Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The destruction of NHS Direct is one of the worst acts of vandalism by this Government - Burnham

andy burnham
Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, responding to the news that NHS Direct wants to end 111 phone service contracts, said: 
"This is a mess of Ministers' own making. Jeremy Hunt was warned that this would happen but he chose to plough on regardless.
"It's not good enough Jeremy Hunt hiding behind his officials. He must take responsibility and put a plan in place to ensure a safe and sustainable service in all parts of England.
"The destruction of NHS Direct, a trusted, national service, is one of the worst acts of vandalism by this Government. It has been broken up into 46 cut-price contracts. Computers have replaced nurses and too often the computer says 'go to A&E'.
"David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt need to act urgently, get back in to the office today and put in place a plan to ensure the continuity of patient care.
"The NHS 111 model they have introduced is fundamentally flawed. It has led to unsustainable pressure on A&E departments. Ministers must go back to the drawing board and re-instate a national, nurse-led providing reliable advice in all parts of the country."


Friday, 26 July 2013


From Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

I am delighted that South Thanet Labour have selected Will Scobie as our parliamentary candidate for the next general election.

Will joined us at TDC in 2011 and his drive and commitment helped Thanet Labour to secure an increased representation at district level.

As Mayor of Margate 2012 to 2013 he proved 'age prejudiced' doubters completely wrong and had an outstanding year as the towns civic head.

Despite his relative youth, Will has been active in politics for many years now and has worked in several high level political offices whilst studying for his Master's Degree in Politics.

I've known Will and his lovely family as friends for many years and I've enjoyed a hearty Saturday breakfast with him for the past few years. In addition to our District and Labour Party duties, we have a great deal in common. He's a fellow member of the Fabian Society and the Unite Trade Union and he works closely with my wife on numerous ward issues. He is also Chair of the Dane Valley Community First Panel on which my wife also sits. I know from personal experience that Will is a committed and articulate individual whose heart is absolutely in the right place.

Will is very much the future of our local party and he is going to be a formidable candidate for the next general election.

It's onwards and upwards for the Labour Party here in Thanet!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Labour calls for urgent investigation into rise in deaths amongst older people - Burnham

Andy BurnhamAndy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, responding to the Public Health England report on deaths registered in 2013, said:
“These figures raise major concerns about levels of care and support for older people and demand an urgent response from the Government.  Labour has been warning for some time about the collapse of social care and the growing number of older people left alone and at risk.  We now need to see action from the Government.

“Earlier this year we revealed a shocking 66% increase in the number of people over 90 going in to A&E in blue-light ambulances – a sure sign of something going seriously wrong in the way we care for older people.

“In light of today’s revelations I am asking Jeremy Hunt to commission an urgent investigation into the causes of this increase and to consider urgent improvements in support for older people.”


Tuesday, 23 July 2013


Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, in response to the publication of NHS workforce statistics this morning showing that the number of nurses in the NHS has been cut by 4,893 since May 2010, said:

"The NHS simply cannot continue to take nursing cuts on this scale and maintain standards of patient care. Jobs losses on this scale are dangerous. 
“David Cameron likes to blame everyone else but these figures show he is ignoring warnings from Robert Francis and Bruce Keogh about the importance of safe staffing levels. 
"The NHS has now lost almost 5,000 nurses on Cameron's watch and A&Es across England have struggled to cope. A re-organisation no-one wanted has siphoned £3 billion out of the front-line. This Prime Minister has given six-figure pay-offs to managers and P45s for nurses.
“David Cameron must urgently intervene to ensure safe staffing levels in our hospitals.
“These dangerous cuts show that you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”

Monday, 22 July 2013

Labour’s Youth Jobs Taskforce

Liam ByrneLiam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary,responding to today’s Youth Contract statistics which show just 4,690 wage incentive payments have been made since the scheme began, said:

“The Youth Contract has utterly failed to get our young people back to work. This flagship scheme is on course to miss its target by more than 92 per cent - no wonder there are still almost a million young people out of work.

“The welfare revolution we were promised has fallen apart. The Work Programme doesn’t work, Universal Credit is disappearing into the sunset, and now we know that the Youth Contract has been a disaster.

“We urgently need welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works, starting with Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get anyone out of work for two years, or one year if they are under 25, into a real paying job – one they would be required to take or risk losing their benefits.”
To coincide with today’s disastrous Youth Contract figures, Liam Byrne and Stephen Twigg are today calling for a revolution in the way small businesses, schools and government get teenagers ready for work.

