Thursday, 28 March 2013


'I was pleased to be presenting the Equality Policy and Action Plan to Cabinet this evening, so that the public consultation process could be started with the wide Thanet community.

For me, it is a matter of moral and political duty to challenge and fight against prejudice and discrimination.
In the current economic climate, it is anticipated that residents will turn towards Thanet District Council in situations of difficulty and it is paramount that they are all treated in total fairness with dignity and respect.

I feel privileged to be able to uphold these principles within a policy document and I believe that Thanet District Council has an important role to play in championing the Equalities and Diversity agenda not only within the Council for its service users and staff but also in the wider Thanet community and its many residents groups.

I am grateful that in my Cabinet post I am supported by the Member Lead for Equality and Inclusion, Cllr. John Worrow, who contributed to the Cabinet debate this evening.” Gone are the days when a local government equality policy was just about ticking the right boxes and talking the talk. Thanks to people like Cllr. Michelle Fenner we are starting to walk the walk. It is encouraging to work with someone who genuinely understands what true equality means.”

The public consultation will enable comments on the policy itself and the action plan.

I expect, upon return to Cabinet, post-consultation, in June that the action plan will have more entries, reflecting feedback received from consultees.

I also expect both documents to be regularly updated and always considered as work in progress.
Equality can never be static and I urge all members of the Thanet community to take part in the public consultation'.
Cllr. Michelle Fenner, Cabinet member.

The public consultation will take place between from 2nd to 30th April 2013.

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

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Hilary Benn MP, Labour's Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, responding to research on cuts to council services, said: 
"People across England will within days start to see the full impact of David Cameron's severe cuts on local government and councils.

This research shows just how seriously the impact will be on children's services, care for the elderly and our civic infrastructure - the libraries, parks and sports facilities that millions depend on and enjoy. What makes it worse is that the biggest cuts are being imposed on the most deprived communities."



Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow DWP Secretary, responding to today’s Public Accounts Committee Select Committee report, said:
“The welfare revolution we were promised is descending into total chaos, and its hardworking families paying the price.
“The report reveals the woeful inadequacy of Discretionary Housing Payments to help people hit by the Bedroom Tax. And now even the Government’s own modelling shows that their changes to Housing Benefit will end up costing more than they save – what a shambles.
“This report lays bare the undeniable truth – under this Government the Department for Work and Pensions hasn’t got the first idea what it is doing. Ministers simply do not know what impact their housing benefit changes will have.”


Monday, 25 March 2013


Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, at a summit on the impact of the Bedroom Tax on disabled people, today revealed fresh evidence of the devastating impact this Government is having on disabled people. 
At the event in Southwark, Liam Byrne revealed fresh evidence that the Welfare Uprating Bill will drive 50,000 disabled people into poverty, just one week before the Bedroom Tax hits 440,000 households home to a disabled person.

Liam Byrne MP said:

“In two weeks 13,000 millionaires get will get tax cut of £2,000 per week, but hundreds of thousands of people hit by the Bedroom Tax will pay an extra £728 a year. 
“Hundreds of thousands of disabled people will be punished by the hated Bedroom Tax, yet the budget offered them not a penny of help. Instead we have got the spare home subsidy for Britain’s richest families to add to the £100,000 a year tax cut arriving in a few days’ time.

“That tells you everything you need to know about this Government’s values.

“In no world is that fair. Disabled people are seeing attack after attack after attack – from unfair changes to DLA, a Work Capability Assessment that is out of control and now changes to benefits that will drive 50,000 disabled people into poverty. The Government’s plans are in chaos, and that's why it's so important to hear what disabled people have to say.

“We are very proud to be the party who appointed the first minister for disabled people. And we want to carry on listening to the views of disabled people. We want to hear your ideas for the future, but also we want to hear what's going wrong now.”



We wish to emphasise that Thanet District Council’s policies and procedures are robust. Indeed the Annual Audit Letter of September 2012 stated that in overall terms their assessment was that the Council has a good understanding of its underlying financial position and sound financial systems and that the Council continues to demonstrate effective arrangements for budget and financial management.

