Saturday, 22 May 2010

SHADOW UPDATE 20-05-2010

Labour Shadow Team comments & questions for Thursday afternoons TDC Cabinet meeting.

INTRODUCTION - Labour Group Leader - Cllr. Clive Hart.

Today's meeting was unusual in that it was scheduled for the afternoon by the new TDC Cabinet and to start 'on the rising of the Extra Ordinary Cabinet Meeting' (discussing asset disposals) and although that first meeting started at 2pm it quite obviously had an 'open-ended' finishing time. This may have been convenient for Conservative Cabinet members and Leading Officers who were already present in the building, but not so for the public who may have wished to attend and could not be given a specific time. I made an official complaint about this matter during the recent Council AGM and I sincerely hope this sloppy practice does not become a trend for the new Conservative Cabinet.

There were just two significant matters for discussion at today's Cabinet meeting (other than apologies, minutes & declarations of interest) and our Labour members comments follow below:

Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770

Labour Group Leader - Cllr. Clive Hart.
When I proposed this motion at full council I outlined the detrimental effect that small and cramped flats can have on mental health and crime in overdeveloped areas of Thanet so I won’t repeat those concerns today. Instead I’d like to concentrate on the report before us and the long term effect on our next generation.
According to Shelter one in ten children are being failed because of cramped living conditions. There is overwhelming and devastating evidence that overcrowding undermines family wellbeing and quality of life, from health to education. Children who live in these conditions have a severe lack of space to play or do homework, and most disturbingly, are ten times more likely to contract meningitis than other children.
There must be a concerted effort to build better-designed affordable homes in Thanet and to drag our local private rented sector into the 21st century. The latter can only be done if minimum room sizes for new flats, particularly in the private sector, are increased, and quickly.
At paragraph 2.3 of the brief report before us, written by the Director of Regeneration Services, we are informed that a review of flat conversion guidelines – leading to a Supplementary Planning Document - is timetabled to begin as late as April 2011, but that there has already been slippage in that particular timetable.
At paragraph 2.5 the lengthy eight point process needed to adopt such an SPD is also outlined.
Simply put, to just confirm the existing programme for the Conversion Guidelines SPD that will hopefully increase minimum room sizes here in Thanet would mean that this administration would be jeopardising many local children’s life chances and ignoring their health needs.
Last night (Wednesday 19th May) I sat in the very chair that you are sitting in now chairman and listened to council officers telling the planning committee that an application for a very cramped block of flats in Ramsgate was OK because it met TDC's minimum flat size rules. So there's the evidence chairman, each and every day we delay dealing with this issue more and more cramped flats are being built.
I therefore call on Cabinet to allocate extra resources to enable the SPD to be brought forward earlier – option 3.1 (ii) in the report.
Please give our local kids a fighting chance!
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770
Ignoring Cllr Hart's plea, Conservative Cabinet Member Cllr Chris Wells moved that members confirm the existing programme only. Therefore, no additional resources will be made available to bring forward the programme and the lengthy, drawn out, eight stage process to start discussions including minimum flat sizes will not begin until April 2011 (+ some time for 'slippage' of course).

Cllr. David Green.
Cllr David Green reminded the new Cabinet of the historical importance of Albion House to Ramsgate and the considerable affection that the building commanded amongst Ramsgate residents. If evidence of this was needed, the large petition in favour of retaining Albion House for public use, that was presented to Thanet Council by Peter Landi, had been collected over a very few days.

Cllr Green continued to say that there were also very practical reasons for retaining at least part of Albion House as a public facility. With the loss of the old Ramsgate Library, there was no public gallery space or museum space in Ramsgate and no public meeting space in or near the town centre.

Cllr Green reminded cabinet the the offer of Ramsgate Town Council to work with Thanet Council either to buy Albion House and develop for public use, or to lease the ground floor on a joint basis still was on offer despite being rejected out of hand by Council officers.

Residents of Ramsgate and their councillors hoped that the New TDC leadership would reconsider.

Cllr. David Green - Phone 01843 591495

A council officer explained that the situation had now changed and that the asset disposal process in relation to Albion House would now go right back to the beginning and start again at stage one.

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