Friday, August 31, 2007

Satisfaction Up in Thanet

Good news for Thanet District Council, from the eGov Monitor which reports that TDC has seen one of the highest increases in overall customer satisfaction levels in the whole of the country.

A series of 'Best Value' surveys are carried out across the country once every three years by an independent agency, with residents asked to give their views on issues such as general satisfaction with council services, waste and recycling, street cleaning and leisure facilities. The results are then compared by central government with other councils across the country.

The percentage of people questioned who were satisfied with the Council overall increased from 41% in 2003/04 to 53% in 2006/07. The council’s improvement of 12% over the last three years puts it amongst the top five improving districts and boroughs in England and has helped to move the Council a massive 177 places up the league table of overall satisfaction for all local authorities in England.

The Council also saw significant improvements in satisfaction levels for street cleanliness, which rose 13% from 51% in 2003/04 to 64% in 2006/07, one of the biggest improvements in Kent. Satisfaction levels with the waste collection service also rose by 4% from 77% to 81%, one of only four improvements in the whole of Kent.

Thanet scored less highly when it came to satisfaction with cultural services and satisfaction with the Council’s complaints handling also fell slightly by 6% to 32%.

Cllr. Martin Wise, Cabinet Member for Finance, Improvement and Customer Service, said: “Thanet is committed to improving its performance and the service that we offer to our customers. That’s at the core of our agenda to become a more modern council and these results show that the work we have been putting in over the last three years have already paid great dividends. To be amongst the top few councils in the country in terms of the 12% improvement we have made in overall customer satisfaction is really impressive and is testament to all the hard work of our dedicated staff.

“Over the last couple of years, we have specifically concentrated our attention on what matters most to local people and that’s keeping our streets clean and delivering an improved waste and recycling collection. The results show that residents have appreciated that focus and are indeed more satisfied with both services now that they have returned back under direct council control. We know that there is more to do and we will continue to further improve both of these services for local people.”

He added: “The Best Value survey results also highlight the areas where we need to improve our services and we are already working on ensuring our performance in these areas is better in the future. We can improve satisfaction with our sport and leisure facilities with our work on new swimming pool provision for Thanet, while a number of improvements are already planned for Dane Park, to allow us to achieve Green Flag status for it. We have already shown our commitment to improving theatre in Thanet with the purchase of the Theatre Royal Margate, using money from the Safer Stronger Communities Fund and the additional funding to take the programme of activity there forward to a wider audience.”

Ed: I'm sure there are lots of readers who would like to start the thread rolling on this topic!! Enjoy!

Let's Face It

I'm fascinated by all the fuss surrounding the internet social networking site, Facebook, Kent County Council and the Unions this week. The timing is interesting because I've invited Facebook's Chief Technology Officer to a conference I'm running next year and it once again, raises all kinds of questions in regards to so-called employees 'rights' in regard to the internet.

Kent County Council is being criticised over its decision to ban it 32,000 staff from accessing Facebook and Trade union leaders have accused employers who have opted for an outright ban on the popular internet site of an over-reaction, saying they are acting unreasonably.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "Simply cracking down on the use of new web tools like Facebook is not a sensible solution to a problem, which is only going to get bigger.

"It's unreasonable for employers to stop their staff from having a life outside work, just because they can't get their heads around the technology."

But hold on a moment where does it say that employers have to provide a facility, during working hours for employees to browse, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and a legion of other internet sites, including 'Blogs' like this one.

In 2001, I was involved in researching how much business time was lost by employees using the Web for personal interest during working hours. It was significant and was estimated to cost the UK economy many hundreds of millions of pounds through lost productivity. Since then, we've seen the arrival of 'Broadband Britain' and I would expect the impact on the workspace to be even greater. Add smoking breaks into the equation as well and a significant paert of the working day can be lost to business.

So are employees, especially small businesses right to block-out thes epopular sites or is access an implied benefit of employment? If so, then perhaps we can expect the Inland Revenue to take an interest in the not too distant future.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grammar Schools Safe

Speculation surrounding the future of two Ramsgate grammar schools has ended.

Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education Mark Dance has confirmed that Chatham House Grammar School and Clarendon House Grammar School will continue to provide single sex education for the foreseeable future in the heart of Ramsgate town centre.

Mr Dance said:

“I have listened to the opinions of local residents and the headteachers and governors at both schools. What struck me was a desire by all to keep education at the heart of Ramsgate town centre and provide residents with the choice they deserve.

“If the government approves our submission under the Building Schools for the Future programme, then parents will have the choice for their children to attend a grammar school, non-selective school or the Academy in Ramsgate.”

The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme is an ambitious programme of investment that will see every secondary school in the county rebuilt or refurbished within the next 10 to 15 years. In Thanet there had been growing speculation that the grammar schools would be rebuilt away from the town centre but this decision today stops these claims.

Chris Wells, Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Educational Standards, commented:

“This is a decision that has been delayed for far too long, resulting in damaging speculation about the future, making both pupil and staff recruitment difficult. Both these grammar schools produce good results and we want to work with the local communities and these schools over the forthcoming years to ensure that 21st century educational facilities are brought to Thanet.”

Conservative Parliamentary candidate, Laura Sandys, a governor of Ellington Girls School added: “I will also be continuing to make the case that we keep Hereson School and Ellington School as single sex schools throughout the current consultation process."

All Roads Lead to Rome

The cyclists, including Thanet CAB’s Simon Banks , have safely arrived in Rome.

They were accompanied into the City by the Rome Fire Brigade and welcomed by representatives of the Pope, as well as the British and Italian Governments.
They were then greeted at Solemn Vespers in St Peter's following which they were presented with their pilgrim certificates.

Along the way they calculate they have cycled 1200 miles and climbed well over 50000 feet. Sustenance was obtained from 600 loaves of bread, 1500 bananas, 600 croissants; 600 bowls of pasta and probably 200 pizzas.

All the cyclists have achieved a lifetime's dream, and at the same time raised thousands of pounds for local charities.

Time to Act

It comes as a bit of a shock, that London, the greatest city in the world, has nearly a quarter of homes, 23.9 per cent, where none of those living there admitted to having employment or an earned income.

But should we really be surprised? The analysis from the Office for National Statistics apparently shows that In the North-East, 19.4 per cent of homes, nearly one in five, are reckoned workless and in North-West the figure is 18.2 per cent.

Overall, the trends in the employment and unemployment rates appear to be falling, which is good. There has been a further national fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance benefit. In Thanet, down this month, the good news is 2,331 registered unemployed (down 116); the official figure (ONS)is roughly comparable with more deprived parts of London but overall, this still gives a national figure of three million adults or one in five of the population in households in which nobody works for a living, despite the £billions thrown at different employment schemes and incentives over the last decade.

And the problem, linked in part to social breakdown, appears to be steadily worsening, with tens of thousands of service jobs that once used to go to one group, now visibly going to better qualified and often more enthusiastic new arrivals from the European Union. This week, I could see this at Butlins in Skegness and the effect is starkly visible in every fast food, cafe, restaurant, hotel and service sector job in London. The desparately under-employed are steadily becoming the unemployable and when does the real pain start to appear for both the economy and broader society in subsidising the welfare bill at a time when we can't even afford decent equipment for our armed forces?

