Friday, 29 November 2013


On Thursday 5 December at 6.30pm Thanet’s People’s Assembly Against Austerity will be lobbying Thanet Council to demand no evictions are undertaken for those in arrears from the “bedroom tax”.
A spokesperson for Thanet’s People Assembly said: “The council have said publicly that they are against the bedroom, but they haven’t stated that they won’t actually evict someone who can’t pay the tax.
“We must urge councilors to stand up for people against this much-hated and unfair tax. Come and join us and have your say.”
The lobby will take place at 6.30pm on Thurs 5 Dec at Thanet District Council, Cecil St, Margate CT9 1XZ


Thanet Greens have blasted as “immoral” the massive 77% increase in the domestic profit rate of the Big Six energy companies (1) whilst excess winter deaths rose to 31,000 – a staggering 29% more than the previous year (2).
Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, said: “It’s immoral for energy companies to be increasing profit margins by such high rates when thousands of people across the country are needlessly dying each winter because they cannot afford to keep warm.
“Instead of talking about getting rid of the ‘green crap’, as Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly called fuel bill environmental levies, the Government should be rolling out a major programme of home insulation and energy efficiency focused on those most likely to be facing fuel poverty, or with medical conditions placing them at risk of  cold-related death. There must also be an independent public enquiry into the vast profits made by the energy companies and steps taken to ensure that a greater portion is re-invested in ensuring that fuel poverty and excess winter deaths become a thing of the past.”
Latest figures show that there were 630 excess winter deaths in Kent during the winter of 2011-12. The highest number of deaths was in Canterbury with 120, followed by Thanet with 90. The lowest rates were in Dartford, Dover, Gravesham and Maidstone, where 30 deaths per district were recorded (3).
According to Government research, 53,272 Kent households (an average of 9% of total households) are in fuel poverty (4). In some areas of Kent the number of households in poverty is much higher than the county average. In Canterbury, Thanet, Swale and Dover fuel poverty rates of between 17-22% are concentrated in some of the most deprived wards (5).
“With wages and benefits frozen or reducing in value, and energy price rises many times greater than inflation, thousands of Kent people will find themselves in fuel poverty with many having to make the choice between eating and heating,” said Green Party Thanet Councillor, Ian Driver.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


A series of on-line polls have been conducted asking one simple question – Is Thanet District Council Fit For Purpose?

The question was posed in eight Thanet on-line forum and 402 people responded. 380 (94.5%) said ‘no’ to the question whilst 22 (5.5%) said ‘yes’.

The question was posed after Thanet Councils Standards Committee rejected a report from Independent Members on 21st November, 2013 stating that the public had lost trust in the organisation.

‘What Absolute Nonsense’
Leader of the Council, Clive Hart, said “I’m pretty certain that virtually every councillor will agree that there is now just one particular councillor whose anarchistic tendencies and total disrespect for Chairmen, the constitution and procedures is trying to bring the council and every one of us into disrepute.” He went on to say “in relation to the wording - councillors are ‘distrustful of the public’. What absolute nonsense!” Responding to being out of touch with residents of Thanet, Cllr Hart said, “It’s nothing short of an insult to describe Labour Group members as in any way ‘distant from the realities of peoples lives’.”

Cllr Michelle Fenner responded by saying, “blaming all Cllrs for the misconduct of a handful is PLAIN WRONG”. She went on to say “The real true culprit in all of this, is the austerity policy from Central Government”
Speaking after the resignation of the Independent members , Green Councillor Ian Driver said, “This unfortunate event will serve to strengthen the public perception that Thanet councillors do not listen to their constituents and are out of touch, unresponsive and defensive. Instead of being an opportunity for Thanet Council and its councillors to move forward and become more open and democratic, the meeting last night took a big step backwards. This was a classic case of shooting the messenger.”
Conservative Group leader, Cllr Bob Bayford stated: “The report reflects very accurately the fears of members of this group, who believe the council’s reputation is in real difficulty. I pledge both my personal and my group’s support for steps which will change the public perception of council affairs.”

‘Councillors Need To Listen More’
Responding to the poll, Cllr Chris Wells said, “Whilst any survey must be treated with caution, it is hard not to recognise the similar responses found within the independent standards report in this one. And draw the conclusion that damning their view of public perception of the council is dangerous, simply underlining most people's fears. Cllrs need to listen to public views more frequently, more consistently, and more humbly in future.

Green Party Councillor Ian Driver said “This astonishing figure lends support to the Report of the Independent Standards Committee which was criticised and rejected by senior councillors just last week. It's clear to me that big changes are needed at the Council.” He went on to say his opinions will be made public in coming weeks

Councillor Julie Marson said, “As a member of Standards Committee present at the meeting, I spoke against the self pity and denial displayed by the Labour cabinet and members. I did not vote to return the report to the independent members and said that instead of trying to blame everyone else, we should be discussing how to improve the council's reputation in the eyes of the public. I remain of that view.”

