Monday 30 May 2011

Margate Meltdown 2011 pictures

This link takes you to the 2012 Margate Meltdown pictures

The pictures are on several webpages about 100 pictures to a page, click on one of the links below to open a page.

Carters Steam Fair was also in Margate today the links below take you to pictures of that.

I have owned a few motorbikes over the years and rather like cars you have had you tend to notice particularly the models you have had and remember their little foibles. The motorcycle in the picture at the top of this post falls into this bracket for me. It is a BSA model A10 variant called a Super Rocket, not fast by the standards of today’s bikes, if I remember rightly its top speed was about 120 mph. To be honest one doesn’t spend a lot of time looking at the speedometer when going fairly fast on a motorcycle.

Little foibles with this model, a silly fibre cogwheel driving the magneto that the teeth fell off, I changed this for the racing version that had a manual advance retard on it and a cogwheel made of steel. After this one had to remember to retard the ignition before kick-starting it or it would try to remove your foot.

I did take some video of the band.

With the videos of the band some are better than others, I think the best is probably the one called “Margate Meltdown 2011 band 7.mpg” (the third form the bottom) I am on a bit of a learning curve with this video thing and I stood a bit to close to the band for the first and the last videos.

This has caused an overdrive effect, which works ok for some music and is deliberately done sometimes with electric guitars, however in this case it has just produced bad sound quality.        

Sunday 29 May 2011

Dunkirk Little Ships in Ramsgate Harbour 2011 some pictures and a Sunday Ramble.

 It is fairly windy today so I would expect such little ships as are in the harbour will stay there until the wind drops, if you get the opportunity I would recommend going and having a look at them.  

 I took some pictures, excuses here, my camera is on its last legs, the replacement is on its way, here are the links to today’s pictures.

 the pictures I took of the little ships last year are at when you arrive there use the links at the top of the page to get to all the pages of pictures.

I took a short piece of video so you can get a better feel of today on the pontoons,

there is a fairly strong wind, the harbour was choppy enough to make some people feel seasick, not my children however, many thanks to the little ship owners who entertained them and gave me a cup of tea to sustain me. 

Looking at the first page of pictures I am reminded of something that made me annoyed, the door to harbours magazine was open, this is a gunpowder magazine built in the mid 1700s and should be one of Ramsgate’s tourist attractions.

As it is it has been left to decay with a leaking roof and is being used as a storage shed, only in Ramsgate do we have a Royal residence owned by the council, which has nets on it to stop bits of the building falling on passers by, so I suppose this is a relatively minor desecration of our heritage by the council.  

We stopped to chat with Laura who I know (Harold Macmillan who ran the government her farther served in was a friend of mine when I was younger, it’s a small world) 

I think the rest is fairly self explanatory as the little ships are fairly easy to identify.

On to a rather funny little spat about the council cabinet that is happening on the blogs, Labour seem to be proposing that the council would be better run by young women, see while the Conservatives seem to favour mature men see

I should like to make it quite clear here that I prefer young women and if I ever consider supporting a particular political party this is likely to be a decisive factor

Thinking about the issue of young women I suppose the local Conservatives were discouraged by their candidate Payam Tamiz who held strong views on the subject.  
The airport is also figuring on some of the blogs, see and flights over Ramsgate have been a contentious issue for some time even to the extent that some of the Manston crowd tried to implement racial apartheid here in Thanet, see

Another interesting post is Nick Bateman’s A Fairy Tale of Corruption in Margate (Allegedly) see  

I will probably ramble on when I have had a look at today’s pictures.

Friday 27 May 2011

Fine Tuning The Turner Contemporary Margate

Reading the comments on yesterdays post I have come to the conclusion that I need to expand on my concerns about aspects of the Turner Contemporary.

Putting to one side people’s feelings about the building, the art on display its potential in terms of regenerating Margate, there are some problems with the finish and design that need to be resolved.

I wrote to the architects about this recently, here is what I said:

In a message dated 03/05/2011 21:00:42 GMT Daylight Time, writes:

Please pass this on to David Chipperfield.

Hi David I have visited The Turner Contemporary in Margate on three occasions now and have some observations about the building that may interest you.

Some damage has occurred to the polished concrete floors see image 1.

There are some problems associated with the external landscaping, this is a bit of a mixed bag which I will try to explain, it seems to be at odds with the quality, both in terms of design and finish, of the building.

