Tuesday, 31 March 2009

TAXPAYERS MONEY TO BE SPENT ON POLITICIANS REPUTATIONS?

I think Tony Flaig of Big News Margate will be very interested to see how informed KCC are about reputational management in this guest blog from Dr. Mike Eddy, Leader of the Labour Group on Kent County Council (KCC):

"Kent risks being left out in the cold after the hasty response of Kent County Council’s Conservative administration to the Audit Commission’s recent report on councils’ Icelandic bank deposits. The report – Risk and Return – listed KCC among seven authorities that, according to the Audit Commission:

negligently deposited money after credit ratings for Icelandic banks were downgraded below acceptable levels’.

KCC’s Conservative Leader and Chief Executive responded by writing a letter on 25th March to the Chairman of the Audit Commission, accusing the Audit Commission of


‘unprofessionalism and inaccuracy’
and of acting in
‘a cavalier and unprofessional manner’.

This was followed up by another letter to the Audit Commission’s Chairman dated 27th March from the Chief Executive of KCC, Peter Gilroy, making demands including that the Commission should


issue a retraction of its statement about Kent being negligent’, ‘take all possible steps to achieve a media profile for the retraction and apology which equates that produced by the criticism’, and ‘propose how it intends to compensate Kent for the damages it has suffered’.

The reaction of KCC’s leadership to this report is absolutely astonishing. It has the reek of panic about it. On the one hand, you have blistering letters being fired off to the Chairman of the Audit Commission.

On the other hand, you have the Chief Executive at Cabinet, saying that local government and the Audit Commission should

‘come together and start to think much more creatively and dynamically about the future’
– whatever that means – and the Conservative Leader of KCC saying
‘let’s draw a line under the criticisms and move on together constructively’.

The biggest obstacle to KCC and the Audit Commission moving on together constructively is KCC’s own leadership. The latest we hear in the press is that they may be considering legal action and a judicial review. How on earth can a positive relationship be rebuilt with that kind of threat hanging in the air?

I urge KCC’s leadership to stop putting their bruised pride and their media profile first, and to start thinking about the damage they’re doing to the Council’s previously excellent relationship with the Audit Commission.

I urge them to think very, very carefully about spending public money on legal action in the hope of repairing their dented reputation. KCC is, after all, supposed to be a four star authority. You’d think its leadership would be more confident about their ability to ride this storm out.
"

MORE TORY DRUNKEN AND ABUSIVE BEHAVIOUR

I see that Conservatives at the highest levels have problems with ensuring good behaviour, click here. A friend in the House of Commons tells me there were a large number of Conservatives drinking, whilst the House of Commons was still sitting and discussing Uganda and the rest of Africa. I would be interested to know where Roger Gale was?

It will also raise questions about Eric Pickles MP claims on BBC Question Time that unreliable transport and long hours at Parliament, justify him in claiming expenses for a second home even though his constituency is in the Home Counties. Watch him being skewered by the audience here. No wonder he is evasive, if he claims the duties requiring him to stay late include hosting party political drinks parties. Long hours drinking with friends is not work in my book.

I also think Tony McNulty MP and Jacqui Smith MP are wrong with their housing arrangements too.

Monday, 30 March 2009

FLYING PIG BROUGHT DOWN BY FORMER ROYAL MARINE COMMANDO

I see one of our boys in blue brought home the bacon. Really liked this story.

WELCOME BACK EASTCLIFF MATTERS - STORM IN A TEACUP?

I am very pleased to see my colleague Dave Green back blogging again. Dave is one of the hardest working councillors in Thanet and has built up a considerable following in Eastcliff Ward. He has helped me with several tips to develop this blog and also in my general work as a councillor.

Dave comments about the cost of Standards Committee cases. I have blogged previously about vexatious abuse of the Standards Board system.

I saw this case recently which was literally a storm in a teacup. Dogmatic Conservative councillors in Tunbridge Wells cost local people over £7,000.

Having seen that the Local Government Standards Board regard comparing someone to Nazi Joseph Goebbels, who played his part in killing 6 million people as acceptable in political life, I will be amazed if Dave has posted something as offensive as that on his blog.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

ON THIS I SUPPORT LAURA SANDYS AND DAVID CAMERON

A glorious day in the sun, but cold in the shade here's a picture from down on the foreshore of Pegwell Bay. Great in the garden too harvesting leeks, spring onions, kale, beetroot, cabbages, sorrel and parsley.

I see that Conservative Thanet Cllr. Simon Moores has not for the first time taken a quote from this blog without linking to its source. Strange as I know Simon is one of my most avid readers. Here is where the full letter is. I am curious as to why Simon does not allow his readers to be easily able to check his sources. I have read Simon complain about what he calls "spinning", so no doubt he will explain why he only wants to portray part of the story here. He links on other stories, but this is not the first time he has not linked to the relevant post when quoting me. His blog, his choice.

I try and cross reference and source wherever I can. It's a habit I learnt at University and it has stuck with me since. Ultimately though it is my opinion like it says at the top.

On this matter it is fine that we differ but there are some questions that need further consideration. If as Simon says, Thanet needs more financial reserves then why why was this not budgeted for? Is he saying Cllr. Martin Wise made an error? Some of my colleagues have pointed out the significance of ensuring the Council Tax increase was 3.99%, an extra £314, 324 for reserves would have taken the Council Tax increase over the psychologically important 4% mark.

Does he diagree with Laura Sandys? She says:

"Conservatives would ensure that small firms automatically receive rate relief, cutting their paperwork and their tax bills and giving many of them a fighting chance to stay afloat (during the recession)."

I think this is a good idea and I support it, but Simon does not in his post. Again that's fine, but we could have had an innovative approach from Thanet Council publicising the need to claim business tax relief and have this money directed at local small businesses. There are local businesses suffering at present who would appreciate some help with their tax bills. Most notably locally at St. Peters where it is Labour representatives leading the way in trying to get help.

Simon then tries the line that £314,324 divided by 70,000 Thanet citizens leaves £4.49 per head which he characterises as

"quite possibly leaves enough change for a small burger and French fries and if your'e lucky, a milkshake, divided among 70,000 or so Thanet residents. "

Slight problem here Simon, a quick search for Thanet population provides a figure of about 130,000 so Simon is 60,000 people out. Simon does say though

"I'm not convinced Cllr Nottingham has done all his homework on the subject."

Maybe Simon, but I'm not convinced you've done yours either! I am concerned that someone serving on the Council's Governance and Audit Committee is so out of touch with such important figures, perhaps it was an oversight, we all make them.

Simon dismisses this as a small sum to him, but that is not the view of other Conservatives. David Cameron thinks an extra £3 for every household (so about £1 per head) is worth making a fuss about. That's why he launched the policy recently of no increase in the television licence this year. Click here for more details. My view is that David Cameron should write to Thanet Council's Conservative Group and point out that as he would like people to have more money now, and they are Conservatives they should spend the £314,324, not save it.

So there you have it, all the local and national Labour Party representatives, David Cameron, Roger Gale and Laura Sandys all arguing for government money to be put into the hands of local people and businesses NOW, and on the other hand Thanet Conservatives who think they know better.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

HOW TO TURN £300K INTO £11M

There's a fascinating story in today's Financial Times.


