Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Thanet District Council, no confidence in the leader and Ramsgate Maritime Museum; tomorrows meeting.


There is a good chance that the that at tomorrows council meeting the leader Bob Bayford won’t be able to get enough votes to remain leader, if this is a case the rules are that the council will then have to elect a new leader immediately. I would say once again there is a good chance that the new leader will be Clive Hart.

The question of course, whatever the result is, what next? However the vote goes it leaves us in the same predicament, a council with an unstable leadership, likely to be turned over at the next meeting.

Essentially the problems revolve around there being no councillor charismatic enough to be a leader who would take all of the councillors with them and sort out some of the serious problems that Thanet has.

I don’t think either the Labour or the Conservative group have grasped the fundamentals of working within a situation where they have no overall majority. I think most councillors see the resolutions in terms of personal gain, handing out posts to independents that carry a good allowance, rather than in terms of actually trying resolve Thanet’s problems.

I think what I would do, if I was in the position of leading either group, would be to start with a list of objectives for the term of the current administration, put those objectives in the public domain, with a challenge to the independents to support them. 

What of course won’t go away is the way the councillors and officers handled the elected leader consultation. Politically the councillors really haven’t got a leg to stand on as both of their parties seem to be supportive of letting the people decide which system of local government they want and both parties at national level seem to be broadly in favour of the elected leader model. From the officer point of view, I would say that the way the consultation was handled falls into the bracket of being so bad that its legality is questionable.

On to the Ramsgate Maritime museum and the question due to be raised at tomorrow’s meeting.

Failure to produce a workable lease has meant that the museum has been mostly closed for the last few years, something that is damaging to Ramsgate’s economy, particularly the café culture near the museum.

I am only trying to guess what is going on here and detect the two underlying stances.

A charitable trust, that wants to take over the museum and I would say they see what they are offering as something highly beneficial both to Ramsgate and TDC.

The council, I think would rather go for an unsustainable quick fix, like the one that Margate Museum has, that would both get local people off their backs and keep their options open should they ever want the building for something else.

I would say that this is partly because of the uncertainties relating to rest of the council owned property nearby; Royal Sands, slipways and Casino (pavillion) building, which could make the clock tower both desirable and valuable and partly because the council have no real plan for the harbour. The main issue here being that the council own all of the harbour and may wish to let the whole thing out to an outside management company, that in tern may fancy this iconic building for themselves, perhaps as offices.

This all means that the council benefits from any delays in assigning the lease to the charitable trust, and because of commercial confidentiality any unreasonableness in the negotiations are hidden, so while all the delays go on and the council don’t appear that good, but they don’t appear that bad either.

Another problem here is that trust that want to take over the museum are very experienced, this of course means that they have come up against pitfalls before, both in terms of grant and event funding, so they will insist on a workable lease, both in terms of what the charity commissioners will accept, what sponsors will accept and what is viable in terms of onsite funding.  

Anyone who has been to The Preston Steam Rally, an event managed by this trust, will understand that they will not settle for something unworkable and very small scale; that will ultimately fail.

There is a sense where councils prefer to work with organisations that are amateur, this always gives the council the upper hand.

My investigations lead me to believe that we have once again reached a point where the differences between what the council are prepared to grant in terms of a lease and what the charitable trust are prepared to accept are very close indeed.

By this I mean that lease agreements could be signed in weeks rather than months or years. However as I said I believe that the council would rather delay things at least until they have published their master plan for the harbour.

Will the question at tomorrow’s council meeting force the council’s hand into taking some positive stance?

"A steady stream of people come to Ramsgate to visit the Maritime Museum and are disappointed to find that it is closed.  What reassurances can Councillor Bayford give the people of Ramsgate that this unacceptable situation is being addressed with any urgency?”

By this I mean, will the council risk losing the contents of the museum, The Sundowner and the Cervia, in order to keep their options open and the plates spinning. They certainly seem to prefer Ramsgate’s public buildings to be both vacant and closed, pretty much all of the ones they own in Ramsgate are. I would imagine this an easier and safer option for the council than seeing them put to some use.

28 comments:

  1. What happens in the vote if it splits 26 cons plus 2 inds on one side and 26 lab plus 2 inds on the other?
    Could an independent emerge as the leader?

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  2. Chair has the casting vote if there's a tie.

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  3. If the leader is removed from office by council vote, can he be put up again for re-election at the same meeting, or would the Conservative group put up someone different?