Gordon Brown's 'honeymoon' will be over soon and Tony Blair must be laughing all the way to his publisher's office, as all the really big problems of the economy, housing and a dysfunctional society start to place our new Prime Minister under pressure to find real practical solutions instead of political slogans.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back from Butlins

Where we've been for the last two days, moonlightings as red-coats. Not quite though and it only took just over the hour to get back to Thanet, where the sun is shining a little more brightly than it was when I left the famous resort, with some sultry afternoon showers threatening the beaches.

Butlins, like everywhere else, appears to have been taken over by the Polish service industry, an unusual contrast of strong Eastern European and Yorkshire accents.

One thing that did stand out was of course the amusement park, the life and soul of the resort and heaving with people, markedly drawing the contrast with the gap in Margate seafront that was once called Dreamland; I've just caught the news that the Dreamland cinema is to close in November.

If Skegness can thrive as a British resort, Like Blackpool and Brighton, there must be hope for Margate but it's going to take rather more than an aircraft flying a banner along the beaches I suspect!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Report Mid-Channel

You've probably noticed that I'm not around much at the moment, at least not on the ground that is. I'm just back in from France and catching up with any comments on the weblog. With a bit of luck I'll find a little more time earthbound as we move into September but until then, expect some gaps in the 'Blogging'.

A quick view of Dover taken at 4pm today from 4,000 feet above the Channel. It may be a bit slow appearing as YouTube appears to be playing-up today!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Coast to Coast

The Bank Holiday weekend is upon us and I'm mostly somewhere else or so it seems; somewhere between the Costa del Weymouth and the Isle of Wight, although I did have to trip up to the pop festivals at Leeds and Reading yesterday.

On Friday, England appeared to have two very different climates in a line drawn roughly from Cambridge, with the north basking in sunshine and the south under cloud as low as 400 feet. This was so bad going past Stansted that I found myself in it for a while until I popped-out at 4,500 feet. I had company too. The military controller I was working warned me of two American F15s in the vicinity and sure enough, one of them appeared out of the cloud behind me briefly, before vanishing again back into the gloom below; back into Lakenheath I assume.

Today, the roads towards the south coast resorts were packed solid with cars and I did rather wonder if Weymouth actually had enough room to accomodate them all. Take the train, some might say but looking through today's news, I'm struck by one report that a local train guard has been sacked he stood-up to a group of youths

Robbie Moran, from Ramsgate is claiming unfair dismissal from Southeastern after he was attacked after asking one of them to take their feet off the seat.

He fought back but both he and his assailant were arrested. Southeastern railway sacked him a month later even though all charges were dropped.

The firm told Mr Moran he should have walked away, but he is now taking it to a tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

However, Robbie has commented "They will have your fares off you, but you will have to look after yourself while you're on the train." He added, "The company are always concerned about customer care, but walking away and abandoning your passengers to someone that's being aggressive, that's not customer care to me."

Southeastern has refused to comment pending the employment tribunal next month.

From a local perspective, we know and I know there is a problem, from direct observation of the difficult task that railway employees have on the trains and the frequently drunk, abusive and non-fare-paying passengers that you might encounter on any train between Herne Bay and Ramsgate on any day of the week. That the company doesn't support an employee who has been assaulted in the line of duty, I find shocking.

What do you think?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Scratching the Surface - Gales - View

Scratch the surface of "new" Gordon Brown and you find exactly the same grisly product that has presided in tandem with Tony Blair of the last ten years of the decline of the United Kingdom. And nowhere is that more true than in the case of the "new" European Constitution.

When I referred, in the House of Commons, to the "Constitutional Treaty" I was told sharply by the Leader of the House, Chairman of the Labour Party and Frau Valdemort of the Palace of Westminster, Ms. Harman, that it was "not a constitution" and that clearly my translation was at fault.

My translation? The fact is that although the House is due to discuss this re-hashed European Constitution in October and although the Projet de Traite modifiant le Traite sur L`union Europeenne et leTraite Instituant la Communaute Europeenne ((Or the Draft Treaty modifying the treaty on the European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, to give its exciting title in English) was published in July it was published only in French and was not readily available in the House of Commons.

French is not my first language and European Community Brussels French is not anyone's first language but, as the Government was clearly so determined that Members of Parliament should not see it I persuaded the ever obliging House of Commons Library to obtain and photocopy the French text for me. I have now struggled through this turgid prose in its original form even though it has subsequently escaped in something approximating English. Harry Potter it is not, but full of evil things and dark spells it most certainly is.

What is more important is that notwithstanding the protestations of the goodly Frau Valdemort it is the European Constitution writ large and with only minor modifications and under another name.

The Irish Prime Minister has said that ninety per cent of the Constitution remains in the Constitutional Treaty and the Spanish Prime Minister has said that ninety-eight per cent of it remains. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has acknowledged that "the fundamentals of the Constitution have been maintained in large part" and the Danish Prime Minister has said that "all the symbolic elements are gone - and that which really matters, the core, is left". European Officials have scarcely been able to contain their glee and their mirth at the fact that the European Council of Ministers has taken this regurgitated offering hook, line and sinker. Mr. Brown, however, the Prime Minister of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, tells the House of Commons that "we have secured our negotiating objective"!

Well, Mr.Brown, you may have secured your own "negotiating objective" but you have not secured mine! As the Constitutional Treaty stands the EU will have a President to set the Agenda, not on a rotating basis as at present but for a fixed and much longer term. (A future sinecure for Mr, Blair?). The EU will have a Foreign Minister in all but name and a legal system that would enshrine the supremacy of European law over British law. Immediately, our national right of veto would be abolished in sixty areas of competence with a further power for the EU to extend this to cover everything except defence. Make no mistake: this constitutional treaty provides the framework, in a way that no previous treaty has done, for a future Federal United States of Europe.

In Mr. Brown's last election manifesto he said that "We will put the European Constitution to the British People in a referendum" and Ex-Prime Minister Blair said that "what you can't do is have a situation where you get a rejection of the treaty and then bring it back with a few amendments and say we'll have another go". That, of course, is very precisely what is happening. This is an issue that is too fundamental for government or even parliament to decide. The British people must be given the right to vote that Gordon Brown seeks to deny them

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Maths Prodigy

It appears that the young son of the Mayor of Broadstairs is a bit of a maths prodigy!

Eleven-year-old Daniel Savage, from St Peter's has been awarded an A grade in maths and a C in statistics.

For the past two years Daniel, the son of Conservative councillor and Mayor, Jason Savage, has been studying alongside 15 and 16-year-olds at Dane Court.

When he starts officially at the school next year he will begin a maths A level.

Well done Daniel, your Dad must be very proud!

