Monday, April 30, 2012

'Your'e Hired' - Margate's 22-Year Old Mayor

With no sign of Alan Sugar or even Simon Cowell, the Margate Charter Trustees tonight appointed the town's youngest ever Mayor elect, 22-year-old Councillor Will Scobie, a transport manager at a local Thanet school of English.


As you might expect from my previous blog on this subject, where I predicted that the Thanet Labour Group Charter Trustees would turn-up in force to block vote, the election was split along clear party lines. The Conservatives were firmly opposed to what was broadly perceived as a cheap political stunt with career objectives or as I commented: "Our objection has nothing to do with age but everything to do with experience, tradition and obligation to the people of Margate."

The Conservative choice for the role, was former Mayor and paratrooper, Cliftonville Councillor,  Brian Sullivan.

The new Mayor-elect will take over from Cllr Iris Johnston in May and will have the privilege of representing the town at the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympic torch procession, as well as many other civic functions, such as Remembrance Sunday and events outside of Thanet.

In such controversial circumstances, feelings at the meeting were occasionally heated and often near boiling point. To illustrate his point, one trustee pointed at the many rows of portraits and ancient and modern photographs of former Margate mayors through the centuries and commented: "These people had to work hard for many years to achieve this. What have you done?"

My own views are very clear on this matter and I suspect they reflect those of many people of my generation and older that I have spoken to since I first published the rumour last week. Labour and Clive Hart, are clearly taking a leap of faith declaring that the mayoral role as many of us know it is old-fashioned and that younger and more energetic blood is required.


I wish Will Scobie, the new Mayor-elect every success, if only because this is a time-consuming and demanding role which requires strong personal qualities, a familiarity with local tradition, history and dare I say it, protocol. School, university and only eleven months as a district councillor in a safe Labour ward might not be enough, in the eyes of many people on the island but then again, it may encourage a much younger generation to take a very different view of the civic role and its traditions after almost a thousand years.

Labour in Thanet is very big on 'Consultation'or as Clive Hart said earlier this evening 'Progressive' but I suspect the only opportunity that anyone has had to express their views on this 'faites accompli' is here. What do you think now rumour has become fact?

Is this good for Margate or will you wait and see? I'm putting an opinion poll up on the sidebar for your votes. In the minds of some readers this evening, this is a progressive move but for others, this kind of political tinkering proves every joke about Labour-run councils to be true.

 Cllr John Edwards was elected to Deputy Mayor. Both positions will be ratified at the annual Mayor Making and AGM on Tuesday 22nd May at the Winter Gardens Margate.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Little Sunday Politics

Ramsgate I see, is featured on today's BBC Sunday Politics Show with coverage of the live animal exports dilemma.

If I'm honest, then I think the BBC missed some vital questions and in particular with the interview of the representative from the National Farmer's Union. I don't believe that any reader would agree that a flat-bottomed, ancient Russian tank landing craft, taking seven hours to cross the Channel in a gale, with its crated cargo of animals exposed to the elements, is in any way comparable with an equivalent lorry journey from the farm of origin.

Cabinet member Michelle Fenner popped-up for interview but nobody in the Council press office appears to have explained to her that the BBC, rather annoyingly for politicians, deals in soundbites of eleven seconds or less. (See video)  It's best to prepare that vital sentence before you go on camera or the opportunity is wasted.

So it looks as if the animal export controversy will continue to go around in circles and the hand-wringing will continue under Labour, who have discovered that being critical in opposition is far easier than being in political control.

Over on the new Thanet Independent Group weblog, the entertainment never ends and I now read I have been retrospectively promoted to Sandy Ezekiel's 'Right-hand man'.  As a junior Cabinet member, I wasn't aware of this honour two years ago, when he was Leader of the Council but thanks for thinking of me!

I wonder if I get a little 'Mr Men' badge with the title on?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gap Theory

'Disappointed.' That's one way of expressing my opinion of local newspaper coverage of the last and very controversial council meeting in the local papers this week. Why? Because of the chasm between what actually took place and what was reported; the evidence being clearly visible in the video of the meeting that everyone can watch and judge for themselves. James Maskell has an opinion of his own in his blog today.

Did the Thanet Extra, I wonder, actually send a journalist of were they simply creative? I can't recall seeing anyone there from the newspaper and the earlier and much-reported personal views of our Member of Parliament, have as much to do with the meeting as the original motion call for a debate had with the Government's consultation.

The editor of the Thanet Gazette, appears to think it was quite funny that people with one set of views, sitting in the council chamber's public gallery, felt intimidated by another section of the community with a different and  frequently noisy perspective on the proceedings and equally amused over allegations of 'Homophobia' directed at councillors over Twitter, who for personal or religious reasons either abstained or voted against the motion.

Once again, the local media have let the people of Thanet down. I can't judge whether this is simply sloppy reporting or evidence of a personal agenda. If you look at the most popular 'Blogs' on the island and their growing visitor numbers, it's self apparent that people are now turning to these as a source of news and local information in increasing numbers and as Rupert Murdoch commented this week, he doesn't expect to see newspapers surviving beyond the next decade.

So what next? Well we are bound to see more council business and energy spent on items which have absolutely nothing to do with the remit of local government and if CND were still active, I might predict Thanet declaring itself as a 'Nuclear Free Zone.'

In the next couple of weeks Margate will have a new mayor and the Council will have its annual general meeting. Now may be a good time to open the betting on a Faustian bargain over who will get what role and with it, any special personal allowances to match, in order to keep the minority and some may remark, 'quite shameless', Labour administration in power with two vital independent votes.

Whatever happens, I'm sure it will keep us all entertained and me busy blogging for weeks and months to come.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bake & Ale Birthday

After a meeting with Westgate traders to further discuss the Sainsbury's planning application for Hundreds Farm, North Thanet MP, Sir Roger Gale and I wandered over to the first birthday party of the Bake & Ale House, Real Ale micro-pub, behind the Carlton cinema.

As you might imagine, the small bar was packed beyond bursting with local well-wishers and I promised to put-up the couple of photographs I took with my iPhone camera for people to download should they wish.

The first of these is Sir Roger with Peter, the owner.

I'm still suffering the after-effects of a glass of some rather strong cider and I'm having a little trouble typing, I think, I will pass on writing anything vaguely serious this evening and leave it for the weekend.

'Sir Roger' is off to Armenia next week to act as an observer their presidential elections, which I'm sure will prove interesting. I wonder if we might lend them a couple of our own independent councillors with presidential ambitions?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great or Not so Great Debate

The Council webcast of last week's controversial debate on gay marriage, parking and much more is now available to view online. James Maskell has also transcribed it here.

The quality isn't great and neither is the sound as it won't capture the shouting and barracking from the public gallery or indeed a number of members of the Labour and Thanet Independent Group. Cllr Drivers' speech starts five minutes in and you can hear the Chair threatening to clear the public gallery at times.

