Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Thanet District Council's Secret Cabinet Reshuffle

I have just received confirmation that the portfolio for Ramsgate Marina been has moved from councillor Simon Moores to Councillor Robert Bayford.

I then contacted the council’s democratic services who told me that they were unaware of this situation and like the rest of us assumed that any change in portfolio would be decided at the council meeting to be held on 15th July.

My concern here is that this is an already done deal, made by the new leader of the council. Make no mistake here I have no problem with the cabinet reshuffling portfolios and these reshuffles being the subject of a council meeting agenda and the decision being made by council vote.

Where I do have a problem though is where the cabinet is making decisions and then using the council meetings as a rubber stamp, this is the difference between democracy and dictatorship.

I suppose there is the alternative of local government by dictatorship and I suppose that this would be reasonable as long as the dictator told us about major decisions effecting Thanet.

My attempts to elicit some sort of reply from our new leader so far have fallen on barren ground once again I am happy to accept individual councillors failing to reply to emails so I am happy to accept no reply from cllr-robert.bayford@thanet.gov.uk however I find no reply not even an acknowledgement from leader@thanet.gov.uk wholly unacceptable.

I consider questions about the Maritime Museum and The King George IV Maritime Heritage Pontoon, important to Ramsgate and worthy of some sort of answer.

18 comments:

  1. As a local councillor said on the BigNewsMargate last week about another TDC press release made before the share service job decision had been taken,
    its an own goal. More like another case of contempt by TDC and its cabinet for the ordinary folk of Thanet.
    TDC leadership and the cabinet need sending on a good training course to stop these own goals.

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  2. What a bizarre post - and an even more bizarre comment. When the new cabinet took over, with fewer numbers, back in May - delivering immediate savings to the budget, it was made quite clear that there may be alterations and changes to the lists of responsibilites as things settled down. There may be more than one of these changes, and they will be reported to, and debated by, a council meeting in the future. We do not, and never have, called council meetings for every decision. Thats why Cabinets exist, to make decisions between and around full council meetings.

    To say this post is a storm in a teacup is probably being too generous!

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  3. Chris, the problem here for me is that here in Ramsgate we are getting a very raw deal from the council with respect to heritage attractions in the harbour, I will remind you that the council has just agreed to spend £2m on a heritage attraction in Margate.

    Now the holiday season is starting the maritime museum is closed, all of the historic vessels have left the harbour, now I expect there to be a cabinet member responsible for the marina who will tell me what is going on.

    I, you may remember, am trying to run a business in a difficult economic climate, virtually all the shops around me have either closed or are in the process of closing, the whole of the eastcliff part of Ramsgate is becoming rundown.

    A lot of this stems from twelve years of Pleasurama being derelict. But much is caused by the council’s attitude to our leisure facilities.

    I would say that we are pretty much at the point where the Preston Steam Trust have given up on getting any sensible agreement with the council and once they pull out I don’t think there will be anyone else to take their place.

    Last year we lost their entire program of events in the town, I would see the bucket and spade event as a typical example of a Ramsgate event, over ten thousand people turned up here in Ramsgate for that last week.

    It is really about time that we saw some sort of open government with information available about major projects, the days of secret decisions made by a small group, to be ratified by a sham of democracy are over.

    Now I would far rather let the council get on with running a proper democratic form of government, so if you will point me at whoever is the cabinet member for the marina and ensure that they will consider and respond to me about these issues than that is fine.

    Storm in a teacup it may be to you, to me it is about the fundamental democratic process, so either no one is cabinet member for the marina until the council meeting rubber stamps the decision made unofficially behind closed doors, or someone is, any idea who?

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  4. I willanswer the question and ignore the rant, if I may.

    Technically the Marina remains the preserve of Simon Moores until the next council meeting. In reality, you will always be better to approach via officers when you have detailed questions, particularly if you know there is a chance of a change of portfolio holder. Presumably the Leader can answer for any of the portfolios anyway.

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  5. Cllr Wells, Your comments illustrate how little you know or care about the situation in Ramsgate.

    Any "savings" you have made to your budget are more than cancelled out by loss of tourist revenue in Ramsgate.

