Monday, 30 January 2012

What do you do when Thanet District Council wastes our money on internet resources that don’t work properly?

I have had a reply to my complaint to the council about their various events websites, they don’t seem to want to sort the issue out, so I am now going down the road that wastes everyone’s time including their own and will probably eventually lead to The Local Government Ombudsman.

The correspondence is below and if anyone has any better ideas, please put them in the blog comments. 



Here is my initial complaint


 This complaint relates to the council’s events sites and results from my trying to get information about the New Year fireworks events in Thanet.

From Christmas 2011 until New Years day I tried to find information about New Years events using the councils three information websites and I have tried subsequently to use these websites to find information about what’s on in the three main Thanet towns in January.

None of the three council events websites mentioned either the fireworks event in Ramsgate that did take place or the cancellation of the one in Broadstairs and event coverage on all three sites for January is very poor.

Warming Words has no events listed for January see http://www.warmingwords.org.uk/january.aspx

Thanet District Council Community Information Portal has one event listed for January, see http://communityportal.thanet.gov.uk/home/

Visit Thanet while slightly better than the others shows only on event for Ramsgate for the whole of January comparing this with the amount of events listed in the local papers local papers, it seems that something has gone radically wrong with the way the council tourist information is ensuring that local events appear on the internet.

Below is one days listings of events from one local paper.

Saturday January 7

Bradstow Mill, Broadstairs, JEDWOOD

Port and Anchor, Ramsgate, EYELASH GUILT

Britannia, Margate, BARKIN’ MAD

Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs, STEVE MORRISON

Birchington United Services Club, Station Road, Birchington, OUTCOME

Margate Museum, Old Town Hall, Market Place, Margate, A GEORGIAN CHRISTMAS, 11am-5pm

Ramsgate Sports Centre, ROLLER DISCO, family session from 6-7.30pm, 8 years and upwards from 8-9.30pm

Club Caprice, Cliff Terrace, Cliftonville, DJ MASTER G, 8pm until late, chart, R & B etc

Harbour Street Bar, Ramsgate, KARAOKE

Revolution Skate Park, Dane Valley Road, St Peters, BEGINNERS CLIMBING CLUB, 5-6.30pm, 01843 866707/866706

Staffordshire Street Car Park, Ramsgate, MARKET

The Albert, Ramsgate, DISCO WITH DJ BLACK ICE, 8pm until late

The Pride of Ramsgate, Turner Street, GAY NIGHT CLUB, 10pm-3am

TDCCOM1860 ref supplied 10.01.2012
Best regards Michael
 Their response


In a message dated 25/01/2012 08:22:36 GMT Standard Time, *******@Thanet.gov.uk writes:
Dear Mr Child

Customer Feedback Reference:33343/1962152
Regarding Firework displays over the Christmas and New Year period.

Thank you for your recent communication which was received on 11/01/2012.

The council’s main website, www.thanet.gov.uk offers community groups and event organisers the facility to publish information about events, and these websites rely on this information being generated and published.

The warming words website is a literacy project and only features literacy based events. However, events have not been updated for January as there have been no events organised.

Unfortunately, the Council and Visit Thanet were not informed about the fireworks event in Ramsgate which took place and this is why this event wasn’t published on our websites.

The fireworks event in Broadstairs was not published because the decision to cancel the event was taken over the Christmas period and the council’s offices were closed.

We hope that this resolves the matter to your satisfaction.

If you are not happy with our response, you may write to us with your reasons within the next ten working days, requesting a further review. 

In order for us to respond as efficiently as possible, please ensure that you quote the above reference number and address your communication to Amanda Buckingham - Customer Feedback Co-ordinator, Business Services.

Yours sincerely

**** ***
Corporate Information and Improvement Manager


My reply to their response.

******, */****, I am requesting further review on this one.

At the moment we have three events information websites, all of which are using our limited council resources and none of them appear to be performing properly.

What I am trying to get you to do is to sort this issue out not excuse it, hopefully with one functional events website which shows the events that the various Thanet tourist information offices know about and the events that are sent to the council for inclusion, automatically or manually.