Councillor Roz Binks stated that cross-party committees generally operate without a problem and that “most councillors hold their positions for the right reasons - to contribute something to their community”, but “there seems to have been an acceptance amongst some councillors that personal and often pretty much slanderous slurs are permissible within Council Chambers.” She goes on to say, “Cllr Fenner's statement is absurd - you can't blame austerity for lack of manners or for the spiteful comments, verbal slurs and downright lies that have been traded across the council chamber on many occasions.”

Other councillors were asked to respond but did not comment.

Thanet Councils reputation has suffered a number of blows in the past year with the announcement that there were £3.4M losses over TransEuropa Ferries, £2.7M paying for road improvements around EKO land, a potential Judicial Review over the lease to The Pavilion in Ramsgate, the former leader of the council being jailed for misconduct in public office, a court case over live animal export in December which could result in payments of over £1M in damages, on going problems with the Royal Sands development and the roll out of a new waste recycling scheme which has resulted in numerous homes without waste collection.

The Independent members of the public who produced the report resigned after Councillors responses and were unavailable for comment.

The question was asked in eight on-line polls: Eastcliffe Richard blog spot, and Facebook pages/groups In Touch With Thanet (x2), Save Margate A & E, Ice Rink In Thanet, Friends of Ramsgate Seafront, Broadstairs! & Ramsgate

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Ambrette to host ‘Flavours of Philippines’ fund raisers

The Ambrette Restaurants in Margate and Rye are to host a ‘Flavours of the Philippines’ fund raisers in aid of victims of the devastation wreaked on the Pacific island nation by Typhoon Haiyan

Each month the two restaurants adopt a different charity to benefit from its fundraising activities and chef patron Dev Biswal was moved to arrange two special dinners, the proceeds of which will be donated to Oxfam and Red Cross, having seen the extend of the unfolding tragedy.

Unfortunately Dev’s knowledge of Filipino cooking was limited in the extreme, so he put the word out to local suppliers and the restaurants 6,500 Twitter followers, to help find someone with first hand experience of the cuisine.

Almost immediately, a local butcher mentioned that the mother of his young apprentice, Nathan Richardson (16), was born in Manila, is a great cook and has a catering background since she moved to the UK in 1988.

Dev immediately contacted Jo Richardson who lives in Ramsgate and the pair began devising the menu which will be served in Margate on 15th December in Margate and 22nd December in Rye. 

“Filipino cusine has evolved over many centuries  from its Austronesian origins and is an amazing fusion of Malay, Spanish, Chinese and the Americas, as well as other Asian and Latin influences adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate,” said Dev.

Cooking styles also vary widely between the 7,000 island archipelago, but being from the centrally located Manilla, which has absobed influences from surrounding islands, Jo has helped desiign a menu reprsentative of the major elements of the island nation’s culinary heritage.

The dinners will cost £30 a head, of which £5 will go to victim relief.  The Ambrette’s special events usually sell out and booking is advised. 

The restaurants recently held a special celebratory ‘Taste of Kent’ gourmet dinner, featuring a tasting menu comprised of ingredients of the winners from the Taste of Kent Award for 2013.  Dinners at both Margate and Kent sold out almost instantly, with diners travelling from as far afield as Dartford and Tunbruidge Wells with many staying over night.  The 9-course  tasting menu, costing £49 a head, will again be served on Sunday 1st December, at both restaurants by popular demand. Details at

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Trophies Galore at Margate Tennis Club

Going off with more than a bang, the presentation night at Margate Lawn Tennis Club celebrated the winners of the clubs many prestigious tournaments with a well-attended bonfire and fireworks party.

Gavid Vickers was presented with the Men’s Open Tournament trophy, beating Gavin Webb in the process over three tense but spectacular sets. The Ladies Open Tournament final was also a tense affair: Charlotte Tonkiss, aged just 17, battled Lynn Giles, a regular finalist in this annual event, culminating in a match that lasted well over two hours.

The Men’s Open Doubles event was won by the ever-present Brian Mileham and Stevie Mayer who beat Gavin Webb and Jon Smith. Lynn Giles and Joc Cox defeated up and coming sisters Amie and Charlotte Tonkiss in Ladies Open Doubles. The Open Mixed Doubles trophy was snapped up by Gavid Vickers and Lynn Giles who beat Steve Mayer and Wendy Munday.

In the Open Tournament Plate, Gabriel Awonusi narrowly missed out to Paul West who claimed the Plate for the second successive year.

Jamie Frye prevented Gavid Vickers from collecting a clean sweep of trophies by taking the Handicap Tournament trophy in a gruelling final. Lesley Wright was jubilant in the Ladies Handicap tournament, beating Yvonne Nunn in an entertaining match. Club veterans George Buckmaster and Chris Whittingham proved they still have what it takes by beating the younger Andrew Wright and Roy Valentine in the Men’s Handicap Doubles. In the Ladies Handicap Doubles, Charlotte and Amie Tonkiss beat Lesley Wright and Zoe Montellano, and in the Handicap Mixed Doubles, Paul West and Linda Jermain were triumphant over Lesley and Andrew Wright.

