Thursday, 5 January 2012

Thanet District Council, tourism, events, we pay the piper and everything goes quiet.


The whole business of how the council manages tourism and events when viewed from the outside seems like one great disaster area.

I generally have to view it from as far away as Ramsgate and fight with the modern inventions of the telephone and internet, in order to find out what’s on locally.

Anyone who doubts what I mean evidently hasn’t tried ringing up the tourist information office in Margate during the last year and encountered the wonderful and presumably expensive automated switchboard machine, that having made you angry, always seems to send you to the same officer.

Anyone who still doubts this evidently hasn’t tried using the council’s tourist information online.

There are three council funded tourist websites, remember you are paying for this to a greater or lesser extent if you are a uk taxpayer.

Here is the first most recent council tourism website’s page for events this January http://www.warmingwords.org.uk/january.aspx


And last of all here is the one that they pay a private company to manage for them


Some ways of gauging there effectiveness would be the way the covered recent events on their website.

How for instance they covered the recent Broadstairs New Year fireworks fiasco, how the told us the event was on and how they told us the event had been cancelled.

How for instance the covered the recent Ramsgate new Year fireworks that did actually happen.

How for instance they covered the recent royal visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Margate.

The simple answer here is that none of their three tourism websites mentioned any of the above events.

With the recent change from Conservative to Labour leadership at the council cabinet portfolio responsibility for this has changed from Chris Wells to Iris Johnston. Well I had a long chat on the phone with Iris yesterday evening, which was supposed to be about the Broadstairs firework fiasco, not her fault as she came to the job too late.

I then found myself trying to explain to Iris what was wrong with the way the council manage their tourist websites, there were pros and cons here as iris doesn’t understand the internet from the point of view of someone publishing to it, but she does tell you what she thinks you said which is a considerable aid to this sort of communication.

Anyone who has ever played one of those games where everyone sits in a circle and you whisper something to the person next to you who then whispers it to the person next them, until what you said comes back to you as something completely different, will understand what I mean here.

With the royal visit coverage I went to the extent of making a formal complaint about the council’s internet publicity, I hardly ever do this as I am told that it wastes the council’s time when they could be doing something more useful.

Anyway here is the blog post with the complaint and responses for anyone who wants to read it http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/12/thanet-district-council-her-majesty.html


Of these various council funded tourism websites, the one the council obviously sees as the most important feeds its events in a way that they appear on the council’s main website homepage.

At the moment it is the events listed below that appear on the council’s homepage i.e. the most important and expensive part of their whole internet operation.   

 

Events







Added to this is one of the strange TDCIT feed faults so the event vanishes the day before it is on.



I suppose in reflection it is as well that there isn’t anything else important happening in Thanet between now and The Thanet Gang Show in April.


Wait a sec, isn’t some little known artist exhibiting some of his local pictures in a little known gallery somewhere in Thanet.

Here is sketch of him from my sketchbook, of course you won’t recognise him as I can’t paint either.  


This next picture is interesting and shows some interesting internet use by the council, you will see that their latest press release the one about the fireworks fiasco has appeared not at the top of the list as one would expect, but further down underneath the one they issued a couple of days ago on the 3rd.

This means that the press release doesn’t appear on the councils facebook wall at all, see http://www.facebook.com/pages/Thanet-District-Council/83700846372?sk=wall


While you ponder why the council would want to put the press release see http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/2012/01/broadstairs-new-years-eve-fireworks.html about the fireworks in the day before yesterday’s paper, you may wish to wonder what the council’s remit is when it comes to leisure.


Looking further into the way the council uses the internet I have been trying to use what I take to be their premier in house events site http://communityportal.thanet.gov.uk/home/

I base the premier on the fact that the events from it feed directly onto the council’s main website homepage and in house on the web address being an extension of the councils main web address.

This is where I think I am going to need some expert help ad I can only find six events listed on it, see http://communityportal.thanet.gov.uk/events/

According to the website the promotion of these six events is part funded by the EEC which sort of makes one wonder how expensive theis is and where the rest of the funding comes from.  

I will ramble on about this issue as the day progresses.

