing….” mean?

3.4.7 Further income reductions.

Contains a list of 12 income reductions but none in context of the loss in comparison to the overall income for each item. It does not therefore indicate the severity or not of the loss in income to the council.

An officer explained in some detail the technicalities raised but accepted Cllr Campbell's comments on the list of 12 income reductions and assured members there would be more detail in the final budget document put before council next year.

Cllr. Peter Campbell - Phone: 01843 585738
Page 39 4.2. Councillor Johnston questioned the 13.1K overspend on the Dickens House Museum. She referred to the over 90k TDC had to return in grant in possibly Novemebr 2003 when the Tories failed to use Labour had obtained. The Leader said he was unaware of this and no reason was given for the present overspend. ( Councillor Johnston said later the original grant was to extend the building and perhaps share as a VIC. All of the work had been programmed under Labour but the Tories missed the deadlines and a female Tourism officer now left TDc told her the money had been returned to Europe).
Page 40 4.9. ERDF Reclaim Councillor Johnston asked for a detailed report to Scrutiny on grant funding that would need to be repaid where applicants had not adhered to the criteria on grant use. Councillor Ezekiel said it would be hard to get the money back and the Chief Executive said TDC were no longer the accountable body. This was the GOSE. (Cllr Johnston said later TDC are certainly ‘accountable’ when the money needs to be paid back).
6.0 Housing and Council Tax benefit from Government has risen to 65 million per annum. Cllr Johnston asked for a breakdown of the recipients from age to landlords who buy property to let. The Cabinet and Chief Executive referred to the recession and were unable to give a direct response. Councillor Johnston asked for a written reply from officers which she has requested in the past.
Page 43. 9.1 An officer is to respond directly to Councillor Johnston on the comment on ‘double counting’ in the repairs budget leading to £180 surplus.
Page 48. Councillor Johnston asked for clarification on the removal of a figure of 200k ( much lauded at Budget making) and 9.5 k from the Disability budget. She also queried the two spate amounts from Government in the reports one of 600k and another on page 46 of 897k. Which figure was correct.? There was no response to this.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Page. 53. 2.7. Councillor Johnston asked Cllr Wiltshire if the Compact report due out at the end of October was available. There appeared to be some confusion in the response but an officer said it would be arranged for Cllr Johnston to have one shortly. Cllr Johnston also asked for a copy to be sent to Cllr Steve Ward who had asked Clllr Wiltshire for an update some time ago.
Page.58. Cllr Johnston said she had been promised an update on Margate renewal Partnership via Scrutiny which now may come to the November meeting. She referred to the loss of Dave Kinnear from the Margate Town Partnership and his valuable work. Cllr Ezekiel commented on the changes in both Margate and Ramsgate and that the MTP would shortly be holding a meeting to elect a new Chairman etc.
Page 74. 6.2.2 and Page 76 6.4.1. Councillor Johnston asked for some real improvements in serving residents from other towns especially those who had to travel to Margate’s Gateway for housing help. Many had family commitments and had to rush back to collect children from school. It was also an added expense. She suggested an outreach vehicle or a dedicated office. Conservative members referred to the lack of funding.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
I'd just like to point out that this idea was a motion put to council from councillors David Green and Peter Campbell, who suggested taking this action as a possible solution to litter strewn streets. They spent time researching this issue and gaining the support of residents groups and I think it should have been a matter of common courtesy to have mentioned these facts and their names in the summary at the top of this report.
After a very long and convoluted reply Cllr. Ezekiel did finally apologise for the oversight in the report.
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770
Councillor Johnston welcomed the final draft and thanked Mr Ryan for his help when she had some queries on the original draft.
Legal 4.2.1 Page 92. And Transport page 103. Cllr Johnston stressed the importance of TDC not just paying lip service to the Plan and mentioned the difficulties in getting a recent petition on bus services to Full Council. She reminded members of the Travel Forum meeting on 16th November and hoped everyone would try to attend as Stagecoach and South Eastern train representatives would be present. Poorer access to a GP surgery and Age Concern had been obvious since the May time table changes and TDC need to be involved in helping residents.
Page 102 Cllr Johnston had queried the figure of 600k from Government for Disability Facilities noted here and contrary to previous figure in an earlier report.
Page 111 Healthy communities Councillor Johnston said health and safety issues in the home were important but also ‘on our streets’. She had had two residents visit her at her last surgery with injuries from street falls due to bad pavements. One appeared to be a KCC responsibility and the other on TDC land. She had been in touch with officers who were investigating.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Councillor Martin Wise confirmed to Councillor Johnston that he was the Risk Management Champion for TDC and she referred him to one of his previous comments that he left ‘detail’ to officers. Cllr Johnston suggested he needed to have all the facts at his fingertips if he was to keep abreast with the issue.
Page 127. Councillor Johnston asked how TDC looked after ‘whistle blowers’. Councillor Wise left this answer to an officer to respond and she said they were treated in confidence and their contribution examined correctly.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Page 131. Councillor Johnston welcomed the funding from the Regional Housing Board which was yet another example of extra funding coming into Thanet despite the comments from some of the Conservative Cabinet.
Page 141. The use of the funds which would help with home improvements is to be monitored by the Council or their nominated home improvement agency. Cllr Johnston asked that TDC must have full confidence in the nominated body and also needed sufficient staff to cover any project (The Government has a target that 70% of all homes in the private sector must reach decent homes standard by 2010).
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Councillor Johnston referred to her visit to the House of Commons last February and the Government’s further commitment to enabling the building of new council homes. She expressed disappointment that TDC had missed the first tranche in July but welcomed the bid due in for 30th October. She queried whether TDc might face ‘technical’ difficulties over the difference between ‘outline’ and ‘full’ planning permission agreed at a recent Planning meeting. An officer felt all would be well and Cllr Ezekiel asked Cllr Clive Hart as a member of planning committee if he had noticed any problems?
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Cllr Hart then explained that on the night of the planning applications from TDC there certainly appeared to be some ambiguity. Indeed on one application members would have liked a site visit but the whole process was so rushed that this would not have been possible within the time constraints of the bid. There also did appear to be some confusion on the night as to what was 'outline' and what was 'detailed' in the reports concerning the TDC applications being discussed.
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770

Published by Thanet Labour Group Press Office - 44 Northdown Road, Margate, CT9 2RW.


  1. Oh wonderful - thank goodness Thanet has at least one councillor that knows what she is doing. No wonder the Tories hate her so much. Well done Iris!

  2. does this 'claptrap' come under the headline of election expenses for mrs hart?

  3. 20.56 looks like another tory tdc councillor sniping around the blogs and typical of some recent comments here and elsewhere no punctuation no capitals and nasty who might it be

  4. Nice picture shame I read most of the article and it seems nowt was decided TYPICAL TDC

  5. As a Ramsgate resident this all rather confirms my view that Thanet Council should be renamed Margate Council.

    The sooner Ramsgate Town Council has full powers and can declare UDI from TDC the better.


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