What seems to have been intended is a mixed pedestrian and traffic area between the gallery and the harbour, this should be workable as in terms of vehicle movements this area only leads to a small number of parking spaces.

In practice it is assessed via traffic lights from a busy road, so that vehicles enter it at a considerable speed, I sat outside the gallery for about half an hour and witnessed one near miss and one minor traffic accident. 

I assume that you didn’t have a hand in this part of the design as part of the roadway uses permeable slabs that have already become badly stained, see image 2.

There has been some attempt at signage, warning pedestrians that what looks and feels like a footpath in fact is quite a dangerous road, see image 3.

There is a sense of something gone awry in this area, it looks alright until one goes to use it, for example there are seats positioned too low to see over the wall which obscures the view of the harbour.

Please accept that this isn’t a criticism of the gallery, which is impressive.

Images attached.

Best regards Michael  

I didn’t hear anything for some time so I gave them a bit of a nudge  

From: [] 
Sent: 25 May 2011 11:30
To: Info
Subject: Re: The Turner Contemporary in Margate

Please confirm that you received the email below and passed it on as I asked.

If I don’t hear from you today I will assume you aren’t interested and take the issues up with the county council, the two Thanet MPs art council, media etc.  

Best regards Michael

This resulted in the following reply:

In a message dated 25/05/2011 16:30:00 GMT Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Michael, thanks for your input. We are for sure fully aware of the issues.

New parking signage is in the making but we noticed that people tend to ignore the temporary signs put up already. Definitely Thanet needs to improve the parking enforcement and Turner Contemporary are monitoring this.

We fully share your view that clear signage needs to make people aware before they enter the site that there are pedestrians sharing the road.

The stains have been caused by the contractor of the Harbour View scheme and KCC have asked them to execute the required remedial works.

The sea-defense wall and benches in front of our building were outside of our design scope and we agree that this is high and blocks the view.

Regarding the magnesite screed in the building, we are not happy with the swirl marks either, but they luckily occur only in some areas and are overall acceptable we think. There was no option to relay the floor. Also the floors take a long time to dry out and settle and tend to become lighter over time, so what you see now will change over time and wear in.

We appreciate your comments and try to give input where we can to improve the condition.


Holger Mattes
Project Architect

for David Chipperfield Architects
11 York Road
London SE1 7NX
T +44 20 7620 4800
F +44 20 7620 4801

There is a problem here which is it very uncertain if they have passed the email on to David Chiperfield and if they intend to take any action, so I sent them this further email: 

Re: The Turner Contemporary in Margate    MichaelChild to holger.mattes and Alison.Smith - yesterdayMore Details From:  MichaelChild Hide Add to: To Do, Calendar  To:  holger.mattes CC:  Alison.Smith BCC:Date:Thu, 26 May 2011 14:06
Hello Holger I am familiar your work and I guess you would be aware of the problems.

In the short-term traffic coming straight off busy traffic lights is likely to cause a fatality and adverse publicity for all involved. I think a bit more than signage is needed, perhaps some sort of physical traffic calming is needed urgently. 

I would say parking enforcement comes a long way down the line, unless you were one of the official visitors at the opening who received a fine notification for parking on the harbour arm.

The height of the wall relates to Wallingfords FRA and isn’t something that can be changed it is just that the benches are sited wrongly.

My understanding of magnesite screed is that it is a polymer and it should be possible to remove the scratches by using an abrasive, I wasn’t suggesting that the whole floor is relaid.

Anyway I will take the issues up in the hope that the situation can be improved in some way.

Can you please confirm that my email was passed on to David Chipperfield as essentially it’s his name that is on the design when it comes to public perception?  

Best regards Michael

While I really don’t think these problems should be down to me, basically I think something as important as the Turner Contemporary should have someone looking after these issues.

I suppose ultimately the customer is us the taxpayer, so it is down to us to make a fuss about the things that are wrong with what we have paid for. 

I am also not very happy about dealing with people who only reply promptly to some sort of timed warning, needless to say I haven’t had any reply to the email I sent to them yesterday.  

I know it is probably petty of me and I am certain that in the high flying world of international architecture emails from a shop assistant probably don’t seem very important, but I don’t like it when I write to one person and another one replies on their behalf, without even telling me if they have passed my correspondence to the person it was intended for.  

Thursday 26 May 2011

You can’t always say what you want

The RaspBerry

I suppose one way or another we are all waiting for a phone call, text message or email and for one reason or another we all have the phone calls, text messages and emails that we can’t or won’t do.