39 comments:

  1. Just thought I'd point out Michael that there was not a "recent change from Labour to Conservative leadership"...

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  2. Thanks Peter slip of the brain there I have corrected the error, mind you I do sometimes wonder if the TDC Conservatives are actually Conservative in terms of ideology or effectiveness.

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  3. Still showing the same old prejudice, Michael. Guess it comes from watching to much BBC propoganda.

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  4. 14.11 you have definitely got me sussed, as I watched the BBC lunchtime news and came away from it even more prejudiced than before. Obviously I thought I was keeping this unusual and subversive behaviour secret, do me a favour and let me know which of my prejudices is showing here, as I have so many I can’t work out which one you are talking about.

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  5. Like every other council out there, they aren't there to chase up events, it is is up to event organisers to submit them to the Council.

    I arrange events and I make sure they are on the various websites out there as soon as possible I don't expect the council to do it for me ....

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  6. 14.29 I see what you mean.

    Dear Visit Kent, community portal and warmingwords,

    We would like to inform you that my husband and I will be visiting Margate and will not be brining the corgies, o bother what is the plural of corgi, no need to make a fuss……….

    Is this the sort of thing you had in mind?

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  7. Of course not Michael, that is an event that should have been on there as it was arranged by and through TDC (thought i was very well reported in advance by most of the press and TV so wasn't short of publicity)

    The vast majority of community events don't have any involvement from the council so it IS up to them to inform them.

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  8. To anonymous @ 14:11,

    Tribal politics aside, it's 'propaganda', presumably this is much the same as your suggested BBC 'propoganda' (sic).

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  9. Changed my mind, on second thoughts I'll keep quiet for a change.

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  10. 15.50 look I think I had better labour the point here, I am a manufacturing retailer, i.e. I manufacture local books that are pretty much exclusively sold in Thanet and have a shop in Thanet. I guess come the revolution I will be one of the first with my back up against the wall with the other Thanet capitalists.

    But now and for the time being my entire income is dependent on money spent in Thanet, either directly or when some one comes here and spends some money, say in Age and Son and Toby comes into the shop and buys a cookery book, or buys a fish in Eddie Gilberts and Johnny comes in and buys a fishing book.

    Now when it came to news about the royal visit the main source of this news and the only primary feed would be the TDC website. So the media would have picked up the news from this source. The queen doesn’t have a feed and wouldn’t contact the media.

    For the whole of the weekend before the royal visit even the council’s press release about it vanished. So lets say that 20,000 people visited Thanet for the royal visit and on average they spent £50, then that’s £100,000 into the local economy. Lets further say through various forms of taxation I contribute to the council news and tourist department to the tune of a tenner and lets say a tenner of the hundred grand turns into profit for me. But suppose the royal visit had been properly promoted by the council and 40,000 people had turned up from out of the area then I would have pocked a pony, perhaps now you can see what annoys me.

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  11. Let's be honest. TDC and the local press are equally useless at promoting the area. The best thing anybody could do is refuse to buy any of the papers that are published and stick a notice on the door asking them not to deliver the freebies. As for dealing with the Council, I'm afraid you get what you vote for. If the web-site is rubbish the plethora of Councillors who don't seem to do much else should get it sorted out. If they don't get it sorted out vote for somebody else.

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  12. Anon 18.39 we tried that but the Thanet "lemming" still keep voting red or blue so they deserve what they get.

    Michael, was that a Shetland pony, or have you got very large pockets :-)

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  13. I would have expected events at The Winter Gardens to be given prominence on Council websites as it would help to reduce any subsidy money that has to be paid to the organisation that runs it if their income from attendances, bar takings etc. was maximised. They might also be able to improve the Council owned building too.

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  14. Hmmm is the plural of lemming, lemming or lemmings, perhaps i should have said "sheeps"

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  15. To be fair, I think the first place most people would look for Winter Gardens events is via the Winter Gardens website. It's a bit different to one-off events held in our towns.

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  16. Sorry Readit I should have been a little less obtuse, that would be two, cock and hens and an uncle ivor, the uncle ivor extra being due to the overheads not being twice as much.