My father had tipped me off about it a while ago. In his 70s he is still delivering thousands of leaflets a year to keep the Conservatives out. He has decided in the 8th decade of life that the internet is an optional extra he will gaze lightly at, but he does understand why I blog. He said there he was surprised that there had not been more media coverage of this story, so here in a way is my father's "blog.". As a proud Briton he dislikes how many Tories are talking Britain down to try and gain electoral advantage.

Wrekin Construction a company with 600 employees said it was being let down by the banks, click here for the full report. The key part says:

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, whose constituency takes in Wrekin Construction’s headquarters, said the company had been forced into administration because of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) “inflexibility” in releasing funds. RBS which has a majority share owned by the taxpayer and Mr Pritchard said some of the blame had to be apportioned to the government. He said:

“This is a long-standing and successful company with a large order book which has been driven into administration by the inflexibility of RBS. “Some of the blame has to fall on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street, given the Government’s majority shareholding in RBS.”

The MP said the administration had been caused by RBS not releasing funds for cashflow even though the firm had an order book he said was worth tens of millions of pounds.

So that’s simple isn’t it? Gordon Brown’s fault, it must be true a Conservative MP has looked into it and pronounced.

That’s on March 11th.

Then this story appears on March 15th, again the key part:

Investigators were last night trying to establish whether a gem purported to be worth £11 million was used to inflate the assets of a building firm which has gone into receivership. The mysterious ruby - called the Star of Zanzibar - was bought by Shropshire-based Wrekin Construction. On paper, it is the most expensive ruby on record.

But officials from Ernst & Young, the administrators called in to handle Wrekin's affairs, are now understood to be trying to establish why the gem was bought, and indeed whether it exists at all. Wrekin reported in its accounts for 2007 that it had bought the Star of Zanzibar from Tamar Group, one of its shareholders, for a "fair value" of £11 million. This was paid for in interest-bearing preference shares.

The purchase transformed the appearance of Wrekin's balance sheet, helping to turn an £8 million liability in March 2007 to net assets of £6 million by the end of that year.

The hunt is now on for the Star of Zanzibar.


So now it is looking like there has been some questionable financial accounting going on. Conservative MP Mark Pritchard is nowhere to be seen to comment on the difficult issues and to answer awkward questions. He has gone from saying in the House of Commons

"If the Business Secretary comes to Shropshire, rather than having green custard on his face, he will definitely have egg on his face"

to

"I acted on the facts that I had at the time," "The fact that the facts changed in a fast-moving case is essentially a different matter."

When all he needs to do is to say sorry to his constituents and the Prime Minister for his error of judgment. Many firms are failing at present because of the credit crunch, but as the FT report shows this company was not in good health before the credit crunch and the whole episode with the ruby being revalued from £300,000 to £11,000,000 seems bizarre.

It does UK plc no good when it is talked down for partisan advantage. We will all suffer economically in a world where business confidence is a scarce commodity.

Friday, 27 March 2009

HOW TO REDUCE THANET COUNCIL TAX

My letter in today's Isle of Thanet Gazette:

Dear Editor,

Local people may have seen Laura Sandys pledge that the Conservatives will reduce tax for local business at some time in the future. Pledges are fine. She could be taking action to save local people money now and is failing to do so. After Thanet Council’s 2009 budget was set the Government allocated an extra £314,324. This “windfall” came in late and as the Gazette (27/2/09) reported, Martin Wise Cabinet member for Finance has decided to keep the money for future years.

Local residents and businesses need real help now, not later. I wrote to Steve Ladyman MP and he replied that the money should be spent now. I have written to Ms. Sandys on a number of occasions but have not had the courtesy of a response. I am therefore writing to ask her publicly to call on Thanet Council to spend this windfall payment right now when we all need it.

Ms. Sandys in her press release said

“Conservatives would cut small businesses paperwork and their tax bills.”

Yet the local Conservative Council has an unexpected extra £314, 324 and is not cutting local tax bills.

Ms. Sandys is failing people in Thanet by not telling the Conservative run Council that they have made an error. Why write about possible future tax cuts, when Ms. Sandys could be demanding them right now.

Actions speak louder than words.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

COUNCIL LEADER RESIGNS

A Conservative Council Leader resigned on principle. Yes it does happen, click here for details. This one had a track record of fighting anti-social behaviour. Back here in Thanet across the Thames Estuary, the silence from any Conservative representative on criticising Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel for his repeated anti-social behaviour remains deafening. I will be happy to publish an statement no matter how qualified confirming that any local Conservative considers Cllr. Ezekiel's misconduct to have been wrong.

My colleague Cllr. Clive Hart awaits a response to his letter I understand. welcome to the Labour Party Thurrock councillor Terry Hipsey who comments:

"I've spent the last two-and-a-half years trying to keep this dysfunctional Tory group of Councillors together. Recently, after having some time to reflect, it has become clear to me that this group - and the Conservative Party more widely - are incapable of making the changes necessary to take Thurrock forward."

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

ILL HEALTH CAUSES COUNCIL BY-ELECTION

Cllr. Audrey Pickering who represented the Thanet Villages Ward, has resigned from Thanet Council due to ill-health. Audrey has been unwell for some time and all from the Council have sent her their best wishes. She had a strong personal vote in Minster for all the work she had carried out over many years. She was first elected as a Labour councillor in 1974. She became an Independent councillor in 1999.

She has been a Minster parish councillor for over 35 years! It is praiseworthy of her to have resigned from the Council because she was unable to give her work as a councillor the time and attention it needed. She could have remained but it shows her character and public service ethos that she has taken this decision.

There will be a by-election in due course. My best wishes to her.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

RAMSGATE HERITAGE INITIATIVE MONEY

Cllr. Peter Campbell Labour's Shadow cabinet member for regulatory services has written with the latest position on the Ramsgate Heritage Initiative. I am informed by the relevant officer that the bulk of the monies are granted at the end of the initiative. Half the money comes from Thanet Council, half comes from the Hertitage Lottery Fund.

Good to see so much investment in Ramsgate and all this information quite properly in the public domain.

GRANTS

Grants Paid / Still Being Paid

Flat 2, 4 Victoria Parade (1,703.75) – Full and Final payment made 06.01.09
6 Nelson Crescent – (£22,487.37) – Final payment made on 13.01.09
1 Wellington Crescent (£19,875.60) – Interim payment £11,258.36 made 17.02.09.
59-60 Harbour Parade (£21,156.25) – Full and Final payment made 18.03.09
69 Pegwell Road – (£17,046.55) – Interim payment £6,037.50 made 18.03.09
30 Harbour Street– (£20,407.50) – Interim payment £10,741.93 made 16.12.08.
15 The Paragon (£8,301.30) – Interim payment of £6,917.75 made 20.03.09
Wellington Crescent Lighting –pre-agreed between Brian and HLF before we received PM1 form. Paid £8,576.85
4 Wellington Crescent (£773.00) – Now completed and paid.
19 Wellington Crescent (£7,477.53) – Interim payment made of £4,727.00.

Total Grants Paid out so far: £94,371.09
Offers Made:

Five further offers have been made. Four of which have been accepted, and one of which is under review.

Currently Making Offers On:

Three offers are currently being made.

Negotiations in Advanced Stages:

Three properties are in the advanced stages of negotiations.

In Early Negotiations / Enquiry Stage:

Approximately twenty three properties are either at the enquiry /early negotiation stage.


