Friday, 18 June 2010

SHADOW UPDATE 17/06/2010

Labour Shadow Team comments & questions for Thursday evening's TDC Cabinet meeting.

INTRODUCTION - Labour Group Leader - Cllr. Clive Hart.

Government cut backs, anti-social behaviour, housing, finance and even a lighthouse were discussed at Thursday evening's TDC Cabinet Meeting, along with many other issues. As always, our Labour Shadow team were present and ready to contribute on many pertinent points throughout the evening.

Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770

Cllr Richard Nicholson - Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance & Corporate Services.
The first in what will be a long line of cuts and reductions in services have been released in the latest Cabinet papers.
One item of note in the long list of the so called coalition agreement is on CCTV and how they will introduce “lay visitors” to CCTV control rooms. However as I pointed out at cabinet when we started the CCTV control operations both I and another Labour member was a lay visitor, of course this disappeared after May 2003. So the new government is 10 years out of date!
Figures produced by TDC show Thanet initially suffering a 1.7% cut in grants which will effect front line services with both WNF (Working Neighbourhood Fund) and Crime and Justice being cut severely both this year and next.
In the case of WNF this includes a £120K cut to the apprenticeship programme, so much for the rhetoric in parliament about increasing apprenticeships!
In the Crime and Justice cut, salaries will be effected, we wait so see who’s but probably front line staff.
Other cuts which will impact Thanet are grants to KCC and the effects are not known at present but undoubtedly will hurt Thanet. Included in these are LABGI and other area based grants.
There other grant cuts forecast, no doubt these are being signposted early to local authorities. They include Sea Change and the Arts Council both which may have major ramifications for Thanet.
Finally the report highlights the Home Office have suspended the work of it’s anti social behaviour unit due to “ministerial priorities”. Well ASB is a priority for Thanet residents and were we not told there was to be the end of decisions like this being taken by central government, again a case of the rhetoric not matching the actions.
Cllr. Richard Nicholson - Phone: 01843 580057
Cllr Iris Johnston - Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Services.
I welcome some of the commitments in the Corporate plan refresh document and ask Councillor Wise for a date when the long awaited work of improving Margate High Street and Andrews Passage would commence? There are now rumours that there are not enough funds to remove the ‘ash trays’ a the top of the High Street and put the flowers back.
I refer members to the many reports over the years which recommended improvements to Margate Seafront and its environs. The Tibbalds report was commissioned by the previous Labour Administration on a request from KCC and SEEDA in 2003. This would have built on the improvements to Margate railings , shelters and Marine Gardens and would have complemented the purchase of the Harbour and the promised Turner Centre. I suggest that if the works first started in 1995 had been followed through after May 2003 Margate would not be in the sorry state it is now.
Many members and residents have ‘consultation fatigue’ and just want TDC and KCC to ‘get on with it’.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Cllr Clive Hart - Labour Group Leader.
I welcome this report on the last year of this particular corporate plan.
Firstly I have to say that the key proposals for the 2011 plan onwards at 3.1 in the report all have enormous difficulties that each will need to overcome - not least funding - and they would all be extremely costly, in particular the proposed Parkway Station would also have knock-on effects for local infrastructure.
My comments now refer to annex 1:
Page 8 – I'm pleased to see the council supporting inward investment at Eurokent Business Park – we need the jobs NOT HOUSES!
Page 10 - The anti-social behaviour car, that police and council officers use to go out on patrol together needs much better promotion. Many residents are unaware of the service.
Page 12 – Our views on painting the lighthouse at the end of Margate Pier have been made – quite ridiculous to start proceeding with something that will need constant attention and money spent on it in a climate of cut-backs and when so many other matters need dealing with. The predicted finish date of March 2011 for this project would actually be the start date for regular maintenance costs.
Also pleased to see ‘key commitment’ to improving the quality and community use of parks and open spaces - does that mean - except building housing on the Montifiore Games Centre?
Page 14 – Pleased to see a ‘key commitment’ to the improvement of housing conditions for vulnerable households but this is completely at odds with the new Conservative Housing Minister who has this very week abandoned plans for a National Register of Landlords, regulation of letting and managing agents, and compulsory written tenancy agreements.
The same applies to page 16 and the ‘key commitment’ to a reduction in health inequalities. Can one of the Conservative cabinet please let your Conservative housing minister colleague know just how his actions will affect our most vulnerable residents?
Lastly, the ‘key commitment’ to consult and involve residents in council activities needs to be taken seriously and not just used to pay lip-service or tick boxes. Genuine consultation matters and many of the problems this authority faces could have been avoided if notice had been taken sooner, rather than later, of residents hopes, wishes and concerns.
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770
Cllr Iris Johnston - Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Services.
I welcome the report on Anti Social behaviour and the strategy for 2010/2011 but highlight the importance of All elected members having an opportunity to meet on a regular basis with the Police, Fire service, Social services and the voluntary sector.
I refer to the recent Full Council meeting and express concern that the appointments to outside bodies appeared to be in abeyance for now so those who wished to attend the Crime and Disorder meetings are uncertain of their position. The changes to PACT meetings also required further examination.
In 1995 one of the first things our Labour administration in Thanet did was to build a rapport with all the external agencies fighting crime and supporting victims. We found our regular meetings vital in tackling the many problems we saw in our wards and we would want to see a return to the old system of meetings held here in the Chamber. It gave elected members a chance to ask questions and report concerns which could be followed up at the next scheduled meeting. Solutions to problems were often found and shared information led to quicker resolution and although we greatly appreciate the work Mark and Madeline and others do we would ask the Cabinet to revisit this style of meeting.
We are also helped by the former Labour Government’s legislation to fight Anti Social behaviour and Crime detailed in the report and as a Council I know the introduction of Town Wardens, PCSO’s and the increase in police numbers is a great help.
Poor neighbour relations continues to be problem for some residents despite efforts to resolve quickly. I understand the Mediation Service is based in Canterbury and I have discussed with Madeline the possibility of them holding surgeries in the Gateway which I hope the Cabinet would support.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Cllr. Alan Poole - Deputy Labour Group Leader & Shadow Member for Regeneration & Economic Development.
The Labour Group are pleased to note the upturn in the demand for units at the EuroKent Business Park………this is a very welcomed step forward particularly considering the current economic climate.

