Thursday, June 21, 2012

In Difficult Times

Yesterday, I gave a short interview to a national newspaper which is writing a story on Margate and the issues surrounding local housing pressures and displacement of the vulnerable and homeless from London and elsewhere.

Readers here will have heard my views on this subject before but in the space of a week that's seen a TV series, 'True Love' which shows the very best of Margate, and together with the Mary Portas visit, a BBC News night report that illustrates some of our more serious social and economic challenges, I'm going to recap and you may or may not agree with me.

I had an opportunity to walk through my thinking in the hairdressers this morning, a forum which is never short on local opinion.

In difficult times, every community has a part to play in sharing, what is after all, a collective burden but there has to be a limit on local goodwill when our own finances are so strained.

I've shared some of the alarming statistics surrounding Margate and Cliftonville West here in the past, so there's nothing new in my telling you that we hold the county record for teenage pregnancy, 39% of the population are on benefits, 10% are on disability, 18.5% are on incapacity and roughly only 17% of the population of these wards are from Thanet. Some 30% of the population changes every twelve months in an environment where 80% of the properties are flats with an unusually  high density of single occupancy and hospital admissions are the worst in Kent.

What's been revealed of late, is the level, of what I heard described as 'forced displacement' of people from the big city and elsewhere to our seaside towns and in particular, Margate. It's not just the profitable industry surrounding troubled children and teenagers, but a strategy of offering an indefinite seaside vacation at great local expense, to former criminals and sex-offenders on probation, the mentally ill, the involuntary homeless, asylum seekers and eastern European migrants and more. As Jeremy Paxman revealed last week on the BBC, the police and local government are not even entitled to know where those who might constitute a risk to children or local people are living or indeed, the location of all secure homes and hostels and the nature of their patients or residents.

"What use am I, as a local politician, "I ask myself, "If I can't protect my own ward from such risks and pressures that we can't possibly cope with?" "Where does a community, any community, draw the line and say enough is enough? This has to stop if we are to have any chance of building a future on the opportunity given to us by the Turner Contemporary to follow a path of successful regeneration."

"Were any of us asked if we wanted our community changed so dramatically and in such a relatively short period of time? At the very least we need a breathing space, here in Thanet, where agencies of every description  and the worst-offending London local authorities, commit to a binding agreement to stop solving their problems by sending their most vulnerable people to Thanet. This, in addition to firm action by successive Governments to recognise the scale and true seriousness of a problem outside of our control and deal with it proactively instead of wringing its hands."

We have some great opportunities for the future here in Thanet, just give us the space we need to live up to the vision of Margate we have seen all this week in 'True Love' rather than the dystopic and unhappy consequences of ill-considered and consistently damaging policies of displacement revealed in BBC's Newsnight

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with you as uasul,in addition to your main points i would add that a lot of state money paid to eastern europeans now living in cliftonville is not spent in this country,i have seen people sending hundreds of pounds a week back to their country of origin and the result of that is higher crime rates including organised shop-lifting gangs,pickpockets and prostitution in the area as well as taking over the drug dealing normally undertaken by locals.
All this is a result of bad government on all levels and now because of E.U rules we can do nothing about it.

Rained off said...

It is disappointing that JP is not fully informed although to the layman it might appear that no one knows what is happening with dangerous offenders being released into the community.

The difficulty comes from the necessity of the release from custody of offenders who may pose an unknown risk to the community but who, on the basis of past offending, pose risk when released.

Where the public to know the choices open to professionals there would be many unfortunate incidents of the pedophile/pediatrician kind as happened in Plymouth.

Each police division should have an offender management team that works with probation, social services, health, others to keep a very close eye on those who on release into the community show little sign of remorse/change. This is the way that child sex offenders are not housed near schools.

The issue of LA's housing vulnerable children some of whom will be offenders themselves is extremely complex and, in my experience, is done not necessarily with the full knowledge of the LA where the child is housed.

In a nutshell the overwhelming urge of the public is to lock such dangerous sex/violent offenders/persons with mental health problems a throw away the key. The reality is that once the criminal justice process is complete the Parole Board/monitoring authority has to provide accommodation. They have to live somewhere and the NIMBY principle may apply.

Unfortunately Thanet has low costs and therein lies the problem. And at a time of cost cutting the police team probably by centralised and monitoring will be less frequent.

Anonymous said...

Simon,
As you said in your article, 30% of these, lets be honest for once 'undesirables', moves on every year. None of us want them here, but all the while the accommodation, which again no decent human being would chose to live in remains on the market, the spiral will continue.

Not long ago you introduced selective licencing which could have easily been defended/justified for the 3 or 4 problem roads we know of. This would have turned off the supply of sub-standard and appalling accommodation. Why oh why did you blanket such a huge part of Cliftonville and risk the Judicial Review which God forbid, you may not win?

simon moores said...

From my notes I think your answer lies with the following:

84% of dwellings are flats
45% are single persons
57% don't meet decent homes standards
21% are resident less than 12 months

Which is why selective licensing was viewed as an important tool in attempting to influence or possibly break the cycle.

Anonymous said...

Simon,

I think you may have missed my point. I agree, you could probably condemn most of Cliftonville, but to have designated such a large area was to make the justification so much more vulnerable to challenge, which is exactly what has happened. If the designation had been say from Zion Place to Dalby Square, that would have been so much more positive to start and with easily identifiable criteria to justify the the proposed licensing. It would also have been so much easier to extend at a later date.

simon moores said...

I see what you are getting at but at the same time decisions of this kind are based very much on officers' advice in regard to tackling a problem of some scale. In retrospect, maybe you are right but the intentions were good.

Anonymous said...

To be fair they do supply better drugs than the locals anon 12:02!

Anonymous said...

"39% are on benefits ...and only 17% are from Thanet".

So when your conservative colleague Paul carter and KCC talk about the benefits problem in Thanet and our social security bill close to £200mm, you explain a huge proportion of the issue is imported right? And challenge him to tackle that before he starts dumping dirty industries on the area.