TDC’s Whistleblowing Policy was effective and instantaneous in alerting the Senior Management and subsequently the Police to the crime committed by Cllr. Ezekiel who was found guilty of Misconduct in a Public Office.

Thorough investigations by the Police with full co-operation of TDC officers to check if there were any signs of collusion found nothing untoward.

We share the concern that Councillors who are elected to represent and serve the general public must adhere to the highest standards of integrity.

We have therefore decided to take the opportunity this situation presents to revisit our policies and procedures and not to leave any stone unturned.

We have requested a comprehensive report to Cabinet on lessons to be learnt and what actions to follow. This report will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting in April.

It is proposed to write a report to Cabinet to debrief Members on the findings of the court case, and to present the response of the council to learn from this case to improve its systems and processes. 

The cabinet report will state in its opening paragraphs that a crime has been committed and although we are actively reviewing our procedures, a preliminary review has shown that it was a result of the council’s procedures that enabled the crime to be detected and brought to justice. As a learning council we have used this to prompt a thorough review of procedures covering asset disposal, contract procedures, publication of reports and disclosure of member interests.

The report will specifically refer to:-

  • A review of the asset disposal policy and procedure – with revisions to include the addition of an explanation of the methods of disposal; and to improve key controls to prevent advantage to officers and members through inside knowledge, by prohibiting officers from sharing bidding information during commercial negotiations.   Internal audit will be asked to contribute to this review and to provide assurance of the adequacy of key controls.
  • A review of the register of member interests, to strengthen the information requested. This revision would then be taken to Standards, for recommendation to Council.
  • A reminder will be issued to all members alerting them of the need to complete the register of interests.
  • Regular reminders will be issued to all staff and members of the whistleblowing policy.  This has recently been undertaken.
  • Officers will be made aware of risk areas in disposal and contract award decisions and will be reminded of the need for thorough and accurate records of all decisions as well as for the need to log member contact in relation to sale and contract negotiations.
  • To strengthen the detection controls for asset sales, all sales will be reported in the quarterly budget monitoring reports, where the sale values will form part of the capital receipts figures within the capital programme. The report will state which assets have been disposed of, by which sale method, for what price and the details of the purchaser.
  • Members will be reassured that it is appropriate to approach officers with concerns relating to their ward, or portfolio, such as may affect the areas regeneration, but that these contacts will be recorded.
  • Where officers deem it necessary to exclude the press and public due to the content of a report, the report that recommends the exclusion of the press and public will, in future, state what the public interest test is, to explain the rational for the exclusion, and what is meant by commercially sensitive, where applicable.
  • The exclusion report will also state that in the case where the public interest test is finely balanced, that the presumption will be in favour of publishing.
  • The annual review of contract standing orders and the tight controls over tender opening, which already exist.

This course of actions will show the residents of Thanet that, as the new administration at Thanet District Council, we are not complacent about the way decisions are made and implemented and that our guiding principle will always be the public interest. We intend to continue to debate, scrutinise and challenge every aspect of Thanet District Council’s work on behalf of the community it serves.

Councillor Clive Hart – Leader
Councillor Alan Poole – Deputy Leader
Councillor Michelle Fenner – Cabinet Member Business Services and Corporate Regulatory 

Saturday, 23 March 2013


TDC's Cllr Alan Poole - Cabinet Member for Operational Services and Cllr Clive Hart - Leader with ward councillors Cllr John Watkins and Cllr Iris Johnston - Cabinet Member for Community Services. 

A partnership between TDC and the Environment Agency has accessed funding to deliver a new sea defence scheme in Margate on time and well under budget.

The £6.2million grant funded scheme has involved major renovations to the Stone Pier, the North and South Sea Walls as well as the construction of a stepped structure (revetment) in front of Marine Drive.

The Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr. Clive Hart, said “Margate is a superb town to spend your time; whether on the beach, at an interesting attraction, staying the night in one of the numerous B&Bs or shopping in the renowned Old Town.

“Particularly during the warmer months the revetment steps will be a joy to sit and ponder, eat lunch or meet friends and family, to enjoy the wonderful scenery that Margate has to offer.