The report for Labour’s Youth Jobs Taskforce highlights:

•    Careers services are becoming ‘extinct’ for young people leaving young people without independent careers advice at a time when the world of work is changing
•    Schools find it tough to get young people ‘job ready’
•    Small business are the key jobs creator for many areas – but are  totally disconnected from schools. The Federation of Small Business estimate that around 9 out of every 10 people who move from labour inactivity to activity, move to a small or medium business1.
•    Government programmes like the Youth Contract and the Work Programme ‘are complex and ineffective’ for business, especially small businesses; the Recruitment and Employment Confederation found that not a single employer out of 200 respondents had used the Youth Contract.

Launching Labour’s Youth Jobs Taskforce Report ‘The Business Perspective’ Byrne added,

“This government’s failure has left a generation out work, destroyed the careers service and offered help that’s so useless that business says it’s ‘complex and ineffective’. We simply can’t go on like this. The system is broken and needs to change.”

“That’s why we need to learn some lessons from successful countries like Germany where small businesses and government experts, who know all about local jobs on offer, are giving teenagers advice on what it takes to land a job before young people take their options.”

To harness the power of small business the report suggests:

1.    Making small business the key to Britain’s youth employment strategy. We should revolutionise the way the apprenticeship system functions so that it works for SMEs. Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield are creating apprenticeship training agencies to make it easy for an SME to say ‘yes’ to a young apprentice.
2.    Exploring how small business, government and schools can come together to rebuild Britain’s careers service.  Labour pioneers like Manchester are piloting UCAS style clearing houses for apprenticeships to help small businesses find the recruits they need.
3.    Giving more access to job outcome data for schools – so parents can see how well local schools are preparing their children for the world of work.
4.    Increasing employer engagement in schools, for example by encouraging business people to sit on governing boards
5.    Ensuring that young people leave school with a plan for their future careers, whether that’s a university, apprenticeship or employment offer.


Thursday, 18 July 2013


TDC will share part of a Regional Growth Fund grant from the Government to help support small and medium sized creative businesses in the district.
The successful joint application, for the aptly named SUCCESS Programme, came from Thanet, Hastings and Tendring councils and aims to speed things along and encourage growth in the creative and cultural industries in the South East coastal area.
The SUCCESS programme will provide financial support for small and medium creative businesses across Thanet. It will be targeted at creative businesses looking to locate or expand in Thanet, aiming to encourage the growth of this sector and enabling jobs to be created.
The detail of the funding programme, including the criteria for businesses looking to apply is now to be discussed with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Once agreed, the council will publicise the details widely to ensure as many businesses as possible have a chance to bid for a share of the funding.
This really is fantastic news for Thanet. The application will have gone through a very competitive process, so to be awarded this funding is really positive for creative businesses in the area.
The council’s Corporate Plan clearly sets our ambition to create new jobs in the district and our emerging Economic Growth and Regeneration Strategy highlights culture as a key part of this.
Securing this funding also continues to build on our desire to grow the local economy and support the creative sector.
TDC will publicise the details of how to apply widely once agreed and I look forward to seeing businesses in Thanet successfully accessing this funding.

Cllr Clive Hart - TDC Leader

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Thank you Chairman

There is no doubt that the past two months have been the toughest since I became leader of the council. A number of high-profile projects that the council is heavily involved in are at, or reaching critical points. It is important that we keep calm and deal with each and every matter in a logical and straightforward manner and that we take each and every action for the benefit of Thanet residents.

On the Royal Victoria Pavilion:

Following Cabinet, Rank have been asked to submit a timeline to show how long the site has been on the market, by what means and for expressions of interest and the outcome.

TDC’s Property Manager is to meet with Rank to discuss matters further.

Rank has informed TDC they have received regular expressions of interest from community groups and individuals but due to limitations with the current lease (which was granted before the Landlord and Tenants (Covenants) Act 1995 statute) they have not been able to progress this.

The property negotiations to be led by TDC Property Manager so all interested parties need to speak with Edwina Crowley.

TDC now has 2 options with the lease:

1)    Keep current lease and try to influence who the lease is assigned to – means it would be a commercial lease with no option for community use

2)    Explore whether to grant a new lease (a back to back surrender) which would mean TDC could bring it in line with modern practice and influence the terms, which may even enable some community use.

On Dreamland:

Dreamland car park is now open again. The car park was temporarily closed by owner following an urgent works notice being served over the security of the menagerie cages.

TDC installed temporary signage along Margate seafront in anticipation of closure to ensure alternative coach parking provision was clearly signposted.