In these days where most people can use various communication devices to send images, I wanted to produce an image that people could send, when they can’t say what they want.

With the Turner Contemporary opening in Margate, where a lot of the art on display is and will be Modern, contemporary and some of it is and will be conceptual art, I wanted also to form some sort of link for the local people, many of whom have contributed towards the cost of this gallery, where they could see some sort of point in the this sort of thing.

If art is anything it has to be about conveying something that can’t be conveyed in words. There is also a sense in which art has to justify itself, show it has some point or purpose, this was easy in the days before photography, but now aspects of art can seem pointless.

The idea here was to produce an item, artwork if you like, that was in a sense both useless and useful and also to explain its purpose clearly.

More pictures of The RaspBerry at as far as copyright goes help yourselves to the images, no need to ascribe them to me or anything like that.

I did a couple of posts recently with drawings of Tracy Emin and David Cameron in them, that illustrate just how powerful a communication tool art still is. 

In both cases my posts with them were on the first page of Google today here are the screenshots 

I think it fair to say that with Google finding about 43,400,000 webpages for the search phrase David Cameron, without the art aspect my post wouldn’t have featured in the top ten.

Very little in art is entirely original, artists look at other artists work and this influences and inspires what they produce, the primary inspiration for The RaspBerry is a work by the artist Conroy Maddox called Onanistic Typewriter  you can always Google it if you want to know what I mean.

I produced a work called Onanistic Netbook here it is

Art tends to inspire reaction in other artists and two artists I was talking to and photographing this week Andrea Francke and Mary Ikoniadou added further inspiration.

I will do a post about their work and their recent appearance in Broadstairs at a later date, here are a couple of pictures I took of them at the weekend.     

A question that has been floating around here in Thanet since The Turner Contemporary opened is, what is art? And a question that has been put to people in the past is, are you an artist?

There are different answers here of course, one chap quizzed in this way drew freehand a perfect circle another a perfect straight line. No one really seems to have come up with the goods, when it comes to expressing the answer verbally.  

For me being able to draw a picture of someone that is recognisably that person, seems a reasonable qualification. 

Another indicator is putting something one has produced in front of someone who has qualified academically as an artist and having the something pronounced “good” or “OK” in terms of art, this is also something that would suggest one is an artist.

I stopped producing art in any form about forty years ago, mainly because of the trouble it caused, now I have started again and have run a few of the results through some of these criteria.

One problem is that once one starts again it isn’t easy to stop. 

Now we come to one of my concerns about The Turner Contemporary, which is are they pulling off what they hope to achieve, this isn’t quite as simple as are they getting the visitor numbers now?

What I mean here is, in the terms of the parameters of what they hoped to achieve, at the moment an exhibition of contemporary art, is what they are displaying good, average or bad.

Looked at as it were in the way readers of this blog have looked at the various bits of art that I have put there recently, does it work? This is quite easily explained in terms of the pencil sketches of Tracy Emin and David Cameron, regardless of whether you think they were good or bad, if they have changed your visual perception of these people slightly, then they have done what I set out to achieve.

I have only one only one tangible way of measuring the public’s genuine interest in what the gallery is doing and that is by looking at the viewing counters on the various videos they have published online.

The gallery published a video embedded in their website yesterday and since then it has had only 87 viewings I did the same thing with some videos on this blog on Sunday, within 24 hours they had all had several hundred viewings.

Now sitting through four or five minutes of video to the end so that the counter clocks your viewing suggests a genuine interest in the content of the video and my concern is that the genuine interest isn’t as much as it should be.             

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Midweek Ramble and some pictures


They have dug up something that I think may be the remains of the bricked pit for the railway signal controls.

I have made an updated enquiry to TDC about information relating to this development, on several occasions in the past they have promised to make arrangements with the developer to supply public information about what they are doing.

They had one session in Albion House years ago when the plans were different and promised more, which never happened.

We have a situation where a huge council owned site has a development proceeding at snails pace in a way that appears to be against the advice of senior council officers and the environment agency.

The council have already spent about a million pounds on cliff repairs aspects of which defy any reasonable explanation.

Marina Restaurant

The work here is progressing well and it should be looking like a normal building again soon.

The pictures that I took today have just gone onto the internet at as normal it’s what’s on the camera card and I am yet to see them.

There are now three historic vessels on the historic vessel pontoon in Ramsgate Harbour and I feel the council must be congratulated, perhaps we will now see some of our other council owned disused historic assets put to some use.

