Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Winifred's Last Stand

A Margate pensioner is in the news, promising to go to prison rather than pay a £24 council tax bill.

Winifred Allan is claiming that TDC are hounding her for cash when she says it is the council's fault for not taking the correct payments from her bank.

The sum was recorded as arrears when Winifred moved from a flat to a bungalow in Margate in 2005. But the widow claims she had no clue about it until her April bill arrived last year. Winifred, 66, said: "I have never owed them a penny and I didn't owe £24."

The row over whether Winifred owes the cash or whether the council is liable has escalated to the point of bailiffs demanding payment.

In June Winifred's case was taken to court, but she says she had no idea a summons was issued.

She said: "The letter said they would send the bailiffs round if I did not pay up. I didn't even know they were taking me to court."

At this point Winifred said she would pay but on Wednesday bailiffs called at her bungalow again, demanding more money.

The £24 bill has now rocketed to £212 for court and bailiff fees but Winifred remains defiant.

The former shop worker said: "I will willingly go to prison because of the principle. The council is holding me to ransom for £24 even though it is not my fault."

Thanet council debt recovery chief Bill Peppiatt has vowed to look into the case to see if he can help.


About Me

The Orb Arrives

For all you adventurous Bloggers among you, I'm experimenting with "Orb"

It allows you to embed music into your website that will play when your PC is turned on. In other words, sharing your music library. Here's one of my favourites from the past that loosely reflects aspects of life in Thanet - Well I think so!

Manston Quick Flash

Package holiday company Cosmos has confirmed it has pulled the plug on its planned flights to the US from Thanet's Manston Airport.

The tour giant, which promised to make the Thanet airport a major departure point for flights to the United States, has failed to sell enough seats both in the UK and US.

It is understood the flights to and from Virginia had sold just 600 tickets in the UK - and a mere 200 in the US. That represents just ten per cent of the tickets available for the planned weekly service.

Ed: I thought this might happen - In fact as I was pretty sure it would! Which way Manston now I wonder?

The Final Curtain?

Following on from the news surrounding the future of Margate's Theatre Royal, that you may have read last week, a petition has been launched by volunteer staff who do not wish to see the historic theatre taken over by Thanet District Council and run as a community arts centre.

Kent Online reports that this may be the final act of defiance in a long-running funding saga that could see the curtain falling on the country’s second oldest provincial theatre in April before it re-opens in September in a new guise funded mainly by the district council, Kent council and the Arts Council.

It's a nice idea but I really can't see that a petition would attract anywhere near the number of names that might influence a change of policy regarding the theatre's future. After all, if Tony Blair can ignore a million or so online signatures, what chance the cash-strapped Theatre Royal?

Pilgrim Fathers Delayed

If you couldn't see a problem coming, then here's the news from Kent Online:

"Direct flights between Kent and the United States, due to take off in May, appeared to be in doubt today.

The shock emerged last night after high level members of Kent County Council reluctantly turned down a request for financial guarantees from the travel firms planning the new service.

It is understood that not enough people had booked seats on the weekly flights between Kent International Airport at Manston and Norfolk International Airport, Virginia, to make the service viable."

KCC, already scarred by the collapse of EUjet nearly two years ago and the loss of £100,000, is likely to lose another six-figure sum already invested in the ill-fated project."

Ed: Funny.. I knew that by simply asking my friends at the airport!

Off the Rails

I find it interesting to read that Tony Blair has ruled-out tax breaks to encourage marriage yesterday, saying he favoured specific action to target dysfunctional families whose "kids have gone off the rails".

On the opposite side of the political spectrum, David Cameron has called for policies to encourage marriage, including tax breaks to help families stay together, and blamed the growing number of children in "fatherless" families for the increase in teenage crime.

If we look around us in Thanet we might draw conclusions of our own from the regular sight of groups of teenage mums pushing prams between Margate's Cecil Square and Cliftonville.

Which is it then, a stable marriage is good for society and for the development of children and should be encouraged or marriage is an outmoded concept in a gender neutral post-modern socialist democracy.

You tell me?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Keep it Clean & Polite

I’m very concerned at some of the language that’s flying around other weblogs and one in particular with a strong political bias.

On a personal note, I believe that Thanet can do without the politics of the playground descending into name-calling and personal attacks on individual members of the council. If this standard of behaviour is what we are to expect from our local political representatives then it’s the people of Thanet who are the losers.

There is no place for spiteful, personal animosity in local politics. It may look like a football match at times and the emotions and language have their parallels but as May approaches, local people deserve intelligent adult behaviour from their councillors and their supporters and not the political mud slinging that’s already started to surface.

One more thing to consider when writing a weblog in this country is that so-called political free-speech does not follow the rights set-down in the US constitution:

Anonymity on a weblog does not protect an individual from our own domestic libel legislation. Libel is an extremely expensive trap to fall into and you should remember that anything you write that might be reasonably deemed to be malicious, incorrect or personally offensive has a global reach:

Bloggers must also be aware of their responsibilities as hosts of discussions where comments are invited from readers. Any defamatory comments made in other posts on the blogger's website may result in the blogger being held responsible for those comments and being sued for libel.”

A libel action could easily cost you your home; a weblog lacks the same public interest defense that a newspaper might argue. I fought and won a case through the High Court some years ago and it cost me a huge amount in legal expenses, so its best to remember that in the political Blogspace, a polite society is best for everyone. Never call anyone a name or allow them to be called anything offensive on your weblog unless you have deep pockets and are legally adventurous. Be witty and above all, never question anyone’s reputation or integrity unless you are prepared to support your opinions in court, in front of an ageing judge who probably won’t know what a Blog is.

Nottingham Castle Fracas

Remaining with Westgate on Sea and a frequent source of contention among many local residents in Beach Road, the landlord of the Nottingham Castle pub/hotel and two customers were seriously injured when they tried to break up an altercation between two men in the toilets of a Kent pub.

Police say the landlord, Richard, is being treated for a fractured skull and cheekbones, a broken nose and bleeding to the brain after he was kicked and beaten while on the ground.

A 30-year-old Westgate man was punched and "bottled" to the face and needed stitches, while the third victim, a 35-year-old Westgate man, was struck across the head with a bottle.

The attack happened between 12.20am and 12.40am early on Saturday, February 24.

The police spokesman added: "Staff and customers tried to calm the situation and remove the men, however the situation escalated."

Two men ran away from the pub. One is aged about 18, 5ft 10in tall, with short dark hair, slim to medium build, and wore a beige jumper with a shirt underneath and denim jeans.

The second man is also aged about 18, 5ft 6in tall, slim, and wore a white hoody and a baseball cap.

Anyone with information or who knows their identities is asked to contact Det Con Dave May at Margate police station on 01843 222067.

Here's wishing Richard a speedy recovery.

Hat in the Ring

An item of Westgate-related news for you. I have been accepted as a Conservative candidate to stand for the ward in the May council elections.

Over a year ago, I was approached by the Residents Association and asked if I might consider standing as an independent candidate but after giving the suggestion the long and careful attention it deserved, I replied that running as an independent would be unlikely to see me elected and if it did, then the chances of achieving anything constructive, sitting as an isolated Member at the edge of the council chamber, wouldn’t be much use to the people of Westgate where I have lived for much of the last fifty years.

Being a member of the Conservative party it’s only natural that I stand for the political right of centre and I was naturally delighted to be asked if I might stand in Westgate, where I feel I might be able to do the most good as an elected representative.

In the run-up to May 3rd you’re very welcome to tell me, here in Westgate, what my priorities should be. Of course I have my own observations and ideas as a local resident, but I don`t have a monopoly of views and that`s why the ‘Thanet Life’ weblog I started is so useful with just under a quarter of a million visitor impressions since it first started counting.

It was Winston Churchill who said “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried” but perhaps with your help, I can prove him wrong - at least in Westgate on Sea! .

If you don’t know me, then for a summary and a snapshot of who I am and what I do, you can find my profile at www.myspace.com/drmoores

North of Medina

A note of personal interest for me today, that sadly, three Frenchmen were killed yesterday and at least one other was injured when they were singled out for attack by militants while travelling in the Saudi Arabian desert north of Medina.

