Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lockwoods Yard to be Converted

Here's another photo this morning, Lockwoods Yard in Westgate, which has just been approved for - conditional - development.

The disused yard, which is the only listed one of its kind, dates back to 1872 and plans were approved last week for an office and housing.

Now, I was under the distinct impression that the latest plans met with the approval of the residents association but this week's Thanet Gazette (p9) suggests that this is not the case and I would welcome any comments on the subject.

I can remember, as a boy, when the yard was active, with a nursery opposite - now new buildings - . When the railway level crossing was suspended and fenced-across, years ago, it cut off that part of Westgate and I would prefer to see it used constructively and sympathetically than fall into complete disrepair.

What's your view on the subject?

On another note, I also hear from Cllr Goodwin that Westgate shopkeepers are keen to see the return of CCTV in the village. This isn't cheap, so while I will visiting as many shops as possible for a chat, please don't hesitate to drop me or any of your other ward councillors an email.

Live Action from Microsoft Maps

Microsoft have improved their"Live Maps" web service to take on Google Maps and quite possibly overtake the latter. If you visit http://maps.live.com/ you'll see that you there is a "Bird's Eye View" icon which allows you to zoom right-up to the doorstep of your point of interest. Very impressive!

Try typing in your own postcode at maps.live.com/ and see what I mean. The photos I'm guessing are two to three years old from looking at the kayak in my own garden!

Looking at a photo-grab of a section of Linksfield road in Westgate, you can see it's not just CCTV at the station you have to be worried about these days! The government could be using satellites to hunt down Bloggers and garden gnomes alike!

What we need now, is the ability to feed high quality images like these into the Council Chamber to support the work of the planning committee.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ladyman's Last Stand

Thanet South MP, Steve Ladyman appears to be the latest victim of the government re-shuffle; losing his job as Minister of State for Transport.

There was a rumour in circulation recently, that Dr Ladyman would be rewarded for his good work for the party in the past, by finding him a safer seat in the north of England in the near future, as the odds on his successfully defending Thanet South in the next General Election are very low indeed.

However, now he has been given more time to concentrate on his constituency and the political favours are being offered to new faces, elsewhere, Ramsgate may well prove to be his last stand in Thanet politics unless Labour can make a dramatic recovery in the polls as a consequence of the "Brown effect."

Regardless of one's political affiliation, the Thanet South result will be on a knife edge and now Dr Ladyman isn't in a position to help the trains run on time or a little faster into Thanet, that "high-speed link" from Ramsgate to London may take a little longer than expected.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Going in Circles

I've just finished hauling a banner for the Communications Workers Union around the entire M25, with the message: "CWU SOS SAVE OUR POSTAL SERVICES." Fortunately, Heathrow took pity on us and gave us a routing across their approach towards Denham, to avoid the big detour past Reading, which would have added significantly to the journey time. The Union seems happy enough with press photographers stationed along the way and I suppose that's one way of warning people of the impending threat of a postal strike.

Just enough time left then to grab a bite to eat, have a shower and get over to the council offices for two meetings this afternoon and evening. One being a presentation from "Maritime Services" and the other, the important audit committee gathering, where those of us on it, will be asked to approve Thanet's 2006 - 2007 accounts, my bedtime reading duty for the last two days.

Another photo attached for you. This time a sixties advertisment for Margate. Notice the presence of a pier. I rather wonder how the woman and child would be drawn by the artist today?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Bell Tolls Margate FC? - Newsflash

It's reported this evening that Margate football club has confirmed HM Revenue & Customs is calling for the club to be liquidated over missed payments.

A statement issued by the club on Wednesday evening said: “We can now confirm that the petition requested by HM Revenue and Customs for the winding up of Margate Football Club Limited is in relation to late payment of PAYE contributions.

“Despite all amounts due being paid in full, the Revenue wish for the club to be liquidated as payment was not received on time.

“All monthly payments due under the CVA have been made in full and as per the agreement.

“Our development partner has been informed of the above and intends to instruct lawyers to defend our position. He remains fully on board with the club.

“Our chairman met with officers and members of Thanet District Council this morning to keep them abreast of the situation.

“The club have also contacted the Ryman League to explain the position and they have offered their support and assistance, they have also offered to contact the FA on our behalf.”

Two club directors will attend the AGM of the Margate independent supporters club on Thursday evening to address fans’ concerns.

Nayland Past

Staying with the theme of Margate seafront and thanks to Tony for sending in this old photo, which I have cleaned-up, here's what the Nayland Rock Hotel looked like in 1901.

Note that the occupants may have looked and dressed a little differently then and Margate was at the peak of its glory as a popular seaside resort. I rather wonder what those same people enjoying the seaside air, might think today if they had stumbled-upon H.G.Wells time machine and taken a quick trip into the same spot in the future, a hundred years on. I'm prepared to bet they would have climbed-back into the time machine very quickly and thrown it into reverse gear without staying too long to enjoy the noisy modern attraction of the 'amusements' along the seafront or the attentions of our modern equivalent of Mr Wells' 'Morlocks'.

Hopefully, in a few years, we'll have made the much-needed changes that will encourage them to return to enjoy the environment that once made Margate so popular with domestic tourists.

The Land Before Time

Lest we forget, there was a time before Arlington House dominated the Margate skyline.

Your choice, with or without? Better or worse? I know which seafront view I prefer!

Margate FC Future - "Uncertain"

Kent Online reports the future of Margate Football Club as being uncertain after reports that a winding up order has been served.

Shareholders received a letter on Saturday saying that Margate Football Club Ltd had not complied with a voluntary arrangement entered into on November 29, 2005, under the Insolvency Act. The letter states that HM Revenue and Customs says the company failed to discharge its tax liabilities. This made the voluntary arrangement "in default" and that the agreement is terminated.

The letter signed by Alan Simon, supervisor of company voluntary arrangement of Margate Football Club Ltd, states: "Solicitors have been instruced to proceed with a winding up petition against the company and it is anticipated that the Official Receiver will be in contact with all known creditors in due course.

I understand that a special meeting was held at the club, yesterday (Tuesday) to discuss the order and it's future but haven't heard anything further yet. Do any of our readers know?

God Bless Gordon

The really 'Big day'. "Vote for Tony and get Gordon" has become a reality, not that anyone really believed that Mr Blair would stick to his promise to serve out a full term as Prime Minister. Now it's Gordon who will be left holding the baby, at a time when the economy looks to be developing a bad case of wind and the other two pillars of Labour policy, the NHS and education, look decidedly shaky.

What difference will it make to you and me? Don't expect to be taxed and further until after the next election, if Gordon wins it. That could be months away but like the most recent General Election, I'm sure great efforts will be made to sweeten the electorate with a velved glove before the mail-fisted knock-out below is delivered with a mandate from the country, if indeed the country is naive enough to confirm Mr Brown's place in history for the next five years.

I would expect an even heavier public sector to appear under Gordon Brown to help disguise growing unemployment - the Egyptian model of the economy - and that's going to demand even more funding from the middle-classes and small businesses that he's been attacking so vigourously over the last decade. Will the growing problem of a dysfunctional and divided society be solved? I doubt it. Having universities deliver places on the basis of an applicants background, parental qualifications and career, rather than academic achievement is hardly the sound basis for an improvement in the skilled workforce that the country needs and neither is a steadily growing army of tax inspectors and the intrusive influence of the state in our lives.

Will the deprived of Thanet be better off? I doubt that too. If you happen to live in his Scottish constituency, you would be far better off by an average of £1,500 a year but Thanet is in the South-east and we're all rich southerners here and so I would be very surprised if we saw any real benefits from Gordon Brown.

Just to summarise a report from the political 'Think Tank' Reform, "Tony Blair's policies have left a generation of young people facing an effective tax burden of almost 50 per cent, including repaying student loans and providing for pensions"

In 2008-09 the tax burden will reach 38.1 per cent of gross income - its highest level for 25 years".

And that mailed fist? With the Civitas think-tank reporting today that Mr Blair's schools legacy is 'best forgotten' because rising results in exams have been achieved using 'smoke and mirrors', Gordon Brown, has already suggested a rise in spending on education by around £50 billion a year, equivalent to an extra 16p on the basic rate of tax. With interest rates predicted to rise again, life is going to become expensive and with the record of the last ten years, with very little to see in return!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cash is King

The Daily Mail reports today that we are in a middle-class crime wave.