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  4. OMG! the idea of hart as leader of the Council is a nightmare and I am in the Labour group

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  5. not clive art perhaps spartacus

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  6. Not sure what you mean by "councils prefer to work with organisations that are amateur, this always gives the council the upper hand." or who it is aimed at.
    At the Margate museum it is a perfect partnership with TDC and the volunteer friends of the Margate Museum and the whole project is working well and on track.Everybody at the museum works there is no hot air and everyone just gets on with it. There is no grand plan it is all about providing a museum service to compliment everything else that goes on in the old town.
    Over at Ramsgate maritime museum it is far more complex like everything else in Ramsgate. For example TDC does not own the assets in the the clock house and if they did I am sure there would be the same scenario as there as in Margate with a volunteer group running the museum and keeping it open.

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  7. So from Tony's analysis of the situation the Steam Museum Trust and TDC have to agree on a lease, or all the historic artifacts get shipped out together with Cervia and Sundowner on the first high tide.

    That would be an extremely sad loss for Ramsgate.

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  8. TDC decided in 2006 that they want to stop the funding for the maritime museum, and with words and information given in the right places the trustees transferred the museum to the new trust under the threat of a big stick. This is where it gets sticky TDC first approved a deal and then reneged on it, the upshot being that tdc isn't any better off and the function of the museum transferred hands and because of tdc was closed for several years. To delay the port master plan because of the lease of one small building that will generate a very small income (if any) compared to the millions generated by the wind farm and the ferry companyseems slightly ludicrous, but unfortunately typical of tdc.

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  9. Tony's Margate Friends are good as far as they go - but the lack of a 'grand plan' is very worrying. Who is rsponsible for the collections and who is their curatorial advisor?

    What museums need is strong governance and access to professional support even if the obvious functions are carried out by volunteers.

    The Steam Museum trustees (themselves volunteers!) would almost certainly want to develop volunteering at Ramsgate. There already is a team working on Cervia and other anxiously waiting for the green light to help with Sundowner and the museum. Preston Rally relies on a volunteer team to stage it and it is one of the best and events in the area with a 10 year track record.

    The Trust owns most of the permanet collections which are 'trapped' in the museum by TDC and they would almost certainly be lost to Thanet if TDC does not deliver the expected lease.

    The council are asking the trust to take on the onerous task of maintaining and enhancing the Clock House - something which TDC's obvious neglect has made a very costly and long-term project. The least the council could do was grant an adequate lease with sensible terms and conditions?

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  10. I can't believe that everyone is missing the obvious solution to this problem...

    All that needs to happen is to move the Maritime Museum building brick by brick over to the dark side and then Margate District Council will happily pump their money into it...

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  11. To anonymous 20:59

    In view of your strong feelings why do you lack the courage to give us your name?

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  12. If its a tied vote then Labour Cllr Doug Clark gets deciding vote. As for putting the leader back up for re-election in the same meeting, it would seem a strange thing to do. As for an Independent taking over, nope. Labour gets first dibs as main opposition party and Cllr Hart's already put his name down.

    On a personal note, I'd love there to be recorded votes as a normal thing in the same way they do in Parliament. Under Council Procedure Rule 21.4, there has to be a vote on whether to record the names for, against and abstaining. Councillors should be accountable for their votes.

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  13. There are very many reasons why people may wish to comment anonymously. Employment, offending family, neighbours etc if their views were known or even fear of reprisals in some locations.

    Personally, I have a totally Labour family yet have right wing views. No point in hurting the old folks who tried to bring me up properly in working class traditions.

    Having said that, unless personally insulting, are anonymous posters views any less worthy. Furthermore, where would blogs be without them. It seems to be a pet irritation to some though why is beyond me. After all, do we really know who the named contributors are? Would I recognise Peter, John or Ken if I pass them in the street? So what price their handles?

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  14. Anon 8:04, I believe some things are best left simple, so why complicate a small Margate museum that runs perfectly well with a gland plan that someone else is expected to finance. This is where the EKMT maritime museum went badly wrong becoming grant dependent (£1.6 million off TDC) and over ambitious. Naturaly, I want the maritime museum open but the sights have to be realistic.Perhaps the maritime museum could display in the Ramsgate tunnels after all these people are really going places and have space that needs filling.

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  15. 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!

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  16. 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?

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  17. To a pseudonym at 12:23,

    I understand why some may wish to conceal their identity and there is no harm in this. What I am suggesting is that having so many anonymous [what's the plural] makes the discussion cumbersome and confusing. A nom de blog provides adequate protection. Surely the anonymous have sufficient wit to dream up a tag? This will help the rest of us to follow their argument.