A friend of mine owned a Dunkirk Little Ship and was also a member of The Royal Engineer Yacht Club, which allows one to fly the white ensign, on entering Portsmouth Harbour on one occasion we were surprised to receive a salute from the naval guns. 

It appears that someone managed to go aground trying to reach the new pontoon, embarrassing place to get your boat stuck.  

The cracks in the surface on top of the east pier are getting worse, I hope the council’s engineers remember that this structure tends to get partially demolished when we have a combination of a high tide and big storm. 

I will ramble on perhaps.   

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Frigging in the Rigging Topsail Schooner in Ramsgate Harbour

Any of you wishing to see the good ship Oosterschelde need to get down to the harbour fairly promptly. Their website is at

At some time before I was a shop assistant I worked on this type of vessel in Ramsgate Harbour here are the pictures of her there, in about 1972 I think     

Pictures of The Oosterschelde taken this morning at .

Sunday 22 May 2011

Dancing Queen World Record Broadstairs 22nd May 2011 pictures and videos

 This post contains videos of and links to pictures of the world record attempt to have 1,000 people dancing to the 1976 Abba hit in Broadstairs today.

The event is to raise money for Special Care Baby Unit at the QEQM Hospital in Margate and the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign.

All part of Big Broadstairs Weekend..   
 Here are the pictures


lady producing interesting silver jewellery was selling it there, the unique aspect is that she can include a fingerprint of your choice, some pictures on this next page.

 Obviously the actual dancing was something that I videoed, videos take a long time to upload below are a couple, if people want I will add some more, although I expect there will be much better offerings than mine on YouTube.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Ramsgate Ramble

My wander into Ramsgate started with a mirage of The Dunkirk Little Ship Lamouette, on the George IV Maritime Heritage Pontoon, it would seem that the council have finally relented and yes there is indeed a historic vessel where there should be one. 
Next I realised that Arie Dirk was due to go up Morton’s Patent Slipway. 

 a quick tap with the fine tuning sledgehammer and all was fine

 Readit and Jocelyn were, as you see from the sign engaged in an umbrella opening event on behalf or The Ramsgate Society.   

Here are the rest of the pictures and the others on the camera card, the ones not taken today must have been earlier this week.

More of this post later on. 

Friday 20 May 2011

Live animal exports from Ramsgate response from Thanet District Council

The thing at the top of the picture above is not an animal as it may be a pig or a cow, possibly a pow, the animal at the bottom of the picture is probably a dog and therefore not allowed in Ramsgate Harbour.

I sent this query to the council:

Subject: the live animal export issue
Date: 18/05/2011 10:19:37 GMT Daylight Time
Hi ***** could you sort this one out soonest for me as if I have got it wrong then I think I ought to print a retraction, I think this is going to be very emotive issue and as you know I have a fairly high web presence, judging from the amount of comment recently possibly more than some of the local papers.

It relates to my blog post about the animal exports, see 

Two councillors have commented publicly on the post and it think I recognise the comments of at least one other.

My questions relate to the repeal of harbour bylaw 44, if this had any relationship with the live animal export issue, if the proper procedures were followed in repealing it, if its repeal is completed, in fact any information you can give me that clarifies the issue.

There are some questions below, although as I don’t really fully understand the issue according to Ken Gregory and Simon Moores, so there may be other questions that I should have asked as well that would have helped clarify the issue.  

Did the bylaw cover the port or just the Royal harbour? Ken implies it didn’t.

Did any animal cargoes go through Ramsgate while the bylaw was in place?

Where did the proposal to repeal the bylaw come from?

Has the bylaw repeal process been completed?

I noted that the report recommending the repeal is dated the same date as the council meeting to decide if the bylaw repeal process was to be started, does this mean that the statutory notification period wasn’t followed correctly?

Probably whether the bylaw would have stopped live animal exports would only have been discovered when the council had instigated judicial action based on the bylaw to prevent live animal exports.

Not sure if you can expand on this one, possibly the export company has already successfully fought such an action, which is part of the reason for the repeal of the bylaw, as I said anything to expand on this would help.

Regards Michael.

Here is their reply:

Subject: Live animal exports from Ramsgate
Date: 20/05/2011 09:08:29 GMT Daylight Time

Hi Michael

We're aware that understandably there's been a lot of discussion on your site about the issue of live animal exports from Ramsgate, especially with reference to the repealing the byelaw at Ramsgate Harbour that bans dogs.

