I have been commenting on Thanet Life blog since sometime in 2006, sending Simon information and pictures that he has published there since that time too, so I was pretty much gob smacked when I got an email from him today saying that he was refusing to publish a comment I had made there. This hasn’t happened before and I am not certain if I will ever be able to comment there again, or for that matter if I will even bother to try.
This relates to a key Thanet issue that Simon raised on his blog about consultation over the disposal Thanet’s council owned leases.
Here is what the said:
Andrew, the most fundamental change is the treatment of long leases of 25 years or more as part of the overall asset disposal process.
The emphasis is now very much on consultation as part of such a process to avoid circumstances where the council is seen to be over-riding the wishes of local people without proper consideration of their arguments. 1.37 pm.”
Now an important point here is when this change came into effect, because of some of the disposal issues that have come up recently in Thanet. There have been many contentious asset issues in Thanet, part of Hartsdown Park in Margate being the most recent.
Here in Ramsgate there are several large council owned assets in prominent positions and some of them have been effected by this rule, Pleasurama where the council granted a 200 year lease to the developer without any consultation, The Maritime Museum where the council invoked this rule in a way that caused the closure of the museum, the slipways where the council used this rule to prevent a developer obtaining a long lease to build a bar complex there.
This is essentially an issue about money, as developers need leases longer than 25 years to finance developments on council owned land, hence the council are able to effectively halt the Margate Football Club development, that has planning permission, by not offering the club a long lease. This can also effect grant funding for charitable organisations wishing to run council assets. There is also the common sense side of this, it you are going to run a museum or theatre, you are in for the long hall and can’t invest heavily when the building’s security is a matter of the council’s whim, even if you could I doubt the charity commissioner would let you.
Anyway here is the link to Simon’s blog post http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/02/lost-in-translation.html and here is my comment that he refused to publish.
Michael Child has left a new comment on your post "Lost in Translation":
Thank you Simon for the information, did you mean 26th July 2010 or 2009?
This is a quote from an email I received from the council in February 2010.
“The position regarding the Clock-Tower Building, occupied by the Steam Trust is as follows. The subject was discussed by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny (Asset Management Working Party) in view of the length of lease sought by the Trust.”
With relation to your pervious replies the difficulty here is that you are different from the other bloggers, in as much as you are privy to council information that we are not.
In an ideal world the council’s information department would have a forum where major local issues could be discussed openly on the internet, it is the perception from outside the council, is that the councils information department exists exclusively to control the information that is available to the public.
I suppose in a way even that would be mostly unnecessary if the council published all of the information it held, apart from the information that would be refused in a foi request, as the council receives it, onto its website.
This could be achieved with considerable savings in costs to the council, by the council insisting that all information sent to the council, was supplied in preferred file formats, with the council levying a charge to commercial organisations either sending information on paper – so it has top be scanned in – or in a file format that has to manual converted for web publication.
In this instance I would say that you are as much a victim as the rest of us, in as much as the changes to such a fundamental rule about the way the council conducts its business, should have been publicised and the rules governing the way the council rents out its properties should be clearly and openly available on the council’s website.
The discussion I had with the leader of the council isn’t pertinent to this issue as it relates to a lease of less than 25 years and not the older lease that council didn’t issue due to the new rules. However it demonstrates very clearly what I am saying about information that you are privy to and we are not, put the shoe on the other foot for a moment and consider the situation if I was privy to your conversations with the leader of the council and said to you. “Simon. I understand the Leader of the Council called you to personally explain the issues surrounding such and such an issue, and hopefully that should have answered most if not all of your questions.” By way of an answer to a question you had asked me on a blog
Comment posted 11.18 am 2nd March 2011-03-02
Don’t misunderstand me here I delete comments that are potentially libellous, offensive or containing personal abuse, I suppose all bloggers do, but to delete a comment because it disagrees with your point of view, well that is another matter altogether.
When a local councillor who claims to support transparency and impartiality does this, then one can only form ones own conclusions.