    I still find it difficult to accept that all the anonymous [what IS the plural] are different people.

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  18. After all I too hide behind a nom de blog. My real name is Clark Kent. Please don't tell anyone else.

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  19. DrM, your 13:26: Are you suggesting then that we should not believe that which we read? In which case I should be grateful for your advice and guidance on what we should or should not read and believe.

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  20. John Holyer, hear what you say and I do agree that the thread of an argument is at times difficult to follow. Nonetheless, is a pen name (or should that be keyboard name) really the answer. After all, last time I was A. Psuedonym, but this time chose a more descriptive handle.

    Short of the blog site owner investing in the equipment to be able to roll back the URL of the source, potential as criminal as phone hacking, there seems to be no solution but to live with our 'anon' contributors.

    PS Thought I saw you spinning at light speed in a phone box the other day.

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  21. Dog's Breakfast,

    I take your point. If someone sets out to deliberately confuse then there is little that one can do to stop them. I just hoped that most people would not want to do this.

    We are fortunate in that we rarely get a troll on this blog.

    Dammit, so it was you outside my phone box. Now I shall have to be someone else. Tonight Mathew I shall be.......

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  22. Sorry about the delay in responding to comments, I’ve been busy elsewhere.

    Tony I would have thought the way for Margate Museum to go, especially with the localism bill, is to form a museum trust, takeover the building and actively seek some grant funding to turn the museum into an interactive tourist attraction.

    I would look no further than the award winning gateway in Margate library to see the sort of thing the council can achieve. But yes security of tenure is very important for a museum and council owned and run precludes a lot of funding.

    Readit, this is something that could have done at any time over the last few years of council prevarication, I would see the fact they haven’t as a good sign.

    23.50 I think you have got the wrong ends of some sticks here, I don’t think the council is delaying the port master plan because of the museum and I think it was the judge and not TDC who wielded the big stick.

    8.04 although the last time I was in The Clock House my foot nearly went through a soft spot in the floor, I don’t think the overall condition of the building is that bad. The tricky bit being its vulnerability to tidal surges and storms. The back does need some sort of removable winter flood protection.

    James thanks for the clarification, in a secret ballot, historically there could have been longer term advantages to voting for the opposition candidate here in Thanet.

    Tony at 13.02 assuming the maritime museum lose the building and therefore the collection and vessels, what would they display in the tunnel?

    I am assuming that a great part of the PST involvement in Ramsgate would be a series of events throughout the summer, something that Ramsgate desperately needs.

    DrM the competitiveness between Margate and Ramsgate extends back as far as history is recorded, although the only incidence of racial apartheid I have a written record of was when the Americans were stationed at Manston and the colored servicemen were forced to use Ramsgate for their leisure activates, with Margate being reserved for the white airmen, due to the aircraft noise over Ramsgate.

    There was a short period when TDC first started and was mostly based in Ramsgate when Margate residents complained about being governed from their main rival town.

    My recommendation here is for you and the other cabinet members to come and hold regular surgeries here in Ramsgate and address our very real problems, you could hold them in any of the TDC disused building in Ramsgate, Albion House for example.

    The problem is I think as much one of perception as one of reality and while I am sure our town council is grateful for your support, TDC with their property management, harbour management and so on have a considerable impact on the town.

    Recently there have been some instances where TDC actions in Ramsgate have been interpreted a sheer spite, the business over the historic vessels pontoon being an example that comes to mind.

    Or perhaps take the two towns main leisure sites, Dreamland and Pleasurama, on the one hand TDC is compulsorily purchasing one to return it to the a leisure site, something of great benefit to the town. On the other hand you Conservative councillors voted to support the ongoing Pleasurama development, causing further years of disruption to the towns economy, this was against the advice of council officers including that of our new chief executive.

    We are nearing the end of two years of the health and safety licence for 200 people working on this site, during which 4 people have been working on the site, do you envisage a further 98 years of disruption.

    Or compare say the winter gardens with westcliff hall.

    DB, JH, Anon it is very helpful if people use a pseudonym, if only for the duration of the thread.

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  23. It's not just Ramsgate that feels Margate receives favouritism of course (ask John Worrow & the people of Birchington!).

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  24. 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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  25. bayford out 26 to 28

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  26. Hart in 28 to 26

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  27. Hopefully Clive Hart will be more skilled in keeping his support than the outgoing Bob was. We dont want a change every 6 months when nothing gets done.

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