Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Thanet District Councillors, some idle speculation.

 Looking over the recent events and blog dialogues I am trying to form an accurate picture of what has happened with our district government here in Thanet.

Call it for historical record if you like, I have been trying to ask some fairly searching questions of both councillors and others with an interest in our local politics both on and off line.
 The main theme here is about how different parts of Thanet are treated under different administrations.

An example of what I mean here is say Birchington and Westgate have fairly similar shopping centres and layouts, Westgate has a Conservative cabinet member as a councillor and has free parking, Birchington doesn’t and doesn’t. In fact judjing by recent events all of the Birchington councillors seemed happy to vote against the party line on the parking issue.
 OK this is probably just coincidence but it gives you the idea of where I am coming from.

The searching questions I have been asking are of a more serious nature, these really relate to the way Ramsgate was treated under the last eight years of Conservative Government at district level and were some of the things that happened motivated by spite by a Conservative controlled council towards an area where the councillors were predominantly Labour.

What has happened to council owned assets in the town look to be something more than could be achieved by coincidence.
 Some of the things that happened looked and until they are explained, still look, like acts of spite, where everyone lost. The Historic Ship Pontoon is an example of what I mean.

For anyone who doesn’t know about this, there is a condemned pontoon with limited services opposite the café culture, with the noise and late night antisocial behaviour you would expect, this effectively makes it unletable, in terms of ordinary leisure craft moorings. The council let these moorings to historic vessels at reduced mooring fees.

Everyone gained from this state of affairs, the historic vessel owners got reduced mooring fees, the council got fees where they otherwise wouldn’t, the café culture was enhanced by view of the historic vessels opposite.

The council decided to stop this arrangement, so the pontoon is empty. There may be an explanation, but I have asked and none has been forthcoming.

The other day I heard that Ramsgate swimming pool had been delayed because of an argument as to whether a pedestrian could pass a bicycle on a two metre path, I probably got the wrong end of the stick here and it was two feet, which does sound like a reasonable problem. However this got me thinking if some of the other things, particularly those related to council owned property in Ramsgate, could be explained as spite directed at the Labour group by the Conservative group.

Pleasurama on the surface may look like a series of unfortunate mistakes that has lead to it being a building site for the entire duration of the Conservative administration. But suppose a serious attempt is ever made to develop it, a proper flood risk and cliff condition assessment and proper foundations going into the chalk bedrock I would imagine would be indicators of this. The council would have liability for both the cliff behind and the sea defences in front of it a difficult position, what could possibly the motives that lead to the Conservative group going against the advice of the council’s chief financial officer and issuing agreements that put it in this position?

The maritime museum is another one, well the list goes on.

Now I would say that there is a fairly general consensus that the old Conservative administration, the one before the one that has just been deposed, had much to be desired. So a very big question to the new Conservative administration, is what have they been doing for the last seven months?

Two ex cabinet members have been very noticeable in the recent blog debate but have dodged around these questions, one seems to be baiting John Worrow at the end of the thread http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/12/parking-matters.html I am wondering what the motive could be in this, as John does seem to be in position of some influence in Thanet politics at the moment.

Would the Labour group create a cabinet post for John? It seems unlikely, would the Conservatives group take John back, that seems unlikely too.

So what were and are the motives of the Conservative group? Do they intent to try and seize power back and what will be their intentions if they do? Do they perhaps intend to have some sort of shadow cabinet reshuffle?

The main Labour presence on the Blogs at the moment is Will Scobie, I believe that he is the only councillor on either side who has had any professional training in politics, so this may be a shrewd move on the part of the Labour group.

I am hoping we will see some activity on the presently dormant Labour blogs http://eastclifframsgate.blogspot.com/ and http://newingtonblogspot.blogspot.com/ perhaps these two experienced Labour councillors are biding there time.

There is of course the possibility of some sort of reorganisation of the Labour cabinet that could include them, I believe it was the Conservatives that reduced the size of the cabinet.

I suppose one aspect of the last Conservative cabinet that seemed unwise was combining a major portfolio with the position of leader, makes one wonder really. 

All of the pictures in this post are of well known parts of Thanet, I wonder how many you can identify?

We now come to some speculation about the new leader Clive Hart, I don’t think I have ever met him and in the fullness of time I will put some of the local issues to him, probably as open letters, as I did with the previous leadership.

Just after he became elected a well known Conservative blogger seemed to be saying that Clive is a bit of a slow person, this didn’t seem to tally with him working for 15 years as a supply electrician. A Live Sparks with slow reactions would be unlikely to survive 10 years, particularly with a few apprentices about, you know how it is with young people and their rather direct sense of humour.