For the council’s main website homepage to be promoting only one church quiz in February one in March, a church tour in February and a gang show in March, as it is at the moment, is preposterous.     

I should point out here that a major exhibition of international significance, Turner and the Elements, opened in Margate this weekend.

To say that there are no literary events in January to put on the Warming Words website is equally preposterous, an example would be the Lemn Sissay Poetry Projection, this involves poetry about fifty feet high being projected onto the building immediately opposite the tourist information office.

The failure to promote or to make any notification of the cancellation of the fireworks events also seems to be inexcusable, these are both significant annual events with council notification being mandatory. Unless of course you are saying that the Ramsgate event was held on council property without the council being notified.

In these times of public cuts I find it wholly unacceptable that the council should waste their limited funds on three separate events sites, none of which function properly in representing the events, that the tourist information officers are aware of, on the internet.     

Best regards Michael

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Turner and the Elements at the Turner Contemporary a ramble


Today was my first visit to this exhibition and I suppose the notion of hanging the Turners grouped by the elements was one that I had some reservations about, having seen the exhibition my tentative opinion is that it works reasonably well.

The gallery was fairly busy, though not so busy that it prevented one from viewing the pictures, a very enjoyable aspect of this exhibition is that you can get right up close to the pictures, essential for the watercolours.

The elements that the pictures are grouped in are, earth, water, air, fire and fusion, in this instance fusion is meant to be a combination of all four.

There are various ways of doing this exhibition related to budget, we did this with some of my children, two ten year olds and my oldest (early twenties) daughter and her partner. So we mitigated the cost of eating and parking, drove to Westgate seafront and ate lunch at The West Bay Café.

This is very good value and being on the promenade makes it an easy one with children if you take skates, scooters or some other digestive aid.

Here are the pictures of Westgate today http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop112/id13.htm
A light lunch including drinks for all of us at The West Bay Café was under £20.
Parking on the road next to it is free and there are usually plenty of spaces.


On to parking on the Dreamland site, this cost £1.50 for four hours, there are usually plenty of spaces here, parking closer to the Turner Contemporary can often be expensive or limited to two hours, unless you want to pay for all day.

Then on to take advantage of Margate’s rather sad High Street, this time to buy some really cool shoes for one of my children in the closing sown sale of a shoe shop.

Here is the link to the next batch of pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop112/id14.htm


Occupy Thanet are occupying a bit of pavement outside the Turner Contemporary, some comment about this here http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/2012/01/occupy-thanet-to-hold-event-in-margate.html I found it interesting to talk to the protesters and in some way it adds to the interest of visiting the exhibition. Camping there in January has much to do with the elements and if I didn’t have other commitments I would like to have joined them for a day or so to better understand their concerns.

It isn’t allowed to photograph the exhibition so I didn’t here are the next lot of pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop112/id15.htm  



As I have said before the only window in the gallery facing the right way is in the restaurant and I went there to watch the sunset over a cup of tea, after some amount of psyching myself up I had a go at a watercolour. The sunset was moving quickly and this was paint straight onto wet paper, it didn’t come out very well but after seeing the turners I had to get hold of a brush.


The sunset pretty much stops play there as people line the window with their phones to photograph it.

Having failed with the watercolour I then proceeded to take some pictures in the dark, here they are http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop112/id16.htm

I will ramble on here this evening adding text and images as I feel inclined.    

Friday, 27 January 2012

Thanet District Council Webcast 19th January Council Meeting about the budget, Margate Football Club and so on.


The thing with local government here in Thanet is that one is inclined to get something that is both not very good and expensive, the webcasts of the council meetings fall into this bracket.

For the rest of us who live in the normal world outside local government, putting a video on the internet costs us nothing and the end result is something that is much more usable than what the council have done.

You have to appreciate that apart from the times when their equipment fails the council makes video recordings of their meetings anyway, they even produce dvds of these meetings.

What they have put on the internet is only slightly larger in size than a postage stamp and after a very short time of trying to peer at it with my reading glasses I looked for alternatives.