We're also aware that people have been keen to see a statement from the council and I'm happy to supply you with that, which hopefully clearly states the situation. As you will see, the repeal of the byelaw has no relation whatsoever to the commencement of live animal exports at the Port of Ramsgate:

"The byelaw has not yet been repealed, so the shipments taking place now are totally unrelated to that. The byelaw has nothing to do with livestock movements, as it was based on animals that could potentially transmit rabies. This is not the case with the livestock involved in the export.

Even if this was not the case, the byelaw is overridden by European law, adopted by Britain, guaranteeing free trade between member countries. As a result, the council is duty bound, as set out in law, to provide the Port of Ramsgate for the use of vessels for legal trade, including livestock movements."

This information will be appearing on our website shortly, as part of a series of frequently asked questions. I'd be grateful if you would also put this statement up on your site to set the record straight on this issue.



Press and Media Manager
Thanet District Council

This is Bylaw 44

44. (1) Save as hereinafter provided in paragraph (3) of the byelaw, no
person being in charge of an animal shall cause, permit or suffer
such animal to enter or remain in the harbour and, without
prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, no person shall take or
keep such animal on board, or land such animal from, any vessel
within the harbour.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1) of this byelaw, the owner of an
animal shall be deemed to be in charge thereof unless the owner shall
prove that, at the time the offence against this byelaw was committed,
the animal had been placed in or taken into the charge of some other
(3) This byelaw shall not apply to the use by any constable, or member of
Her Majesty's Customs and Excise or any member of Her Majesty's
Armed Forces, of any dog or other animal in connection with the
detection of crime or the enforcement of the law.

This is my formal retraction of any misleading information I may have published about this issue. 

Thursday 19 May 2011

David Cameron and a plea for UK towns

David Cameron

Retailing’s not such a good thing-
It has its little ways.
And now sometimes no one buys much
For days and days and days.
A little more policing,
And slightly better roads
Some better cheaper parking,
Could help us loads and loads
And Oh! Mr Cameron, if you love us at all.

Walking around our town centres today, it’s my day off, I was struck by how few shops are actually real retail businesses, and how at some point the rest, charity shops, eateries, estate agents, solicitors and so on will work without the ordinary retail shops that brought them there in the first place.

I think this is a problem that is beyond local government, so I am considering a direct appeal to the national government.

Whops sorry about that I seem to have left his left lapel off.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

New Mayor of Ramsgate Decision Tonight

Dave Green centre, the current mayor of Ramsgate comes to full term today and the word on the street is that he won’t be the standing member again. Deputy Ralph who some say was being groomed for mayor and other independent GoD, were ousted by the Labour landslide, reputedly caused by the Ramsgate air attack.

Our very own Labour town councillors are now; Peter Campbell, Mary Dwyer, Tony Ovenden, Rick Everitt, David Green, Corinna Huxley, Steven Alexandrou, Kim Gibson, Pat Moore, Richard Nicholson, Kay Dark, Ian Driver, Elizabeth Green, Michelle Fenner, Alan Poole,

The only councillor not Labour is Conservative Patrick Doyle, I think it is fairly unlikely that he will be the new mayor.

In town councils the mayor is also the leader of the council, you could go along to this evening’s meeting and see who is chosen, with such a large political majority I wouldn’t expect fireworks though.

Whoever it is the Labour town council certainly have a powerful mandate to govern Ramsgate, compared with our somewhat divided district council, where there is wildly speculative rubbish circulating to the effect that the local Conservatives may be considering going it alone without an overall majority, that independents are being offered committee seats or even cabinet seats. I believe the old Chinese curse is. “May you live in interesting times!”

Meanwhile Labour’s erstwhile pleas involve wildly speculative rubbish begging independent members cross half the floor that are said to be even more rewarding.

Word is that stalwart independents wish to remain independent, but planning is thought to be a substantial carrot, albeit on a string. 

Tuesday 17 May 2011

The import and export of live animals through Ramsgate Harbour

I did cover this recently in the comments and now the BBC have confirmed it I thought I ought to say a bit more about it.

A few weeks ago the council issued a seemingly innocuous press release saying that they were repealing the bylaw that prevented animals going into the harbour area.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that this seems to have opened the way for live animal imports and exports via Port Ramsgate.

Personally I am not at all keen on the business of transporting animals across Europe to the slaughterhouse.