Au Secours - It's Margate

The Guardian newspaper reports this morning on the French invasion of Margate yesterday:

"It was intended as a taste of real England, and in that, at least, they were not disappointed. The party of 5,000 French people who descended on the Kent seaside yesterday might have hoped for a little sunshine allowing them to enjoy the area's donkey rides and deckchairs and award-winning beaches. Alas, the gods of cross-cultural understanding had other plans."

Read-on....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Water Gala Latest

Latest photos from today's Broadstairs Water Gala which attracted some unusual foreign visitors, thanks to the arrival of August weather from the Antarctic!

Via Francigena Ride for Charity

Twenty-seven cyclists left Canterbury on 10th August 2007 to cycle to Rome. They are following the Via Francigena (the Frankish Way), which is an ancient pilgrimage route recorded by Sigeric in 990AD when he travelled to and from Rome on his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury.

The ride is a journey of 1200 miles and includes a passage over the Grand St Bernard Pass. The group will arrive in Rome on Sunday 26th August.

The riders include Thanet District Citizens Advice Trustee – Simon Banks. who is raising money for Canterbury Cathedral and the Thanet District Citizens Advice Bureau. He says, “I am a trustee for Thanet Citizens Advice Bureau and believe that it provides an extremely useful and beneficial service to the residents of Thanet. Each Bureau is an independent local charity responsible for its own funding. Thanet itself is a very deprived area and Thanet District Citizens Advice Bureau is the only generalist advice service which is free and open to anyone who lives or works in Thanet. As a result demand for our service is very high.

The lack of Legal Aid in Thanet means that for many people CAB is their only option for assistance. The number of issues dealt with by the Bureau rises annually, and reached over 13,400 in 2006-07. One of the biggest problem areas is multiple debt, where demand for assistance continues to rise to almost unmanageable levels.” Your support is invaluable in helping to allow this vital resource to continue functioning."

Each rider is paying their own expenses. The cyclists are also expected to each raise at least £1000 sponsorship, of which at least 50% will go to the Save Canterbury Cathedral Campaign and 50% to the charity of the individual’s own choice –Simon is hoping to raise £3000, and will donate 50% to Thanet District Citizens Advice Bureau

Kill the Bill

So who is right? David Cameron when he says: "Abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which sets out rights and responsibilities", or Downing street, which replies: "Gordon Brown would not alter the legislation. A spokesman said: "The Government has made its position clear many times."

Should the Conservatives challenge the odds and win the next General Election, a new Bill of Rights would be high on the agenda. In fact, I have a meeting next month with James Brokenshire, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, so it will be interesting to see how the argument develops in the light of both the Stephen Lawrence case and of course the whole debate over increasing anarachy on the streets of Britain.

But if we scrap the Bill of Rights can we trust any government of any colour to give us something better?

The Dog Days of August

The Bank Holiday weekend almost upon us and spare a thought for the five thousand French families huddled on the beach at Margate enjoying our fine English summer!

I don't know if they actually got here against the gale - perhaps they took the channel tunnel or even luckier still, the rough seas might have have stopped the ferry across 'La Manche', avoiding further disappointment.

Skegness was where I was supposed to be over the next two days with a flying job for Butlins. The best they can offer now, I suspect, is a ground-based position as a 'Red Coat'.

It's been a tough summer for the children on their school holidays. Other than the occasional days of fine weather, it's reminscent of 1975, when I recall it snowed on the beach at Cliftonville one June afternoon when I was working in the deck chair concession. Of course, we don't have deck chairs on the beaches anymore, I assume because we can't guarantee they'll be returned in one piece or at all?

I'm wondering if I should fill up a thousand thermos flasks of hot coffee and head for Margate sands but the dog is firmly against leaving the house in this weather, as you can see from the photo and it's probably right!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Manston Fire School Open Day

A fascinating and educational day spent with fellow councillors and the Margate Charter Trustees, including the Mayor, at RAF Manston’s Fire Services Central Training Establishment. (MOD FSCTE Manston). It was supposed to have been a competition between Margate and Ramsgate but the latter failed to raise a team, leaving the former to compete among themselves in a day’s training at the fire school – see photos which you can view or download- .

My thanks, with everyone else’s goes to Senior Fire Officer Bob Hyde and his fellow instructors for running the course and the Station Commandant, Wing Cdr. David Lainchbury, who told us of the important work of the training school and indeed, how very, strapped for cash it is thanks to the paucity of the defence budget; almost a picture of despair, where the finances for the upkeep of the station are concerned, with many of its building in a state of visible and crumbling disrepair. A number of its instructors, who should, in theory be running courses here at Manston, are now in Afghanistan and Iraq, so thinly are our armed services stretched.

The Army now owns the site of the Fire School, which is “Tri-service” in colour and it’s hoped that its future is secure beyond 2011. There’s more detailed information on the work of the Fire Services Central Training Establishment here.

You’ll see from the first video - there are three - that we were given a competitive feel for the work of the Fire School; crawling through blacked-out buildings and tunnels and having a try at dousing some serious fires. No Thanet Councillors were injured during the making of this film although several did become a little warm!

Lead Pencil

We've had the worries of lead-painted toys from China and you may have heard that many Chinese health remedies are equally contaminated. Now its the turn of clothes, with news that cheap clothes made in China have been found to contain high levels of Formaldehyde to protect clothes that have to be shipped great distances against mildew.

Long-term exposure to the chemical in high levels can be harmful, causing problems ranging from minor skin rashes to some types of cancer.

Let's be frank though. Given the way the Chinese treat their own population and pollute their environment, does anyone really believe that in the pursuit of "Golden grease", factory owners are really going to pay too much attention to our European health and safety laws? I rather think not.

Another story caught my eye this week. The BBC warning people not to buy drugs from online internet pharmacies. This is an area I know something about, having chaired the European IP Crime Congress in Brussels in June.

If you buy anything from an online pharmacy - The Canadian outlets are the most popular - then you have a better than 100% chance of receiving fake medicine from an organised Russian, Columbian or even Chinese crime gang.

In Russia, the problem is now so bad that the fakes are better packaged than the real medicines and come with holograms. In Columbian drug factories, the tablet colouring is of such a high lead content, that the pills will probably kill you before the disaeses they are supposed to treat.

So, that Internet Viagra, direct from Pfizers? Forget it unless you simply wish to enjoy the lead-pencil, placebo effect of lead paint.

Outraged of Thanet

Two conversations with the Thanet Gazette yesterday. I really wonder if they grasp what a weblog actually is? Only vaguely, from the sound of it. Anyway, it appears that there's been a little malicious stirring from one of our readers over a comment thread last week; the one involving an Indian restuarant.

You'll recall that I took the thread down as soon as I was made aware of it and even went so far as to telephone the owner of the restaurant to express my regrets for their appearance here. However, the original content had been captured, printed and sent to our local paper. Evidence of, well, I don't know quite what, as I explained to the editor of the Gazette, as my only involvement was to remove the offensive comments and to write another entry ('Play by the Rules') asking readers to remember the acceptable use policy of this weblog!