OTHER EXPENDITURE

Staff Costs 2008/09

THI Technician (full-time post): £17,682.00 per annum
THI Project Officer / Consultant (2 days per week): £13,200 approx

Advertising 2008/09

Call for local Tradespeople – Thanet Extra (two weeks): £23.49
Call for Tradespeople further afield – several Kent publications (two weeks): £400.00
40 Site Boards for Applicants to display when carrying out work (required by HLF): £840.00
Webpage for Ramsgate THI: free (designed in-house by THI Technician)
Leaflet for Ramsgate THI Scheme: free (designed in-house by THI Technician)
If you want any more information do contact Cllr. Peter Campbell click here.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

TWO THANET BLOGS TO RECOMMEND



First up is Will Scobie, who may well be Thanet’s youngest political blogger but is undoubtedly the most handsome! A nice story on his latest post. Will blogs about once a month at present, it would be good to see more from him. I hope he might be a Labour candidate in 2011 for Thanet Council and help reduce the average age of all councillors by quite a few years if he was elected.

A good friend of mine Nancy Charley writes What Are We Waiting For:

a look at life - how I live it - what is important to me. Watch out for postings on writing, living with kids, creating, church and more

I like the point, that blogging is about what is important to the blogger.

Nancy’s book Being Church has been highly recommended by a number of friends, I confess to not having read it yet despite having a copy in the house. Available from Nancy's blog.

“Being Church looks at church in the 21st century through a series of 'B' pictures -Body, Birds, Butterflies, Bride and Babies. By poem, story and challenging prose read and be provoked to think in a broader way about possibilities for church and how we live with God.”

Saturday, 21 March 2009

PLEASE OPPOSE SHARIA LAW

I was glad there was freedom for people to demonstrate when the troops returned from Afghanistan to Luton recently. I disagreed fundamnetally with the demonsrators but I am glad we live in a democracy that allows dissent.

I am though disturbed at how ignorant people are of Islam. We all know about Catholics and Protestants. When I interview students applying for placements at work in the office of a Member of the European Parliament, I often ask them to tell me what they know about the main strands of Islam. These are some of our brightest graduates from top universities who will typically have studied History or Politics and graduated with good degrees.

Ask them to tell you what they know about Shias, and Sunnis and more than half do not know.
Throw in a reference to what problems Wahhabiism brings to the Middle East peace process and they are usually lost. Probe them about Alevis in Turkey and they are confused. Suggest that Sufiism is largely about mysticism, and it is a sorry I don’t know.
These are all bright young people. They can happily talk about Catholics, Mormons, Methodists and Baptists. Some of our finest young minds who have determined views on current political issues. I don’t mind whether they are for or against intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. What I do mind is that most of them talk confidently about what Muslims in Iraq or Gaza want, without knowing what type of Muslim they are. Most have no concept of the internal tensions and the many different strands of Islam. Our media are worse with a very simple definition of Muslims, quiet/normal and “extremist”.

All credit to Tony Blair that he read the Koran, I have a copy but have only glanced through it. My knowledge is very limited. There are 2 million Muslims in Britain and yet most British people see them as one homogenous group. The reality is that like British Christians there are many and varied different groupings.

What saddens me most is when people who should know better make simplistic generalisations. The most notable of this lazy thinking has been Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury who has proclaimed support for Sharia Law.

He does not even begin to understand how offensive what he says is. It is a bit like saying all Methodists, Baptists, Catholics etc will have to go to Anglican churches in future, and have separate religious courts if they wish. It is patronising not least because many people born Muslim are agnostic or atheist just like many people born as Christians.

I support the campaign against Sharia law in Britain, One Law For All, a simple phrasing but one we surely all should agree to?

I would ask you to sign their petition to oppose this attempt to bring religion into our British secular traditions.

Do you agree with these statements?

· We call on the UK government to recognise that Sharia and all religious laws are arbitrary and discriminatory against women and children in particular. Citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable.

· We demand an end to all Sharia courts and religious tribunals on the basis that they work against and not for equality and human rights.

· We demand that the law be amended so that all religious tribunals are banned from operating within and outside of the legal system

I hope so, please sign here.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

TORY COUNCIL WEBCASTS BY-ELECTION & ALL MEETINGS

A Conservative controlled Council shows the way on webcasting. Just click here to see how easy it is. Council meetings, Planning, Scrutiny all provided. Now they are broadcasting a by-election. Brilliant!

They broadcast all of their Council and Committee meetings live to the Internet. All meeting broadcasts are also recorded and therefore capable of repeated viewing.

Cllr. Stephen Ellis said:

"This new technology is proving very popular with one of our planning meetings securing over 300 hits – far more than would ever attend a planning meeting."

"Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has just won a Beacon award for its pioneering work in connection with ‘digital inclusion’."

Perhaps someone from Thanet could pick up the phone, I'm sure they would be happy to help. They are aiming for excellence, let's have Thanet joining them.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

TORY INCOMPETENCE COSTS £3MILLION

Thank you to my friend Simon from up on the River Medway for this story. Cllr. Nick Chard Conservative Cabinet Member for Finance at Kent County Council was responsible for shoddy financial systems which cost us £3 million.

Kent County Councillor Trudy Dean explained to yesterday's BBC File On 4,

"The named individual did not open the email until after the deposit was made and there are clearly questions being asked whether that process was sufficiently robust."

You can see a news summary and download the podcast from here

Kent’s part starts at 22 minutes in and lasts for about 8 minutes.

What is not made clear is how unprofessional this was. In any organisation dealing with large amounts of money the main way you get fraud or big mistakes is by having only one signatory. So even the smallest public organisations usually have at least 2 signatures on the cheque book/bank account to make fraud, and also genuine errors far less likely. We all make mistakes, and a double check is just obvious common sense.

Not to Nick Chard though, who allowed this sloppy single signature system to prevail. This despite Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) Accountants confirming that proper procedures were not being implemented on deposits.

So the staff member takes a day off. Why was nobody covering? After all daily interest on £3million at the time would have been in the order of £400 a day! They come back from leave and transfer £3 million literally into a bottomless pit.

Then they open the email telling them not to transfer any more money. Too late, the money has gone and we have all lost out. If the individual was only following procedure then it is hard to see how they were at fault, although how come nobody telephoned from Kent’s financial advisors? They just sent an email! Seems like they did not even ask for confirmation of receipt. Amazing when millions of ounds were at stake.

Who were these advisors? Butlers. (Somebody has told me this company, or its owners donate money to the Conservative Party – does anybody know if this is the case?)

The person responsible for carrying out these managerial actions is cabinet member for Finance Nick Chard. He is evasive in the radio interview, refuses to answer questions , and takes no personal responsibility for his failure to implement the professional independent recommendations that would have saved us £3 million.

There were warnings 2 years ago as well. Down in south west Kent at Shepway Council they did they were advised 2 years ago and pulled out all of their money from Iceland. It is an interesting point that Shepway had exactly the same financial advisors as Kent, Butlers.

It therefore seems even worse that Kent had poor procedures when Thanet and Shepway avoided the same problems. What were Thanet’s Kent Conservative County councillors doing? Why did they fail to pick this up on this with some of them also being District Councillors as well. Did they not know to pass the message on?

I would welcome hearing the views of Chris Wells and Bill Hayton on this, who are both Thanet and Kent Conservative councillors.

