Friday, 29 April 2011

Neglect of Thanet's Harbours

By John Watkins

After eight years of neglect by Thanet District Council’s Tory administration, Margate Harbour is now in it’s worst state ever, since John Rennie’s stone harbour arm was first constructed early in the nineteenth century. Due to the constant build up of silt that has been allowed, there is now insufficient depth of water to accommodate any reasonable sized sailing or motor vessel and boat owners have been forced to moor their craft elsewhere. Sitting on the front patio of the new Turner Gallery should be a great experience, with the view to the west, over Margate main sands, for both local residents and visitors alike. However, if the tide is not covering the rotting seaweed and mud in the harbour at the time, a very unpleasant aroma is likely to soon drive most people inside.

At Ramsgate Royal Harbour marina, the neglect is even more marked. The absence of any planned maintenance programme has resulted in health and safety problems with pontoons and ladders and the build up of silt in the inner marina. Sections of the main Commercial quay are now ‘no go’ areas, due to problems with subsidence. Large weeds grow out of the basin walls and some of the pontoons at the eastern end are now so old and unstable that they have even received their own ‘Royal Historic’ plaque. The Pier yard is a disgrace, decorated with it’s own rotting hulk on prominent display alongside the detritus strewn listed Smeaton dry dock. Meanwhile the grade two star listed,  Maritime Museum, closed for years now, becomes ever more run down, from the snapped off flag pole at the front to the smashed windows and yards of unsavoury graffiti covering the rear walls, neglect is everywhere.

Something urgently needs to alter the years of laissez faire mismanagement of Margate and Ramsgate harbours, and a change of political administration at Thanet District Council would be the swiftest way to achieve this.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Objectionable Conservative Behaviour

The Labour Group in Thanet says the objectionable online behaviour of Conservative candidate Payam Tamiz is not the first time the local Tories have been shown to lack scruples.
Mr Tamiz has stood down after making offensive comments on Facebook about young women in Thanet and killer Raoul Moat.
Tory Leader and Leader of TDC, Bob Bayford said he had spoken to Mr Tamiz after being told of the comments but that he had left it for him to decide how to respond.
We believe Bob Bayford made a serious error of judgement and that he should have insisted on Mr. Tamiz’ immediate resignation.
Local Labour group spokeswoman Iris Johnston says: "This follows a string of unfortunate incidents for the Tories.  Their former leader Sandy Ezekiel was reprimanded by the Standards Committee after threatening the then Mayor of Margate at a civic function; a Thanet Tory Councillor was forced to resign when it was discovered he was living in Panama and receiving his Councillor’s allowance (although the Tories argued for a year that he could do the job over the internet by email) and another Thanet Tory Councillor was imprisoned after being repeatedly caught drinking and driving.
This is a party with very questionable standards of behaviour and voters really need to be asking themselves on May 5 if these are the kind of people they want running their District.
The Tories are not only pulling the rug out from under local communities by slashing local services and making cuts that go too far and too fast, but they also do not seem to understand what is acceptable behaviour and what is not."
The people of Thanet, who are facing massive job losses through knee jerk cuts from Central Government, deserve a Council that fights for them. Labour must win on May 5th to bring back some decency and confidence to Thanet.
Thanet Labour Leader Clive Hart said "A key part in the 'Bringing Back the Pride' section of our Labour manifesto is to insist on Criminal Records Bureau Checks for all councillors”.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Parkway Folly

By Richard Nicholson

Despite all the evidence being to the contrary the Tories through Kent County Council still insist a “Parkway Station” will be of economic benefit to Thanet. They claim this is needed to make Manston airport a success but the passenger figures do not lie. At best 80,000 passengers have used the airport in any one year, 90% plus come by car or taxi, so approximately 10,000 would come by train equal to 200 a week, less than 30 a day. So assume 15 getting on or off the train. And we are expected to believe this is a good use of public money?

The only way to justify this expenditure would be the closure of Ramsgate Station and even Broadstairs. However this will create several problems, an enormous parking need on green land and more traffic snarl ups especially at peak times.