At around minute 11:00 and the again at  21:19 it becomes patently clear that the emotional Cabinet member Michelle Fenner hasn't the vaguest clue about the consultation directions and rambles-on at length about the forces of Conservatism et al.

Not unusually, you will see Cllr Iris Johnston start on one of her long reminiscences, in the form of a wandering narrative, not about gay marriage but on a previous maternity consultation. This is par for the course I'm afraid and Council and Cabinet meetings are much shorter when she is away with relief displayed on both sides of the political divide. She's not aware that there is actually a sweepstake running on how far back she will go with her stories of an earlier socialist utopia in Thanet and on Thursday it was 2003.

Around 15 minutes in you can hear Bob Bayford presenting the Conservative position on the debate and Clive Hart is 25 minutes in.

Chris Wells speaks eloquently at 26:30 presenting his personal opinion and explaining what the nature of the consultation actually is and I follow with a few words myself at 29:54. Cllr Gideon gives a good speech at minute 47 responding to Cllr Harrison as does Cllr Green at minute 53.

Everyone really needs to listen to Cllr Worrow at around minute 36 who refers to this weblog.

The controversial free parking in Birchington pops its thorny head up again and Cllr Gregory refers to "The cost of two votes" to place Labour in control. Up comes Cllr Jack Cohen at  minute 129:16 with a long speech which is really not to be missed.  he refers to Cllr Bruce's survey of traders being 'loaded' but who or what may be loaded I will leave readers to judge!

At Minute 180.35 I make my 'Dark and unhappy place speech' about people in the gallery 'Twittering' allegations of homophobia across the internet. You can watch some of Clive Hart's response but very conveniently his inability to understand anything about basic technology is lost.

Now comes the main event when Cllr Worrow loses the plot completely, makes a number of outrageous statements and an angry Cllr Shirley Tomlinson threatens to take him outside. Once again the most interesting part of the exchange is lost but readers will, I'm sure, gain some  insight into the demonstrably troubled state of mind of the leader of the Thanet Independent Group

I know its politics and of little interest to most but the truth is often stranger than fiction and I do recommend that you try and watch some of it and judge both the debate and the often bizarre behaviour of some members from what you see.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Revealed

I'm sure you've all been waiting for it and here's an exclusive look at the 'legendary drinks cabinet' you read about in several of earlier entries. This splendid antique - one careful owner -  reportedly started its life in Dover, where the Council experienced a similar dystopic experience to the one we have here in Thanet today, before moving to a new home in Birchington, leaving a trail of rare whiskey fumes and political broken glass in its wake.

On a more serious note, there's a great deal of media fuss this week, over Newham Council, in East London, moving some of its social housing tenants up to Stoke, where the rents are cheaper. The 'Guardianistas' are calling this 'Social cleansing' but it should come as no surprise to us here in Thanet when we look at the sudden and deeply problematic demographic changes that have taken place in areas such as Margate Central and Cliftonville West.

 Reportedly, Croydon Council has said it is seeking to rent private accommodation in Hull, while Waltham Forest, in North-East London, has moved a small number of families to Luton.

You have to ask why they are moving families so far afield and part of the answer, is that the likes of Hastings, Dover and Margate, took the brunt of London council and agency attention over the last fifteen years and the great city  is now beyond full, with a report this month claiming that as much as 50% of social housing has gone to immigrants in the capital.

Whichever way one chooses to argue the case, the reality is that a serious housing problem now exists, not only for Greater London authorities but by association, neighbouring districts as much as one hundred miles away with much cheaper rents. It is reported that a proposal sent to Westminster City Council by one of its private providers, suggests rehousing ‘150 people within the next 12 or so months’ as far away as Derby.  

The intrinsic problems faced by our overstretched system was illustrated in last week's Thanet Gazette, which only confirmed what I had written about months ago. That the pressure on our local schools from far too many displaced children and teenagers in care shows-up in the statistics. After what the former headmaster of the Marlowe Academy revealed to me as his challenges over breakfast last summer, I wasn't surprised by the remarkable number of exclusions in that school alone. There comes a point and this is my 'personal view', where our local generosity works only to increase the disadvantage experienced by the island's indigenous population and the statistics can't be challenged. Regardless of party politics, we have to watch this London problem very closely indeed as quite frankly, I don't trust other councils, County and Government agencies, not to try and displace more people in our direction, given the growing and serious financial pressures they now face.

Let's not forget that we almost got Gary Glitter (seen in Cliftonville) and Abu Qatada was a close call for Birchington!

And finally, as we wait for the bad weather to rip into the north Kent coast, I see we have quite a large visitor, which ShipFinder tells me is the Galatea, moored in shallow water off St Mildred's Bay in Westgate. I snapped a grainy photo on my iPhone earlier.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Topsy Turvy Local Politics

(Updated - No longer a rumour see comments)

It's St George's Day and from time to time, some rumours in Thanet local politics are so palpably ridiculous, that they start to gain traction in the collective imagination and people wonder if they might be true or not.

This latest one has been bubbling for some time but I'm now hearing it from so many different credible sources that I'm calling on Clive Hart, the Leader of the Council and Mayor of Margate, Iris Johnston, to put an end to it quickly with a firm denial before it starts leaking into the papers.

It surrounds young Cllr Will Scobie (see video interview) and the suggestion that the Labour Group have had the bright idea of making him the next mayor of Margate, because they hold the political balance of votes on the Margate Charter Trustees.

The reason given appears to be two-fold. The first, to give him a job and possibly an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the country's youngest Mayor and the second, to help propel him into a full-time political career with the Party, perhaps even to challenge Laura Sandys at the next General Election.

My initial reaction was, 'You must be having a laugh.' After all, the role of Mayor normally goes to someone a little older and with more life experience, like Iris, who has enjoyed a long political career and can represent the Cinque Ports town of Margate with proper dignity and gravitas, at ceremonies, veterans' parades and meeting with the likes of her Majesty the Queen. Credit for the video suggestion below goes to Michael Child who was quicker off the mark this morning than me!



However, in this ' Topsy Turvy ', Alice in Wonderland world, which is the new Thanet under Labour and Cllr Worrow's  'Thanet Independent Group, don't be surprised when people start to ask if the 'Mad Hatter's tea party is actually part of the local government process, so can we have a firm denial please?

Remaining with Mad Hatters for a moment, I see that the publicity-hungry local councillor, a paragon of reason, who recently described our royal family as: "A rotten, corrupt family of scroungers, grafters and racists,"  and local Conservatives as 'Homophobes', has apparently taken Facebook control of the campaign to 'Save the A&E' casualty unit at the the QEQM hospital in Margate. On previous form, you can be pretty sure, that what is actually planned by the Hospital Trust is going to be wildly misrepresented across Twitter and the Internet. From a recent presentation to full Council by the head of the Hospital Hrust, we were told it was all about better clinical practice and stems from the professional medical opinion on delivering better coronary care and trauma medicine and involves the movement of very small numbers of patients.

