Monday, February 11, 2008

Under Suspension

You’ll be the first to hear that I am suspending ThanetLife and possibly plan to take it down completely.

As a local councillor here in Thanet, I fully understand one needs broad-shoulders and I’m quite happy to take criticism where it is deserved. However and most importantly, I am ‘not’ prepared to see my family involved in the abuse or indeed have my personal reputation and integrity compromised and defamed online.

When I started this weblog, I had hoped that this and others like it would breathe more life, debate and interest into the local democratic process. It even encouraged me to move from the sidelines and take an active role in my community by becoming a ward councillor. I make no apologies for that being a Conservative councillor but since May of last year, my Conservatism – which is visible to all – has clearly antagonised others.

I grew up and went to school in Thanet and when I returned and started this weblog it was with every intention of helping, in whatever way, to make life better for others. Thanet Life is however a political ‘red rag’ to others and a vigorous campaign of abuse and crude defamation continues to grow. As this has now reached beyond my shoulders, now is the time to stop and get on with earning a living and being a ward councillor for Westgate.

Although I may make an occasional entry in future, I’m unwilling to allow the farce to continue for the personal entertainment of a malicious few who aim simply to increase their own weblog traffic as a consequence.

Dane Park Lights

I had an email earlier today expressing a number of concerns over both the lighting and the present state of Dane Park, so rather than kick-off this week's latest conspiracy theory, I thought it best to ask, given that I had a vague recollection of hearing somewhere, that the lack of lighting was something to do with EDF Energy having to run-in new cables.

Anyway, I'm told that the lighting in Dane Park is partly a KCC matter as an element of the new cycle path and partly a Margate Civic society project to have more cycle paths included with lights.

The work got underway and was tested in November by the KCC contractor and EDF Energy were informed. However, EDF were unable to schedule the connection until January.

There is an outstanding problem with some lights still not working and apparently some vandlalism has taken place. The contractor has been instructed to correct the problem and make repair as quickly as possible.

When the cycle path lights and others are all working then TDC will take them over them from the contractor - except the cycle path which will remain with KCC.

The reinstatement will be done in March or earlier if the weather stays as it is, however, when the work was completed in November it was not an ideal time to seed the new grass. Construction of the new play area is underway and this is expected to be finished in early April.

I hope that answers any questions.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Canterbury Road Accident

I had noticed the air ambulance over Westgate at lunchtime today but one of our readers has sent in more information and writes:

"There was a crash on Canterbury road dual carriageway today at about 1.15pm, there were three people injured and the Kent air ambulance attended. Firecrews had to cut one person free from the Volvo pictured. Sorry if the picture is not that good, certainly not your standard anyway, but it felt a little insensitive to photo too much.

I'm sure you know this area is a blackspot for RTA's with most cars breaking the 40 speed limit."

Ed: Thanks for letting us know. Speeding on the roads between Westgate and Margate was an issue mentioned at the last meeting of the 'Joint Transportation Board' but with particular reference to Westbrook Avenue and Westgate Bay Avenue. It's remarkable how skilled the air ambulance is in reaching very tight areas. They are a fantastic medical resource for the county.

Beach Scramble or Scrambled?

One of our readers, Barrie, has spotted something interesting about the advertising for the quad-bike, beach races at Margate this month. Has anyone else noticed?

He writes:

"The organisers of the beach scramble have had some giant posters made advertising this event on Margate beach.

The date advertised is February 24th & 25th, the 25th is a Monday so I am sure it should read 23rd & 24th February ?

If this is the case then we might be entitled to say "plonkas"!

Either the organisers, the advertising agency and or the printers might have had the wit to question this obvious mistake ?

The usual scenario is that the printers would send a proof copy to those responsible thus passing the buck if there is a mistake."

Ed: Let me know if you see the same thing?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Art of Conversation

I do wonder who sits reading and making comments on this weblog in the early hours of the morning?

Perhaps I’ve discovered a sure-fire cure for insomnia but I can say, with relative certainty that most comments made after 1am are unlikely to be spiritually uplifting. In fact, most of the really negative and often personal comments you might read from time to time, originate from six IP addresses and there are no prizes for guessing who these contributors might be.

What’s amusing in a certain way is how the same anonymous person will attempt to strike-up a debate by pretending to be two people. You can’t see it but I can and so sometimes, a long comment thread may be dominated by a single individual attempting to steer the conversation.