Given the many personal attacks you can find elsewhere, it does rather beg the question as to whether the author of the original comments might be the same "outraged of Thanet" who has complained to the local paper. I will be most interested to see if they bother to print this very definition of a non-story.

Alternatively of course, I can turn comment moderation back on again and read every single entry before it's posted here. The result, I'm sure will be even more outraged readers. What do you think?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thanet Sport - Vote Now!

Can I ask every reader if they can take a couple of minutes (and ask your friends, too) to vote for our "Thanet Sport 4 NRG project", which is in the last three in the national final of the National Lottery Awards. You have until Friday August 31st to vote, and winning would mean we will receive £2,000 to spend on young people in Thanet. The project is being featured in the final on BBC1 on Saturday 15th September, and it would be wonderful if we could pick up the prize locally.

or visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards/project/75

Dangerous Waters

Sue from Cliftonville shares the concerns that many of us have over the dangers from jestskis in Thanet waters. To illustrate what many of us now see as a regular occurence and a danger to swimmers along the coast, she took this video of two of the craft racing close inshore:

Centre of the Universe

Losing two flights to this morning's bad weather around Gatwick and Brighton, gives me a chance to write a quick entry before making an attempt to get Brands Hatch in later on today.

First, I see that Kent on Sunday has our local Labour group, banging-on about training flights at Manston. I'm losing patience with much of what I read about this story, as it's increasingly obvious to me that the extent of the aviation knowledge of those concerned journalists and politicians both, is limited to knowing that an aircraft has a 'sharp end' where the pilot sits and that's about all. So please spare us anymore rubbish on the 106 agreement and talk of hidden deals.

Thanet Extra published an interesting column last week, which informed readers that "Housing benefits in Thanet are worth £53 million a year", while "The entire core budget of Thanet District Council is less than half the housing figure at £21 million each year."

In addition, Thanet is relieved of £24 million of its business rates by the government but still has to pay the administration costs!

You do the sums. When people ask where the money goes, now you know, with 21.7% of Thanet citizens with a "long-term limiting illness" and a quarter of the working population unemployed or economically unproductive. That doesn't leave much left over in the piggy bank for all the projects and priorities that really need doing on the island.

Yesterday, it was reported that "Over a million adults in Britain are known as 'Neets' - not in education, employment or training; their parents didn't work, they don't, and they are having children whose nearest brush with work will be turning the TV remote to Trisha. Until the national debate moves on to Neets, society will continue to suffer the hangover." Locally, this presents us all with a significant challenge to the future of our community and so perhaps central government will be a little less generous in sending money to Scotland and a little more generous in recognising that we could do with some extra help here too!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Out of Circulation

Still out of circulation, which is why this blog is a little quiet of late. The peak of the flying season I'm afraid!

A tough day today, everywhere between Elland Road and Hylands Park for the V-Festival, Pictured. You can find the other photos I took in the photo library here.

Hylands Park, just outside Chelmsford was so thick with people attending the V-festival that you could have worked across the top of them without touching the ground.

Very high winds made all the flight more challenging than usual, gusting 37 knots across the runway, when we dropped the banner back at Rochester; it was too windy to drop it where we started from in Essex.

Awful video, I'm afraid, it runs out of focus when I try to use the zoom feature from the aircraft!


Friday, August 17, 2007

Play by the Rules

I'm a little pre-occupied with work this week. The photo is Southend Pier this morning, and somewhere on there is the couple that are planning to get married, I had to pop the question to a girl named "Helen" and tomorrow, it's the Turn of Alex of Essex, although she doesn't know about it yet!

Being busy, I'm remiss in not monitoring all the comments. To be more accurate, the filter on my Blackberry is causing me to miss quite alot and I've just taken down one thread, which is sailing very close to being libellous. Thanks to one reader who pointed it out to me in a separate email.

As ever, you should all know the rules here. I know these are rather different to many other sites but I prefer to maintain my own standards, however old fashioned. If you see something that you believe is offensive, please let me know by email and I will look at it as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thanet's New Community Portal

Details about Thanet’s clubs, community organisations and charities are now just a mouse click away, thanks to a new website from Thanet District Council.

The Council has set up a new community portal at www.thanet.gov.uk/communityportal which already has details of more than 300 organisations, who can use the space to publicise their events, add their news stories and vacancies. The service is completely free of charge to any charity, non-for-profit, voluntary or community group or organisation and links can be included to the group’s own website, if they have one.

Visitors to the community portal can find organisations under a wide range of different categories that appeal to them and can search for groups throughout Thanet or narrow their search down to Broadstairs, Margate, Ramsgate or the villages.

Cllr. Martin Wise, Cabinet Member for Finance, Improvement and Customer Service, said: “This is an excellent resource for the community and voluntary sector in Thanet. Our area is full of non-for-profit, voluntary and community groups, all of which do a great job of providing resources and services for our residents and, as a Council, we want to help them as much as we can. That’s what the new Community Portal is all about. It’s a way of promoting the superb work that these groups do, including their events or their news. It allows them to update their information as often as they like and then the Council will publish it on the website. I’d urge any organisations who haven’t yet joined the Community Portal to take advantage of this great opportunity”.

Softly Softly

Michael Child writes:

"I was looking at you blog about the business of policemen getting younger, something I have noticed more and more as time goes by when I thought you would appreciate this picture of my two youngest children who have recently decided to join the force. They have made a number of citizens arrests and are looking forward to a continued reduction in both the age and height requirements. "

Ed: Before you know it Michael, they'll be signed-up as PCSOs, as the age is steadily being adjusted downwards. I assume they confiscated the alcohol from their parents?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Up in Smoke

I'm saddened by one our reader's emails this afternoon.

Sue, from Dane Valley, has sent in photos to show that the arsonist has struck 'again' at the Dane Valley allotments and Alf's new, replacement shed, has gone up in flames!

At a meeting yesterday, it occurred to me that we're fighting a low intensity war against vandalism, not just in Thanet, I should add. On a local basis it's costing us a fortune and there's no end to it and very little confidence on the part of the community, with good reason, that we can do anything really effective to prevent it.

Simply looking at Westgate, there's a growing catalogue of damage, from graffiti to criminal damage that needs putting right and its placing an enormous strain on funds and resources. The answer has to come from central government and it has to be a decisive and a firm one before the problems runs completely out of our control. Without tough sanctions and a zero-tolerance approach to the epidemic of vandalism that we witness on a daily basis, the future doesn't look very attractive for any item of free-standing public or personal property which isn't wrapped in flame-proof Kevlar!

Police Seek Witnesses to Ramsgate Murder

Kent Police have launched a murder investiagtion after a 45-year-old man died in hospital after being found outside the Cherry Orchard public house on the Newington estate at Ramsgate at around 7.40pm last night.

An ambulance crew took the man to the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital at Margate where he later died. He has not yet been named but police say he lived in the Thanet area.

The death is being treated as murder and Police have appealed for witnesses.

Anyone with any information can contact Kent Police. Alternatively you can call Kent Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. Calls are free and you do not have to give your name.