The victims, part of a group of eight travellers were fired on after a car stopped them on a road near the town of Tabouk and an archeological site near Madain Saleh. The archaeological site Madain Saleh is a site of extraordinary tombs that were carved into the side of cliffs between 100 BC and 100 AD when it was a thriving kingdom of Nabataean people. When I went there in the eighties, it was very isolated and I was fully bearded, in disguise, quite literally, with a pass from the Saudi interior ministry; it's wild country up there towards the Jordan border and not a place that I would consider safe to visit without some form of protection in place.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Super Size Problem for Thanet's Roads

Stop Ladyman allowing super trucks on our roads says Layra Sandys (pictured)

Laura Sandys says that “We need to take action to stop the Government allowing 60 and 84 tonne lorries on to Britain's roads. The current limit is 44 tonnes. There is an Early Day Motion that has been placed in Parliament to urge the Government to reject these Super Trucks.

“We all know that Thanet roads, and the villages of Wingham and Ash already suffer from the pollution, the noise and the road degradation caused by the existing 44 tonne lorries that come over from Europe. Dr Stephen Ladyman is considering allowing almost double that size of Super Truck to be used on our congested roads in East Kent.” States Laura.

The Department for Transport is currently reviewing whether to allow trials of super trucks, known as LHVs:

* They range from 83ft to 100ft long with weights of 60 to 84 tonnes.
* The 60-tonne 83ft super truck is the same weight of a Challenger tank and the length of a 25-metre Olympic swimming pool.
* The 84-tonne truck would be twice the weight and almost twice the length of existing heavy lorries.

“I am very concerned about questions over the safety, environmental and social costs these vehicles would impose on our communities. The impact of super trucks if they are involved in an accident will be proportionately greater because of their extra weight, with severe implications on braking distances, manoeuvrability, possible jack-knifing and overtaking complications.

“We are already suffering from massive congestion in Thanet and with 40 tonne trucks rushing through Wingham and Shattlington. We cannot allow our environment, our safety and our ability to travel to be further impeded by these massive trucks. “ says Laura.
The promoters claim these vehicles will be restricted to motorways, dual carriageways and major roads, but there is no mechanism available to keep them to this, and the type of road has not been fully clarified.

The reality is that these vehicles will need local access to distribution hubs which would not be on motorways/dual carriageways, but on roads which are totally unsuited to vehicles of this scale. When the limit was raised to 44 tonnes similar restrictions were not enforced.
Facts and Figures:

In 2005 in accidents involving HGVs - ROSPA 2006 6 people were killed, 65 seriously injured and overall 750 injured on urban roads 49 people were killed, 275 seriously injured and overall 2092 injured in rural areas 24 people were killed, 118 seriously injured and overall 595 people injured on motorways.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Daffodils

Anon Y Mouse writes:

"If any of your readers live in the Charlesworth Road area of Birchington and wonder why the daffodils ar not thriving at the entance to their road, I can tell them.

On Friday I had been call back into work. As I drove past the flower beds I saw a boy of about 11 happily smashing the budding daffodils with a lump of wood. The traffic did not permit me to stop and tell him off. However, I get out of the car outside the office and waited for him.

Eventually he came up Canterbury Road on the opposite side to where I was. I shouted to him to stop where he was. He must have thought I was lost or something, but he obediantly waited for me to cross the road to reach him. Did he get a shock ! I stood four feet away from this bespeckled little lout and shouted that I had witnessed him smashing up the daffodils. He started smiling, I think through embarrassment. When I told him that I could identify his school by his uniform and had photographed him vandalising the flowers his face turned to stone ! He then apologised and said he wouldn't do it again. Too late I shouted, you've been caught. By now he was becoming really worried, being faced with an angry ratepayer, not knowing if I was telling the truth or not, his mind must have been all over the place.

I would like to think that this boy has learned a valuable lesson, and maybe, just maybe, he will think twice about wrecking something that is in place for every one to enjoy.

Incidentally, I was very careful to stay my distance from the boy, was not threatening in my language and stayed focused.

If we all tackle the problems as we see them, maybe a few kids can be 'pulled back into line' before they become the feral monsters we see in Birchington every evening.

If the boy's' Mother is reading this then be thankful someone is doing your job and keeping your son in line. It is doubtful that he told her what had happened though."

Ed: What we need perhaps is a return of the good old policeman on a bicycle, "Dixon of Dock Green". I remember "Charlie" our local bobby of many many years ago with nostalgia. A sudden surprise appearance a quick clip around the ear and an even more serious threat to tell one's Dad and he was off, leaving the local Daffodils free to grow in peace for another year. Anyone agree with such a blatant violation of a young offender's human rights?

Quads

Lots of activity on Margate beach this afternoon but sadly I forgot my camera, never expecting to get up in the air in the first place, after all the rain that fell this morning.

In the end, I found myself sitting beneath an Oasis 747 as it did circuits around Manston and we did circuits between the Quad-biking on Margate beach and Ramsgate harbour.

On the way back I noticed motorcycles racing on the beach too. Margate had a very washed-out look about it but still seemed to have a reasonable number of spectators watching the motor racing activity along the beachfront.

While some people may be against the noise, Margate has not got a huge amount going for it as a winter tourist attraction,so perhaps we should just put up with the disruption for one wet weekend in February?

Many thanks to Dick Osborne for sending in some photos!

Bring Back Robin Hood

If you hadn't found a reason yet to throw the present incumbents out of Government then here's one reported in the papers today.

"Inspectors collecting information for a Government database will be required to count how many long-life light bulbs there are in every house or flat put up for sale.

Up to 4,500 assessors, earning up to £80,000 a year, will take part in a huge shake-up of the housing market when it comes into effect in just over three months.

And documents seen by The Mail on Sunday show that the compulsory £200 survey will cover virtually every aspect of the history, construction and current condition of the property."

I don't know about you but I feel very strongly about the idea of welcoming tax inspectors into my house to count my light-bulbs and checking to see whether the dog has an ensuite basket. How do you feel about the plan?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Grounded

I missed the quad-bike racing this afternoon unfortunately. Two flights and multiple failed attempts to pick-up a banner in a swirling crosswind at lunchtime put an end to today's flight plan. Maybe tomorrow. Does anyone have any reports or photos from Margate seafront?

Saved or Not?

The BBC reports that "Councillors have agreed to fund a rescue package for the Theatre Royal but sources close to the Margate theatre are not happy with the results.

Thanet District Council, Kent County Council and the Arts Council South East are together contributing £210,000 to save Margate's Georgian Theatre Royal.

Thanet's chief executive Richard Samuel said the theatre was in financial difficulty, with substantial debts but that the council intended to lease the theatre back to the trust to enable it to continue the business - but with additional financial support.

The theatre, which opened in 1787, is said to be haunted by one of its 19th Century managers, Sarah Thorne.

It has had various uses, including a military barracks, a chapel, a furniture warehouse and bingo hall and was mothballed several times before it was bought by the trust in 1992.

Owner, Margate Theatre Royal Trust, has said it is committed to selling it to Thanet District Council.

"The reason for the sale is that without it the trust cannot repay its substantial debts, which run into three figures," said Mr Samuel."

However, a source writing to ThanetLife comments: "My main concern is that a loyal audience (painstakingly built up and nurtured over the last few years) are now being hoodwinked into thinking 'their' Theatre Royal is safe, but then suddenly discover, too late, it's been replaced by yet another arty farty 'community' project and the staff and volunteers they know, have gone."

What do you think, a good result for the future or the end of the road for a Margate landmark?

Ellington + Hereson =?

It was suggested here many months ago that a schools merger was in the air and now pupils from Ellington girls school and Hereson boys could find themselves together from September 2008.

Parents of children at both schools have received letters telling them of plans to move all pupils to a £9 million site in Pysons Road.

Ellington will move in on April 27. Boys from Hereson will be phased in between 2008 and 2010.

Hereson head teacher Tony Hamson said: "We have to have a consultation with parents first. It is very early. I have only known about the idea since just before Christmas. It is a proposal at the moment."

The move is due to falling school numbers, according to both Mr Hamson and Ellington head Cathy Smith.

Friday, February 23, 2007

KCC TV - My Personal Take on Local Government TV

The very first public sector 'digital' TV station was called DKTV(AKA 'Smart Communities') DKTV was launched in the winter of 2000 by a consortium including the European Commission, the London boroughs of Newham and Camden, the Housing Corporation and NHS Direct. Others involved were the BBC and Andersen Consulting and I almost forgot, I was one of the Directors.

DKTV's stated objective was to provide a free iTV service that would connect people to public service providers via digital satellite, cable and video-on-demand platforms. Within months of launch it managed to get the first few services trialled in Newham in August 2001. This was followed by Camden with its first official DKTV scheme on 25 February to 1,600 homes.

