Monday, January 02, 2012

In the Shadows

We had the first 'Shadow' cabinet meeting of the new year today at Bob's Broadstairs office, while most people were still warmly tucked-up in bed. Being in opposition felt much more relaxed as we waded through the council items for Thursday evening.

I'm expecting the public gallery in the chamber to be crammed with Margate Football Club supporters waiting to hear what Labour will finally decide on the club's future, following the pre-Christmas pitch inspection. I think we are all looking forward to seeing if Cllr Iris Johnston, who turned the matter into a political football a year ago, will finally get off the fence and actually take a position on this one.

Chris Wells will be dealing with both Fort Hotel and the Pierremont Park community centre issue, as he's very familiar with both projects. As one might expect, Martin Wise will be asking acerbic and searching questions about the draft budget and where exactly Labour plans to raid the piggy bank, which, I'm sure, may come as no great surprise.

Over the Christmas period, James Maskell has leapt to the public's attention as both a serious and sensible political blogger with 81 comments on a single story, while the ebullient young Will Scobie has demonstrated, on occasions this month, that he's barely out of short trousers. The artist formerly known as 'Worrow' has changed his blog strap-line yet again.

I awoke this morning to discover that Eastender's indomitable Pat Butcher had joined, Steve Jobs and Kim Jong Il in the choir invisible. This sad story of national importance dominated the BBC's breakfast coverage and serious domestic  news coverage will be resumed later today. I'm waiting for the Prime Minister to announce a message of condolence to the cast and a week of mourning.

If that's all we have to worry about in 2012 then things can't be half as bad as we're told they are!

47 comments:

Will Scobie said...

As a former Cabinet member I am sure you know a lot more about this then I do, but would you be willing to support the campaign being run at the moment to support TDC's plans for the Dreamland site?

This is definitely a cross party issue and Cllr. Bayford when he was leader was very vocal in his support for Dreamland.

DrM. said...

i.e let's turn a straigthforward CP legal process into a political bandwaggon?

It was all moving along quite steadily and efiiciently. But then Clive, at the meeting before Christmas suggested whipping up lots of public support 'Because we're good at that' he said and you young Will' appear to have drawn the short straw!

Good luck!

Will Scobie said...

Well that wasn't the intention at all, but if that's how you choose to see it then fair enough.

The people of Thanet want Dreamland to be a success. I think it is important that in the week before the Planning Inspector starts making a decision on the future of the site that we show what the people want. It may make no difference, but we were elected to campaign for the things that we care about and that our electors care about. I am certain the people of Westgate want Dreamland to be a success as well, so why not campaign for it to happen?

Michael Child said...

Simon, my understanding here was that the outcome of the public enquiry was not a done deal or forgone conclusion, am I wrong here?

DrM. said...

Actually Clive used another and less generous expression to describe the general public but then realised I was sitting-in on the Labour cabinet meeting as an observer. It may yet come to me!

I can still recall my grandparents taking me to Dreamland some 50 years ago and if you look back at Thanet Life you will find that there is nothing new in supporting and caring about the amusement park in its struggle to recover and regenerate. People have been doing this since long before you were born and in the last twelve months our patience was finally exhausted with the incumbents and a process to bring it back again, supported, at last by sound legal opinion and by the millions required to achieve it was started.

There's nothing wrong in attempting to impress the Planning inspector and I applaud it but you know as well as I do that planning is a matter of process and in matters such as this, the future for Dreamland will be judged against it.

Unlike you, I sat in the meeting with the the council's legal officer and counsel and strangely but worryingly enough, was the only person present to ask a legal question of the two, while your four colleagues reminisced on rides, ticket prices and candy floss.

At that point the differences in style and experience between the two cabinets became both starkly visible and rather worrying too!

Your well-meaning problem other than inexperience in the ways of the grown-up world of politics, is that you keep setting your colleagues up for a fall almost as effectively as Ian Driver.

DrM. said...

It never is Michael, it's a matter of evidence and proper process as you well-know!

Retired said...