They have disabled the facility to enlarge the video and don’t provide the embed code for it either, so to view their very small version go to http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council_meeting_webcast-1.aspx

Alternatively download the video file from their website http://www.thanet.gov.uk/files/CMmeetingJan12.flv right clicking on the link and selecting save target as should do the trick. You can then open it with one of the free video players, the best one of these is http://www.videolan.org/vlc/ mind you untick the boxes for the stuff you don’t want on the way, or you will make something your homepage and put some strange programs that you probably don’t want on your computer.

Doing it this way you can at least identify the people in the webcast although the quality is still fairly poor.


The message that publishing the webcast in this way sends out to me is that either the officers are ashamed of the councillors or they are ashamed of the democratic process.


As you can see from the video below, published by TDC to their youtube account, the council do have a youtube account and what they publish to it has good quality definition and all of the usual versatility associated with youtube. 


I do wonder if the intention here – no press release, only a small link with no picture on the council’s homepage, the small size and poor quality – is intended to minimise the number of people viewing it, so the council can say that the interest is so small that it doesn’t justify webcasting these meetings.
I will write some more about this when I have seen more of the webcast.

David Cameron, The World Economic Forum and Boris Johnson. A quick sketch

A watercolour sketch of Boris Johnson today, not very good I know, but when I draw sketches of people that most readers will recognise then I tend to publish them.

This I suppose is something to with youth and politics, I had just read Will Scobie’s post about youth and politics yesterday evening, see http://williamscobie.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-speech-on-cuts-to-youth-services.html and was very much thinking that my younger children aren’t at all politically engaged, which I suppose I am, up to a point.

I then went on to watch what David Cameron had said at The World Economic Forum, after hearing the same edited bits of the speech several times and wondering if I was ever going to hear what he had to say, rather than the bits the press had decided I ought to hear, I managed to find the whole thing at http://www.weforum.org/videos/special-address-david-cameron-annual-meeting-2012

I have to admit to not finding political speeches the most enthralling thing in the world, but if one doesn’t listen to the important ones it is a bit difficult to tell what is going on. So while I watch these things I tend to sketch the speaker with the children in the background who on the whole take very little notice.
Towards the end of the speech Boris Johnson came on and so I started sketching him instead and was surprised that my younger children both ten recognised him and became extremely critical of my pencil sketch.

They didn’t like this first one at all, it seems Boris looks a lot nicer so I was required and requested to do a better sketch.
So here is the pencil sketch of Boris Johnson that I coloured in above sorry it’s still a bit wet the fixative for the watercolour. Even then I was made to rub out his mouth and do it again so he looked happier.

The point though is I think that our politicians, for the most part now, seem to have been groomed and spun to the point where they are of no interest to the youf of today.

Incidentally I have been fiddling with my blog settings which seem to periodically change automatically, the most significant thing I have done concerns the pictures in the posts. I have managed to change them back to how they worked before, particularly important with some of the local history ones, where I know people want the high definition image. So while it lasts if you click on an image it will expand and if the original was large, then if you click on the expanded image it will expand again, possibly something best not done with my sketches. Once you have done all of this palaver if right click on the largest of the images you can save it on your computer.
 

I will ramble on here, I have the rather boring task of taking the council to task once again and I am putting it off, however I am sure the eventual resultant post will be of more interest to readers.     

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Pugin and Pugin in Ramsgate, gods own architects.


If you haven’t seen the BBC program about Augustus Welby Pugin then click on the link to watch it http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01b1z45/Pugin_Gods_Own_Architect/ the last bit of the program is the bit about Ramsgate.

As it is an awful lot of people have watched the program and many of them seem to have got their Pugins a bit muddled, so if you don’t want to make a bit of a clown of yourself when discussing Ramsgate’s historic buildings, this is one to read.

There were two Pugins, who designed buildings in Ramsgate, father and son in fact, so it is easy to get confused.    

Pugin number 1, the father is; Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin born 1 March 1812 died 14 September 1852, he designed “The Grange” and “St Augustine's Church” 

Pugin number 2, the son is; Edward Welby Pugin born 11 March 1834 died 5 June 1875 he designed “The Granville” and “Hudsons Flour Mill”


I will do some more of this if I get time
Hudsons Mill 1900

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs interview

The portrait of Bill Gates, sketch is probably a better word, is one of several I drew of both men while watching this rather dated video of when they were interviewed together in 2007.

