Friday, 28 February 2014


Thank you Chairman.

Firstly I'd just like to give my congratulations on their recent marriage to Will and Jodie Scobie - that's three councillor Scobie's on the council now. Just as importantly I'd also like to congratulate Jodie on her recent graduation from university - total admiration!

Thanet District Council has entered into a Peer Review process, in partnership with the Local Government Association.
We have entered into this process totally voluntarily and I thank my cabinet colleagues and the TDC senior management team for their support in what I believe is a bold step for the council.
I understand Shadow Cabinet members have been briefed and are being consulted during the process along with members from across the council and key stakeholders.
A Peer Review is an external review of the council’s activities. It will focus on understanding the local context and priority setting, financial planning, political and managerial leadership, governance and decision making and organisational capacity.
For Thanet, there will also be a particular focus on Economic Development and the council’s customer services approach.
The purpose of a Peer Review is to help the council improve, and to ensure there is capacity to continue to deliver local priorities. In the current financial climate this is particularly important as the council moves forward facing ever deeper cuts to our funding from central government.
Since taking control of the council our administration has clearly articulated our programme. Our corporate Plan sets out our priorities to 2016 and our Economic Development Strategy and Destination Management Plans are both key drivers. Our new Procurement Strategy does everything possible to encourage local suppliers.
TDC staff are ‘moving heaven and earth’ to deliver services for residents despite ever tighter financial constraints. They are adopting new ways of working that have helped us to maintain a council tax freeze in recent years.
Whether it’s improving waste recycling, tackling disadvantage, supporting businesses, voluntary and community groups, making Thanet a safer place, improving parking and transportation, making our district cleaner and greener, improving housing or supporting sport, tourism and leisure, our staff are continuing to provide essential services for local residents. I simply cannot thank them enough!    
The Peer Review is an opportunity to get an external perspective on our processes and procedures. It will help us to identify the council’s strengths, highlight areas for improvement and will help us to inform our future plans. It will include an on-site visit to Thanet District Council between 11-13 March with a team of Councillors and senior officers from other councils.
There can be no doubt that historically Thanet District Council had developed a poor reputation. The past is the past, and I certainly do not want to rake up the specific circumstances or further blame any individuals responsible – they are now history.

A whole series of legacy issues have also held back our progress, but again I do not wish to detail them here tonight or apportion blame.

What I will say is that one by one we have dealt with them and we are working our way through the last of them, no matter how difficult the final decisions may be.

Our administration has reviewed and made clearer the process for confidential matters that simply have to be discussed in private session. We have reviewed the TDC asset disposal procedure and further financial procedures in the light of the debt caused by the failure of Transeuropa.

On standards I must point out that despite the past history that has left TDC in such poor esteem, and contrary to many other authorities approach, we have decided to keep a Standards Committee in place and we still work to an adopted Code of Conduct. I do sincerely hope that following appointments later this evening, we can all proceed together.     

For the Peer Review I want this council to be as open and transparent as possible – with all the risks that may bring for us, in order to bury that harsh historical public perception. I want us to make any further improvements required and then to move forward stronger than ever.

We will always have political differences between our parties and that’s healthy.

However, I do sincerely hope we can continue to build on the improving cross-party relations we have developed this year and the consensus that we have managed to forge in relation to the council budget and other difficult decisions facing Thanet recently.

I call on all councillors of all political parties here in the council chamber to work together for the benefit of Thanet’s residents!

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