Monday, 12 December 2011

Thanet District Council and the new Conservative cabinet what went wrong? A bit of a ramble.


I suppose that so much of the comment, interest, whatever you like to call it has been focused on John Worrow, that the main long term problem for any council with no overall majority has to face, hasn’t really been mentioned.

This is how the governing group manages the independents and opposition councillors.

The new Conservative cabinet in Thanet started in an unusual position, in as much as they were poles apart from the old Conservative cabinet of Ezekiel & Co. so they inherited a situation where the previous cabinet, while theoretically on the same side and therefore difficult for them to criticise, was viewed by them as something not very good.

I think the new Conservative group viewed themselves as a group of academics, inhabiting a somewhat higher country of the mind than the geography the rest of us inhabit.

This higher country of the mind is also an area often inhabited by senior local government officers, lets face it if you can’t get job as a captain of industry and you can’t get a job as a senior civil servant in national government, you can’t get a job at county level, well I don’t suppose I have to draw a diagram.

When it comes to dealing with the problems in local government, it is having a very complex set of rules and producing intricate paperwork that fills the bill and ensures you keep your job, the maxim being. Make it long make it complicated make it up if you have to.

With the internet I have caught them out on several occasions and posted about it, they take a very complex document, that probably even they don’t understand and lift it from another council’s website, replacing the word Thanet with the name of the other council.

Now the council cabinet are supposed to represent the people of Thanet, and the officers are supposed to present the information for the decision of the cabinet in a form that ordinary people can understand.

What seems to have happened is that our new intellectual cabinet, we shall call them the collegiate after the fictional character College, the tramp; went of for a tramp through the high country of the mind with the officers. Well this was all fine and dandy, in these ebony towers it isn’t necessary understand what is going on, just that they appear to, until they had to hand out chairs to the independents.  

Well it seems one of the independents didn’t understand the rules here and visibly failed to understand what was probably incomprehensible anyway, to which the collegiate responded along the lines of, you’re just not clever enough to understand the framework.

I had a bit of this sort of nonsense over Pleasurama, I pointed out to the councillors and the officers, that the EA officer with the qualifications in costal engineering, had said that come a big tide and storm, the thousand or so people living in the new development could all be trapped inside.

I said to them, look the only expert who has pronounced on this thing says it needs pedestrian escapes and a risk assessment. I was assured that this didn’t matter as all the proper procedures had been followed, as though this would hold back the sea.

Anyway no one likes to be perceived as stupid, so after a lot of failed smoothing out, this independent voted against the Conservatives. This surprised the others as they had all agreed to vote for them, one did and the other one abstained, well you know the rest.

After this and even more amusing was that the other two Birchington Conservative councillors voted against the Conservatives and with Labour for their free parking. 

How things will go now are a bit hard to say, I think Sandy Ezekiel is up before the beak next week, so how that pans out could effect the Conservative numbers for a while.

With this following the rules thing, the latest laugh is on the sidebar of Thanet life, as I predicted in my previous post the council have put up the new cabinet posts, that they should have put up last Friday today, but as they can’t admit that they forgot to do it on time, it appeared there date stamped Friday.


I suppose the a good example of this is the current tangle over Europe, the eurocrats have built a whole continent based of the expansion of legislation and bureaucracy.   

Now pretty much everyone can see that the countries of Europe managed to rub along by having exchange rates between their currencies.

If the Germans all rushed around being productive, while the Spanish sat outside the taverna and the Spanish economy went a bit pear shaped, the value of the peseta became less so Spanish holidays became cheaper, more people went there on holiday and the Spanish economy improved.

Masses of eurocrats and members from all countries have to do something, usually something expensive, billions were spent on the single currency, and it doesn’t work.

Well the Germans are printing Marks, which seems to be the nearest anyone has come to saying it was just a mistake.

I suppose they could get rid of nearly all of the people involved and go back to a common market, throw all of the European legislation out of the window, I don’t see much chance though.

I find as Europe progressed through this grand dream I have more European friends and one thing they all seem to have in common is a dislike for the great central bureaucracy.

I wonder if there is a way to government at any level, where it common sense that prevails.



Back to the collegiate cabinet and the notion that they had drifted of into some high country of the mind where they thought the complexities of running Thanet requires superior minds and that only they were capable of running our little island.