Researchers say that a third of us pay cash in hand to avoid tax; a third of us keep money when given too much change; one in five steals goods from work; one in ten of us doesn't pay the TV licence or disclose faults in goods that we sell second-hand; and many of us are guilty of inflating our insurance claims.

The failure to pay the television licence is a form of conscientious objection.

Bewildered by the fall in programme standards, resentful of the liberal bias of the BBC - a fact which its own internal investigation confirmed only last week - 11per cent of the middle class are simply refusing to pay.

Are all of these truly criminal acts asks the paper?

Obviously, we should strive to stick to the law, but it would take a man of granite to argue with a builder whose tender is based on a cash payment that not only presents him with a lower tax bill but also gives the householder the chance to avoid VAT.

Is it any wonder that 34% admit to paying cash in hand? Won't the option have crossed Tony Blair's mind in his dealings with the builders at his new home in Connaught Square?

Hands-up anyone who hasn't been tempted to avoid VAT by paying Dell-boy or Rodney for an item or service in cash? I'll bet the Revenue can find a place in the legal system for you, even though the same system can't accomodate armed robbers, fare dodgers and rapists any more.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Way Forward

The new corporate plan for Thanet was approved at tonight’s extraordinary council meeting and this deals with the key themes that provided the basis for the Conservative Group manifesto at the local election. I’ll return to this in a moment but suffice to say that the Labour Group attempted to introduce an amendment, which was subsequently outvoted, which would have had cross-party working groups dealing with each item subsequent to adoption; in principal stopping the delivery process until they were happy with it.

Fair enough, you might think, that’s what one expects from politics but there was one item that came-up for discussion and that was the Nayland Rock Hotel. - see earlier story with Mick Tomlinson's comments -

Apparently, central government has been quietly working on the plan to turn the hotel into a closed-detention centre for immigrants for over eight months, without any consultation in Thanet. It’s a salient topic because the new corporate plan states: “The council will review its allocation policy to give appropriate priority to local residents and discourage the inward migration of vulnerable people to Thanet”.

There’s more but fundamentally, the council has, like the people of Thanet, had enough of the disproportionate “inward migration” which has created so many problems of crime, anti-social behaviour and deprivation for the island.

Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel invited the Labour Group to join the Conservative Group in challenging the Nayland Rock proposal; a firm “Over my dead body” response to the Home Office to any idea of placing a detention centre on the opposite side of the bay from the Turner Centre.

To my surprise, the opposition declined to criticise the plan, quite the opposite in fact. The Nayland Rock is apparently a legacy of John Major’s government and not this government’s fault; ipso facto, that’s alright then and “Let them come” or that’s how it appeared to me.

Now I believe that we have been more than generous in our provision for the “needy” in Thanet and the new policy is one that takes a more pragmatic and direct approach to the challenge. The people of Thanet have had enough and it’s time we took sensible steps to take our island back if we are to have any chance of economic regeneration over the next five years.

The remainder of the corporate plan elaborates on those themes that most concern local people. Keeping Thanet “beautiful” and clean, safer neighbourhoods, economic prosperity, decent quality housing, healthy and cohesive communities and of course, creating a modern, efficient and responsive council, keeping its cost base down as far as possible so that council taxes stay low.

Sitting around in working parties sounds like good democratic practise but when there is a plan, focused on quite specific outcomes to improve people’s lives, then we need to get on an deliver and not waste time squabbling over the minor details. From a personal perspective, we have to start dealing with a number of very urgent challenges today, rather than tomorrow and tonight’s meeting marked the starting point of a strategy that I'm happy to sign-up to and which I expect to deliver real and measurable benefits over the next five years. (Photo Airads)

An Unsuitable Plan

Cllr Mick Tomlinson gives his view on last week's news on the Nayland Rock Hotel.

"They say truth is often stranger than fiction. When I first heard of Home Office plans to turn the Nayland Rock into an open Dispersal Center with no security for failed asylum seekers, I thought I must have mis-heard. In effect, this is an open prison.

Sadly, I hadn't misheard.

This proposal is just about as unsuitable as anything could be. The Home Office has not consulted Thanet District Council on the proposal in any way. Can we seriously be expected to accept a prison on one of Britain's most famous and popular tourist beaches?

If it were to go ahead, it would be directly opposite the Turner Centre, and the new Dreamland complex, both major regeneration initiatives for the area. Tourism will be bound to suffer, and business along with it. Margate's reputation and popularity will be deeply damaged. How many parents want their young children to be paddling and playing alongside semi-prisoners?

I recognise there is a need for detention facilities such as this, but they should be sited in appropriate areas, preferably away from the public, and certainly not in a major tourist region. Consultation with the District Council and other interested parties is also essential. None of these conditions have been met, in fact, the proposal came as a bolt from the blue.

Residents and constituents can be assured the Council will fight this every step of the way. Only the Labour Government could make this happen. I am pleased we can count on the whole-hearted support of Roger Gale MP. I would like to make it absolutely clear that I will fight the granting to the Home Office of any license that might be required. "

The First Cut is the Deepest

Apparently, Kent is to suffer a 14.06% cut to Safer Stronger Communities funding related to Building Safer Communities, Anti-Social Behaviour and Drug Partnership work.

The overall size of the cut, I understand amounts to about £10million nationally and here in Kent, the effect is to reduce allocations to Kent (Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, CDRPs by £226,752 clearly impacting on all CDRPs across the county.

According to KCC's Chief Executive, Peter Gilroy, this situation has occurred even though Kent had been led to believe that the levels of funding for this type of work were guaranteed for a three year Local Area Agreement (LAA) period.

Gilroy comments that: "The way in which this has been handled, some would suggest is utterly incompetent given that civil servants knew that the money was not available in March."

"Sadly," he adds in a letter to Roland Anderson, the Regional Director of the Government Office for the South East, GOSE, "It may start to undermine what was potentially a new relationship with central government through Local Area Agreements. With this authority being the first in the country to develop such arrangements, it would be an irony for it now to have to review the whole context of what Local Area Agreements really mean. We are in danger of LAAs losing credibility which is very serious indeed."

Chris Wells, (pictured,) Conservative Councillor and Cabinet member in Thanet, and also a KCC Councillor, says "This beggars belief. Just last week, Thanet Council’s CDRP Partnership was congratulated by GOSE for "excellent work" in reducing crime. We were invited to share the initiatives we have used, to replicate Thanet’s success elsewhere. Now funding is being cut. Not just for next year, but for the year we are already in."

Cllr. Wells, who is responsible for Thanet’s Cabinet portfolio on Safer Neighbourhoods, says the cut will amount to over £18,000 locally, at a time when the District Council’s budget for the year has already been set.

He comments "The cut undermines all sense of planning. £18,000 pays for 3 Detached Youth Workers in a Ward, where anti-social behaviour is a problem. It pays for weeks of graffiti removal. It helps to reduce anti-social behaviour outside your front door".

Cllr Wells is County Councillor for Margate and Cliftonville, which include high priority areas targeted for crime and disorder reduction. Results from the scheme so far have been excellent.

The cuts come half way through a three year Local Area Agreement, targeted at reducing crime and disorder. In a strongly worded letter to GOSE, KCC Chief Executive, Peter Gilroy, accused GOSE of breaking a guarantee of three years of funds. He says that Civil Servants have known about the cuts since March, and says that "some would suggest (this) is utterly incompetent". After discussion with Kent Leaders and Chief Executives Group, he wrote that "I am passing on their anger and grave disappointment…especially as we understand the knowledge the cuts would be made was known to you some months ago".

Cllr. Chris Wells, who has been a champion of crime and anti-social behaviour reduction in Thanet, says:

"This is a disgrace, and undermines the whole three year plan to reduce a range of vital targets including crime and disorder. Whilst the Public’s attention was on Gordon Brown and Harriett Harman’s succession, it’s yet another blatant case of a good day to push out bad news. We all recall Tony Blair’s words, "Tough on Crime, tough on the causes of crime". Long on words, short on substance. Here we are, watching money being whisked away from initiatives that are actually doing something positive about crime and disorder. Thanet is leading the way, but we need continuity."

"Will a Brown government be any less addicted to spin than Blair was?. We’ve seen all too much of this. The Labour government is arrogant, and totally detached from people’s real needs and concerns".

