Thursday, 11 November 2010




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

INTRODUCTION - Labour Group Leader - Cllr. Clive Hart.
Not a long agenda this time, but many matters indicative of the situation we find ourselves in, after seven and half years of Tory control at TDC and just six months of confused ConDem government.
Budget planning is being held up and made almost impossible through lack of detailed information and some conflicting messages from central government and TDC assets are falling into disrepair following years of neglect by Thanet Tories.
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770

Cllr Clive Hart - Leader of the Opposition & Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance.
The section headed THE BUDGET IN CONTEXT on page 5 explains that budgets must be drawn up with consideration to the national economic context and our reliance on central government grants. We all know the government is hell bent on excessive cuts and further, that the area based grants which Thanet so dearly needs and deserves are being cut – in many cases - completely.
Over £616,000 are detailed in the report for 2010/11 with the proviso that ‘further reductions may yet come to light’.
With regard to the next multi-year settlement we are told we should expect an announcement in December, but at 2.1.8 on page 6 we have the council’s dilemma more fully explained – a loss of 7.25% in real terms for each of the next 4 years that may even be 16% for per p.a. for the first 2 years!
The report goes on ‘Cuts of this level have not been seen by this council in its entire history’.
In relation to the Capital Programme on page 8, the report continues with the ‘unprecedented economic context in which the Council finds itself, and the lack of information on what funding streams are likely to be, it would be inappropriate to present a budget strategy for approval at this stage, as has been the tradition in previous years.’
The delays in being given the relevant information by the ConDem government are bad enough, and I do sincerely hope TDC is making representations to central government on this matter, but the dates given in the chart on page 9 of the report for both the draft budget presentation and council approval to take place within 2 weeks of February 2011 are just not acceptable and I do hope we can agree some flexibility on those dates.
I also note from the Financial Risk Assessment at Annex 1 of the report that unplanned major works to the council’s property portfolio, urgent repair works at the Port and Harbour in Ramsgate and the Winter Gardens in Margate, are now causing TDC concern. Local councillors in our group have been calling for maintenance of these facilities for several years now and I really do wish the administration would listen to local knowledge.
Lastly, and yet again from the Financial Risk Assessment, I note Shared Services are still considered the largest risk facing the Council to date and that there is still uncertainty over future tranches progression and our reliance on other local authorities.
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770
Cllr Iris Johnston - Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Services (Housing).
I welcome the report and thank officers who have helped with the already agreed Compulsory Purchase Order.

I ask that cabinet support the consequential expenditure of £20k and also ensure the building is immediately made safe.

Although some effort was made to secure the building after the fire in May 2008 the windows to the front are in a dangerous state. I have reported them to officers on more than one occasion and also the open aspect of the basement.

Over the last eight weeks, as part of the street and shop front clearance carried out by myself and Turner Gain volunteers, the front of the premises was cleared of weeds, rubbish and glass. Much more needs to be done and the cost included in any amount TDC allocates to the building.

I would also like to know whether anyone had been prosecuted as a result of the fire which was said to be arson.

The cabinet member was unable to comment on any Police or legal proceedings.
Cllr. Iris Johnston - Phone: 01843 299207
Cllr Clive Hart - Leader of the Opposition & Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance.
Our Group welcomes the plans for the South Eastern Breakwater in Ramsgate Harbour. Whilst unfortunately the cost is a bit higher than expected the project will serve the harbour better in the long run.
However as the report clearly states the breakwater has “Through a lack of repair and maintenance the existing breakwater has become unstable…”
The harbour in general has suffered from a lack of care. We can only hope the dredging which will be done properly.
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770
Cllr Clive Hart - Leader of the Opposition & Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance.
1) At 2.4 in the report there is mention of an overspend of £264k in the Housing Revenue Account and that an 'interfacing glitch' within the repairs and maintenance module is being investigated.
Could we please have an explanation?
2) At 5.1 in the report it says the Council needs to identify £80.9k additional savings. Can we please have some further detail of just how that will be done?
3) At 8.6 in the report I see that TDC have recently paid back £120k to SEEDA in relation to the former Marks & Spencers building in Margate.
With SEEDA’s days now numbered by this government can I have confirmation that the building still belongs to TDC and exactly what we intend to now do with it?
A1) RESPONSE - The 'interfacing glitch' was due to 'teething problems' with information being captured by TDC and contractors. It was hoped the final figure would be less than £264k.
A2) RESPONSE - Failures to deliver savings would be exposed through monitoring review and salary costs will also be reviewed.
A3) RESPONSE - The situation regarding the £120k repaid to SEEDA was a complicated one. However, TDC still hold the freehold at present and alongside there is a further sum of money and interest on that grant has been repaid. The Chief Executive could not say what the future of the M&S building would be or indeed any assets of SEEDA when it is finally disbanded. TDC are in discussions with SEEDA.
Cllr. Clive Hart - Phone: 01843 298770

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