Thursday, 13 December 2012

Response to Minister on Live Animal Exports

Cabinet Member at Thanet District Council, Cllr Michelle Fenner, said: "The Minister is echoing what we said right from the start that the welfare of animals in transit is paramount and that there must be zero tolerance of any abuse. This was the reason why we took the decision in September to impose a temporary ban. We therefore welcome this announcement from the Minister and we look forward to strict implementation of the tougher welfare controls. We sincerely hope that the new controls will mean that a repeat of the tragic events which occurred on 12 September is out of the question. 
   
"We will continue to support reducing the maximum time limit for animal transports in line with the eight hours, as this is line with our current council policy.  We also call on the UK Parliament and Central Government to take the necessary steps to make it happen so that Local Authorities like Thanet District Council are not left fighting court cases on their own about a situation that is not their doing. "

Friday, 7 December 2012

Labour's year in control


Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

Firstly, the latest changes to Cabinet portfolios maintain our key objective for each Cabinet Member to work with one dedicated Director thereby avoiding the expensive duplication of work for officers we inherited a year ago.

These changes also supplement our decision for Cabinet members to no longer sit on their own Cabinet Advisory Groups, the Chairman’s decision to introduce inclusive council agenda pre-meetings and the Chief Executive’s decision to introduce regular joint group leader briefings.

Delivering local services through our balanced budget is important and I was pleased to read the recent Auditors letter which said TDC 'has a good understanding of its underlying financial position & sound financial systems'. It went on to confirm TDC 'continues to demonstrate effective arrangements for budget & financial management'.

I’ve recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the East Kent Chamber of Commerce on behalf of TDC. This underpins our now more open and transparent Thanet Regeneration Board and both the board and the EKCC helped us to complete Phase One of our Draft Economic Strategy. All this comes of course in the wake of our newly formulated and agreed TDC Corporate Plan.

On Monday I witnessed Thanet’s civic dignitaries signing of our Thanet Armed Services Community Covenant. We will always endeavour to work closely with residents from all walks of life.  In particular, in our town centres regular meetings are now held with Ramsgate groups, they have commenced with Broadstairs groups and organising the same type of regular meetings with groups in the Margate area will be a priority project for 2013. We also made improvements to our TDC resident’s petition scheme earlier this year.

That support for local residents continues with a new council tax discount scheme that thanks to our administration will protect as many people as possible given the impossible and ever-changing financial context imposed by central govt.

The Troubled Families Initiative process is now being planned in partnership with KCC. Our Chief Executive is fully engaged with this process and Thanet is well ahead of other districts in relation to this type of work now that the Margate Task Force is finally and properly co-located in TDC offices providing a multi-agency approach.
 
We have recently successfully defended the Judicial Review for our Selective Licensing Scheme. I have to say our legal team really have been hard at work for the benefit of our area this past year. They were successful with the first round of our CPO of Dreamland and at every stage they have supported our moves to do the ‘right thing’ with regard to live animal exports. We will continue to take a proactive and progressive role in challenging and addressing problems arising from actions of third parties.
 
I recently attended the KLM/Manston announcement in Canterbury and warmly welcomed the proposed services that fall within the existing 106 agreement. Earlier this year we brought the night flying consultation in-house saving tens of thousands of pounds and gave the council’s considered response to night-flying proposals.
 
The Ramsgate Swimming Pool project is well underway.  Plans were agreed earlier in the year and I can report the project is on target for completion summer next year.
 
Upgrade of the Port & Harbour Master Plan is on-going, works have started on Military Road Arches under the Yacht Valley Interreg project and the Harbour Lights café is due to open for business shortly. These improvements follow work where the Pier Yard ramp was overhauled and the King George historic section pontoons were all refurbished. The Commercial Quay was also fitted with new steel boarding ladders, new heavy duty fenders and new shore power electrical equipment.
 
I’m pleased to report the Margate flood defence scheme funded by Environment Agency is well underway and due for completion early in new-year. Being delivered well under budget has allowed allocation of Environment Agency funding to other structures related to flood defence in Margate, including refurbishment of the tidal pool.
Phase One of the Newington Development is complete. We have accessed £4 million funding for empty homes projects and further funding to help with 30 more properties.
 
Refurbishment of Pierremont Hall in Broadstairs has started. This is particularly pleasing as earlier in the year we saved and protected public open green space in Pierremont Park, as we did in Hartsdown Park, Margate.
 
A Townscape Heritage Initiative scheme in Dalby Square in Cliftonville has commenced and the Ramsgate Townscape Heritage Initiative has been completed.
 
Solar Panels have now been installed on the main council office building, two public toilet facilities have been renovated at Ramsgate Cemetery and Minnis bay and the drainage scheme at Northdown Park and Coach House in Cliftonville should shortly be completed.
 
The Cremator Manufacturer and Building Contractor have been appointed and the crematorium project to replace burners and undertake refurbishment is on target to be completed by Christmas.
 
I’m pleased to report that the Kent Innovation Centre has over achieved on income against budget forecast and Forresters Hall, Ramsgate is now fully occupied after being almost empty.
 
We’ve had a successful start to the Respect Ramsgate town centre street cleaning project with excellent feedback from residents and businesses and I look forward to seeing similar schemes rolling out across the district. Numerous cleansweeps have taken place across the district and the project to deliver the new waste and recycling collection arrangements for the district is on track for completion in autumn 2013.

STOP PRESS - At this point I have some very good news.
 
I’m reliably informed that we have this very week accessed just under £1million funding to enable the council to improve the service provided to our 10,000 more difficult to service households in relation to refuse collection.
 
The recent Thanet Sports Awards event was the biggest ever due to our community involvement in many sports across the district. Sport for Energy and the Kick Out Racism project are two examples.
 
In November, Thanet’s Visitor Information Centre was awarded gold for being Tourist Information Service of the Year. Success indeed!
 