Free Travel

On the train back from Westminster today, once again, a rowdy little group of teenagers get on at Faversham, only to be ejected at Herne Bay by the ticket inspector when they fail to show him any tickets.

From my point of view and others in the carriage, it's the language and the noise that's offensive from the boy and two girls who would be challenged to raise a triple figure IQ number between them. Yo wouldn't need a description either as I'm sure you can imagine them quite accurately without any help from me.

I ask the ticket inspector if this is a common occurence? "All day long and every day", he replies. "It's not worth fining them as they have no money and they know I can't lay a finger on them. If I call the police then the train is held-up, the passengers complain and I get it in the neck from the bosses, so all I can do is ask them to get off and they'll be back on again on the next train up. Free travel."

Now if it were you or me travelling without a ticket, perhaps the station is closed or you just make the train, then the fine could be heavy indeed. Note for example, South West trains who aren't selling cheap returns and group tickets on their station ticket machines and are busily fining passengers who try and buy the scheduled cheap ticket on the train.

There's something intrinsically rotten in a society where sanctions and regulations no longer apply to a re-offending minority but are heavily enforced on the law abiding majority.

However, by not taking effective measures against the free travel ethic on their trains, South Eastern appear to be condoning this and other forms of anti-social behaviour on the network. It's not a good message to be sending out to the public.

Incidentally, the station at Westgate is a disgrace. When I enquired about it two weeks ago, the station manager told me that South Eastern had promised her that it would be painted when she started her job but it never happened. I've been told that the only way I can draw this to anyone's attention in the company is by writing to customer services. They won't take my call because apparently there is nobody who can deal with the query. Not good enough again!


Finally, a photo for you from earlier this morning at St James in Westminster you can't see it too well but something very large and very heavy has completely crushed the motorcycles in the bay in the photograph and the second bay, which you can't see to the left of the camera. Looks like a steamroller has gone over them. There are going to be some very unhappy motorcyclists at the end of work today when they find the remains of their bikes.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Not So Fast Link to London

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, will be visiting Ramsgate Railway Station on Monday, to review plans the proposed fast rail link to London.

Chris will be joining Thanet South's Laura Sandys, The Leader of the Council Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel and Cllr. Roger Latchford, Deputy Leader of the Council, to hear concerns over delays to its implementation and the costs of the service.

“There has", says Laura, "been a lot of Government hype about the fast rail link to London from Ramsgate, not least by the local Transport Minister who has twice announced that the train would take just over an hour.”

“Unfortunately" she adds, "the hype has not been followed through. The people of Thanet are very disappointed that the train will now take at its fastest 84 minutes and at peak times will cost 35% more than today, which could cost over £12,000 a year.”

Chris Grayling will discuss the Conservative’s Railway position which criticises the Government for squeezing the fare payer through demanding high premiums from the Train Operating Companies and the Government’s failure to get extra capacity into the network over the last ten years.

“We know", sais Laura, "that Thanet needs fast communications to London to regenerate the area. This Government has not delivered. However we will campaign for the schedules to be reviewed, the pricing to be lowered and the journey time reduced.”

Key Facts:

Journey Times:

• Ramsgate to London – only 35 minutes less – therefore one hour 25 minutes
• Margate to London – a reduction of only 11 minutes – not exactly a step change

Spiralling Costs:

•There will be a 35% increase in peak period fares – this would mean over £50 per day return from Ramsgate – a total of £12,500 over 50 weeks.

The Better Angels of Our Nature

Listening to our new Prime Minister, you might well think that ten years of Labour government had never happened or at least, he wasn’t there when the bad decisions and the awful mistakes were made. Where have I heard the education and health service mantras before, it’s enough to make one dizzy with the Orwellian ‘Newspeak’ of it all.

I wonder how many people realised that Gordon Brown was borrowing from the inaugural address of another President, Abraham Lincoln?"

"I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

The reality of Brown's Britain, sadly, is nearer to Orwell than Lincoln:

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'

Anyway, we can have some fun with the puns and you can add a few of your own if you like?

How about:

“Follow the Gord”
“A new day has (Gor)dawned for the Labour Party”
“Gord help us now”
“He’s become a Gord”
“From left of centre to strangely Brown”

And just in case you have forgotten George Orwell and 1984, remember what our education system once looked like but:

"In Oceania at the present day, Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for 'Science.' The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc."

Sounds familiar?

Minimums

With several people complaining about aviation pollution over Thanet as a consequence of practising aircraft, I thought I'd embed a pilot's view of the world from the cockpit of a landing jet in what are called "CAT III" conditions, the kind you frequently find at Manston, Gatwick and Heathrow in the winter. Just imagine, if you were on board, coming back from holiday in a 747, if the pilot wasn't up to scratch with the procedure which he learned, in part, flying around the Manston circuit?



As yesterday's 747 pilot was going back to Hong Kong - that's what I call commuting to work - here's an older, example, view from the other end of the journey.

Down the Road

Which town is described in today's Observer newspaper as:

"A town that has seen a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes, from down-at-heel seaside resort for day-tripping Londoners to chichi weekend retreat for second-homers attracted by its jaunty maritime air, narrow lanes and sweet fishermen's cottages."

OK, if that's Whitstable, what do we need to do to see that kind of description emerge along the entire Thanet coast or are the problems described in part, in the last story, no Nayland Rock Hotel become Whitstable, insumountable as the train travels further East towards Ramsgate.

Is Turner enough to turn the tide of tourism? A bit of alliteration there to start the day!

Margate Rock

Kent on Sunday has picked-up the Nayland Rock Hotel story which has provoked a strong response from local people who object to the idea of the hotel being used as a cheap alternative to a prison for failed asylum seekers.

There's a fundamental theme running through the story and that is that the people of Thanet and in particular, Margate have had enough of the island being used as a convenient dustbin for other central government and other local authority problems. There's a real sense of anger and frustration among the people I talk to, at our inability to prevent the policies that allow our community to be dumped-upon without consultation or recognition of what the consequences are for the area and attempts to regenerate its prospects.

Following the report that record numbers of our teenagers are failing to achieve a decent standard of education, more barmy news today, as secondary schools are being told to ditch lessons in academic subjects and replace them with month-long projects on themes such as global warming.

The pressure to scrap the traditional timetable in favour of cross-curricular topics is coming from the government’s teaching advisers, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

It has provoked anger from traditionalists who believe it marks a return to discredited “trendy” techniques.

Apparently, “The idea [of the new timetable] is to offer less prescription and more opportunity to interpret the curriculum. Cutting across all subjects are curriculum dimensions; a set of themes including creativity, cultural understanding and diversity.” - That says it all, don't you think?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Secret Mission in Unposted Space

Two interesting items of post were waiting when I arrived home tonight. The first item being the voluminous TDC draft annual accounts for 2006/2007, which I have to review and scrutinise with the other members of the audit committee, in time for next week. There goes my Sunday to serve a greater cause!

The other item of post arrived amazingly quickly, next day, having been sent the evening before. This was from the headquarters of the 'Communications Workers Union' and contained "secret" instructions for a little escapade over Greater London in advance of next week's postal strike. I do hope the weather improves by midweek or they will be disappointed.

I guess we are going to have a postal strike with an element of air support. It's a shame we can't throw in a "Farewell Tony Blair" banner as well.

It seems that homeless Tony will be temporarily moving to the offical residence Chequers while Gordon moves in to No10. Chequers is only down the road in an aviation sense and I'm sorely tempted to organise a whip-around to fund a retirement "Tonygram" from the people of Thanet or simply do it myself for the hell of it

Friday, June 22, 2007

An Unusual Request

A phone call out of the blue today from the pilot of the 747 that you frequently see flying circuits around Manston at the weekends.

Australian, Philip James, who will be taking it around in circles from 11:30am on Saturday has asked if any ThanetLife readers might be kind enough to take some nice photos of the aircraft as a souvenir of his visit to Manston?

If you can send any you take to me, I've promised to pass them along to him. I've also passed on to him the concern of some residents over the noise the aircraft makes and asked if there is anyway that Oasis can build a bridge with the community if the company's aircraft is going to be a regular fixture on our horizon. He's going to pass the message on to his management in Hong Kong.

So start snapping. I'll put the best up on a Flickr library if you are succesful.

The Notts Farewell

As a ward councillor and a member of the licensing committee, I attended the funeral of Nottingham Castle landlord, Richard Would, today at All Saints Church in Westbrook.