I'm sure I will be writing more about this later and I would expect that both our Council Leader and our energetic Cabinet Member for Communities, Cllr Johnston, are taking an active and personal interest in the matter, working closely with our Members of Parliament, I would hope rather than being influenced by two very isolated but vocal independent councillors, with grand ambitions and personal  interests outside of their immediate ward responsibilities.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Old Blog - New Look

(Updated). Readers will see that this morning I'm experimenting with a different look and feel to ThanetLife which gives different view options. I'm not sure that I like it myself, because I lose all the information and links that were up on the sidebar in the older version, so please let me know if you would prefer the new look or whether I should try and revert back to the old familiar version?

After an occasionally entertaining and highly controversial week in our rainbow-coloured world of local politics, I'm struggling to find a topic of equal interest to throw into the pot. I may have one soon but won't find out for a day or so, Meanwhile, the London Marathon has started, good luck John Waller and other local runners and of course let's not forget the triumphal march along Birchington High Street by the fantastic 'independent' three, which will begin soon. I gather that this is described as a fuel poverty protest.

A little local diversity came my way on Friday in Cliftonville, when a banger with Eastern European plates, drove into my car in the Aldi car park and then sped-off, leaving the remains of its front headlights and bumper behind. I have these in a large plastic bag by the side of my desk here, should the driver wish to collect his property and identify himself.

If I think back to other incidents over the last ten years or more, I've had a European lorry driver reverse over my motorcycle at a petrol station, no insurance and an Egyptian gentlemen, knock me off another motorcycle, no insurance either. Not appearing in court after months of chasing him, he fled back to Cairo.  I wonder if readers have similar stories to share?

The new opticians in Westgate, SelectSpecs, had its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday evening and it opens on Monday with some special offers. The Mayor of Margate, Cllr Iris Johnston, was there to support another new shop in Westgate with the orange scissors, as was Sir Roger Gale. Which reminds me, Sir Roger will be joining us at a trader's meeting next Friday evening at 6pm at Reg Bell's office in Station Road to discuss the Sainsbury's application for Hundreds Farm. After that, it's over to our village MicroPub behind the Carlton cinema to celebrate their first birthday with some Real Ale. Hope to see you there.

A little later that morning...!

I've had such a telling off from readers about the change earlier today that I have switched everything back but can't find the original background. For the moment however, everything should be as it was and this 'progressive' Conservative hasn't progressed very far...

Some of my older readers have asked for an easier to read typeface and so I hope this now works, with a neutral grey theme and a camera photo, as I'm never without one!

Before I forget. BT inform me that Westgate will get its ADSL 2 exchange upgrade this summer, which should give local internet speeds of up to 20Mbs but it's not the super fast oprical fibre link we were hoping for. I leave it up to one of our anonymous resident experts to comment here if he will, as he seems much closer to the detailed technical issues than I am.


And finally, on the day of the London Marathon, where the oldest runner is reportedly 101,  a study of more than 200,000 Australians found that people who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying in the next three years than people who sat less than four hours a day. "This was after adjusting for factors such as age, weight, physical activity and general health status, all of which affect the death risk."

So get running or walking out there to stay well ahead of the 'Grim Reaper'.  I'm going for a run now and the full report is here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Dark & Unhappy Place

A dark and unhappy place.‘ It’s how I described last night’s long council meeting after one particular incident and I will do my best to deliver a short summary, while recommending that all readers try and watch the video of proceedings when it appears next week.

Sadly, Peter Tatchell and Abu Qatada were otherwise engaged and could not attend, so where to begin? The very fact that Councillors Nicholson and (Lenin) Harrison were wearing suits and ties,  rather gave the game away, as both normally dress down to express their working men's solidarity with the proletariat.

As expected, the Conservative motion not to debate gay marriage was lost and then everyone was waiting for the big moment, for Cllr Driver to deliver his carefully prepared speech. He didn’t disappoint, with bold rhetoric and strident references to discrimination, apartheid and more. Young Cllr Will Scobie followed-up with an equally passionate speech about bullying and the problem of troubled gay young men committing suicide but quite what that had to do with the motion or the Government consultation, is anyone’s guess.

Basically, the hour-long debate was polarised between those on the Conservative side who  wished to debate the motion with reference to the Government’s directions; implementation, or how we best remove the ban on same sex couples having a civil marriage and the Labour and Thanet Independent Group, supported by a noisy and partisan public gallery,  following a script of their own. This had nothing whatsoever to do with implementation of equal civil marriage and rather more to do with a huge soap-box opportunity for accusing the Conservatives of ‘copping-out’; slinging allegations of homophobia around like confetti.

At one point, I reminded members opposite that there was no purpose in being drawn into a battle over the rights or wrongs of equal marriage as this will be the responsibility of Parliament but what actually happened resembled some kind of Orwellian show trial where the Conservatives were in the dock.

In any event, Cllr Driver’s motion was carried by the combined weight of the Labour and John Worrow’s independents and Cllr Driver declared a victory and unfurled a rainbow flag, (shown in the video below) demanding it now be flown from the top of the council building.

Very disturbingly, as I pointed out to Council later that evening, several people in the public gallery were ‘Tweeting’ an account of events.

A local woman named Jan Dunn ( @JanDunnFilm) was broadcasting comments like "Staggering homophobia being shown by tory councillors in Thanet re motion on equal gay registry marriage" and "Thanet homophobes confirmed so far Cllrs ... , .... and ..... , quelle surprise all tories!"

While I have removed the names, I'm told this may be a criminal offence as there is a clear rule over broadcasting from the Council gallery and the public were reminded of this before the meeting began. Equally disturbing was that Clive Hart, the Leader of the Labour Group, clearly hadn’t a clue what I was talking about and its implications. - see video from ThanetWatch below.




Other high points or should I say low points of the evening, were the eulogy delivered by Cllr Worrow. Leader of Thanet Independent Group (TIG)  to Clive Hart who he described as running a ‘New progressive administration’ and added ‘On this hysteric note has grasped the nettle of leading TDC successfully’ which at least received a laugh before he realised what he had said.

The Leader of the ‘other’ independent group, Tom King, had his own opinion on Cllr Worrow and the TIG’s who he described as having ‘Over inflated egos and self interest who were elected as independents but who now use threats and intimidation; resembling nothing more than political pygmies.'