But what a fantastic ‘product’ they had to promote?  In addition to our beautiful beaches and growing facilities, we had TDC’s successful organisation of Olympic Torch Relay, the successful introduction of the RNLI lifeguards to our beaches, the successful introduction of new seaweed control measures, the successful introduction of a Hygiene Rating Scheme, the successful opening of the Ramsgate Maritime Museum working with the Steam Museum Trust and we saved the Theatre Royal in Margate from closure.
 
Just for good measure, we were awarded more blue flags for our beaches than any other area in the country. Footfall in our visitor centre was up on last year, tourism internet visits were the highest number ever and numerous public events were supported through our new open and transparent events funding scheme.
 
Lastly, our towns were also blessed with gorgeous floral displays throughout the summer months and Sundowner; Ramsgate’s famous Dunkirk Little Ship represented the town and our district, taking part in the Queens Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames.
 
That last small but significant matter sums up in a very visual way, the larger changes to this council during our past year in control.
 
Under the previous administration, despite far easier financial circumstances, Sundowner sat miserably deserted, high and dry on the harbour dock opposite a boarded up and neglected Maritime Museum whilst hundreds of other craft re-enacted the historic crossing to France.
 
Under this administration, despite far more difficult financial circumstances, Sundowner waved goodbye to a rejuvenated Maritime Museum and proudly set sail up the Thames with the finest vessels in the land for our Queen and country! 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Why the temporary ban on live animal exports from Ransgate Port has been lifted


By Cllr Michelle Fenner
The Judge who served an injunction against Thanet District Council in October 2012 said that we would lose the Judicial Review without the support of Defra (UK Government). Defra now considers that there are adequate facilities in the vicinity of Ramsgate Port, so that the appalling incidents that happened in September would not happen again. Defra are also reviewing the procedures regarding emergency plans.

Thanet District Council ‘s legal advice is therefore that the Judge will rule there is no longer a case for the temporary ban. Of course we have an absolute obligation to look after the public purse and all the way along this sorry saga we said we would stay within the legal framework but we find TDC was a victim of a situation not created by us.

We took the right decision on 13th September because of the failure of the emergency plans, resulting in the Port of Ramsgate being used to off-load animals and slaughter a number of them. We had grave concerns about the lack of facilities at the port and about the safety of its staff. We had no indications that these concerns would be resolved. Indeed we had written to the then Defra Minister in early September to this effect.

Now we are told by Defra and Animal Health that there are adequate facilities nearby. So we will wait and see if it is the case. We have written to the transporters and requested them to stop their legal case on the ground that if there is no longer a ban, then there is no longer the need for an injunction, nor a case for a Judicial Review regarding this ban.

We are in a situation similar to the one we had back in September, but we now know where we stand with Defra and Animal Health. We will continue to be vigilant and lobby agencies and the UK Government and Parliament regarding the welfare of animals in transit through our port and the RSPCA are still invited to be present at the port.

We feel that we have achieved 2 things along the way; we brought this issue to a head and we have made Defra and Animal Health reconsider the robustness of their procedures. We will now wait for them to implement them.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Response - Live Animal Exports


TDC's position has always been very clear. We intend to use the legal framework to address concerns regarding the welfare of animals in transit through its port.
Since the trade restarted at Ramsgate we invited RSPCA to be present during inspections of lorries by AHVLA. This is our prerogative as port owners to do so.
Incidentally the owners of the Joline did not allow the RSPCA on board when we contacted them about it.
The events on the 12th September showed that as local Authority we were victims of a situation where gravbe concerns were brought to the attention of AHVLA regarding some lame animals caused by a defectuous lorry and the decision taken by them to off-load the animals into the port enclosure and proceed with the slaughter of 40 sheep.
TDC had no alternative but to impose a temporary ban on live exports on the ground that the lack of facilities0at the port was detrimental to the welfare of animals and put the safety of its staff at risk.
On that day the emergency plan from AHVLA and the transporters failed and left TDC with no indicationthat this situation would be resolved. The transporters chose to sue TDC in order too have the ban lifted.
On Wednesday 22nd November the Captain of the Joline decided to sail in spite of gail force 8. He had to turn back and the animals were sent back until the next sailing which was arranged at very short notuce on Friday 24th. It seemed that the welfare of the animals subjected to long journeys by road as well as bad weather conditions at sea was not paramount then.
On Friday 24th November the Joline acted in a reckless manner in manoeuvring across the port of Ramsgate in total disregard of the Harbour Master's instructions, thus putting the safety of other port users and staff at risk, let alone its own staff.
TDC has always made a point of liaising with Agencies: Police, Defra, Trading Standards, RSPCA, MP, MEP and it set up meetings to this effect. This is what a responsible Local Authority is expected to do.
The organisation representing the protesters was never invited as it is not an established public agency.
TDC does not control, nor does it wish to have any control over the Press, the Police, the protesters. All through this sorry saga TDC has made a point of keeping to its responsibility to remain within the law and to respond legally to situations that were not of its doingm
It is worth pointing out that in early September the Cabinet wrote a letter to the Defra Monister highlighting our concerns regarding the lack of facilities at Ramsgate port and that a week prior to the incidents on 12th September Defra gave us assurances that the emergency plan for Ramsgate was not needed because nothing would happen therem
We are still of the opinion that the law needs to be looked at by the UK government and the EU. In the meantime we will continue to be mindful of the welfare of animals in transit and the secvurity of our port.

Cllr Michelle Fenner

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Full List of Coalition U-turns

The Tory-led coalition have made so many U-turns since their formation that it's becoming quite clear that incompetence is the one thing they are good at.

Beset by climb-downs and indecisiveness, both Tory and Lib Dem ministers are making a mockery of the political process by being irresolute and divided, seemingly incapable of making a decision without dithering and going back on their promises. In uncertain times like this, people deserve much more.

