Friday, 24 February 2012

Leader's report to Council (23/02/2012)

From Labour Leader Cllr Clive Hart

"Thank you Chairman

Since becoming leader I have had series of meetings with local business
 groups across Thanet and I'm pleased to say I have been made very welcome by all. Indeed, it is most heartening when the local business community send and post messages of support and thanks through the internet following such meetings.

I have been open and honest and have made it very clear at each and every one of these business meetings that we are a moderate centre left
administration that is elected by residents but share wholeheartedly the interests of local business. I understand the business community has developed very mixed feelings about dealings with this council in the past and we will do everything possible to rebuild their confidence in TDC. We truly want businesses to succeed and they appear to get that message loud and clear. Further meetings are planned and despite the
desperate national and international economic situation I am very optimistic for the future. I'm particularly optimistic regarding Ramsgate Port and Harbour where companies involved in renewable energy are establishing themselves along the shoreline in ever increasing numbers. 

Cllr Poole and I had an excellent meeting with the Principal at Thanet College, and I was pleased to see his enthusiastic response to that meeting also posted on the internet through Twitter. We were in firm agreement as to the need for a clear focus on training and skills.

Unemployment figures here in Thanet, particularly in relation to young
 people, are nothing less than appalling and statistics regarding family and child poverty in areas of Ramsgate, Margate and Cliftonville are truly shocking.

The voluntary sector is a key partner to TDC and I am constantly meeting with residents from all manner of organisations who desperately want to help the council in numerous ways. From heritage, arts, sport and culture through to improving the local street scene and staging events, these voluntary organisations do incredible work and this administration is doing everything it possibly can to help and support them in return. I get the overall impression the voluntary sector, particularly those in Ramsgate, have too often been marginalised and sidelined by TDC in the past. We will most certainly do all we can to correct that!

Cllr Johnston and I met with KCC and the Housing and Community Agency earlier this week and I am convinced that with the help of council officers we put forward an excellent case for further assistance with the Live Margate project.

I recently attended the Kent Forum at County Hall and I left council leaders from across Kent in absolutely no uncertainty as to the devastating effect the governments proposed welfare reforms, changes to housing rules and the forthcoming universal credit plans will have on our district. The 'perfect storm' is brewing and its eye will be centred well and truly here in Thanet if significant changes are not made to these drastic proposals! 

We now have a Labour led district council here in Thanet, working in partnership with a Conservative led county council on many crucial issues affecting our island and this too calls for a special kind of understanding. I was therefore delighted when I first became Leader, and in what was my very first communication from Paul Carter at KCC, he called for us to leave the politics out of our 'new' relationship. I couldn't agree more and I too made that very clear.

Anyone attending the recent GEEK 2012 Business Breakfast at the Winter Gardens will have noticed the excellent working relationship that I share with Kevin Lynes, the KCC Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development. This is particularly pleasing given that part of my role at TDC now oversees strategic development services in line with Kevin's county portfolio.

I recently met with the Cabinet Member for Customer and Communities at KCC, Mike Hill and I'm also delighted to say we saw absolutely eye to eye on future processes and procedures that should see TDC and KCC work much more closely together on local issues affecting Thanet. We also agreed to do that business in a far more balanced way than has been the case in the past.

Indeed, the very serious issues TDC and KCC face jointly here in Thanet call for frank no-nonsense dialogue that could well be enhanced through a more businesslike approach to matters, even if that means we have a slightly less cozy conversation than my predecessor may have been used to.

Paul Carter, Kevin Lynes and Mike Hill are old adversaries from my time at County Hall, but I truly believe we developed a healthy respect for each others views during what were much easier times for local government. I'm also convinced that we each and all accept the serious issues affecting Thanet are far too important to play politics with at Leadership level.

I'd like to finish by thanking my fellow councillors, the Chief Executive, the Senior Management Team and the army of officers and foot soldiers who have made the last ten weeks or so of my life a very interesting and rewarding time. I have to offer particular thanks to my PA who very subtly makes sure I do exactly what I'm supposed to do each and every day.

In a hung council I know exactly how precarious the position of Leader is and I know the only way I can hang on to this role is to give 100% day in day out and as long as you will have me as leader, that is what I intend to give to the role".

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