    TDC performance so far:
    12yr old "bomb site" at Pleasurama
    Royal Pavilion DERELICT
    Maritime Museum CLOSED
    Visitor Information Centre CLOSED
    Motor Museum CLOSED
    Albion House CLOSED and derelict
    Heritage Pontoons EMPTY
    Many Harbour Moorings EMPTY
    HOOT enquiry FIASCO
    Listed Chine FOR SALE
    1 gold anchor LOST
    11th hour dredging CONTINUES
    Need I carry on.

    Is this incompetence or deliberate policy?

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  6. 'Approach via officers' - you must be joking. When it comes to senior/middle management I have never come across a more discourteous, incompetent or unprofessional body of people. Lack of basic knowledge for their 'specialisms', not even acknowledging emails/letters,and mostly an inability to actual deliver when it matters. Apart from that I have every confidence!

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  7. Chris as examples of what the official channels mean in reality, over the Pleasurama issue I made an foi request in October of last year, the council managed to delay this so much that it is only now being reviewed by the information commissioner, I also made a complaint related to public safety issues and the cliff façade that the council spent £1m having repaired unsuccessfully, due to delays there this has only just reached the LGO.

    I suppose in the first instance this is understandable as the document shows that the cabinet voted against the director if finance’s recommendation to determine the development agreement, as far as I can see this leaves them with a potential £3m liability that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

    With the condition of the cliff though anyone can see the weeds growing through the cracks of the repaired façade now, the main thing I have asked for is that the officer concerned puts up signage to prevent heavy vehicles going top side in case there an accident, so far I have had his written agreement that he will do this sometime in the future, that was about 4 months ago.

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  8. Tourist office closures - i had holidaymakers into my business yesterday and they asked me where they could find out about local things open! i said i think you only have Quex!The caves closed! I know i forgot the grotto! They were staying in Broadstairs i gave them what leaflets i had and had to send them to Margate tourist info as Broadstairs is closed!
    Just what is this council doing to promote the area other than letting developers loose on it!
    Chris you can't keep defending your fellow incompetent councillors forever! You may work hard and do your job properly but i am sorry to say with a very few exceptions the rest of the crew are not an advert of good local governance by Conservatives!

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  9. If Chris Wells thinks Michael is ranting he better go with the whole cabinet and see for himself what a dump of a place Ramsgate has become. Other comments have reiterated his point. Money may be tight now but in the last few years there has been plenty of government money given to Thanet and Ramsgate is no better for it. All residents want is a bit of openness. Maybe the con-libdem's pledge to local government transparency will have an impact on TDC and those both paid and elected to serve.

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  10. The REALLY sad thing about all the above mentioned CLOSURES is that it is not from lack of interested parties to keep them running

    It is TDC's inability to work with and for the people of Ramsgate.

    If finance is the problem then work with RTC to find alternative funding sources for community development.

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  11. Angry ResidentJune 16, 2010 9:38 am

    I feel I MUST add my voice to these comments.

    Chris Wells, along with others, needs to take off the rose tinted spectacles, stop the eloquent words, listen to the residents and face reality. Just look at the dereliction and missed opportunities.

    For whatever reason our local government is not fit for purpose. Instead of walking around my town with pride, I walk around with a sense of anger and frustration at what is happening.

    TDC had better take note, because if they don't do something soon, the residents will.

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  12. That's funny, Chris Wells has gone quiet!

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  13. 9.13 I do have to grant that it was a bit of a rant, I tend to put these things together as I think them out, always done between the demands of the bookshop and family.

    But frankly I am furious, this isn’t about money the historic vessel pontoon and maritime museums are cases in point here, with the maritime museum the council put it on the asset disposal list so the trust offer to buy the building with a clause in the sale agreement that it had to be used as a museum in perpetuity, then the council took it off the asset disposal list. They offered the trust a 99 year lease, grant funding youth employment projects volunteers were all arranged based on this offer, the idea being to repair the museum building, dry dock, Cervia’s hull, expand the museum using the part that is just a maze of useless little rooms. All this was be at no cost to the council, I should remind people here that previously the council had been funding the museum to the tune £50k pa.

    Most important to the town though was the museum’s plans to hold a series of events through last summer, they even managed to acquire a national ship’s portable steam boiler so that they could run Cervia’s engine for these events.

    The council then withdrew the offer of the lease, so all of this failed to happen, the damage to the town’s economy must have been considerable.

    Look at last week’s bucket and spade event about ten thousand people turned up in Ramsgate, yes all this makes me very angry indeed.