Happy New Year Simon. I see in your stars that you will face another year of single line wisdom and sentiment. And I see you doggedly responding with substance and jibe.

DrM. said...

You forget Chris Wells as a politics graduate from the LSE and as for short trousers, if anyone discovered half the political drivel I wrote in the college newsletter in my early 20s, I would be so deeply embarrassed, I would probably emigrate to join my friend flying natives around Papua.

If Will's to join grown-up debate then it's best he spends a little time in the trenches, works a low paid job for a few years, joins a trades union, reads Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a few times, drops out in Hawaii for a while and develops his own ideas.

Damn.. that was me!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I was replying to Michae's earlier comment and deleted him by mistake.. here it is:

What I though Simon, what with Will being the only councillor to have any formal higher education in politics, I though the short trouser tactic to be a bit below the belt.

DrM. said...

Retired.. it's a tough job but someone has to do it!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear.
Just two days into 2012 and already our elected members are trading insults of short trousers variety.
For Heaven's sake [and ours] please grow up gentlemen ... stop trying to score cheap points and get on with making some positive decisions like go ahead with Dreamland heritage, pull down Fort Road Hotel, sue the developers of Ramsgate's stalled sands dvelopment.
Why does TDC seem incapable of making any real decisions beyond the date of their next meeting?

DrM. said...

That's why you visit 4:59. If it was half as dull as many of the other blogs that populate the blogosphere Thanet you wouldn't bother.

Will Scobie said...

Well that was probably one of the most patronising responses I have ever heard. I don't pretend to have all the answers and nor do I pretend that I am infallible. What we have in politics at the moment is a real lack of young people getting involved and putting forward their opinions. If you want to disagree with my views and argue against them then that is fine, and for the most part that is what you have done. However interspersed with that are patronising comments about age, and to be honest Simon I thought you were above that. Equally it could be said that older people are stuck in their ways or else don't understand the changing nature of society. (a claim that could be made about several Councillors on both sides!)

With Dreamland I think it is important that we show the public that we are campaigning on their behalf. I fully take your point that this is a decision that will be made under planning law. For the record while I was organising the Dreamland petition before Christmas,I sat in with Harvey Patterson for an hour and a half to talk through the Dreamland situation before I did anything. And if you look back to the start of these comments I am not pretending to have in depth knowledge of this, but having spoken at length to the Chief legal officer at the Council I have some grasp of what is happening.

Happy New Year by the way!

DrM. said...

That's why issues are scheduled for decision at cabinet meetings. Its a feature of democracy that councillors, with all the information available, are expected to direct the actions of the council

Either that or simply leave the officers to get on with it under delagated powers, which should always be used cautiously!

DrM. said...

Good for you Will but from time to time its advisable to put one's brain in gear before writing blog or facebook entries because they will most certainly catch up one day later in a political career.

Anonymous said...

It must be very irksome for the tories to have to listen to Cllr.Scobie junior jumping on the Dreamland bandwagon when they have been stepping through treacle to try to get a result for Margate over all these years. I note from the council website that at least he has a proper job, unlike his boss who seems to have retired very early. Or is the leader older than he looks?

DrM. said...

It just occured to me. Are you saying that you took 90 minutes of Harvey's time to discuss this. If i had still been the cabinet member responsible I would have blown a fuse if it been on my watch!

Will Scobie said...

Due to the importance of the issue to Margate's regeneration, it was crucial that we got the wording of the petition right to best help the position of the Council and the Dreamland Trust. After I said I wanted to organise a campaign on this, those involved at the Council wanted to make sure that the petition was properly worded and advised.

Peter Checksfield said...

I do think you're being a bit harsh on Will here Simon, as there's no doubt in my mind that he's just doing what he believes is right to help Dreamland (that said, I do agree that things such as this, Hartsdown, Animal Exports etc shouldn't be politicised).

As for JW's ambitions, there's more chance of Ian Driver getting his knighthood!

DrM. said...

90 minutes of officer time.. !!

This only too clearly illustrates where Labour historically soak up resource.

I should add that i limit meetings to sixty minutes whenever possible but then I am from a business background and have a low tolerance for waffle.