I suppose the culmination of this was losing the confidence vote in their leader they carried the thing through to what they saw as the logical conclusion and put the same man up for election by the same people who had just voted him out.

Did they I wonder, feel that there was no other Conservative councillor that would get the votes of the independents and the Conservative councillor who had defected. After all the votes of all the other Conservative councillors would be guaranteed pretty much whichever of their number they put up for election.


Perhaps it was just because they really had no plan B, kamikaze perhaps, anyone got any ideas?

I was wondering if this has ever happened before, I mean a politician losing a vote of confidence and then being put up for election again by his party in front of the people who have just voted him down, I can’t find any incidence of this elsewhere historically, can anyone else?



I may ramble on a bit more. 

36 comments:

  1. Finding it difficult to conceal your glee, Michael. The claimed neutrality is looking a bit thin now.

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  2. If you were a trader in or even a visitor to Ramsgate over the last few years you will have noticed the decline in TDC's owned buildings and other facilities over the last few years. Michael has pointed this out often and things have only got worse. Its seen that TDC could not care less about Ramsgate and did and did not enforce conditions of use/upkeep where agreements are in force. The Royal Victoria Pavillion occupying a prime location on the sea front is a good example. A few years ago the operator up sticks and has left it to rot.
    The conditions laid down on the Pleasurama site development is another.

    So I guess we all wait to see if this new leadership is a bit more open with the public and takes a good look at Ramsgate.

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  3. Spot on, anon 18:42.

    On this very blog last week (& I'll quote in full), Simon Moores said:

    "To be honest i read utter baloney here from time to time about some kind of sinister apartheid where Ramsgate is a poor relation. The truth is rather different and the fact tvhas a town council means that Ramsgate bats very effectively for itself and has considerable influence on its own direction.

    Most certainly I don't view or treat Ramsgate any differently and Cabinet certainly does not. However there is a strong political interest group that works very hard to present this artificial image of district apartheid and I'm sorry to say rather too many people believe what they read!"

    Then I said:

    "Be honest Simon, there's a far higher percentage of TDC owned property falling into disrepair in Ramsgate than there is in Margate, is there not?"

    There was no reply.

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  4. Look 17.24 I don’t really know how to put this kindly, what the Conservative group did last Thursday, putting up the bloke who had just been voted off, in front of the same people to vote him back on, was an act of supreme stupidity.

    Suppose, as may happen, there is a full council meeting in January and Clive Hart has annoyed the independents that support his position at the moment, to such an extent that they vote him off. Well humanity is like that, people rub one another up the wrong way, we are all human, and I find this sort of thing excusable I suppose because I am human too.

    Let us then suppose that the Labour group put Clive up in front of the same people for re-election, well I would consider this a stupid act, and you will read about it here. How can I put this? I may be a fool but I’m not an idiot. It’s a literary quote, in case you missed the point, it’s from a modern parody of Macbeth, not a play about political suicide.

    18.42 there came a point with the last administration, I think it was the business with the historic pontoon, this looked like an act of spite towards Ramsgate, that actually cost the council money, where I began to wonder what the motive could be.

    I am still none the wiser, any ideas?

    Peter with the council owned empty properties in Ramsgate, it is hard to see how the situation could have occurred by accident.

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  5. Great news that Gerry O Donnell has now been banned from the No Night Flights Facebook page. They'd just had enough of him.

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  6. Where to begin..

    Peter, Ramsgate, Margate, Broadstairs, Westgate, Birchington, Westgate, Minster and for all I know Timbuktu are treated equally and several of these have town councils who hold budgets and responsibilities so, don't continually witter on about alleged TDC bias because it gets tedious and it's untrue! - Last time I looked the cost of simply repairing our better-known assets was estimated at £11 million and Thanet simply can't afford to maintain the large number of legacy buildings dotted around its towns. This is where town councils can be a help in establishing their priorities.

    Michael, Just because Conservative councillors and council officers don't agree with your particular interests doesn't necessarily mean they are out of touch are overly intellectual or live in ivory towers.

    In regard to the leadership of the group, we have faith in Bob Bayford as the best and most capable man for the job and I for one am not prepared to allow one independent councillor to select the leader of Thanet District Council on a personal whim.