After launching succesfully it ran for almost two years and then fell on its backside, when central government decided not to continue with a 'promised' part of the funding for 2002/3. The result, big losses and embarrassment for the local authorities that had invested public money, losses of jobs and a complete loss of the intellectual property and experience that went into the project.

So mention the "KCC TV" internet public information television project to me and you'll hear less than a positive response. Incidentally, I resigned when it became clear that the project couldn't continue without serious funding having tried to negotiate with the Cabinet Office for the money that the project "thought" was already secured. Here's on of the early press releases and here's an analysis of where it went wrong.

I wonder if KCC are aware of the history and the challenges involved in running such a project.

Big Sky Margate

Margate beach is going to be a little noisy this weekend, so "All aboard" for the"Big Sky" Quad-bike races on Margate beach this Saturday and Sunday and estate agent, Terence Painter Properties have asked Airads to fly their banner over the event at ~14:00, advertising their new line in Spanish homes - Call Simone on 01843 830334 if you are interested, miss the banner or can't read the telephone number at 1,000 feet!- .

The weather forecast isn't great but as the event is close to home, we have a better chance than most jobs of finding a gap in the andand hopefully taking some good photographs which I will post here. - Depends on the sunshine!

Good News for Montefiore

A new Conservation Area has been designated in Ramsgate to preserve part of the former historic Montefiore Estate.

At a meeting of Full Council last night, Members agreed to the new designation. This includes the Montefiore Synagogue and Mausoleum, both Grade II * Listed Buildings, buildings along part of Hereson Road, many of which are typical of 1880's cottages, Honeysuckle Road, which formed part of the medieval village of Hereson and Dumpton Park Drive, which was open land and gardens connected to the Sir Moses Montefiore Estate.

Sir Moses, the internationally influential Jewish philanthropist and campaigner for Jewish rights, was a long time resident of East Cliff Lodge and owned the land from the Lodge to Hereson Road. In 1833 Sir Moses Montefiore commissioned his cousin, architect David Mocatta, to build a Synagogue. When Sir Moses' wife, Lady Judith, died in 1862, she was interred in a mausoleum adjoining the Synagogue. Sir Moses died in 1885 and was placed beside his wife.

The decision to designate the Montefiore Conservation Area was made, following extensive consultation with local people over the last six months, including a public meeting, leaflets sent to homes in the area and questions put to the Council's residents' panel, Community Matters.

Cllr. John Kirby, Cabinet Member for Development Services, said: "The Montefiore area is of significant importance at both a national and international level and to be able to extend Conservation Area protection to include many of the historic sites related to Sir Moses is wonderful news. It is especially encouraging that local people gave such overwhelming support to these proposals. This decision will ensure that the contribution that Sir Moses Montefiore made to Ramsgate will live on for many years. This new designation sends out a clear message to everyone that our heritage is something people in Thanet care passionately about and the Council is determined to protect it for generations to come."

The Ramsgate Conservation Area was originally designated in 1970 and has been extended several times. The Pegwell Conservation Area was originally designated in 1976 and was extended in 1989 and the Royal Esplanade was created as a Conservation Area in May 2006.

The Big Issue

Continued investment in local people’s priority areas – street cleaning, refuse and recycling collection and activities for young people - form the cornerstone of Thanet District Council’s budget for the next year.

The budget was last night (Thursday 22 February) agreed at a meeting of full Council, when an increase in Council Tax bills of 4.44% was agreed, meaning most households will see a weekly increase in Thanet District Council’s share of the bill of less than 14p a week.

Council Leader Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel told Council that this budget built on the work of previous years, which had seen resources switched into those areas that local people had identified as their priorities. “The first and most consistent demand from our residents is to keep the streets and roadways clean, and to provide an effective refuse collection service. This Council took the brave decision to take the service back in-house and invested £1.45 million in 2006/07, with further investment in to come over the next year in refuse vehicles and wheelie bins. The arrangements that we now have in place are fit for purpose and get better each week. They have cost us money, but that has been well spent and will be of long-term benefit to Thanet residents and this investment is already paying dividends in the eyes of our residents. Both street cleansing and refuse collection show an increase in resident satisfaction of 16% and 6% respectively.”

Other priority areas include activities for young people and the £40,000 allocated last year for arts and sports activities for young people remains in this year’s budget.

However, there was also a warning that local councils across the country are likely to face a continuing funding gap over the next three years, with tough grant settlements likely from central government. These will probably not cover projected inflation, so in real terms, councils are likely to see a cut in their funding.

Cllr. Ezekiel told the meeting: “The year-on-year Budget gap that this Council has faced in recent years looks set to continue over the next few years, so we are seeking to put steps in place to close this gap and balance the Budget. This will only be achieved if managers, staff and Members work together. Even with greater efficiency and reducing costs, Members will have to accept that the Council probably won’t be able to do everything that we currently do, so some tough choices will be needed about what we don’t do.”

Welcome One and All

Remember the mugging and subsequent tragic death of a 93-year-old woman in Margate? Well apparently she was mugged by a Northern Irish Terrorist, who just happened to be passing!

Colin McCurry, was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force when he was jailed in May 1995 for 15 years for attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, arson and gun offences.

McCurry served less than four years of the sentence before he was released in April 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement, when terrorist murderers were freed.

He had only been free for just over two weeks from a four-month sentence for possessing drugs and driving while disqualified when he robbed 93-year-old Ethel Pym in Margate.

McCurry was jailed indefinitely on Thursday after admitting manslaughter and robbery. He will not be considered for parole until he has served three years, less eight months spent on remand.

What on earth was Mr McCurry doing living in Margate of all places and do we have any more terrorists, Al Qaeda, the Red Brigade, ETA, or anyone else equally dangerous holidaying in Thanet?

Jobs for the Boys?

Almost two years ago, I contributed to a report, "Computerising the Chinese Army" which predicted that the government's National Programme for IT, NPfIT, its health service strategy, was unworkable in key areas of design an delivery. It wasn't just me, it involved both medical and IT professionals, who pointed out the more glaring problems but the report was ignored and its predictions were proved correct at the end of last year.

Now I read that Lord Warner, the former minister in charge of the crisis-hit £20 billion project is at the centre of a "cronyism" row after landing a £30,000-a-year job for working just one and a half days a week.

In his new role as chair of the NHS London's provider agency, the former Health Minister will oversee the performance and management of trusts in the capital.

Now to me, it seems obscene that in a week where "community charge" rises will hurt already pressed working people and pensioners, the man who has clearly shown he is not up to the job of running one agency, is going to be paid very well for attempting to run a second -part time.

Is this another scandal or does Lord Warner deserve such a plum appointment?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Application Refused

Some of you may be pleased to know that the application to place a telephone mast outside the Ursuline College on the Canterbury road in Westgate has been refused.

"Common sense prevails" commented Tom King, chair of the residents association. "The worst location possible", said Cllr Gregory, his views echoed by others in the chamber among them Iris Johnston and Brian Goodwin.

What surprised both me and Tom King, is that nobody turned-up to speak against the mast, given the effort put into the protest, so residents should count themselves lucky that both common sense and a little lobbying had the desired result.

Perhaps next time there's an issue of local concern, we need to identify who is going to represent opinion in the council chamber or risk losing without a shot being fired.

The other thing I noticed tonight, sitting through a two hour planning meeting, is that gardens are now brownfield sites in the eyes of government and if your neighbour has a big one, a garden that is, then you could find his new house extension right up against your house wall, with very little to say in the matter.

Cliftonville's Northumberland Avenue now seems to be under threat, a concern expressed by ward councillor Wise at attempts to buy contiguous gardens and build new housing plots on them. This could change the nature of the area if planning permission for the first one is given and councillors are rightly worried by the idea.

So if you have a spare million or so under the bed where Gordon Brown can't find it, go and buy a few large gardens and retire on the profits.

Phone Mast Hearing


Apparently, tonight at TDC, it's the phone mast planning hearing for the Canterbury road site in Westgate outside the Ursuline College. I'm going to try and pop-along and listen. 7pm start at Cecil Square. Bring your own sandwiches!

If Don Quixote was alive today, I wonder if he would be tilting at phone masts rather than windmills?

King George Reprieved

A huge sigh of relief from the direction of Ramsgate with news that plans to dispose of the former parks depot site at King George VI Park in Ramsgate have been withdrawn by Thanet District Council.