Let’s not forget Cllr (Sober) Jack Cohen for a moment, who had one of his senior moments, having moved his political support and perhaps even his legendary drinks cabinet, closer to the Labour Leader’s office since his defection to TIG. Cllr Cohen, who declared that ‘strange things happen in Birchington’; many of us would agree, has a bee in his bonnet over free parking. Last night he accused Cllr Bruce of fiddling the results of his recent survey, published on this weblog. In a nutshell, the Conservatives proved that Labour’s figures were completely awry, unfairly favouring quite remarkably, Birchington, in contrast with, for example, Northdown Road but Cllr Cohen was having none of it although at times members commented he was more incoherent than usual.

A few final notes. Manston airport has completely disappeared from the council’s corporate plan or more accurately, the word ‘Airport’ appears just once. The plan itself has no promises, simply ‘aims’ but this led Council Leader, Clive Hart to angrily retort that he ‘Under promises and over delivers’ or was that the other way around?

So there you have some of the action. I have deliberately left out Cllr Worrow’s more bizarre and offensive outbursts and reference to his sticking out his tongue and blowing kisses at councillors and added a little excerpt from 'I Claudius' instead until you can watch the video of the meeting. You really need to view this for yourself, otherwise you would never believe I’m not making it all up. At times, council officers looked quite appalled and even Labour members opposite looked very uncomfortable. Any resemblance to Cllr Clive Hart or Cllr Iris Johnston in the first video is purely coincidental. - 

From where I sit, proper democracy here in Thanet is a dead duck. The council is controlled by the TIG’s who are keeping a minority Labour administration in control. In May we will see what their reward is. Rational debate isn’t stifled, it’s simply suffocated. There’s not even a small effort on the Labour benches to pursue anything that I would recognise as rational argument, just shouting,  hyperbole and some weird ideology of the 1950's factory floor, from  several Labour members, those with a primitive class-war-hatred of ‘Tories’, which doubles as an insult.

As reported in today's Thanet Gazette, Cllr's Worrow, Driver and Cohen, will be conducting a 'Triumph' on Birchington High Street at 10:30 am on Sunday morning from the Alpha Road car park. All  'roads lined with cheering crowds' please!

"It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words" - George Orwell - 1984

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Correspondence

As time passes, the antics of several of our local councillors no longer surprise me but this week, I was quite frankly appalled at the discourtesy shown by one our independents, in an email reply, sent to a Roman Catholic parish priest. This was in response to the latter's concerns at the heated atmosphere, presently surrounding the gay marriage debate scheduled for full Council tomorrow evening.

The priest, reflecting the concerns of both the Catholic church and his parishioners, the councillor's constituents, sent a polite and well-balanced letter where he wrote:

"People really care about this issue and I'm very worried and disturbed that certain local politicians and councillors are referring to anyone who objects to the proposed changes as 'bigoted' and 'homophobic'. The issue here is not about homosexuality itself or about appropriate rights for individuals or alternative relationships.

These subjects are debated and will continue to be so, however, the matter at hand solely concerns the concept and nature of marriage itself. No new rights or privileges will be gained for same-sex couples by means of this legislation. What is being proposed is quite simply the abolition of the legal and civic recognition of 'conjugal or procreative unions' (which have always been called marriage) as unique and vital for society. The change will replace this time-honoured institution with general love-relationship recognition (which would only be called marriage in name) open to ever broader and vaguer attributions."

Readers may agree or disagree with this but as a priest and constituent, he was exercising his right to communicate with the councillor involved and to receive the reply (verbatim) that followed and was widely circulated is, in my opinion, quite shameful.

"I am afraid the Catholic Chrurch (and many other churches) have a long shameful track record of sexual abuse and sexual oppression and seem to consitently get it badly wrong when it comes to dealing with matters of human love and sexuality. I will not therefore be counselled by you on this issue."

There's more of course which I won't include here but to reply to a priest as 'Mr' is a visible insult and councillors, like myself, have a public duty,where council correspondence is involved, to treat everyone with proper courtesy and respect and this was not the case here.

I have emailed the parish priest in question to apologise on behalf of all councillors here in Thanet who share the same principles I value. I would also have liked to have published his reply to the independent councillor involved, which offered a lesson in reason and Christian patience.

Have we really sunk so low I wonder? Perhaps like me, you believe that in the circumstances, a more formal apology is required to both the priest and parishioners involved? Or maybe not? What do you think?

I may add to this later but have a school assembly to attend now.

Postscript:

Following-on from all of this, the Thanet Conservative Group has just issued a press release that it intends to vote against debating same sex marriage motion:

'The Conservative Group at Thanet District Council will vote against debating the same sex marriage motion at Thursday night’s Council meeting.

Group leader, Cllr Bob Bayford explained: “The consultation document from the Government could not be clearer. It states that ‘this consultation is about how we best remove the ban on same sex couples having a civil marriage, not on whether this should or should not happen.’

“We believe, when family budgets are tight and council services stretched, that there are far more pressing issues for Thanet District Council to be considering.

“This motion is brought about by two independent councillors who are imposing their own agendas on a hung council. The weak, minority Labour administration is allowing itself to be held to ransom by these councillors in order to cling to power.”

Should Council vote in favour of the debate, the Conservative Group will allow a free vote on the main motion.'

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Great Westgate Sainsbury's Debate

It was an emotionally charged atmosphere at the public meeting to discuss Sainsbury's in Westgate, yesterday evening, with over two hundred people attending at the Carlton cinema; the old town hall building.

The meeting started with a series of short presentations from the guests on the stage. Gerald Knight represented the supermarket chain, Reg Bell, the local traders, Cllr Tom King, the Westgate Residents, Cllr Alasdair Bruce, Birchington residents, Cllr Robert Burgess, gave the Kent County Council (KCC) perspective and Simon Thomas of Thanet District Council answered questions on planning process.

I'm sure the local paper will give a more detailed report on Friday but in brief summary, Cllr Burgess said that KCC were unhappy with the application from a highways perspective and Reg Bell explained why he believed the application could be challenged in respect to the potential impact on the surrounding economy.

As you might expect, those in favour of the new supermarket were greatly outnumbered by those vigorously against the plan for a wide variety of reasons. The embattled Sainsbury's team of experts, present to answer questions from the public, were given a very hard ride indeed, when the debate moved to the floor for questions from the public. At times I struggled to keep the debate on topic, which was a Sainsbury's store in Westgate, rather than the equally controversial subject of predatory supermarkets in general. Sainsbury's at one point, suggesting that local traders "Up their game" I thought unlikely to win hearts and minds among the audience.

Thanet North MP, Sir Roger Gale, was unable to attend but sent  a letter of support, which was read-out by Cllr Bruce:

"I have looked at the  proposals and can find no grounds for supporting them.

The designs are out of keeping with the local townscape. There is no clamour for such a facility in the area and, most importantly of the company`s proposals are unacceptable on highways grounds.