To read a full list of coalition U-turns - a grand total of 36 in just two years - please look no further than this Telegraph article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9617519/Coalition-climbdowns-u-turns-and-row-backs.html.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Staff pay and grading review at TDC

From Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader


As the TDC Leader I need to know that the council is delivering the best value for residents that it can and a pay structure review is a part of council business which is undertaken by many authorities and is correctly undertaken by the Chief Executive of the council, as part of her delegated authority.

I am confident that the Chief Executive will carry out this review in a professional manner, but this is just the beginning of a 90 day consultation and it is not at all helpful for anyone outside of these negotiations to second guess just how the final scheme will appear.

In any event I am assured that the structure being consulted on does not propose any increase to the pay of the most senior staff within TDC, that it seeks to impact as few staff as possible and that everything possible will be done to protect those who are impacted.

We are obviously keeping a very close watching eye on negotiations but we are in the early stages of the consultation process which is quite rightly between the Chief Executive, the Unions and the staff.

Our Labour administration has an excellent relationship with our staff and we support them in any way we can to ensure that services are delivered in a way which reflects our vision and priorities.

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

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Leader's Report to Council - 20th September

From Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader.

Fellow councillors:

This evening I'd like to focus on priority 10 of our recently published corporate plan. 'Influencing the work of other agencies to ensure the best outcomes for Thanet'.

As well as our core purpose - providing services directly to local residents and businesses, the council also plays a key leadership role for our district.

We are committed to working in partnership with other agencies to ensure that local people in Thanet get the best possible outcomes.

We also take a strategic view of the issues facing local people and we need to be prepared to actively challenge and influence other service providers, encouraging them to develop their services in such a way that best meet the needs of people here in Thanet.

We will always ensure our influence is exerted based on the best information available and through genuine public consultation. We will also lobby on regional matters that have implications for the people of Thanet.

Through our community safety partnerships and daily work with the Police we are in constant dialogue with the authority providing our safety and security here in Thanet. Indeed, just as she does locally day in - day out, Cllr Johnston will no doubt make sure the new Police Commissioner for Kent is aware of the issues our residents are facing and I can think of no better person to bring to account whoever is elected to the role. As our Cabinet Member for Community Services, Cllr Johnston will be our representative on the new Crime Panel.

Cllr Johnston is also keeping a very close eye on our local NHS and recent developments with Thanet Leisure Force.

Cllr David Green is currently working closely with education providers on issues around the provision of future school places her in Thanet.

At the East Kent Regeneration Board I am currently working with our officers, KCC and our neighbouring district authorities to further Thanet's interests through the emerging East Kent Growth Plan.

We most certainly do not duck difficult or sensitive situations either:

As a council we are now seen as a progressive authority thanks to our decision on equal marriage and on one particular contentious issue we have taken a very clear stance and I cannot thank Cllrs Fenner and Poole enough for their tenacity in relation to live animal exports through the port of Ramsgate.

When the Live Animal Exports re-started in May 2011 at Ramsgate Port, we were in opposition at Thanet District Council and we expressed our repulsion of the trade by putting a motion to Council to seek all legal avenues in order to stop it.This motion was agreed unanimously.

When we became the ruling administration here at TDC we vowed we would continue the fight against the trade, using the legal framework and showing a zero tolerance of any infringement of the welfare of animals.

The rigorous action and determination of Cllrs Fenner and Poole meant that the lorries were inspected very thoroughly, as they should. It then became apparent that on several occasions the lorries or the animals were unfit for further travel.

This led to our decision to suspend the trade in live animal exports out of Ramsgate Port on the ground that it does not have adequate facilities to care for the animals and that there is no control post nearby to take them.

The suspension of this awful trade shows that we take our responsibility seriously and that we are not afraid of taking the necessary actions, using the legal framework to pursue our aims.

We stood for election on our Manifesto which stated that we would defend the rights of animals. We fought for this to happen when we were in Opposition and we are delivering now that we are the ruling administration.

However, I'm afraid I have to report to council one particular issue on which we have failed to gain any influence whatsoever, despite our hardest efforts and the support of KCC Leader Paul Carter and his KCC Cabinet Members Mike Hill and Alex King. Through the Kent Forum and the East Kent Joint Arrangements Committee Cllr Poole and I pleaded with the KCC Leadership to help us create a Locality Board for Thanet just as they have done in almost every other district in Kent and they appeared very happy to help.

Unfortunately, the fact is, intransigence on the part of local Conservative county councillors has thwarted all our very best joint efforts and consequently this council is being deprived of cooperation and influence it so dearly deserves on a whole raft of issues affecting our residents. I can only assume this is being done for petty political reasons but the consequence is a district already distanced geographically from Maidstone being distanced further in numerous other ways through the selfish actions of some very misguided individuals.

When negotiations began on a Locality Board for Thanet I was informed that it should be made up of an equal number of County and District councillors. I was also informed that the Chairman should be the District Leader (unpaid) and that a County Member (paid) would be Co or Vice Chair. I was entirely content with those requirements as it meant TDC would have proper representation.

Furthermore, in order to help reduce any 'fears' that County members might have regarding cooperation, we held a preliminary - shadow - meeting to discuss the future of youth services here in Thanet. All went well, good debate took place and conclusions were arrived at. Certainly not one heated or confrontational moment during the whole process.

However, despite this clear success, I was later informed that our local County members still appeared to dislike their own KCC suggested numbers on the board.

After many weeks I finally got a meeting arranged with the Co Chair where he outlined further the concerns over the numbers representing each authority. In a last-ditched attempt to save the negotiations I offered to reduce the number of District councillors on a prospective Locality Board to six - being our TDC Cabinet. That made it eight County Councillors and six District Councillors but even more importantly seven Labour and seven Conservative - perfect you would think.