The Juniors too at Margate Lawn Tennis Club provided fierce competition and entertaining tennis in their tournaments. Jake Munday pipped Aiden Nunn to the Boy’s Open Singles title.

The Girl’s Open Singles final was a battle of sisters, with Charlotte losing out to younger sister Amie Tonkiss. The Boys Open Doubles title was claimed by Arthur Lawlor and James Wright in a magnificently contested final against Ayo Owodobore and Kallum Marlow. Charlotte and Amie Tonkiss collected the Girls’ Doubles trophy, defeating Catherine Banks and Zoe Motellano. The Junior Mixed Doubles trophy went Kane Rowland and Charlotte Tonkiss, with James Wright and Amy Tonkiss runners-up.

“This well attended club presentation night was not only fun for all who attended,” says Club Chairman John Taylor, “but also excellent recognition of the talent that has always been part and parcel, and indeed continues to grow, at our tennis club. It is good to see a mixture of familiar faces and also up and coming talent that will certainly prove good for the future of our club.”

Monday, 25 November 2013

Thanet Council - Thanet Sports Awards celebrate achievements

If you want to know where all of Thanet’s sporting stars were on Friday evening, then you need look no further than Margate’s Winter Gardens.
Thanet District Council’s fifth annual Thanet Sports Awards took place on Friday 22 November, which works in partnership with the council’s Sport Matters team.
Martine Wright was the main attraction of the night. Being a paralympian celebrity, Martine went through a great deal of hardship and motivation to become one of Team GB sitting volleyball players and proceeded to inspire everyone in the audience with her answers to the questions asked by the audience.
The evening was hosted by Academy FM DJ, Johnny Lewis, who read out the nominees of the 13 separate categories, including Disabled sportsperson of the year and Club of the Year.
Amongst the chattering, laughing and elations, was one particular winner of the night’s awards: well-deserved and humbled, Sheila Archer. Winner of the unsung hero category said “This was certainly a surprise and an honour and I was truly proud of being shortlisted for the award of Unsung Hero!” Sheila attended the awards with her husband and son, who were equally as proud to see Sheila collect her award.
“Another successful year of sport and another set of self-disciplined, confident and inspirational people were awarded with this prestigious award” said Cllr Iris Johnston, Thanet District Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services.
“These awards show the range of talent and enthusiasm that exists within Thanet, and I’m absolutely delighted for everyone involved. We were able to meet some of the top candidates in our community and the consistent standards in clubs and schools throughout the district.”
Councillor Johnston added: “I would like to thank Martine Wright, Team GB Paralympic star for sharing her amazing story with us all. It wouldn’t surprise me if everyone in this room was inspired and in awe of Martine.”
Martine said: “It’s an absolutely amazing celebration of people that give a contribution to sport. To me, it’s not about wearing this Team GB top – that’s not what sport is all about, it’s about keeping fit and about social change.”

Stand Up for Labour 2

Sunday December 1st
The Centre
Alpha Road

Stand Up for Labour
Compere Andre Vincent plus Tim Clark, Steve Gribbin & Kevin Precious
Speaker Lord Bassam
Doors  7.00pm
Tickets from
Students £6.50
Adults: £8.00

Kent Greens - Almost 7,000 lose out in Bedroom Tax benefit cuts

6,921 households in Kent have had their housing benefits cut as a result of the Government’s bedroom tax according to figures released by the Department for  Work and Pensions (1).
The figures, which cover the period April until August 2013, are the first to identify how many households have lost housing benefit payments since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013.
In August, the most recent period for which figures are available, 788 people living in Swale lost an average of £900 per year in housing benefit, making it the worst affected district in Kent.
The least badly affected district is Dartford, where 365 people have lost an average of £894 per year in benefits.
In Thanet 610 households have lost on average £770 per year in Housing Benefits.
An estimated £6 million will have been slashed from Kent’s housing benefit payments by the end of the first year of the bedroom tax. The average loss per Kent affected household has been calculated to be a staggering £868 per year.
Thanet Green Party Councillor Ian Driver said: “The bedroom tax is having a major impact on the most vulnerable and low-paid people in Kent. There are simply not enough smaller rented properties to move into, so people already living on a low income are being forced to cut back even further on essentials such as food, heating and clothing. This ill-conceived policy will force thousands of families in Kent into poverty.”
Evidence is now beginning to emerge that many households caught by the bedroom tax are falling into rent arrears. A survey carried out by the National Housing Federation estimates that more than 50% of housing association tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax have fallen behind with rent since the introduction of this policy (2).
The Green Party opposes the Bedroom Tax. It is unfair and targets some of the most vulnerable and deprived people in society. The Party calls upon Kent Councils not to evict anyone falling into rent arrears as a consequence of the bedroom tax. The Green Party, alongside many charities, disabled groups and trade unions is campaigning for the  immediate abolition of the bedroom tax. 

