Thursday, 28 February 2013


TDC 28/02/2013

Cllr Clive Hart

Thank you Chairman.

Due to the recent budget meeting, this is my first opportunity to report to full council since I gave the long summary report on our actions during the first year of this administration back in December. I know Cllr Bayford complimented me on my ‘machine-gun’ delivery following that last report and I’m pleased inform him that the momentum we have built up continues apace in 2013.

The new priority ten of our Corporate Plan at TDC says 'We will influence the work of other agencies to ensure the best outcomes for Thanet' and we are doing just that!


With my Cabinet colleague Cllr Iris Johnston and Director Madeline Homer, I recently visited our neighbouring colleagues at Dover District Council to listen to their experiences regarding their pilot ‘Health and Wellbeing Board’. 

Health and Wellbeing boards are a forum where key leaders from the health and care system work together to improve the health and wellbeing of their local population and reduce health inequalities.

KCC will have its own health and wellbeing board. Board members will collaborate to understand Kent’s needs, agree priorities and encourage commissioners to work in a more joined up way.

We are working closely with KCC to establish a Thanet Health and Wellbeing Board which will give us the opportunity to exert local influence through commissioning decisions. It will strengthen democratic legitimacy by involving local democratically elected representatives and representatives from the local community. The board will also provide a forum for challenge, discussion, and better involvement of local people here in Thanet.

The Thanet board will include a wide range of perspectives and expertise but membership is not the only way to engage with the work of the board, all boards regardless of their political or geographic make-up will be expected to ensure that the needs of local people as a whole are taken into account.

We will work with the new Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group to develop a shared understanding of the health and wellbeing needs of our community. Incidentally, the Thanet CCG is currently locating its new offices here inside our own council building. When we add the multi-agency Task Force already located within these offices we are truly meeting the aims of priority ten of our corporate plan and influencing the work of other agencies to ensure the best outcomes for Thanet.

Cllr Johnston and TDC officers are currently working towards a Thanet Health and Wellbeing Board and KCC also have some preliminary work to do, but our joint aim is to meet in shadow form at least during April.  


Yet again, working closely with Cllr Johnston and our colleagues in Public Health, I’ve also had the privilege of meeting with community development colleagues from the West Country, here in Thanet.

Cornwall to Thanet is a very long and difficult journey but I’m pleased to say that a very inspirational group of individuals are now making that journey on a regular basis for the benefit of two of Thanet’s most deserving wards.

Over a period of 5 years (1995 – 2000), an amazing transformation took place on the Beacon and Old Hill estates in Falmouth, Cornwall. That early transformational work has been built on and sustained to the present day by strong local leadership, hard work and a growing sense of community spirit and pride.

One of the most deprived areas in Britain, the estate was blighted by violent crime, drug dealing and intimidation. The process of resident-led transformation stands as one of the most extraordinary examples of neighbourhood regeneration in the whole of the UK. Perhaps most strikingly, this process of regeneration has led to a series of notable health outcomes.

I’m therefore pleased to report that the C2 Connecting Communities programme is currently being rolled out in the Newington and Cliftonville West wards.

I’m also delighted to report that our own TDC Cabinet member Cllr Iris Johnston is keeping a close watching brief on the project and that the ward councillors for Newington and Cliftonville West are also core members of the steering groups in each of their respective wards.

The project will connect communities in three ways:

Within themselves – networks and cooperation amongst local residents.

With local service providers and public agencies – building a parallel community of interest amongst the front-line workers.

With other communities – getting and giving inspiration directly from one place to another.

This is ‘bottom-up’ community development of the very best kind, using local residents and key stakeholders as the drivers and not - as has far too often been the case – communities being told what’s good for them.


Our TDC Cabinet met in this chamber with Thanet KCC members and KCC Cabinet Member Mike Whiting recently to discuss future education provision across Thanet.

Now I know that’s a little confusing because that’s exactly the configuration of TDC and KCC councillors I suggested meet as a Locality Board for Thanet but our Tory County members wouldn’t meet with us under that banner. They were however content to meet on exactly that basis as long as we didn’t call it a Locality Board – as they do in ten other districts across Kent.

However, despite our Tory county member’s ridiculous, pointless and time wasting behaviour, I have agreed with Mike Whiting to form a small committee in order to give Thanet’s perspective on this very serious matter. Cllr David Green will Chair the committee as it is linked to our own Local Development Plan and his TDC Cabinet portfolio.

Incidentally, I understand that at the recent KCC budget meeting the Liberal Group Leader Trudy Dean exposed the fact that there are two Locality Board Chairmen who have been paid allowances for almost a year despite failing to form a Locality Board with district council’s in their areas. Shockingly, in these times of austerity and cuts to services, I fear one of those Chairmen is a Thanet Tory.  