Cabinet Member for Development Services, Cllr. John Kirby, took the decision after local residents and groups objected to the proposals. It had been hoped that the disposal of the land would help to stop vandals getting access to the recently restored Italianate Greenhouse nearby, which has had a number of glass panes smashed in recent months, with replacements for each pane having to be individually made.

Cllr. Kirby said: "The disposal of Council owned sites is often an emotive issue and especially so in this particular case. I have received many comments from both local residents and groups on this subject and have carefully considered them, which is why I have decided that the proposal for this piece of land will be withdrawn. Our primary concern remains the future of the Italianate Greenhouse, a beautiful structure, which has recently been restored at considerable cost. It continues to be targeted by vandals and we will not allow this to continue.

Therefore, we will be looking at alternative ways to preserve its future and keep it safe from vandals. Of course, there will be a cost to this, but I am sure that everyone will agree that the Italianate Greenhouse is well worth the investment."

He added: "We will continue the process of looking at all the assets owned by the Council and ensuring that they are providing good value for local residents. Where they are not, then we do need to carefully consider whether these assets can be put to a better use or whether they should be disposed of, to help provide the facilities that local people want. This Council is committed to consulting with local residents and using their views to ensure that the Council's priorities reflect those of the local community. We are currently asking people for their views on the future of swimming pools in the area and whichever option people back, money will be required to improve our swimming facilities for future generations to come. We are also looking at the Council's aims for the next four years and all of the priorities that are eventually agreed will require resources. It's something we can't get away from and with an increasing funding gap in the money we receive from local government, we've got to look carefully at any other ways of raising income."

What Fate the Theatre Royal

Is the Theatre Royal in Margate doomed?

It's rumoured that staff at the Theatre Royal in Margate could be made redundant in a deal that may see the current operation changed in favour of a more community-based arts project.

At a closed meeting on Monday, theatre Trust members heard that Thanet council wishes to buy the theatre and lease it back to the Trust, subject to an independent survey and valuation.

Where will the ghost go or will it (he/she) be roped/volunteered into a community project too?

Top Gear - Top Charges

Proof positive that Thanet South MP and Transport Minister, Dr 'Steve' Ladyman is in touch with public opinion when he reportedly suggests drivers could come to "love" road pricing if it is introduced.

The minister also said he was disappointed that no council in Kent had expressed any interest in trialling a "pay-as-you-go" scheme.

Kent Online reports that the government has been put on the back foot over its possible plans after a Downing Street online petition opposing road pricing drew 1.7 million signatures and you can read the the Minister's other ideas here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ring Ring Ring - The Top Ten List of Shame

In case you didn't know already, the official list of telephone call-centre time wasters is:

The top 20 time-wasters:
1. British Gas
2. Sky
3. BT
4. NTL
5. Royal Mail
6. Orange
7. HM Revenue & Customs
8. Npower
9. Lloyds TSB
10. O2
11. Currys
12. AOL
13. NatWest
14. Vodafone
15. Scottish Power
16. Halifax
17. Barclays Bank
18. Virgin Holidays
19. Argos
20. HSBC

I thought Sky might be #1 but must confess to becoming irate over British Gas and their inflated bills. As for Royal Mail and our Gillingham Parcel Force depot, do they ever answer the phone?

You Can Never Know Too Much

Why might the government spend £60,000 buying a database of “lifestyle variables”?

The directory breaks down all 1.9 million UK postcodes, using more than 125 demographic statistics within England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The core data consists of information about age, marital status, salary, children and home ownership. But also listed are details of private pension plans, charity donations, political membership, illnesses and hobbies.

It is noted who is vegetarian, who has central heating or a conservatory and which newspapers are read.

The Daily Express thinks it knows but I think the rest of us can guess!

Save the Reds

If anyone would like to sign yet another petition, this one an attempt to save the RAF Red Arrows display team from the defense cuts, then here's the link to the Downing Street 'petitions' web site.

I have offered to paint my aircraft bright red and fill the gap at the occasional big airshow but it's not quite the same. The United States Navy might have the answer in the picture below. Sponsorship..."Red Arrows sponsored by Tesco" or "Red Arrows sponsored by Durex" perhaps?


The few keep on getting fewer every day under Tony. Just imagine the mess we would be in if the opposition knew how to fly rather than hijack aircraft!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Birchington Man in Banana Mystery

Kent Online reports that a man who used his business known as A1 Top Banana as a cover for a multi-million pound drug smuggling operation, has been jailed for 10 years.

The second-hand car showroom in Island Road, Westbere - run by Robert Colyer - had been used as headquarters to discuss a plot to import "skunk" cannabis in May 2005.

The drugs were smuggled through Dover on an Italian lorry on pallets disguised as Mercedes Benz car parts.

Wayne McNally, 36, of Ryde Close, Chatham had admitted conspiring to bring in drugs and was jailed for five years.

The organiser, Colyer, 38, of Canterbury Road, Birchington, who went on the run before his trial, was found guilty in his absence at Canterbury Crown Court. He was jailed for 10 years and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Judge Nigel van der Bijl said it was a sophisticated operation to import cannabis and deterrent sentences were necessary.

Prosecutor Martin Griffith said: "The business premises known as A1 Top Banana was run as the drugs distribution centre. Colyer, who ran the business, was the main organiser."

A third man Paul Hanson, 23, Birchwood Walk, Canterbury, was acquitted by a jury of conspiracy.

TV Phone Scams - "Give Fines to Charity"

Any fines arising from prosecutions for TV phone quiz scams should be given to charity, says North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale.

Speaking in his Kent constituency yesterday, the former TV producer and director said:

"It looks as though ICSTIS will at last take action over concerns that many Members of Parliament have been raising for some time: It has become clear that some phone; in TV quiz competitions, charged at premium rates, are nothing more than a scam and some people have been making a great deal of money out of a gullible and unsuspecting public.

I hope that charges will be brought and exemplary fines imposed upon those responsible. Any money generated, though, should belong to the public because it is the viewer that has paid. It is unrealistic to expect that there is any way in which this money can properly be individually returned to those to whom it rightfully belongs but neither should it be allowed to disappear into a Treasury black hole. I feel very strongly that if fines are to be imposed then monies paid should be handed over to appropriate charities and I hope that this will be taken on board by those implementing any sanctions".

RSPCA Thanet Animal Centre

The RSPCA East Kent Animal Centre is being built by the Kent, Isle of Thanet Branch to help animals in East Kent by taking in and rehoming hundreds of abandoned, unwanted and mistreated animals. This centre is a major project by a small group of local volunteers and will be built in phases as money becomes available. Phase one is now completed and it will come on line taking its first animals in March 2007.

In future phases, in addition to helping animals, the Centre will also have an education room so that children and local people can come along to learn more about animal welfare.

As well as caring for cats and dogs and other domestic animals, the new East Kent Animal Centre will be involved with the rehabilitation of wildlife, one example is an orphaned hedgehog, which after a period of care from the local RSPCA branches was subsequently released into the wild.

To build such a Centre costs a lot of money. It is vital to the animals in East Kent that all phases of this Centre are completed, but to achieve this we need your support.

Please visit the internet site for more details.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What's Nice?

If you live at Trove Court or the Arlington, you may escape but living near a bus stop or corner shop and even enjoying "peace and quiet" will lead to a hike in council tax for householders, under Government plans reported today.

The tax on "nice neighbourhoods" is being planned as part of the council tax revaluation, with proposals expected within weeks.

Secret manuals by the Valuation Office Agency, an arm of HM Revenue and Customs, used in the controversial 2005 council tax revaluation in Wales, reveal that many homes near shops and public transport, with pleasant views and in quiet locations were penalised, with higher council tax bills. There are now plans for the same system to be rolled out across England.

So where's "Nice" in Thanet. You tell me or possibly not, just in case "They" are reading this

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Police Stop Half Term Clash

Or regular reporter AJ writes:

"Whilst driving along Marine Terrace yesterday (Friday 16th) at a 4:45pm, I saw most of our Thanet police and police cars busy from The Flamingo down to Arlington Arcade. There seemed to be a large number of youths in clusters with Police Officers questioning and searching quite a number of them. I heard from a taxi-driver this morning that according to 'street gossip', a 'gang' from Ramsgate had come over to mix it with a 'gang' in Margate. A sad way for some of our youth to spend their half-term!"

Ed: Does anyone else know more about this? As a boy I can remember sitting on the cliffs at Westbrook with a pair of binoculars pointed at Margate beach, as a huge battle between "Mods" and "Rockers" erupted over the golden sands. Times have been worse we can remind ourselves!