Ellington Park needs your vote tomorrow to scoop People’s Millions

A community group in Ramsgate is looking to residents to help them secure £50,000 of funding from the People’s Millions on 26 November.

The Friends of Ellington Park is looking to use funding from the People’s Millions to build a wildlife garden in the western corner of the park which will include a new pond as well as shrubs, benches and six sculptures. The garden will also include a number of bird and bat boxes which the group is confident will encourage new species into the park.

The Friends of Ellington Park are encouraging everyone who cares about Ramsgate and the park to vote for their project on 26 November. “It would be fantastic if we could get everyone in Thanet behind this project,” said Beverley. “Ten votes on the day will only cost £1, which is pretty good value for money when you’re talking about securing the future of Ramsgate’s most loved park!”

The wildlife garden will be up against another project in a televised vote on ITV Meridian East tomorrow, 26 November. Only the project which receives the most votes on the day will receive funding. The phone number for residents to call will be released on the day and will be published on the People’s Million website as well as printed in the Daily Mirror. Calls from a landline will cost 10p and residents can vote up to ten times from the same number.

To find out more about Ellington Park and how you can support the bid visit the Friends of Ellington Park website at


Today is our big day!!

Please can you help The Broadstairs Town Shed today as it is vote day for our People’s Millions bid.

We will be on ITV tonight on the People’s Millions show and need as many votes today as we can get so that we can win £50,000 to set up and start running our Town Shed.

Vote for us today please!

Phone lines open at 9am.  Please call

0871 626 88 63

Calls cost no more than 11p per call from BT landlines.  Calls from other networks may be higher and from mobile phones will be considerably more.  You can vote up to 10 times.  Lines will be open until midnight.  To read more about the project please visit our website
Please forward this email on to as many people as you can so that we can win tonight!
Many thanks
Broadstairs Town Team

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Statement from TDC Conservative Group re the events at the Standards Committee meeting held on 21 November

The Conservative Group at Thanet District Council wish formally to record their thanks to the departing independent members of the Standards Committee for all their hard work on the Council’s behalf.

Cllr Bob Bayford said: “Theirs was never likely to be an easy task, but has in recent times been a truly testing experience.”

The Group would also like to thank the independent members for their timely attempt to make councillors aware of the fragility of their reputation with the public.

Cllr Bayford added: “We accepted the report’s main conclusions on Thursday and we repudiate the torrent of criticism directed at the report and its authors during Thursday’s Standards Committee meeting.”

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Standards Committee meeting Thursday 21 November

Members of the Standards Committee last night (Thursday 21 November) voted to return a report which reviewed ‘the culture of the Council’ back to the independent members who drafted it, for further consideration.

Committee Members overwhelmingly felt that elements of the report required evidence before it could be considered.

Following a brief adjournment of the meeting, the four independent members of Standards Committee announced their immediate resignation. This included the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee.

Cllr Richard Nicholson was then elected as Chairman for the remainder of the meeting in order to conclude the remaining items of business.
The Council will now begin the process to recruit new independent members.

Cllr Clive Hart said: “Thanet District Council takes the governance of the authority very seriously and has a Code of Conduct in place which sets out the high ethical conduct expected of its councillors. All councillors agree to comply with this code.

“Many of the issues that have been raised within the report are as a result of potential breaches of the code by a very small minority. These breaches may not have occurred if the Standards Committee had the power to impose appropriate sanctions.

“I have invited the leaders of each of the political groups in Thanet Council to meet to discuss a way forward and to follow up the issues that have been raised.”

When the government abolished the National Code of Conduct for members in July 2012, Thanet Council adopted a Local Code of Conduct and also decided to retain a Standards Committee with independent members who would also hold the office of Chairman and Vice Chairman. The remit of this committee is to review the council’s Code of Conduct and to provide advice and guidance to members on compliance. 

The People's Millions - support your local projects!

Your votes are needed next week (Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 November) to help secure £50,000 of funding for two community projects in Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
Appearing in ITV Meridian’s The Peoples Millions, projects proposed by Broadstairs Town Team and The Friends of Ellington Park will be pitched head to head against community projects from other areas in a bid to win the cash.
The People’s Millions is a partnership between Big Lottery Fund and ITV, where the public help to decide which local community projects are granted funding.
Using a building donated by Thanet District Council, Broadstairs Town Team is hoping to open a Broadstairs Town Shed. Based in Pierremont Park, the shed would provide DIY based activities and a meeting place for older people, predominantly men. ‘Men’s Sheds’ started in Australia – where there are now more than 1,000, with 20 in countries worldwide and almost 100 in the UK. They have proven to help combat loneliness and isolation and have a positive impact on older men's well-being, quality of life and life expectancy.
The Friends of Ellington Park are hoping that votes from the public will help them to secure funding to build a new wildlife garden in the park. This would include a new pond as well as shrubs, benches, six sculptures and a number of bird and bat boxes to encourage new species into the park. The Friends are also hoping that success in the People’s Millions will pave the way to help secure additional funding of £2,000,000 from a separate Heritage Lottery Fund bid which would completely regenerate the park.
Cabinet Member for Community Services, Cllr Iris Johnston, said: “These are fantastic community proposals which need the support of the local community behind them. We really need to do all we can to encourage local people to vote to help Broadstairs Town Team and the Friends of Ellington Park successfully secure £50,000 each. As the two projects are not bidding against each other, with everyone’s support we could help to ensure that two very worthy Thanet projects are given the vital money they need to progress.”