However whatever your view on the subject, this will inevitably lead to animal rights protesters and although these people are probably not at the front of the queue when it comes to tipping paint over the leather jackets of Hells Angels, I suspect that they will see the small port of Ramsgate with its restricted access, either through the tunnel or along Military Parade as a softer target.

One is inclined to wonder what motivated the council to repeal such a useful bylaw.     

Sunday 15 May 2011

Tracey Emin, The Turner Contemporary and Kent TV

Tracey Emin is a Margate born (sorry Croydon born) artist who is supportive of the new art gallery, recently opened in Margate.

I am a local shop assistant who has been artistically moved by this new gallery.

This is one of a series of blog posts about aspects of this new gallery The Turner Contemporary.

Kent TV is a television service provided by Kent County Council, that has now been moved onto a public video hosting site similar to YouTube.

I was surprised that this video of Tracey Emin talking about The Turner Contemporary had only had 20 viewings, so I have embedded it here as I assume other local people will be interested in it.

Once again I haven’t taken a photo of Tracey, so I ran the video and using a simple piece of hardware produced a picture of my own for this post, click on it to enlarge it and click on it again to make it even bigger. 

The pictures I took of The Turner Contemporary today have just published to the internet, the first batch are of the inside, see

As is my usual habit, apart from reducing them in size for publication I have published all of the ones on the camera card, in fact viewing them online will be the first time I see them.

What is art?

We were asked this question in the Turner Contemporary today, by a lady in one of the galleries, evidently she wished to sit down, on the other hand she didn’t want to desecrate a work of are.

Is this a chair? She asked. Fortunately it was and we were able to tell her it was, so she sat on it.

This page of pictures was taken today outside the gallery when we arrived and this page after viewing the gallery

If you are new to this gallery and want to see more of it inside and out, these links take you to some other pages of pictures of it, that I have taken in the past.

We seem to be developing a situation here in Thanet, where people who appear to be, intelligent, articulate and educated have become uncertain about the chairness of chairs and the artness of art.
I don’t think that this is a psychological problem, I think it appears to be more of a philosophical one.

The phrase. Don’t adjust your mind, reality is at fault. Comes to mind.

There it a large blank wall in Turner Contemporary with a sign on it, saying. Do not touch. It doesn’t say any more, like what it is one shouldn’t touch, if it was meant to be a work of art, I thought it rather a good one, oddly enough it doesn’t seem to be ascribed to anyone. I suppose in terms of the gallery it could be seen as rather dated, a piece of Post Modernism in a contemporary art gallery, perhaps it is an accident.      

I will add to this post as the day progresses, pictures of the gallery taken to today and some thoughts, as I get time.  

Saturday 14 May 2011

King of Thanet Council

Bob Bayford
Having just put up Laura Sandys press release and read Luke Edwards post thought I had better not nick his picture so I have run it through a simple piece of hardware, (sorry I don’t do doors) I thought I ought to do another one of my posts on the leadership of the council.

We have recently had an election about the running of the council as some of you may have noticed, however the real choices seem to be going to be made next Thursday at the council.

One thing we are going to get is almost all new senior council officers, including a new chief executive, strangely enough the council don’t seem to have announced who else is replacing who, possibly they don’t think that we are interested.

What’s the phrase, the people of Thanet don’t know they are born, or some such thing. One also wonders how exactly all the new chiefs are selected, I mean do they select each other or are they selected by the representatives that we elected?

Local democracy is one of those peculiar things where the more I find out about it the less I find I understand it, once upon a time I had a rather naïve notion of the local council as being a group of people who we elected by local people to represent them, who then selected a clerk and some people to handle the paperwork and went about the business of running the local area in the way that local people want.

In reality we have three different local councils all responsible for different things with a plethora of incredibly highly paid bureaucrats running a seeming endless number of departments, generating mountains of paper and some how in all this the rubbish gets emptied and if you are very lucky your road gets mended. 

Chances are if you ring up the council and say there is a pothole outside your house, you will be told that you have rung up the wrong council.

In all of this it is quite difficult to see if our elected members make that much difference, or if you as an individual can make any difference at al by contacting one of the elected members and trying to get some democratic representation.

You may for instance phone up your ward councillor and ask them to look into some problem, only to be told that the other political party got elected and won’t tell him or her anything about the issue.

This then leaves your only democratic option as the leader and the other cabinet members, in most cases one would assume the leader to be the obvious choice, particularly when writing to the council.