So someone who claims to be a “True Blue Tory” one moment can be “Larry Labour” the next and leave a trail of breadcrumbs leading back to a second weblog. Anyway, most readers are smart enough to see what’s going on and it’s a shame that the system doesn’t provide a means of tagging an IP address, like a telephone number to an ‘anonymous’ comment, so you can see what I can see.

Now if you visit other more notable websites with a political theme, you’ll probably notice that something similar is happening, spelling and punctuation errors or ‘turn of phrase’, will show that on ‘controversial’ issues, the same handful of “usual suspects” are very active. The silent majority visit, rarely post comments and simply watch the fun!

One solution is to only allow comments from registered users but I'm reluctant to do this. However, I reserve the right to if the childish mischief continues.

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Ground Breaking Project

Senior Thanet Conservatives gathered today to break ground at the New Haine Road, a joint venture between KCC and TDC.

Leader of TDC, Sandy Ezekiel commented;

"This is about the two Conservative Councils working together to get results. Results for Thanet people, and results for business. There’s not a penny of Westminster money going into this. "
North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale MP added:

"Thanet District and Kent County are doing their level best to get infrastructure in place before development takes place. The task would have been a whole lot easier, though, if the last Labour Council which likes to claim credit for Westwood Cross had paid just a little attention to roads and railways when agreeing the outline plans. Or if the last Labour Transport Minister, who happens to be the MP for South Thanet at present, had looked to the interests of the area that he was elected to represent and found a little more money for Kent and Thanet."
Photo - Valerie Cameron.

One Law for All or a Choice of Two?

It's hard to avoid the controversy caused by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in the papers and on the radio and the television today.

The Archbishop believes that the introduction of Sharia law in this country is "inevitable" and why not, says BBC Radio Kent, "That's fine by me", says John Warnett the presenter but not "Stoning to death", "because that transcends" British law.

Sharia is the body of Islamic law implemented in some Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran and Sudan. In some, it is associated with draconian punishments for crimes such as theft, adultery or blasphemy, such as amputation of limbs, death by stoning or use of the lash.

Women's rights are curtailed in many countries. Some interpretations of the law mean women have to cover themselves from head to toe in burkhas when they go out.

Religious groups and secularists attacked the Archbishop, saying that his comments were "baffling and bewildering" and would undermine social cohesion but Dr Williams said the argument that "there's one law for everybody" was "a bit of a danger" and called for "a constructive accommodation" with aspects of Muslim law.

So what's your view. Do you agree with Dr Williams? Is the introduction of Sharia law an inevitability and perhaps in the areas of Britain referred to by the Archbishop of Rochester recently? The Government certainly thinks not.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I'm Alright Jack

I see the rumour and disinformation mill is running overtime on some other Thanet weblogs. I'm frequently accused of having a political agenda here but at least you know that I have a political leaning, and who I am. With this goes a sense of responsibility, when it comes to accuracy of reporting.

Before, I run out of the door to work, I would be interested to gauge readers opinions on the following, quite hypothetical story which has no connection with real persons or events, fictional or otherwise.

It's close the the end of the first decade of the 21st century. A powerful trades union insists on a 1950's 'closed shop' policy in large organisations that run essential services for the public. A smaller, rival trades union, believes, quite rightly perhaps, that it should also be allowed to recruit and represent workers on an equivalent basis. If this isn't granted swiftly it promises to take industrial action.

However, if proper equivalence is granted then the much larger union might then take industrial action and cripple the organisation as a consequence.

This reminds me of the plot of the famous 1959 Peter Seller's comedy, "I'm alright Jack". It's an invidious position for the employer to be in. So what would your solution to the problem be?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Great Race

It's Shrove Tuesday and the time of the traditional Angelo's sponsored pancake races through Westgate. Thanks is due to Tony Bailey, Laura Peskett and PC Bungard for keeping the traffic away while the races were on and to all those involved, such as Rotary, in making this event its customary local success.

From the queue for pancakes outside Angelos, it rather looked as if he was feeding the entire village with pancakes but apparently, Angelo set a new record of 1000 pancakes served.

It's not often that one "snaps" Thanet Gazette editor, Rebecca Smith, who was giving away the prizes today or gets such a great spontaneous photograph of the vicar either

Monday, February 04, 2008

Busy Elsewhere

You may find that entries become a little thin on the ground for a while.