Broadstairs Town Team will feature on ITV Meridian on Monday 25 November and the Friends of Ellington Park on Tuesday 26 November.
The two projects will be put head to head with another project from outside of the area.
The phone number to vote will only be released at 8am on the day the project is featured, with phone lines open from 9am and closing at midnight. Calls cost 10p and the number will be made available on the Town Team and Friends of Ellington Park Website, Facebook and Twitter pages and 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Statement of Thanet Green Party Re Council Standards Committee meeting 21 November

Thanet Green Party condemns the shameful and unacceptable response by the two main political parties to the critical report aimed at improving Thanet councillors’ conduct.
The four independent members of the council’s Standards Committee, who produced the report, resigned immediately after the committee’s meeting on Thursday when the party leaders and councillors angrily denounced the  report’s findings.
The walk-out by the independent group followed these attacks and a decision by the committee to ask the authors to rewrite the report giving more evidence of their findings.
Green councillor Ian Driver, who attended the meeting, said: “The resignation of the four independent members was hardly surprising considering the sustained and unfair bullying and browbeating they were subjected to by Labour councillors.
“This unfortunate event will serve to strengthen the public perception that Thanet councillors do not listen to their constituents and are out of touch, unresponsive and defensive. Instead of being an opportunity for Thanet Council and its councillors to move forward and become more open and democratic, the meeting last night took a big step backwards.This was a classic case of shooting the messenger.”
The report’s authors report are non-party political and have broad range of expertise and experience in the world of  business, the public sector, management and communications. Their role is to act as “critical friends” to the council and provide advice about the development and management of ethics and conduct.
Pulling no punches, their report published earlier in the week, said that the council was seen as secretive; that councillors appeared to be out of touch; did not engage with or listen to  residents and community groups; and there was local suspicion of corruption. The report  also cited examples of councillors being rude and abusive towards each other and on occasion making threats to members of the public. The report  pointed out  that some councillors have disobeyed council rules.                    
Despite its highly critical findings, the report had intended to present and honest picture of public perceptions. Unfortunately, most of the councillors at the Standards Committee did not see it this way and were extremely angry and defensive.
Labour Leader Clive Hart, his deputy Allan Poole and Cabinet Members Iris Johnston and Michelle Fennel, attacked and verbally bullied the report authors in a quite extraordinary way. Instead of seeing the report for what it was – a starting point for an important debate and overdue change – they regarded it as personal criticism which it clearly was not.                                        
The views of Conservative Leader Councillor Bob Bayford,  who had pledged to support “steps which will change the public perception of council affairs”, were clearly not shared by his party colleagues.
Thanet Green Party noted that some councillors attempted to divert blame for the council’s poor reputation on Councillor Driver, who faces  disciplinary action for taking pictures of  council meetings— a practice allowed by most councils in Kent.
The Green Party supports Councillor Driver’s principled efforts to force more transparency and openness on to Thanet Council in his campaign to allow the public the right to film meetings.
Councillor Driver has been campaigning tirelessly against corruption, incompetence  and secrecy at Thanet Council. He was the first councillor to raise concerns about Pleasurama, the secret £3.4 million TransEuropa  debt, and the mismanagement of the Royal Pavilion lease disposal.
Councillor Driver made an audio recording of last night’s (Thursday)  Standards Committee meeting. The Thanet Green Party is happy to publish this recording. It can be heard at

here it is

  ed couldn't find it there but think it is one or both of the videos belowAlthough the recoding may have been made in breach of council rules we believe that there is overwhelming public interest in making this recording publicly available. Let the people of Thanet judge for themselves how well served they are by their councillors.

TDC Standards Committee - 21st November 2013.

Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

Response - speaking under 24.1 rule to the Independent Members' Report on Standards

TDC Standards Committee - 21st November 2013.

