Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Labour Shadow Team comments & questions at Tuesday evenings TDC Cabinet meeting


It was a very long agenda at Tuesday evenings TDC Cabinet meeting and I never fail to be impressed by the wealth of experience and knowledge our Labour Group has in relation to council business or by their firm commitment to use that experience and knowledge for the benefit of Thanet residents.

Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770

Item 4 BUDGET MONITORING - Cllr. IRIS JOHNSTON2.2 I welcome the setting aside of revenue to support concessionary fares but rather wonder why this has become necessary. At a recent meeting of the Travel forum I and others raised the practice of the bus companies issuing an 'open' ticket. You are not asked for your destination and in conversation with Mr Paul Clark of Stagecoach last week he advised me they charge for an 'average' fare. Does the Cabinet know how much this is? As most people seem to make short journeys it may be we are refunding more than is required. I would also be interested in the details surrounding Stagecoach's appeal which is news to me.
The Chief. Exec. responded by explaining that the subsidy mechanism was not as accurate as it should be. He said Cllr. Johnston's point was well made but that accurate journey measurement was not available at present.
Homelessness Reserve. One of my sons works for the Scrine foundation in Canterbury so I should declare an interest in this item. However as we are discussing Thanet I am concerned that funding to the homeless charities in Margate have been cut yet we see figures of 30k and 50k which could have been used.3.1 I am surprised to see a projected underspend of £136k on the Housing Revenue Account. During the elections we came across some very poor conditions in council blocks especially in Tomlin Drive which I reported to officers. The dereliction did not happen overnight and looks like at least a couple of years neglect. We thought the property was empty it looked so bad.

A leading officer responded explaining that no stock survey had taken place for some time but that it is now taking place.3.2 The penultimate paragraph refers to a 'higher than anticipated number of voids' with apparently over 4,000 people on the waiting list and 26 days given as the time to relet elsewhere in the agenda, could Cllr Wiltshire please explain the delays when so many people are in need?5.0 (page 7). ERDF Projects. I am very surprised this matter is not yet concluded. I first asked in September 2003 for a return to proper monitoring of all grants and an insistence on the return of monies where applicants failed to stick to our criteria. I would want to know if all tourism funding to hotels that went over to flats under this Conservative administration has been fully repaid?

Cllr. Johnston was assured that all previous recipients of grants had been contacted and the matter was being progressed.

Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207

Further notes:

Item 4. The Shadow Cabinet are concerned about potential repayment on ERDF projects 31 & 33.
Item 5. The Shadow Cabinet also have concerns regarding financial modeling of the HR Shared Payroll which shows a reduction of £200,000.00.
The Labour Group will discuss these matters internally and may well push for further scrutiny of both issues.


No Shadow member registered to speak on this issue, but Cllr. Wise gave a lengthy speech explaining how the recent elections had hi-lighted the wishes of local residents and that "we" may have made wrong decisions in relation to local residents priorities. He gave removal of flower beds in Cliftonville as one example.

Cllr. Ezekiel also stated that he accepted that "we" didn't consult well enough on the flower beds and said "we" now needed better co-ordination.
Item 7 ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REPORT - Cllr. IRIS JOHNSTONAnnex 1, Page 108 number 4.4a It is clear this scheme is not as simple as officers first led the ruling group to believe.I have suggested on several occasions that the only way TDC can ascertain whether tenants are supportive or not of the plans would be to hold a ballot. Could the Cabinet please confirm that they are committed to a ballot should this idea move forward?

I and many tenants are concerned that this is a first step towards privitising council housing as outlined in a Conservative policy letter written by Cllr Ezekiel in 2001 when he was Leader of the opposition. I have a copy!

The Chief. Exec. said this was not a stock transfer, that tenants will be consulted in the autumn, that the project was moving at the pace of the slowest council but that there would be no ballot of yes or no.
Page 111. 5.2b Could I please have details of whom TDC are meeting with regard to the Older Peoples Strategy?

Cllr. Johnston was informed that this was being undertaken across Kent and not at individual district level. It was a 'high level' document and currently out to consultation. Are we taking into account the changes in the 34 and 9 bus routes which have caused considerable hardship to many older people in Margate and will you join me in actively working with Stagecoach to return to the previous timetable?Page 111. 5.4a The Elmstone Unit is now committed to only taking older people with mental health problems. Younger sufferers have to travel outside the area for residential help. The closure of the Charlotte Centre and the distance to the Beacon is causing considerable hardship for people requiring day care and support. Could TDC please make this a priority campaign with Health providers?

The Chief. Exec. said this was not a TDC issue and not part of the corporate plan.

Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207

My understanding is that targets should be stretching yet achievable and an aide to improving performance. Therefore can the cabinet member tell me why on Page 121 under the heading “outputs & outcomes for customers” seven of the twelve outcome targets for next year are less than the actual achievement for this year? Is this an early indicator of diminishing council performance?

Cllr. Wise said indicators were taken in the light of resourcing issues and the Chief. Exec. outlined the differences concerning each indicator.

I am therefore concerned about the possible low standard of street cleaning services to be provided for Ramsgate.