Entente Cordiale

It's reported today that around 5,000 poor French families who cannot afford holidays are to be taken to Margate on August 22nd.

They're being brought over by Secours Populaires Francais, a charity which campaigns to provide holidays for poorer and deprived families.

The group estimates that about one in three French children don't get a holiday. Since the charity was set up in 1945, nearly 50,000 youngsters have been given days out and holidays.

Each year, they travel to a different destination.

The Margate trip has been coordinated with Thanet District Council and Kent County Council.

Cllr Roger Latchford, Thanet council's cabinet member for culture and economy, said: "We welcome all visitors to our town and it's great that Margate has been chosen as a holiday destination for these families and I hope that they have a wonderful day."

Jean-Louis Callens, general secretary of the Federation of the North, said: "This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

"We've decided to add a European dimension in this day, which we dedicate to people who have been unable to enjoy holidays.

"It will take place in Margate and the invited families will have the opportunity to visit their European neighbours. They'll also have the chance to take the boat and Eurotunnel, probably for the first time

Monday, August 13, 2007

On the Cheap

Staff from the "Golden Orchid" Chinese restaurant were busily harvesting local sea food, clamped to the walls of the promenade at Birchington yesterday. I did try and point out that this wasn't such a good idea but was told, in very broken English, that the restaurant, advertised on the large collecting bags, was in London. I do hope our cleaner beaches now extends to the shellfish. I certainly wouldn't choose that particular spot to eat my lunch from!

Mind you, at Minnis Bay, a grubby unmarked van appeared, dropped one of its sides and started doing a healthy trade selling hot dogs and burgers to passers-by. There's true enterprise for you but I wonder whether the tiny kitchen area or indeed, its contents has never had a public health inspection. However, if the owner had met-up with the cockle-pickers around the corner, they could, between them, have started a whole new mobile seafood business. An opportunity missed!

I couldn't help but comment on today's barmy story in the newspapers and on the TV.

Thames Valley Police have recruited two 16-year-olds as police community support officers with the authority to detain and question suspects.

The pair, just out of school, will join foot patrols from a 'busy' police station.

Thames Valley PCSOs earn £17,000-£20,000, depending on the hours they work. A full PC starts at £21,000, rising to £33,000.

The move by Thames Valley Police has triggered a row about public safety and allegations that forces - and the Government - are trying to "police on the cheap".

The teenagers are two years too young to join the regular police force and yet are expected to take control of any number of difficult situations as if the were adults.

Other than another fine example of policing on the cheap, I'm wondering whether their presence on the streets may actually cause more problems than they might solve by encouraging other teenagers to square-off against them.

Let me ask you. Would you be prepared to have a 16-year-old PCSO working the streets of Thanet to deal with anti-social behaviour or would you prefer to have a mature adult? I think I know what my own answer would be.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Britain Needs You

I may be a little slow but I'm having trouble understanding why, on the one hand, we should be prepared to deny British Army interpreters from Basra, a place of safety, when we finally leave Iraq and yet we can't wait to welcome back five "extremely dangerous" inmates from Guantanamo Bay, who, through their own free will, left this country to join the Taleban, Al Qaeda and others. These are Saudis, Somalis et al, who, like tourists, popped in, once upon a time to enjoy the benefits of our liberal society and then, having decided that they didn't like it, left.

Why should we then give ourselves a national security nightmare and huge cost to the taxpayer by welcoming them back permanently, rather than letting their own country of origin deal with them? Why can't the Americans let them settle in Florida?

Perhaps I'm being a little Xenophobic? You tell me.

The Conservatives have identified £14bn worth of savings that could be made if the red tape that presently suffocates our society, was cut back a little.

Among these are:

The Scrapping of Home Information Packs (Hips), along with mandatory horse passports, - we all need one of those don't we? - while herbal medicines would have regulations lightened.

Britain should opt out of the EU directive on food supplements and registered charities offering bingo competitions or raffles should no longer need a gaming licence.

There's much more of course, including the scapping of the notorious IR35 legislation that governs contractors, just at the time that the Inland Revenue has vowed to change the law that saw it defeated in the High Court last month; the Arctic Systems case. In a nutshell, HMRC has decided that not only does it dislike small business but in particular, smaller husband and wife businesses, which divide-up any profits they might make, between them as dividends. Small business has been a particularly easy target for this government and every indication is that the short-sighted tax squeeze on our nation of shopkeepers is to become worse, while big business benefits from more concessions.

There comes a point, where small business may wonder whether it's all worth the effort!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Slow Reverse

I spent some time today over the top of the Ramsgate Week yacht races and to be honest, if I didn't know already what was happening, I wouldn't really have noticed, from above, that a significant sporting event was taking place. In contrast, Cowes, last week, was so packed with yachts across the Solent that it was like watching hundreds if not thousands of Ants, scurrying between the Isle of Wight and Southampton.

The Thanet beaches were certainly busy today and it looks as if we may get another 24 hours of sunshine before some very bad weather starts to come in our direction; another large depression forecast for early next week.

Another challenge today was to get a second aircraft over Goodison Park , requested by the Everton fans, for the game against Wigan. A last minute call prompted a quick change of plan as it was revealed that a special Madeleine McAnn moment was taking place just before kick-off and so before the match we trailed a `Say No to Kirkby' banner over the ground. Voting among fans on the issue of the club leaving Liverpool is taking place at the moment.

Yesterday, I spotted the horrendous trafffic jam on the M25, which had people trapped on the motorway for over ten hours. I felt desperately sorry for those trying to get to Gatwick for the start of their holidays, so near and yet so far, from my vantage point above Clackett services. It strikes me that simply getting from A to B along the motorway system these days is a game of Russian Roulette. You just know that your'e going to be stuck on the motoway one day and most likely when it's vital that you reach your destination on time. No wonder some people are choosing to stay in airport hotels the night before their flights, just to be sure of getting to the airport at all!

Every reason perhaps to encourage more passenger flights and destinations from Manston, just to avoid the challenge of the main London airports. I read last week that some passengers were having to wait as long as nine hours for their baggage to re-appear after arriving at Heathrow, thanks to new security checks!

One fine example of traffic madness could be seen yesterday, just on the exit from the St Nicholas roundabout heading towards Birchington. A driver in a 4WD Shogun, clearly not from these parts, had stopped about fifty yards in to the dual carriageway, having decided that he had taken the wrong exit. I then watched him reverse back towards the roundabout - I was coming the other way - into the on-coming traffic!

The fact that an accident didn't happen was only a matter of luck, as cars, swinging in at speed towards Birchinton, had to swerve to avoid the 4WD reversing back towards them.

Finally, I just spotted, on another weblog, that Thanet Life stands accused of being a Xenophobic, racist publication populated by a readership of morons and Neanderthals - pictured - . So nothing to worry about there then!

Friday, August 10, 2007

More Rubbish

What a surprise, another poorly researched story in the Gazette today, which writes of rubbish bins overflowing in Westgate.

Take a quick glance at the bin in question. It's a dog-waste bin. As a local councillor, I've been successful in having the older waste bins, made of metal, replaced with the newer, high volume plastic ones. Not the most exciting of challenges but it goes with the territory!