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  7. Get used to opposition then Simes!

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  8. So who decides that (say) Dreamland is compulsory purchased & (say) Pleasurama is turned into housing?

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  9. Simon, sorry I think you misunderstand me here, this wasn’t supposed to some criticism of the previous administration, just me with this problem niggling away like a hole in a tooth.

    Which is why did they put up the bloke who had just been voted down, in front of the same people for re-election? They must have known he would lose and I can only conclude that they wanted Labour to win.

    The misplaced loyalty argument just doesn’t hold water past the point of not changing the leader before the confidence vote.

    I am assuming here that the Conservative councillors are not stupid, so was the motive a tactical one and if so how would this work?

    The empty council property in Ramsgate thing, has gone far beyond anything that could be a coincidence and is bound to keep cropping up, if you can explain the heritage pontoon business, which had one vessel used freely by the sea scouts and one stunning vessel that could always have been moored much cheaper and more conveniently elsewhere, both generating income for the council and the café culture, that has now gone, then I will begin to accept your argument that Ramsgate was treated fairly.

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  10. I think it must be said that the reason the buildings are in such a poor state of repair is probably due to the fact over the last 5 or 6 years TDc has spent the best part of £2 million doing up carparks they dont own and several million on their own offices replacing windows that were perfectly satisfactory and a couple of hundred thousand on carpets desks etc apart from hundreds of thousands on IT.
    Hopefully the new adminsitration will look a bit closer at officers pet projects, and not sign them all of on a trip to china or wigan.

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  11. REPEATED FROM A PREVIOUS COMMENT WHICH RECEIVED NO REPLY.

    DrM (Simon) Can you honestly say, hand on "Hart":-),that no TDC officer is involved in obtaining the multi-million pound grants regularly being received by Margate, because no such official and sustained support exists for Ramsgate projects, although we all pay the same council tax to the same "District" Council

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  12. Michael,

    I have read your post with interest. You have made some trenchant criticism. But I fear you waste your breath. The Councillors are doing what they enjoy most and do best. Which is playing at politics. To be fair, this activity is probably at the limit of their competency.

    They deserve to have fun made of them. However, from what you describe TDC is beyond parody. So I shall retire now and read some Keith Waterhouse and his Clogthorpe District Council.

    If I have upset any Councillor then you can sort me out by listing all the good things that you have done and are doing for the benefit of the taxpayers in Thanet.

    In the meantime, I agree with anonymous.

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Simon, I have a great respect for you and admire your attempts to keep the public informed. Something sadly not done by many councillors. I do, however, feel that in many respects you are wasting your time.

    Michael, has a strange agenda not disimilar to that of the BBC, and I feel you are getting nowhere there. Why you would exchange comments with an intellectual pygmy like Peter beats me and the same could be true of the failed would be politician who chucks the odd snide comment your way.

    Frankly you have done your bit so enjoy the rest. I am sure such an insecure administration will not last long, unless, of course, they make Worrow the leader. Sooner or later he will throw his toys out of the pram again and it will be all change.

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  15. To anonymous at 10:16,

    I tend to agree with you. The silly political wheeling and dealing among our Councillors is both reprehensible and risible. We should ignore them; but I find this hard to do bearing in mind that they are playing around on our money.

    I urge Michael to carry on with the fight. Our Councillors need to know that they are being watched. Also, it annoys them which is fun.

    Our Councillors are thin skinned in the face of criticism. So they reply with vacuous snide remarks. On the other hand may be they are not totally lacking in self awareness. Perhaps it is guilt that makes them angry.

    I do wish that we had a proper local newspaper with an editor determined to hold all Councillors to account on our behalf, But sadly we do not have one.

    Councillors feel secure in the knowledge that they can do pretty much what they want hidden from the public gaze, in so much as the public is actually interested. Our Councillors can take it easy, engage in petty squabbles be vindictive and rely on their respective national party machines to keep them on the gravy train.

    Heaven forfend that we should send any of them to Westminster.

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  16. John, I would endorse your call to Michael to carry on taking the council to task if I could be sure he will be as persistent with his criticism now we have a Labour administrations. Sadly I somehow doubt that.

    I actually do not agree with you that all our councillors are that bad or incompetent. Like you I do abhor the constant political point scoring games, but some of the individuals, probably most in fact, are quite public spirited. It is a shame they cannot work together but, as with central government, the need to attack and belittle those in office seems to be overwhelming.