    Similar with the historic vessel pontoon, this isn’t really any use for anything else so where the council were getting reduced fees, now they have an empty pontoon and no income from it.

    9.38 what amazes me here is that the new cabinet are behaving as though they have taken over from an opposition party and that the problems are of someone else’s making.

    9.39 I just don’t think Chris is like that I am pretty sure he will endeavour to address some of these issues.

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  14. Michael we need some more independants like you to rally together and stand for TDC then it might make the useless lazy councillors see that we do care about Thanet. Are you up for it? I know it is difficult to run a business, look after children etc and then go to meetings but there is no use in ranting about it and not putting your head on the block? Needs a load of independants to run TDC without any vested interests- no property developers here zone!

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  15. Well, good morning ladies and gentlemen. I have read all your comments with interest, though I will not be responding to every comment in detail,as they reflect years of decisions, and many assumptions on all sides as to what may actually have happened.

    I will confine myself to two fairly simple comments. Firstly, to the challenge where had I gone? To work; on both my own, for family income, and your, on cabinet business behalf.

    Secondly, to the underlying challenge/assumption that anyone on the council, responsible for decisions is anti Ramsgate - no, of course not.

    There are many misconceptions and assumptions of just how much is under the district council's control; and how much must be achieved in partnership with others, who have to be willing as well.

    I will/have passed relevant comments to relevant officers/members. Some will have to sit unanswered for reasons such as commercial confidentiality.

    As a final thought, there is a warning here for any councillor who contemplates comment on blogs. A narrow and specific issue has rapidly become a whole range of demands, accusations, assumptions, and personal attack/support. I am one of the few councillors who still sometimes comments. The dangers of doing so, and being drawn into wider territories where one's own information may be patchy is plain to see. Its often a potential lose/lose - damned if you do comment; damned if you dont respond. Perhaps you could all reflect upon that, and the position you put us all in on occasion, and realise why blog comment from councillors is getting rarer and rarer.

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  16. Your description of commenting on a blog is very true. Not every one will agree with you, so by putting your toe in the water you risk getting it bitten off.

    However all councils and councillors are elected by the people,for the people and open decisions will always be challanged. They are still preferable to decisions in secret.

    The blogs provide comment and discussion on items of importance and reach a wider audience. In the future this form of discussion will undoubtedly be more widely used and councils will have to get used to becoming accountable to their electorate

    LONG LIVE THE BLOGS & OPEN DEMOCRACY

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  17. Cllr Wells you may wish to reflect on the differing tones between you first and last comments on the item.

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  18. 11.18 No chance my hands would be tied and I would have to be very careful about what I said.

    Chris, first any personal or abusive comment about you or anyone else made here will be removed immediately and if you see anything I have missed just email me.

    Next frankly I don’t think that Ramsgate is being treated fairly by the council, you can always email me and I will send you more detail on this.

    Take for example Westgate Pavilion, how long do you think it will be empty? The equivalent building in Ramsgate Westcliff Hall, how long do you think that has been empty?

    A very major issue in Ramsgate is that the council just don’t tell us what is going on, very big issues like Pleasurama, the Royal Victoria Pavilion, The Maritime Museum remain shrouded in secrecy, to me these are issues that are crippling the town’s economy and damaging my business.

    Just as an example every year for the last six I have asked for the Pleasurama site to be used for leisure while the delays go on, every year I have been assured that the development was to start immediately, apart from one when it was used.

    On at least one occasion I can prove that these assurances were lies, not people being economical with the truth but people who knew that the development wouldn’t start when they said it would.

    Once again I have asked for temporary use for the site this year, now with no flood risk assessment and the problems with the cliff façade I don’t see how it can start this summer.

    It isn’t much to ask that the main council owned site in the most prominent tourist position in Ramsgate being used instead of being a huge builders rubbish tip.

    Frankly Ramsgate is one of the two main Ramsgate towns and I think it needs a cabinet member looking after its interests, £2m from TDC for a heritage project in Margate just isn’t being matched here with our heritage issues, well there are so many examples of disparity I won’t go there as I am sure you are aware of them.

    Finally I should say that I have considerable respect for your efforts both in commenting and trying to do something about the issues that are listed in the comments on this post.

    You may wish to consider that much more open government would give people a much greater understanding of the council, at the moment the general perception among local people is that the council is a bad council and I don’t think this will ever be altered until the council publishes all of the documents they hold that don’t have to be concealed publicly on the internet.

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