Firstly a few points in the report that I absolutely agree with.
The report says that the conviction of a former councillor has had an adverse effect on the perception of the council. That has to be the understatement of the year! It will simply take years to change perceptions after such an episode.
Also, there is no doubt in my mind that the Government has done us no favours by removing the formal sanctions that were available for the breach of the council’s code of conduct.
However, TDC certainly did opt to retain a Standards committee.
Unfortunately I find it hard to understand how the Independent Members with their experience outlined in the report could not have predicted the negative press that this report would generate for Thanet and that they would not have been able to predict the devastating negative effect on council members and officers it would have.
I also note that Independent Members say they utilize their experience in the service of the council. Unfortunately, the ambiguous, broad stroke manner of this report has tarnished every member of this council – good or bad – and has consequently done no service whatsoever to this council.
Nowhere in this report is there any reference whatsoever to the vast majority of hard working councillors who literally give thousands of hours service to local residents year after year.
(My wife – also a frontline councillor -read this report at 9pm on Tuesday evening after spending two hours dealing with a residents housing problem. You simply cannot imagine how appalled she was by the way it describes councillors).
Neither is there any reference whatsoever to the thousands of hours councillors spend on committees here at TDC working harmoniously together, cross party, for the benefit of our district.
The report says there have been no changes in behavior but I think there most certainly has been. The two main parties agree on large areas of council business and agree to differ on some individual matters. That’s politics and always will be. Where I believe there has been a recent change is in general attitudes towards standards matters. I’m pretty certain that virtually every councillor will agree that there is now just one particular councillor whose anarchistic tendencies and total disrespect for Chairmen, the constitution and procedures is trying to bring the council and every one of us into disrepute. This manifested itself - yet again - at a scrutiny working party only this week, where the Chairman had to postpone a meeting due to total disrespect. The culprit appeared to actually want the Chairman to call the Police to evict him from the meeting. Three of us group leaders present at the meeting expressed our profound disappointment. We jointly felt the individual was yet again holding the democratic process to ransom and wasting enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money.
Another understatement in the report has to be the words ‘there have been suggestions that some councillors have stated in public that they intend not to comply with the democratically agreed decisions of the council’. Suggestions! The same individual has stated that as fact in a full council meeting and on the Internet.
Through words such as unscientific, suggestions, suspicion and appearance, the report is ambiguous and riddled with halve truths and innuendo.
With regards to the report saying that - there are ‘personal attacks taking place between members’. For my part I know that every time I give my leaders report to full council, in his response, the leader of the opposition will make personal remarks about me. I think that’s quite pathetic but it’s his style and although I used to feel aggrieved by his statements, experience has taught me to now laugh it off. We’re in politics and unfortunately some people can get a little nasty.
However, in relation to the wording - councillors are ‘distrustful of the public’. What absolute nonsense! We are elected by the public and represent them to the very best of our ability.
As for the situation ‘adversely affecting the delivery of services’. I have to say I’m proud to be the leader of a council that is as busy and efficient as any in the county. Despite having the deepest and most cruel government grant cuts and our broad social and economic problems, we are still one of the most progressive councils in Kent with a whole host of award wining initiatives and projects.
The report speaks of ‘action taken within political groups’ and that ‘this option carries a risk of lack of consistency across the council. That may be so with other groups but I can say that just is not true of the Labour Group:
During my term as Group leader I have had one Labour member who clearly stepped across the line of what was reasonable. Not through words in the council chamber or in any committee but by making an inappropriate comment on social media. Despite being one of our longest standing members and the high regard that held him in within our party, he was suspended from our group for a month.
More importantly, before his return to our group he came into my office, shook hands with member of another party that he had offended and even more importantly – both those involved buried their differences and gave a joint undertaking to work together for the benefit of Thanet and its residents. That’s how we work in the Labour Group in our relations with others.
In response to the statement saying we are ‘distant from the reality of peoples lives’. Come along to our Labour councillor surgeries, to our community safety meetings, to all our residents and public meetings. Walk the streets with us delivering ward newsletters to many thousands of homes every month, meeting members of the public in their own homes and on their own doorsteps and discussing their issues with them eye to eye to eye. It’s nothing short of an insult to describe Labour Group members as in any way ‘distant from the realities of peoples lives’.
We certainly are a ‘hung’ council and the Labour Group took control under quite unusual circumstances whilst we were still only the second largest party, back in December 2011. The outgoing Conservative administration was clearly ‘bruised’ by this and was left feeling very bitter.
Ironically, two years on and having lost some by-elections and suffered a defection, the Conservative Group now appear to be coming to terms with the reality of the situation and the Labour Group are now clearly the largest party at TDC. That’s why I find the timing of this report quite incredible.
In my opinion, generally speaking, relations between fifty plus councillors have actually improved over the past year.
Unfortunately though, the report does tar all councillors with the same brush and as such I feel compelled as Labour Group leader to clearly explain that my group has no part in the major misdemeanors of councillors at TDC.
I’m not in any way saying my group members are saints but during my term as Labour Group leader:
None of my members have been convicted and sent to prison for fraudulent behaviour.
None of my members have been sent to prison for drinking and driving.
None of my members have been charged for cruelty to animals.
None of my members have received a caution from the Police.
None of my members have stated publicly that they intend not to comply with a democratically agreed decision.
None of my members have stated that they do not intend to comply with Standards hearings.
None of my members have openly mocked the Standards regime on their Internet bloggs.
None of my members have published or threatened to publish confidential TDC papers on the Internet.
And none of my members have secretly filmed their colleagues during meetings.
I’m sure my members would be welcome any training opportunity whether it’s needed or not, but I truly fear it may not help some other individuals".
The report was overwhelmingly rejected by the Standards Committee due to lack of evidence and shortly afterwards the four Independent Members resigned.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