Members of Parliament have limited powers in relation to planning applications as the latter are the responsibility of the Local Authority and, upon appeal, of the Secretary of State. I shall, however, exert such influence as I have to oppose the  application and to support those very many local people – my constituents – who are equally opposed to the plan."

Sainsbury`s might do well to learn from the “Tesco Experience” in Herne Village."


If you wish to express your support for the development or object, you have until 27th April to write or email into Democratic Service at Thanet District Council giving your reasons. The planning reference is: F/TH/12/0220 and there's more information on previous weblog entries here.

Alternatively, you can send a letter or email to one of your local councillors who will pass it on for you.

My thanks, once again, to the Carlton cinema for hosting the meeting and to everyone involved for attending and expressing their opinions.

Before I forget... the new SelectSpecs in Station Road, Westgate will be having its grand opening late on Friday afternoon. Among the guests, Mayor of Margate, Iris Johnston, will be cutting the ribbon and Sir Roger Gale will be there too.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Comic Strip

Although I have reservations over offering the oxygen of publicity to the two local councillors engaged in a local gay marriage campaign, being bought before Council next Thursday, I did think that it was only fair that readers could have the option of hearing from them in this video and draw conclusions of their own.



Admittedly, it's from the same incisive local, left-wing, production company that gave us equally thrilling reports on 'Occupy Thanet', 'Occupy Turner' and let's not forget 'Thanet Strike' and unlike most news reports, there are no audience shots at all, strongly suggesting that the three speakers were addressing a near empty room. This is however still a democracy or here in Thanet or it was until quite recently and I'm sure we will hear much the same fevered rhetoric again next Thursday evening now the independents have had their rehearsal.

Amid the fiery anti-Gale rhetoric, Cllr Driver refers to hate-filled homophobic blogs calling for 'Cllr Worrow to be hung' but if I read the offending comment on BigNewsMargate correctly, that's before it was subsequently removed by Tony Flaig, under pressure from Cllr Driver, the implicit meaning was that hanging should be reserved for political idiots making daft policy statements and if this were true, the Liberal Democrats, might have even less Parliamentary seats than they do already.

Many of us will remember the very popular early 90's TV comedy series, 'The Comic Strip' and if you haven't watched the classic 'Strike' about Arthur Scargill and the miners then you have missed both a treat and a lesson on how politics, here in Thanet, struggles to move on from what are seen by some of us, as the glory days of several of our socialist councillors. The common link to Mr Scargill's campaign, is of course none other than Cllr Driver but I won't spoil your enjoyment if you choose to watch it to remind yourself of happier times..

And finally, Cornwall Council has reportedly told its schools that pagan beliefs, which include witchcraft, druidism and the worship of ancient gods such as Thor, should be taught alongside Christianity, Islam and Judaism. I can feel an independent motion coming on to debate this important matter at the next meeting of the Council in May.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Half Hour is No Good

On Friday, the Thanet Gazette published an account of the Birchington parking story but appears to have missed-out some important detail. Birchington councillor, Dr Alasdair Bruce, has asked me to carry a copy of the letter he sent to the Gazette, as he is concerned his argument wasn't clearly reflected in the story that appeared there.

Alasdair writes:

"I have been attacked by Cllrs Worrow and Cohen, for not voting in favour of ½ hour free parking in Birchington. As a District Councillor, I am under an obligation to my constituents to do my best for them, but I am also under obligation to the whole population of Thanet to vote for the best for the island.

As I am a scientist by profession, I do not make claims that cannot be supported by evidence. Therefore, I spent three days in Birchington High Street at the start of this month, gathering as many traders’ opinions on the parking issue, and several opinions from customers in the shops.

Clearly the response depends on the trade itself, but of the 73 shops I visited, 49 were in favour of all day Saturday free parking and 23 in favour of ½ hour each day (2 chose neither, 1 chose both!). That is a resounding 67% for all day Saturday, in line with rest of the island, and only 31% in favour of the plan that Cllrs Worrow and Cohen put forward. 

Most importantly, out of all the traders, only 1 had previously been asked about Birchington’s parking issue and another said he had been invited to a meeting…….which was subsequently cancelled without him being informed! There were a lot of additional comments made such as: -

- ½ hour is no good to the elderly population or mothers with small children.

- ½ hour is no use if you need to go to the other end of the High Street.

- Thought we already had ½ hour as had received a leaflet saying so!!

- ½ hour not long enough, gives insufficient time with customer

- Find a better option!!!!!!!!

- Why should Birchington be different to the rest of the island?

The current Cabinet, and in fact the entire council, have been misled by two self-serving individuals, who made unsupported claims without even asking the traders or residents of Birchington, about the parking issue within the village.

I have no problem with showing my results to the current Cabinet and I stand by my survey details. So, I have no hesitation in inviting any member of the Cabinet to come with me back to the traders in Birchington to ask the same questions I asked:-

1) Do you want ½ free parking in Albion car park every day or free parking, in the same car park, all day Saturday?

2) Has any councillor asked you for your opinion before?


These two councillors stated in December that the traders wanted ½ free parking without offering any evidence. For the sake of Democracy, the council cannot ignore such irresponsible behaviour.

The cost to the ratepayer for ½ hour free parking in Birchington is £24,000 opposed to £6,000 for Saturday……the cost to the Labour party is 2 votes. Which will prevail?"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ice Cream & Coffee

Before I go and buy the local paper; someone has to I suppose, I wanted to jot down a few housekeeping announcements for Westgate. So if you aren't lucky enough to live here, my apologies and my next story will be along soon!

As a gentle reminder to at least two of our local headline-hungry independent councillors on what the role of a local district councillor actually involves, the public meeting to discuss Sainsbury's building a supermarket at Hundreds Farm on the Canterbury Road, will take place on this coming Monday evening at 7pm. The Carlton Cinema have very generously allowed us to use their large theater which seats up to 300 people, with the added bonus of refreshments and ice cream available on the way in.

As this meeting involves inviting both Westgate and Birchington residents, there's always a chance we may not have enough room to accommodate everyone and because of fire regulations and capacity, entry will be on a 'first come basis'. The cinema will be opening at 6:30pm and so I recommend that people arrive early to be sure of a good seat.

There will be a microphone to allow people to ask questions but I also recommend that you write any question you might have on a piece of paper and pass it to me as chair, on the stage and I can read it out. Please include your name and town on it.

Last evening, there was a small meeting of traders in Westgate to discuss the supermarket application, chaired by Reg Bell and afterwards, Councillor King and I walked down to the private opening evening of the new Molly's Bar in Station Road.

Lorraine (pictured) the new owner, has done a wonderful job of creating a cosy, coffee, licensed wine and tapas bar in Westgate and the public opening is on Saturday.