Some people seemed to be saying that he would be a bit of a puppet leader, but this doesn’t ring right with someone who was a union pay negotiator, something that is usually synonymous with the word shrewd. 
I may ramble on here.


  1. I do think the problem Michael, is that your wilder conspiracy theories take you off on strange voyages of speculation and some weird district apartheid theory is among them.

    I would have to give you the award as the National Enquirer equivalent on the local weblog scene rather than Private Eye I'm afraid!

  2. What do you expect with non-answers like that Simon?

  3. Well Simon you could start change the direction of this speculation by explaining what was behind the business with The King George IV Maritime Heritage Pontoon, named by an ancestor of Winston Churchill, remind me wasn’t he a Conservative?

    BTW did you manage to identify any of the pictures locations? Please don’t underestimate the importance of this question.

  4. About Ramsgate Sports Centre, the original plan was for it to be a 3m wide path, but there were strong objections by locals, so it was reduced to 2m with landscaping. The application was approved with an amendment relating to the path at last week's Planning meeting.

  5. Thanks James, I though I had got the wrong end of the stick with that one, I couldn’t see there could be a problem with a two metre wide footpath. Good to hear the residents got the path they wanted, I hope it didn’t delay the swimming pool

  6. Michael, The historic vessel pontoon was linked to the closing of the maritime museum, When tdc were removing the grant for the maritime museum they couldn't be seen to be giving grants to "rich" owners of historic vessels. Therefore they made them jump though hoops and apply for a grant they were never going to get. Thus the maritime museum closed the historic ships pontoon is empty tdc were happy and Ramsgate lost out.

  7. Maybe the millions earmarked for the Dreamland CPO could be better spent across Thanet and leave commercial forces to sort out Dreamland. If Tescos goes ahead Margate will be a different place.

  8. Michael, in my experience, trade union reps don't do much actual work, whatever their trade, but Clive managed to develop the customary left wing bad back doing whatever it was he did.

    Surprised also you confuse vocational skill with speed of mind. The two are often totally unrelated.

  9. Electricians swift of mind, union negotiators shrewd and no doubt all things Labour lovely. Please one of you Michael fans, keep telling me that he is not politically biased so I can have my daily hysterics.

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  11. Michael

    It seems the good Dr got a little carried away on his blog last night.

    Rather than thrashing around like a petulant child who has had their toys taken away, I suggest he takes a deep breath, counts to ten and calms himself down.

    Sometimes Doc, you've got to take your medicine.

  12. Well Michael,

    If I ever wanted evidence of your lack of neutrality in comment, this last post provides it in spades.

    Thank you.

    Perhaps in future you could introduce your items with the following warning:

    The Thanetonline weblog is one of the most bizarre I have ever come across in as much as the position of the writer changes after a few hours to maintain his false neutrality and prejudice.

    Happy Christmas

  13. I have made my last visit to Michael's bookshop.

  14. ...and I'm looking forward to the next one! ; )

  15. Bit busy with the shop and children off school so have only just got here and will endeavour to respond between customers, so it may be a bit fragmented.

    23.48 I suppose the point I am trying to make here is that with the pontoons, maritime museum, Harbour Lights Café, old tourist information office, motor museum and so on, the council also loses out in terms of rental return. This combined with the business of it not being one or two properties over a short period of time. But pretty much all of the main council owned major iconic sites in Ramsgate over a long period. The speculation here and it is only speculation is that this could have been more than a series of mistakes and something related to the political composition of the town.

    9.16 I suppose the main irony here is that the Ramsgate equivalent to Dreamland is Pleasurama. Another thought of interest to some is that over the years of trying to get temporary summer leisure, one of the people who seemed to be blazing the same trail was Sandy Ezekiel. Much maligned I know but he always replied to my emails courteously and personally.

    Tom I have worked on live high voltage supplies, you don’t have to touch the live wire the electricity jumps through the air to you when you get close.

    But I am not trying to defend the bloke here, just speculating on the accuracy of some of the things other people have been saying about him, particularly on the blogs.

    10.04 as types how would you describe them?

    10.33 it was a bit off thread, with the Conservative group posts and comment it is the overall strategy of what they are trying to achieve that interests me.

    Chris, as a point of interest, do you think the two different political being in power effects the way different parts of Thanet benefit? Do you think for instance that areas with mostly Conservative councillors will fare worse under Labour.

    Happy Christmas to you too.

    11.36 and 11.40 I hope you are not expecting some sort of political bias in my book stock.

  16. Already happening Michael. Broadstairs may lose its new community centre because the new TDC have decided to delay on granting the lease knowing full well that there is a time limit on the money.

    How's that for punishing those nasty Tory voters and their predominantly Conservative town council.

