Saturday, 6 April 2013

Saturday Ramble, Social Engineering by London Boroughs, Live Animal Exporters in Court and so on.

I did buy an isle of Thanet Gazette today, so starting with the story they are leading with.
There are several newspaper articles about the possibility of Lambeth rehousing people in Margate.
I guess with the internet there is little in the way of new news and this one is no exception. My guess is that trying to force people to live in a different part of the UK for economic reasons isn’t going to work that well and people will drift back to their communities. I suppose a problem with housing benefit and the way it works, is that it means there is no really cheap residential accommodation. When I started work in the late 60s the bottom end of pay was about £2.50 per day and about £2.50 a week including rates was about the cost of renting the bottom end of accommodation.

By  today's standards this wouldn't have been seen as good accommodation, three rooms, one floor of a small terraced house, a gas heater on the slot meter, just a cold tap in the kitchen and a loo at the bottom of the garden. Would it be counted as a slum today, I don’t really know, I am certainly not talking about dirty vermin infested accommodation, just cheap and simple that served me well as a young bloke moving from job to job.

The live animal exports issue is a bit on the confusing side, the key issue being the business where about 40 sheep were killed.

The result of this is that we now have a situation where we have people saying that the council acted wrongly by enforcing a temporary closure of the port to animal exports, because they said the facilities were inadequate, this seems to have resulted in the council having to pay out legal fees. They also seem to have the possibility of having to find a large amount in compensation. We have people saying that the RSPCA acted wrongly in putting the sheep down, or the way in which the put the sheep down.

This mostly stems from an article in The Daily Mail

The latest in this is the animal exporters being prosecuted over the incident as reported in The Gazette and elsewhere.    

Just what the rights and wrongs of this are, in terms of the recent history of the trade in Ramsgate as distinct from whether live animal exports are wrong in a general sense, is confusing, the subject of various legal proceedings, but for us local taxpayers likely to be expensive.

We have two election days in Thanet at the beginning of next month, the county councillor elections on Thursday 2nd of May and on Thursday 9th May one TDC ward councillor election to replace Sandy Ezekiel who has been removed from office because of being sent to prison and one Ramsgate Town councillor election because Ian Driver has resigned.

I will ramble on here after I have ahs some lunch   

 I have had my lunch so a few observations from my lunchtime walk, a new shopfront or partly new going in in Harbour Street.
 The Maritime Museum opening times for this year look to be a bit limited.
 The weather was better than of late, no coat.
 Ursula Allen has an exhibition of her paintings in York Street Gallery Ramsgate until Thursday which is well worth going to have a look at. A few pictures of the artist and some of her work next.

Still with the art theme another Turner Contemporary video


  1. I know its tedious for you to face it Michael, but every legal opinion sought before the arrival of Labour administration warned clearly about the illegality of closing the port to a legal trade, and the consequences in cash for other local authorities who had tried. It is my belief that the legal opinion that labour cllrs keep referring to does not exist; they played to the gallery and their supporters; and we will all pay the price of their hiding behind a 'principled stand'. Their latest press release is not even honest, the court fees were settled by negotiation between the parties, not by the court, as I understand it. And they are tiny in relatiuon to the potential compensation. I wonder if you would be so sanguine if a conservative administration had been so cavalier with a potential £1m plus of your money? That old red tinge just wont go away will it? Unlike your promise to answer the KCC candidates questions of just a few days ago?

    1. Chris I think the point I was making most of all is that I didn't understand all of the implications of the various parts, the errors and associated litigation.

      The key difference between what the Conservatives did when they were in control and what the Labour group did was due to the incident when the sheep were killed.

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing and on this occasion you have it, so what would you have done immediately after the incident?