    New profile photo Peter, is that the Wanstsum sea defence I can see in the background?

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  17. It was taken on Cliftonville seafront (near The Lido) at lunchtime today Michael.

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  18. Got you Peter, I am going through about a thousand old pictures of Thanet at the moment identifying them, so I suppose it has rubbed off on me, looking at the background not the foreground that is. Good photo very difficult to date if you didn’t know which is always a good sign, I think, I guess as an expert in the field I guess you will have noticed that a lot of the best glamour shots are hard to date, the Sheridan one the other day being a case in point, I guess as she was born in 1920 it must have been taken in the mid 30s but I don’t think I could have pinned it down to within thirty years.

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  19. And there was me thinking it was two Ayrton Sennas and a Lady Godiva.

    Time to go down the nuclear sub to spend a saucepan lid or better still up the apples and pears to Uncle Ted,

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  20. If the idea is to publicise one off events then St Laurence Church Tour wouldn't qualify as it seems to be every month & the Thanet Gang Show is more than one evening. Most Winter Garden events are one night so they would seem to meet the criteria more.

    Really though I feel you need to try and catch the eye of those looking at the what's on type sites. You may not necessarily be looking to go to the Winter Gardens for example but if an event catches your eye on the events site it could tempt you. It is a bit of a hassle looking at WInter Gardens, Theatre Royal, Westgate Pavilion, Granville etc websites not to mention those further afield to such as Marlowe and up to London Venues etc to see what's on. For some reason the mailing list which I have joined don't sendout emails whne a new event is booked so you have to keep checking the individual sites.

    One comprehensive Council what's on website would be ideal.

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  21. Michael, your 16:44,

    In this matter TDC demonstrates a casual approach. However, I suspect that they have some arcane performance target which convinces them that they are doing enough. The real world is something with which they rarely trouble themselves.

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  22. First the fireworks and now the new town community centre. Seems like Broadstairs now has to take the medicine for having the audacity last May to elect thirteen councillors out of fifteen who supported the new centre.

    One wonders when the 'Localism' plans will actually take effect and places like Broadstairs can do what their town council were elected to do. Not forced into unpopular actions by some Labour big brother council, who gained power not through the ballot box but by a defection, made up mainly of Margate and Ramsgate resident members.

    You wondered about this issue, Michael, so you now know.

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  23. Tom Clarke,

    I truly know little of these matters. Is TDC truly this politically corrupt as you describe, or are they just lazy incompetents, or are they in truth the epitome of probity and doing a great job having the interests of HM Tax Payers at heart?

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  24. John, in truth they are probably somewhere between your two extremes, but all too frequently driven by political considerations.

    Incompetence certainly plays a part and probably the cause of the firework fiasco. The Broadstairs Community Centre is pure spite for this was coming to fruition after ten years of hard work by the trust set up for the purpose, numerous public consultations, fund raising and finally presented last May as an election issue.

    All TDC had to do was to grant a lease on land, which now under the Localism Act should probably come under the control of Broadstairs Town Council anyway.

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  25. Tom viewed from the outside as I view Broadstairs the truth of the matter is, no I don’t understand this community centre issue. I can’t work out whether this is a case of the town council trying to impose some unwanted act of largesse on the town that local people don’t want. Rather like the way the last time Labour was in power at TDC a huge amount of grant funding went into changing Ramsgate seafront in a way that removed all the car parking, or whether this is something that the people of Broadstairs genuinely want and need.

    If there is a Broadstairs voice on the internet explaining this sort of issue I haven’t found it, The Broadie have published to facebook today and haven’t even mentioned the issue.

    If anyone wants to attach their name and address to an explanation of what has happened here, as I do when it is a Ramsgate issue, then I will publish it here without comment moderation.

    Getting back to what this thread is about, which is that we, you and I are paying for the council having an events and a tourism department that is supposed to facilitate local events and publicise them.

    It is pretty evident that the Broadstairs fireworks is an example of the events department not performing their primary function i.e. making sure events happen. Excuses like we didn’t know that this annual event existed, or we sent them notification that we had moved the goal posts and the arrangements that have been ok for all the previous years are suddenly viewed as too dangerous just won’t wash.