  17. It seems Tom you have managed to grasp what I am talking about here, although I have tried to avoid focusing on any one individual instance as it is bound to sidetrack the issue.

    Frankly I had very high hopes of the new Conservative administration and assumed that they would address some of the long term problems like Pleasurama and the maritime museum.

    With Pleasurama I think at the end of the day the liability for the council could be colossal, as they seem to have got into the position where councillors ignoring the advice of various experts seems to leave all of the risks with the council. The council have already spent £1m patching up a structure that their own consulting engineer describes as having short serviceable life. If the developer suddenly vanishes there is no performance bond just £1m i.e. the amount the council have already spent.

    The delay to the maritime museum and associated moorings has just meant lost revenue for the council, unless of course they had in mind some other use, something that I think is unlikely.

    The Broadstairs issue is outside my manor so to speak, so wouldn’t know the detail, in the first instance I would ask is, would a decision either way directly cost the council money? But then I am first and foremost a businessman.

  18. If cllr Wells thinks this blog is the most bizarre in Thanet he cant have visited many. But one thing is for sure even if he is sometimes wrong, Michael and Tony for that matter have exposed some of the doings of TDC and it previous administration that must have hit a raw note because of the insults that then flow from certain concillors.
    There have been too many topics to list here.

    But may Michael and others continue with their persuit of the new administration when their adgenda is not in the public interest.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. All employees planning to dash through the snow in a one horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are advised that a Risk Assessment will be required addressing the safety of an open sleigh for members of the public. This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night. While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all users of this facility are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that, prior to shining his/her glory all around, s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.Following last years well-publicised case, everyone is advised that Equal Opportunities legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr R Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.While it is acknowledged that gift bearing is a common practice in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines and all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded, while caution is advised regarding other common gifts such as aromatic resins that may evoke allergic reactions.Finally, in the recent instance of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.

    For this you should blame/praise the Labour/Conservative Council [please delete as your tribe or mood dictates]

  21. "Thanet District Councillors, some idle speculation."

    Michael posed the above question.
    It seemed bizarre that Thanet's Tories walked away from the leadership without puttting up a fight/alternative candidate but maybe they know that come the end of January the roof is about to fall in.

  22. To anonymous at 17:31. I do not understand your rather arcane point. What do you mean by stating, " come the end of January the roof is about to fall in." ?

    Why is the roof about to fall in and what are the ramifications of this collapse for Thanet?

    I should be grateful for clarification.

  23. 17.31 I did get an answer to this one, not sure if it was as a comment, the gist of the thing was with a combination of factors the Conservative group couldn’t realistically win.

    They were already one down with Simon Moores away, combined with the chairs deciding vote, which would have been for Labour.

    I think if the have another go it would have to be with them all there and the support of all of the independents.

    They would presumably have to have a new candidate for leader, who would appeal to all of the independents, not much point in fielding a candidate who can’t win, as it would reduce their future choice.

    My guess is that they have blown it as far as getting all the independents on their side as the seven months of new Conservative rule seemed to be seven months of not very much. Not so much a dream of seven thin cows and seven thick ones, as a dream of no cows at all.

    I think they will now have to wait until either the odds change or Labour make some blunder, so there isn’t much point in changing leader unless they know in advance that they need to.

    I suppose one of their great problems was that the different administration that they replaced was theoretically on their side, not an easy position to be in.

  24. The pink shade is definitely going redder by the day.

  25. On the subject of Thanet bloggers exposing areas of TDC activities that the public should be aware of, ThanetStar has an item today regarding a recent FOI request regarding TDC staffs use of the internet.
    It appears that TDC do not have any software in place that monitors/prevents staff from using the internet in any way they like.
    Surely the person answering the FOI got it wrong or is this another case of poor IT practice at TDC.

  26. I thought blogs were blocked at TDC?

  27. Peter they don’t say that they don’t block sites, just that they can’t monitor which sites are visited. I would guess that they block the main social networking sites and that’s about it.

  28. As you can imagine, I did asked about TDC internet security a long time ago and there are quite sophisticated and expensive controls in place which are the.normal stamdard for local government

    Some sites are blocked by policy but while external sites are not tracked internal security faces quite rigorous controls

  29. My guess here Simon is that the request is not really directed at security but at officers engaging in online leisure activates while at work. I guess the iphone means that people who want to can anyway, and buying software to monitor the amount of time they spend shopping on ebay would be a waste of money, whereas what they probably do, blocking ebay, is the best way of mitigating the problem.