    2. Not hindsight at all, but a determination to oppose the trade by legal means, whilst not saddling the council tax payer with a vast legal bill - as was carried on by the administration pre labour coalition, in line with accepted legal advice. A comment on your press release blog seems to me to have got it about right and I quote:
      'Legal costs were agreed upon, it was not decided by court.
      The legal costs will be peanuts by the time they will be sent the bill from the transporters.
      TDC has set aside the law and that comes at a price.
      Apparently they are willing to pay.
      Simply because it does not come out of there own pocket!
      They praise the RSPCA and are looking forward to Kent Trading standards prosecutions.
      They should however prosecute the RSPCA for brutally and cruelly torturing these 40 odd sheep to death.
      The RSPCA officer that did this, was not trained, not certified, did not know what she was doing and nobody stopped here. Some animals were shot 3 times (as given in evidence by KTS). These animals were covered with blood.
      When a certified person has to put down an animal, you will find one drop of blood. NOT A BUCKET, SPRAYED UP THE WALL FOR MORE THEN A METER.
      TDC has got egg on there face!'

      Seems pretty accurate to me.

    3. Perhaps you would also pursue your comments on the limited opening of the maritime museum.Was there an agreement to a set number of hours and days? How much does it cost the council tax payer (oh sorry forgot you previously refused to discuss that one); otherwise we could work out the cost per hour, but as the cost remains hidden, and you were content for that cost to be hidden, no one can do that can they!

    4. Chris I guess that in an overall sense TDC leaves me pretty much lost for words, underlying most of their problems is the secrecy and poor communication.

      I don’t think you will find that my stance has been to support their actions over the animal export issue, I don’t think I ever got as far as understanding the conflicting messages coming from the council.

      The Maritime Museum issue to me is much more about the council owned derelict sites, Pleasurama Tunnels, Albion House, Maritime Museum, pavillion, Eagle Café, old tourist information office Westcliff hall and so on.

      I guess that the museum, café and tourist information office are now back in use is a move in the right direction, the eight years of Conservative domination at TDC left a bit of a legacy, I get the feeling that were you still in power we may have seen even less progress.

      But then that is only my perception, which was that the Conservative group were punishing Ramsgate for having mostly Labour councillors, I am sure you have some other explanation.

    5. You are quite right Michael, it is only your perception.

    6. and there was me thinking that I was the one who didn't want to discuss the issues Chris.

    7. No Michael you are simply a good labour spin doctor - repeat the lie you wish to be true often enough and even you begin to believe it

    8. Chris you only have to explain why the Conservatives didn’t deal with the high profile Ramsgate council owned property during the eight years they were in control, as the say two could have been a coincidence, three looks like… but at least seven.

      Apply the same level of dereliction to Margate or Broadstairs and you take out everything behind the main sands, The Winter Gardens, Broadstairs Pavillion, all the museums.

    9. Despite supposedly being one of Thanet's more "thinking Tories", Councillor Wells, you are obviously falling victim to the current "reds under the bed" preoccupation of so many of your fellow, local right-wing bloggers. You seem desperate to strike home your assertions about perceived political bias on Michael Child's part, yet you were completely silent during the long period that your colleague, Simon Moores, was masquerading as a simple local commentator when he was in fact spinning like a top for your own Party. Several challenged him over this - never you of course because his behaviour suited you politically - and were met with threats, insults and vilification. Ancient history, yes, but it proves that it isn't principles that steer you, but political opportunism and point-scoring. Small wonder politicians are regarded with such contempt.

    10. Michael, once again your input is a personal variety of the truth rather than any objective reality. Please also understand that for most of the times you are lsiting I was a backbencher not a decision maker. However I do remember many proposals for dealing with these buildings being discussed, and some tried, but every plan put forward during this period was bitterly and publicly opposed by the local labour opposition at the time, in the same way as they opposed every asset sale, and now oppose the turning off of any street light, its called populist opposition. That also included populist opposition to their own plans for pleasurama, as I have to keep reminding you.

      I was directly involved in some of the attempts to solve issues relating to Albion House and the Motor Museum (a previous use to the current welcome proposal). I also publicly supported the creation of Ramsgate Town Council, in order to reflect the growing (then) view that the district did not represent Ramsgate aspirations; though never expected it to demand so much real estate, or budget, nor be as actively political as it has become - something Broadstairs Town Council avoided until the recent hung district council scenario.