With increasingly limited resources senior officer time has to be managed very carefully and as i wrote earlier, I would be asking serious questions in a cabinet role. Over to you Cllr Poole perhaps?

Michael Child said...

Simon correct me if I am wrong here but the council pay Harvey one and a half grand a week, year in year out, regardless of whether he is talking to Will on holiday or for that matter talking to me on the phone.

BTW I had assumed from the beard that it home economics he studied.

Goodness me I will be telling you to engage your mental gears and stay on topic soon.

Will Scobie said...

I agree with you Simon we need to utilise Officer's time to make best use of resources.

As an elected member I have every right to organise meetings with officers to talk about issues. Feel free to make something of this if you wish because I have done nothing wrong by simply asking questions and receiving advice before running a petition that runs on legally sensitive territory. The foolish thing for me to have done would have been to just jump into this without first checking the facts, something you have mentioned we all need to do on more than one occasion!

Tim Clark said...

Tom
What was I saying to you only yesterday about style?

Tim Clark said...

Funny how you laud James Maskell as a serious and sensible political blogger (which he is) and deride Will Scobie for something which you say demonstrates that he's barely out of short trousers (which I suspect he isn't) when sensible James has endorsed silly Will's actions.

Anonymous said...

Wat college was that then

DrM. said...

Michael, you must be having a laugh! A handful of constantly interested and borderline vexatious parties appear to cost the council a great deal of officer time and public money dealing with inquiries either under FOI or simply because it's their hobby.

In regard to receiving advice, Will, I have no problem whatsoever in you taking the time to check information which you are quite entitled to ask for but I take issue at the extravagant amount of officer time involved in doing it!

In normal circumstances I would ask an officer for a form of words by email and a follow-up meeting, if necessary should the response and accompanying summary remained unclear.

If we start multiplying the many personal interests of members of the Labour Group by 90 minutes at a time and add in Michael Child's regular fishing trips, then I doubt there would be any time remaining to actually get on with the job of running a council.

As I said earlier, you are either used to conducting business efficiently and with appropriate time/cost sensitivity or not!

John Worrow said...

It was a pleasure to sign your petition today William; you are doing a wonderful job. I think that Simon is only jealous of you because you are younger, brighter and better looking than he is!

Peter Checksfield said...

I agree John, he is rather cute! ; )

Anonymous said...

But does he look nice in tight trousers?

Anonymous said...

I see Worrow has raised his head above the parapet. Perhaps he would care to answer the question posed concerning his comments about animal rights activists and Birchington residents made in Sundowners.

Tom Clarke said...

Well Will is certainly younger, whether he is brighter only time will tell and better looking, well I will take your word for that John as I don't fancy either of them. No offence intended fellows.

Certainly the ingratiating to all things Labour is the stuff of nausea from someone who, until recently was Conservative and is now supposed to be independent. If not congratulating Will, or blogging about the more sensible administration, John is calling for knighthoods for Ian. They say a leopard never changes its spots, so maybe John's were always red in the first place.

You know, John, the best thing you could do is lay low for a while for, at the moment, you are digging a hole so big it might be hard to climb out of.

DrM. said...

I'm trying to enjoy my chinese dinner of beef in black bean sauce and have just blocked a couple of salacious remarks!

A little humour is fine but let's not encourage the councillor formerly known as 'Worrow' to lead the discussion off towards his own interests!

John Worrow said...

Who said I was joking?

DrM. said...

Looking at the number of people visiting this weblog, it seems there's nothing worth watching on the television tonight and the best in comedy entertainment is taking place right here.

It might even beat Pat Butcher's resurrection on Eastenders.

John Worrow said...

The police are aware of the blackmail threats Anonymous 8:00

Michael Child said...

Simon there is nothing I can do about open government and in this the council is its own worst enemy, the easiest method for them would be to publish all of the information they generate or receive on their website and use this as the main source for officers the councillors and the public.

The exception here would be when individuals and businesses want commercial information kept secret, in most cases I would say that the person or business should have to pay a charge for the secrecy.

