Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Who will pay for our crossing?

Dear Kent County Councillors,

Will you please use your dedicated funding to pay for our pelican crossing?

At the recent Joint Transportation Board meeting, a petition with 400 signatures from local residents of the Hereson Road, Ramsgate, was presented by Ward Councillors Alan Poole and Michelle Fenner requesting that the pedestrian crossing in the road be upgraded to a pelican crossing with traffic lights.

Using this crossing near the junction with Lillian Road has always been hazardous but it is now extremely precarious and dangerous. The opening of the new Tesco’s store has made the situation worse as customers park illegally on zigzag lines and on the crossing itself. The visibility for drivers and pedestrians is reduced. As a result there are numerous accounts of pedestrians nearly being run over whilst using the zebra crossing.

Cllr Fenner said: “We should not have to wait until a terrible accident happens for the crossing to be upgraded to a pelican crossing. The safety of pedestrians must be paramount.”

Cllr. Poole added: “We have asked the two Kent County Councillors, Bill Hayton and Bob Bayford, to use their Highway Allocation to fund the pelican crossing. According to the latest publication by the Thanet Joint Transportation Board they both have uncommitted KCC sums totaling £113.000 to be spent in their division, which should easily cover the cost of it. We are eagerly awaiting their response.”

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The NHS - Safe in their hands?

By Dick Symonds

No-one thinks sobut why do the Tories hate the NHS and persistently want to change it?

It wasn't always like this. The NHS and the Welfare State was the overwhelming democratic choice in 1945, when the country was nearly bankrupt and in hock to the USA. Some of the older among us will remember the basically decent Tories of the '50s and '60s, who were quite happy with the NHS the way it wasthe 'consensus on the welfare state', they called it. Times were different then. Society was more equal, wages were proportionally higher, unemployment was low and your job was secure, and that trend was continuing. This worried the super-rich, the controllers of the growing multinational corporations. The call came for a politics which would be more to their liking, which would end all regulation of the private sector, reduce the State to a minimum, control the unions, push down the wages and use the threat of unemployment to keep the working class in its place. Thus Margaret Thatcher, the present Tories and what is now called 'neo-liberalism'. Thatcher hated the NHS precisely because it proved the opposite: a superb public service, with a caring and not a commercial basis, for all the people and removed the need for money up front, administered by a strong and confident State

So, once secure, Thatcher started to change all that. First the commercialisation, providing more and more managers, making professional staff talk business mumbo-jumbo, setting up the silly game of pretending to be a real business, by having 'purchasers' and 'providers'. The powers of the Crown were removed, the efficient organisation of health authorities turned  into Trusts, run by failed businessmen and retired colonels, and our NHS property increasingly mortgaged to the future by loans from private finance. Given the chance, after the fall of the Tories, New Labour failed to make more than cosmetic changes (though put more money into the NHS, and did improve the service).

And so today, our unelected Coalition government wants to dispose of what we democratically constructed. It wants more of the business game, to give the private sector more power. This may start small, but it is in the nature of capitalism to grow like a cancer, and there is at present no effective barrier to international private health corporations gobbling up any local private health enterprises. The ultimate goal of the Tories, and some have stated as much, is to have a health 'systemlike the USA: where the poor can die in the street because they can't buy private health insurance, where the doctor is forbidden to prescribe treatments the insurers will not support, where 25% of the cost goes in administration. That's what private medicine means for the majority in the USA, whose biggest concern is that they will fall and for them it could mean destitutionMeanwhile the super-rich, the directors of the private health corporations, cream off the profits.

Our NHS is big and powerful, as big as the old Red Army, the Indian Railways and many small countries. Given the right political lead (or rather the left political lead), it could compete with any capitalist enterprise, by using its purchasing power, for bulk buying any medicines for example. No private corporation has such dedicated and qualified staff. We could strip out the whole commercial and business structure , make it democratically accountable, get rid of commissioning  and consortia, and have a planning department and the delivery service.

So what is the problem that the Tories want to solve? They say our population is growing older and this is the problem. Well, it has been for centuries and it should be a blessing: our NHS has to be preventative and keep people healthier in old age. They say our cancer detection and treatment is poorer that some EU countries, but it varies from year to year. And these constitute the problem for which the NHS is to be risked?

ñ  We, the people, have to give a resounding 'NO' to this unelected governments plan
ñ  The NHS is the Best of Britain: we'd be mad to let it go