Of course Steve Jobs is dead now and somehow I had missed this interview which I found interesting as I suppose these two men are behind most of the technology that we all use now.

Sorry if you weren’t expecting this rather geeky post and I doubt many will bother to watch the interview, which goes on for ages, yet I suppose it is very much key to the way the world has changed so much in the last fifteen years.

Sorry I didn’t quite catch Bill Gates as well as I wanted to, he isn’t an easy person to draw, a lot more shading would have produced a better likeness but it is the lines that separate him from the rest of humanity that interest me. Perhaps I will have another go another time.
Here is the pencil sketch of Bill Gates before I coloured it in, pencil sketches don’t photograph that well hence the colour.

And here the video if I can get it to embed





Well the sketches were drawn while watching the video, I won’t bore you with the others and am very wary of copying photos from the internet for copyright reasons, not quite sure what to say about the video as I have just finished watching it.

I think it something to do with personal computer technology having reached some sort of watershed where I can’t imagine really needing much more than a few tweaks to what I have now and what was talked about in the interview.   

I can’t see really what I am going to need beyond the laptop I have now and the internet phone I have now, in terms of groundbreaking innervations. Well it’s something like that, the beginning of the end of an era, not sure.

I think this has something to do with technological futures, I think sometime in the 1890s or 19 0s it became clear that the telephone would change the world 1920s or 30s maybe later it became clear that radio and then television would, working in electronics and on computer projects in the 1960s and 70s it was clear to me and the people I was working with that computers would change the world sometime in the 1980s or 90s I think most people realised that the internet would, sometime in the 20 0s it became clear that the mobile internet would, but I don’t really know what’s next, I think perhaps for the first time in my adult life, I cant really pin down the next personal technological breakthrough.

Thanet District Council night flights report now published


Here is the link to the full report http://www.thanet.gov.uk/pdf/Manston%20International%20%20Airport%20Validation%20Report%20230112.pdf  


I am having a very busy day today which means that the odd chances I get to read this thing, mostly standing in queues, is on my mobile, so here is a link to a text only version of the document for anyone else in the same predicament http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/112/id5.htm  


If you have read this report like I have, I guess that the overall conclusion is that the airport have presented a case for night flights that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Up to now we have had the anti night flights lobby saying that the airport was asking for something unreasonable, the airport saying that they weren’t, well now we an expert opinion saying that the airport are asking for something unreasonable.  

Not only does what they are proposing exceed the normal and reasonable levels for noise, but their employment projections don’t add up.

The employment projections are important because there is an employment downside, something that I think is clearest in the Olympic night flights that I covered the other day, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2012/01/olympic-night-flights-at-manston.html

In simple terms Ramsgate is under the main flight path and combining this information with the information that there are to four landings or takeoffs allowed from Manston every hour between 11pm and 5am during the Olympics, regardless of any other information, given the option of a similar town, would you book into a hotel here during the Olympics?

Obviously this has employment implications not only for the hotels here but the businesses that get extra custom from people visiting Ramsgate.   



I suppose often in Thanet the difficulty is a decoding process, rather than looking at some firms proposals and deciding if we want them to happen here, we do seem to attract potty schemes that get support and investment from our local government. Six figure sums they have invested in EKO that hasn’t produced the employment it was meant to, or Pleasurama another large council spend, where the developer is building without following the basic safety recommendations of the environment agency.


So one has to try and decode what the airport actually intend here, by this I mean why they asked for something unreasonable in the first place. 

One possibility is that the council has developed a bit of history for being lax and so the airport thought they could get away with something that wouldn’t be tolerated elsewhere.

Another possibility is this is all part of some bargaining process that will eventually lead to the airport restrictions being the same as other similar UK airports. 

Another possibility is that the airport owners are trying to achieve as lax a regulation as they can with the objective of making the airport attractive to a potential buyer.    



Don’t get me wrong here, I am not against the airport, when a plane comes over I am more inclined to take a picture of it that moan about the noise.