Cllr. Peter Campbell - Phone: 01843 585738
Item 8 HOUSING RENEWAL DRAFT STRATEGY - Cllr. IRIS JOHNSTONFirstly, I wish to pay tribute to TDC Housing staff who are generally brilliant!

4.3.2 I know all of the ward councillors in Cliftonville West and Cllr Watkins and myself value the substantial funding given to Thanet by the Labour Government both for Renewal grants, Regeneration and Stronger Safer Communities. Unfortunately not all of it has gone to those I would see most in need.Could you please confirm that the latest nationwide tranche of £100m towards council house building has been bid for and what date in July we will know about our share.? It's for areas like ours that the money was intended.

Cllr. Wiltshire responded saying that the fund was a 'first come - first served' scheme and others would beat TDC.

Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207


Though I am obviously very pleased with the outcomes for Northdown House and Ramsgate Museum, I do feel that it would be courteous for the TDC leader to announce decisions in the correct manner at Cabinet meetings and not through the press. It really is not good enough to 'jump the gun' and make announcements 'on the hoof'.

Cllr. Ezekiel responded with a long lecture on Northdown House, at the end of which he thanked Cllr. Johnston for all he had learned about Northdown House and its covenants from her thorough research.

Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207

The Labour group ask cabinet to review its position. We note that the final decision on disposal of Council owned assets will still be taken by the Cabinet. The Labour Group believes that if the Cabinet decide to dispose of an owned asset, then full council should take the final decision.

The Chief. Exec. insisted this was a cabinet decision.

Can the cabinet assure the Labour group that when it agrees that it is appropriate to site masts or telecom equipment, on council owned property. The company installing the equipment will be liable for any damage caused in its installation?

Assurance was given.

Cllr. Peter Campbell - Phone: 01843 585738


Paragraph 2.11 of the report says - Secondly, we (TDC) expressed concern that a statement in the Plan that Thanet needed no additional employment land during the Plan period, could be misinterpreted and preclude a major inward investor seeking to locate here. As a result of our representations the following has been added to the text :- "Any major new investment proposals which may come forward should not, however, be ruled out."
Can I please ask - was this statement added to facilitate phases 2 and 3 of the China Gateway development?

A TDC officer answered - no it is not specific to the China Gateway development.

Cllr. Latchford was annoyed that the question had even been asked and re-stated that the China Gateway was phase 1 only.

Paragraph 2.12 says 'These final two changes are important as they will support future infrastructure funding decisions in this area and the additional comment on employment land is a very helpful and supportive statement that will help ensure that any appropriate new unplanned and unforeseen opportunities that arise will be supported'.

Isn't that pre-determination? Should that last word not be - considered?

An officer pointed to the word 'appropriate'.

Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770
Item 14 PETITION TO COUNCIL - MARGATE CAVES* - Cllr. IRIS JOHNSTONCouncillor John Watkins and I have asked on a number of occasions over 18 months for this site to be properly secured. In recent weeks there have been two incidents of breaking and entering. Could Cabinet please insist that officers make the site properly secure? We have a duty of care should anyone be injured even if they are up to no good.

Cllr. Ezekiel appeared unaware of any break-ins and the Chief. Exec. gave a commitment to improve security.

Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207


(comment made following the meeting).

I was saddened by the flippant manner in which TDC Cabinet Members responded to Cllr. Iris Johnston's sincere call for help with tidying the derelict TDC site at Margate Caves. When she called for help, Cabinet members joked and laughed about leaving it to go back to nature. I really do wonder if those same cabinet members would take the same view if the caves were in a prominent spot in one of their wards?

Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770


Discussions took place in closed session but please be assured Labour Shadow members played a vital role in both debates.

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

Ed. My understanding is that the maritime museum went through in principle although there appear to be some details still to sort out which will come back to the next cabinet in August. This could be unfortunate as it could stop the museum taking advantage of much of the summer season.

Apparently the lack of final closure of the arrangements shouldn’t hold up preparations for reopening. Whether the steam museum trust see things that way, I don’t know yet.

The cabinet's decision on Pleasurama is still on hold, but they have decided on a recommendation that will go to the next full Council next month.


  1. Glad you report a bit of humility from the leader about the poor handling of the asset sales and i hope he apologised for all the unpleasant comments he made in the press about those who campaigned - rightly as time has shown against some of the sales which the council could not make!

  2. Well done, Michael for the work put into this strand; most helpful and informative, thanks.

  3. Bertie the credit is to Clive Heart I only produced the last two paragraphs and yes my thanks to him too.

  4. The Shadow Iris meeting. She has been busy. Good effort.

  5. Re: the Margate caves. Would be interesting to know which Councillors were laughing and joking about leaving them to go back to nature as Clive Hart reports, although I can imagine. Very sad when Councillors treat such matters so flippantly.

  6. Seems a little one sided to me, and sad that the Labour people dob't care about foxes, birds and dormice which have to live somewhere too. Why clean it up to make it look nice when it could provide a home for creatures and plants until the council has enough money to do proper work on the caves?


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