The colourful and dynamic 'Grow For It East Kent' promotional publicity campaign continues to gain momentum – this week through an event at the stock exchange. This project is designed to raise the profile of our beautiful and diverse geographical area and encourage inward investment into our often neglected corner of Kent.


On a more practical note, during February our TDC Cabinet members and senior management team met with Cabinet members and the leading officers of our neighbouring district authorities here in East Kent and KCC representatives to discuss a new East Kent Strategy for Growth. At Kent County Cricket Club on 14th February we agreed a final strategy that provides a joined-up and cooperative opportunity to deliver project priorities across East Kent.

We all know East Kent is an area with real growth potential, and is now attracting an increasing level of investment and national and international interest. Thanet is a key partner in this and our aspirations are wide ranging.

The Old Town in Margate is at last thriving, the Turner Contemporary continues to attract visitors in good numbers and the new sea defences are looking good. Historic Ramsgate’s Marina is over-subscribed and the Port has been chosen as the maintenance base for state of the art offshore windfarm services. Broadstairs, our villages and our beautiful coastline are further key factors in our tourism offer here in Thanet.

However, there is still lots to do and we must not become complacent. Ramsgate Port Marina and Waterfront will continue to require investment to meet its full potential. We must persist with the relentless projects and schemes to regenerate Margate and Cliftonville. In central Thanet, Manston Business Park and the Eurokent sites have large areas of land still available for development and we will need to understand exactly what the future holds for Manston Airport following its sale. 

The strategy we agreed in Canterbury is a tremendous opportunity for East Kent. It reflects and builds on how the districts are working with each other, and with KCC, to provide a joined-up approach. This structured cooperation will help to attract large scale investment and we need to make sure Thanet gets its fair share.


We are also working closely with our East Kent neighbours and KCC on a joint bid for City of Culture status.

Apparently the rules now allow for towns within close proximity to come together and make such a bid. Although this proposed project at a very early stage, I am very impressed by the combined sense of pride in our corner of Kent that in the recent past has at times been somewhat neglected and overlooked.


In summary Chairman, our Labour administration is actively using our new priority ten from our new corporate plan to influence the work of other agencies to ensure the best outcomes for Thanet.

From education, health and wellbeing across our district to community development in our most needy areas we are actively pursuing best practice for the benefit of local residents.

From the promotion of Thanet at every given opportunity and at every possible level through to very practical steps to improve our local infrastructure and capture inward investment we are actively working to make sure Thanet is out in front.

Through hard times and austerity we are doing our core business day in, day out, but if and when this recession ever ends we will have a district here in Thanet that is ready to grasp every possible opportunity!

Monday, 25 February 2013


Bad food! No, not horse-meat, but just malnutrition, which has become voiced by a scandalised Academy of the Royal Colleges of Medicine and Surgery. A large tranche of our citizens is being fed bad food by the food corporations through the supermarkets. Supermarkets now are so powerful that they can determine when many of us will die, usually 7 to 10 years before the richer part of our society, those who can be independent.

In the early 90s, visiting California, I was amazed to notice grossly obese people in the streets, and no-one else paid them any attention. Ten years later, I suddenly realised it was happening here. That is why doctors are talking with some justification about an 'epidemic' of obesity.

Bad food is not new. Throughout our history, the poorer part of our society has been cursed by it. The Boer War revealed that most soldiers fighting were underweight, under height and malnourished. Rickets used to flourish in Victorian times and may be coming back. Early socialist propaganda portrayed the bosses as fat and the workers as skinny. Now its all the other way round.

If you have not had a good education, quite likely in our class-ridden county of Kent, where most school pupils are defined as failures of the 11+; if you are poor, not difficult when real wages have been falling sharply since the recession; if you are working, then it is likely you are working all the hours that can be squeezed out of you, and your partner is working too; and if you have children; then, you are going to find it very difficult to eat anything but bad food and you are trapped by the supermarkets.

The supermarkets are the front end of the food corporations, whose prime, number one priority is – profits, nothing else. They are massive, stretched across the world in a network of companies, owned by giant corporations. All they have to do is to produce high calorie food and salt, because they know that most modern humans are addicted to them. At the same time, it has to look like food, so all sorts of fillers are added: water, phosphates, inert substances, fat and gristle. This is all very convenient, because vast amounts of the most addictive sugar, fructose syrup, are cheaply produced by the corn growers of the USA. The beef produced by other farmers of the USA, can then be adulterated by large amounts of fat, gristle and ground bone, and sold as pure beef. Again there is nothing new in this, you can read about it, if you can stomach it, in the novel 'Jungle' which describes the Chicago stockyards of the 1900s. This is what is sold to those that have very little of that magic 'choice' we are all supposed to use. Then, relentless advertising is pumped into us, and especially the children, just to make sure their immature taste systems are poisoned as early as possible. Fructose syrup diluted, flavoured and carbonised, and you have Coca Cola, the biggest con the USA has ever perpetrated upon a gullible world.

