Sunday, 30 October 2011

Manston - proposed night-time flying policy

by Cllr. Clive Hart - Labour Group Leader
"The proposed night-time flying policy for Manston International Airport has now been published by Infratil.

Over the coming weeks and months members of the Labour group will scrutinise the proposed night-flying document carefully and thoroughly. Our District councillors will then make their individual views known at the appropriate points in the process, having taken account of all the information available".
Note: The proposed night-time flying policy may well become the subject of a planning application and therefore it would be inappropriate for any councillor to comment further at this time.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Tory led Government failing the South East

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth, Gordon Marsden MP spoke this week at the Kent on Sunday Business Week Live in Dover. He was scathing of the Tories record on support for business and growth in the South East:

The Tory-led Government’s much-touted Regional Growth Fund has helped precisely no businesses in the South East. Meanwhile latest figures show a 27% year on year increase in business failures in the South East. Unemployment in the region is soaring, which is a real worry because it’s one of the key regions where, if the Tory-led Government had been right in its argument, the private sector would have soaked up public sector job losses.
“Unfortunately, the Government has been wrong at almost every turn, and its decision to cut too far and too fast is hurting business and growth in the South East.”

Monday, 24 October 2011

Local employment problems come as no surprise

By Councillor Mary Dwyer

The job figures in last weeks edition of the Isle of Thanet Gazette come as no surprise at all to me. I myself have struggled to find full time employment and it took me nearly two and a half years to find my current part time work. I am currently registered disabled and this has further reduced my chances of getting full time work because I need time off work occasionally due to to health problems.

In Thanet we currently have 6000 unemployed which works out at 9.7% - way about the national average. Of these 6000 people 30.4% are aged between the age of 18 and 24. In addition to this we have a lower weekly pay that any of the neighbouring areas, high levels of social deprivation, and some of the biggest cuts to Local Council grants in the entire country.

There was also recently a survey of UK Further Education Colleges which said that between 5% and 15% of young people said that they are not attending a course as a direct result of the abolition of the EMA. Last academic year 85% of students at Thanet College were in receipt of EMA, and this shows the extent to which the Coalition Government's policies are hurting young people.

One of my colleagues Councillor Will Scobie is currently running a campaign calling on the Government to provide more training and jobs for young people. The Labour Party will have a stall in Margate on the 5th November from 10am till 2pm - please come down and show your support by signing our petition.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Arlington House application referred to Full Council

by Councillor Rick Everitt

Wednesday, October 19th, was a good day for democracy in Thanet.

It ended with the Tesco application for Arlington House and Square referred to full council for decision on grounds of “transparency and accountability”.

Members of the planning committee had been asked to consider whether the recently upgraded listing of the neighbouring scenic railway from Grade II to Grade II* would have changed their decision “to grant permission for redevelopment of the site, subject to a legal agreement and safeguarding conditions”, back in June.

But members had not granted permission. As the minutes showed, they had simply referred the matter to the secretary of state – as they were required to do by legislation – with a recommendation for approval.

Even that had only been decided on the casting vote of the independent chair, Cllr Jack Cohen.

The June minutes were completely silent on what happened if, as was the case, the secretary of state sent the application back to TDC for determination. It was my view that meant it could and should come back to members and not be finalised by officers under delegated powers.

The attempt to deal with the scenic railway issue in isolation threatened to create the farcical scenario of Tory members attending the committee as substitutes deciding whether their absent colleagues would have reached a different decision without ever themselves hearing the application in full.

Labour members, who had all voted against the recommendation in the first place, were being invited to reconsider their decision on the basis of the upgraded listing, when they had already been in a minority and a change in their vote could only reaffirm the position the committee had already taken.

No wonder that officers gathered in an extended huddle when I moved that given the confusion the entire application should be referred to full council for decision instead.

Eventually, the proposition was deemed acceptable for debate and was passed 8-6, with all Labour members in support.

The application has proven controversial from the beginning, after Labour deputy leader Cllr Alan Poole was not allowed by the chair to move a restriction on night-time deliveries on the basis that Tesco had said they couldn’t operate like that.

Concerns have been raised about traffic and parking issues, and the effect on the traditional Margate shopping area, as well as the impact on residents of the existing development and on Dreamland. It’s a big decision and one the council has to get right.

Everyone wants to see this site regenerated and recognises that the money to do it has to come from somewhere. Now, hopefully, the issues will be fully aired and debated by the whole council and residents affected may have a little more confidence in the democratic process in Thanet.

That’s an outcome we should all celebrate.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Tory leadership pays lip service to fight to ban live animal exports from Ramsgate Port

The Labour Group won an important vote at Full Council on 13th October. The motion, presented by Cllr. Ian Driver, calls on TDC to encourage residents to sign the e-petition placed on its front page, regarding the limit to 8 hours as a maximum time for the transport of live animals.