NOT SO - rejected completely by a meeting of Thanet Conservative County Councillors in a letter I'm holding here that gives no reasons as to why.

I therefore sadly report to council that after several months of extremely good natured and very polite negotiations, despite our very best efforts and those of Paul Carter, Mike Hill and Alex King at KCC, thanks to the intransigence of several local individuals, this council will not to be involved in a Locality Board for Thanet.

The only apparent benefit for Thanet appears to be any allowance that is being paid to the Conservative Co Chair by KCC.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Thanet Labour delivers on animal rights

From Cllr Michelle Fenner

When the Live Animal Exports re-started in May 2011 at Ramsgate Port, we were in opposition at Thanet District Council and we expressed our repulsion of the trade by putting a motion to Council to seek all legal avenues in order to stop it.This motion was agreed unanimously. This was our first victory.

When Labour became the ruling administration of TDC we vowed we would continue the fight against the trade, using the legal framework and showing a zero tolerance of any infringement of the welfare of animals.

Our rigorous action and determination meant that the lorries were inspected very thoroughly, as they should. It then became apparent that on several occasions the lorries or the animals were unfit for further travel.

This led to our decision as TDC Cabinet to suspend the trade in live animal exports out of Ramsgate Port on the ground that it does not have adequate facilities to care for the animals and that there is no control post nearby to take them.

The UK Government, as the Competent Authority under the EU Regulation 2005/1, is responsible for setting up such a control post but, so far, they have not complied with this requirement, in spite of a promise they made in July 2011.

The suspension of this awful trade by the Labour administration of TDC shows that we take our responsibility seriously and that we are not afraid of taking the necessary actions, using the legal framework to pursue our aims.

We stood for election on our Manifesto which stated that we would defend the rights of animals. We fought for this to happen when we were in Opposition and we are delivering now that we are the ruling administration.

Friday, 7 September 2012

TDC leadership call for government action

Ramsgate Port is the only port in the UK to be currently used by transporters to export live animals to mainland Europe for slaughter or fattening.

Whilst it is a lawful trade, the Labour administration of TDC is also conscious of its responsibilities regarding the welfare of animals passing through the port. Our Labour Councillors consider it paramount that the EU regulations are implemented strictly in order to avoid any suffering caused to the animals by transportation.

The RSPCA were invited by TDC to conduct a thorough visit of Ramsgate Port in June 2012 by 2 of their inspectors. Their report concluded that “there were no suitable facilities at the port for handling or housing farm animals”. This was deemed unacceptable.

On the issue of dealing with emergencies the report states that the solution at present appears to be informal agreements between AHVLA and local farmers or that the lorries go back to the nearest control post available in Gloucestershire or Northamptonshire

A subsequent visit by RSPCA on 21st June 2012 also confirmed that they had serious concerns about the stocking density, the ventilation and water supply.

On Wednesday 29th August 2012 an incident took place which highlighted how precarious the situation is at Ramsgate Port.

A lorry carrying lambs arrived at the port with a severely damaged tyre. The Police served a prohibition notice on the vehicle moving further until it was repaired. The agent had arrangements to repair the vehicle but these were not available in the locality due to the nature of the work required and it took a considerable time for these to get to the port. The lorry then had to drive back to Northampton , making it a very long and uncomfortable journey for the animals. The animals were probably on the lorry for the best part of 24 hours.

This incident was further evidence of the need for a lairage facility (for livestock resting) in Kent so that should there be problems associated with a sailing or a lorry issue such as this one, the vehicles and animals only travel to a destination within Kent where they can be removed, fed and watered.

In 2008 an FVO report on a mission they carried out to the UK stated that “the Competent Authority (ie: UK Government) should take measures to ensure that arrangements are in place so that where there are delays at ports or emergency measures are needed to deal with non-compliance detected, the CA can take any necessary actions to safeguard animal welfare, including the possibility to unload animals in suitable accommodation, as required by Article 22(2) and 23(2)(e) of regulation (EC) No 1/2005.”

Such a lairage facility was ‘promised’ by the UK Government, according to correspondence from Jim Paice (then minister for …) to TDC in July 2011 but it is still not in place and, as stated previously, informal arrangements with local farmers fall short of the minimum requirements defined by EC regulations.

TDC’s Labour administration will not shrug its responsibility regarding its duty of care towards the animals in transit through Ramsgate port.

It expects that the laws and regulations regarding the transport of live animals be applied strictly.

TDC’s budget has been hit hard by the funding cuts imposed by the Tory-led Government and it is not in a position to provide adequate facilities at Ramsgate Port.

A letter has been sent by the Labour Cabinet to the UK Government and EU Commissioner to request a formal lairage / control post be set up in Kent as a matter of urgency; legal support to make inspections of lorries (and ship) by RSPCA mandatory; direct liaison with counterparts in mainland Europe so that the overall journey time and conditions of travelling can be verified.

In the absence of a control post in Kent and the lack of facilities at Ramsgate Port , our Labour administration at TDC has also requested to be given legal support to refuse access to its port for lorries transporting live animals, on the grounds of its lack of facilities should an emergency occur.

THE LETTER TO GOVERNMENT: http://www.thanet.gov.uk/pdf/Owen%20Paterson%20Letter%20final070912.pdf

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

New user fee charges imposed by KCC examined by cross-party group


From Cllr Jenny Matterface

The cross-party group set up by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel met for the first time on Monday evening, September 3rd.  Its brief was to examine the impact of the new user fee charges being imposed by KCC .

Cllr. Graham Gibbens,  KCC Cabinet member for adult social care and two KCC officers were invited to attend along with Thanet’s county councillors, users and other representatives.