    Seemingly, the need for the public's vote is greater than the needs of the public!

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  17. To anonymous at 11:28,

    I do not much mind if Michael leans to the left or right in his politics just so long as he is fair. Which on balance he is.

    Politicians are only human. This is why they need to be constantly held to account for their actions.

    I agree that some Councillors are well intentioned. But intentions alone are not enough.

    Councillors are not there to pander to the sometimes ephemeral and volatile whims of the public. Government by focus groups does not make the world a better place. Politicians are put there by us to do what is right. This endeavour requires a keen intellect and great strength of character. Few are up to the task and some of them may even know it.

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  18. Things can only get better with the new lot.

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  19. If anyone fancies looking at a website which is there purely to hold its councillors to account, you could do a lot worse than this one from Bexley:

    www.bexley-is-bonkers.co.uk

    It's not the easiest website to get around but the information is incredible.

    Maybe we could get the guy that runs it to come down to Thanet and do some digging...

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  20. It is amazing how supporters of the previous administration cannot hold a reasoned debate on any subject and resort to hurling abuse at anyone who dares to disagree with their views.

    I for one appreciate both Simon and Michael for continuing a public dialogue over items which affect everyone in Thanet. Criticism will always be preferable to apathy

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  21. To RossM,

    Thank you, the Bexley site is superb. It must be the work of several people for I do not see how one person could edit the blog alone unless they were engaged on it full time and even then it would difficult.

    This Bexley site is just what we need here in Thanet.

    Does anyone out there volunteer to take charge as editor; I'm sure many would volunteer to help, even if it were just the donkey work?

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  22. To DrM @ 21:53:

    Simon,

    I can help you out here. Timbuktu is not treated equally. Last I heard it was in the hands of warlords and terrorists. British Citizens are advised not to travel there. Surely you are not suggesting that this is the case with Ramsgate, Margate, Broadstairs, Westgate, Birchington, Westgate, Minster. Or are you.

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  23. Readit, fail to see how you can single out the supporters of the last administration when it comes to holding a reasonable debate. Surely the new administration were nothing if not vociferous and constantly spoiling in the council chamber whilst their supporters has nothing but bile to spit towards the Conservatives.

    As for Peter, commenting here as elsewhere that the new regime could not be worse. That remains to be seen but, yes, it could be a whole lot worse.

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  24. 11.28 I haven’t got much time today so please excuser the errors that will be in this reply, but I think I should make situation about my political bias clear.

    My primary interest is in Ramsgate, I live and trade here, prior to moving here about 25 years ago I had a bookshop in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, there local councillors were always evident in the local shops, and working away trying to make the best of the town they had, couldn’t tell what political party they were.

    When I came to Ramsgate, it was to a busy and vibrant shopping street in a seaside town with various tourist attractions, mostly in council owned sites.

    I couldn’t tell you what side of the political fence the council was on, I was far to busy with young children and a moderately successful business.

    Where I trade was at that time on a traffic and pedestrian busy shopping street, the first two local government actions to adversely effect my business, were I think under a Labour council, this is quite a long time ago and I am uncertain of the dates.

    One was the pedestrianisation, all carefully thought out and agreed, there was even a shop in harbour street devoted to local consultation, the thing was planned very carefully, in terms of both traffic and people flow. Well for some inexplicable reason they put up the new and highly expensive heritage streetlights, but stopped the project a few hundred yards short of where I was trading and where they had promised to go to. This left me trading in a sort on no-man’s-land.

    Around the same time they removed all of the seafront carparking, terminating what remained of the tourist trade, the combined effect of these two things made my business a lot quieter and meant I had some time to devote to local problems.

    I didn’t realise how bad our local council were until they passed the original Pleasurama plans, at this point the administration had just changed from Labour to Conservative and I can’t really say that any political group was responsible.

    What happened here was that a reasonable development below the cliff top had been proposed, a thing called, the planning and design statement, had been read by us locals and we had had a glance at the plans that looked ok.

    Just before the thing was due to come before the council’s planning committee a group of us locals realised that although the planning and design statement hadn’t changed, it still said the development was set well below the cliff, the plans themselves had.