That said I don’t get a sense that they have done anything much to engage the local community, even those who would just like to know when they are expecting an interesting plane so one can take a picture of it flying overhead. 


My own thoughts here are that we don’t really stand much chance of getting much in the way of employment intensive industry here in Thanet, but we do have some potential for tourism.



I think up to a point The Turner Contemporary has proved this, there appears to be much more demand for a leisure destination here in the southeast than there was even twenty years ago.

I would guess that if the airport wants to succeed it’s the expansion of the historic aircraft side that makes sense and if the operators are going to continue subsidising it at a six figure level, then they are in the position to achieve this to an eventual state where they would probably see a profit.
As I said I was in a bit of a rush today and seem to have overdone the pictures fo the amount of text, please excuse this error. 








Thanet District Council press releases, are they censoring the ones they send to bloggers?

 I have just sent the email below to the people at Thanet District Council, in this case the; Corporate Information & Communications Manager, Chief Executive and Leader of the Council: 
 
 “Hi Justine, Sue, Clive

This once again relates to council press releases in general with one serving as an example of the problem.

So this time it’s the “night-time flying: Independent assessment”
It would appear from the various local papers websites that they have been sent this document and I haven’t.

My understanding was that I would be sent images and attachments relating to council press releases and this doesn’t seem to be happening.

Of course this may be some misunderstanding on my part, I which case please just drop the issue as I have no wish to waste officers time.

If the document was sent to the conventional press and not to me, then please take this as an official complaint that it wasn’t sent to me and please also take this as a foi request asking which information, press releases and associated attachments, have been sent to the conventional press and not to me, since you agreed to reinstate me on the press release mailing list.”


If I get a chance I will elaborate on this post, as it is I am very busy this morning so may not get time. 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Olympic Night Flights at Manston

Apparently up to 44 aircraft between 10pm and 7am see http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2012/january/21/olympics_flights.aspx#.TxrvZ8b7HNk.twitter

For some comparison Heathrow gets about 16 flights per night period, which is between 11.30pm - 6.00am


All the way down the line with the night flights issue it is the ratio between day flights and night flights that concers me. Heathrow for instance would have about 1,300 flights a day and all the associated jobs for their 16 night flights, we seem to get 168 day flights for our 44 night flights.

Make no mistake here this isn’t and anti airport or an anti night flights post, this is about ratio between economic benefit from nuisance and appears to set an unfortunate benchmark for the future.

Update the allowance is two arrivals and departures – that is four flights per hour - every hour between 11pm and 5am, six flights per hour between 5am and 8am and eight flights between 10pm and 11pm.

Margate some pictures, The Turner Contemporary and when art isn’t art, I make a complete ass of myself on Youtube some pictures a ramble.


Sunday my day off and we went to Margate, mainly to see the new Hamish Fulton exhibition, this mostly consists of large posters with text on them and I have to admit to being disappointed.

You are not allowed to photograph this exhibition, so I didn’t.

The Turner exhibition at The Turner Contemporary opens next weekend and that is one I am looking forward to.

Here are the photos I did take


and


my excuse is that I had my younger children with me.

The sketch above was done in the gallery’s restaurant while waiting for children to eat up, go to the lavatory and so on, I am slowly developing the nerve to sketch in public places. If you were a victim please accept my apologies.
I can’t seem to photograph pencil sketches so have given it a quick wash.


One thing that always amazes me is that the only window in the building facing the sunset is in the restaurant, I hope Turner was a gastronome as well as an artist because this is where the light is. 


With Hamish Fulton’s art as I have said before words fail me, so here is the sketch of his Margate walk.


If anyone can find a review of this exhibition I would be interested to read it, The Turner Contemporary is supposed to be an important gallery and the exhibition has been on for a week now, but apart from media that have just put out the galley’s press release I can’t find anything


Anyway the exhibition is in one room, photos here on gallery’s website http://www.turnercontemporary.org/exhibitions/hamish-fulton what you see is what you get.


  Another new business in Margate Old Town, Rough Trade, official opening next weekend, well worth a look.





I will ramble on here