Costs of this approach to information could be kept very low by insisting that all information was submitted in preferred file formats for ease of publication.

I have made very few foi requests, less than two a year as I am aware of the costs, in the case of the only large one I have ever made, the Pleasurama development agreement one, the council printed out several hundred sheets of paper which the information commissioner then had to scan into his computer to assess. They then printed them all out again for me and I had to turn them into electronic files to publish them on the web. I wasn’t amused it takes me about an hour to copy 100 sheets of A4 and publish them online.

Now I am considering making a complaint and associated foi request about the Broadstairs New Years Eve fireworks fiasco, not to waste officer’s time but to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Do you think doing so would be vexatious or a waste of time?

I think the bottom line here though is that I run what appears to be the most popular local blog, about double the number of pageviews than this one, which appears from my referral statistics to be the next most popular and we both seem to generate more comment that the local papers, so like you there is a sense in which I represent my readers and not just me.

Now virtually every major council decision is subject to public consultation and I often find that I am one of only about a couple of dozen people who have bothered to respond, are you saying here that you would rather I didn’t bother?

As far a Harvey goes, he seems to prefer to chat, you email him and he rings you up, my guess is that he is not entirely at home with ITC. You know me, and how I communicate, preferred method email, I would guess you have phoned me more than I have phoned you.

DrM. said...

Michael

The thread appears to have moved on to Worrows World so let's both sit back and watch the exchange

John Worrow said...

Tom (yeah that really is your name), not only will I not be intimidated into laying low, I will be supporting the current admin for a long time, because they are more progressive than the last. At the end of the day you can chuck as much blog abuse about as you like... mean while in the real world get used to being in opposition

Tim Clark said...

Maskell = good, sensible, etc
Scobie = infantile
But hang on, Maskell supports Scobie on Dreamland petition
Does that make Maskell infantile or Scobie good and sensible?

Tim Clark said...

So he's not really Independent then? I think we suspected as much

Peter Checksfield said...

When will this drama end?!

Michael Child said...

Simon, istill want to have a go and I have asked for expert help not being much good at this sort of thing and as both you and Will have dropped in here for a cuppa where the majority of people are of the female persuasion I asked and opinion from the other half of the species.

The initial reply was not encouraging, along the lines of can’t remember them what do they look like, having jogged memories with photos from the web, the consensus seems to be Will at the moment because he is young, but Simon looks pretty good for his age and Will looks like the type who may go manky when he gets older.

Or have I got this completely wrong and it is the relative attractiveness of John and Will we they talking about?

James Maskell said...

I supported and signed the petition because I agreed with it. The fact its a Labour-led one is for me irrelevant.

I've seen too much of this partisanship that means its a no-no to agree with the "opposition". So what if it makes no difference to the Public Inquiry? No harm done. I'm sure we can put off these petty battles until after the Inquiry...

I'm suprised we are still having these threats from John. I thought we all learnt over the past couple of weeks how meaningless they were...

DrM. said...

James, I think you will find I described the petition as laudable, so nothing wrong there. I'm familiar with the public coming to the council with petitions but this one is unusual, as it's the other way around! But as I said earlier, this matter will, in the end, be judged on evidence and process as it is a planning issue.

Anyway.. Worrow appears as determined as ever to make himself the story, regardless of the issue.

Tim Clark said...

Well said James. 100% spot on.

Anonymous said...

From memory, the council will be borrowing several million pounds to assist regeneration at Dreamland. Did the labour councillors support this, as they seemed to have tried to stop everything else?

Tom Clarke said...

John, there was no abuse in my comment, simply some advice which I see you intend to ignore. Fine, it's your choice. The 'get used to being in opposition, bit seems a little strange from someone who claimed to be a Conservative, but then the whole scenario is pretty bizarre.

Then we have comments from you about the police being aware of blackmail threats. Oh dear, the big policeman will come and take you away if you are naughty. What next, the dreaded bogeyman.

Frankly, John, you are sounding increasingly paranoid and infantile. I awake the knock on my door with interest.