It was a touching and emotional ceremony with a church filled by friends and family, to mark the passing of a well-loved local figure, whose life was tragically cut-short as a consequence of the violent assault that took place in the pub on the evening of February 24th. Whether his subsequent sudden death will be treated as a murder, is still uncertain but I am certain that the community in Westgate wishes to see the perpetrators of the assault bought to justice without further delay.

Richard left behind Lynne, his wife of 30 years , seven daughters and a son. He came to Thanet in 1998 and made a valliant effort to change the Nottingham Castle from the anti-social bar it had become under the control of its previous landlord, into a family pub. His success was reflected in the number of people that attended his funeral today.

He will be missed by all his patrons and by the community and my deepest sympathy goes to his family at their loss.

Just Say No?

An item of local news from the radio this morning.

North Thanet MP, Roger Gale was on BBC Radio Kent talking about a Home Office proposal to make the Nayland Rock a detention centre for failed asylum seekers.

There has been reportedly no consultation with Thanet District Council or our Member of Parliament, Roger Gale concerning this matter, just a Home Office directive.

This will, in effect create a closed detention centre/prison from the Nayland Rock Hotel.

As you might expect, our MP is very much against the idea, as are, I'm sure, our local council.

What are your views? Should we unite and fight this proposal or roll-over as the government attempts to inflict more pain, cost and disruption on an already overcrowded Thanet.

We Have Plans

The legions of the lost. You can see them in small groups during the day in any of out Thanet towns, truanting from school, excluded from school or perhaps with no place at school at all, if they are newcomers to the area.

A report published today shows that quarter of teenagers are leaving school with practically nothing to show for 11 years of compulsory education.

Last year, about 147,000 pupils failed to get any GCSEs higher than a grade D. This included 28,000 - almost one in 20 - who failed to gain a qualification of any kind.

The findings, in a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, come just weeks after head teachers warned that schools were producing an "army of the unemployable'' as tens of thousands of teenagers quit education at 16 with no qualifications.

With an echo of the Thanet experience, Jim Knight, the schools minister, said the Government was putting low-achieving pupils "at the heart" of new school reforms.

"We now have plans to build 400 academies in the most deprived communities, communities that have been let down for generations."

However, after a decade of Labour government good intentions and the constant testing of schoolchildren, we appear, as a nation, to have very little to show for all the money that has been pumped into education. Why is it, I wonder, that my generation learned its multiplication tables by rote and could read, write and even spell before we arrived at Secondary school where many children today can do neither.

Were we being oppressed when classes were conducted in silence and uniforms were worn correctly or else? Personally, I blame the BBC and children's programmes like "Grange Hill" but then I'm half a century old now and almost as old as the dinosaurs to any primary school child of today!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Swanning About

I'm a little bemused to be told of a report on another rather obscure and bile-filled weblog that I've been swanning around Europe chairing an obscure conference, while neglecting my duties as a councillor and leaving my Ward in the lurch during my 48-hour absence! I hadn't realised that being a local councillor was a full-time job, rather than simply involving an awful-lot of time.

Last night I attended a two hour briefing from Thanet Council's 'Customer Services' on the full range of service provision and performance across the island, from housing to benefits and more. First of all, I'd like to thank everyone involved in this and other similar briefings for their time spent after work briefing new councillors like myself and secondly, as a former critic, I would like to tell everyone how committed the team are to making every service more efficient and customer friendly. You may have noticed the improvements on the main council telephone number and the "ring-back" service, if you are in a queue, as an example of how the processes are improving.

Now I'm on the inside looking out, rather than the opposite, it does give me a greater appreciation of how hard people are working to improve the overall local government process in an environment where there is very little money around every cost has to be justified and great efforts are being made to streamline processes in order to create cost efficiences so that all-round, services, like the "One-Stop-Shop" at the library can make people's lives a little easier when dealing with local government.

As for "Swanning-about", I think that readers and people in my ward know how easy I am to find if they want me and how quickly I respond when they do, either through this website or through email.

And the photo? Taken a long time ago at another conference, Sun, IBM, Apple, Borland and others present. But who is the bloke in the glasses with the Microsoft badge? Any guesses?

Then and Then

More period photos for you. We'll start with Miss Margate 1968, looking quite delightful and more than a little different in both style and presentation than we might expect forty-years further on in the town's history.


Here's a nice shot too of "The Bungalow" at Palm Bay in roughly the same 50s and 60s era. No sign of a "Big Day" there but the challenge for the future is to try and make Thanet as attractive to visitors today, as it was then.


I wonder if the postal strike will be on tomorrow? I've just been asked by the Union if I can tow a banner around the M25 for them if it is. They haven't indicated what the message might be though!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Thunderstorm to Remember

What a thunderstorm to remember! I was landing an aircraft when it started and driving back into Westgate, the Thanet Way is under water and there is deep flooding in Birchington, just past the carpet shop. I can't recall a storm of this intensity in years.

A house in St Peter's was struck by a thunderbolt at the height of the storm.
The fire that followed the strike wrecked half the upstairs of the property, with torrential rain flooding into the rest of the building.

Kent Online reports taht more than 25 firefighters from the Thanet station at Broadstairs and Margate, plus the Margate retained and Westgate retained crews, tackled the flames and flooding, putting protective covering over furniture to try and lessen water damage.

Two occupants, described as elderly, were taken to hospital for treatment for shock but were not injured.

The photo of the Jet Spray in Margate's tourist heyday from the look of the harbour

WRX 2007 Manston Road

Amy writes:

"A wreck of a young persons car sitting in the wheat crop behind the recently planted HSBC hedge on The Manston Road , Birchington. I don't know the details about injuries and whether another vehicle was involved but the fact that the exit marks on the verge do not lead to flattened crop would indicate the car flipped through the air to its present position.

This bend is notorious and speeding motorists heading south to Manston or north to Birchington, are caught out. It is badly signed; has a reverse camber and no reflectors. The Trees for Thanet Group, who I help out when I can, have told me that since they planted the sponsored HSBC Hedge on this section of Manston Road in February 2006, they have 5 gaps in the new hedge caused by vehicles leaving the road. I think TDC and KCC need to look at this bend and without spoiling the rural nature of the road could make sure it is more effectively signed and has reflector posts on it. It is a sad case of trying to prevent speeding idiots from hurting others or themselves."

Out of Turner

As everyone else appears to be writing about the plans revealed last night for the 'New' Turner Contemporary in Margate, I'll maintain a discreet silence. I've written enough about the project here in the past and I've been to the Guggenheim in Bilbao (pictured) as well. The important point, raised in earlier comments is that the money is coming from elsewhere, if we didn't have it, the somewhere like Folkestone would and Margate, if it is to pull itself up by its economic bootstraps, needs an attraction rather more stimulating to the tourist trade than the arcades, a decaying High Street and the pervasive smell of burgers wafting along the seafront on a hot summer's day.

I guess that doesn't qualify as a "Discreet silence" but I would much rather see a collective effort to aspire to something with generous outside funding, than sit on our hands and moan about the decline of Thanet. Something positive must come from Turner, even if, in the end, it's not quite what we expected.


Meanwhile, I've discovered that the only way I can wade through the mass of council correspondence and documents that arrives at my front-door each week, is to get up one hour earlier each morning. Today, I see that we have two more blocks of flats planning applications for Westgate, time to take a walk and see exactly where the developers plan to put them.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Turnaround Turner Time

I wondered why I had a note in my diary saying "Winter Gardens" for today.

The BBC reports that "The new plans for the Turner Contemporary are to be unveiled in a bid to control costs which had spiralled to £50m.

The gallery in Margate will now cost £17.5m to build and be situated on land instead of offshore under the previous version of the plans."

The new design will be unveiled by its architect David Chipperfield.

He said one aspect of the gallery, due to open in 2010, would be its "incredible window towards the sea".

"When you're inside the museum, I think it's very important in this case to enjoy the spectacular location," he said.

The gallery will include a main exhibiting area on its top floor, with another area exclusively for young artists to display their work.

There will also be an education room, shop and cafe.

Director of the Turner Contemporary, Victoria Pomery, said it was hoped the gallery would help to regenerate the town.

"It's about what's in the gallery that's going to be key in driving visitors.

"Not only visitors from here in Thanet, but from other parts of Kent and from the rest of the UK and international visitors as well."

Editor: I'm temporarily lost for words but 'Hooray' anyway!