That is £500,000 plus £500,000 plus £3,000,000 wasted by Kent Conservatives. A total of £4,000,000 wasted and I am sure there will be more to come. £4 for every girl, woman and pensioner in Kent.

Now a reasonable person would conclude that the correct thing for Nick Chard to do would be to resign. I wonder if any readers have a copy of the Kent Conservative Party rule book? I am wondering if there is a rule there that says

“As a Kent Conservative you are never wrong, you should never do the honourable thing and resign.”

Cllr. Ezekiel will not resign, Cllr. Chard will not resign.

What does that say about the standards of Kent Conservatives?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

ANOTHER £1/2 MILLION OF OUR MONEY WASTED

Earlier this month I reported on Kent County Council wasting £500,000 of our money. The East Kent Conservative District Councils are just as good at wasting money, here is a tale of another £500,000 wasted.

There has been a proposal for a shared Human Resources (Personnel) service. Thanet would share services with Shepway (Folkestone), Dover and Canterbury Councils. The idea was that savings would be generated across the four Councils.

Part of the savings would have come from making staff redundant to provide one more centralised service. A good idea, just like commercial organisations rationalise their services.
I hear now from a source along the coast in East Kent that the shared service will not be making any savings. There will now be no further savings for the first 2 years of the project. This will mean Thanet and the 3 other Councils will have additional costs of at least £65,000/year.

So £130,000 in Thanet but over half a million across East Kent as it is £130,000 for each Council totalling £520,000. The costs come from moving to Dover, and having to pay staff compensation and extra travelling allowances. This is a kick in the teeth to Thanet Council employees. Not only are they losing jobs to Dover, but they are also facing redundancy. They are accepting a pay award which is less than inflation hoping that fewer jobs will go. They then find there are no savings and the extra costs mean more jobs will be at risk.

I understand that when this was raised with Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel Leader of Thanet Council his response was to panic and blame it on the government. This is an internal management matter. Either he or his staff are responsible, or he needs to find out quick who from Dover, Folkestone and Canterbury has screwed up, and explain publicly so that all those staff who fear losing their jobs, so they know what happened.

He needs to stop saying that this is the fault of a government giving less money, when the facts are Thanet has had more money. I will repeat again that since 1997 the extra funding is an increase of 39% in REAL terms. That is money the granted by central government has kept place with inflation since 1997, and in ADDITION there has been an extra £39, for every £100 of Council expenditure.

That’s why hundreds of other authorities have just had far lower increases in Council Tax than Thanet District Council. We have one of the highest increases in the country because of mismanagement, and a blame culture from Thanet's political leadership.

Monday, 16 March 2009

EZEKIEL FOUND GUILTY

Thanet Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel was again found guilty of misconduct tonight by Thanet Council Standards Committee tonight. His Deputy Roger Latchford had no further action taken against him, after again publicly apologising for his poor standards of conduct. Their letters of explanation can be found here.

When I saw these letters I posted here about attempts to interfere with the Standards process. Tonight my colleague Clive Hart (the better looking one) has written a letter to all Thanet District and Kent County councillors as follows:
"I received your letter of 26/01/2009 (written on TDC headed paper) regarding yet further appalling behaviour by you, this time at the Edinburgh Woollen shop. As you are very well aware, this was yet another serious standards matter and I therefore waited until local proceedings were completed before replying. For someone who regularly comments in our local newspapers about 'political correctness gone mad I'm afraid your introductory paragraph smacks of hypocrisy. Thanet District Council may have made some progress on standards but absolutely no thanks to you or your persistent angry public outbursts.
As for your opinion that it is not in the public interest to prolong matters, I disagree, the public needs to know just how you behave and I truly believe you should have resigned your position a long time ago.You then continue to give us more of the political correctness you so despise from others with the words 'In retrospect I recognise that my choice of word may have notbeen ideal'.
You also try to sum up your attempt at an 'apology' to the council with yet another astounding blend of hypocrisy and political correctness, using the words 'I am also very clear that as Leader I have responsibility to demonstrate that even where difficulties between members do arise, they can be resolved sensibly'. I agree with you, but that's exactly the point - you fail time and time again to do as you say.
Lastly, but far from least, your final statement simply beggars belief 'I intend to learn from this experience and invite all members of the Council to do likewise'. You truly think we all need to learn from your mistakes!
The only lesson I draw from this further episode is that this District deserves a much better leader than you. Indeed, from your repeated bad behaviour I would say TDC would be hard pushed to find a worse example of leadership.Way back in July 2004 when residents of Surrey Road asked me to attend a meeting with you and them in your office, you slammed a door in my face and I quote the residents own words, printed in a local newspaper "Sandy Ezekiel was so rude and aggressive. It was awful".
At the Mayors Retiring Ball you ruined what had been a perfect evening for my wife and I and many others by shouting disgusting obscenities across a crowded room and behaving threateningly and aggressively towards our elderly Town Mayor and the Town Sergeant.
At last year's council AGM I was trying to explain to fellow members just how volatile your behaviour is when I was forced to stop and sit down by the Chairman. If only he had let me finish and some of your colleagues had listened, we might have avoided this further embarrassment for both the Council and Thanet. As a County member I also have to put up with jibe after jibe about Thanet from your Tory colleagues across Kent simply because of your appalling 'style of leadership' and I for one am absolutely fed up with the place I love being tarnished by your appalling behaviour.
Yes - you have made Thanet a laughing stock across Kent and you should resign immediately!
Yours
Cllr. Clive Hart
It is time for Sandy Ezekiel to show some good behaviour for a change and resign. Again Thanet Conservatives remain silent. Only Roger Latchford supports him publicly, no-one else, no-one condemns. One equivocates and shows poor judgment in saying the apology is good enough for them, wrong call as the Standards Committee found tonight.
They are too busy positioning themselves for jobs in case he does resign. Is there a single one of them prepared to say in public what they say in private? Winston Curchill will be turning in his grave at such spinelessness tonight.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

ROGER LATCHFORD'S INCONSISTENCIES

A reader writes to advise me that this is not the first time Cllrs. Ezekiel and Latchford have been in a similar situation. The question becomes how many times can they be in such questionable circumstances and survive. I was sent this link. Do have aread to understand this post please.

A number of Northwood constituents have asked me about this. They ask me whether Cllr. Latchford is a racist, some suggest he is, others want to know the facts. When I raised this personally with Cllr. Latchford on behalf of my constituents he refused to discuss the matter.
That is of course his prerogative. However, my view is that if, as he and Cllr. Ezekiel assert, he is not a racist then by publishing the email he would clear things up for everybody. By refusing to do so, he leaves genuine and legitimate concerns about his personal views. There are regular reports of Conservative councillors acting in a racist fashion, here are some:
Dover Wealden Leicester

It happens in all parties, but, apart from the BNP where it is a requirement, the Conservatives do have more regular problems with racist members than other parties, and there are Tory MPs like Ann Winterton who have been repeatedly warned.

As a constituent said to me when I told them that Cllr. Latchford had refused to publish the email, 'He may have been an officer, but he is not a gentleman.'

