Friday, April 19, 2013

A Right Carry-on

To establish the sequence of extraordinary events at last night’s meeting of Thanet District Council, you will have to look back on my Twitter feed remarks but I will try and summarise the highlights as a complete report would take pages of text.

The big debate last evening was to surround the future of the Ramsgate Pleasurama agreement and the issues surrounding both the freehold of the site and the suitability of the developer. The problems to date, claimed Labour's Cllr Poole, in his speech, lay firmly at the feet of the millionaires and 'greedy international bankers' who had caused the recession. He failed to explain quite how and why.

Conservatives constantly pressed Labour for clarity over their intentions and persistently met a wall of prevarication, distraction and finger-pointing, mostly from Cllr Iris Johnstone, on arguments going back almost two decades. This led Cllr Julie Marson to remark on Labour's policy on Pleasurama as "Putting the sham into shambles and the shame into shameless."

Everyone expected that Cllr Ian Driver would use the meeting as an opportunity to promote himself and his County Council campaign but none-of-us expected that both he and local ‘activist’ and film-maker, Christine Tongue would actually provoke the situation that came next when they started to openly film the debate in contravention of the Council’s rules.

I’m sure Christine will have this on YouTube very soon, to further the political agendas of both of them, so I won’t spoil it for you until you have seen it!



The result of all this 'Carry-on', was that the Chair, Kay Dark, had to instruct security to remove Ms Tongue and as Cllr Driver, then refused to accept the authority of the Chair and not to give any assurances that he would not continue to film, he was expelled from the chamber and a fifteen minute recess called.

Councillors of all parties were appalled by the behaviour they had witnessed and Council Leader, Clive Hart, later commented: The glee on Cllr Driver's face was unacceptable” as was his "Grandstanding."

Many people had attended to hear the debate on Pleasurama but now it went off the rails even further, when Clive Hart forgot to reserve his own right to reply on the subject. The Conservatives, with no confidence in Labour’s motion to have the Pleasurama football, kicked-back to cabinet for the third time for decision (remember Margate Football Club) and a quiet burial, demanded that instead, it be sent to the scrutiny committee, where it was felt by many to belong.

This was put to the vote and it was found that the minority Labour administration were one vote down. Young Cllr Will Scobie had left the chamber earlier to ‘glad-hand’ bedroom tax protestors outside the Council building – there’s an election on – and embarrassingly failed to return in time for the vote, which was lost to Labour and won by the Conservatives, who promptly kicked the matter to scrutiny for proper resolution and away from the hands of Cllr Poole.

Then, another strange event. The Gazette’s Thomas Brown, shouted from his chair that there had been a miscount. Mr Brown, as readers may recall, has been warned in the past over his occasionally bizarre and unprofessional conduct, mixing personal politics and journalism and appeared unable to restrain himself last night. None the less, the vote was judged correct and carried.

Other high points or low points of the evening were Labour’s Clive Hart and Rick Everett attempting to grandstand around the Sandy Ezekiel trial. Cllr Rick Everett, also standing for KCC in Ramsgate, made a vigorous attempt to connect the criminal conduct of Sandy Ezekiel with Pleasurama and the present Conservative team. This slur caused Cllr Mick Tomlinson real anger and he asked if it were appropriate that the Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Everett, who had been reportedly dismissed from his job at Charlton Athletic, was on his criteria, equally fit to serve on Labour’s front bench; all of which raised the chamber temperature to near boiling, as the air-conditioning, like many of the microphones, had broken-down and the heating was on full..

There was of course much more and I’m sure readers will look forward to watching the official Council video of events. I found it interesting that at one point in the evening, during his Leader’s report, Cllr Hart, referred to bloggers as ‘Cowards’ for poking fun at the Council, looking fixedly in one direction but quite what he meant I’m not entirely sure.