A Little Human Interest

I don't know about you, but I'm a little worried by the news today that local councils and "supposedly impartial civil servants are instructed to plant favourable stories in local newspapers, and even take part in election campaigns where immigration is a big issue."

Apparently, officials have produced five 'fact sheets' for councils to 'rebut controversial issues' to do with employment, housing, health, immigration and travellers.

Guidance published on the Department of Communities and Local Government website warns 'saying nothing is not the answer' and tells councils to begin tackling migration 'myths' as a 'matter of urgency'.

Officials are told to seek 'quick wins' by planting stories in local newspapers and on TV. The website says: "Promote human interest stories in the media locally, for example how migrants volunteer and contribute to society in various roles."

"Time must also be spent preparing councillors to take part in the charm offensive. The DCLG says: "Ensure members have good accurate information and advice so they can speak with confidence on controversial issues."

Ed: Having reliable and accurate information available to public servants is one thing. Assisting central government with a rather desparate programme of spin, is another, particularly, where local conditions may contradict Ruth Kelly's 'Good News' story.

However, to assist Ms Kelly in her aims, I can tell you that everything is wonderful and I full endorse her objective that "An explicit communications strategy will provide a strong basis for countering inaccuracies throughout the year."

OK?

Big Day Photos

Thanks to Mark at ZumiWeb who caught this shot of me flying past and a number of other excellent photographs of "Margate's Big Day" on his website.

If anyone else has links to the event and photographs, please feel free to add them to the comments.

The event appears to have been a great success and avoided the worst of the bad weather that plagued the rest of the country this weekend. Well done Thanet Council for doing such a great job to promote local tourism!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Twist of the Tail

Some things never work quite according to plan. Having succesfully picked-up the sheet banner to run along the airshow at 13:30, I find, looking behind me, that the message lettering flying behind it, "Have a Nice Day", has developed a twist, leaving me no option but to drop the banner and land.

This type of thing rarely happens but when one has to be somewhere exactly on the minute, there's no second chance when it takes a good forty minutes to set everything up again. The result sadly for me, was missing this afternoon's event, as I now have to go on to Rochester - I'm typing this from the planning room at the airfield - to do the second banner of the day.

Hopefully, this one will fly straight and level...!

The Big Day at Margate

I wonder how many people braved the wind and and heavy showers to reach the Margate "Big Day" at Palm Bay yesterday?

It almost didn't happen for my flight, as the wind was so violent that it took three very tricky attempts to pick-up the big sheet banner which Terence Painter Properties had ordered for the event.

Once over Cliftonville I could see quite a large crowd on the cliffs but not as many as I would have expected if the weather had been better. I hope more turned-up later, as the council had worked very hard to put-on a really good event to replace the airshow with an excellent line-up of flying displays and entertainment on the ground.

As I was up there, I could hear and see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Red Arrows approaching Manston. Both were trying to land there but for the former, the crosswind was so bad, they had to divert to Southend and I found myself flying back along the coast towards Reculver with a Lancaster opposite me, a wonderful sight, as the two accompanying Spitfires raced ahead.

I'm due back at Palm Bay at 13:30 today. If anyone has a camera, I would appreciate a photo from the ground. Here's hoping that the weather is better than it was on Saturday. Don't forget to wave!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sunshine League

Heavy thunderstorms with hail forecast for the afternoon in the south-east, not a good prognosis for the "Big Day" at Palm Bay. I've just had to cancel jobs at Swansea and Birmingham because of the forecast and I'm hoping that there will be enough of a gap to get over the airshow at 13:30 and then off to do a "Will You Marry Me" over Brighton pier. So much for flaming June.

Photo of the new aircraft to add to the Airads family, 'Kilo India', bigger engine and more range with seven hours endurance and "Oh Joy" an autopilot too!


Friday, June 15, 2007

The Great Sell Out - Gale's View

Will Gordon Brown sell the United Kingdom down the river? That, surely, is the question that every Member of Parliament of every political party ought to be asking this week.

There is no particular reason why we should have a general Election just because "Gordon Brown was not elected as Prime Minister". We do not, in England, elect our Prime Minister because, whatever impression Mr. Blair may have sought to give, the Prime Minister is not the Head of State. John Major became Prime Minister, following Margaret Thatcher, without an election and Jim Callaghan took over from Harold Wilson without an election and it has happened many times before.

No. The real question is whether or not we will be dragged through the back door into a European Constitution without the referendum giving us the right to vote that has been promised by successive Labour Governments and, of course, that has consistently been demanded by the Conservative Party.

It is simply not good enough to say that the deal currently being stitched up behind closed doors by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the newly-elected French President, Nicolas Sarkosy and, in the dying days of his premiership, by Mr Blair is "not a constitution." and so does not require a referendum.

While the details have yet to be published it has already become clear that the proposed new "treaty" will sign away Britain's right of veto in many key areas of European policy making including home affairs, justice and asylum and immigration. The concept of European foreign policy has got to be alien to a nation state that has, as we have, a proud history of promoting and defending, if necessary by force, its national interests. The creation of a "European Foreign Minister" and the granting of treaty-making powers to the EU, which is what is proposed, would drive a coach and horses through our sovereignty and it must be resisted.

Angela Merkel is on record as having said that she intends to use "different terminology" without changing the substance of the original constitution and she clearly hopes that by presenting this as a "treaty" and not as a "constitution" she can side-step calls for a referendum from not only the United Kingdom but from the Dutch and the French who threw the last constitution into the waste bin and from those other counties of the EU that are bound by their own statutes to vote on any substantive constitutional change.

So back to the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Will he allow a devalued and discredited man, Mr. Blair, to sign away our rights as his parting shot through the door of 10, Downing Street or will Mr. Brown robustly defend our interests, refuse to accept this shoddy cooked up regurgitated "not-a-constitution" and insist that before any needed changes to the structure of the European Union are made we, the British people, will vote upon the deal?

The entire future not just of Gordon Brown's premiership but of our country rests in a very precarious balance.

Man Falls to Death in Cliftonville

The BBC reports that a man has died after apparently falling from his fourth floor flat in Godwin Road, Cliftonville, as police arrived to serve a court warrant.

The officers gave the man first aid and called for an ambulance but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident, on Thursday morning, has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

A post-mortem examination is being carried out on the man, who has not yet been identified.

Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with his death.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In The Tunnel

The worst rainstorm I’ve seen in a long time. Brussels is underwater, quite literally and a procession of drowned rats are arriving, like me, in the Eurostar terminal, trying to catch the earlier train back to Ashford and London.

Having queued for thirty minutes in the hope that I might just get on the 18:00 train, I finally reach the desk to be told that I have to pay a supplement to change my ticket. Of course in true Euro-style, this transaction has to take place behind another very long queue at the ticket office rather than the check-in line and so it’s goodbye to the 18:00 train and wait instead for the 20:28.

Ironically, I had shown my ticket in the original queue, to the very same girl who took over the check-in desk as I arrived. Now why she couldn’t have told me at the beginning of a twenty-minute shuffle is a mystery but I’m not impressed.

A little later, I come back to the Eurostar check-in to sit down after a wander around the station. There’s a large unattended bag in the waiting area and after a while I point it out to the teenager on the check-in barrier. He shrugs and tells me that people often leave bags and come back later to collect them. A comforting thought and a reminder that passenger security is tougher for Eurostar passengers coming from England and not going the other way or at least it appears so. Eventually, a large African appears, collects his huge green and white striped bag, large enough to contain a whole Hippopotamus, and wanders off out of the terminal.

Photos of Madeleine McCann are visible everywhere. While Belgium isn’t Portugal, we should remember that several of the worst paedophile atrocities of recent years have taken place in this country and perhaps there’s a suspicion that a Belgian ‘Traveller’ may have been involved in the abduction or at least that what the FBI Special Agent, called them in a presentation I was in this afternoon.

The Japanese-American FBI agent ‘M’ would not have been out of place on the flight deck of the starship ‘Enterprise’. I’ve met quite a few of them from the cybercrime division now, super-intelligent, high-achievers, often with a string of different academic degrees under their belts and frequently a previous career connection to the military before joining the Agency. What you might not know though, is that there are only 100 of them to deal with ‘every’ cybercrime-related case that exists, which explains, given the rapidly growing the caseload, why ecrime is a relatively safe and lucrative pursuit for organised criminal gangs.