Now, from the other end of the class system, the Guardian reading professional can say, and I do say, that there is another way, that people can have a high protein, low calorie, low salt diet high in fruit and vegetables, very cheaply. And you can: lentils, beans, the amazing quinoa, fish, fresh fruit and veg, with small amounts of red meat, all as cheap. But you have to have time, knowledge and enthusiasm, all the things they somehow missed giving you.

Result: obesity, now the mark of the poor, not the rich. Obesity leading to: crippling arthritis, diabetes, thus blindness and high blood pressure, thus heart disease and strokes. Even cancer is implicated. See the man, possibly in his late 30s,  of enormous weight and size, in shorts and trainers, and two sticks to balance on emaciated and arthritic legs. He cannot work, so he is even more trapped into a bad food cycle, and not surprisingly he will die young.

What can be done about this? The Tories place great faith is rounds of talks with supermarket executives, but really they believe that its down to the individual, to 'take responsibility' for their health. They  safely mock, condemn and scourge in the media those who develop obesity. After all, its a free country. We have to remember too, that large amounts of financial support to the Tories have come from the likes of Sainsbury and the vulpine Shirley Porter of Tesco. Not much mileage there then, they even fought against a simple 'traffic light' food labelling system.

What could we do? Here's a very simple start. Perhaps the avowedly ethical supermarkets – Waitrose and the Coop – might consider it first. The supermarket can go out to tender for the production of: low fat, low salt, low fructose burgers, either veggie or with guaranteed meat, pizzas and fish fingers, at the lowest price possible, because they have the power to do it. The unhealthy versions would gradually be withdrawn. Then, they could advertise these strongly, directed at children, with meals featuring green vegetables and salad. They could make them prominent in the stores. They could make them loss-leaders or even give free rocket or lettuce salads to accompany them.

Would they do it? Well, the above two might consider it, but the rest would snort derisively. 'People want cheap food and should have a choice', they would say. Would they say the same about heroin to the heroin addict or alcohol to the alcoholic they push cheap booze onto? Choice is a great comfort to those that have the luxury of a choice.

What would I do? Move the main supermarkets into a franchised sphere of the economy, in a similar arrangement to that of the privatised railway companies. Local council planning committees issue 5 year renewable franchises, against clearly contracted healthy food standards. Any signs of these being breached, penalties are issued and for persistent abuse, the franchise is withdrawn, the freehold reverts to the council and the ground rent goes astronomical.

Fidel Castro got it right. One kilo of mixed white rice and black beans ('Moros y Cristianos'), peas and potatoes, were issued monthly to all families, free, - the 'libreta' -  with subsidised prices for chicken, eggs, milk and coffee. Cubans were lean and fit. It is gradually disappearing with the benefit of capitalism.

This blog was written by R.L.Symonds, a Labour candidate for Broadstairs and Sir Moses.

Labour's Shadow Chancellor, responding to credit rating downgrade by Moody's

Ed Balls MP, said:
"This credit rating downgrade is a humiliating blow to a Prime Minister and Chancellor who said keeping our AAA rating was the test of their economic and political credibility.
"It would be a big mistake to get carried away with what Moody's or any other credit rating agency says. Tonight's verdict does not change the fact that the credit rating agencies have made major misjudgements over recent years, not least in giving top ratings to US sub-prime mortgages before the global financial crash.
"But what matters is the economic reality that the credit rating agencies are responding to. Moody's themselves say the main driver of their decision is the weak growth in Britain's economy. Their judgement is in response to nearly three years of stagnation, a double-dip recession, billions more borrowing as confirmed this week and broken fiscal rules. This is why the Chancellor is fast running out of credibility.
"George Osborne said keeping the credit rating was the key goal of his economic policy. As his economic plan has floundered, it has been the last thing he has clung on to. And bizarrely his response tonight suggests he is not reflecting on why things have gone so badly wrong, but using this downgrade as one more reason to plough on with his failing plan - regardless of the damaging impact on struggling families and businesses.
"The issue is no longer whether this Chancellor can admit his mistakes but whether the Prime Minister can now see that, with UK economic policy so badly downgraded in every sense, things have got to change.
"In the Budget the government must urgently take action to kick-start our flatlining economy and realise that we need growth to get the deficit down. If David Cameron and George Osborne fail to do so and put political pride above the national economic interest we face more long-term damage and pain for businesses and families."