What we are actually getting is a pie in the sky scheme once again promising huge economic gains, like all the other Tory schemes which are no more than hot air. This neatly distracts residents from the failures we have had to endure over the last eight years. This parkway is not justified nor needed, improve the road system and some minor modifications to Ramsgate station and  Manston airport can be well served.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tories Wish List Launched - Venue Says More Than Their Document

By Clive Hart

As usual, the last minute Tory manifesto tries to rewrite history. In his introduction Bob Bayford says the Tories have tried to do their best for four years, but local residents have actually suffered under Conservative control at TDC for eight long years, and boy don't they know it!
The Conservatives say they have 'helped traders by encouraging residents to shop locally', yet their Tory 'Shop Local' scheme is in tatters and they get their own Conservative election leaflets printed in Canterbury.
Like so many of the numerous 'visions' and 'masterplans' we've been bombarded with over that past eight years by Thanet Conservatives, their manifesto is just another wish list. Our town centres and harbours have been neglected and too many of Thanet's streets are under maintained. No amount of last minute window dressing can hide them and four more years of Tory rule would simply prolong the negligence.
Their decision to use the Oval lawns in Cliftonville for their manifesto launch on Tuesday was yet another Tory bungle.  Just a few hours after the Conservative bash, Cliftonville Residents Association held their AGM in a hotel overlooking the lawns, and there was genuine local anger voiced at the way Tory-led TDC had dealt with matters concerning the Oval arena and bandstand.
For his first announcement, the CRA Chairman explained that TDC had recently contacted the residents association with a very worrying communication asking 'what agreement the association actually had with TDC to run the food kiosk and how much rent does the association pay for it'?  The fact is, Cliftonville Residents Association is an extremely hard working voluntary organisation that has done sterling work for fifteen years and for the last ten years they have provided the regular award winning Farmers Markets.  Among numerous other community projects the residents association also stage regular band concerts for local residents and visitors.  The residents association should therefore be given every assistance by TDC to help them.  They certainly should not have hurdles put in their way!
Just to make matters worse, the Conservative Deputy Leader of the council explained to the residents at the meeting that 'someone had approached the council wanting to use the kiosk seven days a week'.  Could that mean that after a decade and a half the residents association could just be ejected from the venue?
The next matter raised by the residents Chairman was the regular band concerts, also staged at the Oval by his association.  He said he hoped funding of £4,000 to continue the concerts would soon be forthcoming from TDC.  Once again the Conservative Deputy Leader of the council dissapointed residents by telling them he had 'no knowledge of any such funding'.
Lastly came a report from the residents chairman on the condition of the TDC owned Oval arena and bandstand.  He said that paint was peeling on the bandstand roof at an alarming rate and that much of the arena fencing was dangerous.  Calls came from the floor for (Tory-led) TDC to get on and do the work to restore the venue.
So basically, for their manifesto launch, the Conservatives used a much loved community facility that's been virtually neglected by Conservative-led TDC, consistently starved of funding by Conservative-led TDC and a venue that now has a less than secure future thanks to Conservative-led TDC.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Tories shop local - but not for their leaflets!

By Clive Hart


Thanet Conservatives boast on their election leaflets that they have 'helped traders by encouraging residents to shop locally'.  So why are their election leaflets printed in Canterbury?
At a recent local business meeting in Cliftonville a discussion took place regarding their Thanet Tory 'Shop Local' scheme.  It appears the Conservative administration at TDC now want businesses to pay £35 to be members of the scheme, instead of the original £25 first year cost.  But here's the real rub - they also want the businesses to 'run the scheme themselves'.  Yes, a  £10 increase and 'do it yourself from now on'.  Sounds like more of that Big Society nonsense!
The meeting was also informed that at least 35 businesses in Northdown Road alone, would have to join the scheme for it to be viable.  The vast majority of businesspeople attending the meeting just laughed out loud when that '35 business' requirement was read out.  'What planet are they on' was one comment shouted from the floor.
Hardly anyone at the meeting could name a business involved in the scheme.  The few businesses that were, at some point involved, had apparently failed to give either the discount or incentive required through the scheme to make it work.  No-one at the meeting could think of any benefits that have come to businesses from the scheme to date and the general consensus was that it was a complete and total farce.
A representative from Margate then explained that Margate shops would 'probably not be involved in the scheme from now on'.  Margate had a requirement to find 45 interested businesses.  The representative also explained that problems had developed with the Shop Local scheme following staff changes at TDC that had moved people into different departments and even sometimes into different districts.
That brings us to yet another boast on the Conservative election leaflet, yes the Tories have 'implemented a shared service programme with neighbouring districts.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Pierremont Park

By Jenny Matterface

I went to speak at Sunday's public meeting about the Pierremont Park Community Centre and it was good to see so many attend on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to show their concern over the planned scheme.

A number of the local candidates spoke including three of the Lib. Dems. , Colin Kemp, Nigel Utton and I for Labour and Robin Vaughan-Lyon, an Independent candidate.

None of the local Conservative candidates or sitting councillors attended to justify the decision to press ahead with the scheme despite much vocal local opposition.