“We are now confident that our lovely town will be protected by the sea flood defence scheme, thanks to the engineers, architects and builders involved in the project.”

New seating has also been installed along the top of the steps and LED lighting will highlight the revetments at night.

Savings on the scheme have allowed the Environment Agency to fund the major refurbishment of the Marine Pool on Margate Sands, as well as the refurbishment of the heritage railings that are a feature of Margate Seafront.

Friday, 22 March 2013


Sharon Hodgson MP, Labour's Shadow Children's Minister, commenting on Professor Nutbrown's criticisms of the Government's childcare changes, said:

"The Government’s own expert adviser has echoed the concerns of parents and nursery staff that the quality of care for babies and toddlers is being undermined by this Government - David Cameron and Michael Gove need to listen to Professor Nutbrown.

"David Cameron’s plans are a serious threat to childcare quality and child safety, and experts say they won't do anything to drive down costs. Since these plans were announced, Labour has been calling on ministers to think again - it's time they listened."


Thursday, 21 March 2013


Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding to revelations that the government’s mortgage scheme will not exclude people buying second homes, said:

"Not only is George Osborne pressing ahead with a tax cut for millionaires it now seems that his mortgage scheme will help people, no matter how high their income, to buy a subsidised second home worth up to £600,000.

"The Government is basically saying that if you’ve got a spare room in a social home you’ll have to pay the bedroom tax, but if you want a spare home we’ll help you buy one.

"Is the Government really going to give millionaires a tax cut averaging £100,000 and then give them a taxpayer guarantee if they use that money as a deposit on a house - a second home or even a home to buy to let? Not just tax cuts for millionaires but subsidised mortgages for millionaires.

"Surely people struggling to get a mortgage and those who want to own their first home must be the priority for help, not the small number who can afford to buy a second one. We will only tackle the housing crisis and help first time buyers if we finally build the new affordable homes we have said should be at the heart of any proper plan for jobs and growth.

"This more of the same Budget stuck with a plan that is completely failing on growth, living standards and the deficit, but the one new thing George Osborne announced is already unravelling."


Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Stephen Twigg MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting on the Government’s childcare announcement, said: 
“Families need real help with the cost of childcare now, not promises of help in two and a half year’s time. The only people David Cameron is helping now are millionaires, who will get a massive tax cut in April. The Government will be cutting £7 billion worth of support for families in 2015 – ten times what they are promising in today’s announcement. 
“Lower and middle income earners are being hit hard. Parents who get tax credits, and have already seen their income squeezed will not benefit from this tax break. And a couple with one child paying basic rate tax will lose £600 compared to the existing scheme.”


Saturday, 16 March 2013


Isle of Thanet Gazette - Clive Hart - Leader of Thanet Council


The outcome of the court case involving the former Conservative TDC Leader Sandy Ezekiel should shock me, but sadly it doesn't. As many people know, there was absolutely no love lost at all between Sandy Ezekiel and me. Our politics, leadership styles and our general attitudes to life could not be more different. 

However, the reputation of councillors has undoubtedly been affected by the trial and its outcome, and that sickens me. Ten years ago I stood in the council chamber for the very first time as an elected member and I can tell you I had a lump in my throat. I was so proud that a local lad, born, raised and educated all within a mile of the chamber and who had served a large part of his electrical apprenticeship working on the very same council buildings, could one day stand where I was standing and hold such a privileged position. I truly felt that many years of voluntary service to my local community had been recognised and I looked forward to many more as a councillor.

I was right, my role as a ward councillor, and more recently as leader, has involved lots of hard work but it has been incredibly rewarding. Unfortunately, my early years as a councillor also coincided with several bleak years for me, under Ezekiel's leadership. There is not enough space here to detail all the negative aspects but his more public outbursts were very well documented at the time and reported in both our local and national press.

That was then and this is now. We have a totally different administration and I can assure residents Thanet District Council is led in a very different manner today. The recent court proceedings do not reflect on the current organisation or its leadership and the dishonest action of one individual does not indicate that the council today is in any way corrupt.

Since I became leader, any serious council business I've been involved in has taken place in appropriate offices or meeting rooms and in the presence of council officers, certainly not in bars or restaurants. 