TransEuropa Debt Unrecoverbale

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, is calling for an independent public enquiry into an “unrecoverable” debt of £3.4 million owed to Thanet Council by TransEuropa Ferries.
The debt, which is almost 20% of Thanet Council’s annual budget, results from a secret fees and charges  deferral arrangement between the Council and TransEuropa Ferries, which came to light in April of this year when the ferry company went bust owing more than £20 million to Ostend and Ramsgate ports, fuel supplier Oil Chart International, and several other creditors.
Earlier this week it was revealed in letter from the Information Commissioner, who is adjudicating on Driver’s request to see all of the secret documents relating to TransEuropa  deal, that Thanet Council  “will not be pursuing legal action to recover the outstanding debt”.
Said Driver “this astronomic loss of public money will ultimately have to be paid for by the people of Thanet through cuts in services and perhaps even Council Tax increases”.
Driver places the blame for the £3.4 loss on the shoulders of senior officers and the Council’s political leadership. He said “From what I have found out the arrangements with TransEuropa appear to have been appallingly mismanaged by senior officers.  There was no formal legal agreement with TransEuropa covering the payment deferral; there were no regular reviews or risk assessments of the arrangement; TransEuropa’s claims about new investors were not properly investigated and the Council failed to seek security on the growing debt mountain which meant that it has been unable to share in the proceeds of the creditor-forced-sale of the Gardenia and Larkspur ferries which is estimated to raise euros £1.5 million”.
“Worse still, the deal  with TransEuropa was a closely guarded secret restricted to a small group of  senior council officers and political bosses including ex-Tory Leader of the Council  Bob Bayford, the current Labour Leader Clive Hart and Cabinet finance chief Councillor Rick Everitt.  This secrecy meant that other elected councillors were prevented from scrutinizing and asking questions about the deal. This was an extremely serious subversion of democratic accountability.”
“This appalling mismanagement and secrecy goes right to the top of Thanet Council. No amount of internal reviews or working groups will get to the bottom of what went wrong, because powerful people will be desperately trying to cover their backsides. What we need is an independent   public enquiry into how the Council lost £3.4 million of taxpayer’s money. This enquiry should name and shame those responsible and hopefully they will do they honourable thing and resign”
Driver, who has been fighting for the release of secret documents about the TransEuropa deal, for 6 months has been advised by the Information Commissioner that they will be made available to him in December. The Council’s Auditor, who is investigating complaints submitted by Driver about the TransEuropa fee deferral agreement, has also said that he will be reporting back his findings in December. Two days ago Driver was prevented from filming and broadcasting  a meeting of a Thanet Council internal review group looking into the TransEuropa debt because of what he claims is a “growing paranoia about public exposure of the secrecy and mismanagement surrounding this sordid affair”.

One of the senior council officers involved in the TransEuropa affair, Head of Regulatory Services Harvey Patterson, is rumoured to be leaving Thanet Council in the New Year with a so-called gagging deal  preventing  him from speaking about his role in setting up and supervising the  TransEuropa arrangements. Said Driver, “I hope this rumour is untrue. It would be highly inappropriate for the Council’s Chief Executive to allow public money to be used to silence a key player in the TransEuropa scandal”.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

TDC Standards Committee report - South Thanet Conservative Association

Wednesday, 20 November, 2013
The South Thanet Conservative Association would like to add to the current debate about Thanet District Council standards and the sentiments expressed by the leader of the Conservative Group Cllr Bob Bayford, by suggesting that the Council could consider the following changes to the way in which they administer a system to deal with complaints against Councillors.
We would suggest that in order for a standards committee to be independent and be seen to be independent:- 
The Standards committee should be completely at arm’s length from both Councillors and officers.  
There should be no Councillors on the committee.
The Committee should have total autonomy on how it operates within a written constitution.  
The Committee should decide who it interviews and what evidence it calls.  
The Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer should be responsible for selecting Standards Committee members.
Penalties should range between a rebuke for minor infringements to suspension and or fines.  
The costs of investigation should be borne by those complained against, if found wanting. 

Thanet Council - Drinking in public places is no cause for concern

Thanet District Council’s Community Safety Team working together with Kent Police to ensure that residents, businesses and visitors can enjoy the benefits of Thanet, without fear of alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour in public.

A Thanet-wide designated Public Places Order (DPPO) has been in place since 2006. The order relates to anti-social behaviour caused by drinking alcohol and is enforceable by the police.