  30. I cannot see any harm in TDC staff having access to the Thanet Blogs from work. Or am I missing the point.

  31. John I would think you would only be able to block the whole of blogger, facebook, ebay, amazon and so on. What you are saying really is I don’t mind if the road sweeper, sits down and reads the paper, then does his shopping instead of sweeping the street. I have worked in industry where you have to keep a timesheet detailing want you were doing for every quarter of an hour throughout the day. This is combined with people doing time and motion studies working out how long it takes to do each job. I guess the problem is that if you are paying someone ten pounds to work for an hour, you want to get ten pounds worth of work. In industry the whole thing breaks down if you don’t produce enough product to pay for your time, in offices particularly in the private sector where for the most part there is nothing produced apart from paper for people in other offices, they sort of try to emulate the real world

  32. A year or two back I emailed TDC to report some rubbish, adding a link to a blog that also mentioned / photographed it. I got a (polite) reply back saying that they can't see blogs there.

  33. Michael,

    The sort of work regime that you are championing is not the answer, especially for salaried paid employees.

    Also, why waste money buying blocking software and paying someone to look after it when it is not necessary to do so.

    It is petty to be counting the minutes. Pettiness in a superior breeds pettiness in a junior. Pettiness is counter productive.

    You can tie a person to their desk for the full hour, but you cannot make them productive. The test for your road sweeper is not how long you have nailed him to his broom; but whether or not the road is swept.

    Similarly with TDC. All that matters is getting the job done well. This is for the line manager to decide. If the Officer has worked hard and got the job done then pray what is the harm if during a well deserved break he orders something from Amazon.

    My experience has taught me that if you treat your staff fairly then they will work all that much harder. It is always about leadership and never about so called management.

    Security is a different matter.

    Michael, You say that you have worked in an industry were they logged what you were dong every minute of the day. I have never worked in such a climate. For me it was a commitment to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With overtime a rarity. If something urgent came up then you stayed until it was done. Under your system I would have given them my full conditioned hours and not a minute more and to hell whether the job was done or not.

  34. Michael,

    You say, " in offices particularly in the private sector where for the most part there is nothing produced apart from paper for people in other offices, they sort of try to emulate the real world".

    I am not sure what you understand to be the real world. Do you mean that which is confined to your own personal milieu?

    So what is produced in the office environment? Well, for a start the books that you sell are written in offices. Ideas and policy are created in offices. Plans are drawn in an office. You can sit in an office and make things happen outside of it in your so called 'real world'. Accountants work from offices. Government is conducted from offices. There is much more more. If one actually stops to think about it.

    Not everyone needs to be an action man.

    In my experience of the building trade, the men that drove the project on and solved the problems were based in offices albeit on site. Also, there was plenty of paper work flying around. They seemed pretty productive to me.

  35. for an idea of the productiveness of TDC, check out the monthly spend over £500 spreadsheet, look at who gets paid what and imagine the services they provide for us, then ask yourself what the 650+ directly employed TDC people do.

  36. The whole point of creating Ramsgate Town Council was to have a body which acted in the best interests of the town. Ideally, this Council should have been populated by independents who would not be beholden to any political party. Unfortunately, many of the best candidates were put off by the bickering, and the way the Council was run at the outset. Now, the whole thing has become just another political football. It's up to the people of Ramsgate to get things back on track by electing some awkward b*gg*rs who will stand up for the town (and won't sell the slipways for a handful of coloured beans).

  37. Sir Gus O'Donell has said in the Daily Telegraph, “It is not enough now for the civil service simply to respond to a dampened economic climate; it needs to become a central part of its recovery and growth.
    ”He suggests that MPs are too keen to make new laws to deal with problems, increasing the burden of red tape. Instead, he encourages ministers and civil servants to take more risks, so that officials can “learn from failure”. “We must be more creative and innovative in the way we solve problems without always resorting to the creation of new rules,” he says.

    I am sure that this applies just as much to local government and TDC. What do you think, Michael?

  38. John slip of the brain there, meant to say public.

    The new localism bill seems to be saying pretty much what you are saying in your last comment.

  39. The comments seem to go on for ever

  40. True: and you have just added one more. Oops, but then so have I

  41. "Idle speculation"

    Can I speculate that the new leadership will be more sympathetic to all those that live under the flight path and need to sleep at night.

    On the other hand with Flybe pulling out of the Edinburgh - Manston schedule service the omens are not good for Infatil carrying on supportinga loss maker.

  42. Talking of idle speculation, Thanetlife should check his facts as the Yalta twinning was the brain child of former Conservative Councillor Gordon Burley and was a Conservative sponsered thing long before Labour took control of TDC and the Margate Charter Trustees.

  43. 0720 - what like Gerry O'Donnell? He's a difficult b&gg£r, but also wants night flights, courts night flights, LOVES night flights over our beloved town.

    I'd say people get elected on merit - personal, party, or pledges. Gerry was lacking in all three.


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