Thanet’s ‘Big day’ in twenty-four hours and I have to sort out the banner for Sunday’s flypast. I’m not entirely optimistic about the weather on a busy weekend. Sunshine and showers I think!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

England for Sale

England for sale? But what does it all mean? Towed around the M25 for the last two days, this advert from www.weblo.com/uk . It's an odd promotion allowing you to "buy" pieces of the UK in virtual space. So who is going to be first to "buy" the Isle of Thanet?

There's a thought, you could "own" Margate in cyberspace!

Facts of Life

Interesting facts that one stumbles upon at conferences. The first being that the ousted ethnic-Russian Prime Minister of the Ukraine was reportedly running a bootleg cigarette factory, ripping-off Philip Morris and Marlborough, to fund his politics, in the election he lost during the 'Orange' revolution. Allegedly, when the two big brands had the US government put pressure on him to close it down, he simply switched to another popular brand of cigarette instead.

I vaguely recall hearing a few years ago that we had a more modest version, a cheap cigarette distribution outlet on the Pyson's road industrial estate.

As for counterfeit drugs, we are in an awful state and these are now leaking rapidly into the European mainstream. Some of these are actually deadly to ingest, with one group of Columbian criminals using the lead based yellow paint that is used for double yellow lines on roads, to colour tablets yellow.

Container-loads of fake prescription drugs go from Russia and Asia, through Europe, out to the Caribbean and then back again in smaller loads to give them provenance, they are then sold on internet sites.

There a very high chance that any drug you receive or buy from a pharmacy outside Europe and in particular, the Middle-East, Africa and Asia, is a fake, so be warned!

I could go on but I'm so depressed by the facts and figures I've heard today from Novartis, Electronic Arts, Gucci, eBay, Philip Morris and others that I have to wonder how anyone at the periphery of this trade can remain honest when the opportunities for even moderately clever criminals run into the hundreds of billions on a global basis.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Day Tripper

It's been a long time since I had a chance to take a good look at Brussels, since I first came to the city twenty years ago and believe me it's changed. It's a traffic gridlocked North African city, which in fact could be any other modern European city, like Lyon, same faces, same marked changes in a generation with the 'veil' evident everywhere one looks along the ring road suburbs into from the Eurostar terminal to the centre of town.

Changing the subject completely, I had a council meeting early this morning and walked past the Job centre, which now has a sign displayed, informing potential job seekers that they need to wear shirts when visiting the building. Now if you need to be told this, then the chances of your finding any work would strike me as being rather remote but Thanet, now has third generation families who have never worked and with a growing army of teenage mums, the fourth generation is just around the corner.

How I wonder, in addition to generous tax credits, education for all and government support, do we reverse a situation where a significant proportion of our society will never find work or even aspire to work, however hard society tries to help. We are discovering, as the the Americans have done before us that a welfare state only stimulates a growing welfare society, regardless of good intentions. What's the solution if there is one in an area like our own where the balance is disproportionate in contrast to other disadvantaged areas of the country? After all, if we are to see local economic regeneration working, we need to see a growing and indeed thriving, local economy offering skilled labour and that, in real terms, means cutting unemployment by at least 50% simply to bring us back on a par with other areas of the South-east.

But businesses increasingly want skilled workers and if you look at London, then the unskilled sector is being rapidly filled by Eastern European labour. So what's left if you don't happen to be a rocket scientist or a research chemist. Nobody appears to have an answer in central government other than to deliver platitudes on creating a world-class workforce, which for many of the most succesful large companies, exists in Mumbai and Shanghai rather than closer to home in Britain.

What's your view?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Your'e That Alan...

The station window at Westgate smashed this morning and the adjacent cashpoint inoperative with what looked like a credit card jammed into the slot. All in a morning's commuting perhaps but the main surprise today was on the train and reminded me of actor, Rik Mayall, in the 'New Statesman', when the taxi driver turns around and says: "You're that Alan Bastard aren't you".

In my case, it was the ticket inspector on the 07:50 to Victoria who said: "You're Simon Moores aren't you? I read your weblog. How are you getting on now you're a councillor?"

I suppose recognition is a fringe benefit or disadvantage of 'not' being an anonymous fictional character but it's nice to have people introduce themselves and make positive comments about the weblog as opposed to those who try very hard to stress the negative, either through personal animosity towards me or my politics.

Anyway, it's the 'Mayor Making' ceremony at the Winter Gardens this evening and as a Margate Charter Trustee, I apparently have to dress-up in formal robes - to be supplied -. I'm not sure quite what happens at a 'Mayor Making' but I'm sure it will be fascinating.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Yes, Yes, Yes

Three women proposed to in less than 24-hours and each of them said "Yes". I suppose it may be a new world record of sorts!

While Thanet is hidden under 300 feet of cloud, it's bright and sunny past Whitstable this afternoon and was enough to get the last proposal in over Bluebell Hill. Yesterday's were both over the Isle of Wight festival, which from above, looked as though the island had been occupied by a large army of tents!

While I was waiting for the results of today's exercise, by SMS message, of the proposal from the ground, from the potential couple to be, I was entertained by the regular comments from ThanetLife, arriving via re-directed email, into my Blackberry. It did rather strike me that a single individual worrying over who was and was not selected to run in last month's council elections was more than a little pointless in the grand scheme of things but everyone is entitled to an opinion, however bizarre that might appear; one of the remaining few benefits of living in a democracy.

It was pointed out in the news this morning that the retiring Tony Blair's ambitions to become a Deacon of the Catholic church - he met with the Pope this week - may not stop there. In fact, there is no certain impediment, we were informed, to Tony running for Pope one day if he can get the votes of the College of Cardinals once the present Holy Father leaves us. However, following a second meeting this week, which appeared to ratify the imposition of a new European constitution that nobody wants, a space will appear for a new "President of Europe", who is likely to be a retiired President or Prime Minister from a European Union member state.

I wonder who that might be? Any guesses?

Don't Do It Again

The convicted robber, serving an eight-year sentence, who escaped from Hollesley Bay prison, near Woodbridge a week ago has been found in Ramsgate. Whether Ramsgate as the new "Millionaires Playground" is an irresistible lure to convicted felons, I don't know but I'm certain, that with our prisons, open and otherwise, leaking thousands of convicts into the public domain, every year, that there's more than one, 'gone to ground' here in Thanet.

Flicking through the local rag(s) this week, before attending the regular "Community safety briefing", what struck me is that in nearly every case of nasty, violent disorder in our streets and bars, the perpetrators, hauled-up in front of a Magistrate, whine "I'm very sorry" - (or have their solicitor plea on their behalf) and then are released on a conditional discharge and told not to beat anyone up with a broken bottle or chair-leg, ever again.

Of course, the prisons are full, so you can't put them there and so in several cases I can immediately think of, the thug(s) walk free but are chastened with the thought that they have behaved very badly and are a disgrace to the community.

And do they care? Like..... they do!

In some un-enlightened societies (see photo) the sentence can be a little harsher but I'm not quite sure why he's clutching a meat pie tin unless it contains the softer parts of his anatomy?!

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Bit Cheeky

Three romantic Lemmings are keen to leap over the matrimonial cliff this weekend, with two of them at the Isle of Wight festival tomorrow, which is a coincidence but makes the travelling a little easier in terms of a single flight into Bembridge to set-up the "Will you marry me?" banners. I don't think we have ever done one here in Thanet, so is romance wilting or is everyone just fed-up of aircraft flying over I wonder?

A curious challenge arises in the week ahead from Tuesday, over Kent and the motorways at rush hours, with three days of aerial publicity for a Canadian website Weblo.com. Weblo are apparently auctioning off England to the highest bidder and have asked for a rather "cheeky" message to be added to the banner, regarding someone called"Tony."

Now once upon a time, Airads was asked to fly a banner with "Bollocks to Blair"; the hunting ban I think and now it looks as if someone sharing the PM's first name is going to have similar treatment. I did suggest "Gordon for President" but they preferred to stay with what they have, so watch out for BBC or Meridian news reports as they will have been told about it but I'm not allowed to spoil the surprise.

In a little more orthodox messaging exercise with a big sheet banner, I'll be the first flight through Thanet's "Big Day" - on Sunday 18th at 13:30 so best have your anti-aircraft guns trained at the rather slow target heading towards Palm Bay with a brand new digital skybanner promoting Terence Painter Properties.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Creeping Up

Just in time for the beginning of Gordon Brown's 'Presidency', the BBC reports that unemployment levels are creeping back to the bad old days. Subjectively, I'm noticing a softening of the economy generally, with two separate accountants telling me that small businesses they work for are starting to struggle and this is particularly noticeable, I'm informed, in the Thanet retail sector outside Westwood Cross.

In recent months reports the BBC, "The unemployment rate has been creeping up again and currently stands at 1.7 million, according to the ILO labour force survey.

Although the way unemployment is measured has changed over the years, both the ILO survey, which measures the number of people seeking work, and the claimant count are roughly the same as they were in 1979. In percentage terms it is slightly higher at 5.5%, compared with 4.7% in 1979.

"At that time", say the BBC, "it was seen as a national scandal, with the Conservatives claiming in an iconic general election poster "Labour isn't working".

On this occasion, the Conservative party is remaining diplomatically silent bceause to draw attention to the government's rising employemnt crisis would also remind voters that unemployment subsequently rose above 3 million after Margaret Thatcher won that 1979 election. This may be almost 20 years on but this government, as you may have noticed, loves to remind people of the 'evils' of the Thatcher era before waxing lyrical over the manifest triumphs of New Labour. "

On an entirely different note, we should be proud that Margate girl, Tracey Emin, is representing the UK at the world's longest-running international art exhibition, the Venice Biennale. I'm not impressed however that the best piece of world-class art she can deliver to impress the visitors, is a bunch of sticks in the middle of the exhibition floor.

I wonder, if nobody told you that disjointed wooden mess in the middle of the room was the product of a great artist, would you stop to ponder its random profundity or simply move on, wondering why the workman had left without cleaning-up.

Art for Arts sake or the Kings new clothes? - You tell me!

A Sea View

I discovered today that Essex is less than twenty miles from Thanet by air. Now this may be stating the "Bleeding obvious" to a pilot but if you are a local authority that urgently wishes to re-house people elsewhere, '20' I'm told, is a magic number and the presence of a large amount of Thames Estuary seawater in between isn't going to deter you from invoking the '20' rule. Of course you have to cross the QE2 bridge to get here, a diversion in excess of 20 miles but let's not allow small details to get in the way.

There was a meeting of the community safety group this morning and I would ask readers to make a note of the number 01843 577888 (it's on the sidebar links). This is the anti-social behaviour number and if you encounter problems of this nature and/or you spot under-age drinking, then please call it.

The police, in conjunction with the council, are trying very hard to clamp-down on the under-age drinking problem we have with children in Thanet so if you see this happening, please call 577888. The same number also applies to other nuisances, such as mini-motorbikes and more.

I was interested to note the website, 'bebo' is once again connected with organised and orchestrated gang disorder. This is an issue I plan to take further if I can, as bebo claims to be socially responsible but I see continued evidence that it is becoming a growing part of the anti-social behaviour problem. What one can do about it though is an entirely different matter altogether!

For Westgate and Birchington residents, I have asked the police if they will pay closer attention to Birchington square - after last Saturday's report of a gang throwing bottles at traffic - and also Westgate station, as I notice that the 'Bic' lighters are back on the line and these frequently imply an activity other than smoking cigarettes.

I commented today, that dealing with anti-social behaviour is a challenge that unites both parties here in Thanet. So many people's lives are being made a misery by a tiny minority and as you will have read, from comments made here by Cllr Wells, there's a great deal of effort being made to tackle the more visible concerns that plague the island and its population. Sadly, in a world where everyone has 'Rights' and the worst offenders know them by heart, 'Zero-tolerance' starts to resemble 'Zero-sum' when it comes to moving as expeditiously as the population would like, to deal with some of the more pressing issues.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bring On the Bloggers

The Register reports that: "Parliament may soon be debating whether to legalise incest, re-classify insomnia as a mental illness, microchip all children at birth ... or give pantomime actor Richard Griffiths a Knighthood.

That's if opposition leader David Cameron has his way. A Conservative Party task force examining democratic participation proposes that online petitions should help set the parliamentary agenda. The four proposals above are just some of the open petitions recently accepted by the No.10 Downing Street website. In other words, these are the sensible ones: over 10,000 have been rejected. (This one, for example, was quite inexplicably deemed to be outside the scope of Government.)

"I would like to see a system whereby, if enough people sign an online petition in favour of a particular motion, then a debate is held in Parliament, followed by a vote - so that the public know what their elected representatives actually think about the issues that matter to them," said Cameron in a canned statement.

Cameron's emphasis on the latest online gimmick overshadows the rest of the proposals in the paper Power To The People: Rebuilding Government, which involve checks and balances on an out of control executive. Rather generously, the paper absolves journalists of blaming for creating a culture in which people are bored with politics.

The suggestions from the task force, chaired by smoking hero Kenneth Clarke, won't necessarily become official policy.

Cameron is the latest politician to use online to grab the healines. Identical clones George Osborne (Con., Google) and David Milliband (Lab., Google) appear to be locked in a private contest to see who can produce the most web-tastic gimmicks."

Ed: Hurrah Blackadder. Bring on Baldric's political Weblog is what I say. Failing that, there are one or two in Thanet that might do just as well!

A New Pleasure

Michael Child writes to tell us:

" After a considerable number of attempts I managed to speak to the architect who is now working on the Pleasurama development, Steve Wood of PRC Fewster Architects.

He told me that the intention now is for Thanet District Council to repair the cliff in the autumn (2007) and for the development to start next year (2008) the car park is being redesigned to allow for maintenance access to the cliff, he said it would now be even smaller.

There will be no pile driving involved in the construction now, the foundations for a concrete framework will be augured.

He told me that the height of the ceiling of the car park is slightly in excess of 4 meters, which although it won't he high enough to admit larger lorries it should be sufficient.

I asked him about the flood and storm provisions, he was unable to give me the height of the car park above datum or the expected flood level. When I expressed my concerns he said he would take them up with the civil engineers.

He also told me that the revised plans should appear soon, Steve Wood is not the original architect and told me he was not familiar with the history of the plans, although the firm he works for PRC Fewster Architects did produce the original plans.

I am very concerned that neither the council officers nor the cabinet members have publicised the fact that the development is to be delayed for yet another year. I am also concerned that no effort is being made to tidy up the site for the summer season, something I have repeatedly asked for since 2004."

Ed: I'm sure there's a reason for this Michael and perhaps one of the ward councillors might shed some light if they read this.

Once Bitten

To be bitten by the same dog once is unfortunate, to be attacked twice might be considered a pattern of animal behaviour.

That's what happened to me this evening cycling on the promenade towards Minnis Bay, while in the Grenham Bay stretch. Some months ago, in exactly the spot, I was chased-down by a large brown greyhound-type creature that answers to the name of "Roly" which clamped its jaws around my knee. I had to stop and fend it off with my bike until the owner came, I explained to the owner that the dog was a danger and he was lucky I didn't call the police.

This evening, the same thing happened again but this time he held the dog while I passed and then let it loose. In what resembled a training exercise for the dog, involving unwilling members of the public, it ran me down like a rabbit on a greyhound track. Once more I had to protect myself with my bike and once more it bit me.

I told the owner that allowing his dog to bite anyone wasn't a smart idea and if it happens a third time it becomes a police matter. What would happen if my daughter was cycling with me? A middle-aged man with a teenage son, he told me that he was "unimpressed" and anyway, "ee's only playin inn'e." (So if I pick up a lump of driftwood and batter the dog with it, is that only "playin" too?)

With all due respect to everyone's right to walk their dog along the beach, his dog might well be playing but how am I supposed to know and what happens if a child is chased and bitten off his or her bike by the same dog? Is it still a game? I doubt many people would find it funny!

I will be reporting the incident to the council's dog warden tomorrow but if anyone knows of it happening to others; after all, I can't be the only person if I'm bitten twice, then I would like to know so that preventative action can be taken against the owner before someone is hurt.

Free Travel

I watched two youths being ejected from the train at Westgate today with a penalty fine ticket which I'm sure will go in the gutter. It's not the first time I've seen this on trips to and from London and it appears the plague the part of the journey between Herne Bay, where they appear to get on and off and Westgate/Margate, if I'm still on the train.