This particular bin, is, I believe, the one that is on the cliff top above the West bay cafe. In fact, I've now made two requests for more rubbish bins in that particular spot. Why? Well if you notice the Somerfield and Angelo's delicatessen bags stuffed into it, there's a clue.

The school of English is just across the road and at lunchtimes, local residents will know that the students, who appear to be mostly Russian, migrate, en masse to the village delicatessen for European-style food. Somerfield is almost next-door and many of the bags and the bottles find their way on to the clifftop and sometimes if we're lucky, into the dog waste bin!

I've had a quick conversation with the school and they have kindly offered to remind the students about keeping the grass area free of the remains of their contental lunch.

Hopefully, at least, the story may expedite the arrival of a rubbish bin for use by the students but local residents may have noticed, as I do, that even the arrival of very large bins at strategic points along the seafront, doesn't always encourage visitors to actually use them.

Spoofed

Coinciding neatly with the House of Lords report on internet crime - it's getting worse - I'm getting a mailbox full of 'returns' from this domain this morning.

Looks as if a criminal gang are 'spoofing' it to send out volumes of spam or phishing messages at aimed at different addresses, using a dictionary of names and their variations.

One example is "mail@kosovopolice.com"

The Lords, in their wisdom, believe that internet service providers should be held liable if their customers fall victim to such attacks but I'm not really sure, without flicking the "off" switch on the internet, how you can protect customers from gangs routing through ISPs in popular locations, like China and Russia.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another Birchington Bank Job?

Hot news from one of our readers, a reputable source, in Birchington, who writes:

"Just witnessed two men trying to do something to the cashpoint machine at Lloyds Bank in Birchington, I have phoned the police.

They then took a length of metal out of the cashpoint, looked like aluminium about 18 inches long. One put it inside his jacket and they hurried away.

One went to the smugglers car park, the other disappeared into Walnut Tree Close and came out in a silver car and drove off towards Margate. I didn't see where the other one went.

I called the local police and they have the registration number.

At the bank, they said that the men had made such a lot of noise that they felt alarmed enough to remove all the money from the machine.

I wonder if this machine is the next one to be dragged out of the wall, or were the culprits attempting to 'skim' cards. Whatever the case, they finished what they were doing and went away, maybe to come back later.

I have done all I can, it is now up to the police."

Ed: Best be extra cautious using the local cash machines this weekend!

More Encouragement for 11-Plus

Interviewed in Kent Online, Thanet councillor, Chris Wells, KCC’s cabinet member for children, families and educational standards, believes the county could be doing more to encourage children from poorer backgrounds to take the 11-plus.

Cllr Wells said he was concerned that in less well-off parts of the county, fewer pupils were encouraged to take the 11-plus than elsewhere.

His comments come after the former Conservative education spokesman David Willetts ditched the party’s long-standing support for grammar schools, saying they no longer helped poorer pupils.

In an interview with the Kent Messenger Group, Cllr Wells said: "One thing that does seem to me to be quite clear is that in areas of social disadvantage and deprivation, we are not getting the numbers of children to take the 11-plus that we should be, particularly in parts of Thanet, Dover and Swale.

"Whether that is a confidence issue with the parents, children or teachers I am not sure but certainly there is something there that does need looking at."

He stopped short of saying where the fault lay but made clear he expected all schools to do what they could to offer the same opportunities to all children, regardless of their background.

"It is [about]trying to ensure we bring those children through, who are bright but perhaps come from homes where books are relatively rare; where the idea of doing homework is relatively rare and the idea of succeeding at school is something they do not see in their immediate family around them."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Holiday Club News

An interesting comment from an earlier post which is worth it's own entry. I should add, in mitigation, that I write about what I see and I recognise that the great majority of young people aren't involved in the destructive antics we see around us. I am a parent after all.

If I don't know that's something positive is happening, it's rather difficult for me to write about it, which is why I welcome stories from readers like Amy and others, so please feel free to contribute!"

The author writes: "Having not had internet access for a while I have been reading through the last two weeks and have noticed that there is the usual vitriol about young people, some sweeping nonsense comments about parental ages (any imbecile can work out that a teenager cannot have a teenager as a parent). However, there are none about:

1. The very, very dangerous antics of old people in Birchington who have yet to cotton on to the fact that pedestrian crossings have a purpose and that if a car hits them it will hurt, therefore, wandering into the road without looking etc is dangerous and extremely selfish!

2. The even worse driving of said old people who should have their licenses revoked.

I know the above because I have been driving through Birchington at least twice a day taking my children to the other noticeably missing piece of information in the area:

The Scripture Union Holiday Club to which over 600 children and young people flock to every year.

It has run from Monday 30th July to this Friday. So far you have missed holiday clubs every morning of the week plus team games in the Dip, including a fantastic water fight facilitated by the Fire Brigade and a magnificent sand modelling competition today, plus parties on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

If you can actually be bothered to look for positive behaviour I am sure your presence would be welcomed. Tomorrow there are sessions on Social Action and on Friday night there is a Grand Finale.

But hey - why print good news about young people when there is scurrilous nonsense to put up instead!"

Iraqi Interpreters - Grant Immediate Asylum - MP

North Thanet's Member of Parliament, Roger Gale, has this morning called upon the government to grant immediate asylum status to Iraqi interpreters employed by the British authorities and also to grant asylum to members of their close families.

The MP. Who has consistently taken a robust line against the presence of illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom, said this morning:

"Is it not extraordinary that the British government should be prepared to use Iraqi citizens in the interests of our military and our endeavours to establish a legal civilian administration, to place their lives and those of their families in jeopardy and then, having used them, to be prepared to deny them a place of safety?

I believe that this decision - which clearly will have e been approved by the Prime Minister - shows Brown's administration in its true light. We may hopefully now see a Prime Ministerial "reconsideration" but the fact is that this government is incapable of deporting immigrants convicted of crimes, allows them to escape, targets "soft" asylum cases for deportation while failing to deal with the real issues and now is shown in all its meanness of spirit by refusing succour to those in genuine need and who have served our country and its military and civilian personnel.

These are people who, by implication, speak our language, are educated and deserve our assistance in their hour of need.Brown`s government's decision has once again underlined the manner in which his failed asylum policy is allowed to damage the interests of genuine asylum seekers while doing little or nothing to address the problem of illegal immigration. In an effort to appear "tough" the government is in fact demonstrating the real weakness of its position."

Overnight Visit

It took some considerable effort and pestering to have the public toilets in St Mildred's Bay re-painted in June. Yesterday morning, they were covered in graffiti and this morning, it looks as if the vandals had a return visit overnight. The adjacent beach huts now carry a similar line of 'tags'. It's a depressing sight.

One lady, walking her dog, told me that the shelter opposite Barnes avenue in Westbrook has been badly damaged too. She commented that one night recently, she could hear the noise from her home and called the police. Around ten youths were involved. A single police officer, she said, turned-up, had a word and left. The noise stopped for a while and then, a little later, resumed. By morning, the shelter was completely wrecked, she said.