Molly's has free internet WiFi and is next-door to the men's hairdresser and Stelios, 'Stevie' there, is delighted because his customers can buy a coffee or a capuchino while they are waiting for a haircut and sit at the tables outside on a nice day.

At the opposite end of the village, now that Morena's nail bar has moved to the dizzy painted metropolis of Birchington, I see a sign has already gone-up for an Italian ice-cream bar and so in a very short space of time, Westgate is suddenly becoming rather chic and I'm delighted to see such entrepreneurial spirit in difficult times.

I'm also reminded the that new Strength Youth Cafe will be opening on thursday April 19th at 7pm. ( St John Ambulance building, Cuthbert Road, Westgate. Please do let any 13-19 year olds in the local community know!!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bananas - I'm Alright Jack

Its finally happened, a predictable coup worthy of a small banana republic.

This afternoon, the Birchington Independendent Councillor Jack Cohen announced that he was leaving Tom King's Independent Party to join 'El Presidente' Cllr John Worrow's Thanet Independent Party, where he feels more politically comfortable and can perhaps better support his new leader in a bid to find the council funds needed to host this summer's 'Minnis Bay Pride Diversity Weekend.'

So what does this mean to the good people of Thanet? Very simply, with the Conservative, Brian Goodwin, recovering in hospital from a serious operation, El Presidente', Driver and 'Sober' Jack now hold the balance of power on the island. Much like the video clip you see below, they can now introduce any daft or irrelevant motion or policy they may wish, because Labour's Clive Hart, now finds himself in the unhappy position of being bent over a political barrel; reduced to being an extra in a Woody Allen movie.



Some people may laugh at this, having lost any faith in local politics a long time ago but others, realising the awful implications of placing these three playground actors in positions of any responsibility, will understand that Thanet now finds itself in a very unhappy political place with real consequences for all of us living here.

Of equal seriousness is the issue of who controls and chairs the most important committees on the council from next May. Normally, these would go to the best qualified and experienced in any political group but this is unlikely to be the case in future, as the largest special responsibility allowances are suddenly available to those who would never have had even the most remote chance of claiming one of these positions on merit. Dr. Cohen was quite likely to have lost his well remunerated planning role, if he had stayed put and so the popular expression that first springs to any suspicious political mind, is of course 'Follow the money.'

Up and until Christmas, I was optimistic that under the last administration - and of course I'm biased - we had finally buried the grubby seventies monument to narrow ambition that defined Thanet politics in the minds of so many people.

Perhaps I was simply naive! I know the Conservative group and Tom King's remaining Independents (he and Bob Grove) are keen to explore any sensible way forward, working with Clive's Labour group to find consensus to prevent Thanet's political scene and its future, being dominated by three councillors with their own very personal agendas.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Winging-it

As Bank Holidays go. this one appears to be following a well-established British tradition of cold wet weather. We can't really complain, given the spring-like conditions of the last month but a little blue sky would have been nice in contrast to having to watch the inevitable re-runs of Ben Hur and Lawrence of Arabia.



This last week, I was lucky to get a banner flying for a division of MGM over Elstree studios and fly my annual multi-engine renewal flight-test. The cost of aviation fuel is now becoming so steep that flying anything with more than one engine is becoming a crippling expense and the aviation industry is being as hard hit as any other sector of the economy. What also concerns commercial pilots like me, is that many private pilots (PPLs) are cutting back their hours and with it, their currency. That can make for much less safe airspace around some of the busier airfields, when so many pilots are only flying the bare minimum hours necessary to keep their licenses. Several  PPLs I know have given-up altogether, either through losing their jobs or simply to save money in the recession.

The blogging scene this weekend appears to be once again dominated by 'diversity issues', with one of our local councillors leaving the implicit threat of some kind of complaint, hanging over several local weblogs, my own included.

To be honest, I regard the debate here as having been, on the most part, adult, restrained,  insightful and well-argued. Of course there are bound to be one or two exceptions but nothing that might attract an elite corps of 'diversity blogging wardens' or even the police, banging on my front-door.

What alarms me in all of this is that a small minority appear to be denying what I perceive as the majority, the right to have any say, debate or discussion whatsoever. To me, that's not democracy but crude fascism and I'm not prepared to accept it.

If there's a single benefit to this weblog among my more anodyne entries, it's that the content and moderated comments are widely read by the political establishment of all parties here in Thanet. In other words, if you want to have your say, then here is a good place to be noticed and possibly much faster than writing to your own ward Councillor on any controversial issue as many readers have discovered in the past.

So let's accept that people have opposing and often entrenched points of view on many subjects, among them, supermarkets, banking conspiracies, Cameron's 'Silk Monkeys', race, immigration and of course the raw topic of gay marriage and whether the council should debate the subject. As long as readers are prepared to exchange intelligent argument and satirical comments, then we as politicians should be prepared to listen and learn. There are always things we don't want to hear but there are a great many more that we should hear.

Seeing ham-fisted efforts to suspend any right to debate those things that concern the people who put us here is not why I became a local councillor and I for one, have every intention of supporting the right of people to political and moral self-expression.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

FIDO Walks

On a lighter note for this Easter Sunday, I was in Cliftonville's Northdown Road yesterday and couldn't help notice some anti-social parking outside the office of one of our political parties. As I had to park-up properly in a bay and walk a couple of hundred yards back again, I wasn't quick enough to capture the enormous Mercedes outside the front-door, with the equally larger than life character driving it and so you only have one of the two cars photographed.

Why did I bother? People are bound to jump to conclusions and you may vaguely recall the self-righteous political uproar that reached the local paper, when a Conservative councillor was photographed parked on double-yellow lines outside the Association in Birchington, one Christmas, delivering some boxes.'What goes around, comes around.'

I did approve of the bin outside the front door but this went quite unnoticed by the young man in the brown tweed 'hoodie' with his cheerful 'Staffie' on a morning stroll.

Neither one of the two had any political affiliation that I could detect but the dog paused briefly and left a large deposit in the middle of the pavement and the pair, the owner unconcerned and the dog quite pleased with itself, continued on towards the empty remains of Woolworth's as if nothing had happened.

The council, I'm told, is now making tackling dog-fouling a much greater priority, which I'm very pleased about but how we reach-out effectively to the pair I saw yesterday I really don't know. So, you fine the owner £1,000. He then either disappears (34% of Cliftonville West and Margate Central residents are transient) or he simply doesn't bother to turn-up in court and pay the fine. For those living on benefits at the fringes of our society, as the London riots demonstrated last year, legal sanctions really have no deterrent value worth discussing.


I was told however, that the FIDO pavement cleaning machine has been seen out and about in the Westbrook and Westgate and if you happen to spot it in your area, do let me know. I'm afraid that retrospectively adding a mini-gun to the chassis as a proactive deterrent to some unhelpful dog owners was my idea! You wait, someone, somewhere will be offended by this!