    The main subject of this post is the tourist office’s bits that you can access here and now not functioning properly, phone and internet.

    We are pouring money at this thing, five of six officers all in The Droit House in Margate while the other Thanet towns have volunteer tourism services, and yet an annual event like the Ramsgate New Year fireworks gets no coverage.

    These three bizarre websites that you can access yourself now, expensive, probably very, and my guess would be that in the Droit House there is a very inclusive list of this weeks events, so why isn’t this available online?

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  26. Michael,

    Your 11:56: On the evidence I would suggest that the answer is that those responsible have adopted a casual approach to their task.

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  27. Michael, hear what you say but the Community Centre Trust was not a council project. Furthermore, the opponents, whilst claiming majority support, made it an election issue which they lost resoundingly. Hardly then a case of the council forcing on people something they did not want.

    You published several press releases last year from the protest group including the call to support certain candidates. A call that went unheeded.

    This is, I am afraid, an act of spite by an administration who themselves have no mandate through the ballot box. It all rather makes a joke of democracy, if indeed there is such a thing.

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  28. Tom I think this is where you have hit the nail on the head, the problem here is that party politics goes sort of crazy when applied at local level. Here in Ramsgate the last town council elections where held in conjunction with the other locals and the electoral reform thing.

    I think most people’s perception of the council is that it is one lump i.e. county, district and town and the contentious Ramsgate issues, Pleasurama, maritime museum, Albion House and so on became perceived rightly or wrongly as being caused by those mad Tories at the council.

    Now there is no doubt in my mind that if people were making an informed choice then Ramsgate Town Council would have had a more mixed return, but what happened to a lot of people, I am certain of this because some of them contacted me on the day, is they were expecting to vote for or against electoral reform and were confronted by two other ballot papers that came as a total surprise to them.

    I am not sure if this is democracy but I am fairly certain that this isn’t what democracy is supposed to be about.

    Because both parties had fielded candidates for all wards many of the names on ballot papers were also names that no one had heard of and this didn’t make things any easier.

    Now I would doubt that in Broadstairs many of the voters were doing any more than the rest of us i.e. either voting Labour or Conservative because they had notion of an ideology that fitted in with their own, or like me floating and trying to vote for the most able candidate.

    I for instance wasn’t trying to vote for the party who would get the maritime museum open or who would do something about the Pleasurama fiasco, I was just voting for the individuals who I thought would be most likely to represent me in making the best choices.

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  29. As ever the excuses for Labour flow from your pen, Michael, under your apolitical guise. This act over the Broadstairs Community Centre runs rough shod over the town council, the Broadstair's Town Forum group and the Community Centre Trust. It is an act of political punishment without justification.

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  30. Tom I had a thorough look at the Broadstairs fireworks fiasco and have had assurances from both sides of the political divide that this wasn’t an act of political malevolence.

    Now with this one I gather that the lease was put out to public consultation and only 10 people responded 9 of whom were against the development, so before I make the effort with this one, why do you reckon only one person seemed to be for the development?

    I mean that if this is a genuine act of malice sanctioned by the council I will go down the official complaint foi road with it, but I need a bit more than one positive respondent to the consultation and one anonymous blog commentator.

    What my excuses for Labour are you will have to expand on as I can’t quite follow what you mean by that.

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  31. MICHAEL, TEN YEARS OF PLANNING AND CONSULTATION INCLUDING PUBLIC MEETINGS, ADJUSTMENTS MADE TO THE PLANS TO ACCOMMODATE PUBLIC CONCERNS OVER TREES AND PARK SPACE AND AN ELECTION WHERE THE OPPONENTS MADE IT A MAJOR ISSUE (WHICH THEY LOST). ALL TDC HAD TO DO WAS GRANT A LEASE.

    Just how much do you need to know. If you want a second opinion look on Simon Moores site.

    No one is asking you to condemn TDC, though you were not slow to do so in the past, but your defence and excuses for them say it all.

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  32. Well said, Tom, for Michael is so far up Labour's rear that he can no longer see his own prejudice.