Cllr. Kay Dark was elected Chair for the meeting and invited Cllr. Gibbens to speak to the group. He talked about the consultation that had taken place prior to the setting up of the charging structure but there was some confusion between his account and that of Mr. Thomas Sam from KCC who told us the consultation had run over 6 weeks but there were two meetings held in Thanet on different dates. Cllr. Gibbens only referred to one in Margate but there was another meeting later at Northdown House although no-one else present could recall such an event. Perhaps it wasn’t widely-publicised.

It was clear from the questions put by the group members that neither Cllr. Gibbens nor the officers were able to give us the answers we needed. They were asked about the number of users but the only figure they could quote was for the county-wide use. We asked about the charges e.g. who had imposed these? How were they decided? How many paid the full £40 per day? How many paid nothing? How many paid on a sliding scale? We were given percentages but no actual figures. To be told 10% pay the full charges is a meaningless figure unless we know if that is 2 people or 20.

Following some robust questioning from the group members other county councillors spoke followed by Cllrs Driver and Worrow and three members of the public who gave us the information we needed especially regarding the consultation process. Mrs. Godby talked about how important the centre is for her husband and many others and how users are being deterred from coming in as often as they need or would like due to the cost. Her husband gave a moving account how important it is to him to keep friendships going.

It is clear that the review group will need to meet again once we have written evidence from the relevant officers at KCC. To some a charge of a few £s per day may not be a significant amount but to many the charges imposed do mean the users cannot enjoy the facilities and vulnerable residents will lose the vital contact with others that keeps them involved in the community.

Cllr. King made an excellent comment about how unpaid carers should have their input valued and this reflected in the fees’ structure.

Committee members are Cllrs. Bruce, Cohen, Coleman-Cooke, Dark, King, Matterface

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Congratulations Harbour Steam



From Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader.

'Congratulations to the Steam Museum Trust and their partners who have provided local residents and visitors with the excellent Harbour Steam Bank Holiday event in Ramsgate. It has been simply wonderful to see so many people enjoying themselves in such a beautiful setting'.

UPDATE: After receiving feedback regarding the lack of a mention with regards to the Summer Squall in Ramsgate, please see below to read Cllr Clive Hart's response (originally posted on the Ramsgate Arts Facebook page on Monday 3rd September):

"Just a note on the Summer Squall.
It certainly was brilliant and I have to say both the Squall and the Steam events complemented each other superbly. I'm sure that there were many who visited and enjoyed both.
My comment on our website regarding the Steam Trust was simply meant as a thank you to them for repaying our (administrations) trust. We took a leap of faith by signing the lease for the museum over to them earlier this year and our opponents said they would let us down. They didn't and that was all my comment was about.
However, please do pass on my sincere congratulations to all who made the Summer Squall event possible too. I'm afraid that due to grandparent duties I was unable to attend the evening events but all reports say they were brilliant and when I did attend on two afternoons the place was buzzing.
Hope you now understand my comment on our website. Our administration is truly thankful for all the sterling work of local volunteers.
Kind regards
Clive
Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader."

Friday, 17 August 2012

Secretary of State backs CPO proposed by Thanet Council to save Dreamland

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has approved Thanet District Council’s compulsory purchase order to take over the Dreamland site. TDC will now be taking steps in partnership with The Dreamland Trust to reopen it as a major seaside visitor attraction.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Labour Cabinet protects public open green space in Broadstairs

The issue of the Broadstairs and St Peters Town Council proposal for a Community Centre was considered at Cabinet on 5th January but due to concerns about the impact of the proposal on Pierremont Park it was not agreed.

Further discussions have taken place with the Community Trust and Broadstairs & St Peters Town Council on amendments to the proposal and an indicative layout has been drafted. The aim of the draft has been to reduce the impact on the park.

The revised scheme would need to be submitted for listed building and planning approvals by the Trust. However, the revision could now be supported by the Cabinet provided that the final design fits the parameters within the Cabinet report. The proposal would also be subject to an advertisement in relation to its impact on a public open space.

In addition, if the proposals do proceed, Cabinet is agreeing formally to the Section 106 funding from the Ellington and Hereson School site to be provided to the Trust to support the proposal in association with other funding streams.

Cabinet Member Cllr Alan Poole said "I believe much of the responsibility for the current impasse must lay fairly and squarely with Cllrs Bayford and Wells because their continued indecision is the root cause of the current situation. They did not complete the project when they had the opportunity; they were in control of the Council for the last eight years and did very little to progress the project.

We are offering one last chance for the town council to come up with a viable solution that does not adversely impact on the Park. It took the leader and I ten minutes and a pair of scissors to come up with a solution. There will not be another opportunity as we will have to look for another deserving community project for the 106 money."

Monday, 16 July 2012

GREEN SPACE IN BROADSTAIRS PROTECTED

An amended scheme for a Broadstairs Town Council Community Centre in Pierremont Park should come back before the TDC cabinet on July 26th . After much behind the scenes work to protect open green space in the park carried out by TDC Leader, Clive Hart, Deputy Leader, Alan Poole, and Broadstairs councillor, Jenny Matterface, an amended scheme will now be considered at TDC Cabinet on July 26th.

Cllr. Matterface said, ‘The revised scheme has saved the park from an intrusive building since it follows more closely the footprint of the existing Park Hall rather than the original scheme submitted to Cabinet in January. The demolition of the old Age Concern building to create a formal garden will enhance the park. I do, however, still have real concerns over the financial burden this project will impose on the council taxpayers of Broadstairs and St. Peter’s at a time when many residents struggle to pay bills.’

Cllr Alan Poole said “The final decision to build a community centre in Pierremont Park is a matter for Broadstairs Town Council and the TDC Planning Committee but I am pleased that the new scheme does at least protect much-loved public open green space” Cllr Clive Hart said “I am very grateful to Cllr Poole and Cllr Matterface for all their help in protecting our environment. Thanet’s parks are wonderful green spaces that bring tranquil beauty into busy urban areas and our administration will fight to preserve them whenever and wherever they are threatened ”.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Historic Labour win in Westgate-On-Sea

After weeks of hard campaigning Thanet Labour have won an historic victory in Westgate-On-Sea. Thanet Labour have not won a seat west of Margate Central since 1999, and this victory came about after a 8.2% swing from the Conservatives to Labour since 2011.