Friday, February 16, 2007

We Know Who You Are

Watching Channel 4 News this evening and dictator, Kim Jong Il's birthday celebrations, I did wonder who was the more detached from reality, our 'Dear Leader' or theirs?

One lives in a fantasy world of his own making and the other says that the teenage violence we have seen in South London in recent weeks is not a metaphor for contemporary society in this country. Which of the two is the more deluded?

Earlier today I had an interesting demonstration from the people who give us 192.com of a new service that can link IP addresses with home location addresses. It's really meant for businesses taking online transactions, so that when a customer calls or tries to buy via a website, the credit card address can be matched against the IP source of the connection.

It's good for fighting fraud but also means that anonymity is now even more difficult on the internet than ever before. Best remember that on any website that captures your IP address!

A Heartwarming Voyage

A Kent policeman will set sail on a gruelling voyage around the UK to raise money for sick children at Margate hospital.

PC Robert Jenkins will weigh anchor from Ramsgate on Sunday, April 29, in memory of eight-year-old Sally Pugh, who died suddenly of a rare heart condition in 2003.

Read on...

Laura Says "No" 2 ID cards

South Thanet's Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman Laura Sandys has launched a petition against ID cards and calls for the Government to use the money to put more bobbies on the beat. Sign up to the petition here.

“ID cards could cost up to £20 billion to establish – with that sort of money we could have a policeman on the beat in every street in Britain,” said Laura. “At the same time as this Government is planning to spend billons on an ID card system, 189 Police Community Support Officers are being cut across Kent.”

“We will all have to go off to Dover – at our own expense - to get our fingerprints taken and then get charged £93 for a passport / ID package for the privilege”

“Never have we faced so much personal surveillance by a Government – and there is more on the way,” said Laura Sandys as she launched her petition against ID cards in South Thanet. Adding her support to David Cameron’s new campaign against Labour’s plans for ID, she is very concerned that Government’s increased use of technology will start to severely undermine our freedoms, and centralise information about every detail of our personal lives.

“We are moving into a world that spends more time monitoring the law-abiding citizen and less investment in catching criminals”. Said Laura. “ID cards; road pricing; centralised health records, all run on insecure and unstable computer systems, and are recipes for disaster.”

Campaigning against ID cards Laura highlights that the Labour Government plans for ID cards include:

• Every citizen will fingerprinted and interviewed, and forced to travel at their own expense to a regional centre. The nearest centre to Thanet is in Dover.

• Each person will have to pay at least £93 for a combined ID card and passport package.

• If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee will be at least £30. If you get married and change your name, you will have to pay for a new card as well.

Laura adds:

“ID cards are a bad idea. They will do nothing to improve the safety of our citizens. They are not the answer to the threat of terrorism, to benefit fraud, illegal immigration, human trafficking or to identity theft. They are a waste of money, and a Conservative Government will abolish them.

“The Labour Government’s plans are to make ID Cards compulsory for everyone, and force people to pay to be fingerprinted by the State. Instead of these intrusive, expensive and ineffective ID Cards, the money should be spent on more worthwhile projects to cut crime - such as a dedicated UK Border Police, more prison spaces and increasing the number of residential drug rehabilitation places.”

Ed: I realise this is a bit of a "party political" but given the last couple of posts on crime and immigration, I'd be interested to know whether public opinion leans towards the Conservative or Labour view on such matters and how they are best tackled.

Me, I'm against ID Cards because I know they can't work as promised, rather like "chip & pin" cards and will be cloned by criminals just as fast as they are manufactured at our expense by government. They aren't a silver bullet and will simply "prove" that honest people are who they say they are, while leaving a large question mark over the criminals who will buy them on the blackmarket and then use their "strong" identity validation to gain entitlement to a host of other benefits.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Guns 'n' Roses

You may recall me writing a brief note about guns and gangs a few months ago, after chairing the “Tackling Organised Crime” congress in London. The deputy commissioner, who was on the news today, was there too with senior police officers from across the land, agreeing that gang crime was now out of control.

Another problem today is that the gangs in the big cities now often outgun the police and the former, quite sensibly, have no great wish to 'engage' and try and fight it out with the gangs on estates with nicknames like ‘Baghdad’. Trouble is that with more and more powerful firearms now making their way into the so-called ‘communities’ the spectre of a Mogadishu-like scenario, where parts of town become armed and lawless, is a problem that the politicians are shying away from.

Guns and rap not ‘Guns 'n' Roses’ is the problem that needs to be overcome and the fact that being a juvenile, makes a kid with a Glock 17 and a bad attitude, almost impervious to the gun crime legislation designed for adults.

We now have thousands of gang members across our major cities, steeped in a culture of crime, drugs and violence. It’s growing. The police can’t cope with the resources they have available and the political and multi-cultural restraints that prevent sensible and objective exploration of the causes.
When I was living in London, in Southfields at the bottom of my road, one day, a white van driver upset a young man in a silver BMW. The driver, pulled out a pistol and emptied an entire clip at the delivery man but fortunately missed. He sped off, never to be seen again.

Makes me think how lucky we are to be living in Thanet!

Perhaps the record companies could set a small example by switching off the rap music at source? What do you think?

Fatal Fire in Ramsgate

It's reported that a police and fire investigation is under way today to discover the cause of a house fire that claimed the life of a woman in Richmond Road, Ramsgate yesterday.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene after a fire in the ground floor lounge

A man was led to safety by fire fighters from the second floor of the building.

The alarm was raised at 11.45pm by a passer-by who spotted flames coming from the property.

Phone Mast Hearing

For anyone who might wish to attend or voice their objection, there is a planning application meeting to address the matter of the 15 metre phone mast that is planned to be raised opposite the Ursuline College in Westgate.

This will take place at 7pm on 21st February at TDC offices, Cecil Square.

If you wish to speak, please register no later than noon the previous day with Eileen Richford, the democratic services officer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Deport Convicted Immigrants - MP

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, has this evening returned to his call for immigrants convicted of indictable offences to be immediately deported to their country of origin.

The MP, speaking in his constituency following the conviction and sentencing of immigrants for murder and associated offences, first raised this issue in the Commons during the second reading of the United Kingdom Borders Bill on 5th February.

"I said in the House that I believed that those who come to this Country seeking asylum or work and who then abuse the hospitality of Britain by committing imprisonable crimes should be returned to their country of origin, irrespective of its human rights status, immediately upon conviction " says the MP.

"I see no reason why the UK taxpayer should be required to foot bills of many hundreds of thousands of pounds or why our overcrowded prisons should accommodate those who have come to this country, been accepted in good faith and have then so grossly abused the hospitality and the succour that they have been offered. I do not believe that those that I was elected to represent find this situation remotely proper and I think that it is necessary for the government and the official opposition to address this issue during the passage of the Borders Bill through the House."

Taxi Driver Robbed at Knifepoint

AJ writes:

"A bad flying day for Valentine banners? I haven't seen a rain graph on Birchington Weather station like the one showing at moment for ages and ages.

Car off road and had to use taxi this morning. This is the story told by driver.

A Central Cars taxi was directed to collect a customer in Millmead last night. When the driver arrived, shortly after 9pm, two young men climbed into the back with hoodies up and scarves over faces. The driver then had a knife placed against his throat and was warned that if he wanted to live he had better hand over his takings. The shocked driver, wisely did as he was asked and handed over £30 of takings very quickly. The two young men then ran off into the estate.

There has been a spate of armed robberies from taxi drivers in the Medway towns recently but this is the first for a long time in Thanet. I wonder if the new computer technology used by Central Cars and Chauffeur puts drivers more at risk than the old radio system with 'controller' directing matters?"

Ed: You are right. Valentine's Day was a complete washout! Is Millmead becoming a 'No-go' zone? What do other readers think or know about this?

UN Youth Report "Sad but Unsurprising" - Gale

More British youth have had sex, taken drugs, been in fights or fallen-over drunk then anywhere else in the developed world. MP Roger Gale is as worried as anyone, describing as "sad but unsurprising" the findings of a United Nations report on the conditions and circumstances of young people.

The MP, the chairman of the TryAngle Awards Foundation which celebrates the achievements of young people, said:

"Every year, in a programme that is now rolling out nationwide, we applaud and recognise the good things that are achieved by the young people of Kent and beyond. And every year our judges read through harrowing tales of the difficult circumstances that have to be overcome by some of those young people. The work of young carers, particularly, needs to be better recognised.

