Friday, February 08, 2013

Being There

It's a good strong adjective, 'Turgid' and rather like another expression of distaste, 'Sordid,' it offers a reasonably accurate impression of events in Thanet's Council chamber last night.

The important business of the evening was the island's budget for 2013 - 2014. Labour wanted to freeze Council Tax, do away with Margate's 'Big Event' and instead, give a generous donation of £10,000 each to the Ramsgate Tunnels and the Margate Caves; both arguably financial 'bottomless pits' of expense that remain unlikely to see any immediate return on investment in difficult times.

The Conservatives, calculated, that even with austerity and given Thanet's most recent windfall from central Government, if Labour didn't appoint an extra £90,000+ Council Director and expand its Cabinet, with an allowance to match, and cut back on the expanding bureacracy that invariably follows on the heels of any socialist admisitration on the island, then Council Tax could actually be 'Cut' by 2%,. This, they argued would send an important signal out to the residents of Thanet, that while times are tough, the Council can find cost savings and streamline its business to meet the demands of central Government.

Martin Wise, Shadow Member for Finance, remarked “Labour have added “nice to have” spending to the Council’s costs, including to confirm the 4.8% increase to the allowance they awarded themselves last year, rather than to give something back to Thanet residents. There is no justifiable reason why the Council Tax could not have been reduced by 2%, a relatively small sum in monetary terms, but hugely significant as a matter of principle”. “The reason our country is saddled with a huge annual financial deficit for which we are all now paying, is that Labour racked up public spending to unsustainable levels with exactly the kind of “nice to have” spending we are seeing in Thanet District Council’s spending”.

And then there's Councillor Driver and Councillor King, who together, cooked-up and then promptly cocked-up an amendment to the budget which was both admirable and impractical at the same moment. The proposal was that over £100,000 be set-aside for the Council's disadvantaged hardship fund and Cllr King became very agitated when this was rejected. The Chief Executive tried to explain that if the Council were to give deserving cases further support from a hardship fund, then this would have an immediate impact on their benefits and indeed, might be taxable too and so the novel idea was firmly kicked-into touch.

As Cllr's King and Driver, were both instrumental, through abstaining in the vote, in leading to the defeat of the Conservative amendment to reduce the Council tax and defeat Labour's budget, observer's were left with an impression from the every angry response to the loss of the Independent Group's amendment, that they had expected some kind of  'quid pro quo' from Clive Hart and didn't get it.

While Labour has it's own 'Diversity Champion,' Cllr John Worrow, the Conservatives now have a shadow champion of their own in Cllr Julie Marson, who delivered a fine speech on the 'One Billion Rising' campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence, a subject where Thanet sets all the wrong records, with over 3,000 reports of domestic absue in the year 2011 - 2012. A figure which continues to rise.

Following Cllr Iris Johnston's equally passionate speech supporting the campaign, Labour's own Diversity Champion, quite remarkably popped-up during Julie's speech, interrupting with a quite inappropriate outburst of his own, claiming that heterosexual councillors are treated differently during meetings. However, I seem to recall a letter last summer to the Thanet Gazette, where he claimed he wasn't, so perhaps he finally needs to make up his mind about his apparently confused orientation and indeed, the resignation he delivered via the BBC's South-east Today, in January.

Most hard-working local councillors are now heartily sick of important business being regularly hijacked and dragged into the playground to indulge the personal interests and vendettas of Cllr Ian Driver, Cllr Jack Cohen and Cllr John Worrow. In a minority administration however, Labour is paralysed and while it postures and preens about its policies, everyone knows it is intellectually deficient and lacks true substance. In order to stay in place and enjoy the temporary sense of political power, its Cabinet have no choice but look the other way when the fabulous three, run riot throught the Council Chamber.

One further point I want to add, which was raised by my colleagues Cllr Jo Gideon and Cllr Bob Bayford in the Chamber last night.

We heard from Clive Hart the allegation that Conservative Cabinet Members, like me, didn't work hard enough, didn't manage officers enough and were not in the council offices frequently enough, where in contrast, he and his colleagues are present most of the time.

There's a fundamental misunderstanding here, which goes to the hear of local government and illustrates a real difference between Labour and Conservatism.

Councillors aren't appointed to 'manage'. Period. They exist at Cabinet level to offer political direction and work with civil servants to deliver strategic direction, as well as being the accountable face of local democracy. In reality, they have no remit whatsover to manage anyone, other than indulge their inflated egos here in Thanet.

In contrast with camping-out in a council office with my name on the door - an anathema to me - I would be in and out on average two days a week, because I have a real job; basically what the whole idea of local democracy intended. Not I shoukld add career Labour politicians milking the taxpayer and interfering with the day to day business of local government.

You witness this kind of local government in the north of the country in a line from Liverpool to Newcastle, where public service becomes a ghastly entrenched bureacracy, an Orwellian fantasy that embeds poverty and deprivation where nothing has moved on since the turn of the last century.

It's not being there that matters above everything, with the frequently turgid and unpleasant company that keeps the Thanet Labour group in place. It's what you do in office; what you deliver and the confidence that you offer those who look to you for leadership in such difficult times.

So may I remind Clive Hart's Cabinet once again. You are not here to manage, it's not your job, and from the  unremarkable record of achievement to date, you are rather less than qualified to direct anything more complex than a shopping trolly in Tesco.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why not RAISE council tax by 2% instead to fund those "bottomless pits" as you put it? TDC needs to realise that the only hope of Thanet prospering again is to invest in tourism projects like this.

Michael Child said...