We are now delighted to welcome Councillor Jodie Hibbert as the newest member of the Labour group, and also the youngest ever female Councillor in Thanet. Jodie has worked extremely hard throughout the by-election and will be a welcome addition to our team. This result sends a message to David Cameron and his Government that they are taking the country in the wrong direction. Victory in historically Conservative Westgate-On-Sea shows that the Labour party is appealing to people beyond the core areas, and we will continue to work hard for ALL people. Thanet Labour will continue to fight on behalf of the residents of Thanet and do everything we can to soften the blow of the Coalition's ill prepared plans.


Thank you to everyone who has helped support Jodie's campaign in Westgate-On-Sea, and thank you to everyone who voted.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Welfare Reform and Universal Credit

George Osborne and David Cameron seen having a good laugh at our expense. Are we really “all in this together”?
WHAT WILL THE CHANGES MEAN?

  • Universal Credit will replace a range of existing means-tested benefits and tax credits for people of working age
  • It will replace the Disability Living Allowance with a Personal Independence Payment
  • It will restrict Housing Benefit entitlement and introduce a ‘bedroom tax’
  • It will change the child maintenance scheme
  • It will limit payments of Contributory Employment and Support Allowance to a 12-month period
  • It will cap the total amount of benefit that can be claimed
  • Local councils will be asked to reduce people’s Housing Benefit to make sure the total benefit income remains less than the ‘cap’ level set.
  • It will replace Council Tax Benefit with a ‘localised’ Council Tax support scheme.
  • The ‘granny tax’ will freeze the age related tax allowance. It will not be increased in line with inflation. Half a million pensioners will be affected.

WHERE WILL PEOPLE BE ABLE TO GO TO APPLY?

So far the government is not planning to set up a local office.

There are no answers to the questions:

  • how and where will someone apply locally?
  • what documents will they need and where will they take them locally?
  • where will there be a ‘Universal Credit’ office?
  • how does someone get face to face advice and help if they have a problem?

People will be expected to apply on-line or through a call centre.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT will be paid MONTHLY, IN ARREARS, TO ONE MEMBER OF THE HOUSEHOLD.

If anything goes wrong with the claim, a whole family could be without any income for a whole month!

WHO WILL BE AFFECTED?

By the time the new system is fully in place, 2017, it will affect 19 million people

It will affect particularly:

  • pensioners
  • disabled people
  • people on long-term sickness
  • families on low income and their children
  • people living in rented accommodation
  • unemployed people
  • single parents

Do any of these people choose to be in that situation? Of course not! But they should all be treated with fairness and respect.

COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT

Local councils are being placed in the difficult situation by this Tory-led government of having to produce a localised Council Tax Benefit scheme but with less money to pay for it. The minority LABOUR administration at Thanet District Council will try to minimise the impact of the overall 10% cut in funding imposed by the coalition on Thanet residents who currently receive Council Tax Benefit.

HOW CAN WE CHALLENGE THIS?
  • become active in the campaign
  • join the Labour Party
  • make sure you and your family and friends are all REGISTERED TO VOTE so that you can BOOT OUT THE TORIES at the next election.


YOUR LABOUR COUNCILLORS will do everything they can to defend the Welfare State as a symbol of a just and civilised society that looks after people who find themselves in a difficult situation through no choice of their own.


We will be available to help and discuss any benefit problems residents in our wards may have.

Published by Thanet Labour Group Councillors
North Thanet Constituency Labour Party at
South Thanet Constituency Labour Party at 28 Newington Road, Ramsgate.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Thanet falling behind thanks to local Tories



At the East Kent Joint Arrangements Committee meeting (EKJAC) held at the Guildhall in Canterbury on Wednesday (20th June), the Leaders and Deputy Leaders of four East Kent District Council's and the KCC Deputy Leader Alex King agreed that EKJAC, the forum which brought together County and District council leaders in East Kent, should now be dissolved. Furthermore, the district representatives were assured that KCC would maintain close working relations with East Kent Districts primarily through the new Locality Boards, as it does in the rest of Kent.

Thanet Labour Deputy Leader Alan Poole then immediately asked Cllr King to get KCC Leader Paul Carter and his Cabinet Member Mike Hill to create a Locality Board for Thanet as a matter of urgency!

Thanet Labour Leader Clive Hart was chairing what was probably the last meeting of EKJAC and afterwards said "Across the vast majority of Kent, these new Locality Boards are blazing the trail for closer co-operation between district and county council's and we most desperately need one here in Thanet.

As a gesture of good will, and in an effort to help foster a proper Locality Board for Thanet, our Labour Cabinet recently met with Thanet's Conservative dominated group of County Councillor's to discuss the issue of Youth Service provision in Thanet. The meeting was a great success and proved that cross-party working really can work for the benefit of local residents. Two different groups of councillors from two different local authorities and two different political parties came together for the benefit of local residents and despite our differences a large amount of common ground was found. Despite this resounding success, Thanet Conservative County Councillor's are still intransigent and simply will not move towards a regular and formal Locality Board for the residents of Thanet.
   
Time is slipping by and Thanet is losing out. At the last Kent Forum of Leaders and Chief Executives public meeting held at County Hall in May, I had to request firm intervention from KCC Leader Paul Carter and his Cabinet Member Mike Hill and now my deputy has had to do the same at a public meeting here in East Kent. Our Labour administration is 100% committed to a Locality Board for the people of Thanet but I am extremely concerned that Thanet residents are being denied a fresh, vibrant and progressive level of representation and co-operation enjoyed by the vast majority of Kent residents".