Whilst the order covers the whole district, the council has recently installed new signage at a number of hot spot locations across the district where the council has received repeated complaints. Police will pay particular attention to these areas.

It is important to note that these poweres do not make it a criminal offence to consume alcohol within a designated area. An offence is committed if the individual refuses to comply with a constable's request to refrain from drinking.
The order was introduced to:
  • Cut down on alcohol related anti-social behaviour in public places around the district;
  • Show that anti-social drinking is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in Thanet’s public places;
  • Help make Thanet a place where residents, workers and visitors feel safe.
Councillor Iris Johnston, Cabinet Member for Community Services at Thanet District Council said: “This is positive news for the district. This is not an outright ban from drinking and preventing people from enjoying themselves, but if individuals or groups are causing trouble due to alcohol then the police will act upon that.
“The council is happy to be working alongside Kent Police, to help you enjoy your time here in Thanet.”
Chief Inspector Nick Gossett, Thanet District Commander, said: "We want people to come to Thanet and enjoy themselves, to drink responsibly and to allow others to enjoy themselves too.
“Anti-social behaviour is very distressing to others, particularly children, who have to witness it or pick their way through rubbish that’s been discarded.
“My officers will work with the council to ensure the minority of people who chose to act in an anti-social way will be dealt with, so that everyone can enjoy the district safely.”

If you experience any anti-social behaviour please call a member of the Community Safety Team by calling Thanet District Council on 01843 577000. To report a crime call Kent Police on 101 (in an emergency always dial 999).

Councillor Ian Driver Green Party – Statement Regarding Thanet Council Scrutiny Meeting on 19 November

On 19th November I approached the Chair of the TransEuropa Task and Finish Group, Conservative Councillor Jo Gideon before the meeting had started to request that I be allowed to film the meeting.
I presented her with my credentials – a copy of a current UK Press Card issued by the National Union of Journalist. These credentials meet the requirements of Thanet Council’s new policy covering the filming of meetings which was agreed by the Council on 3 October (1)
Despite having the proper credentials Councillor Gideon ruled that I could not film the meeting. She also ruled that I be not allowed to speak at the meeting.
I was extremely surprised by Councillor Gideon’s response. Within the last week Thanet Conservative MP Laura Sandys had urged the Council to permit filming of meetings by the public. Just one day before the meeting of the Scrutiny TransEuropa Task and Finish Group, the Thanet Council Conservative Group issued a press release which stated that they “agree to the live streaming and public filming of council meetings”.
In the 24 hours which had elapsed since this statement was issued the Conservative Group had either changed its mind about filming of Council meetings, or Councillor Gideon had forgotten what her Party policy was on this matter.
Having been refused permission to film even though I met the Council’s filming criteria I decided to film the meeting secretly. Unfortunately I was discovered and was asked to leave the meeting. I politely refused to do so as my rights as a properly accredited person under the terms of Thanet Council’s Constitution had been abused by Councillor Gideon.
By refusing to leave the meeting I was following the advice I had been given by Brandon Lewis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Communities and Local Government who in a letter to me said that “you should openly challenge your council to welcome those whowant to bring local news stories to a wider audience through, for example, filming and taking photographs”.
I am at a loss to understand why, whilst hundreds of Councils across the country are endorsing “digital democracy and welcoming the public filming their meetings, Thanet Council continues to adopt an old-fashioned, medieval approach.
Dartford District Council recently told me that it “welcomes the filming and relay of proceedings” which provides “huge benefits in better, and deeper, engagement between this local authority and the community it serves”.
Why can’t Thanet Council adopt such a positive and welcoming approach? Why do they have to insist on secrecy? What do they have to hide?
1.   Part 5 of Thanet Council’s Constitution, Filming of Council Meetings  sates that  
Requests to film Council Committee meetings will only be granted to accredited
media representatives. The definition of an accredited media organisation is as follows:
“a media organisation or individual that holds a National Press Card and is registered
with the Press Complaints Commission (or its successor) or a similar regulated body
with a code of conduct and associated complaints process through which the Council
could take recourse”.
2.   Filming at Council meeting the facts.
·        The Government has issued advice to all Councils advising them to allow the public to film meetings
·        The law will be changed in 2015 to force those Council’s not already doing so, to allow the public to film Council meetings.
·        Thanet and Swale Councils are the only 2 Councils (out of 13) in Kent not to allow the public to film meetings
·        The national leadership of the Conservative, Lib-Dem and Labour all support the filming of Council meetings but the leadership of the Thanet Conservative and Labour Parties
·        Anti-government corruption watchdog Transparency International endorsed the filming of Council meetings in its latest report on corruption in UK local government.
·        The Tax Payers Alliance supports the filming of Council meetings
·        2 members of the public have been thrown out of Thanet Council meetings in the past year and I have also be thrown out on one occasion
·        I am facing a costly investigation (estimated £6,000) for taking photographs of 2 councillors who were about to have a fight in contravention of old fashioned anti-filming rules