The council’s constitution and its governance processes are subject to regular audit and we are confident that these remain robust. The council is committed to the highest possible standards of propriety and accountability and takes the responsibility for protecting public money very seriously. Council officers are aware that if they suspect any wrong-doing they should view the council’s Whistleblowing Code and/or Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy for details on how to take action. Councillors and officers remain vigilant to signs of illegal activities and if ever discovered, will continue to seek prosecution to the highest extent of the law.

At TDC we continue to work hard with fewer resources to achieve improvements for our residents and it is a great shame that all of this good work has been overshadowed by this incident. I will be working closely with fellow councillors and officers to improve standards, reputation and public perception.

Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

Friday, 15 March 2013

Isle of Thanet Gazette letters

There were 3 letters in the Isle of Thanet Gazette this week about the disgraced Tory councillor Sandy Ezekiel.

And an excellent letter by Labour candidate Dick Symonds.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


Gordon Marsden MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth, commenting ahead of Labour’s Opposition day debate on using public procurement to boost apprenticeships, said:

“Labour will today demand that the Government uses the money which it already spends on public procurement to create new apprenticeship opportunities. 

“This approach has won the backing of the cross-party Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and builds on what Labour did in government to ensure that apprenticeships were offered on the delivery of the Olympic Park and Crossrail, while Labour local authorities are also leading the way in using procurement to boost apprenticeships. Ed Miliband has recently outlined the real difference our plan would make, creating 33,000 new apprenticeships on the High Speed 2 project. Yet the Government has refused to back our plans. 

“This is a key test for ministers at a time when there are almost one million young people out of work and the number of apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year olds has fallen.”


Monday, 11 March 2013


Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary,responding to yet more government confusion over the Bedroom Tax, said:
“The chaos engulfing the Bedroom Tax is deepening by the day.
“Last week we learnt that even the Prime Minister doesn’t know how hard the Bedroom Tax will hit disabled children and now Ministers claim they haven’t even published all the rules yet. The whole thing is a total shambles. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of families are in the firing line to get clobbered by this wretched policy.
“Ministers have got to get a grip of this mess fast.”


Monday, 4 March 2013


Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne will be launching a major Labour campaign to highlight the unfairness of David Cameron's Bedroom Tax, in Hull on Monday 4 March.
The launch will be the first in a series of events ahead of the introduction of the bedroom tax in April - at exactly the same time as the Government are giving 13,000 millionaires a tax cut worth £100,000 a year on average.
Ahead of the launch, Liam Byrne said,
"David Cameron's April tax plan is simply not fair. From next month, 13,000 millionaires are getting a tax cut worth £100,000 a year on average while over 600,000 armed forces families, disabled people and foster carers have to find £728 a year to pay a new bedroom tax.
"Yet the plan is such a shambles that someone who's been to prison on a short sentence won't have to pay. How unfair is that? Millionaires and prisoners are looked after but vulnerable people, carers and armed forces families get hit.
"Labour plan relentless pressure on this out of touch government until Ministers see sense, admit this policy is totally unfair and think again.”


Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding to Bank of England statistics on the Funding for Lending scheme, said:
“These are deeply disappointing figures. Net lending is actually down since the Funding for Lending scheme started and down by £2.4 billion in the final three months of 2012. And the Bank of England's own figures show that net lending to businesses fell by £4.5 billion in last quarter. 
“Businesses are losing patience with this government. After nearly three years of failure, the Chancellor must explain what action he will take to finally boost net lending to small and medium sized firms, which is vital if we are to get our economy moving. 

“And we need broader action to kick-start our economy and strengthen it for the long-term. Labour and business groups are calling for infrastructure investment to be brought forward, a British Investment Bank and a national insurance holiday for small firms taking on extra staff. It's time this downgraded Chancellor finally listened and acted."


Council is a living wage employer

Thanet District Council is now eligible to become an accredited Living Wage Foundation 'Living Wage Employer' following the approval of its amended Pay Policy at Full Council last night (28 February 2013).

