Friday, 7 December 2012

Labour's year in control

Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

Firstly, the latest changes to Cabinet portfolios maintain our key objective for each Cabinet Member to work with one dedicated Director thereby avoiding the expensive duplication of work for officers we inherited a year ago.

These changes also supplement our decision for Cabinet members to no longer sit on their own Cabinet Advisory Groups, the Chairman’s decision to introduce inclusive council agenda pre-meetings and the Chief Executive’s decision to introduce regular joint group leader briefings.

Delivering local services through our balanced budget is important and I was pleased to read the recent Auditors letter which said TDC 'has a good understanding of its underlying financial position & sound financial systems'. It went on to confirm TDC 'continues to demonstrate effective arrangements for budget & financial management'.

I’ve recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the East Kent Chamber of Commerce on behalf of TDC. This underpins our now more open and transparent Thanet Regeneration Board and both the board and the EKCC helped us to complete Phase One of our Draft Economic Strategy. All this comes of course in the wake of our newly formulated and agreed TDC Corporate Plan.

On Monday I witnessed Thanet’s civic dignitaries signing of our Thanet Armed Services Community Covenant. We will always endeavour to work closely with residents from all walks of life.  In particular, in our town centres regular meetings are now held with Ramsgate groups, they have commenced with Broadstairs groups and organising the same type of regular meetings with groups in the Margate area will be a priority project for 2013. We also made improvements to our TDC resident’s petition scheme earlier this year.

That support for local residents continues with a new council tax discount scheme that thanks to our administration will protect as many people as possible given the impossible and ever-changing financial context imposed by central govt.

The Troubled Families Initiative process is now being planned in partnership with KCC. Our Chief Executive is fully engaged with this process and Thanet is well ahead of other districts in relation to this type of work now that the Margate Task Force is finally and properly co-located in TDC offices providing a multi-agency approach.
We have recently successfully defended the Judicial Review for our Selective Licensing Scheme. I have to say our legal team really have been hard at work for the benefit of our area this past year. They were successful with the first round of our CPO of Dreamland and at every stage they have supported our moves to do the ‘right thing’ with regard to live animal exports. We will continue to take a proactive and progressive role in challenging and addressing problems arising from actions of third parties.
I recently attended the KLM/Manston announcement in Canterbury and warmly welcomed the proposed services that fall within the existing 106 agreement. Earlier this year we brought the night flying consultation in-house saving tens of thousands of pounds and gave the council’s considered response to night-flying proposals.
The Ramsgate Swimming Pool project is well underway.  Plans were agreed earlier in the year and I can report the project is on target for completion summer next year.
Upgrade of the Port & Harbour Master Plan is on-going, works have started on Military Road Arches under the Yacht Valley Interreg project and the Harbour Lights café is due to open for business shortly. These improvements follow work where the Pier Yard ramp was overhauled and the King George historic section pontoons were all refurbished. The Commercial Quay was also fitted with new steel boarding ladders, new heavy duty fenders and new shore power electrical equipment.
I’m pleased to report the Margate flood defence scheme funded by Environment Agency is well underway and due for completion early in new-year. Being delivered well under budget has allowed allocation of Environment Agency funding to other structures related to flood defence in Margate, including refurbishment of the tidal pool.
Phase One of the Newington Development is complete. We have accessed £4 million funding for empty homes projects and further funding to help with 30 more properties.
Refurbishment of Pierremont Hall in Broadstairs has started. This is particularly pleasing as earlier in the year we saved and protected public open green space in Pierremont Park, as we did in Hartsdown Park, Margate.
A Townscape Heritage Initiative scheme in Dalby Square in Cliftonville has commenced and the Ramsgate Townscape Heritage Initiative has been completed.
Solar Panels have now been installed on the main council office building, two public toilet facilities have been renovated at Ramsgate Cemetery and Minnis bay and the drainage scheme at Northdown Park and Coach House in Cliftonville should shortly be completed.
The Cremator Manufacturer and Building Contractor have been appointed and the crematorium project to replace burners and undertake refurbishment is on target to be completed by Christmas.
I’m pleased to report that the Kent Innovation Centre has over achieved on income against budget forecast and Forresters Hall, Ramsgate is now fully occupied after being almost empty.
We’ve had a successful start to the Respect Ramsgate town centre street cleaning project with excellent feedback from residents and businesses and I look forward to seeing similar schemes rolling out across the district. Numerous cleansweeps have taken place across the district and the project to deliver the new waste and recycling collection arrangements for the district is on track for completion in autumn 2013.

STOP PRESS - At this point I have some very good news.
I’m reliably informed that we have this very week accessed just under £1million funding to enable the council to improve the service provided to our 10,000 more difficult to service households in relation to refuse collection.
The recent Thanet Sports Awards event was the biggest ever due to our community involvement in many sports across the district. Sport for Energy and the Kick Out Racism project are two examples.
In November, Thanet’s Visitor Information Centre was awarded gold for being Tourist Information Service of the Year. Success indeed!
But what a fantastic ‘product’ they had to promote?  In addition to our beautiful beaches and growing facilities, we had TDC’s successful organisation of Olympic Torch Relay, the successful introduction of the RNLI lifeguards to our beaches, the successful introduction of new seaweed control measures, the successful introduction of a Hygiene Rating Scheme, the successful opening of the Ramsgate Maritime Museum working with the Steam Museum Trust and we saved the Theatre Royal in Margate from closure.
Just for good measure, we were awarded more blue flags for our beaches than any other area in the country. Footfall in our visitor centre was up on last year, tourism internet visits were the highest number ever and numerous public events were supported through our new open and transparent events funding scheme.
Lastly, our towns were also blessed with gorgeous floral displays throughout the summer months and Sundowner; Ramsgate’s famous Dunkirk Little Ship represented the town and our district, taking part in the Queens Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames.
That last small but significant matter sums up in a very visual way, the larger changes to this council during our past year in control.
Under the previous administration, despite far easier financial circumstances, Sundowner sat miserably deserted, high and dry on the harbour dock opposite a boarded up and neglected Maritime Museum whilst hundreds of other craft re-enacted the historic crossing to France.
Under this administration, despite far more difficult financial circumstances, Sundowner waved goodbye to a rejuvenated Maritime Museum and proudly set sail up the Thames with the finest vessels in the land for our Queen and country! 

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