In spite of Cllr. Bob Bayford’s previous comments that the British Government should take a firmer stance on this issue, regardless of the outcome of the review being undertaken by the European Commission, he was prepared to water down the Labour motion by merely informing residents that the e-petition has been placed on TDC’s website.
Cllr. Ian Driver expressed his dismay that the Tory Leader of the Council appeared scared to take a firm stance on this emotive issue.
Cllr. Michelle Fenner had read a message from Peter Skinner Labour MEP for South East Region to the protesters who had assembled outside the TDC buildings in which he reiterated his support for the campaign to win a total ban of live exports:

“I want to be totally clear: I condemn those involved in this barbaric business. Long distance transport causes unnecessary suffering: exhaustion, dehydration, stress and even death. Like you I want to see a complete ban on live exports from Ramsgate or anywhere else.

I will be working with campaigners from Ramsgate and right across Europe to secure that ban. We must work together at the local, national and international level to put an end to the cross border trade in animals.

Cllr. Michelle Fenner has since sent a question to Laura Sandys MP (Conservative) to ask her if she will lobby the British Government to enable TDC to produce a new by-law to stop the trade in live animal export from Ramsgate Port or to impose a rest break for the animals and use of port facilities by the transport company.

Cllr Michelle Fenner: ”TDC’s Leadership are paying lip-service to this issue. Fine words are no longer sufficient, action is needed by the Leadership of TDC and the local MP to ban these barbaric practices.”

Monday, 17 October 2011

Conservative's poor practice and spoiling tactics continue

 The first meeting of the new Thanet District Council (TDC) Local Development Framework (LDF) Cabinet Advisory Group was held on Thursday 6th October. The LDF covers a wide range of detailed planning policy and issues guiding development and investment for Thanet's long-term vision.

The first meeting was called to iron out organisational matters for the group who will be working on the long-term vision for TDC. 

Regarding poor practice, Cllr Alan Poole immediately raised concerns that two cabinet members (Tories - Cllr Bayford and Cllr Moores) had been put on the advisory group and were therefore 'advising themselves'.

Cllr Clive Hart also raised the issue of a possible 'conflict of interest' concerning Cllr Bayford's membership as the group were discussing Kent county and East Kent Opportunities matters and Cllr Bayford is a Kent county councillor and a director of EKO. The legal officer had to dig very deep to squeeze Cllr Bayford out of this, but he did finally advise all was legal. Cllr Hart strongly disagreed with the legal officers advice that Cllr Bayford could carry on, on the basis that under the councillors code of conduct, councillors are supposed to consider how the 'man or woman in the street' would see any conflict, and he believed they would be appalled regarding Cllr Bayfords confusing roles.

Cllr Bayford then performed his usual 'you're being political' routine on Labour members so Cllr Hart reminded the group that the meeting had been made political even before members had sat down in their seats as Cllr Bayford, the Conservative council leader, had already decided there would be three Conservative's and only 2 Labour members on the advisory group (most other advisory groups are balanced due to the current 'hung' situation of the council at TDC).

Regarding continued Tory 'spoiling tactics' at TDC, these reached new heights when the LDF group got to deciding terms of reference and other organisational matters for the newly formed group. In the end Cllr Bayford was so angry at the perfectly reasonable request for advisory group members to maintain voting rights for their recommendations, that he ended the meeting prematurely and simply 'informed' the assembled group that he and his Cabinet would write its own terms of reference for them!

Following the meeting Labour Group Leader Cllr Clive Hart said "I felt it was a terrible shame that Cllr Bayford brought the LDF Advisory Committee to a sharp and premature close with the insistence that he and his cabinet will now write our terms of reference for us. Worse still is his insistence that we should not even be be allowed to vote on our recommendations.

I sincerely hope Cllr Bayford will see sense and maintain voting rights in this process. At the meeting there were several references made to the fact that the group 'ONLY' recommends matters to cabinet and I feel the further changes proposed by Cllr Bayford would water down the hard work of the committee still further".

Friday, 14 October 2011

The shrinking Isle

The number of people registered to vote in Thanet is shrinking, with up to a sixth of voters having vanished from the electoral register in some places over the last four years.

The council’s Labour group is calling for an investigation after it emerged that more than 1,400 voters have disappeared in two of the wards its members represent – Margate Central and Cliftonville West.

Research carried out by Dane Valley ward councillor Will Scobie showed that Thanet was the only one of four East Kent districts to suffer an overall fall, with the number registered across the isle down 4.2 per cent.

By contrast, Shepway increased its electorate by nearly 10 per cent over the same period, while Canterbury was up 3.6 per cent and Dover 1.2 per cent.

The number on register in three-member Cliftonville West ward has plunged 16.2 per cent from 5,288 to 4,429 between 2007 and 2011, while two-member Margate Central has dropped 16.7 per cent from 3,516 to 2,942.