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

Friday, 11 May 2012

Consultation response to night flying proposals


From Cllr Clive Hart - Labour Thanet District Council (TDC) Leader.

On Thursday evening (10th May) our TDC Cabinet Committee confirmed its support for Manston Airport but recommended that the council should not support the introduction of scheduled night-time flying proposed by the airport.

The Cabinet's final recommendations were made following an open and transparent public consultation process where absolutely no leading questions were asked, yet 73% of respondents proved to be opposed to night flights.

An independent assessment of the airports proposals was commissioned by my Conservative predecessor and their thorough work also informed our recommendations. 

Subsequently, a draft consultation response document went through the cross-party, Conservative chaired, Airport Working Party where several additions were agreed and through the cross party, Independent chaired, Overview and Scrutiny Panel where no further changes were made. Consequently, on Thursday evening our Cabinet Committee unanimously recommended the report to full council completely unchanged in any way.

As well as underestimating the potential negative impacts, we felt that the proposals overestimated the potential economic benefits, overstated the potential number of jobs and did not consider the detrimental impact of night time flying on Thanet's recovering tourism industry.

Having considered the views of local people, the findings of the independent assessment and the proposals themselves, it was clear what our recommendation to council had to be. We are however, fully supportive of the airport and I have written personally to the airport Chief Executive to clearly reassure him of that.

Encouraging regeneration in Thanet and supporting local business is vital to the success of the area, but this can't come at any cost. TDC will hold an extraordinary meeting of the council on 24th May to approve the final consultation response to Manston Airport's proposed Night Time Flying Policy.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Ramsgate Maritime Museum to open

Ramsgate’s Maritime Museum is set to re-open to the public in time for the May Day bank holiday weekend.

The museum was first opened over 25 years ago and prior to being closed down in 2008 by the East Kent Maritime trust, had become a well established, nationally recognised community asset, housed in the landmark grade 2 star, listed Clock House building in the Pier Yard. In it’s prominent position at the Royal Harbour , it was visited and much appreciated by many local residents and visitors to the town. This included students and tourists from across the world, as the museum visitor’s book would testify.

In February 2008 a petition signed by almost a thousand local residents called on Thanet District Council (TDC) to “Save our Maritime Museum”, demonstrating their concern regarding the closure and possible disposal of the valuable collection of maritime artefacts. This petition was noted and then completely disregarded by the Conservative administration of the time and the listed building has remained closed up and forlorn since 2009, with both the fabric of the building and it’s collection at risk, due to damp, rot and vandalism.  
    
Labour TDC Leader Cllr Clive Hart said "I'm delighted members of the public will soon be able to view the artefacts again, with displays and information that details the work, courage and sacrifice of our maritime nation’s seafarers. This includes the 18th century jack tars of Nelson’s navy aboard the HMS Stirling Castle sunk on the Goodwins, the brave 19th century Ramsgate Lifeboat men and the 20th century servicemen during world war 2, at Dunkirk and in the Royal Navy coastal forces based atPleasurama, the servicemen who helped save our country from the Waffen SS, the Gestapo and the 
Concentration camp. From “England Expects” to the “Dunkirk Spirit”, they all deserve to be remembered and honoured by both the people of today and future generations". 
Cllr. Clive Hart, TDC Leader, hands the keys of the museum to Mr. Michael List Brain, Chairman of the Steam Museum Trust, who will now operate the museum, following the signing of a 25 year lease for the Clock House and Smeaton dock.

 

Friday, 9 March 2012

Business don't like uncertainty

From Cllr Clive Hart - Labour Leader of Thanet District Council.
 
There are suggestions being made by our political opponents that the Thanet Labour policy to protect our local environment has in some way caused the proposed sale of Manston Airport. 
 
Well, to quote Thanet Tory Cllr Simon Moores - "businesses don't like uncertainty". I agree, and Infratil's decision is more likely to be down to the effect of procrastination, indecision and navel gazing by the previous Conservative administration in relation to the airport, where he was part of a dithering Tory Cabinet. The Conservative's finally accepted the revised night-flying proposals from Manston Airport in October 2011 and despite suggesting at a public meeting that the consultation could start before the end of that year, when we took control of the council, we discovered it was not planned to start for months to come, and after that, take several more months to complete at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds of public money.
 
Indeed, had I not taken swift action to initiate a more focused consultation earlier this year, we would almost certainly now be at the start of a long, drawn out and costly Tory planned consultation process as this latest news hits us. And where would we have been then?
 
Fortunately, our more focused consultation process had just ended before this latest news from New Zealand, so all the consultation responses have been received and can now be processed accordingly.
 
Thanet Labour's concern for our local environment is something I am very proud of and an issue the public is increasingly in tune with. I do not believe it had any impact on Infratil's decision. They have chosen to sell off the airport, to use their own terminology, as a 'no regrets' decision, and they list Manston as an underperforming asset alongside another they intend to offload.
 
This weeks news for Manston is not good, but thankfully the council at least is on target to complete our local consultation process.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Council Tax freeze for 2012-13

At the Full Council meeting of 23rd February 2012, plans to present a zero per cent increase in the Council tax for 2012-13 was agreed. As part of the Budget process the minority Labour administration, with support from other parties, had passed a zero per cent increase. This decision was then confirmed at the most recent meeting of Thanet District Council members.

Councillor Rick Everitt, Cabinet member for Financial Services, said “We recognise that whilst we prioritise local jobs and services, we also need to do all that we can to help hard-pressed families.”

“Our objective was a safe and sustainable budget that delivers the policies and aspirations of the Council as far as is possible within the current funding settlement. I am pleased that these proposals enabled us to present a budget that supports a zero Council Tax increase and I am glad that Full Council has again agreed this freeze for the next financial year. I am sure that residents will welcome the Council Tax freeze for another year, and we are committed to ensuring that we protect the resident of Thanet from the brunt of these cuts imposed by the Conservative led Government.”