It was one of those occasions where I sat and watched, wondering if they would behave themselves, they were big lads or would attempt to either abuse or assault the conductor or run-off, which I've also seen before. One sits there quickly thinking what the plan of action would be if the worst happens. After all the state does very little these days to reward or encourage citizen intervention; quite the opposite in fact as its often the good guy who finds himself arrested. I certainly wouldn't wish to be a conductor on the North Kent route. Remember the incident earlier this year when one poor chap was beaten-up by a gang with baseball bats at Birchington station?

Later this month, I'm in Brussels chairing the IP Crime Congress. Lot's of big names there, Gucci, Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Novartis, Electronic Arts and so on, all worried about the loss of revenue and brand value from counterfeit piracy and of course eBay, who are also speaking.

The big fear today lies in counterfeit prescription drugs which are in increasingly widespread circulation. Governments and particularly, the EU, don't appear overly concerned about intellectual property protection in areas such as music and movies, which opens a comparative gulf with the position of the United States, where lobbying has made it a significant issue. In the meantime, the UK, like other countries, has a love affair with cheap, counterfeit goods and each sale of a fake Gucci handbag or DVD, does its bit in funding the growth of the Russian Mafia, which some might say is the pension fund for the KGB but with the G8 summit on this month in Germany, I couldn't possibly comment!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bang to Rights

Kent Online has a stirring report, with photos of the two men arrested by armed police in Broadstairs yesterday in connection with a murder inquiry.

Kent officers acting on behalf of the Metropolitan Police arrested two men in their mid-20s shortly after 2.30pm in the High Street.

The investigation centres on the death of a 39-year-old man in Romford, Essex, who was shot by a masked gunman on Friday afternoon and later died in hospital from his injuries.Police say the gunman and another man made off from the scene in a unknown vehicle.

Harold Avenue Online Petition

As I am receiving correspondence asking if I would, as a ward councillor, object to the planning application for 15 Harold Avenue in Westgate (F/TH/07/0575) I have created an online petition for local residents based on what are perceived as the most valid objections against the application.

If you would, as a Westgate resident, like to complete it, then this would help, as then I would have a formal record of the objections online as well as in correspondence.

You can find the petition here and on the sidebar of the website, just above the links section.

Pay Through the Nose

Columnist, Richard Littlejohn, has an interesting slant on the value-for-money of our public services this morning in the Daily Mail. He writes:

"Just imagine walking into a restaurant and being handed a large bill before you've even looked at the menu. The maitre d' tells you that unless you pay up immediately, he's calling the police. "

In characteristic Littlejohn style he comes straight to the point, that paying out taxes for public services like dentists, GPs a decent education for our children and even rubbish collection, doesn't actually entitle us to those services. I won't spoil it for you, so read on...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Travelling Man

I've been watching two programmes tonight with some interest. The first being Panorama, on the dismal state of the RAF's Nimrod reconaissance aircraft and the second, the Tonight programme of the even more dismal state of airport security at Birmingham airport.

I'm beginning to think that my own aircraft are better maintained than those of the RAF, which has some of the best engineers in the world but are short of funds and are being forced to cannibalise other aircraft for spares, as is reportedly happening in the case of the Nimrod which is falling apart, quite literally, with old age. It's not alone, I've heard and is only one problem among a host of other ageing and overworked aircraft. The Harrier is agood example. One RAF engineer once told me that for every Harrier that flies, you'll find a second grounded. It's sad to think that our once proud air force is in such a sad state, with so many frustrated and highly professional personnel now leaving.

The Tonight programme exposes Birmingham airport, where the security staff being secretly filmed on video, patently don't give a damn about doing their job with even the pretense of any professionalism. Sciving and sleeping appears to be endemic and members of the same group that are most likely to be profiled as representing a potential security threat, are among those providing airport security, to the extent that the contractor employing them published an internal memo on the danger of "Hostile insiders."

Mind you, from the pilot's perspective, security is a myth to reassure the travelling public and the Birmingham expose clearly shows why.

All of us are inconvenienced in the name of security any time we pass through an airport but the reality, as the Tonight programme suggested, is that the potential terrorists have a better than even chance of smuggling a bomb on an aircraft. Simply apply for a job with the airport security company.

So next time you travel, just remember that security is only as good as the weakest link in the operation and that placing all your belongings in clear plastic bags, probably won't make much of a difference if the bloke cleaning the toilets works for Al Qaeda as well as the security contractor.

Isle of the Sun Scroungers

A very unflattering view of Thanet from Nick Dorman - sounds familiar - and Jessica Boulton in yesterday's 'People" newspaper and thanks to Dave C. for passing it along to Thanet Life.

For a flavour of the sensationalist, colourful and palpably exaggerated article, from 'the so-called Sick-note-on-sea"how about:

"For the punters supping their pints in the historic bars of Margate, Kent, are no longer hard-working men and women on a well-earned seaside holiday.

They are the Benefits Boozers - the shameless dole-scroungers and sicknote cheats who flock to Margate from all over Britain to sign on by the sea."

It gets worse as you read on:

"Robert Walker, 32, who refused to give his surname, moved from Glasgow so he could scrounge thousands in benefits while living a holiday lifestyle.

He told The People: "I get £56 a week in income support, £75 housing benefit and a full discount on council tax worth £1,000 a year.

"I have signed on in Margate for nine months nowbut after a year my benefits go up.

I know people who've moved down from Middlesbrough and Sunderland too.

"Of course there are jobs around if people want them.

"There are loads of recruitment agencies for manual labourers, crop pickers, and so on but it's only the foreigners who can be bothered to do them. You are supposed to look for work but interviews are easy to get round.

"You just say you've got a bad back because doctors can't detect that and they write out a sick note."

There are hundreds of jobs up for grabs in Margate, ranging from office jobs to scores of labouring work.

But shockingly, more than 5,000 people in the town are still drawing benefits."

Ed: And herein lies the problem. Firstly negative media coverage of the kind that one might expect from a newspaper - I use that term loosely - like 'The People' and secondly, we can talk until the cows come home about the economic regeneration of Thanet but stories like this one are very unlikely to encourage a positive investment climate. While there is a some truth in the story, just walk into Cecil Square this morning to see it, the content illustrates how, in a relatively short period of time, we have become a dumping ground for everyone else's problems and feckless undesirables from as near as London and as far away as Glasgow.

Meanwhile, in a nice editorial touch we have the tale of 'Bearded Bob':

"In the historic Doggett Coat and Badge pub several customers admitted fiddling the system.

Bearded Bob Ward boasted how he claims benefits but earns £250 a day on top from his three jobs.

He moved to Margate from London and claims incapacity benefit, housing benefit and a carer's allowance totalling £10,000 a year."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Take the Lead. Be a Learner

All right, so the Mail on Sunday is slightly further to the right of Ghengis Khan but it does serve a useful purpose in revealing stories of a society that has lost its marbles.

Last week, we heard that children would no longer be encouraged to raise their hands in class, least it oppress those that didn't have the answer to classroom questions. In fact, good teachers have had a solution to the problem of involvement for generations, it's called encouraging the shyer children but with increased state intervention, this may be conveniently ignored with much more.

Today, we hear that as modern educational theories whittle away at the traditional role of head teacher, a London primary has jettisoned the familiar title and now refers to him as a "lead learner".

The rebranding is seen as an attempt to create a more informal and inclusive classroom atmosphere. Others however condemn the move as evidence of more 'dumbing down' of the educational system. To me, it sounds plain silly but you may have a different view?

What other lunacy do we have in the newsprint this week? Channel Five is facing angry protests after it screened a Mormon recruitment advert - "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in the middle of programmes watched by infants.

Under broadcasting regulations, religious advertising is banned during children's programmes and now a broadcasting watchdog is investigating why the channel allowed the religious group to screen the commercial during Milkshake!, a morning show watched by children as young as two. What the infants made of it all, Lord only knows? What's next I wonder, the Teletubbies followed by a the Friday morning sermon from Tehran?

Meanwhile, the "almost" PM, Gordon B, is proposing new, "Hardline anti-terror laws" including an extension of the 28-day limit on detention without charge. Back in Birchington however, we can't even stop the drunken kids in the town square throwing bottles and cans of beer at passing cars. I wonder when the middle-classes so despised by this government will finally rise-up and declare that they've had enough of the bureacratic Euro-lunacy that now defines our society. Just wait until July 1st when the smoking ban comes into force and every church has to have a sign prominently displayed to the congregation but thankfully, not in front of the altar.

I wonder what they'll think up next?