      The underlying theme of all this was that any proposals should not be an open cheque book drain on the limited resources of the district council, something which is not the approach of the current administration, as I keep pointing out to you and you choose to ignore. (Which is also why I am so pleased to see the current use of the Motor Museum, which generally bucks this trend; and have expressed doubts about with regard to the maritime museum, because the costs and future patterns of commitment are hidden from view: and before somebody jumps in do not know enough about the tunnels project to sensibly comment, though was very heartened by David Green's recent description).

      Anon of 620am....thank you for the compliment of my being a thinking Tory. Perhaps as you read the above you will observe a degree of consistency in my position that should not surprise you. And consider the decisions of the current administration on the maritime museum, the live export debacle, the appointment and departure of a new £90000 director at TDC, and the manipulation of parking policy for political gain, as evidence of a different, more cavalier way of operating. Finally, I would remind both contributors that I am a Broadstairs District Cllr, and a Margate County Cllr, so if you both feel so aggrieved that Ramsgate has lost out to both of those areas, perhaps I should consider myself as having done a good job for my residents, then!

    11. And finally, I laugh when you accuse me of falling for current trends..I believe I have consistently taken it as a (mildly amusing) duty to remind Michael of his pink tinge for many months if not years now. To describe that view of mine as new I think is a little economical with the actualite - something I think Michael would agree as well!!!!

    12. Chris I think you and perhaps most of the political types have a misunderstanding I and I would guess a few others look at local politics.

      In the first instance it isn’t about being Labour or Conservative and frankly the group who are set I the way they vote don’t make any difference when it comes to elections, it is much more about voting against the largest likely lunacy.

      At district level in Ramsgate this is perceived as the Conservatives, take night flights, my take from the beginning has been that the amount of night flights should be related to day flights and hence economic benefits. However the Conservatives say they want to allow the same night flying quota as Stansted or Heathrow, with no linkage to economic benefits. Further to this anyone who doesn’t agree with this stance they label as anti airport and against economic growth.

      With our public buildings, I guess the main fear is that if the Conservatives got back into power they would reverse the very small achievement we have got in the right direction and certainly that they would try to close the maritime museum. While on the one hand I get no assurances from the Conservative group that this isn’t the case and that thy would support the museum if returned to power, on the other is the only retort to this sort of concern is to assume I am some sort of Marxist Leninist.

      There is a similar situation in reverse at county level, about the last remaining first class government funded thing we have left in Ramsgate is our grammar schools, any suggestion to Labour candidates that one would want some assurance they were retained if they got into power is met with the retort that one is some sort of fascist.

      For me as a local businessman my main concern is attempting to retain anything that is beneficial and to try and find any local politician, and this includes Cllr Driver, who will dos something anything to try and get the problems with our council owned property sorted our. At the top of this list comes Pleasurama, followed in size and significance order by the pavillion. With these, what we want from local Conservatives isn’t to have them point out the errors made under Labour administrations, which we are only too well aware of, but to have the local Conservatives admit that they also made mistakes and to help us sort the problems out.

      We was had and made an agreement under false pretences, would be a good start.

    13. Michael, whilst you insist as ever that your view is that of an apolitical businessman, interested only in who will do the best for the town, you are only too quick to dismiss others of us as political types. Although I have said it before I will again, I am not a member of the Conservative party but, in the same way that you are left of centre, I am to the right with a strong inbuilt suspicion of the far left.

      I have written elsewhere about our public buildings, but the undeniable fact is that many of them have been in a poor state of repair for years and through successive adminisdtrations. TDC does not have the funds to properly look after all the properties acquired or gifted over the decades, but, the sensible solution of selling some off, is invariably turned into a political football.

      As for Cllr Driver, well I could not help but smile at his lastest post on his own 'electioneering' site where claims to be increasingly concerned about the Pleasurama saga. Many people in Ramsgate have been concerned about it for a decade or more, you and Ken Read have been giving informed and researched opinion for years yet, Cllr Driver, after two years in office, suddenly becomes increasingly concerned when he is on an election campaign trail.

      That is the kind of thing that puts me off the politicians and their opportunism. You mentioned 'Night Flights' where a rational approach, possibly even the one you suggest yourself, should be the way forward, but, no, it has to be all or nothing along political divide lines. What about the best interests of the people of Thanet.