Cllr Hart did make an outrageous remark of his own when he said: "I really am delighted that it is our Labour administration that will now oversee that process (of reform). It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for a Conservative group so closely aligned to the former leader to perform this task." I wonder if any reader sincerely believes that I, for one, am somehow tainted, my integrity open to challenge or indeed, I'm in some way associated with the actions of Cllr Ezekiel and events that happened several years ago?

In summary then, a bad-tempered meeting with unacceptable behaviour from Cllr Ian Driver, acting in the Parliamentary style of George Galloway but worse. A small victory for the friends of Ramsgate seafront with Pleasurama being sent to scrutiny and away from a Labour cabinet, who after several attempts and now a chamber debate, seem quite incapable of making a decision or giving direct answers to direct questions, from either the public or councillors opposite.

As for me.. I have to go flying. Back later!

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Simon, you tweeted:

"Cllr Shirley Tomlinson speaks in favour of the Tesco application"

Do you mean the Westgate one?

Anonymous said...

Why do TDC consider themselves more important than those in Parliament where debate is televised. We should be able to see how councillors from all parties conduct themselves.

I'm a floating voter so it would definitely help me decide who to vote for.

As for outburst from local reporter, sadly whilst the Editor favours Labour this is also shown in the way things are reported in our local paper. As said I'm neither for or against this party but do feel journalists should be able to give a complete unbiased record of events that happen in Thanet.

Simon Moores said...

That's correct but she abstained during the vote..

Chuck Collins said...

Ye Gods! You couldn't make it up. As a Whitehall Farce this would be a smash hit. TDC on its way to hell in a handcart? With elections looming one would expect decorum, gravitatis, serious consideration and so on. Do ANY of these clowns deserve a vote? Great comedy but a sad day for Thanet. And, I suppose, nothing resolved regarding Pleasurama?

Anonymous said...

@Chuck: one would also expect people to be able to video meetings as they're (now) legally allowed to do so!

Anonymous said...

7.38 - Simon does say you will be able to watch this - it is taped officially,so you don't need a version that can be corrupted by the extremists to prove only their point.

Anonymous said...

Why should reporters and ordinary citizens be prevented from filming the proceedings of TDC? What TDC needs surely is more transparency after the loss of confidence that having a bent Tory leader for many years has caused among the voting public.

You ask the question whether you are somehow tainted by working with Ezekiel during his years as leader, to which I would have to answer in all honesty that you and your colleagues are until you prove otherwise, and the only way to do that is to be as transparent as possible.

(PS: Not that I think you're personally dodgy, just to make that clear.)

Simon Moores said...

The concern surrounds authorised or accredited recording and not clips edited on YouTube to fit the political agenda of the far left in Thanet. The Council still has rule son such matters and there is an underdstandable tension with the age of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al

Anonymous said...

Simon

it is my understanding that approved news organisations would be allowed to film in the council chamber if they applied for permission.

can you clarify this, and also whether it is something an individual could do if they applied for permission before the meeting.

Simon Moores said...

You would have to ask Harvey Patterson.. it's all rather opaque!

Anonymous said...

Simon, Anon 10:09 has a valid point which should have been addressed when Ezekiel's criminal behaviour was first identified. This is no slur on you, but unfortunately your leader should have gone very public then and apologised and be seen to have taken decisive action. Instead he referred to 'poor Sandy' and did absolutely nothing. This sent out entirely the wrong message. Hardly leadership material. The public are not stupid and the conservative history leaves so much to be desired. Until your party are seen to disassociate themselves from the slightest hint of corruption, the feeling that you cannot be trusted will never go away.

Simon Moores said...

I must have missed something? "Poor Sandy?"

The whole debacle is both regrettable and disturbing but contrary to the fevered rumours on the blogs about the imminent arrest of other councillors, Sandy acted alone and in his rash self interest when he saw an opportunity.

Sandy Ezekiel left the Conservative Group and until the trial was concluded he remained innocent until proven otherwise. Let's remember that Sandy had not been the leader for almost two years and the Conservative administration was somewhat different in Cabinet

We had to wait for process to take its course. To once again to quote from Sir Thomas More.