Simon I am not sure you have read this one right, the following for underground tourist attractions has increased considerably, the tunnels at Dover castle now have a pretty much continuous queue.

I think there is a real problem that Thanet lacks much in the way of all weather tourist attractions, the Turner taking no more than and hour, really Quex is about all we have on a wet day where you can spend a couple of hours.

The Ramsgate tunnels extend for about five miles with about three miles of them still being relatively usable, potential for serious tourism.

There is also considerable support among local people for opening our caves and tunnels.

This also evidenced by in real cash terms as the book I publish on the Ramsgate Tunnels out selling any on my other local history publications by a considerable factor.

Nethercourt said...

I can only sympathise with you.
Attending such meetings must be frustrating in the extreme.
If they were scripted I'd suspect Galton and Simpson!

Simon Moores said...

That's why they are bottomless. 2% on Council Tax would hardly scratch the surface I fear.

I absolutely agree that they represent a wonderful local tourist attraction but without a huge investment of money that simpy does not exist in the public sector, there is no viable commercial plan to subsidise their re-opening

Readit said...

Simon, your preconceived ideas and lack of knowledge of Ramsgate are astounding.

Clive Hart's administration may not be perfect but at least he knows where Ramsgate is and comes to consult us regularly.

We certainly prefer their style of leadership to the "ivory towers" of Thanet Conservatives and before you say it I believe in "no politics" local government.

Also - Ramsgate Tunnels - watch that space!


Simon Moores said...

That's about as facile as saying Clive consults with the residents of Minster and Birchington.

Regardless of your efforts to split Thanet in two, it is actually viewed as a single entity from a Council perspective. For example you don't have meetings where councillors plot to disadvantage one town in favour of another, so dream on.

A council provides services, that's it. As much as some councillors might wish to strut around and pretend they can have a disporportionate impact on one spot over another, the simple truth is that local government is very restrictive. So carry on deluding yourself, because while one might see the occasional crumb, diverted in one direction in an attempt to win votes, it's gesture politics with little substance, rather like Clive I suspect if you see him in Council!

Readit said...

I hope all the electorate read your reply, because if that is the extent of your vision then "God help Thanet".

Simon Moores said...

I'm afraid you simply show your ignorance of the facts, so I'm quie used to it by now!

Gypsy Jack said...

Industrial Revolution

Before there can be any economic solution there has to be a recognition of fundamental truth.

The UK has been in decline ever since we introduced mandatory state education and state policing.

When state policing wasn't under sufficient political control we got "Special Branch" and when that wasn't sufficiently in house at Whitehall we created MI5 early 20th century.

Education and state policing were harnessed to the same end. Social control.

Not surprisingly nowadays Human Rights lawyers and pressure groups are two a penny. But Citizen duties, obligations and responsibilities lawyers are as rare as rocking horse manure.

Education is really linguistic programming. Equip the students with the jargon and leave them to infer that with the lexicon of jargon they have acquired wisdom or knowledge.

"Conspiracy theorist" "Homophobic" "Racist" "Little Englander" "Enriched by multiculturalism" "We should celebrate our diverse society" "what we need is an ice rink and olympic sized swimming pool" (?) are examples of the pseudo wisdom dismissive single liners issued by the educationalists.

Yet how many people regurgitating their programming know what a priori reasoning is ? Revd George Boole ? Boolean algebra ? How many know about the shipping in chains of English and Irish citizens into slavery in the west Indies ?

How many recite respect for "Black culture" ? It is a nonsense. In Ghana alone up to the 60s there were over a 100 tribal identities. Africa has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world put together. It is a myth invented by social theorists that the slave trade was against exclusively black people and it is a myth that there is a single black heritage and culture.

The multicultural experiment is a crude social control divide and rule exercise. Get the people divided by providing groups for individuals to "Identify" with.

An ill educated, over policed (including thought police and health and safety), divided land stands no chance of economic recovery.

Tom Clarke said...

Worry not, Simon, for poor old Ken is still all bitter and twisted that the Thanet electorate did not jump at the chance to have his wisdom available on the district council. He is also something of a Michael Child luvvie with the same anti-Tory bias.

Wanda Rogers said...

As someone who does not follow any specific political party, partly because I cannot really tell the differences between them, your illustrated difference between Labour and Conservatism was interesting. Surely a council officer is managed by their supervisor in accordance with employment legislation to carry out their job description.

Should I then be asking a Labour councillor what type of management is needed and in what context? With my recent experiences I'm of the opinion that there is no clear process to follow within TDC (in certain circumstances)or if there is then it is not readily revealed.

Anonymous said...

Instrumental in defeating the conservative amendment to lower council tax? Excuse me were you at the meeting? The Tories had 21 plus 2 independent Tory votes which gave them 23 ,labour had 25 plus Cllrs Worrow and Cohen which gave them 27 so the three independent votes left made no difference. Don't blame others for your own party's failure as usual to get all their members to full council on the most important meeting of the year-the budget.Talking of which ,were'nt you missing the night your leader was deposed and help labour into power?

Simon Moores said...

True, I was stuck in Amsterdam during the "hurricane" that night which delayed my flight back into Gatwick!

My vote, strangely enough on that evening would have been nice but thanks to Messrs Worow and Cohen, yet again, with an abstension by Tom King, would have made no difference to the outcome!

If you examine your numbers again for last week, I would call that pretty instrumental, wouldn't you..?

Anonymous said...

No I would'nt that was the whole point of my reply,26 does'nt beat 27 even if the independents had supported you and why should they?The truth is the Tory opposition is pathetic even though it is up against a woefully weak Labour administration. Two members missing for the budget meeting and a hung council at that, what commitment!!