Thursday, 20 September 2012

Leader's Report to Council - 20th September

From Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader.

Fellow councillors:

This evening I'd like to focus on priority 10 of our recently published corporate plan. 'Influencing the work of other agencies to ensure the best outcomes for Thanet'.

As well as our core purpose - providing services directly to local residents and businesses, the council also plays a key leadership role for our district.

We are committed to working in partnership with other agencies to ensure that local people in Thanet get the best possible outcomes.

We also take a strategic view of the issues facing local people and we need to be prepared to actively challenge and influence other service providers, encouraging them to develop their services in such a way that best meet the needs of people here in Thanet.

We will always ensure our influence is exerted based on the best information available and through genuine public consultation. We will also lobby on regional matters that have implications for the people of Thanet.

Through our community safety partnerships and daily work with the Police we are in constant dialogue with the authority providing our safety and security here in Thanet. Indeed, just as she does locally day in - day out, Cllr Johnston will no doubt make sure the new Police Commissioner for Kent is aware of the issues our residents are facing and I can think of no better person to bring to account whoever is elected to the role. As our Cabinet Member for Community Services, Cllr Johnston will be our representative on the new Crime Panel.

Cllr Johnston is also keeping a very close eye on our local NHS and recent developments with Thanet Leisure Force.

Cllr David Green is currently working closely with education providers on issues around the provision of future school places her in Thanet.

At the East Kent Regeneration Board I am currently working with our officers, KCC and our neighbouring district authorities to further Thanet's interests through the emerging East Kent Growth Plan.

We most certainly do not duck difficult or sensitive situations either:

As a council we are now seen as a progressive authority thanks to our decision on equal marriage and on one particular contentious issue we have taken a very clear stance and I cannot thank Cllrs Fenner and Poole enough for their tenacity in relation to live animal exports through the port of Ramsgate.

When the Live Animal Exports re-started in May 2011 at Ramsgate Port, we were in opposition at Thanet District Council and we expressed our repulsion of the trade by putting a motion to Council to seek all legal avenues in order to stop it.This motion was agreed unanimously.

When we became the ruling administration here at TDC we vowed we would continue the fight against the trade, using the legal framework and showing a zero tolerance of any infringement of the welfare of animals.

The rigorous action and determination of Cllrs Fenner and Poole meant that the lorries were inspected very thoroughly, as they should. It then became apparent that on several occasions the lorries or the animals were unfit for further travel.

This led to our decision to suspend the trade in live animal exports out of Ramsgate Port on the ground that it does not have adequate facilities to care for the animals and that there is no control post nearby to take them.

The suspension of this awful trade shows that we take our responsibility seriously and that we are not afraid of taking the necessary actions, using the legal framework to pursue our aims.

We stood for election on our Manifesto which stated that we would defend the rights of animals. We fought for this to happen when we were in Opposition and we are delivering now that we are the ruling administration.

However, I'm afraid I have to report to council one particular issue on which we have failed to gain any influence whatsoever, despite our hardest efforts and the support of KCC Leader Paul Carter and his KCC Cabinet Members Mike Hill and Alex King. Through the Kent Forum and the East Kent Joint Arrangements Committee Cllr Poole and I pleaded with the KCC Leadership to help us create a Locality Board for Thanet just as they have done in almost every other district in Kent and they appeared very happy to help.

Unfortunately, the fact is, intransigence on the part of local Conservative county councillors has thwarted all our very best joint efforts and consequently this council is being deprived of cooperation and influence it so dearly deserves on a whole raft of issues affecting our residents. I can only assume this is being done for petty political reasons but the consequence is a district already distanced geographically from Maidstone being distanced further in numerous other ways through the selfish actions of some very misguided individuals.

When negotiations began on a Locality Board for Thanet I was informed that it should be made up of an equal number of County and District councillors. I was also informed that the Chairman should be the District Leader (unpaid) and that a County Member (paid) would be Co or Vice Chair. I was entirely content with those requirements as it meant TDC would have proper representation.

Furthermore, in order to help reduce any 'fears' that County members might have regarding cooperation, we held a preliminary - shadow - meeting to discuss the future of youth services here in Thanet. All went well, good debate took place and conclusions were arrived at. Certainly not one heated or confrontational moment during the whole process.

However, despite this clear success, I was later informed that our local County members still appeared to dislike their own KCC suggested numbers on the board.

After many weeks I finally got a meeting arranged with the Co Chair where he outlined further the concerns over the numbers representing each authority. In a last-ditched attempt to save the negotiations I offered to reduce the number of District councillors on a prospective Locality Board to six - being our TDC Cabinet. That made it eight County Councillors and six District Councillors but even more importantly seven Labour and seven Conservative - perfect you would think.

NOT SO - rejected completely by a meeting of Thanet Conservative County Councillors in a letter I'm holding here that gives no reasons as to why.

I therefore sadly report to council that after several months of extremely good natured and very polite negotiations, despite our very best efforts and those of Paul Carter, Mike Hill and Alex King at KCC, thanks to the intransigence of several local individuals, this council will not to be involved in a Locality Board for Thanet.

The only apparent benefit for Thanet appears to be any allowance that is being paid to the Conservative Co Chair by KCC.

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