William Roper So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Michael Child said...

Simon the key here is that council meetings should be live streamed, which would cost nothing, via youtube.

What happens in reality is that video footage of council meetings is edited by council officers and published in very low definition on a paid for server about a week after the meeting, all at considerable expense to council taxpayers.

The written officer response I have, when I asked them to use youtube says, that they are not doing so in order to protect the council’s copyright, since anyone with a modicum of itc skills can download the video file from the council’s website, this just doesn’t make sense.

The national government has also made it clear in writing to monitoring officers and chief executives of all councils that members of the public should be allowed to make film recordings at and tweet from council meetings.

My point here is that were the council operating in a reasonable way any attempts to produce edited video, to make some sort of political point would be a waste of effort.

Anonymous said...

Simon, "This is a personal tragedy for Sandy...", were the words used. Not exactly a politically strong disassociation, more an, 'Ah poor dear, such a shame he was caught'.

Simon Moores said...

Michael

We have had this conversation before, so just remind me who pays?

The fact it is videoed in the first place is down to me approving it and releasing budget!

Thomas Brown said...

The votes were as follows:
FOR 26: 24 Labour members (excluding absent Cllr Clark and W. Scobie who had left the chamber) and Cllrs Cohen and Worrow.

AGAINST 25: 23 Tory members plus Cllrs King and Grove.

It may fit your preconceptions to believe it was politically motivated but it was to ensure that democracy was being served as the meeting had long descended into farce.

Hence my request for a recorded vote - something that is commonplace in Westminster and other councils that would enhance transparency as the public can see how their elected representatives vote.

The vote was not judged correct and Cllr Dark was ready to take a recorded vote, Cllr Hart subsequently conceded he would after all accept the petition being sent to Scrutiny to bring an end to the fractious motion.

Could I have a clear correction in the body of your post?

FYI, I have never voted for Labour and have no party affiliation so I can write from a more objective standpoint than some.

Like most readers, party politics at local level is often irrelevant and delays progress as parties score points instead of tackling the plethora of issues.

Here's a brief account of disturbance although I'm unable to report some of the potential libellous outbursts from either side:
http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Councillor-magazine-writer-ejected-Thanet-council/story-18747445-detail/story.html#axzz2QXD88XzA

Michael Child said...

Simon at the moment we pay, both for the online hosting and the officer editing.

Live feeding it to youtube is just a matter of clicking on the link once you have the video camera plugged into the computer.

What they are doing is charging us for the best and most expensive technology that was available around 20 years ago, while refusing to use much better free technology that is available now.

Let me put it like this, suppose the council asked you to go to Canterbury on council business and you made a travel expenses claim for £5 to £10, then this would be reasonable.

However if you hired a coach and horses grooms footmen for the journey at a cost of between £600 and £1.500 then this would be unreasonable.

Obviously for a senior elected representative of local people in say 1820 this would have been perfectly reasonable, it is just a mater of timing.

Simon Moores said...

Thank you Thomas but as a member of the press I suggest your role is to observe the Council meeting and not attempt to participate!?

I recall that during my time in Cabinet, you were been warned by Thanet Council's Press department that your behaviour was incompatible with your position as a journalist and as I have recounted here, I have absolutely nil confidence in your ability to report anything I have done with professional impartiality and accuracy, which is why I refuse to give you interviews.

I believe that many other councillors feel the same way other than of course Cllr Worrow and Cllr Driver.

I do hope that answers your questions?

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for Mr Brown, but no, it doesn't appear to answer his question. In fact it appears to be ad hominem bluster to cover up what appears to have been misreporting on your part Mr Moores.

Mr Brown is a professional journalist and you are accusing him of behaving in an unprofessional manner. I hope you have examples to back your accusations, otherwise, if it were me, I might be tempted to sue you for libel.