Five other Labour-held wards saw falls of more than 5 per cent over the period, with a 7.7 per cent decline in Ramsgate’s Eastcliff ward.

Shadow cabinet member Cllr Rick Everitt said: “These numbers matter, not only because people are losing their right to vote, but because the national political map is currently being redrawn on the basis of them.

“We recognise that some wards have a high turnover of residents, but people move in as well as out and with a rolling register they can join during the year so that’s no excuse.

“Neighbouring Conservative-run councils have managed to increase their electoral roll, so we have to ask why the Thanet Tories have let this drift to such an extent on their watch.

“Registration is supposed to be compulsory and the council has a statutory duty to keep the register up to date, but in some wards we find that house after house is missing from the roll, while in other cases details are out of date or just wrong.” 

Labour suspicion was fuelled when members tried to raise the issue at the council’s electoral matters working party and was told that the group could only discuss polling districts and polling stations.

Cllr Everitt added: “With the government planning to introduce personal, instead of household, registration in 2014, we believe things are likely to get worse. Thanet needs to get a grip on the situation now.”

Monday, 10 October 2011

Dyslexia and its effects on achievement in Thanet

Cllr. John Edwards (Dane Valley, Labour) invited Cllr. Michelle Fenner (Sir Moses Montefiore, Labour) whose professional work is in dyslexia and Cllr. Alan Poole (Deputy Leader of Labour Group) to a meeting at the Houses of Parliament with Kelvyn Hopkins MP and Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia and Specific Learning Difficulties on 7th September.
James Watkins, Alan Poole, Michelle Fenner, Kelvyn Hopkins and John Edwards

The meeting concentrated on the great need for Thanet schools to be able to provide the necessary support for dyslexic students, in an area of high indices of socio-economic deprivation and higher than average level of unemployment particularly amongst young people.

Kelvin Hopkins agreed to raise with the Government the concerns of the Thanet Labour Party that the Conservative led Government were not implementing plans drawn up by the last Labour Government to help improve the education of dyslexic children across Thanet and the rest of the country through the provision and funding of support and addressing the shortage of trained specialist teachers.

Cllr. Fenner: “ I meet many dyslexic people through my professional work and through my Council work and I am keen to do anything I can to improve their chances in life. It was a positive first meeting, opening the channels of communication and paving the way to a greater understanding of what is happening on the ground.”

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Time to end Ramsgate live animal exports

“Ban live exports” was the strong message from South East Euro MP Peter Skinner and local campaigners after a meeting with national animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming. 
After years of falling live exports numbers are on the rise again. Last year the number of animals exported from Great Britain had dropped to 4000 sheep and no calves.  But this year over 10,000 sheep, calves, pigs and goats calves had been exported already. 
In response a campaign has been launched to fight the exports. Peter Skinner MEP recently hosted a meeting with James West of Compassion in World Farming and Reg Bell, a Kent based animal welfare campaigner, to discuss the next steps in getting this cruel trade banned. 
Mr Skinner wants to see European action to ban live exports and a total maximum journey time of 8 hours for animals travelling for slaughter or fattening. 
Local Campaigner Reg Bell was particularly keen to raise the issue of the poor standard and unsuitability of the vessels used to transport animals. 

James West, Peter Skinner and Reg Bell

Peter Skinner MEP: 
“I condemn those involved in this barbaric business. Long distance transport causes unnecessary suffering: exhaustion, dehydration, stress and even death. It's unnecessary and the people of Ramsgate don’t want it. 
“We should trade in meat, not live animals. I want a full ban on live exports from Ramsgate and a maximum journey time of eight hours for animals in the UK. I will continue to work with determined local campaigners like Reg and Compassion in World Farming to make this a reality.” 
James West, CiWF (Compassion in World Farming): 
“This was a very constructive meeting with Peter Skinner MEP. He has a very good understanding of the issues surrounding live exports and is clearly dedicated to protecting the welfare of animals during transport. This is a cruel trade that causes unnecessary suffering and we’re delighted Peter is committed to ending it. We hope to be able to work with him on these issues in the future.” 
Reg Bell (Broadstairs) local shop owner and campaigner: 
“I am really pleased with how the meeting went, Peter was very keen to listen and take in what we were saying.  He understands the issues with the vessel and delighted that he has promised to assist our campaign to ensure animals transported are protected from the weather.” 

Michelle Fenner, Labour Councillor on Thanet District Council:
"Following my motion unanimously agreed at Full Council in July 2011, I will be asking TDC to lobby the local MPs to press the UK Government and the European Union to implement a maximum journey of 8 hours for the transport of live farm animals to slaughter or for fattening. The British Government should take specific steps itself to stop the cruel practices of this trade."