LATEST: Our latest information is that permission has been granted to appeal. The good news, however, is that the judge has confirmed that the matter should be expedited and that "this challenge to the CPO needs to be finally determined as soon as possible".

TDC is still intending to vest the site and we are aiming to get on site by the start of October.

I also understand that architects working on the design for the interior and exterior of the park. Wayne Hemingway is working on the branding and the look and feel of the project. The Dreamland Trust is working on ride lists. Dreamland Trust Board met yesterday and this was followed by a very positive and businesslike project board meeting which I attended.

On Arlington

The Council received notification on 13 June 2013 of the decision of the Secretary of State to grant detailed planning permission for the development of a superstore with associated parking and services on land at Arlington Square as well as for the external refurbishment of Arlington House. The Secretary of State also granted outline planning permission for the development of retail units on the ground floor of Arlington Square with a 60 bed hotel above.

Obviously, the outline planning permission for the hotel will be ineffective until such time as the Council as the local planning authority is able to approve the reserved matters.

So far as the detailed planning permission is concerned, this can only be implemented if the Council as freeholder gives certain consents required under the terms of the Council’s lease with  Metropolitan Property  Realizations Limited (Freshwaters) - in relation to the construction of the superstore on the site of what is currently an underused public car park.

If and when Freshwaters apply to the Council for these consents, it will be the responsibility of the Cabinet to make the necessary decisions taking into account the officer advice given at the time.

However, the Cabinet is also aware that there are currently not one, but two challenges to the decision of the Secretary of State to grant planning permission, the first being a judicial review arguing that the original, planning application to TDC should have included an Environmental Impact Assessment. The second and most recent challenge is an appeal to the High Court against the decision of the Secretary of State to grant planning permission.

It is likely that both appeals will be heard in December this year and whatever the prospects of success, what we do know is that if either of them succeeds, the court will quash both the detailed and outline planning permission.

In the circumstances, it is my view as Cabinet Leader that it would be premature for the Cabinet to take any decision on whether or not to grant the necessary Landlords consents that would enable the development to proceed until the uncertainty created by the legal challenges has been removed.

On Transeuropa

TDC is actively marketing the Port to attract a future ferry operator.

The repayment of costs owed to the council is still due and is being actively sought.


TDC has not stepped outside of its legal framework in terms of the actions taken.

The constitution of the council has not been breached – the action was taken with the appropriate authority.

The issue of the debt was accounted for in accordance with the council’s rules and was done with the knowledge and support of the council’s external auditors.

This decision was covered by commercial confidentially and so could not be shared as the council had an absolute duty of care. Releasing this information would have fundamentally harmed the trading position of Transeuropa, leading to their immediate failure and leaving the council in no better financial situation. 

The council at no stage waived payments at the port – the repayment of the costs is still due and is being actively sought.

The council took a difficult decision at the time – to act earlier would have risked pushing the company into administration, leaving the port without a ferry service and therefore with the exact budget shortfall it now faces through lost income.

This is very important so I repeat:

If the council had not assisted by rescheduling their debts, Transeuropa would have been forced into administration, and this would have left the Port of Ramsgate without a ferry service. 

Without this, the council would have faced exactly the same loss of income and impact on its budgets, and would have also contributed to jobs being lost in the local area much earlier.

Decisions were taken to protect jobs and the council was acting to try and protect the wider and longer-term interests of the Port, Ramsgate and Thanet. These decisions were not without their risks as events have proved, but this does not negate the valid reasons on which these were based or the position the council took. 

The council took this decision on the basis that the money was due to be repaid in full by the end of 2014/15 and as Transeuropa were in negotiations with a financial investor and taking other actions.

The council has lodged its remaining debt with the administrators and our legal section are taking every action to secure repayment. The information held by the council in relation to this remains commercially sensitive, as it is a key element in seeking recovery of its debt.

Action is being taken to secure a viable future for the Port and the council is actively marketing the Port to attract a future ferry operator as well as seeking other income generating opportunities. 

The council will do all it can to promote the commercial viability of the Port to other ferry operators with a view to potentially securing another service to operate out of Ramsgate.

On Royal Sands

The developer has still to satisfy the Council on legal and financial matters arising from their wish to replace the 2009 development agreement and associated leases.

The council is acting in a reasonable and appropriate way with the developer in assessing their proposals, but in doing it will protect its public and commercial interests.

As resolved at the end of May, Cabinet considers that due to the continuing lack of progress matters have entered a new phase, and is seeking the development of robust action to resolve the issues at this site.