This means that the council is one of a number of employers leading the way in ensuring that all employees are paid at least the Living Wage which is currently set at £7.45 per hour (compared to the current minimum wage which is £6.19 per hour).

The Living Wage campaign is an example of communities, business, campaigners and faith groups coming together to find practical, non-statutory means to address working poverty and strengthen families which has now grown into a national movement.  Existing Living Wage employers have reported improved morale, lower staff turnover, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and improved customer service.
Since 2001 the campaign has impacted over 45,000 employees and put over £210 million into the pockets of some of the lowest paid workers in the UK.

Paying the Living Wage is a recognised sign of good practice in employment.

Leader of the Council, Cllr. Clive Hart said "This is great news for Thanet and underlines the council's ongoing commitment to help to lift more local families out of working poverty. We want to encourage good people to work at the council and paying the Living Wage is not only morally right but is an investment which makes sound business sense."



Stephen Twigg MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting on the local authority capital funding allocations, said:
"We have seen huge cuts under David Cameron’s Government to the budget for school buildings. It is no wonder that many schools are in poor repair and overcrowded.
"This money is long overdue. Hundreds of school rebuilding projects have been cancelled and only 3 per cent of schools which need repairs have been rebuilt in 3 years.
"The Government only plans to rebuild around 25 schools by the end of 2013. The number Labour planned to rebuild under the cancelled Building Schools for the Future programme was 735."

Friday, 1 March 2013


"Today's news from the court in Maidstone should shock me, but sadly it doesn't.

As many people know, there was no love lost at all between the former Conservative Leader Sandy Ezekiel and me.

Our politics, leadership styles and our general attitudes to life could not be more different.

Thanet District Council is led in a very different manner today"

Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader.

Letter from the Isle of Thanet Gazette


IT IS good to see Councillor Ian Driver finally showing some interest in Ramsgate Town Council (“Ramsgate residents are not served well”, Your Views, February 22), because he’s had precious little to do with it since he was elected.

The town plan and the Pleasurama site, which he mentions, were both discussed at the full council meeting on February 6. As so often, however, Mr Driver didn’t turn up. This was despite the fact that he’d just been at a public meeting 50 yards away. Then again the council meeting wasn’t covered by the local television news, so why would we be surprised?

His criticism of the town council appears to be that it hasn’t managed to change things that he knows very well are entirely outside its control or legal authority. Among the things it has done, however, is to preserve and maintain a visitor information centre in Ramsgate, staffed by volunteers, as well as supporting financially and practically a thriving events programme delivered by the community. It is about to launch a new website promoting Ramsgate, as well as professionally marketed town trails. And it costs £27.45 per band D household a year. Mr Driver says that having the same people serve as town and district councillors is a conflict of interest – although presumably that logic must also apply to him, and even more so when he now stands for election as a county councillor.

Here at least is a matter on which Mr Driver can easily do something. We all know he won’t give up his cabaret role at Thanet District Council or shrink bashfully from the county spotlight, but the cost of a town council by-election on May 2, when elections are already taking place, would be minimal. He could therefore resign with a clear conscience as a town councillor and allow the people of Northwood to choose someone else, whatever their political background, who is actually interested in representing the residents at meetings – or indeed at all. The successful candidate could hardly be less useful than Mr Driver ’s empty chair.

Councillor Rick Everitt, by e-mail

LIKE many in Ramsgate I was horrified that after two years graffiti-free enjoyment of the paintings on the Great Wall, we now have mindless vandalism.

I note that Councillor Ian Driver has apologised on his website to anyone who believes that his earlier comments encouraging people to graffiti the Great Wall of Ramsgate was instrumental in the subsequent damage to paintings hung there. Because Mr Driver does not live in Ramsgate he may not be aware of the affection that many Ramsgate residents have for the Great Wall. To many it symbolised action by many individuals to create something positive at a time when Ramsgate was suffering neglect from Thanet District Council.

As Ramsgate mayor, I was pleased last year to be able to present one of the Ramsgate Society’s Town Image awards to Gerry O’Donnell and Mike Sansum, representing the many artists who have contributed to the project. The sequence of events would seem to indicate that Mr Driver’s words advocating the criminal act of graffiti and the subsequent actions of others were the height of irresponsibility, so much more so from a Thanet district councillor. I don’t know the exact figure each year that it costs taxpayers to clean up graffiti, but it is many hundreds of pounds.