A couple of queries:-

1. The Business Park was designed to create ‘starter units’ for new businesses…..those currently occupying the units don’t appear to fit into that category….are we supplying ‘cheap’ accommodation for established firms?

2. Is the ‘999 year lease’ correct or is it a typo…….999 years seems a rather long time………….why not just sell the sites?

3. EuroKent is a joint development between TDC and SEEDA…..SEEDA own 85.1% of the development...........Thanet did very well under the Labour Government attracting large amounts of finance……...on page 10 of the CE Report, the CE notes that the new Government are going to replace SEEDA, he also says that the commitment is silent on what would happen to the investment resources….… we have any plans to coup with a worst case scenario where the money from Government completely dries up as this would appear to be a distinct possibility?

4. East Kent Opportunities (EKO) another joint development that was set up to provide business / employment opportunities have stated that they want to provide residential properties. The Labour Group feel that this is unacceptable…..the site should remain ‘employment land’ for business units there is a nearby site with planning permission for a 1000 homes that has not started………

Cllr Latchford explained that the business park was not specifically for start-up businesses but then failed to answer any of the other matters raised.

Cllr. Alan Poole - Phone 01843 602594

Cllr Iris Johnston - Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Services.
Concerns have been raised with me during the year that photo copying/printing via TDC was expensive and cheaper to do elsewhere. I ask if this is true?
There also seemed to be a poor response to consultation, 19.4% and 5.5%, and it may be that voluntary groups would prefer to be given monies to spend directly. It would also be very useful to see more TDC officers in attendance at Resident and other Groups meetings from time to time especially from a tourism/events point of view. Some officers are excellent in their support but others not so available.
We allow a number of voluntary groups to use the Labour Party office for free in Northdown Road as it is clear they cannot afford TDc’s charges. Many others ask us for help in identifying affordable premises.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Cllr Iris Johnston - Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Services.
(The new Government’s plans to dismantle the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) subsidy scheme and requires a response by 6th July.)
I thank officers for the report and all the help they have given me in a recent meeting with Cllr Wells where we discussed the response which has a deadline of 6th July.
It is obviously important to formally respond and have cabinet approval as soon as possible but the Emergency budget due on the 22nd June. may have a significant impact and might even alter some of TDC’s responses. The spending Review in the Autumn could have an bigger impact and she asked if officers would be bringing a second paper once the facts were known.
Thanet has done very well over the years and only recently went into a negative subsidy position. When I attended a Housing meeting in London last year it was clear that very wealthy authorities were also able to find ways of avoiding making a contribution and the Government then was seeking to ensure there was a level playing field’
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Cllr Richard Nicholson - Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance & Corporate Services.
I have made it clear and after talking to many of my colleagues that despite what it states under Safer Neighbourhoods about the “generally good progress being made on the development of PACTs” this is clearly not true.
In Newington, which is often held up as best practice of a PACT working, it is clearly failing to do much good or attract the involvement of the public. Indeed it very often fails to attract the involvement of the police themselves or other agencies such as other RSLs.
Even Community Safety often do not turn up but thankfully the Wardens who were taken away from Newington do turn up when they can, this is much appreciated by residents.
On many occasions the attendance of TDC is absent or poor. I doubt if the PACT was not held just before the residents meeting if anyone would turn up. The last PACT at Newington lasted 10minutes, I timed it. And nothing new or positive emerged. It appears much the same is being experienced in other wards.
This a long way from the days when the first LMB (Local management Board) was set up and did much good. This was headed by us as Cllrs and tackled many other issues effecting the quality of life in our area.
I have asked that PACTs and how they work is looked at again
Cllr. Richard Nicholson - Phone: 01843 580057

Published by Thanet Labour Group Press Office - 44 Northdown Road, Margate, CT9 2RW.

1 comment:

  1. Whats the difference from H R A subsidy and the new approach?


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