Young people are entitled to a childhood and an adolescence but far too many find themselves having to grow up and to face challenges and even parenthood that ought, properly, to be the work of mature adults.

Every Member of Parliament deals regularly with what are, essential, social work cases of poor housing, poverty and, most particularly, neglect and it is the latter that is more serious and more damaging than the former.

Arguably, most people are materially better off and better housed than they have been for generations, even at the bottom end of the scale. But the breakdown of the extended family unit, the latch-key approach to life taken by working parents and a lack of recognised and enforced social boundaries have led inevitably to a generation that are significantly and through no real fault of their own aimless and rudderless.

Those working with young people continually hear the cry, in defence of anti-social behaviour, that "there's nothing for us to do". In fact, there is a wealth of opportunity but without care, affection, respect and direction we should not be surprised that young people resort to drink and drugs and petty crime.

In our work as MPs we see young people passed from pillar to post, unwanted and unloved and regarded mainly as a source of enhanced allowances and benefit.

If we want to get to the root of what is certainly a very real problem then some "politically correct" attitudes are going to have to go out of the window and we are going to have to work - all of us - to get back to some clear boundaries and to some responsibilities as well as "rights". And all of us does mean all of us: this is not something that can just be left to "them" - the police, social workers and teachers. We are responsible for our children and our grandchildren and we must all be held responsible for their care."

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Everlasting Valentine

I have two Valentine's Day banners to fly on Wednesday, weather permitting. The first is for the winner of the Meridian News Tonight competitition, over Southend but the second is a true heartbreaker.

It's for an elderly pensioner who lost his wife last year. He has just had his leg amputated in hospital and he wants a banner over his home with "Rose We Love You Forever."

It's an incredibly touching gesture and I had a lump in my throat when I spoke with him.

A Very Long Time Ago

In the days when the guns from Battle of the Somme could be heard from Thanet, a photo of the seaplane base at St Mildred's Bay, Westgate, from Michael's Bookshop collection.

The Great George VI Sale

icKent reports that the 'millionaire' residents of Ramsgate are to be asked for their views on the possible sale of part of the King George VI park, tennis courts and putting green.

Thanet council's leading cabinet has agreed in principle to the sale of the former depot next to the Italiante greenhouse and two other plots in Montefiore Avenue to raise money for other projects, but will first go to public consultation.

If the tennis courts sale goes ahead only two will be lost. The other two will be turned into all-weather floodlit courts, according to council leader Sandy Ezekiel.

The plan is part of a district-wide asset review ordered by central government.

Residents have already collected a petition of more than 300 signatures against the sell-off.

It's a Knockout

I see him frequently at the Hartsdown Gym and sadly for his reputation, World champion boxer Takaloo and his wife have appeared in a Canterbury court charged with benefit fraud.

Iranian-born Mehrdud Takalobiagashi and his wife Sarah are jointly accused of falsely claiming social security, housing and council tax benefits.

The two were released on bail until 30th April when they are due to enter their pleas.

Who Won Then? James or Ali?

If you are vaguely interested, here's the link to this morning's Invicta FM breakfast show with the Myspace.com aerial banner mission above Herne Bay and Canterbury involving James Hemmings.

Apparently, AudioBlogger is no more and I have had to use Mypodcast.com to upload the file, which has an irritating advertising message before the clip starts.

Never Too Old for Thanet Muggers

A 93-year-old lady was robbed when a mugger snatched her handbag as she walked through St Lawrence graveyard in Ramsgate.

The robber had been standing on the churchyard path and struck as the pensioner walked past.

He ran off towards Manston Road and turned left out of the churchyard. His victim was left shocked but unhurt.

Police are seeking witnesses to the incident that happened at about 1.45pm on Thursday, February 8.

The robber is white, thought to be aged between 25-27, and around 5ft 8in-5ft 10in tall. He had dark hair and was thin, pale and gaunt. He had a dishevelled and unkempt appearance.

Anyone with information is asked to contact DC Kim Clemo at Margate police station on 01843 222062.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oh No Minister!

It's reported that Thanet South MP, Stephen Ladyman is looking for a return appearance on BBC's 'Top Gear'. Perhaps he will offer to make an attempt at beating Richard Hammond's land speed record but along the Canterbury Road instead?

I can't wait!

Legal Aid for Soldiers Families

The Sunday Telegraph reports that families of British troops killed in Iraq are being treated with "disregard and contempt" because the Government is failing to provide legal aid for inquests.

The Government has been criticised for its handling of military inquests, many of which face lengthy delays.

Tony Blair has faced repeated calls for bereaved families wanting legal representation at inquests to be granted automatic legal aid.

In December, responding to a challenge on the issue in Prime Minister's Questions, he promised to "make sure that those families are given every facility they possibly can be".

Conservative MP for Thanet, Roger Gale, who has campaigned for legal aid for military families, attacked the Government for ignoring the issue.

He argued that while legal aid is theoretically available, it is means-tested and most soldiers' families do not qualify.

"It is absolutely wrong that the Government has an open chequebook of taxpayers' money to hire a battery of expensive lawyers to protect its interests but that no assistance is available for the bereaved who have the most personal influence in the case.

"Families must have automatic access to legal aid for inquests. We continually pay lip service to the sacrifice that our young men and women are making in Iraq and Afghanistan. The time has come to turn that verbal appreciation into real support backed by hard cash."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Big Bang

One of our readers kindly points out that the 1960's film of a nuclear attack on Thanet, "The War Game " can be found in installments on YouTube, starting here. - Enjoy!

Even More on Phone Mast Radiation

For anyone who might be interested in the subject there is an open meeting giving the latest public health evidence on phone mast radiation being given to MPs by Dr George Carlo in Westminster on 22nd February, 2007.

In order to accommodate everyone, the meeting will be held in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House the meeting is scheduled to run from 3-4pm.

The latest research can be found here.

A brief look at the international research is suggestive of the need for further investigation and a recommendation that such masts are not placed in close proximity to homes until the health impact is better understood.

I have flagged the meeting with our local Thanet North MP perhaps someone in the 'red corner' might do the same with Mr Ladyman?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Up and Up

Kent Online reveals that the cost of building the new Turner Centre has risen by £2.4million to £17.4million.

Kent County Council is confident the price for the new "on-shore" gallery on Margate seafront will not go up any further but admitted it had abandoned hope of imposing a £15million ceiling on the costs.

One of the reasons for the increase is the discovery that the new site could be vulnerable to sea flooding, meaning that additional protection will be needed.

Cllr Mike Hill (Con), KCC's cabinet member for communities, said: "The £15million was an estimate made when we did not even have architects appointed.

"When they were appointed, we ended up with extras relating specifically to the condition of the site and the need to make it 'fit for purpose'. There is an inherent risk of the sea over-topping the sea wall which is minimal but nevertheless means the building requires protection."

The initial commitment to pay no more than £15million also excluded the costs of fixtures and fittings.

The initial plan for the Turner centre on the pier was scrapped last February after costs nearly doubled to £40million. About £7million of public money was spent and KCC has confirmed it is considering legal action to recover some of its outlay

On Air with Invicta FM

We didn't think that the weather would be good enough but we just staggered into the air over Canterbury and North Kent with Invicta FM's James Hemming to record part of his show "on air", quite literally.

With James in the right seat with a microphone and a live connection to the studio, I think the pick-up was an eye-opener for him and I warned him to "squeeze" as we pulled up tight to collect his banner with its myspace address for his personal MySpace website; part of a competition he's running with fellow DJ, "Ali".

The recorded part will be on the next programme, "James & Ali" on 07:25 + Monday morning

Congratulations to Sarah Fellows who won the Meridian News competition!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A MySpace Moment

OK.. I'm following James and Ali on Invicta to see how many new friends I can find on MySpace.com. I've put up a Myspace page here and I'll be interested to see how many Thanet 'Bloggers' and loyal readers follow suit. Come on Tony Flaig!

Just to show I'm a middle-aged 'trendy' and not a complete dinosaur, James and Ali have taken pity on me and helped kick the process off by being among my first 'friends'.

But seriously though,with the previous generation now diving into social networking sites like MySpace and bebo, is this a new internet phenomena,like blogging before it, which we should all be familiar with, especially if we have teenage children?

Snow

The snow has gone for now but it's cocked-up my day, with my aircraft sheltering at Manston and frantic adjustments having to be made to the Invicta FM flight which I'll have to try to get James Hemmings airborne in tomorrow.