Hands off our NHS!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

4 P's and the SS

by Cllr.Clive Hart

After several weeks of 'navel gazing' the new 'themed' cabinet portfolio structure has now finally been imposed on Thanet Council by the Conservative leader Cllr Bayford. His announcement came last week, a month after the elections. Hardly hitting the ground running.  
Now Thanet Labour was most certainly 'on the ball'. 2011 saw a newly agreed staff structure at Thanet Council, and following the elections on May 5th the council had to decide on a cabinet and shadow cabinet to cover the newly configured organisation. We in the Labour Group met immediately to decide who should make up our cabinet/shadow team. For good measure, as group leader I also contacted the new Chief Executive to make sure that a five member cabinet, covering the five new business streams, would be appropriate. I was informed it would work well. Consequently, we in the Labour Group duly supplied the Council with our list of five councillors who would form either the cabinet or shadow cabinet, depending on the outcome of the Annual meeting. Job done and dusted and all before the council meeting itself. What could be simpler?
Surprisingly, on the day before the council AGM, I was informed that should the Conservative leader Cllr Bayford be elected leader of the council on the night, he would be staying with the old 'pre-restructure' portfolio roles. These in no way fitted the new TDC structure and I made it clear that this situation was absolutely ridiculous. The Tories reorganistional moves following the elections were clearly falling well behind schedule and at the Annual meeting we were forced to accept the Conservative leaders extremely muddled way forward. 
Then, in the first week of June, a whole month after the elections, Cllr Bayford announced more changes to his cabinet portfolios that now confuse matters still further. Not five cabinet members covering the five senior management roles and the five business streams, no that would be far too simple. For reasons only he could try to explain Cllr Bayford has gone for five cabinet members covering his four dreamt up 'themes' (People - Place - Prosperity - Performance) and a 'spare' member covering shared services.
So now cabinet and shadow cabinet members at Thanet Council have to liaise with up to three different leading officers to cover the scope of their work, and far more importantly, highly paid councillor officers have to liaise with several different councillors in order to cover Cllr Bayford's four new 'themes'. If there was ever a plan to waste time and confuse all who have to deal with the council, the new Conservative 'themes' led cabinet is it!
However, Thanet's residents can rest assured that our Labour shadow team will do all that is necessary to carry out our respective roles and hold the Tory cabinet to account.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Campaigning to save our NHS

by Cllr Jenny Matterface

On Saturday morning a group of us set out our stall in St. Peter's to highlight the threat to our NHS that is Not For Sale or N4S.

Dr.Dick Symonds, a local Labour activist, coined the phrase 'I'm not a commodity. My health is not for sale' and this clearly resonated with the public including many who had turned out to join the renowned Village Tour. Some confusion occurred because the organisers thought we were an unbooked tour but we soon reassured them that we were there to gather signatures on our petition and a number of tour participants signed up to save the NHS. 'John Wesley' was much enthused by our campaign and some 'fusion of time' ensued until we left the 18th century and re-joined the 21st.

Many of those who signed our petition were well-informed about the various u-turns since the original scheme was announced. Our signatories included current NHS staff as well as those who remembered the early days of the pioneering health reforms of the post-war period. Some, like me, had tales of family members, unable to afford treatment, whose health had suffered because their parents or spouses couldn't afford to pay for treatment. Everyone was adamant we must protect a health service that many in other countries envy.

I have friends in the USA who envy us our 'free at the point of delivery' health service. One friend with a very elderly parent has told me what a financial burden it is having to pay for his father's health care now the elderly gentleman no longer qualifies for Medicare. $1000 a month is the cost of his essential diabetes drugs.

None of the controversial policies were in the Conservative or Lib Dem manifestos at the general election in May 2010. They have come out of nowhere and are soon to be put to Parliament. We must all take a stand to defend our NHS that isn't for sale to the highest bidder so if you see us again with our petition and leaflets do join us and let David Cameron and Andrew Lansley know Thanet doesn't support these changes!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Labour Night Flights Resolution

By Cllr David Green

Thanet District Council, as the local Planning Authority has a clear duty to produce a Local Development Framework, against which local businesses, developers and residents can plan their future in terms of land use and environmental impact.

It is clear, that the Council has failed in this duty with regard to the future development of Kent International Airport. The environmental agreement that controls the conditions of use of the airport (section 106) was devised in 2000 and was anticipated as being updated every 3 years. In the intervening years it has served the community well, allowing development of the airport, but protecting residents from the worst environmental impacts. However, the aircraft industry and environmental standards have moved on. A new agreement is required, and the airport owners need a clear guide to what is acceptable.

The airport owners have produced a master plan of how they would like the airport to develop. It is aspirational as one would expect, and optimistic with regard to predicted traffic and jobs created. In the absence of planning guidance from the Council, the danger is that the master plan will become mistaken for Council policy.

Through inaction, the Council has allowed a myth to develop that all that is required is some minor adjustment to the conditions of the old s106 agreement that will allow the relaxations of environmental control that the master plan requires. As far as night time flying is concerned it is clear from reports commissioned by the airport and separately by the Council, that the environmental impact would be severe. This reinforces the legal opinion obtained on at least two occasions that night time flying represents sufficient intensification of use as to require fresh planning approval.

The local Labour Party has been pressing for the issue to be addressed, as it should be, through the Planning system for years now. We argued through the Council’s airport working party and Scrutiny system that a clear policy of no night flights was the only policy acceptable at Kent International as at so many other airports.

On Tuesday Clive Hart, our leader, and Alan Poole, our deputy leader moved the following resolution to be debated at the next Thanet Council Meeting:

‘The Council adopts a policy of not allowing scheduled, pre-planned or otherwise timetabled flights between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00.  That a period of 1 hour at either end of the flying day be allowed for late/early arriving flights only.  That a penalty be applied to any flights arriving during the 1 hour periods.  No take-offs will be allowed between 23:00 and 07:00 hours and a schedule of exceptions to the above be prepared to include ‘mercy flights’, and flights for medical emergencies, coastguard movements etc’.