Reading the story now it is interesting to see what may have happened. The email was sent to Thanet councillors and officers. It seems fair to assume it was only sent to Conservative councillors. This would explain why somebody held on to it, before sending it to Cllr. Richard Nicholson in the run up to the 2007 election.
I would say the person to leak this would have been a calculating Conservative colleague who had eyes on Cllr. Latchford’s job. Let's remember several Conservative councillors thougt this email fine. They took no action to report it. Many of them will probably still be Councillors. When people ask why the Labour group find it difficult to work with the Conservatives, this is one of the reasons why, we are wary of working with people who are soft on racism.
An unpleasant email is circulated, that as I understand were it public would have lead to possible prosecution. Instead because it was deemed to be private under the, in my view incorrect "Ken Livingstone" precedent, no further action could be taken. Ken Livingstone made offensive comments, but argued that as he was talking to the journalist whilst walking away from City Hall, it was a "private" matter. Beware of any councillor offering to "see you outside!"
If we knew who Cllr. Latchford sent his email to it would give us a shortlist. I am sure Cllr. Latchford will have a very short list of suspects.

Of greater concern is that this offensive email went to Council officers and they did nothing. To his credit Cllr. Latchford said:

“Sending this email around is not the cleverest thing I have ever done.”

So why did no officer who received this email in early 2006 not raise the matter? Are these officers still with the authority? How close are they to Cllr. Latchford? These are questions I should not be speculating on. We should know.

Cllr. Latchford was passionately for China Gateway and Manston Airport Expansion. So much so he excluded himself from the China Gateway vote. Were officers working on this close to him? I doubt it, but his unwise decision to withhold this evidence tarnishes the Council’s reputation.

Are these officers involved in the current investigation? I understand that there is evidence submitted to the investigation that does not appear on file. Why is this? I will not cite this evidence prior to the hearing, but it has to be a concern. Bertie Biggles has raised questions about the conduct of officers. As I keep on refraining why is there not more openness?

Look further the original article says

“Cllr Latchford, who is deputy leader of the district council, announced to political colleagues on Tuesday that he is not to seek re-election at this May's district elections "for personal and family reasons."

He stressed the decision had been made a month ago and had been lodged then with his group leader. We are all entitled to change our minds, but Cllr. Latchford said the decision had been made previously.

Cllr. Latchford at present says:

“I have offered my resignation as I don’t like attacks on my integrity by the Labour Group.”

I think in view of his previous form that this offer should be taken with a large pinch of salt. His judgment at present is at variance with reality.
On page 3 of the Isle of Thanet Gazette this week he says

“The Leader (Cllr. Ezekiel) is a polite man.”

That is not the case. I know dozens of people Cllr. Ezekiel has been rude to. The first time he met me he was rude. One of the most objectionable things regarding the fracas at the Winter Gardens in 2007 containing the (admitted by Cllr. Ezekiel) foul and abusive language, was that it took place in the presence of a number of Councillors wives as well as other female guests and staff members.

In my view leaders of any sort never normally become 'tired and emotional' in public, and never resort to loutish, foul mouthed intimidating behaviour in the presence of ladies. Again that’s my opinion, I know others in Thanet Conservatives take a different view.

Loyalty is one thing, but I believe Cllr. Latchford has taken it too far. Read the current set of papers and to his credit he is the man who is trying to get his angry, rude friend Cllr. Ezekiel to leave the shop. The witness statement says:
"Councillor Latchford said four times, 'Sandy, let's go'."
Cllr. Latchford is having to pull his impolite friend away, and yet gives written evidence that he is a polite man? Surely this is a contradiction? Surely such inconsistency deserves greater examination?

However, if I was advising Cllr. Latchford and the possibility was available for ensuring that he did not have to attend a hearing after giving such questionable testimony, then of course I would advise non-attendance.

I think Cllrs Ezekiel and Latchford must have been brought up differently to me. I was brought up that as a man you would never hit a woman no matter what the provocation. As a man you held women in greater respect. You would not publicly shout down a woman in public. That’s my values, are they Thanet Conservative values?

There is yet another inconsistency from Cllr.Latchford’s 2007 words:

"My personal crusade is against anti-social behaviour and I have worked closely with the police for the last four years since I was elected to make Thanet a safer and happier place in which to work and live."

Yet Cllr. Ezekiel made a complaint to the police wasting their time. As far as I know Cllr. Latchford has done nothing about this. The police could have better spent their time pursuing anti-social behaviour.

Cllr. Ezekiel has engaged in anti-social behaviour, and has been independently judged to have done so. Again, as far as I know Cllr. Latchford has said and done nothing. This would appear to be hypocritical.

Cllr. Latchford will say I am attacking his integrity because I am Labour, it’s his and many local Conservatives unintellectual standard response to any criticism from the Labour Group. Look closely at my sources. They are mostly independent or Cllr. Latchford himself. I do quote my personal experience. Remove that. There are still here questions about Cllr. Latchford’s integrity.

1. Why does he not publish the offensive email to end speculation and distrust in Thanet Council?

2. Why does he not list the Councillors he sent the email to?

3. Why does he not list the Thanet Council officers he sent the email to?

4. Why did he not resign in 2007 as he promised?

5. Why has he not publicly condemned Cllr. Ezekiel’s anti-social behaviour on two occasions as part of his "crusade against anti-social behaviour"?

6. Why does he say Cllr. Ezekiel is polite, when you have seen him behave impolitely on a number of occasions?

Now I can hear Cllr. Latchford’s friends saying I am attacking his integrity. No, I am questioning his integrity. I believe all the above 6 questions are reasonable and legitimate. Constituents have raised them all with me. Please do not tell me they are private. It is inappropriate for councillors to have private relationships with officers.

The fact is Councillor Latchford has refused to answer these questions. That is his choice, but I think it is the wrong decision. If he was a private individual it would not matter. He is though the second most senior locally elected representative, and that requires that he is held to account for his actions. A choice all of us who choose to be in public life should understand.
I am not attacking Councillor Latchford’s integrity, but if he continues to refuse to answer reasonable questions of public interest then, yes, I do doubt his integrity.

This question is millennia old: 'Society rots from the head down' - Cicero 106-43 BC

EZEKIEL AND LATCHFORD NOT ATTENDING

I have had it confirmed that Cllrs Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford will not be attending tomorrow's Standards Committee.

I have updated yesterday's post.

SIMON MOORES - SILENT ON ABUSIVE BEHAVIOUR

In many ways this could have gone to any Conservative councillor. However, Simon does normally front up, credit to him for that. Since becoming a councillor many in the blogosphere have commented that Simon does not answer questions as directly he once did. Here is a chance for him to repair his reputation. He does talk about standards so his silence on this matter has been either eloquent or political. I understand he has recently been appointed to a position by Cllr. Ezekiel. I trust this will not influence his judgment.

It is no good condeming anti-social behaviour in one place, if one turns a blind eye in another place. I believe Cllr. Clark should have chosen a better form of words in relation to his Standards Board case. I note though that a series of allegations by Cllr. Ezekiel against Cllr. Clark were found to be false and note the police also had their time wasted (slow download - item at bottom) by false accusations from Cllr. Ezekiel.

Dear Simon,

I have read that you believe there should be better standards locally in Thanet. You have suggested that councillors should wear suits and ties recently to improve standards, although I recall you in the past not following this dress code yourself.

Surprisingly though, I cannot find any statement on your blog condemning Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel’s previous misconduct? Why is this? As someone who appoints himself as a moral arbiter why do you stay silent on drunken abusive behaviour?