Like all large organisations, you don’t really expect the leader to reply in person every time, but you do expect to get some sort of reply.

After all what is the elected leadership supposed to be doing, if it isn’t representing the electorate?

Well from my point of view this bloke Bob is very reluctant to reply, despite knowing that in some respects I represent the readers of this blog who I assume are mostly local people.

Now he seems to be saying that he has a mandate to rule based on proportional representation, can this be right?

All the Labour and Conservative councillors working together is an option that sounds good, but I think in practice just means wreak leadership and the council officers pretty much doing what they want, unchecked.

As I have said before this leadership problem is of the council’s own making because of the way they handled the elected leader issue and now we have the situation where three independent councillors hold the balance of power.

Combined with this we have a Conservative group who seem to want to lead in a mainly secretive and exclusive way, they don’t normally issue press releases or communicate their ideas to us.

This leaves us with the perception that either they are not very concerned about local issues or that the situation in the council has got beyond their control and the officers are running rings around them.

Issues that I have looked into here in Ramsgate, like the historic vessels pontoon and the maritime museum suggest a jobsworth rather than common sense approach prevails within the council.

Sticking with the representation issue, the way the election has gone the two main towns are now red, so a Conservative administration would mean no cabinet members living in or representing either of our two main towns. Looking at the state of the towns they do look as though they are being governed by the surrounding villages.

So here we are new strong leader to select, very little constructive public information, something which suggests both the Labour and Conservative groups have gone into different corners.

I wonder if among all of the councillors there is anyone that a substantial majority of councillors would accept as leader, this would be one solution that would give us a strong council.

I wonder if any of the councillors really believe that neither Ramsgate nor Margate should have any cabinet representation.  

Of course the alternative is a leader elected in a a public election by the Thanet Electorate. 
Something I am not clear about is what they do if the they can’t make it work, I mean do they just muddle along for four years, or is there some way they can go back to the electorate?

Friday 13 May 2011

Friday the thirteenth and Blogger goes pear shaped

Sorry if your comments have vanished so have some of mine, I do have them saved if blogger doesn’t sort itself out I will reinstate them manually.

I will add to this if I can, I don’t know if it will publish or stay published.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Thanet Blue Flags, some thoughts from Thanet District Council

To the council's Press and Media Manager in response to the press release 

Hi ****

I did try to stop this happening last year, posted about it wrote to officers and so on, no recriminations and I am prepared to have another go.

This situation wasn’t caused by pollution incidents but by the failure to have a pollution warning set-up in place.

This is about not understanding the blue flag criteria, most especially criterion 28, anyway if the council wants its blue flag beaches back please put me in touch with the right officer and I will help get the situation resolved.   

Best regards Michael

Their Reply

Hi Michael
I've passed your e-mail on and someone will be coming back to you about it.


From their Commercial Services Manager

As **** indicated she asked me to respond to you on this issue.

You have made a series of statements on your Blog that are just not
correct and in no way reflect the reason why the area has had a number
of its Blue Flag beaches reduced to Quality Coast awards.

The reduction is entirely based on a very limited number of lower than
excellent results we got last year, which almost all occurred during the
almost continuous north easterly in August last year. None of these
results appear to be associated with situations where discharges may
have occurred based on information our Environmental Health section
receive from Southern Water and the Environment Agency. This factor was
not a consideration that formed any part of the decisions by the Keep
Britain Tidy group in making Blue Flag award decisions for us.

In fact, because of the sheer number of awards we have got in the past
and still have we have regular contact both with the KBT group and the
EA and we are often used as a test ground for the work they do. This
includes working as a partner with the EA in planning for the
introduction of the new water standards. The current signs going up for
this year have been adapted to reflect this partnership work in advance
of the statutory requirement to display more information, and include
the position of sewage outfalls around the coast.

Your Blog indicates that the reduction in Blue Flag numbers is based on
a failure to act by the council which is entirely incorrect and the
council looks forward these incorrect statements being removed from your
Blog, as obviously they are untrue and damaging to the council's
reputation. This includes the statements copied below:

"My understanding is that if on these occasions the council put up
signs notifying the public that the sea was contaminated then we would
be able to retain our blue flag status on the effected beaches. 

What happens instead is that nothing happens, by this I mean that after
Southern Water make an emergency discharge of sewage near to one of our
bathing beaches, this doesn't result in the council taking down the blue
flag and putting up warning signs telling people the sea is

I tried last year to get the council to set up a system to overcome
this problem, the result appears to have been inaction causing most of
our beaches to be stripped of their blue flag status."