Simon Moores said...

Absolutely.. bring it on....!

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Thomas Brown who grossly misrepresented what Sir Roger Gale said during the same sex marriage debate? If so can we trust him on any political reporting despite his assertation that he can report from an objective standpoint.

Simon Moores said...

Not just me noticing a pattern of reporting then?

montgomery mole said...

Of course, the mr brown mentioned above, could always stand for election , so that he could take part in a debate. Or he could get his ward councillor to speak on his behalf.
By trying to take part in the meeting he just shows his ignorance of the law, and his basic lack of manners. Typical of the gutter press.

Anonymous said...

smells a bit hypocritical slating people for wanting to record and share what is happening at TDC meetings when you yourself spend half the time tweeting updates. Is it a case of one rule for you and anothr rule for everyone else?

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon,

For someone so with it seemingly with new technology, it does seem a bit strange for the antiquated system of council meeting video delivery currently being used.

Arguably, you'd get a better quality on an iPhone upload to YouTube.

As for Christine tongue and Ian driver getting chucked out for filming events, I feel the council is going to be on the losing side here. Pickles has made things clear - open, transparent local government is what the 21st century demographic require and what they will get. Only those embarrassingly stuck in the past with something to hide would push back on such a wave of public opinion.

If it was my committee being opened up to public scrutiny and people were squaring up to each other, I would get that behaviour sorted with suspension penalties written into statute for any transgressions. But for that you need strong leadership. There are no strong leaders elected to TDC or any political persuasion,

I hope one day we get a strong independent leader and banish party politics from local councils. Block voting and national party gripes have no place in giving planning permission and getting the streets swept.

John Holyer said...

TDC bring us yesterday's technology tomorrow.

Simon Moores said...

10:46 fails to grasp that the rule against video recording exists to prevent the very same exploitation we saw on Thursday, where a politically motivated agenda may edit a video clip of the meeting to suit its purpose and thus misrepresent what took place.

Twitter is somewhat different, a two line comment which is not banned. In my case, it was a running commentary on a meeting of great public interest.

Simon Moores said...

You need to consider tha TDC is no different in its rules than many if not most other Councils. The Secretary of State "Encourages" the use of new technology but does not mandate it as both a cost and a change in rules is normally required.

We webcast Council meetings because I put this in place when I was a Cabinet member but it's very basic and follows those same rules of recording a local government meeting. Anything more elaborate would demand resources the council can't afford. Heck.. we can't even afford new microphones in the Chamber and that is a greater priority for day to day business!

Chris Wells said...

Thursday evening Tom Brown tried to intervene directly in the proceedings of the council, in what was a shambolic and awful meeting, mired in controversy even before it started by the bizarre behaviour of senior administration members and senior officer actions in the 3 days prior to the meeting; which are neither reported nor commented upon by the newspaper coverage. The coverage does report Clive Hart's assertion that council meetings should not take place in election periods - an utterly hypocritical statement from a man who organised the entire evening with his colleagues aiming to manipulate every agenda item for political advantage.

Anonymous said...

Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius.
Whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad.

Anonymous said...

Not enough money for microphones? Perhaps the executive (Paid officers) staff could restrict their wages to £500 per week as is about to happen to most benefit claimants. No I don't have an axe to grind, or perhaps I do. I only ever earned that amount in the last two years of my working life, and as a pensioner have to live on considerably less.

Simon Moores said...

8:23.. that's not really an argument as pay scales for public sector workers both management and executive lie broadly outside the council's remit. We can thank the years of Tony Blair for the extravagance that crept in at the top!

Anonymous said...

Ironic that a man who once attempted to stifle free speech in Thanet with a blanket threat to sue all the island's bloggers for libel is now so bullish about libelling others that he can say 'bring it on'. Yes, I am talking about you, Dr Moores.

Simon Moores said...

I only publish this 9.38 to keep readers amused because you are such a bitter and twisted twit..!