Monday, 30 January 2012

Response to Laura Sandys MP

Thanet Labour decision is reasonable, proportionate and appropriate
By Cllr Clive Hart - Leader of Thanet District Council (TDC)
Let me be absolutely clear.
My decision to change the public consultation on night flights proposals at Manston follows legal advice given to the council which explains that at this stage, the proposals DO NOT require a planning application.  Just as importantly, the advice goes on to state that the council’s role is one of CONSULTEE ONLY and as such the council will not be in a position to make a binding decision on night time flying at this stage.
My Conservative predecessor Cllr Bob Bayford had already spent several months and tens of thousands of pounds on this process before Labour took control of the council. His plans would have seen the council spend around a further £50,000 of public money on consultants to run the consultation process his way. Cllr Bayford may have been content to use ratepayers hard earned cash in this way and apparently Laura Sandys would like us do the same, but Labour will do precisely what is reasonable, proportionate and appropriate.
As for Laura Sandys' accusation that I am in some way 'watering down' the process, nothing could be further from the truth. The new TDC consultation process approach will now be focused here in Thanet with a strong weighting for the opinions of those directly affected by the proposals. I firmly believe this to be reasonable, proportionate and appropriate.
It is clear my Conservative predecessor was struggling with this issue. He had created a monster of a process that had got completely out of control. It would have left the council in the ridiculous position of spending enormous amounts of time and effort and a small fortune of public money on a consultation process that was only ever going to be used to form the council's 'opinion'.
Thanet residents, the airport consultative committee and the airports Chief Executive all complained to me about the long drawn out process we had inherited from the previous Conservative administration that was getting us nowhere. I therefore acted swiftly and did exactly what was reasonable, proportionate and appropriate.
Last but not least, I am pleased to see that on the serious issue of the environmental impact of the proposals, Laura Sandys shares exactly the same concerns as Thanet Labour and is firmly against night flights! 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dealing with Night Flight proposals - and halting the creation of a Monster

Since Labour took control of Thanet Council in December it has become clear that the airport, its consultative committee, and many local residents are extremely concerned regarding the long drawn out time the council has been taking over Infratil's night time flying proposals.
The former Conservative administration had commissioned an expensive independent consultants report and at further serious cost legal opinions were sought. Large amounts of council officers valuable time had been used up on the process and yet another expensive company had been engaged to carry out the consultation, but little or no real progress was visible.
Indeed, many people were rightly angry at the lack of action, mainly because at a public meeting earlier in 2011 the former Conservative council leader had suggested the consultation might even start before Christmas. This when he must have known that through the process he was following, it could not have started before late February (after the TDC Overview and Scrutiny Committee). Even then, under Conservative plans, it would have had to run for several more months before council officers could even started to produce the findings and present them to councillors for further discussion.
Swift action is needed to take back control of a process that has clearly spiraled out of control under the previous Conservative administration.
Labour council leader Cllr Clive Hart will therefore today sign a TDC decision notice which outlines the intention to carry out an in-house 28 day consultation of Thanet residents that will be weighted strongly for those directly affected. 

The decision follows legal advice which explains that at this stage, the proposals do not require a planning application.  Just as importantly, the advice goes on to state that the council’s role is one of ‘consultee’ only and as such the council will not be in a position to make a binding decision on night time flying at this stage.

Labour council leader Cllr Clive Hart said: "it is clear our Conservative predecessors were struggling with this issue. They had created a monster of a process that had got completely out of control. It would have left the council in the ridiculous position of spending a small fortune of council tax payers money on a consultation process that was only ever going to be used to form the council's 'opinion'. The council has been advised that if there is an intensification or change in operation at the airport in the future then this position may change, and a planning application may be required, but at the moment the council is simply being asked to provide a response to the proposals.

My Conservative predecessor had already spent tens of thousands of pounds on this process before we took control of the council. His plans would have seen us spend around a further £50,000 on consultants to run the process his way. He may be content to use ratepayers hard earned cash but I am not!
Labour will do precisely what is reasonable, proportionate and appropriate under the circumstances".

The decision comes after the findings of an independent assessment commissioned by the former Conservative administration and carried out by Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd. on behalf of TDC, call into question a number of the environmental and economic claims of the airport in their submission to the council. 

Notes. From the Thanet Labour Manifesto 2011:

'Labour will support the development of Manston Airport but will always be mindful of the impact on residents and the environment'.