My thoughts now turn briefly to planning, always a contentious issue in Thanet and I have attached a letter to the local paper from Ewen Cameron, whose diligence and persistence resulted in a giant phone mast planned for the front of Westgate library, to be rejected.

Ewen Writes:

"I was delighted to learn that this hideous planning application has been withdrawn. A rare dose of common sense. It was aimed at erecting a mobile telecoms tower on Westgate crossroads. An eyesore. Bang outside the treasured library. In a designated preservation area. 5 Meters taller than the already very tall street lights on the A28. Complete with four metal sheds for power and tools."

Insane.

The underlying applicants were T-Mobile, Orange, and "3" (Hutchison Telecom).Giants, with unlimited money.

I was probably the first, as an "adjacent householder", to learn of this application. The tight timelines meant detailed research compressed to just ten days. Needed. It involved a telecoms engineer, and a chartered surveyor. Both unpaid volunteers (thank you both). Finding out about transceiver sharing, and so forth, Hard work in vile weather. The result was a detailed, ten page letter of objection to TDC. Despite ice, canvassed the households nearby. Despite just four days to respond. Over 4 out of 10 lodged objections. Several wanted, and got, copies of my letter of objection. A higher rate than Westgate's "other" major planning application.

TDC Planning pulled a U-Turn of major proportions. Having warned at least one of the District Councilors that there was "no reason to refuse", they read the facts, and indicated they were minded to refuse. Well done. It's dead.

Thanks are due to Councilors Tom King and Simon Moores. Both of whom are Westgate residents. Very supportive. Tom was quick off his toes, beating Simon narrowly to call this horror in for a full hearing by the Planning Committee. Everything about this application was wrong. Particularly sneaking it in just before Christmas. Giving the elected representatives just ten working days to respond before the full application went in. Even the Applicant admitted this was to "save money". Disgraceful.

This one's beaten off. To any householder, I would advise keeping a sharp eye out for planning application notices. Often a little A4 notice strapped to a lamp post. Almost all I spoke to were unaware of this application, and its sheer scale. All were alarmed when appraised of what it meant.

Informed objection does work. Exercise your rights.

In this case, the application was technologically and economically unnecessary. It was a "land grab". It also served no public interest. Quite to the contrary. It would have been a major eyesore in a very prominent place. To be avoided.

The Planning Officer concerned was, correctly, careful to warn me that evidence submitted would not be duplicated on any similar repeat application, Understood. All kept carefully. They will need to get by us first."

Well done Ewen! The credit is all yours. We can all learn something from this story of a successful planning challenge. Finally and for any aviation fans, a rather nice little video with a lovely sound-track to match to get you in the Sunday frame of mind. Have a good holiday weekend!



Friday, April 06, 2012

Dearly Beloved

Chris Wells has asked me to put-up this column, writing that "On Good Friday, of all days in the year, the Thanet Gazette refuses to publish an article on religious fears on civil marriage equality."

Of course, if the Gazette, is being as selective as it usually is, then it's probably right that I give Chris, who has strong personal views on whether it is proper to debate this at full Council, an opportunity to have his say here and invite readers comments on his argument:

Civil Marriage Equality – National Myths & Local Farce

'Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony…'…the opening words of the 1662 Prayer Book Solemnization of Matrimony reflect very clearly the important role public marriage plays in the stability of our society.

An honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church. Throughout history, marriage has always reflected the complimentary natures of men and women in creating a stable union for family life. It is not perfect, divorce and death may wreak havoc through some of it, but the research into family life clearly shows that children do better with a married mother and father.

First it was ordained for the procreation of children. Marriage remains the basic building block of family life, carrying with it key elements of the moral tone and inter generational glue of our communities. The success and popularity of church schools is as often about the stability of the married, committed, families that attend them as of anything else. It is fascinating that the government’s consultation document airbrushes children out of marriage with casual disdain.

Second it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication….the price of multi partner parenthood is all around us, and generally causes more difficulties for our society than the long term union of marriage. Campaigner and government failure to include the risks to bringing up children in their consultation is uncomfortable, and dishonest.

Thirdly it was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have for the other, both in prosperity and adversity….something quite properly reflected, and celebrated, as fully in civil partnerships, which brings all the legal benefits of marriage.

It is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly. To redefine marriage, we are told, is an imperative of diversity and equality. It is fascinating how diversity is demanded constantly as a reason to redefine institutions, but when diversity campaigners are asked to permit some diversity into their demands, grey socialist uniformity is all. The European Court of Human Rights has recently ruled that same sex marriages are not a human right; and suggested that if same sex couples are allowed to marry, for churches to refuse same sex couples weddings will be discrimination – a decision that destroys the government’s promise for religious marriage contained in its consultation. To quote a leading discrimination lawyer: ‘if same sex marriage is legalised, it would be illegal for government to prevent such marriages happening on religious premises.’

Therefore if any man can show just cause why they may not be lawfully joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter hold his peace. This sham of a consultation shows clearly that government only seeks views on how to deliver this ill thought through change; but also offers opportunity for members of the public to state clearly they do not agree with redefining marriage, particularly where the risks to children’s upbringing, and the threats to the status of religious marriage, are so neatly hidden. As in the ringing tone of the marriage ceremony itself, people must speak, speak now, and speak loud to save traditional marriage, and its vital contribution to family life, from destruction.

Duly considering the causes for which matrimony was ordained. Why a District council, with no power over Registrars and their operation, is being pushed to consider this item is an even sadder story. Two councillors, stitched together as an ‘independent’ political party, who have both already abandoned the ticket on which they were elected after less than a year, are seeking public attention in an attempt to define difference between themselves and the voters and colleagues they have variously abandoned. It is a shabby and shameful tale, which must cast enormous doubt on their individual integrity and commitment – ironically, and tellingly, the key elements of a successful marriage; the issue they have chosen to exploit.

And they threaten those of us who may oppose them with all the tools of the campaigner armoury. One colleague has already been accused of homophobic attitudes, and I have been told if I dare to express my views I will be seen as like someone from the South African government in the 1980’s. Now Peter Tatchell and national campaigners will await us at the council chamber.

Well, gentlemen, bring it on. Bring him down early and let us debate the question away from wasting time in the council chamber on matters councillors cannot influence. I am sure a city sophisticate like Mr Tatchell will not fear locking horns with a local yokel like me; and your own tactics and dissembling dishonesty could do with a wash in the disinfectant of transparency.

Perhaps, most of all, I ask you all to reflect that those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder.

On Royal Sands

Cabinet yesterday evening but as it was on on 'pink' I can't say much about it beyond the subject, The Royal Sands development on the old Pleasurama site.

The Gazette's Thomas Brown sauntered in and sat down before the meeting started and had to be reminded politely but firmly, that the public and press were excluded. 'It doesn't matter' he said a little too smugly, 'I've got the papers anyway.'