NOTE

Since 2010 Thanet District Council has been subject to cuts in grant funding of 5.3% in the financial year 2011-12, and cuts of 16.9% in the financial year 2012-13.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Leader's report to Council (23/02/2012)

From Labour Leader Cllr Clive Hart

"Thank you Chairman

Since becoming leader I have had series of meetings with local business
 groups across Thanet and I'm pleased to say I have been made very welcome by all. Indeed, it is most heartening when the local business community send and post messages of support and thanks through the internet following such meetings.

I have been open and honest and have made it very clear at each and every one of these business meetings that we are a moderate centre left
administration that is elected by residents but share wholeheartedly the interests of local business. I understand the business community has developed very mixed feelings about dealings with this council in the past and we will do everything possible to rebuild their confidence in TDC. We truly want businesses to succeed and they appear to get that message loud and clear. Further meetings are planned and despite the
desperate national and international economic situation I am very optimistic for the future. I'm particularly optimistic regarding Ramsgate Port and Harbour where companies involved in renewable energy are establishing themselves along the shoreline in ever increasing numbers. 

Cllr Poole and I had an excellent meeting with the Principal at Thanet College, and I was pleased to see his enthusiastic response to that meeting also posted on the internet through Twitter. We were in firm agreement as to the need for a clear focus on training and skills.

Unemployment figures here in Thanet, particularly in relation to young
 people, are nothing less than appalling and statistics regarding family and child poverty in areas of Ramsgate, Margate and Cliftonville are truly shocking.

The voluntary sector is a key partner to TDC and I am constantly meeting with residents from all manner of organisations who desperately want to help the council in numerous ways. From heritage, arts, sport and culture through to improving the local street scene and staging events, these voluntary organisations do incredible work and this administration is doing everything it possibly can to help and support them in return. I get the overall impression the voluntary sector, particularly those in Ramsgate, have too often been marginalised and sidelined by TDC in the past. We will most certainly do all we can to correct that!

Cllr Johnston and I met with KCC and the Housing and Community Agency earlier this week and I am convinced that with the help of council officers we put forward an excellent case for further assistance with the Live Margate project.

I recently attended the Kent Forum at County Hall and I left council leaders from across Kent in absolutely no uncertainty as to the devastating effect the governments proposed welfare reforms, changes to housing rules and the forthcoming universal credit plans will have on our district. The 'perfect storm' is brewing and its eye will be centred well and truly here in Thanet if significant changes are not made to these drastic proposals! 

We now have a Labour led district council here in Thanet, working in partnership with a Conservative led county council on many crucial issues affecting our island and this too calls for a special kind of understanding. I was therefore delighted when I first became Leader, and in what was my very first communication from Paul Carter at KCC, he called for us to leave the politics out of our 'new' relationship. I couldn't agree more and I too made that very clear.

Anyone attending the recent GEEK 2012 Business Breakfast at the Winter Gardens will have noticed the excellent working relationship that I share with Kevin Lynes, the KCC Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development. This is particularly pleasing given that part of my role at TDC now oversees strategic development services in line with Kevin's county portfolio.

I recently met with the Cabinet Member for Customer and Communities at KCC, Mike Hill and I'm also delighted to say we saw absolutely eye to eye on future processes and procedures that should see TDC and KCC work much more closely together on local issues affecting Thanet. We also agreed to do that business in a far more balanced way than has been the case in the past.

Indeed, the very serious issues TDC and KCC face jointly here in Thanet call for frank no-nonsense dialogue that could well be enhanced through a more businesslike approach to matters, even if that means we have a slightly less cozy conversation than my predecessor may have been used to.

Paul Carter, Kevin Lynes and Mike Hill are old adversaries from my time at County Hall, but I truly believe we developed a healthy respect for each others views during what were much easier times for local government. I'm also convinced that we each and all accept the serious issues affecting Thanet are far too important to play politics with at Leadership level.

I'd like to finish by thanking my fellow councillors, the Chief Executive, the Senior Management Team and the army of officers and foot soldiers who have made the last ten weeks or so of my life a very interesting and rewarding time. I have to offer particular thanks to my PA who very subtly makes sure I do exactly what I'm supposed to do each and every day.

In a hung council I know exactly how precarious the position of Leader is and I know the only way I can hang on to this role is to give 100% day in day out and as long as you will have me as leader, that is what I intend to give to the role".

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Standing by our manifesto commitments

From Cllr Clive Hart - Labour Leader of Thanet District Council (TDC).
Amendments to Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA's)
In line with our Thanet Labour manifesto commitment, I have asked the Democratic Services team at TDC to bring a report to council on the 23rd February reducing by 20% the Special Responsibility Allowances paid to some councillors. SRA's are additional allowances paid to myself as Leader, the Deputy Leader, Cabinet Members, Shadow Cabinet members and Chairs and Vice Chairs of committee's. At present, in our 'inclusively' hung council, these extra allowances are spread across all political parties.
If agreed by council, the money saved will be used to reinstate a 'Members Community Grant Scheme' for all 56 councillors to use to support voluntary and community groups in their wards across Thanet. Around two years ago the former Conservative administration scrapped the original scheme which used to support numerous voluntary and community groups and projects across the island. Our Labour plans will see funding reinstated at no extra cost to the ratepayer whatsoever - sum neutral!
Special Responsibility Allowances are paid to councillors who take on posts requiring extra workload and which carry extra responsibility. I know how very hard these councillors work and that the SRA's paid at present are already in relative terms, low pay.
However, we are a hung council and no political party has an overall majority. We need to work together and find new ways to solve our problems. In this instance I am therefore asking those councillors receiving SRA's to sacrifice 20% of their own allowance for the greater benefit of our local community.