I am committed to eliminating anti-social behaviour. Are you? Why do you turn a blind eye to it?
Further, you will have seen this report (very slow download). As you can see from the independent evidence Cllr. Ezekiel has brought shame on Thanet Council from his anti-social conduct, why do you stay silent on this? Cllr. Latchford had to repeatedly ask Cllr. Ezekiel to leave because of his bad behaviour. Why do you not condemn him for his lack of respect? Is it because he was wearing a tie at the time so that makes it OK?

Will you be the first Conservative councillor with the moral integrity to condemn Cllr. Ezekiel’s conduct publicly?

If not I would suggest you restrain yourself from commenting about standards of conduct in political life.

I will be happy to publish your response.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr. Mark Nottingham

Saturday, 14 March 2009

RAMSGATE HARBOUR PROBLEMS DELAY PROJECT

It appears there may be Conservatives planning for a future under a different Leadership. I have come across two stories in quick succession involving Thanet Council wasting money and making mistakes. If you expect regime change then you try and get as many bad news stories out as possible, so that the new team can say problems relate to the former leadership. This may be an encouraging sign or just a coincidence. I hope more Conservatives councillors are thinking about a brighter future for Thanet. The silence of public statements of support from local Conservatives for Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford is deafening.

Here you go. "I think Richard Nicholson, Leader of the Labour Group is a hard working councillor who maintains the highest standards of conduct with officers and councillors". John Watkins says "There is not a more passionate elected representative in the UK for the town in which he was born than Cllr. Clive Hart. With him it is a seven day a week committment."

I have a stack more ready to match the Tory pledges of support to Roger and Sandy as they dribble in....

Why will no Conservative councillor publicly come out and support their leaders? Some positioning going on methinks.

There has been widespread concern about the Conservative administration’s poor management of Ramsgate Harbour. Repeated criticism of the dredging has not been addressed leading to grounding of vessels including ferries. Plans to asset strip and sell off land around the harbour threaten the maintenance facilities that attract so many people to use the harbour. A classic example of short term thinking, not understanding the strategic assets of an area.

I do not understand why Cllr. Mike Roberts is not given a more prominent role in looking after the Harbour. He has a genuine passion for it, and an immense amount of relevant knowledge. Read his biography

"For the last 30 years I have been involved in senior management of a power generation company, specialising in marine and industrial power generation. I have also had an active part in the design, construction, and in some cases closure, of shipyards, boatyards and marinas."

Can someone please explain to me why lesser qualified candidates have been selected ahead of him?

The only secret vice I’ve discovered on Mike is a love of fish and chips from the famous Newington Fish bar.

Perhaps he is just too personable to fit in with some current members of the Cabinet.

I doubt he would have overseen or allowed the current problems I hear have hit the port. I highlighted before the work over the past few weeks of a dredger from Wyre Marine services, but gave it the wrong location!

It has been operating at Ramsgate removing spoil from number one berth. This was in preparation for the arrival of a very large jackup platform in the very near future. This will be used for the installation of the enormous piles involved. So far the dredger has removed around 42,000 tons of spoil and it was due to finish soon.

However due to incorrect data that was supplied, they now find that there is still approximately 50,000 tons to be removed. In consequence the whole project will now have to be removed to Ijmuiden in Holland, for the next four to six weeks until Ramsgate Port number one berth is suitable for use, involving more time at sea for the jack up vessel.

This is not an ideal welcome to Thanet for the project. I hope there will be an open investigation and explanation of what went wrong and why. Ramsgate Harbour’s reputation is already jeopardised and we need to have a rapid clear explanation so mariners are not further disheartened.
I look forward to Sandy Ezekiel’s explanation as to why his administration cannot possibly have made an error and it is all the government’s fault. More about money being wasted tomorrow.

NON - ATTENDANCE AT HEARING

This post is based on information from a normally reliable source, but it may just be a false rumour. I have been told that Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford do not intend to attend the Thanet Council Standards Committee meeting on Monday 16th March which is examining their conduct. I find this hard to believe.

However, it is possible. They have wriggled every way they can to try and get out of this matter, so this may be their latest tactic. Keep their expensive lawyers taking the flak, and try to win on procedure not fact. I remember Sandy Ezekiel making a false complaint to the police when previously in trouble. I have never seen an apology for this waste of police time and resources. Now I know this blog is avidly followed by a number of Conservatives, so I will be only too happy to put the record right if Sandy Ezekiel and Roger Latchford are attending.

If they are planning not to attend, local Conservatives need to either put pressure on them to attend, or find the guts to come out publicly and say their intention is wrong.

For those doubting my motivation, I just want them to attend and be accountable in public. It would be no good me blogging next week that I had heard they were not going to attend after they failed to turn up, would it?

UPDATE 15.1.09

I have had it confirmed that Cllris Latchford and Ezekiel will not attend the hearing. This I understand has been pre-agreed as is shown on page 8 here. I do not understand this. Surely it would be helpful to have those involved present to be examined if appropriate. Instead I understand they may have legal representatives present. As this was pre-agreed I have amended the title of this post.

With closer reading of the report I should have spotted this rather than relying solely on my source, who as ever has been found to be accurate. I thank kindly the Conservative who pointed my error out. I apologise for my posting not being as accurate as I would have liked.

Friday, 13 March 2009

LAURA SANDYS - HER DIRTY ELECTION CAMPAIGN?

As regular readers will know Laura Sandys is unable to answer letters on policy areas.

Laura hides from difficult decisions. That is not acceptable for a person who wants to be a MP.

Dear Laura,

Having become interested in Thanet issues you will be aware of the widespread concerns about Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel’s misconduct. Please have a read of what the Standards Board for England said about his conduct here.
You will note the finding that:
"The ethical standards officer concluded, based to a significant extent on Councillor Ezekiel’s own evidence, that Councillor Ezekiel had been offensive and discourteous towards the retiring mayor and another councillor."

You should also have a read of this report here, (slow download) which is going to be heard at the Thanet Council Standards Committee on 16th March 2009. I hope you will ensure that you attend this meeting as it is important.

As you will see from the report there is considerable independent evidence about your supporters’ misconduct. Why have you not disowned them? Why do you work and campaign closely with them? Is this the standard of conduct Thanet people can expect from you?

Over the next few weeks there will be considerable bad publicity for Thanet because of your Conservative supporters’ actions. You recently claimed you wanted to promote Thanet’s image. I do not believe that you were sincere when you said this. You could publicly denounce Cllr. Ezekiel’s conduct and call for him to stand down as Leader of Thanet Council. That would improve Thanet’s image. Why do you not do this? Why do you tolerate anti-social behaviour?

The damage to Thanet’s reputation will cost local people tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds. Ask any marketing professional how damaging this is and how long it will take to repair. You have the chance to act swiftly, decisively and to show moral leadership.

Please could you make a public statement indicating whether you support Cllr. Ezekiel and his conduct or not?

While you continue to avoid this issue, the public will know that you intend to fight an election campaign supported by people who have behaved anti-socially. I trust you do not want to fight a dirty election campaign.
That is wrong and you should address it and be clear about the standards of conduct thanet people can expect from you and your supporters.
Yours sincerely,
Cllr. Mark Nottingham
I predict Laura will make no public comment on Cllr. Ezekiel. Perhaps as Mrs. Thatcher would say, she is "frit" of somebody?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

CLLR EZEKIEL WAS REASONABLY AGGRESSIVE

Thanet Council Leader "Cllr. Ezekiel was reasonably aggressive" that is one of many interesting statements in the papers for the Standards Committee hearing on 16th March. This was said by local journalist Thom Morris. Click here for the full papers and make your own mind up. Caution I found it a long slow download so please be patient.