Westbrook is outside my ward but the car park, the Sunken Gardens and the clifftop shelter are known problem areas and difficult to police at night. As a result, they act as a magnet for the anti-social elements that blight our community. It's not uncommon to see groups of teenagers making their way from as far afield as the Garlinge area, across the railway line at Bridge road and then along towards Barnes avenue as dusk falls.

I've no idea what the solution is or even if one exists. Possibly not!

'Have a Go' Hero

Regular reader, Amy writes:

"I noticed the Thanet Times leading with a have a go hero today but no mention of some heroics last Friday evening in Godwin Road and Northdown Road in Cliftonville.

My sister was sitting outside a kebab shop at about 7.00pm when she saw a young man in his twenties in serious altercation with an older guy in his fifties. My sister's initial reaction was that she was witnessing a mugging when she saw the younger man leap on the older one who was forced to release something that when flying across the main road.

A passing motorist stopped and shouted at the young man who by now had the older one pinned on the ground and a knee in his back. The young man shouted that the man had had a knife and had been running up Godwin Road shouting he was going to kill some-one in the One-Stop shop.

Whilst restraining the now unarmed knife wielder the young fellow rang the police on his mobile for assistance; police arrived quickly in three cars and ended up arresting the older man who put up quite a struggle. the younger man was then heard explaining to the police that as he was walking down Godwin Road, the other fellow brandishing a knife ran past him shouting he was going to kill some-one in 'One-stop' and he felt he had to intervene and make his first citizens arrest! My sister was then interviewed by the police as they suddenly noticed her sitting frozen to the seat in her car! A 12" kitchen knife was recovered from the middle of Northdown Road where it had landed. Quite a hero, that young man and yet no mention anywhere?"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Secret Consultations in Uncharted Space

There I was, happily trapped in a traffic jam along the Margate road this afternoon and listening to KMFM's local news, when I hear a report, that according to Labour Councillor, David Green, Thanet District Council has reached a "Secret agreement" with Manston's owners, Infratil, to turn a blind eye to the number of training flight staking place at the airport.

The report, which you may have heard, included comments from outraged local residents and once again, the truth wasn't allowed to stand in the way of a good story, as KMFM broadcast the David Green press release without waiting for any response or indeed clarification from TDC.

Reaching for the phone - hands free of course - I made a quick call to the top at the offices of conspiracy central at Cecil square. What's all this about I asked? "Absolute rubbish" was the reply - "we're just sorting out a proper response for KMFM."

So there you have it. April 1st is still eight months away but April Fool's stories are arriving earlier, rather like the seasons. There is no secret deal and the "secret consultations" reported on Cllr Green's website exist only in his imagination.

Whatever next I wonder? The CIA using Manston for rendition flights? I can't wait!

Deep Water

With every summer that passes, I find that owning a kayak, is useful when it comes to helping overstretched lifeguards on the bays. The problem is always most acute on a hot weekend with a south westerly wind blowing and is as old as, well me, at least when I used to have the job some thirty years ago, anyway between Palm Bay and West Bay.

It's not possible of course but there should be a voluntary ban on sales of plastic rings and dinghies when an offshore wind is blowing, as once the owner leaves the shadow of the beach front, they find themselves racing out to sea at a brisk walking pace. Fortunately, we're blessed with relatively shallow water off the beaches at high tide, here in Thanet, compared to elsewhere and as a result we don't experience the same risks as beaches with rapid tidal flows or a pronounced drop-off into deep water.

In today's paper I read that a man died saving the life of his granddaughter after the pair became stranded on a sand bar at a beach when the tide came in on Sunday afternoon at Lepe in Hampshire

I feel this tragedy personally because yesterday and on Saturday, I was pulling a big red and white, beach-safety banner along the South coast seafront at 500 feet, from Weymouth to Brighton, at about the same time. It warned swimmers that they should only use Lifeguard patrolled beaches and I know Lepe, as it's the point where I switch from the control of Bournemouth ATC to Solent Approach.

If Sunday hadn't already been booked by another client at Brands Hatch, for the same time I wonder if a water safety message would have made a difference, I'll never know.

Ironically, the beach safety programme's twice-weekly budget doesn't stretch to our part of the planet, which is a shame, as I'm sitting writing this, only 150 yards from St Mildred's Bay and yet I have to fly all the way down to Weymouth or even Dartmouth, to start the run along the beaches.

Just to think about, changing one person's mind would be worth it, given the family anguish of an incident like that on Sunday and indeed the total loss to the community and even the Treasury over a lost lifetime.

Anyway, we should be thankful that we have our Thanet beaches patrolled by Lifeguards and a Coastguard aircraft on thirty minute response from Manston. Now all we have to do is get rid of those pesky plastic rings!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Walk on By

The hottest day of the year so far and too hot for one teenage couple, I spotted from my kayak, I think the operative word is 'shagging' between St Mildred's Bay and Westbay at 6pm this evening.

They were pressed-up against the cliff wall in one of the alcoves and as I paddled-by slowly below, lots of people, adults and children must have noticed but walked-on quickly.

This is something I've never seen before in public but in the space of a week, I've come across it twice in a space of half a mile. I wonder if I've discovered a new and disturbing local trend but I'll reserve judgement until it happens a third time!

Meanwhile, on the way out of Birchington to fly the 'superbikes' at Brands Hatch at lunchtime, a couple of motorists appeared to be having a punch-up at the same bus stop in the square that I wrote about yesterday. The traffic was backed-up behind them, all the way to Brooks End and beyond and I couldn't stop to find out what it was all about; the heat perhaps?

Other than all that, what a glorious summer's day. Pity I missed the carnival though. Does anyone have any photos they'd like to share?
Ed: Thanks to Jason for his photo and Youtube links to the Notting Hill Performers.
Here and Here.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Carnival Time for Margate

A very positive look at Margate, I thought, in last night's BBC Newsroom South-east. If you missed it, then here's a link to the report that you can watch over the internet.

If you happened to see me flitting around overhead with a banner on Friday evening, I was waiting for the nod from the BBC below to run-in to coincide with their report. About sixty-minutes of hanging around was involved for an eleven second 'take' at the end of the programme, as the 'Beeb' kept changing the time.

It's the Margate carnival this weekend, I'm reminded by the BBC, and the procession, which has over eighty entries and which been going for a 100 years, starts from Westbrook on Sunday afternoon.

In 1898 Margate was the first British seaside resort to have deckchairs and in 1890, it introduced Donkey rides. I wonder what we can introduce as a leading-edge innovation in 2007? Any ideas?

It's Better by Bus

I found myself on the tail-end of small incident, riding back through Birchington on my way home this evening.

Another motorcyclist had stopped at the bus stop in the square and was surrounded by a group of local youths. Showing solidarity, as motorcyclists often do, I stopped alongside, with the rider of a third bike and it transpired, that the first motorcyclist was in fact an off-duty police officer.