    14. Tom I think you may have got the old wires a bit crossed here, my reply was – or at least I though it was - to Chris Wells who as he is a TDC and KCC councillor I assume to be a political type.

      I have had the bookshop in Ramsgate and lived over the top for the past 26 years – don’t time fly – and have voted for both Conservative and Labour parliamentary candidates, voted for Labour, Conservative and independent council candidates.

      With the KCC elections I am as yet undecided, I have a choice of, Everitt and Green – Labour, Kirby and Gideon Conservative, Shonk and Heale UKIP, Jones Lib Dem, White Green and of course Driver Ind.

      At the moment I’m still trying to work out who is in with a chance as I don’t want to waste my vote and then there is the old question, would any of them actually do anything, if elected?

      Whether any of them would do anything good or bad is even further down the line, you got any ideas?

    15. Councillor Wells, my accusation was of double standards and political opportunism on your part, not of your being trendy.

    16. Michael, if I had my wires crossed as often as you tend to suggest, along with grabbing the wrong end of sticks, I think I would have disappeared in a profusion of sparks long ago. Suffice to say that your comment to Chris Wells also implied other poltical types. I guess, in a way, we are all political types to a greater or lesser degree.

      As to the candidates for KCC, I am afraid I do not know too much about most of them. From what I do know Kirby and Green would make an honest effort and Driver would most likely disrupt the smooth running of the county council, not necessarily for the better. Never sure about Trevor Shonk, who is supposed to be UKIP, but can talk for ten minutes on cabbage fields totally out of context as he was prone to do in the 2010 general election.

      Guess it has to be your choice, but it is a pretty safe bet that whoever you vote for it will make no difference in the long run.

  2. On the plus side (for them), those people being moved from Lambeth to Thanet will almost certainly have a far better life here. I moved to Herne Bay (then later Thanet) from Peckham in 1985, and I dread to think how my life would've worked out if I'd stayed there.

    1. Peter I think the key here is did you move or were you moved? As I understand it these people will be moved, which is social engineering, not something usually associated with the UK and my guess is they will move back.

    2. It was my own decision to a degree: my grandparents moved to Herne Bay to retire some years earlier; they became frail so my mother with my brother & two sisters (still at school age then) moved down to look after her; which left me pretty much alone in London so I eventually followed. It was quite a change too, as I went from being a well-paid scaffolder's labourer to helping out in my uncle's Garlinge greengrocers for less than half the pay. Fortunately, even at the age of 22 I'd already come to the conclusion that money alone doesn't buy happiness!

      As for "social engineering", it's been going on for years in the former docklands area of East London (amongst other places), under the guise of "regeneration". True regeneration shouldn't price poorer people out of areas, but all too often this is what happens.

    3. Peter in a way me too I moved back to Thanet because my mother lived in wingham and was getting older.

  3. It is also my understanding that no legal opinion was gained before the exports were suspended, which is scandalous. Why does our Labour Administration keep claiming that there was? What are they attempting to cover? Another Labour claim is that they set up a committee with the RSPCA. When did this committee meet? Where are the minutes?

    There is also a misconception here. The £80K legal costs were what was agreed out of £125K claimants costs. Very conveniently there has been no mention of TDC's costs, possibly another £125,000. That makes a total of over a £200K not £80K. Then we have the compensation claim plus further legal costs which must be mounting by the day. What wonderful use of a huge slice of public money!!

  4. Once again we are immersed in a web of accusations denials and half-truths. Why does this keep happening? It's simple. It's a direcct result of the way TDC is run. Decisions are taken behind closed doors and councillors and officers don't believe that the publc has a right to know. They are wrong. If we are expected to foot the bill for their cock-ups we have an absolute right to know who cocked-up and how. All decisions should be taken by the full council and all discussions should be fully minuted and publicly available. I know it will come as a shock to manuy people to find that this doesn't always happen but it's time for a change.

    1. making cock ups at taxpayers expense is apolitical look at the last 19 years of pleasurama. they are both equally bad at making decisions.