This rather begs the question of who may have passed these confidential, commercially sensitive documents to the press and why but that's a council matter to resolve.

Our Leader, Clive Hart, introduced the evening by treating us with a short lecture. Unlike his predecessors, he told us, he was 'decisive' and didn't dither. 'What about Margate football club then' quipped Bob Bayford. Clive ignored this and carried on steaming ahead into unknown waters, much like the Titanic, telling us that he sees things in his office that people wouldn't believe. Whether he meant John Worrow or even the Easter bunny, wasn't quite clear, because some of us had tuned-out by then and our Leader suffers from a sense of humour deficit.

So, leaving out the contents of the meeting for reasons of confidentiality, I can reveal that 'decisive' Leader Clive did exactly what he did with the football club and kicked the topic back to a future Cabinet meeting following more reports.

Now you might think I'm unkind and politically biased but if our 'Leader' was in any sizeable business, even a junior manager, rather than being serially 'retired' for over a decade, on a disability pension, he simply wouldn't survive. Democracy is indeed a wonderful thing and here in Thanet we can see, only too clearly that local politics can thrust individuals with remarkable personal ambition but with little or no experience, qualification or indeed basic management skills, into positions of great influence over our lives. Historically, that can be true of any party but here on the island today, we have it with bells on.

Anyway, more fun to come in May where there is now talk of making Clive's new best friend, John Worrow chairman of the council in order to keep Clive and Labour in office with an independent casting vote; given that the Conservatives will remain one-down with Cllr Goodwin in hospital recovering from a serious operation. Parliament has Bercow and we may yet get Worrow. You couldn't make it up!

In the video below you can watch a much more politically astute Nigel Farage, 'seeing off' John Worrow, who boldly introduced himself as 'The Leader of the Independent Group' which sounds awfully important. I suspect Cllr Tom King might take issue. This subject of gay marriage of course has little or nothing to do with being a Birchinton local councillor and as Nigel Farage points out politely and firmly, he knows Peter Tatchell and rather more about the subject than John Worrow does.



On a completely different subject, 'Molly's the new tapas and wine bar in Westgate has had its license granted and will be having a grand opening this month, on the evening of the 14th. I'm really pleased to see another business open here in such difficult times and Station road free of empty shops, although there is one vacancy, right at the end of St Mildred's road, now the nail bar has moved to Birchington.

Finally, I understand a meeting took place on Wednesday of the 'Birchington Community Partnership' group. It was not clear whether this was a private or public meeting but I'm told via Bernard la Roche that a member of the public, Brian White, was thrown-out, after being verbally abused by one of our District councillors. I'm further informed that a mobile phone recording was made of the incident, which I'm trying to get hold of. Here's one they did earlier.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Westgate Sainsbury's Debate on BBC Radio Kent

Julia George on BBC Radio Kent this morning, devoted a whole hour to the vexing question of supermarket expansion in small towns and most of that coverage was devoted to the Sainsbury's application at Hundreds Farm, on the Canterbury Road at Westgate on Sea.

A number of people made useful and thought-provoking contributions to the programme and these included Reg Bell, representing traders, Cllr Alasdair Bruce, representing the village of Birchington as well as residents, neighbours and shopkeepers with a range of different opinions.

This was all very useful in helping paint a much larger picture of public opinion before the meeting on April 16th at Westgate's Carlton cinema at 7pm.

The programme started at 9am on Monday and you can find the BBC iPlayer link to listen again here.

Let me know what you think?

Meanwhile, I see the new Tesco Metro in Westbrook is provoking angry comments about parking or the lack of it outside the store on a dangerous junction. I witnessed this myself today and it rather begs the question of why it was given planning approval by Kent Highways in the first place!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A Margate Mirage

Visible to anyone looking out to see as I write this, the cold air having a lens effect and creating a mirage which appears to show the Essex Array windfarm, as close as the Thanet and Whitstable arrays, when it should be invisible and well-below the horizon at twenty miles away.

Look directly north from Margate, Westbrook or Westgate. Click on the photo to expand it to full size to see the atmospheric effect clearly.

Keen-eyed observers might also spot a camel and some palm trees if they try the experiment looking south from Dover.


Apply Here

Good jobs are few and far between these days but  I thought I would feature the dazzling career opportunity below in the event anyone attracted by the pay and conditions.

I suspect that one or two eccentric bloggers or indeed any independent councillor looking for an unusual but high-profile cause; a Peter Tatchell-like figure, battling for the rights of under-privileged Meerkats as a minority group, with great TV prospects, may well be tempted to apply.



I'm sure you welcomed, as I did, the decision by the council's Cabinet on Thursday night, that alongside approval of the new and contoversial parking plan, (reported by James Maskell) which will offer parts of Birchington a thirty-minute free concession, the equally good news that the parish council will now be expected to fund 'diversity-awareness classes' for all residents over the age of fifty at the Birchington Village centre.

Cllr Michele Fenner also announced that Birchington will also be the first village in Thanet and indeed the country, to trial the experimental appointment of the island's first 'Diversity Blogging Wardens.' These will be uniformed individuals, volunteers given statutory rights of entry under the amended Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), voted through Cabinet by Labour just after Xmas in case you missed it, to examine personal computers for non-diverse content but presently, at least, with no powers of seizure and arrest.

I'm hoping it will all make the BBC Daily Politics show at noon today, as the corporation's 'Guardianstas' appeared quite enthused by the whole idea. Further official details (item 6.2 of the Cabinet papers) of a meeting to be held at the Birchington Village centre from our council 'Diversity Champion', Cllr Worrow, who will be leading this initiative are reproduced below and a date will be announced shortly:

"6.2 A Public Meeting is to be held to talk about the responsibility of Bloggers regarding the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, with the aim of recruiting voluntary 'Diversity Blog Wardens', known as DBWs.

6.3 DBWs will become the blog and social network equivalent of Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators and will focus on local blogs and social networks.

6.3.1 DBWs will look out for hate posts and will report them if it is thought the law has been broken.

6.3.2 It is important to remember that DBWs are voluntary workers, and like Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators, they will have no powers of arrest."

Thursday's Cabinet also saw the new and revised council events budget - see decision - agreed by the Labour administration. Readers will have heard that Margate's 'Big Event' won't be taking place this summer but in its place, there are plans for a 'Minnis Bay Pride Diversity Weekend', to be held in the dip at Minnis Bay.

Cllr John Worrow commented:

"The Minnis Bay Live team, will be working together with members of the LGBT community, to make this an event you won't forget. The show is to be compared by Cllr Ian Driver, and will include Live Rock, Reggae music, a Village People Tribute Band, a Boy George lookalike contest, and an alternative Dog show for animal lovers.. There will be something for everyone."