It would perhaps be helpful for completion's sake to mention the 7 bays
for which we have achieved Quality Coast awards from KBT that measure
very much the same things, and give a clear indication that our water is
safe to swim in.

Your Blog also seems to give the view that in swimming around our coast
would involve encounters with sewage. This is just not the case and
gives entirely the wrong impression as the chances of this happening are
vanishingly small.


My reply

*****. I think it easiest to illustrate what I mean with one example.

This was the pollution on 12th July 2010, this is what Southern Water’s senior engineer had to say about it.

“Pump failure 10 July Military Road pump station, engineer sent; wet well went to high level, 120 to 150 Litres per sec sent to Wetherlees.

Wet weather between 02.00 and 04.30 12th July 7.6mm rainfall. Pump No. 2 failed 02.00 resulting in emergency discharge early am.”

So on the morning of Monday 12th July Southern Water made a considerable discharge which they recorded, I don’t think this information was passed on to the council, if it was no action was taken.

No warning notices appeared at entrances to both beaches and tourist information offices, as would be required by blue flag criterion 28.

Even more ludicrously on the same day the EA made their weekly test, as though nothing had happened, I would assume that the results of this test would have been completed by the Friday 16th July 2010, so if the council were using these results to decide when to place warning notices, then I assume the unusually high levels of faecal coliforms 3,000 colonies per 100 ml, (this really is swimming in sewage) the council would have acted on this.

Once again no signs and during the weekend 17th 18th July the South East Region Beach Lifeguard Championships were held at Ramsgate main Sands.

This is a situation that suggests no system at all and my understanding is that it was the lack of any system that lead to Surfers Against Sewage putting pressure on the blue flag program to remove most of the Thanet beaches.

The solution to this problem is:

1 To have a proper system of communication with Southern Water that results in action being taken in the event of an emergency discharge. 

2 To engage in a serried of post discharge tests to ascertain how long after a discharge the signage needs to be in place.

3 To contact Surfers against sewage explaining that a proper system has been put in place.

4 To contact the EA and assure that their testing takes into account emergency discharges.

5 To explain the improves system to the people running the blue flag scheme.
Best regards Michael
His Reply to me.

Thanks for the email. No argument that the Council needs to get as
timely information as possible from Southern Water to allow it to make
decisions about signage and the flying of Blue Flags. However, I must
stress that this was not a factor in KBT's decision as this was
straightforwardly based on the results collected by the EA and run
through their normal criteria.

You seem to be reiterating your contention about this issue leading to
the loss of the Blue Flags to others but as indicated above this is just
not correct.


My reply to him

*** I think one major factor here is the SOS campaign and the marked similarity between the beaches dropped this year and the beaches they asked to be dropped during their campaign last year.

See I think there is a sense that the blue flag organisers look to be preparing to drop Thanet, which could be a bit of a nuisance factor in their three and half thousand beaches awarded world wide.

Underlying all of this is that the main issue for most people is being assured that the water they are swimming in is actually clean.

Very important here is that action needs to be taken now, at the beginning of the testing season, the most important of action being good clear public information following an emergency discharge.

Added to this I would think some clear information about the way recent periods of heavy rainfall can effect bathing water quality in areas with mixed drainage systems and emergency outfall pipes. Since this means most of Europe and all of the UK it shouldn’t be difficult to phrase that in a way that shows TDC is taking more care of bathers than most other places.

There have also been some recent changes to the EU bathing water directive that I think may be pertinent.

Yes I am saying that we lost at least one of our blue flags because of a poor system, mostly weak communication, in the instance I have mentioned, what actually happened was an emergency discharge caused by plant failure, followed by a test being made on the same day and adjacent to the emergency discharge that was then submitted as being representative of the bathing water quality. Adding up the rest of the results it would seem that this one error caused Ramsgate to lose its blue flag status.

Alternatively you are saying that we have an emergency spillage of some sort, something periodically happens on every beach in the world, then test in the middle of the spillage on the day of the spillage and submit that result.

I will publish this correspondence, with your name omitted, on the blog, which will hopefully clarify the situation; I understand that the whole blogging situation isn’t an easy one for the council. I do endeavour to obtain accurate information and present a clear picture and wish to thank you for replying promptly and constructively.   

Best regards Michael

There is also some comment about this on Thanet Life, see