    2. Difficult isn't it, was it the Labour group, or just TDC, a political blunder or an officer blunder, or just a blunder. I guess as a non expert I would have seen the Port's unsuitability combined with the massacre as sufficient reason for temporary closure. I reckon apolitical blunder just about sums up my perception of TDC Barry.

    3. Michael, I think you are somewhat off beam with your allegations of the Conservative led TDC punishing Ramsgate for being mainly Labour. Prior to 2011 such was not the case and the first Ramsgate Town Council election produced seven councillors each from Labour and Conservatives with the independent vote holding the balance of power. It was only in the 2011 election that Conservatives were largely swept from office in Ramsgate both at town and district level and they did not stay in power too long after that. Hardly long enough to do the list of things you tend to blame them for.

      Having said that, I have long heard it suggested that TDC favours Margate and whether that is because it is Margate based or, if we are truly honest, that Margate, having been for years pretty crappy compared with Ramsgate, needed more attention. Who knows? Whatever, the competence of TDC over the years does give rise to cause for serious concern and the illegal closure of the port of Ramsgate only serves to illustrate how incompetent the whole council, elected representatives and officers, has become.

    4. Tom you have to question why the conservatives lost so much support in Ramsgate. The thing that is constantly brought up is that the conservatives ignored Ramsgate and that Council owned properties remained derelict. The conservative presence on the streets has been pathetic. Council facilities remain derelict and not just Pleasurama. The Royal Victoria Pavilion is also a disgrace and despite TDC giving assurances that all the work needed to the building under the lease was completed by the Lessees, it very obviously wasn't. The Motor Museum is still a disaster after Mr Ezekiel promised progress. Perhaps there wasn't sufficient incentive for him. In a very short time the Labour Group had the agreement to open the Maritime Museum and that is now an overwhelming success.

    5. I think you will find, Anon, that the Conservative support in Ramsgate only waned significantly when the 'No to Night Flights' became a political issue. Despite Cllr Mike Harrison referring to 'Night Flights Hysteria' on his blog in condemnation of this campaign group, a few weeks later it became official Labour policy and an election issue.
      If you want further evidence, Laura Sandys beat the sitting MP by over 7,000 votes in 2010 and that result must have included a lot of Ramsgate support. Seems that, at that stage, buildings were less of an issue and, if you are truly honest, Ramsgate has had semi-derelict public buildings right back to the last Labour administration and before.

      The real problem lies in the fact that TDC does not have the funds to keep all its public buildings in good shape, but elements within are only too happy to whip up protests whenever the selling off of some is proposed. Can we really have our cake and eat it?

  5. Ok anon of 848pm - define overwhelming success, in terms of the costs versus benefit to the town, please.

  6. How abut you (as a councillor) telling us what the costs are? We can't have a meaningful debate about whether it's worth it unless you tell us how much it's costing.

  7. Thats the point Anon of 349pm, the labour administration have publicly only offered two costings - the first in the officer decision notice of around £30000; and the spoken Clive Hart variant a few days later of 'not more than £40,000'. However neither of these contains any real estimate of the total cost: there is no valuation of the cost of officer time committed, which is said to be considerable; no valuation of the lost costs in parking arrangements (we know the 4 - 6 regular spaces cost some £900 each; there is no attempt to calculate the lost income from the closure days). I formally asked several council meetings ago - it is recorded in the minutes- for a sight of the cost benefit analysis for the reopening of the museum. Predictably for this 'transparent' administration no answer has ever been forthcoming. So, do I believe the given figures knowing they undersell the costs, or believe the cost is nearer £70,000 per year, when all costs are taken into account. £70k per year, times 25 years, is £1.75 million pounds not allowing for inflation; or about the same as the administration is likely to blow on its unwise and legally unsupported attempt to stop live animal exports. What evidence of tourist attraction is there to justify the cost? These are not complex or dificult issues, just one of transparency and honesty in decision making. I will apologise for either assertion upon receipt of a copy of a cost benfit calculation which honestly justifies all the costs; and/or the legal opinion which encouraged the shutting of the port. Simples.


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