As part of this, Cabinet have fully endorsed and will support the work by Scrutiny on this issue. A Task and Finish Group has been set up to assess future options for the site and report back to Cabinet.

This includes undertaking further legal and financial work in relation to the future of the development.

This will assist the work of Scrutiny, but Cabinet is conscious that time is moving forward, with no discernible progress by the developer.

This gives Cabinet less and less confidence that the aims of the development agreement will be achieved despite the council’s efforts to try and assist in difficult times.

However, all should understand, the development currently has a valid and enacted planning application for the proposal. They also have a previously agreed and valid development agreement and leases.
TDC holds the freehold for the site and future transfer of the freehold is part of an agreement with the developer approved back in 2006.
Complex legal and financial matters always need care and assessments of risk.

However, if the work on legal and financial issues is clearly demonstrating a route forward then Cabinet is more than willing to act to try and bring this long running issue to a resolution.

Former TDC Labour Councillor & Cabinet Member - Dennis Hart

Last but far from least, as I said at the start of my report, this has been the toughest period of my term as leader. Several major projects and issues have reached crucial points almost simultaneously.

However, for me personally, this has also been a particularly difficult time:

Former councillor Dennis Hart, my brother, has been battling serious health problems for some time now. At Christmas he underwent a triple heart by-pass, quite incredible when considering the other serious conditions he has to cope with.

Due to those serious complications, recuperation from that operation was very slow and extremely complicated indeed, but after several months he did return home.

Unfortunately, on the 18th May, Den was once more rushed into the QEQM where his heart stopped beating for ten minutes. He was then unconscious in intensive care for well over a week. Later he was moved to Kent and Canterbury hospital for several more weeks.

He finally went home on Monday 1st July, but was rushed back into intensive care on Thursday 4th July.

I am therefore delighted to report that I’ve spent the last two lunchtimes drinking tea with Den at his flat in Westgate.

He went out today looking stronger than I’ve seen him for the past year.

Chairman, I’m delighted to report that my brother, former TDC Cllr Dennis Hart, is officially the toughest cookie on earth and I am a very, very, proud brother!

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Happy 65th birthday to the NHS (QEQM Thanet).

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Bedroom Tax, a failing policy

By Cllr Jenny Matterface

So, Iain Duncan Smith says the bedroom tax is ‘working’.

Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘working’. The original aims were, firstly, to reduce the level of housing benefit paid to those who received it.  Secondly, to reduce the amount of overcrowding due to those living in larger houses than the government feels they’re entitled to rent being encouraged to move out to enable others to take over the property that may have been their home for many years.

The former may be working but rent arrears are mounting in some areas because tenants now receive their benefits directly rather than the rent being paid to the landlord. Both the reduction in benefits and the need to budget, possibly for the first time since being on benefits, has meant difficult choices for many.

Having housing benefit cut by £14 or more per week takes a hefty chunk out of anyone’s income. I’ve been told that some tenants pay every bill possible by direct debit and just live off what’s left. No wonder the demand for food banks has risen dramatically in recent weeks.

Why is the bedroom tax failing? The second aim was to encourage tenants with a spare bedroom to move out and make way for those in over-crowded houses. Has it worked? Apparently not.  To judge by my own ward to date only three households from an eligible 40+ have asked for a move. Whether they are successful will depend on whether those in smaller houses wish to ‘trade-up’ to a larger property with a higher rent.

So far as I can gather those affected have made the decision that, rather than uproot their family, they’ll manage as best they can and find the extra money from their already squeezed income. I have worries that some may fall into the hands of unscrupulous loan sharks or ‘payday’ loan companies with the high interest rates levied.

I’ve been asked why pensioners are exempt from the bedroom tax and also why those in privately-rented properties who are affected by a housing benefit cap, aren’t affected by the bedroom tax and can stay in their homes provided they keep paying their rent. Their housing benefit may be capped but there’s no penalty, so far, for those with an extra bedroom or two.

As one resident told me ‘We’re being penalised for being social housing tenants’. I represent disabled tenants who need the extra room to enable their partner to get some sleep when sleep may be hard to come by. Family members working away from home or who are students coming back regularly, need somewhere to sleep. What about children with a health issue who may not be able to share a bedroom? Their  needs have to be considered. The list is endless but the blanket rules don’t seem to allow any flexibility.

Is the system working? It seems not. All it has done is create worry for tenants especially those with a serious medical condition or who want to give their children the privacy of their own space in their own bedroom. It’s squeezing incomes of the poorest and often most vulnerable in our society and has left families in over-crowded homes unable to ‘trade up’ if they feel they could afford to do so.