All of a sudden, I'm getting busy elsewhere, with what I hope will be the last of nine CAA theory exams, several conferences and an original piece of research to write on Chinese cyber-espionage.

The latter is a little ironic, given that we will be welcoming the Chairman of Chinamex to Thanet very soon but while at one level, we have seen the Prime Minister building relations between our two countries on his recent trip to Beijing, at another level, there's a vigorous campaign of industrial espionage being waged in cyberspace, which has reportedly involved a number of leading European companies and particularly the engineering giants.

If you remember the Code Red virus from 2001, there was speculation at the time that this attack on web servers, which caused an estimated $2 billion worth of damage, was a dry-run probe for an attack on the entire internet infrastructure, which might possibly have worked with a little tweaking.

So if it's a little quiet around here, you know why! I've a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.

HM Revenue Wants You

Reportedly, tax collectors are snooping on local homes in Thanet and Sandwich in a secret deal between HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Rightmove Property Company.

This news is from Laura Sandys, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for South Thanet and Sandwich, who writes:

“I am very concerned at the news of a secret deal between the taxman and property company Rightmove that hold the details of 9 out 10 properties for sale or rent across the country. It has been revealed that detailed information on these sales and rentals in Thanet and Sandwich is being collected and logged in a ‘Big Brother’ database to prepare for council revaluation tax hikes.”

“Rightmove is a central web hub used by most estate agents to promote their properties beyond their local area. All the properties on this web site are now provided to the Revenue for them to assess the values of each property for the revaluation of council tax. This deal has not been done transparently and very few estate agents who place their clients’ property details on the website know about this deal.

“The Government has got to come clean", she adds. "It is preparing a revaluation for council tax that will place many of our residents in an even more difficult financial position than today. And yet again rather than being open about this process it is deviously using third parties to collect our home data to increase taxes on our properties.”

The implications are:

• Tax men plunder your data: Unsuspecting homeowners across East Kent are putting their property on the market for sale or rental, without realising that the tax collectors will use it to plan for new council tax hikes. HM Revenue & Customs, which has lost millions of personal tax and benefit records, is systematically raiding estate agency records to build up a property database for its council tax inspectors. Rightmove holds 16 million property records, with millions of individual entries being updated every month.

• Big Brother database invades privacy: People selling their home are not informed that information given to their estate agent, which is then passed to internet portal Rightmove Plc, is in turn passed on to the Government’s tax inspectors. Local estate agents have been kept in the dark about Rightmove’s actions.

• Details on people’s homes: The personal property data being passed to the taxmen include internal and external photographs of the home, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, conservatories, parking spaces, and particulars such as area, layout, style, features and other ‘value significant’ features. The Government claims that the Data Protection Act does not apply to information about people’s houses. HMRC’s council tax inspectors will instruct local councils to increase the council tax on these homes.

Laura concludes:

“We already knew that HMRC have recklessly lost the tax records of millions of law-abiding citizens. Now the same people are disregarding data protection rules to build up a chilling database of every home in the country.

“Residents across Thanet and Sandwich will be alarmed that detailed information on 9 out of 10 house sales and rentals is being passed secretly from estate agents to tax collectors, without public consent.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Little Education

Two stories caught my eye in the Sunday papers today. The first that husbands with multiple wives may now claim benefits, even though polygamous marriages are illegal in the UK.

The second, from the Sunday Times, that more interference from government, disguised as policy, is being introduced "to tackle 'segregation" in society". The judgements, which set a precedent extending throughout the state school system, include:

- Banning headteachers from asking parents why they want to come to the school, in case this puts non-English speakers at a disadvantage;

- Barring schools from asking for children's birth certificates in case this identifies the parents' jobs, which might give professional families a competitive edge;

- Forbidding a discussion with parents of the school's Ofsted inspection report as this might discriminate against parents who "do no understand bureaucracy";

- Stopping schools asking parents whether they support its ethos because this might be considered "patronising" to less well-educated or ethnic minority parents.

This weekend the moves were attacked as more evidence of "social engineering but I for one am reminded of the words of Sir Thomas More: "One of the greatest problems of our time is that many are schooled but few are educated.”

Not much has changed since the time of Henry VIII then?

What's your view?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Subject to Repairs

There appears to be some concern in Ramsgate today over what appears to be the demolition of part of the marina café, described as "A charming listed building that withstood the great storms of 1897 and 1953,"

It's not a location I'm familiar with and I'm reluctant to pass comment without knowing exactly what's happening, other than Michael Child, who supplied the photo, telling me that "The building is subject to a Repairs Notice" and that as part of the restoration work and for safety reasons some of the structure had to comedown.