Meanwhile, You can tell that ecrime is big this year and remote Westgate-on-Sea is now firmly the centre of the universe where challenging serious and organised crime online is involved. If you take a look at the e-crime congress website which is playing-up today, you’ll understand why it gets a little busy here sometimes trying to be a pilot in one job and keep everyone else happy with the phone buzzing from some rather unusual places in the other line of work.

War Games

A banned film showing what would happen if Thanet came under nuclear attack is being shown this weekend.

The War Game was made by the BBC in the 1960s – but proved so controversial it was never broadcast and banned for 20 years.

The film explores what would happen if Russia had launched nuclear missiles at several targets in Kent including Manston Airport.

The film is being shown on Sunday, February 11, at the Red Hall, 11 Grosvenor Road, Broadstairs by the Broadstairs-based Independent Media Society.

Norman Thomas, of the IMS, said: “Showing the film now is highly topical as the national debate over whether Britain should renew its Trident missiles gets under way.

“The film is a stark warning to us all of the sickening impact a nuclear attack would have.

“Thanet would be in the front line, as it was in previous wars – but the effects of a nuclear strike would be devastating.

“The film also has important lessons as we consider what to do about Britain’s nuclear deterrent and the current international situation, including Trident and the occupation of Iraq.”

Ed:Update - Thanks to the reader who pointed out that it's available on Youtube here

Dreamland Languishes

Thanet Extra reports that there will be no visiting attractions at the Dreamland site in Thanet this summer.

It is hoped to operate the Scenic Railway, a heritage switchback rollercoaster, as usual, but a senior figure at owners Waterbridge admitted the quality of the rides at the Margate site in the past has not been good enough.

It is hoped that work will start on the Dreamland redevelopment by 2009. The consultation was intended to gain Thanet’s opinions before finalising plans for the site.

Dan Anderson of town regeneration consultants Tribal, stressed the need for whatever is created to be for residents more than tourists.

He said: "Financially, one resident is equal to 2,500 tourists. Seaside towns that buck the trend [of deprivation] are the ones that are designed around residents. The tourist market is very high risk."

The timescale for the redevelopment is fairly loose but Waterbridge say it is hoped to have an application in by June this year

PMs meeting with Starlet - Parliamentary Question

A parliamentary question for written answer has been tabled this (Thursday) morning asking the Prime Minister to clarify discussions held during a meeting following PMs Question Time yesterday.

In the question Roger Gale (Con. N. Thanet) asks:

If, during his meeting with the most recent winner of the Channel 4 Big Brother House series he discussed with her the application and enforcement of the statutory minimum wage in India".

Commenting on the background to his question Roger Gale says:

"As the Prime Minister and other very Senior Ministers did not see fit to meet with pensioners lobbying in Parliament Square yesterday but nevertheless found time to give a personal audience to a Bollywood starlet it seems reasonable to suppose that they had something very important to discuss. That being so I think that we, and the pensioners, have a right to know what that something was and it is possible that the minimum wage question may have required clarification.

As a number of the rules of access to and use of the facilities of the House appear to have been flouted we have to assume that there was a very special reason for the granting of these very special privileges."

For a Few Dollars More

I was reading with some amusement, the news that a couple of $billion in cash has gone missing in Iraq since the end of the war as part of the reconstruction process. Something similar will also have happened in Afghanistan too.

With our council tax bills going up here in "dear old blighty", I vaguely recall a conversation with a special forces soldier a year ago, when he told me that in a God-forsaken spot in Afghanistan, a Hercules dropped in a crate with about $10 million for him and his team to distribute to local tribal leaders. Trouble was that they couldn't get rid of it fast enough and were stuck in the mountains until enough elders with large sacks could come and collect the money to buy their loyalty against the Taleban. Unfortunately you couldn't quite be sure who owned their alleigance but hell, it was free money.

Perhaps the Americans could show some extra genorosity and deliver some $dollars here instead. In fact, my understanding is that a great deal of the gold that went out to Iraq flew from Manston but I couldn't let on at the time!

A PC Childrens World

One of our regular readers who prefers to remain anonymous writes:

"I noticed comments on Baseball robbery and PC attitudes tonight on TLife. I help with a local Youth Club and was passed a Youth Opportunities Fund Application from KCC for groups to bid for upto £5,000 worth of activity funds.

To get a chance to receive funding of up to £5,000 from KCC for activities for Youth Groups from the Youth Opportunities Fund you have to fulfill some interesting requirements on the Bid Application Form. The Guidance Notes state, 'Young People must be involved in the application process. (Decisions about funding will subsequently be made by panels of young people.)' In other words, the application has to be made by youngsters ( aged 13-19) and other youngsters make the final decision as to allocating Taxpayers money!

Question 8c and its guidance notes are interesting:

" 8.c. Which of the following groups of young people will use your project? (see notes)

* Young Disabled People * Young care leavers

* Looked after young people * Young carers

* Young refugees * Young lesbians and gay men

* Young black and minority ethnic people * Young travellers

* Young people in rural areas

Notes for 8c ......... 'Projects that do not provide for any of these specific groups will still be considered for funding, but projects that do so will be viewed favourably'

So Tax-payers money is applied for by children and decisions are made by children as to who gets it with a deliberate bias made to the categories shown above. Are not children and young people just children and young people? Is there really this need to discriminate for or against types of young people? Do Youth Group adult helpers consider discriminating in any way at all between the children in their Group? Do they ask children to categorise themselves as above in order to tick the 'right' boxes.? What a nasty divisive form.

There you have it. My Group will not be making a bid and so its back to Jumble Sales!"

Ed: What's your view, a sensible allocation of funds or political correctness? Are these questions that youth group workers should be asking children and teenagers and reporting to the government?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Baseball Bat Mugging

A Man was robbed by a gang of three men, one of whom was carrying a baseball bat, as he walked through Dane Park at the end of January.

The 35-year-old was in the Addiscombe Road area of the park when he heard their footsteps behind him.

One of the men told the walker to empty his pockets and hand over cash. The victim gave him £50.

The man brandishing the baseball bat then prodded him in the chest with it and complained about the quantity of cash. All three attackers then ran off towards Cliftonville.

The victim was unhurt.

One man was white, aged 18-20, about 5ft 8in, of medium build, with messy, short dark, brown hair. He wore a white jumper with blue colourings and a scarf.

Anyone with information about the incident, which took place at lunchtime on January 28, is asked to contact police on 01843 222071 or Kent Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Council Tax Up by 4.4%

Council tax increases have been pegged to just under 4.5% by Thanet District Council, despite a poor funding settlement from central government.

Thanet District Council received a cash increase in its Revenue Support Grant from the Government of only 2.5%, but with inflation running at 4.4%, this has meant that the money received by the Council has effectively been cut.

A series of budget savings has been made over the last few months, including changes to the senior management structure and other staffing reductions and increased income from fees and charges, although short term parking charges in town centres will remain the same. These savings have helped to reduce the original funding gap from £1.1 million to just £426,000.

To meet the remaining gap, Cabinet Members last night (Tuesday 6 February) agreed that Council Tax bills will rise by 4.44% for next year, a smaller increase than in 2006/07. As the vast majority of homes fall into bands A – C for Council Tax, that means most people will see a weekly increase in Thanet District Council’s share of the bill of less than 14p a week.

Leader of Thanet Council, Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel, said: “This has been one of the toughest budgets in recent years, following the disappointing settlement from central government. With inflation currently creeping up to a level of 4.4%, but our grant only increasing by a very disappointing 2.5%, it’s clear that we were always going to be left with a budget shortfall. With reducing income from our grant, the Council has had to work exceptionally hard over the last couple of months to ensure that Council Tax rises are kept to a minimum.”

He added: “It’s a tribute to everyone involved that the increase this year in our part of the Council Tax bill is slightly lower than last year and shows just how much work has gone into producing savings, which will not impact on our front line services. It is however very disappointing that we are in this position. We are one of the most deprived parts of the south east and yet again, we see money that Thanet desperately needs going to other parts of the country. The last thing we want to do is increase the burden on Council taxpayers, as we want to provide them with the best possible value for money, but with such a poor settlement from the government, we have been left with no choice.”

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Two Chimneys Update

A small result for a little local agitation as one of our readers, Amy, writes to give us an update on the Two Chimneys Caravan Park:

"Came the back way this afternoon via Acol and Birchington and great news! Two Chimneys has planted the top of its bund and within a couple of years the views at ground level should be hidden. So the little battle last year may have been lost reference expansion but clearly publicity via Thanetlife has had the effect of drawing attention of Thanet District Council to enforcement!

