Friday, 28 February 2014


Thank you Chairman.

Firstly I'd just like to give my congratulations on their recent marriage to Will and Jodie Scobie - that's three councillor Scobie's on the council now. Just as importantly I'd also like to congratulate Jodie on her recent graduation from university - total admiration!

Thanet District Council has entered into a Peer Review process, in partnership with the Local Government Association.
We have entered into this process totally voluntarily and I thank my cabinet colleagues and the TDC senior management team for their support in what I believe is a bold step for the council.
I understand Shadow Cabinet members have been briefed and are being consulted during the process along with members from across the council and key stakeholders.
A Peer Review is an external review of the council’s activities. It will focus on understanding the local context and priority setting, financial planning, political and managerial leadership, governance and decision making and organisational capacity.
For Thanet, there will also be a particular focus on Economic Development and the council’s customer services approach.
The purpose of a Peer Review is to help the council improve, and to ensure there is capacity to continue to deliver local priorities. In the current financial climate this is particularly important as the council moves forward facing ever deeper cuts to our funding from central government.
Since taking control of the council our administration has clearly articulated our programme. Our corporate Plan sets out our priorities to 2016 and our Economic Development Strategy and Destination Management Plans are both key drivers. Our new Procurement Strategy does everything possible to encourage local suppliers.
TDC staff are ‘moving heaven and earth’ to deliver services for residents despite ever tighter financial constraints. They are adopting new ways of working that have helped us to maintain a council tax freeze in recent years.
Whether it’s improving waste recycling, tackling disadvantage, supporting businesses, voluntary and community groups, making Thanet a safer place, improving parking and transportation, making our district cleaner and greener, improving housing or supporting sport, tourism and leisure, our staff are continuing to provide essential services for local residents. I simply cannot thank them enough!    
The Peer Review is an opportunity to get an external perspective on our processes and procedures. It will help us to identify the council’s strengths, highlight areas for improvement and will help us to inform our future plans. It will include an on-site visit to Thanet District Council between 11-13 March with a team of Councillors and senior officers from other councils.
There can be no doubt that historically Thanet District Council had developed a poor reputation. The past is the past, and I certainly do not want to rake up the specific circumstances or further blame any individuals responsible – they are now history.

A whole series of legacy issues have also held back our progress, but again I do not wish to detail them here tonight or apportion blame.

What I will say is that one by one we have dealt with them and we are working our way through the last of them, no matter how difficult the final decisions may be.

Our administration has reviewed and made clearer the process for confidential matters that simply have to be discussed in private session. We have reviewed the TDC asset disposal procedure and further financial procedures in the light of the debt caused by the failure of Transeuropa.

On standards I must point out that despite the past history that has left TDC in such poor esteem, and contrary to many other authorities approach, we have decided to keep a Standards Committee in place and we still work to an adopted Code of Conduct. I do sincerely hope that following appointments later this evening, we can all proceed together.     

For the Peer Review I want this council to be as open and transparent as possible – with all the risks that may bring for us, in order to bury that harsh historical public perception. I want us to make any further improvements required and then to move forward stronger than ever.

We will always have political differences between our parties and that’s healthy.

However, I do sincerely hope we can continue to build on the improving cross-party relations we have developed this year and the consensus that we have managed to forge in relation to the council budget and other difficult decisions facing Thanet recently.

I call on all councillors of all political parties here in the council chamber to work together for the benefit of Thanet’s residents!

Sunday, 23 February 2014


Members of the council’s Planning Committee have approved new guidelines which aim to prevent unacceptable concentrations of Houses in Multiple Occupation across Thanet.
At their meeting last night (Wednesday 19 February) members agreed that although applications would still be considered on their individual merits, they would give special attention to applications that would result in more than 10% of HMOs within a 100 metre radius.
The approach has been introduced following concerns raised by local people around the number of houses being used, or proposed for use, as multiple occupancy student accommodation close to the University Campus at Broadstairs.
Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr David Green, wanted to see clearer guidelines introduced when determining whether HMOs are approved. He said: “I’ve raised the issue at Planning Committee because it’s clear that local people are concerned. The current guidelines are open to quite wide interpretation. We need to be sure that we can legitimately consider whether approving a new HMO is ultimately right for the local community.
“These new guidelines will ensure that we can objectively assess whether approving a new HMO would constitute an unacceptable concentration and potentially detrimentally impact upon the character of the area.
“We’re keen to get the balance right here. We support the local University and want to ensure there are facilities in place to support the further education of our young people, but this needs to be done in a way that complements the local community.”
The guidance has been introduced as an interim measure and will be replaced by the district’s new Local Plan once approved.
The new policy will not impact on the Cliftonville West Renewal Area where a restrictive approach is already applied to prevent high concentrations of HMOs.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

David Cameron’s so-called ‘moral crusade’ on welfare has been a disaster - Reeves

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to David Cameron’s claims that his welfare changes have given people ‘hope’, said:
"David Cameron’s so-called ‘moral crusade’ on welfare has been a disaster.
"There’s nothing moral about working people paying more and disabled people being hit hardest.
"Under David Cameron’s government, for the first time more people in poverty are in work than out of work. More than two thirds of the people hit by the one per cent cap on working age benefits and tax credits have a job. The Bedroom Tax has hit hundreds of thousands of disabled people and their carers, and the number of young people on unemployment benefit for over a year has doubled since 2010. Meanwhile, the Government’s flagship welfare reform, Universal Credit, has cost an astonishing £225,000 per person using it. No wonder David Cameron has presided over a tenfold rise in people relying on food banks.
"This Tory-led Government’s welfare reforms have penalised, rather than helped, those doing the right thing. The idea that disabled people hit by the Bedroom Tax, young people desperate for a job but stuck on benefits, and working families struggling to survive on low pay have been given ‘hope’ by David Cameron is preposterous.
"A Labour government will introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee to ensure those that can work do so, strengthen the minimum wage and scrap the hated Bedroom Tax."
Ten facts you need to know about David Cameron’s “moral crusade”:
1.   Two thirds of the 660,000 people hit by David Cameron’s hated “bedroom tax” are disabled (1), and 60,000 are carers (2)
2.    The number of young people left on unemployment benefits for over a year has doubled since the election (3)  
3.    The number of adults left on unemployment benefits for over two years has quadrupled since the election (4)
4.    Millions have been wasted on David Cameron’s flagship welfare reform Universal Credit, with £225,000 spent for every person receiving it at the end of last year (5)
5.   Child poverty is set to rise by 400,000 under David Cameron’s government, and 900,000 by the end of the decade (6)
6.   Women have been hit twice as hard as men by changes to benefits and tax credits under David Cameron’s government (7)
7.   More than 500,000 people were referred to food banks for emergency help between April and December last year – more than ten times as many as in 2009-10 (8). The Trussell Trust have cited benefit delays and measures such as the bedroom tax as key causes, along with rising in-work poverty (9)
8.  For the first time since relevant records began more households living in poverty are in work than out of work (10). 68 per cent of the people hit by David Cameron’s one per cent cap on working age benefits and tax credits are working (11)
9.  Changes to rules on working tax credits have left some families with children better off out of work (12) and cuts to childcare support mean that families have lost up to £1,500 a year (13)
10.  The number of people who want to work full time but can only get a part time job has risen by 350,000 under this government (14) and the number of people earning less than a living wage has risen from 3.6 million in 2010 to 4.8 million in 2012 (15) and is now more than 5 million (16)