I'm sure local ward councillors will be taking an active interest in this restoration work but from the photo you might think it had been bombed!

I'm sure others will be able to shed more light on the subject.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Serious Proposal

I've been over at Rochester this afternoon, talking to ITV Meridian News about 'Leap year' proposals.

With Valentine's Day approaching fast, this is of course a Leap Year, which give the girls an opportunity to 'pop the question' and propose marriage to the boys. As a result, Meridian think using an aircraft banner is a good idea and wanted to hear about the more unusual jobs of this kind that we've done, such as the one over White Hart Lane, which appeared on BBCs Match of the Day, featuring a bemused former England Manager,'Sven' wondering what it was all about.

Mind you, if the aircraft doesn't work, the young lady in the photograph appears to have other ideas of her own!

In a Flash

With the speed "Safety" cameras being out and about at strategic points across Thanet this month; just past King Ethelbert's school being a favourite, here's a list of the top ten speed camera excuses to share with you:

1) I had passed out after seeing flashing lights, which I believed to be UFOs in the distance. The flash of the camera brought me round from my trance.

2) I was in the airport’s flight path and I believe the camera was triggered by a jet overhead, not my car.

3) I had a severe bout of diarrhoea and had to speed to a public toilet.

4) There was a strong wind behind my car which pushed me over the limit.

5) My friend had just chopped his fingers off and I was rushing the fingers to hospital.

6) The vibrations from the surfboard I had on the roof rack set off the camera.

7) I had to rush my dying hamster to the vets.

8) A violent sneeze caused a chain reaction where my foot pushed down harder on the accelerator.

9) There was a suspected case of foot and mouth and I had to rush to see the cow concerned.

10) The only way I could demonstrate my faulty clutch was to accelerate madly.

If you know of any better excuses, do let me know!

A Place of Pilgrimage?

The city of Canterbury makes the news this morning for the wrong reasons.

"Residents living along its cobbled medieval streets also say they are blighted by drunken anti-social behaviour.

Cars are vandalised, doorsteps are soiled and residents are kept awake at all hours, they complain. There are even reports of drunken fighting in the city’s parks.

But many residents say the situation has now become “unacceptable” as its student population has grown to more than 30,000 while relaxation of licensing laws has led to late-night opening."

Read on.

Child Tax Credits -- Welcome Changes

The child tax credit system has, as we know, caused real hardship and worry to families in Thanet who have fallen on the wrong side of its mis-administration by HMRC.

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, has welcomed changes made to the Revenue and Customs Code of Practice 26 in the light of concerns expressed in the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report.

In a letter to the MP, as a follow-up to a meeting held last October, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jane Kennedy, says;

"The revised code will aim to deliver more objective decision making when the HMRC consider whether to write off an overpayment. To this end COP 26 will no longer include a reference to what is or is not reasonable for a customer to have understood. Instead, HMRC and customers respective responsibilities will be clearly set out. Importantly,HMRC will have a time-limit (30 days) to act on information reported to them. So if HMRC fails to act within 30 days then any overpayment that occurs after 30 days will be remitted".

Roger Gale, who has waged a parliamentary campaign to change the treasury's self-imposed regulations says:

"This is good news. For far too long information given to HMRC by claimants has not been acted upon swiftly and that failure to act has led to overpayments and sometimes horrific reclaims running into thousands of pounds. I am pleased that the HMRC recognises its own responsibility in this matter and so long as claimants ensure that they notify Revenue and Customs, swiftly, of changes in circumstances demands for large repayments should, for the future, not be made.

Unfortunately the new conditions will only apply to notice of disputes received from today's date onwards and there is clearly a backlog of hard cases that need to be resolved, the Minister has, though, additionally said that "where a customer asks for a pre-January 2008 disputed overpayment decision to be reconsidered HMRC will make sensible use of their legislative discretion". And that "the department will look to see whether the overpayment occurred because the `reasonable belief` test was applied in a way which, with hindsight, was unfair or inconsistent".I hope that this will mean that at least some of the outstanding cases will now be swiftly determined in the claimants favour. HMRC have had a habit of sheltering behind the 'you should have known that we had made a mistake' defence and that has caused misery and hardship."