All those who spoke were united in their opposition to the demolition of existing buildings, neglected by the council for for the last eight years and the costly building of a centre where there are so many unanswered questions. What most were concerned about was the the apparent lack of clarity regarding the finances obtained by the trust. Was it so many thousands or a different sum? It seems that different figures have been bandied about so no-one seems clear if it's this amount or that. What is clear is that sums of money have been obtained and so presumably, interest is already being paid.

What did come out during the question and answer sessions is that many feel that the public consultation was anything but as, despite petitions with thousands of signatures, Thanet District Council decided that they would ignore the views of these people and give planning permission anyway.

Who will benefit in the long run by the scheme? The stage school promised space has moved to Ramsgate. The nursery school in Park Hall will be using the space but the feeling was a private nursery would presumably use the space in a public building but at what rental? The badminton players currently using Retort House may find renting space uneconomic. Who was the Conservative canvasser in Viking who didn't know where Retort House is? A candidate or an out-of-towner?

The new Baptist Church centre in Queen's Road is to be a secular not just a religious centre and many local schools and churches have facilities available for hire. Is this the right time to land the council taxpayers of Broadstairs with a hefty bill for decades?

What is the occupancy rate of TDC-owned buildings anyway? What rents are charged? Can many organisations afford the rents likely to be charged to make the centre pay? Remembering many £thousands have to be repaid at 5% p.a. so at what level will rents be set?

Among those present were Conservative voters unhappy with the way they've been treated. Will they be sending a message to the Conservative candidates on May 5th? Can the Conservatives afford to ignore these angry voters?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Teresa Pearce comes door knocking in Dane Valley

For the second time in three days, Dane Valley has been treated to a visit from a Labour MP. On Thursday Yvette Cooper came to meet residents and talk about anti-social behaviour, and today Dane Valley was treated to a visit from Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith and Thamesmead. Teresa, who was elected in the 2010 General Election, brought with her a group of activists from Erith and Thamesmead, and Greenwich who also came out canvassing. As well as canvassing Dane Valley, this team also helped out in Eastcliff and Central Harbour. We even had enough time for fish and chips on Ramsgate sea front. Everyone from Thanet Labour is thankful for their help, and we hope that if they have more free time that they will come back soon.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Yvette Cooper comes to Margate

Yesterday Margate was treated to a visit from Yvette Cooper who is the Labour Shadow Home Secretary. Yvette met a local neighbourhood watch group from Dane Valley, and the group talked about police cuts and anti-social behaviour. The event was at John Edwards’ house who, as well as also being a candidate for Dane Valley in the local elections next month, is the Chair of Dane Valley pact and the Neighborhood watch co-ordinator for his street. The meeting was attended by concerned local residents, Labour group leader Clive Hart, KCC Councillor Liz Green, and the other local Labour candidates for Dane Valley ward Sandy Hart and Will Scobie.
After this meeting there was a quick stop off at the Labour office in North Thanet to meet candidates, and then it was on to Garlinge to join Labour candidates Beth Denning and Colin Harvey for some door knocking. Around 20 Labour activists attended and there was a really good response from residents who seemed concerned about the scale of cuts and the amount of local deprivation. Labour group leader Clive Hart said about Yvette’s visit:
 “Yvette was determined to hear the concerns of local residents here in Thanet and was genuinely interested in the issues affecting their daily lives. Time and time again residents expressed real anxiety regarding coalition government cuts to local policing”.
The visit was a great success, and a big thank you to all who helped organise the event.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Yvette Cooper will today launch a new Labour party review of anti-social behaviour policy

Yvette CooperShadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper will today launch a new Labour party review of anti-social behaviour (ASB) policy on a visit to Blackpool, amid growing concerns that the Tory-led government is weak on crime and anti-social behaviour. 
Yvette Cooper MP, Shadow Home Secretary, said: 
"The government is taking too many risks with crime and anti-social behaviour and local communities will pay the price. 
"It's not just the cuts to police officers that worry me, they are also tying the hands of the police and local communities who want to put a stop to anti-social behaviour in their area. 
"People want swift action against anti-social behaviour to nip it in the bud. Yet the Tory led government is trying to ditch powers for the police to act quickly in serious cases. 
"Interim ASBOs mean the police can act fast to stop harassment in serious cases, but the government wants to ditch them altogether. And their plans to replace other ASBOs with much weaker civil injunctions means that persistent offenders won't face the force of the criminal courts. 
"Labour's Respect programme and neighbourhood policing did help cut anti-social behaviour in many areas, but too many communities are still blighted by persistent nuisance, harassment or bad behaviour, and our priority now is to work with local communities on how to do more. 
"But when I talk to victims, residents, the police or community champions across the country, no one ever calls for fewer police, weaker powers or less youth services. This Government is completely out of touch on crime and anti-social behaviour, and it's unfair on victims and communities who are at greatest risk." 