Apparently, what had happened and I'll use allegedly at this point, is that the group of teenagers had been causing mayhem on the bus. The lady bus driver had told them to get-off and the oldest lad had abused and spat at her. Happily, the policeman had just happened to be passing and saw what occurred, with me following-up behind.

Unfortunately for the boys involved, they were "known" and the officer took their details and some witness statements from the bus passengers. But what was really saddening was how upset the driver, a pleasant middle-aged lady, was. This was Birchington of all places, not Brixton and one doesn't expect this kind of behaviour from local kids. No, I'm being naive, one does expect this kind of behaviour and much worse these days and the kids, well they didn't give a damn because they know they're untouchable but I will say that with three motocyclists drawing-up next to them, all of a sudden, they weren't so cocky.

But what if it had happened a few seconds later and the police officer had already passed. I wonder what I could have done? And there's the dilemma. You can try to intervene but in reality can do absolutely nothing. All that remains is a feeling of personal impotence and anger at this one expression of a juvenile society growing-up without boundaries.

And how will the bus driver feel tonight when she's finished her shift I wonder? Nobody should be expected to put-up with behaviour like this in their job or as passengers on a local bus.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Drawing a Blank

I finally heard back from Kent Police today, in answer to my 'Freedom of Information' request.

To cut a long story short and having spoken with the managers of local off-licenses, I wanted to know how many people had been prosecuted for the onward sale of alcohol to under 18's.

Unfortunately, I'm told that "To locate this information would involve manually interrogatingmany files and the cost of doing so is above the amount to which we are legally required to respond"( Under the 2004 FOI regulations).

The Police can however tell me that three people in Thanet have been fined for the - over the counter sale - of alcohol to under 18's in the last two years but as they say, they don't have the records concerning onward sales and by implication, this suggests that it doesn't happen in the eyes of the law.

Anecdotally, of course it does happen and represents a significant local problem, yet there have been no prosecutions, ever, it appears. So when we see teenagers strolling around the streets, as I did this evening, clutching their cans of lager, remember, they only exist in the imagination.

This was of course my second attempt to squeeze some meaningful information from Kent Police under the Freedom of Information Act. You may recall that the first request, which involved asking for simply the number of registered sex offenders, living in Thanet, who might constitute a danger to children in the community, came up with: "We are unable to release this information in the event that it might lead to public disorder."

A comforting thought to end with!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

SE News Tonight - Tomorrow

It's a little quiet here at present, on account of my running around all over the place with the day job. This last week we've had a beach and water safety banner to display between Dartmouth and Brighton on different days and while the weather and the views, at low level, along the shoreline have been fantastic, there's little time, enthusiasm or even energy left for this weblog at the end of the day.

A note for your diaries for tomorrow evening. BBC South-east News Tonight will be filming their report, live, from Margate beach, starting with an interview with council leader, Sandy Ezekiel at 6:30pm. The weather is a little uncertain for Friday anyway but let's hope for enough sunshine to present the town at its best on an August evening. I suppose it's a chance for anyone milling around the seafront at the time to express their opinions about the town and its future, as I can't see the BBC making all that effort without some form of quick 'Vox Pop' after speaking with the council leader.

Walking to the cashpoint in Westgate earlier, I encountered the kind of modern family that you would recognise from comedies such as 'Little Britain.'

Outside the station, the conversation went rather like this:

Teenager (brother?) to older teenager (father?) naked from the waist-up: "Aren't you going to get a ticket from the machine?"

"F** Off"

"If you don't buy a ticket you t****r, you'll get fined £20 if they catch you."

Mother (teenager) pushing pram with two infants:

"F** Off, why should we?

Ed: Inspiring isn't it? Where on earth do we begin as a society to solve the growing problem presented by this kind family unit example, depressingly familiar to all of us living in Thanet? What hope do the children of these two teenagers have? None at all by the look of it. It's not helped by the influence of the media either. Here's an excerpt from this week's Big Brother, a source of discussion on the radio today.

"Brian then told the pair that he had been asked by Big Brother if Shakespeare had any involvement in the production of 'Pig In the City'.A straight-faced Gerry replied: "No, I think Shakespeare was involved in 'Babe'. And he wrote 'Ghostbusters'. I think Sylvia Plath wrote 'Ghostbusters 2'.""'Ghostbusters' was based on a true story," added Liam."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Nice Work for Olympic Hopefuls

Apparently, Olympics organisers are spending 'millions' of pounds hiring a team of 'equality and inclusion' managers. Part of their job will be to ensure that all the construction firms involved with the 2012 Games employ enough ethnic minority and female builders.

At least ten senior equality executives will be employed and paid for by the Olympic Delivery Authority.

This organisation, headed by Civil Aviation Authority boss Sir Roy McNulty, is charged with building the stadiums, village and park for the Games in London.

Five key jobs have already been advertised with salaries of more than £100,000 - plus bonuses.

Ed: One you might have thought would be enough, but five? I wonder how many other non-jobs for the Olymics will be advertised in the Guardian newspaper? There are bound to be at least two "smoking cessation officers" a small army of Health & Safety officers and lots more other jobs I can't think of at the moment. Whether there will be room for anyone who knows anything about sport is a moot point.

As for sensible money to support the training of our Olympic hopefuls in the intervening four years, don't go there!

Surfing the System

A question being asked in the newspapers today:

"How can any academic institution make a selection of candidates for university courses based on the perceived social class of the parents?"

In a fierce attack, the Professional Association of Teachers called for the Government to halt its drive towards so-called "social engineering".

Peter Morris, chairman of the PAT in Wales, accused ministers of "Creating barriers in education based on social class".

Addressing the union's annual conference in Harrogate, he said: "I am angry because this Government has interfered with my children and their children's chances of getting a good education in this country. They have changed the ways that examinations are assessed, and clearly this has had a 'dumbing down' effect on the academic standards, in order to get more pupils to achieve."

Under new rules, teenagers applying for university will be asked to say whether their parents have degrees in an attempt to attract more students from poor homes. But Mr Morris insisted it amounted to discrimination against middle-class pupils.

Courses such as physics, chemistry and maths have been replaced with "non-academic" degrees such as "surfing, beauty therapy, knitwear, circus skills, pig enterprise management, death studies, air guitar, David Beckham studies and wine studies", he said.

So should Labour's tinkering with social engineering reach into the university system? It was revealed this week that the country is lacking 500,000 apprentices becauses the government insists in directing non-academic children towards university rather than recognising one of the more obvious facts of life, that some of us are better suited to careers that involve vital practical skills; using our hands, for well-paid plumbing and building work, rather than seeking a useless quasi"soft degree" from an inner-city polytechnic renamed as a university.

It was also disclosed this week that applications for "complementary" medicine are up more than 31 per cent this year, while there has been a 19 per cent fall in applications to study anatomy, physiology and pathology.

A spokesman for the newly-formed Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We are ensuring every child has the best possible start in life and the opportunity to succeed - nobody can argue with that!"

Ed: What do you think, social engineering and dumbing-down of our children of the worst kind or a brave leap towards a more equal opportunity society?