    The thing towered over the cliff top gardens and bandstand, the ensuing attempts to get the council to reject the plans and get the developer to at least produce a design that fitted in the space available, combined with the time on my hands, is what you get.

    My comment on local politics stems from the time the Pleasurama plans were passed this coincides with the time the previous Conservative administration started, before that time I was just quietly irritated and honestly didn’t even know there was a difference between County and District Councils, couldn’t have told you if they were Labour Conservative or Raving Loony.

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  25. I wonder if Labour would be more open to the idea of an official naturist beach in Thanet? Maybe I should ask them.

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  26. Thanet's cupboard is probably bare so the sunbathers might as well join it! It might increase sales of suntan lotion too - a boost to the local economy!

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  27. Peter, as a local business man I want the naturist pound as much as anyone else’s, with three separate beaches in Ramsgate I would like to see one of them naturist.

    I also think the associated publicity, both for and against, would be beneficial to the area.

    Through Georgian times to the beginning of WW1 the ladies descending from the bating machines and the gentlemen with telescopes on the harbour wall, a sort of hundred-year game, was the subject of much local correspondence.

    After the war I suppose no one really cared what happened so long as people’s skin stayed on.

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  28. A bit off topic. Naturists beaches can be very discrete. I knew there was one in Brighton and only found out where it was when walking by. Its hidden by built up sand dunes but some of the bathers (male) seemed to think that standing on the top of the dunes would give them a good tan rather than stay hidden from passing families.

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  29. Which is why the location needs to be chosen carefully 16:38. The only official naturist beach in Kent now is Shellness near Leysdown, & that's in a good location - apart from people like me who have to use public transport (Shellness can almost be seen from Margate, but it takes 2 train journeys & an 8 mile bus ride each way, hardly practical).

    I haven't bothered too much with trying for a naturist beach in Thanet recentlty as (a) We were misled / lied to by TDC (at a meeting they promised to look into Pegwell Bay as a possible location & consult us but never did), & (b) I personally don't particularly like lazing around on beaches these days, whether clothed or naked (I'd much rather be out hiking or cycling on a nice day).

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  30. I thought I'd read somewhere that Botany Bay had been designated as a naturist beach?

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  31. Where's ECR when we need him!

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  32. Michael, I have taken on board all you say and will follow your observations on the new regime with interest.

    Turning to Ramsgate for a moment, where I take your point about decline and unfulfilled promises, it does not seem to have made a great deal of difference having its own town council. It has been a fair while now, first with a hung council and now with a predominantly Labour one, but seemingly a relative non event of an administration when say, compared with Broadstairs.

    Perhaps you should kick some ass there for a change.

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  33. 18.33 you have to appreciate the role of a town council is somewhat different to a district council, within their budget they seem to be doing reasonably well, events and so on, they don’t own any derelict property in the town.

    It’s a bit hard to say the town councillors are a waste of money as none of them get councillor’s allowances.

    I went there to deliver their local book stock order yesterday, one of the councillors, also a TDC councillor was the volunteer on the tourist information desk, which is as you may know in one of the most iconic buildings in the town.

    I believe that BTC operate theirs from a wooden kiosk. I thought about this contrast, the Labour council and the Labour council run information office in this palatial chandeliered building and the kiosk in Broadstairs.

    Perhaps a blog post about the extravagance, embarrassing really, seems they are subletting the other parts of the building and this covers all their costs.

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  34. I think, Michael, the role of town councillors, several of whom are also district councillors, can go well beyond town events and visitor kiosk, the Broadstair one incidentally is run entirely by volunteers. It is their lobbying potential to district, county and local MP where they can really make a difference.

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  35. John, Botany bay has been (& still is) used by naturists since at least the 50s, but it's never actually been designated as such. TDC posted a sign there about 4 years ago warning that naturists will be prosecuted, but the sign was quickly removed after myself & others pointed out that they're not actually breaking any laws...

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  36. 19.37 in view of the temperature at the moment I would doubt the Broadstairs one is being run at all.

    But perhaps you are right it was the lobbying the district council that went wrong.

    MP wise we have done pretty well here in south Thanet over the years, so lobbying them hasn’t presented much of a problem.

    We even had a situation where the Conservative MP financed the local paper written by a Labour councillor.

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