Monday, 11 April 2011

Night Flights

by Peter Campbell

Labour will support the development of Manston Airport but will always be mindful of the impact on residents and the environment. To this end we will implement a policy of no flights during the hours of 23:00 to 07:00, except emergency landings and humanitarian flights.

We will work with the airport operators to ensure that a newly negotiated 106 agreement is properly adhered to, and also ensure that the council, once again, takes its own responsibility to enforce that agreement.

Labour is always mindful of the need for jobs within our community. However we have simply not been convinced that the economic argument has been made for night flights, particularly when the airport is so underused during the day. 

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Some questions need answering

By Jennifer Matterface

Can anyone give me the answers to the following questions relating to Pierremont Park and the planned community centre?

Firstly, who owns the park, the town council or the district council or perhaps even the people of Broadstairs?

Secondly, who will own the community centre? Will the trust be the legal owners or do they have a lease from the town council or the district council for a specified period of time? Is it perhaps an example of Thanet District Council's asset-disposal scheme?

Thirdly, what is the plan for running the centre? Will there be a paid manger or a volunteer to oversee the day-to-day management? Who sets the rental charges? Maintains the building?

Fourthly, what is the trust's exit strategy should the scheme not be a success? Will the building be sold off or handed back or left empty? A white elephant for all to admire whilst still paying off the loan? Since trustees of a charity are responsible in law for the way a charity is run, what safeguards are in place to ensure due diligence has been carried out on all involved with the scheme?

Finally, I think I've only ever met one person who is in favour of the scheme and he was a town Councillor. Everyone else I've spoken to sees merit in using one of the many other venues in the town like the new centre at the Baptist Church or in one of our local schools and church halls. I agree with them. Why build something else when all the other venues would benefit from the income to be generated from regular lettings?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Thanet's Green and Open Spaces

By Alan Poole

We recognise that our green and open spaces are vitally important to the people of Thanet and we will do whatever we can to maintain and, if possible, improve them. It is very important for our communities to have local facilities that can be used and enjoyed by all.

It is our policy to resist attempts to build on well-used community green and open spaces and we will ensure that wherever possible only ‘brownfield sites’ are developed.

It is our policy to protect and improve our current tree stock and we will proactively encourage the planting of more trees. It is our policy that for every tree removed three replacement trees will be planted within Thanet.

It is our policy to work towards improving public parks and open spaces, making them cleaner and safer places for the residents to enjoy.

It is our policy to protect animal rights and we will seek to increase our current wildlife habitats.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Thanet Local Labour Manifesto 2011

By Clive Hart / @CliveHart

For the past eight years Thanet has suffered badly from a Conservative-led district council. Deprivation, empty properties and poorly kept streets are sadly all too common in our main towns and villages; the neglect is clearly visible for all to see. Our main High Streets have too many boarded up shops and prime attractions such as Ramsgate Royal Harbour & Marina and Margate Harbour have been badly neglected.

The visible signs of neglect are bad enough, but what has gone on behind the scenes is probably much worse. In a desperate bid to raise money, the Conservatives have tried to sell many well-used and much-loved community assets.

Whilst the Conservative political leadership have been busy bungling decisions, leading council officers have been even busier reorganising TDC from the top down. This situation was more fully exposed during the February 2011 meeting of TDC when Labour councillors suggested a cap on leading officers pay whilst other members of staff were being made redundant. The Conservatives didn't just vote against the idea, their leader went a step further and publicly ordered his Conservative members not to discuss the issue.

Through our policies, Local Labour will take firm action and bring back pride in Thanet!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

South East Labour Election Campaign

A group of local young people affected by Tory-led Government cuts joined Labour Shadow Health Secretary John Healey in Brighton on Thursday 31st March for the launch of Labour’s South East election campaign.

From the 19 year-old whose Connexion’s youth worker has been made redundant, to the 18 year-old with three A-levels unable to find work, to the 23-year old new father facing benefit cuts and unemployment, to students who can’t afford university due to soaring tuition fees, the message was spelt out clearly on placards made up by the group: “Vexed Generation”, “Un-sure Start”, “Another Unemployed Woman”.

Shadow Health Secretary John Healey: “The Tory-led Government is kicking away the ladder for young people across the South East. 3,950 people across the region were kept in work by Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, which the Tory-led Government has now scrapped.”