In the same sequence of Facebook comments, Mr Driver appears to encourage others to occupy the Royal Sands site. Yet another reckless act the councillor could be encouraging. These are not the actions of a responsible councillor. Nor is the misuse and exploitation of a group of residents with legitimate concerns over the future of Ramsgate’s seafront. A belated apology now, Mr Driver, is not in any way good enough. You gained election through a deception, posing as a Labour Party member. I would suggest that resignation would indicate that you recognise that your actions make you unsuitable as a councillor.

Councillor David Green, Ramsgate

GRANT FROM COUNCILLORS WAS URGENTLY NEEDEDON BEHALF of the trustees of Project MotorHouse, I would like to thank councillors Peter Campbell, Rick Everitt, David and Liz Green for supporting our recent successful application for funds from the New Homes Bonus Scheme. It will be used for the condition reports on the old motor museum on Ramsgate’s West Cliff.

The site, currently derelict and owned by TDC, is a vital piece of Ramsgate’s infrastructure. It cannot be left to continue deteriorating because its walls support one of the main access routes into Ramsgate. Its roof forms the first 40 metres of the West Cliff Promenade and the retaining walls of the terrace hold up the cliff which overlooks the commercial port. It has been empty now since 2005 and water is continually seeping in. Trees are growing into the terrace and threatening the structural integrity of the retaining wall. Local residents and the TDC parks department used to go through the building and onto the terrace to weed and keep it clear of rubbish. That has now been deemed too dang erous. This grant is very timely.

Janet Fielding, Project MotorHouse


I READ Kent County Councillor Jenny Whittle’s comments about the Thanet children’s centres hoping she was going to announce an increased budget for these vital centres using money from savings made elsewhere, but I was sadly disappointed to read that “there are no plans to close any children’s centres” followed by the inevitable “but ”.

The centre in Broadstairs, in common with others in Thanet, provides an invaluable service to parents and carers in a climate where funding is constantly being squeezed. Another article on the same page highlighted the degree of deprivation here in Thanet, where 28 per cent of children live in poverty.

Children’s Centres aim to be inclusive, not just for the most vulnerable (however that category may be defined), offering access to many agencies and experts. There are parents who are making up for time lost at school through family circumstances, school phobia or for other reasons by studying for GCSE equivalent exams in English and maths, to enable them to enter the job market as soon as they can so that their dependence on top-up benefits might be reduced.

They and other parents and carers benefit from the services offered with visits from the midwife, Citizens’ Advice Bureau advisers, courses for new parents, visits from the mobile farm and this Easter, a visit to Farming World. I have seen myself how the self-esteem and confidence of the centre users has been boosted through using the facilities and accessing the help provided.

I hope the planned review of the various centres doesn’t lead to any more cutbacks or even closure. That would be a tragedy for the area.

Councillor Jennifer Matterface, Beacon Road Ward


ON JULY 13, 2010 I wrote to the Isle of Thanet Gazette about the ludicrous blaming of Labour and Gordon Brown for the economic crisis of 2008.

I pointed out then that Labour had kept the Triple-A economic rating for the UK throughout the economic crisis and predicted that the ConDem Government would lose it. Well, that has happened. Prediction is everything in science: you have a hypothesis, you design an experiment to test it and state what will be the conditions for proof. Although Eton is not hot on science, George Osborne managed to do that.

Conservative ideology says austerity, deep cuts in public spending, cures the economy. It failed the conservatives of the USA in the 30s, who had to be rescued by Roosevelt’s massive job creation from public money. But anyway, George set the test himself – the Triple-A rating – and predicted austerity would haul Britain out of recession. Result: the flatline continues, we are in recession and we have lost the Triple-A rating. The experiment has instead proved the null-hypothesis, that austerity does not cure the economy.

It shows that the Tories and their allies, cannot be trusted with the economy and should hand it back to those who know what they are doing

RL Symonds, Broadstairs