'Labour will seek a policy of no flights during the hours of 23:00 to 07:00, except for emergency landings and humanitarian flights'.

Published by Thanet Labour Group Press Office, 44 Northdown Road, Margate, Kent, CT9 2RW.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Cllr. Driver and his resignation from Thanet Labour Group

By Cllr Clive Hart - Labour Group Leader 
Firstly, Cllr Driver sent his apologies and did not attend the Group meeting where our original draft budget proposals were agreed. 
Immediately after I received Cllr Driver's email regarding our draft budget press release I phoned him and discussed his concerns with him.
In public at the Thanet District Council (TDC) Cabinet meeting on 5th January Cllr Driver was allowed to speak and give his views on the issue and further discussion took place.
In public at the TDC Overview and Scrutiny meeting on 12th January Cllr Driver spoke at enormous length on the issue and even more discussion took place.
In the days between the Scrutiny meeting and our Group meeting on Thursday evening I spoke at length with our Group Deputy Leader, our Group Chair and our Cabinet member for Finance regarding Cllr Driver's concerns.
At Group on Thursday evening Cllr Driver was again encouraged to voice his concerns and ALL members present, including Cllr Driver repeatedly, debated the issue for well over an hour. When the final decision was made at the end of the debate, no-one supported Cllr Driver's view.
There were no 'scenes' and Cllr Driver left the meeting quietly, leaving behind his written resignation.
Our Group is a very inclusive and democratic organisation and I truly believe Cllr Driver was given every possible opportunity to put his case.
I think it is very sad that even after this lengthy procedure, he felt unable to accept the views of his fellow group members.
Cllr Driver's resignation changes little and I hope our sincere and positive actions since taking control have won us support outside of our party. Cross party working is essential in a hung council and I would think that is exactly what the public would wish to see.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Dreamland petition is presented to Public Inquiry

Yesterday (10th January) the Public Inquiry into the future of the Dreamland began with a final decision expected around June. For the past two weeks campaigners have been running a 'Save Dreamland' petition in support of the plans put forward by Thanet Council and the Dreamland Trust. In this short space of time they managed to get almost 3,000 signatures - the original target was 1,000! 

One of the organisers of the petition Dane Valley Ward Councillor Will Scobie said, " We would like to thank everyone that has given their support to this campaign. We know that any decision made on the future of Dreamland is going to be on a legal basis, but we felt it was important that the decision makers were aware of what the public wanted. Officers at Thanet Council and members of the Dreamland Trust have put so much work into the Dreamland project to get it this far, and we just hope that in some small way we have helped their case. It is clear from our discussions with local people that they want Dreamland open, and that they have no faith in the current owners of the site to deliver that. We hope the Planning Inspector looks at the facts of the case and the history of the site, and makes the right decision that will continue the regeneration of Margate."

Councillor Clive Hart accepting the 'Save Dreamland'
petition from Jodi Hibbert and Councillor Will Scobie

The petition was presented to the Leader of Thanet District Council Councillor Clive Hart, and then it was officially presented to the Planning Inspector in the Public Inquiry by Margate resident Jodi Hibbert who started the campaign and has been heavily involved in organising it.


1. A copy of the petition can be found here:

2. For more information on the campaign go to:

Monday, 9 January 2012

Thanet Labour Group News - Cabinet Overhaul

By Cllr Clive Hart - Labour Group Leader
Today I have announced changes to the Cabinet system at Thanet District Council (TDC) that will 'free up' leading council managers and officers time to concentrate on providing the very best service for local residents.
We inherited a Cabinet system from the previous Conservative administration at TDC that appeared clearly designed to fudge and confuse staff, councillors, the press and the public. Cabinet members with ridiculously patronizing titles, had portfolios that were all too often complicatedly entangled with many different business streams and departments of the council.
This was an incredibly wasteful use of valuable time and effort at TDC. Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet members had to spend enormous amounts of time speaking to a wide range of officers at the council and yet more worryingly, very highly paid leading officers of the council would spend hours going over the same matters time and time again.
I have therefore re-aligned the five Cabinet posts to directly correspond with the five business streams of the council and their five dedicated managers.
These changes, added to a number of initiatives that we have already introduced through our new Cabinet, will make matters at TDC more transparent and less confusing for everyone.
The new Cabinet roles which now directly relate to the existing council business streams will be:
Corporate & Regulatory Services        Cllr Clive Hart
Commercial Services                          Cllr Alan Poole
Community Services                           Cllr Iris Johnston
Business Services                               Cllr Michelle Fenner   
Financial Services                               Cllr Rick Everitt

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pierremont Park Community Centre

By Cllr Matterface - Beacon Road Ward, Broadstairs

Nearly a decade ago Broadstairs & St. Peter’s Town Council came up with a scheme to build a community centre, a scheme that has divided the community it was intended to serve ever since.