I also noticed that intrusive big sign has been taken down on corner of Shottendane and Park Road, so suspect TDC has been at work! Could not stop to take a piccie but will get one for you ASAP. A good result thanks to Thanetlife."

Thanks Amy and thanks Chaz for the photo that followed

More Library Cuts this Month?

Apparently Kent's libraries are under threat once again this month.

Just over 2 years ago Kent County Council slashed the number of librarians by one third. They now intend compulsory redundancies of at least 50% and more in some areas. The proposals are part of a round of budget cuts which Councillors will be voting on 22nd February.

Does anyone know what the local situation is?

Short Story

Airads should figure on Meridian News tonight and tomorrow - just before 18:30 - for anyone who might be interested in entering a competition draw to win a banner for Valentine's Day.

Thanks to the vagueries of the weather last week, it took three days to set-up the attempt to pick-up the Meridian banner on Friday lunchtime at Rochester, fortunately with a little arobatics I caught it first time and avoided being embrassed on camera.

I'm not sure if you can see the online version streaming from their website if you miss it.

Thursday, if it's not snowing, Invicta FM, have asked if DJ James Hemming of "James and Ali in the Morning" fame can be taken up for a ride, with a banner promoting the show and he'll attempt to broadcast via his mobile phone..I'm not convinced!. I don't think he quite realises what he's in for once we pull out of the dive to pick up his banner which says "www.invictafm.com/myspacejames". I hope he likes extreme roller-coaster rides!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Crime - Deport Convicted Immigrants - MP

Asylum seekers and immigrants should be deported immediately upon conviction for an indictable offence.

That is the view expressed by North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale.

Speaking during the second reading of the government's UK Borders Bill the MP told the Minister, Liam Byrne:

"This bill exempts from deportation anyone sentenced to less than a year in prison. Why? My constituents will not understand this and they will not understand why those that are convicted of crimes are not returned immediately to their country of origin".

And drawing attention to the fact that 14% of the prisoners in Britain's overflowing gaols are foreign nationals the MP added:

" We have a particular interest in Kent as a front line County. Why should British taxpayers pay to keep in prison those that have come to our country, sought asylum and committed indictable crimes in breach of our laws"?

The Bill, which makes provision for the introduction of biometric ID cards for asylum seekers and purports to strengthen border controls, but does not introduce the much-needed combined border control force, will now go into standing committee where the Opposition will seek to give its powers some real teeth.

More on the Westgate Phone Mast

I had a meeting today with Thanet Council leader Sandy Ezekiel and Brian White, the head of planning, to discuss the plans for and objections against a Hutchison mobile phone mast outside the Ursuline College in Westgate.

Without going into great detail, I spent almost an hour examining the plans, reading some of the letters and asking very direct questions about the planning regulations in respect to mobile phone masts.

Just so you all know, there are no strong grounds to object under planning, health or road safety regulations; the planned mast being sited on the island on the dual carriageway virtually opposite the bus stop in front of Hengist road and in this spot, it is Kent County Council issue – highways – as opposed to a local Thanet Council issue

However, given local sensitivity over the positioning of such a mast adjacent to a school with the head teachers of both the Ursuline and King Ethelbert expressing their concerns, the council leader will ask Hutchison for a review, to further explore the 29 other options that the company has for placement of their mast along the Canterbury road and beyond.

Personally, if a sound objection is out of the question, I believe a sensible compromise offers the best way forward; i.e placing the mast further back or further forward. Having looked at the radiation footprint, I’m satisfied that moving it a short distance would overcome most if not all of the objections.

What do you think?

Keep it Trendy

French and German could be abandoned in schools in favour of Mandarin Chinese or Arabic.

Now this idea has merit, given that China will dominate the global economy by 2015 and Arabic will become the "lingua franca" of millions of people in Europe as well as across the world. The only problem is where the teachers of such exotic languages will come from at a time when the papers report that the rarest of species, the Maths teacher, can be found teaching up to sixty children at once in some schools.

Before I forget, more good news from the curriculum revisionists this week. Admiral Nelson, Florence Nightingale, the Duke of Wellington and William Gladstone are to be de-commissioned as influential figures in modern history and "Children willl instead learn about the American Chief Crowfoot, the Fijian Chief Cakobau, an Aborigine teacher named Bessy Cameron and Josephine Butler, who campaigned against sexually transmitted diseases."

You can't beat the benefits of a good education. If it wasn't for Bessy Cameron and Josephine Butler I wouldn't be where I am today!

A little revision

Too Sick to Police

You might not believe it but Kent police reportedly have 209 officers "too sick" to work full time but still being paid - an estimated £6 million - .

It's not the worst police force, the Metropolitan coming top with 1,774 officers but our own county is still up towards the top of the sick list league table.

I suppose the question I should be asking is "What proportion of the total strength of Kent police does the 209 represent"? It does seem like rather alot and might explain why we don't see as much of them as we would like.

Revealed: The national £243m wage bill for sick police officers

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Watch Out - Rogue Roofers About

A local BBC news story today that rogue roof repairers are putting homeowners at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by leaving chimney stacks lowered when they finish their work.

Kent Trading Standards said there had been at least two incidents in the Thanet area when gas boilers had to be turned off because of the danger.

The roofers are turning up on doorsteps asking for work and are targeting elderly householders.

Mark Rolfe, East Kent area manager for the county's trading standards, said: "These are people who are claiming to be roofing contractors.

"They do seem to do work on the roof, but they don't seem to know what they're doing and they're actually putting people's safety at risk.

"In the course of the work they've lowered some of the chimney stacks on these houses... and rendered the gas boilers that were using the chimneys as their exhaust routes unsafe.

"At the moment we've managed to catch this to a point where nobody's been hurt," he added.

"But my great concern is that there are others where this work has been carried out that we don't know about."

Watchdog Slates Ministers over Voter Fraud

You wait, the council elections in May will be dogged by unparalled evidence of electoral fraud around the country and government will do nothing before, because based on past performance, any dubious results - from the inner cities - are likely to be in their favour.

Britain's sleaze watchdog, Sir Alistair Graham, has launched an outspoken attack on the government for failing to tackle electoral fraud, warning that there are now serious risks to the forthcoming local elections. He accuses ministers of being in denial about the “real and potent threat” facing the electoral system."

Here's a thought for you. If Tony Blair steps down today as the majority of the population and possibly Labour MPs want him to, the John Prescott will be our Prime Minister until such a time as due process "elects" Gordon Brown. - There's a comforting idea! I must run out and buy shares in a meat pie company.

Voter fraud:

Anti-social Behaviour - In the Genes?

A study released by American scientists holds wider implications for social inclusion programmes and the study of group anti-social behaviour problems.

The research has found that anti-social traits such as being argumentative, bullying and lying, are often inherited. The new research challenges the scientific consensus that difficult children are the product of disruptive homes and are copying parents’ behaviour.

Any question of free will goes out of the window and the uncomfortable message here which is bound to be challenged, may be, that government can spend increasingly more money attempting to solve anti-social behaviour but among closely related family groups which display acute problems, a particular inherited gene sequence may perpetuate and spread generational pockets of anti-social behaviour, quite regardless of any proactive attempt to solve the problem on the part of society.

It's in the genes

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lots of Neat Concrete

This morning, I was hovering over Herne Bay as an aerial survey platform for a photographer and viewed with a sense of despair how much land is likely to go the way of concrete if the developers have their way.

I doubt the good people of that town realise how much of the land between them and the railway is the centre of attention; one site alone being 24 acres in size. My guess is that within five years, Herne Bay will run up against the railway line and will then start to spill-out towards Hoath village.

In the other direction, taking photos above Reculver village, that's already being built-upon with more to come, even though the road is quite inadequate to manage the traffic that the new estates will generate.

A little time later, I had time for reflection as behind the controls of a different aircraft, TG Aviation's Piper Arrow, I queued to land - waiting for the turbulence to subside - behind the big red and white 'Heavy' Oasis 747 practicing in the Manston circuit.

Another decade and the North Kent area we live in will be unrecognisable to anyone who might have known it in the 1980s. Perhaps it's a 'Nimby' attitude but I worry that we are losing any real sense of environmental balance as we plunge headlong towards almost unrestricted urban development in the south east of the country.