Before Cllr. Ezekiel's last appearance at the Standards Committee where he was found to have behaved badly, my colleague John Watkins tried to resolve matters informally.

He took advice from the Chief Executive, concerning Cllr. Ezekiel's deplorable event first thing on the Monday morning after Cllr. Ezekiel (pictured) had sworn at and abused people at the Winter Gardens. Chief Executive Richard Samuel arranged for Cllr. Watkins to receive the relevant forms to make a formal complaint. He also advised him to inform Cllr. Ezekiel of his intention to send the report to the Standards Board for England.

Cllr. Watkins went in person in the Leader’s office the following day and told him of his intentions, whereupon Cllr. Ezekiel called Cllr. Watkins "a gutless bastard."

There being no witness to this abusive behaviour, Cllr. Watkins immediately left Cllr. Ezekiel's office.

Only an ignorant, rude fool would call Cllr. Watkins gutless.

As a member of the Margate lifeboat crew John served 34 years with Margate RNLI, first as a volunteer crew member and later as a station official for 14 yrs. Going out to sea in storms to save people's lives require courage. Something Cllr. Ezekiel has never demonstrated to me he has. Swearing and abusing people is something he does far too frequently.

He should put Thanet's repuation first and resign as Leader now.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

KENT TV POPULAR WITH MASONS

I support Tony Flaig's right to criticise Kent TV and Ten Alps the company owned by Bob Geldof that produces the programmes. There are some things that looked like they might be worth a view. I had a look at the most popular list to see what tickles people's fancy.

If you are a mason who fears norovirus but fancies going to Bedgebery Lapland then this is the place to go. Number 3 in the charts is a programme on the history of Freemasonry in Kent. How much was paid to Peter Williams Television (is he a mason?) for this production? I cannot see why my Council Tax should have been spent on this. The programme makes much of Freemasons charitable endeavours.

Curiously it made no reference to the extensive work that masons have undertaken in Local Government. As it trumpets many positive masonic achievements perhaps this was damning with faint praise. I hope the 16,000 Freemasons in Kent paid for this advertorial. Why does this have to be hosted at our cost and not on Youtube for free?

I have always been against masons because it is a male only organisation, and will not let women join. I do not understand why Kent County Council want to spend money promoting an organisation that excludes half the population of Kent.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

WHO WILL BE THE FAMOUS FIVE?

Guest blog from Cllr. Richard Nicholson Leader of Thanet Council Labour Group.

"At the last Standards Committee meeting there was a vote against the payment of Lead members on Thanet Council. Cllr. Liz Green and I argued against this cynical ploy by the Tory group and reminded the committee that we already had unpaid lead members as did the Conservatives they took office in 2003.

Liz Green and I did not argue against the idea of lead members, but about the issue of paying them. I am pleased that the Independent members of the Standards Committee voted not to support payment to them.

I also suggested that if these "lead members" are to take the strain off Cabinet members, a point highlighted by Cllr. Zita Wiltshire, then the cost of lead members should come from the current cabinet allowances which are already paid to Cabinet members. This again found favour from the Labour and Independent members but was opposed by the Tories. If Cabinet members are unable to perform their duties and need help they should stand down.

I have no doubt at Full Council in May this will go through as intended by the Tories, but the Standards Committee decision is the right one. I think local people should ask Conservative councillors why they want more money and allowances, when they are already paid a basic allowance."

I would add that this should be a question for politics students at univerity. Is there anywhere else where 29 out of 34 people (85%) of the elected body who get an extra allowance? I cannot think of anywhere in the democratic world. Perhaps Thanet Counncil could twin with North Korea to compare democratic practices.

What about the 5 who do not make the grade? Will they be known as the doziest or the laziest? Maybe they will be honourable Conservatives who refuse to serve in Cllr. Ezekiel's administration because of their reservations about his conduct. Who knows?

Prediction for the Famous Five are welcome in the comment section.

Monday, 9 March 2009

WHY EAST KENT SHOULD CAMPAIGN TO JOIN THE EURO

There is currently a consultation on the future of the East Kent Sustainable Community Strategy.

The Strategy is a key policy document which will set out a long-term vision for East Kent over the next 20 years and it outlines the steps that will need to be taken in order to make the vision a reality. It also may help any insomniacs out there. Thanet Council Labour Group Leader Richard Nicholson (pictured) has the ability to read these things and capture detail thankfully. He spots that the document whilst having nice photos of Ramsgate, does not actually refer to anything happening in Ramsgate. Instead there is lots on Margate and Folkestone. Disappointing.



A sentence caught my eye point 1.2

“East Kent has unparalleled access to Europe.”

That’s the first asset listed and rightly so as the television programme rightly says Location, Location, Location. So in the spirit of the consultation here are some more questions.

Is Kent closer to Europe or most of the United Kingdom?
Is a market of 400 million people plus more attractive than one of 60 million?
Will global investors go for a market of 400 million or 60 million?
Will European visitors with Euros spend more in Kent or Northumberland?
Globally would it be better to be with 400 million people or 60 million?
Exchanging currency costs British businesses money, is this true?
Currency costs make British products less competitive, is this true?
Exchanging money takes time and costs money for British tourists, is this true?
The Euro has been a success, is this true?

A really radical proposal by this group would be to come out and advocate strongly for membership of the Euro. Kent is better placed geographically to gain from British membership of the Euro than any other place in the United Kingdom. It is a fact of geography. Now that would be a bold vision.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

£1/2 MILLION OF OUR MONEY WASTED

Kent County Council is better run than Thanet District Council. Independent reports show it, but from the other end of Kent here's a story of hundreds of thousands of our pounds being wasted. I am indebted to Cllr. Harry Rayner Chair of Wrotham Parish Council for this guest blog:

"Kent County Council (KCC) and H+H Celcon (Celcon) have been found guilty by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) of behaving unreasonably towards Wrotham and Ightham Parish Councils (WPC) who have been awarded all of their costs of the Celcon Block Factory Inquiry, as Rule 6 parties.
We have heard from Matthew Horton QC’s chambers, WPC’s Barrister, that it is totally unprecedented for third party organisations to be awarded costs arising from Call-In Inquiries.Such was the magnitude of errors made by Celcon and KCC that an ‘exceptional’ award of all Rule 6 costs have been made against them.“For (Celcon) to proceed beyond the Pre Inquiry Meeting in January 2007 and then submit the Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) application to KCC in March 2007 ... does not suggest a carefully planned approach to securing a desired outcome...H&H, as a professionally represented applicant for planning permission in a major and locally controversial case, acted unreasonably by:
1. Not approaching the purely legal issue, of whether an earlier planning permission had been implemented in a reasonable and timely manner, given the separate statutory process for resolving that issue via an application for a lawful development certificate, with the result that
2. The inquiry into the called-in planning application collapsed following its late withdrawal thus causing other parties to incur abortive expense.
The PINS ruled against H+H Celcon for their late submission for a LDC and made them liable for all of KCC’s costs throughout the Inquiry and partially liable for the majority of the Parish Council's costs. In a further twist in this complex tale of incompetence, on the 11 May 2007 KCC granted Celcon’s late request for a Lawful Development Certificate. When Keep Boroughs Green asked for Judicial Review of that decision, KCC formally admitted by letter to the PINS on the 29 August 2007 that they had done so without checking the evidence and they should not have issued the LDC.
That fateful decision has resulted in an award of costs against KCC for part of Celcon’s costs and half of the Parish Councils from 11 May 2007.
This reflects badly on both KCC and Celcon, Celcon has lost all of their application costs, but the largest financial penalties are imposed on KCC. Celcon fielded a barrister with a team of ten consultants and expert witnesses at the Inquiry, which KCC now have to pay for along with a significant proportion of the two Parish Council’s costs as well.
The big loser in all this is the Kent Tax Payer, as a direct result of KCC Application Planning Department’s incompetence. Last year KCC paid out over £88,000 in opponents legal costs on Planning Judicial Reviews in Wrotham Parish alone, and will now no doubt be hit with bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds by the time all this is settled.
Meanwhile the loss to the Kent Council taxpayer continues to escalate, because solicitors acting for all parties need to submit their claims and then argue the merits of each in an attempt to agree final amounts. In the event that there is no agreement the claims have to be submitted to the Supreme Court Costs Office."
Now this is a pretty big story. Think of the extra costs that are not shown, all that officer and councillor time that has been wasted. Then the legal costs for both sides which have not yet been totalled but will be hundreds of thousands of pounds. It seems a pretty clear case of maladministration. I would have thought this would be quite a big media story, yet all I can find is this mild treatment of the story.
Up to half a million pounds of our money has been wasted. yet how many anodyne pieces are there in Kent on Sunday this week? Was it on a radio station?
What about some recognition for the heroic defiance of these parish councillors?
Cllr. Rayner, I salute you and your colleagues. Cllr. Rayner asked his deputy Cllr. Pete Gillin to sum up: (Can you imagine Paul Carter doing that?)
“KCC as the Planning Authority, allowed themselves to become far too close to a multi-national company who wanted to trade planning consent, in a highly protected area of Green Belt and Outstanding Natural Beauty, for a road that, if necessary, should be paid for by public funds; and now the Council Taxpayers of Kent are paying the price.”
Where are the resignations or apologies from Kent County Council?

WHAT ABOUT THE FOOTBALL?


























What about the football? That's what a few friends have asked of my blog so here's real football, not Premiership nonsense, yesterday's game - Folkestone Invicta v Cray Wanderers Ryman League Division 1 South. The Wands as Cray are known are the division form team with 6 wins in a row taking them to the top of the table. They are hoping for promotion to the Premier League and the chance to play Margate and Ramsgate (hope neither get relegated). A full match report can be found here. Folkestone (in amber) have financial problems and have slumped from when they were one of the top teams in East Kent in the Southern League. The ground needed quite a lot of TLC. Cray dominated and won 3-1 which flattered Folkestone. Cray's third goal would have graced a far higher standard and they had a few former Football League players.
A confusing day for me as I was with Mick, Mike and Michael. The Ship Inn in nearby Sandgate by the sea is recommeneded, a regular entry in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA's) annual guides. An old style pub, with 2 separate bars and the toilets where posher places would have a bar overlooking the Channel.
The photo through the trees is of Folkestone cricket ground, which is next to the football ground. Kent used to play here, stopping a few decades ago. What has been a good standard ground was looking rather run down.
Folkestone is a very friendly club with plenty of enthusiastic volunteers and 2 bars and 2 shops, impressive for this level. Easily reached by train, Folkestone West station is close, this made a very good day out even when it got bitter in the wind at the end of the game.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

THE UNEXPECTED CALL

My stepson is a postgraduate student at one of Britain’s leading universities. When he calls in the middle of the day it comes as a surprise. Normally, it’s a text, an email or MSN chat that are the preferred forms of contact.

A phone call? In the middle of the day? He’s in trouble or he needs some money, or in a spot of trouble that only money can resolve.

How wrong can I be? He has just had it confirmed by his professors that he's made a scientific discovery which disproves a theory that has been taught for more than 50 years. I can’t say too much because it has to go in a scientific journal and then probably into a mainstream science magazine. This will take a little while. At the moment he’s enjoying the stir he’s caused amongst his professors who have been checking it out and confirming his data.

I know how hard he’s worked, and the sacrifices he’s made. I always said he was talented, but it’s great to have it confirmed in this way.

I’ll write more when I’m allowed, but today he’s made me very proud.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

CRAZY COUNCILLORS AT STANDARDS BOARD

I saw this in the Daily Telegraph today, well worth reading.

"A council leader who compared a rival to notorious Nazi Joseph Goebbels will not be investigated by a local authority watchdog."

Interesting judgment by the Standards Board for Councillors in England.

The trouble is, if councillors complain vexatiously it can damage the local authority's reputation and cost it hundreds of thousands of pounds, like here in Somerset.

"A parish councillor who filed nearly 100 complaints against four councils in the space of only 18 months has made a further 30 in just one day, provoking fresh criticism that he is "abusing the system."

Of course the craziest councillors are cyclists like pictured Colin Rosenstiel....click here.

"A councillor was facing suspension after he allegedly blocked the path of an ambulance responding to a 999 call - because it broke local by-laws."

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

ELECTED MAYOR? DONCASTER ON NEWSNIGHT TONIGHT

For those in Thanet who think an elected Mayor is a good way forward tonight's Newsnight on BBC2 is worth a watch. It features Doncaster, report Matt Prodger says:

"I'll lift the lid on a local authority at war with itself - an elected mayor at loggerheads with an elected council - and ask if the roots of the child protection crisis lie in a bold experiment in local democracy."
Mayor Martin Winter (pictured) has his own site here. The programme will be on BBCIplayer probably tomorrow.

TORIES WANT TO CUT 93 POLICE OFFICERS IN KENT

Another guest blog today, this one is from Steve Ladyman MP:



“I know how important it is for people to feel like they can access the police when they need them and the pledge is about empowering people to know what service level they can expect.
It is also about ensuring all police forces across the country are offering the same high level of service.

Thanks to Labour’s investment the focus now is on police responding to local communities and individual police officers being able to tackle the issues that matter locally. It is important that we let people know what they can expect.

Since Labour came to power we have been committed to raising the levels of community policing with our introduction of dedicated Neighbourhood beat teams for every area. This is compared to the Tories whose £160 million Home Office budget cuts could see more than 3,500 police cuts across England and Wales meaning 93 less police officers in Kent.”

NOTES
1. On Monday 5 January, the Conervatives announced that they intend to restrict the Home Office's budget of £160 million in just three months’ time. “…maintaining the government's spending plans for the NHS, schools, defence and International development, but restricting other departments to a 1 per cent increase in real terms.”
2. The last published data (Home Office Statistical Bulletin on Police Service Strength, sets out that as at 31 March 2008 there were 141859 full-time equivalent police officers serving in the 43 forces in England & Wales. Based on the relative strength of police forces in these figures, the effect of the £160m cut proposed by the Conservatives for 2009/10 would be the equivalent of reductions in officer numbers for Kent of 93 police officers."

3. There is a record level of police numbers in England, Scotland and Wales with 14,000 more since Labour came to power.