The location for the centre, Pierremont Park, a town-centre green space, would be changed beyond recognition by a large building, the loss of mature trees and open space, creating a financial burden for the council taxpayer for many years.

A trust was set up, trustees appointed, funding won and lost. The scheme still proved controversial since many residents of all backgrounds objected to the whole approach of the plan.
An amended plan in two phases was agreed by the TDC planning committee. A £500000 loan from the Public Works Loan Board was taken out even before a lease was agreed at an annual cost to the council taxpayer of £35000. Together with the annual rent and rates this would equate to more than 25% of the town council’s precept. Funding from both TDC and KCC has been promised and rolled over several times.
 A section 106 from the Hereson School site has been signed but the terms of that agreement and the proposed lease have not been made public so I cannot comment with any accuracy on those. The trust asked for a 99 year lease since funding would be impossible, it seems, with anything less. This would mean the land would be lost to the public more or less indefinitely.

Since the scheme was first thought of much has changed nationally and locally. New schools have up-to-date facilities. Churches have modified their premises and halls and the GAP Project at the Baptist Church is up and running. All this makes the community centre unnecessary and a financial burden for the council taxpayer for decades to come.
There are times when with any project there is a point when we say ‘enough’s enough, let’s cut our losses and move on’ and that time is now. I am asking the cabinet to refuse to award the lease for any period as the centre is unnecessary, too expensive to run and of doubtful viability.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Thanet District Council Draft Budget

By Cllr Rick Everitt - Cabinet Member for Finance. 

"No increase in council tax and some lower than originally proposed fees and charges are key aspects of the draft budget to be considered by Thanet District Council’s new Labour cabinet on Thursday night. 

If eventually agreed by council a Band D householder will again pay just under £210 for TDC’s services in 2012/13, although the final council tax bill is dependent on other authorities’ decisions, including those of Kent County Council and the isle’s town and parish councils. 

The new TDC administration has also intervened to reverse £50,000 of cuts to events funding and floral grants that had been tabled by the former Conservative administration. 
Given that we only came into office on December 8th and the budget proposals had to be finalised well before Christmas, we have necessarily been limited in the changes we could make. 

However, we have been able to reduce an inflation-busting 9 per cent hike to off-street car parking fees to allow time for a genuine consultation on proposals for a new charging scheme and we have cut back Conservative plans for 8.5 per cent and 15 per cent increases to the cost of cremations and burials. 

Tory proposals to increase charges for pest control services to poorer households have also gone and we have reversed cuts in two areas that we believe would have particular impact on visitors coming to Thanet, in recognition of the bearing tourism has on the local economy. 

These changes have been funded from existing government funding. We have made no new increases in fees and charges to cover them or to the council tax and neither are we drawing on reserves. The money was already there in government funding. It simply wasn’t allocated. 

We recognise that many residents are suffering because of the state of the economy and as far as we can we have set out to ensure that the council doesn’t add to their problems. 

Thanet has been severely hit by government cuts. We are one of only 12 local authorities in England - and the only one in Kent - that is receiving top-up funding this year because the scale of the funding reduction is so steep. 

So while we are able to balance the books and do so without any significant cuts in jobs and services this year, we are not pretending that the council is doing everything it would like to do or is always delivering services of the quality and reliability that residents deserve. 

Neither are we giving up on making those improvements in the future. 

After cabinet on Thursday night, the budget proposals will go before overview and scrutiny next Tuesday (January 10th) and then on to council, which has the final say, on Thursday, January 19th. 

The Conservatives have already had ample opportunity to input to the process as they effectively had ownership of the budget until less than a month ago. We have also held meetings with the council’s four Independent members to hear their views. 

It’s a budget that all sides have had an opportunity to shape and therefore one which all should be able to support".