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  33. Tom no need to shout old chap, Simon seems to be saying that the cabinet of which he was part could have granted this lease at any time without the consultation. I think he wrong about this and that Harvey has given him the wrong advice, but that is beside the point.

    The point here is that it was the consultation that counted, and had the responses been for the development, my understanding here is that Harvey read all of those against out at the meeting and I think the only one for wasn’t presented in time, so didn’t get read out, then the decision could have been different.

    Something you may wish to consider and I am not trying to be patronising here at a difficult time, don’t have feelings either way about this decision that doesn’t effect me, is that in the world of bookselling it is pretty much always the National Front candidate who is first to by the Communist party manifesto and vice versa.

    I guess when the group opposing the development were asking people to write to the council opposing it, it would have been a good time to get a few people to write to the council supporting it.

    For good or for bad it has gone now and as far as I can see everything was done within the rules, which may be rubbing salt in the wound but I don’t see there is ought I can do for you.

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  34. Take a look at Thanet News Network, and comments, Michael, for it would seem that TDC have confused denying planning with failing to grant a lease and have gone back to a previously resolved issue of loss of park space. You could not make up this level of incompetence.

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  35. Tom Clarke,

    Your accusations against Michael are unfounded, yes he criticizes the previous Conservative administration but they hardy covered themselves in glory.

    All he is asking for is the "so called" support to identify itself not quote a ten year saga which could have been carried out by a minority.

    Michael has quite clearly stated he does not have sufficient background knowledge on the subject to form an opinion, quite a moderate middle of the road position.

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  36. Tom as far as I understand it this was part of the asset consultation process. I tried to redo the link to the Thanet news thing but it doesn’t work, by the way.

    The point here is that when a council is asked to grant a lease of more than 25 years this is supposed to be treated as an asset disposal.

    The only time I am aware of that council under the last administration didn’t do this was when the granted the Pleasurama 199 year lease and I suspect because of this the lease may be open to some kind of legal dispute

    I believe what the cabinet was being asked to do was decide whether or not to grant this lease based on the public consultation, i.e. 9 against granting it and one for who submitted late.

    They decided not to grant it and based on the consultation results I don’t think that there is any way of disputing the issue.

    The only way open if you do want to is via the new localism act where I believe as a local group, if you genuinely have the local support that you say you have you should be able to get the council to hand the asset over to you.

    Once again though this process would be one of consultation, frankly if you want more details you would need to email me you and I will do my best among all the other stuff on plate to find you the right information.

    Readit I think Tom probably thinks I am some sort biased political road and not genuinely looking for the best local solutions, bit of a difficult one that.

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  37. When Michael insisted that the perceived bias against Ramsgate by the previous administration was an act of political punishment for daring to go Labour this was dismissed as rubbish. Now Tom is using the same argument regarding Broadstairs that Michael used regarding Ramsgate. I side with John on this - there is not political punishment involved, only incompetence or indifference.
    As I've said before don't fall into the trap of thinking that anyone who criticises must hold the opposite political persuasion. Labour have been in power for just over a month - let's see how this site reacts once their true level of incompetence is revealed.
    And once again remember; if the Tories ever want to win undisputed control of TDC again they need to recapture Ramsgate; or at least the bits that they lost last year.

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  38. Tim there comes a point where one transcends ordinary logic and starts to look for motives, there were two tipping points for me with the Conservative administration, one was the Conservative cabinet going against the advice of the councils finance officer and continuing with the Pleasurama development.

    As far as I can see this put the council in a position of large liability without reasonable guarantees. The other was the business with the heritage pontoons, the council lost income, the town lost a tourist attraction, the boat owners were wealthy individuals who were doing us all a favour.

    Too right about winning back Ramsgate I thought today when I signed the Dreamland petition that a very major factor there was a young Labour councillor discovering the diversity of views and politics in the town. But yes it was a sensible petition and the hard core Conservatives were queuing up to sign with the rest.

    Where the hell was the Conservative representation?

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  39. They play politics because they find this it easier than getting on with a job that anyway confuses them. Some of them even imagine themselves to be Westminster material. We are badly served.

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