Sunday, 24 February 2013

East Kent Growth Strategy forges economic recovery

Thanet is already sparkling in the economic dawn that is the East Kent Growth Strategy.

Thanet was one of the six local authorities which, in Canterbury on Thursday 14 February, agreed a new East Kent Strategy for Growth. This is a long term strategy for integrating the infrastructure and individual district investment plans of all the local authorities in the area. It provides for a joined-up and cooperative opportunity to deliver project priorities as the region forges its recovery.

East Kent is a location with real growth potential, and is now attracting an increasing level of investment and national and international interest.  Thanet is a key partner in this and its aspirations are wide ranging: even in Education the most recent figures show that Thanet is second only to Canterbury (which, after all, has two universities) in the proportion of staff working in this field.

Thanet is also second to Canterbury in the volume and spend of international visitors. Margate has been voted a top tourist destination and the specialist outlets in Margate’s Old Town have the opportunity to benefit from the extra visitors who are guided through on their way to Turner Contemporary. Ramsgate’s Marina is over-subscribed and the Port is ideally placed for servicing the London Array windfarms.

Only Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks have a higher proportion of staff involved in real estate activity – which must say something about the amount of regeneration going on in Thanet!

Further evidence for the success of Thanet’s aspirational activity is that, amongst its East Kent partners, the employment rate in Thanet has risen from a poor starting point four years ago (63%) to match those of Swale, Dover and Shepway, at just over 70%. This bucks the trend shown by other parts of Kent where even Ashford, although still a high-flyer, has fallen back from 80% to 76% during the same period.

In the East Kent Growth Strategy there are twelve spatial priorities which are predicted to deliver up to 22,000 new jobs between them.  Furthermore, whilst Thanet is only one of six local authorities involved, a full quarter of those priorities have been earned by the district:
  • Margate/Cliftonville Regeneration
  • Ramsgate Port, Marina and Waterfront
  • Thanet Central Island/ Manston

Cllr Cive Hart, the Leader of Thanet District Council, said:  “The strategy is a tremendous opportunity for East Kent. It reflects and builds on how the districts are working with each other, and with KCC, to provide a joined-up approach. This structured cooperation will help to attract large scale investment. Thoughtful integration of the county’s infrastructure and synchronisation of the enhancements of the best attributes of each district will enable us to form a whole which is even greater than the sum of its parts.  This is a long term approach to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of us. Thanet is already showing what can be done, and we look forward to providing our partners with the benefit of our experience, at the same time as learning from their successes.”


Sunday, 17 February 2013



Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

In April, thanks to the Government's Welfare Reform Act, the new 'spare bedroom tax' comes into force, meaning many low-income families and disabled people will have to move or face a financial cut. It is a key part of the government's poorly thought through changes to social security and is aimed at what the government calls "under-occupation". Basically, if you live in social housing and are termed 'one bedroom over', your housing benefit will be docked by 14% and hundreds of thousands of people across the country who live on very tight incomes are expected to either stay in their homes and pay extra, or move.

The Conservative-led government says the spare bedroom tax is intended to "contain growing housing benefit expenditure, encourage greater mobility within the social rented sector, make better use of available social housing stock, and improve work incentives for working-age claimants". It sets stiff new rules for housing provided by councils and housing associations and many argue these contradict the very purpose of social housing.

It gets worse. If you're a separated or divorced couple who share the care of your children, only one of you will be allowed the extra room. If a family contains two children of the same sex under sixteen, they must share, and the same will apply to mixed-sex children under ten. I understand there are no exceptions for foster carers, who might need extra space for children they look after. 

Further examples of this government imposed anxiety abound. I've read of a teenage son on active military service whose bravery will soon apparently affect his parents finances. Following her husbands death after his many years of illness, a severely disabled elderly lady will have to move away from the neighbours who have supported her in her grief and provided further practical help with shopping and so on. Last but far from least, a family who traumatically lost a very young daughter and who will shortly have to pay extra for the temporary shrine her bedroom has quite understandably become. I'm sure there are numerous other heartbreaking scenarios   
It's reported that the spare bedroom tax will affect 660,000 households across the country and it is estimated that around two thirds of those affected will have at least one person with a disability. The fact is, the national housing shortage means that the government's proposed downsizing simply cannot practically take place.
The government's relentless cuts and reforms will hit Thanet hard and many of our local residents who'll be hit hardest appear almost unaware of what is coming in just a few weeks time.
At TDC we will do everything we possibly can to help and assist residents affected by these poorly conceived government changes. However, I fear that with many other benefit cuts also on the way and further government cuts to council resources, the task for us and many other councils may simply become overwhelming.
Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader