Thursday, 30 July 2009

SCRUTINISING MARTIN WISE'S POOR PERFORMANCE



The Thanet Council Cabinet member with responsibility for budgets Martin Wise (pictured) is failing to get best value for taxpayers money. I have reported previously how ineffective Thanet’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel is resourced. For those unfamiliar with a Scrutiny Panel, it is like a select committee at the House of Commons. However, whereas select committees can call in witnesses and do detailed examinations and commission research, the Scrutiny Panel has well, er, none of these powers!

The idea of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel is that it provides a “check and a balance” on the power of the Thanet Council Cabinet (Executive). In order to do so it needs resources to co-ordinate its work. In other local authorities there are greater resources as the leading members welcome criticism, and see it as a constructive process. Regular readers will know that some in Thanet Council’s Cabinet resent criticism, take it personally and have great difficulty in apologising when they are in the wrong. For the latest example of the new boy fitting into this corporate culture click here.

On Tuesday night work commitments meant that I was unable to attend Overview and Scrutiny Panel. I arranged for a substitute, and sent in an amendment to the minutes. This pointed out that the work of many of the sub-committees of the Panel was struggling to be effective, due to the Cabinet’s decision to not provide any resources to co-ordinate the work of the Scrutiny Panel.

There are three points here.
Firstly the Scrutiny Panel has no administrative resources to arrange meetings, undertake research, and ensure action is followed up. Whereas, the Cabinet, and the leading Council managers quite rightly have considerable administrative staff and budgets.

Secondly officers endeavour to do their best to help the Scrutiny process, but it is not part of their duties. Therefore whenever there is any pressure on their diary, the first thing they can put off is Scrutiny, because it has such a low status and is not part of their responsibilities.

Thirdly and most importantly, there are inevitably times when an officer has a conflict between whether they take the view of Scrutiny, or that of the Executive. They spend the vast majority of their time working for the Executive, and their career will be orientated towards the Executive. It is only human that subconsciously, at times, they will favour the Executive position. There is no incentive to rock the boat or be a whistleblower. Other authorities have recognised this, and set up dedicated staff to service the Scrutiny process. That's best praactice Thanet should follow.

Large commercial organisations value Scrutiny. They employ mystery shoppers and when you buy a product there is that freephone number to call “if you are not completely satisfied”.

As I’ve written previously the Panel works on a “non-political” basis, chaired by Conservative former Deputy Leader Bob Bayford. Most Cabinet members give the panel due regard, and Roger Latchford’s latest appearance was informative. John Kirby and Simon Moores have not appeared yet, and I look forward to seeing them once they have mastered their portfolios.

Tuesday night though, saw the poorest performer of the last 2 years attend. Martin Wise has responsibility for Budgets. He takes the opportunity to appear at the Panel in a deeply political fashion. he looks to point score, and is never happier than when moving away from what he has control over in Thanet, to bemoan the national situation and berate the government.

It is called changing the subject, and with the mess of Thanet’s current finances running out of wheelie bins it is understandable that he tries this tactic. His lack of political judgment though means that he is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Thanet's Leader and Deputy Leader often voice the rhetoric of all councillors working together for the benefit of Thanet, and on some matters they walk the walk.

I have reported previously on Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel having to correct Cllr. Wise’s errors of judgment. Click here for the details. It was interesting to see the comment on this from Laurence Davies a former Conservative Leader of a London Council:

“I don't hold great regard for Cllr. Wise after his dismissive and condescending attitude to the cleansing issues of Eastcliff and Central Harbour Wards at the full Council Meeting on 23rd April. He reminds me a little of Marie Antoinette as after Cllr Campbell had raised issues of later collections of refuse from Willsons Road, and the problems with the gull population, Councillor Wise stood up and said words to the effect let the residents buy bins! Still I suppose as Willsons Road is in Ramsgate he is not interested.”

Both sides of the political spectrum are observing that Martin Wise, regrettably, is not a man to put the best interests of Thanet first by putting aside his petty partisanship when appropriate. Although not present I have consulted widely with those who were on Tuesday evening.
They report that Cllr. Wise was unhappy at any suggestion the Scrutiny process should be more effective and more resourced.

Several on the committee were unimpressed when he complained that he had missed the Margate Jazz Festival to work on his presentation on Sunday afternoon (he has a full time job and in addition, he is paid £13,100 for his Council work, when he chooses to perform his duties is his responsibility – it is a concern if he is struggling to time manage his important portfolio and leaving things to the last minute). It then became apparent that much of the work for the report had in any case been done by officers.

Better prepared and more thorough Cabinet colleagues send out detailed reports in advance. By leaving the production of his report to the last minute, Martin Wise reduced the opportunity for councillors to research and prepare questions. In my experience in politics, people do that when they are trying to cover up their mistakes. With the scathing audit report on Ramsgate Port it is clear to see why he might do this.

Martin Wise prevailed and Scrutiny will continue to be under-resourced. He will take the suggestion to provide resources away and look at it. That’s code for do nothing. A failure of local democracy. Over the last 12 years the Labour government has vastly expanded the select committee system, provided resources, and encouraged greater scrutiny. Thanet Conservatives would do well to learn from this at a time when confidence in democratic accountability is weak.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

MORE TOP TEN BLOGS


Following on from my earlier post here some more blogs I think are worth voting for in the Total Politics 2009 blog awards. Voting ends on the 31st, email toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com

Sadie Smith at Sadie's Tavern nobody takes the mickey out of the Tories, the modern media and sometimes parts of the Labour Party like Sadie. Always good for a laugh, and a sharp observer of inconsistent arguments.
A bit of a Labour theme as you might expect. The TUC's Touchstone blog is an interesting idea. All the various trade union research brains post on different subjects. I like it for the economics and the tax and pass on some writers.
Next Left is the Fabians and the same applies on the variable contributors as for the TUC.
Tom Watson MP is like some minimalist designer. Often just gives a link. Few MPs understand IT better and glad and proud to be a geek. For entertainment the "other" Tom, Tom Harris MP is far more fun, with a title that says it all. "...And Another Thing" I like it when he goes on and gets passionate, I think you will too. Read this if you are an elected representative.

The best written of any of the blogs I've mentioned is Hopi Sen's, A Blog from the Back Room. An insiders view of Westminster. A critical friend of the Labour Party and as he does a job similar to mine, always interesting to see his take on things.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

FULL STEAM AHEAD FOR RAMSGATE MARITIME MUSEUM


Another occasional guest post from the man who may be the oldest blogger in Thanet? My colleague Cllr. John Watkins is a man who pays attention to detail. Pictured here in his Margate Central ward outside Margate Media Centre on the morning of the recent Thanet Pride he has put on a pink shirt in solidarity. He has some good news......


‘Our Maritime Museum is off the Rocks,

They’ve cut loose all the Anchors

A brand new plan is on the Stocks,

They are no longer run by …….

EKMT.


It is great news that Thanet District Council’s cabinet have been advised to sign a 99 year lease with the Steam Museum Trustees for the occupancy of the Clock House in the pier yard Ramsgate.

A fresh start can now be made for the Ramsgate Maritime Museum, under the stewardship of new trustees who could, actually, run a successful whelk stall.

Someone once wrote that ‘those who forget their history are doomed to re-live it’. With this in mind I would like to list some of the reasons which may have led to the East Kent Maritime Trust (EKMT), the former occupants, being effectively sacked by Thanet District Council.

One reason could be the thousands of pounds per annum of Thanet Council grant fund money that was paid to Mr. Jimmy Godden for a first floor suite of five offices overlooking the marina on Harbour Parade Ramsgate. Office space that would have been more appropriate for a profitable, large sized company.

Or perhaps it was the more than £40,000 spent on consultants in recent years, whilst paying their own local permanent staff poverty rates of pay. Then again there was the approx £75,000 in fees, plus £62,000 penalty, paid over to the legal profession, for the mediation concerning their hugely expensive and totally unnecessary squabble over the tug Cervia.

In addition to all this, the EKMT inexplicably failed to produce any annual reports and accounts for over three years, until November 2008, contrary to Charity Commission rules. This was whilst still continuing to receive, with no questions asked, their regular annual £80,000 grant from Thanet District Council, funded by the local rate payers.

At the start of 2008 the East Kent Maritime Trustees, who included three senior local Tory politicians among their number, were able to carry forward funds of almost £223,000. This sum included money from bequests, donations, grants and sales. However, in spite of this they still found it unavoidable to make every one of their loyal staff members redundant (I was one of them, and have carried on working on a voluntary basis), thus depriving seven local workers of their livelihoods and tipping them all out into a very uncertain future.

The EKMT 2008 Annual Report and Accounts for this charitable trust, which are due to be published soon, should make for some very interesting reading. With any luck, a sizable proportion of the £267,616.00 bequest that was given to the museum will soon be passed across to the Steam Museum Trust to spend on future projects at Ramsgate Maritime Museum."
For more on Thanet Conservatives having problems managing Ramsgate Harbour facilities click here for Bertie Biggles detailed dissection of the recent Ramsgate Port audit.

Monday, 27 July 2009

TOP TEN BLOGS - DON'T BE AFRAID OF MICE!

Total Politics is an excellent magazine. It operates on the incredibly unlikely view that politicians are decent honest people who serve their community. Unfortunately it has had a bit of a triple whammy. First it launched last year as the economy headed into a recession. Second, as I mentioned when I met its publisher the well known blogger Iain Dale (shameless namedrop)during the European election campaign (one to forget!) it was too generous with free copies to every councillor initially. Candidly Iain agreed, and they have revised the free distribution list to only senior councillors, so I have to buy or borrow now. Thirdly and most unfairly, the idea that politics is an honourable activity has been stuffed by the expenses farrago. I hope the magazine survives and prospers. Will be difficult for them being analogue in an increasingly digital age.

The magazine together with Labour List are sponsoring the annual Total Politics best blogs poll for 2009. All you have to do is email your list of 10 favourite blogs to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
by 31st July. Here's a selection I think are worth considering voting for:

Olly's Onions superb visual humour. Here's my favourite from recent months, perhaps in current Thanet political circumstances somebody might superimpose a local person or two's head on this image!
Bob Piper a Man of the Midlands like myself. "Not New Labour, Not Old Labour, Just Labour" great slogan. Quick and pithy rebuttals of Conservative nonsense. Always enjoy his Aston Villa references.
Luke's Blog Every Friday he lists council by-election results. Labour is doing far better in Council by-elections than opinion polls. I have to confess I am unsure why this is, but it has to be good! Luke is a voice of the most right wing faction of the Labour Party, Labour First. Seriously ill and hospitalised for weeks he kept on blogging, impressive addiction/commitment.
Shot by Both Sides Kerry McCarthy MP. A vegan from Bristol and government whip. Anyone who is a devotee of the magnificent Magazine is fine by me. Takes on the Libertarian trolls and wins, well usually. Click here to listen to her title track.
More to follow.........

Sunday, 26 July 2009

HOW COUNCILLORS BLOGGING SAVES THOUSANDS OF POUNDS


Fellow Thanet Councillor Simon Moores has launched a personal attack on me on his website.
First he quotes from yesterday's blog by myself:

"Cllr. Moores has confirmed there is a proposed policy on local blogs. I think he should publish his draft at the earliest opportunity. This will allow for the widest possible consultation. By keeping the plans secret for as long as possible, he is limiting debate on a matter of legitimate public interest."

He rebuts my statement:

"This is, I'm afraid the usual left wing rhetoric I have come to expect from Cllr Nottingham's weblog, straying from the facts and reflecting the political style of the Labour Party nationally.

First there's no tangible policy on a Blogs protocol that I'm aware of at present, even a draft. It's the same discussion that I'm sure he has shared,like me, with the monitoring officer on several occasions."

I have made the point to Simon previously that I try to reference everything I put on this blog, and make it clear when it is my opinion and when it is a fact. So what's the source of my statement that Simon Moores has confirmed the policy paper on blogs? Unsurprisingly, it is Simon Moores himself.

Have a look at the comments on my blog 2 weeks ago on 14th July, Simon Moores says:


"Let's be clear Mark. The Blogs protocol discussion comes from the Cheif Executive at TDC and is not some kind of conspiracy to "Close Down" Labour Blogs.

You know as well as I do that the council has been dismayed by some of the inflamatory and insulting language used freely on Blogs published by several individuals. If you were party to the same discussions as me, you'll also know that it's a matter of responsible self expression in an adult manner which treats others with respect; quite the opposite of Derek Draper's example.

I signed-up to that principle, adding on occasions the occasional 'tongue in cheek' remark in good humour. I would encourage you and your colleagues to do the same."

Simon Moores today says:
First there's no tangible policy on a Blogs protocol that I'm aware of at present, even a draft.

Simon Moores 2 weeks ago says 3 things:

1. That he is involved in a blog protocol discussion.

2. He is in discussions about the protocol that exclude Labour representatives.

3. That he has signed up to the protocol and made an amendment.

So there is a written protocol on councillors blogging, Simon Moores has seen it and amended it.

Now I am placed in a quandry. Was Simon Moores telling the truth on 14th July? Or is he telling the truth today?

Thankfully I have further sources who confirm that Simon was telling the truth on 14th July, and not today.

Now if I was a Conservative Thanet District Councillor I would await that documentation, and issue to the Standards Committee on several counts against Simon Moores. However, I'm not a Thanet Conservative, I'm Thanet Labour so I am just going to write a blog and not spend several thousand pounds of taxpayers money to make the same point. Another great benefit of councillors blogging that Simon wants to stop. Quick rebuttal.

What I would like from Simon Moores is a written apology. This is not the first time he has misrepresented me. I have let it go in the past, but it is becoming a habit. I hope he will do the honourable thing promptly without any quibbling.

He should also withdraw from any further discussions on the blogging protocol as he has demonstrated the biased approach he will take to secure Conservative Party advantage.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

WORKING FOR THE CLAMPDOWN


I have had a great days cycling seeing various relatives around Thanet and good to see cycle route provision steadily improving, especially the new route alongside Ramsgate Road coming out of Margate past the hospital.

I was quoted in yesterday's Isle of Thanet Gazette about Thanet Council's plans to "regulate" blogs. The article has to summarise the views of several people and you know how politicians can go on! That is one of the brilliant things about blogs, you can go on and on and on.

I was asked 3 questions for the article here they are with my full responses:

Why is it important for councillors to have their own blogs?

It’s important for councillors to have blogs because:

1. It allows them to publicise local campaigning issues such as Haine Road

2. It provides a forum for constituents to post comments, eg for my ward Haine Road, Coleman Crescent recreation area.

3. It allows me to publish my detailed views on controversial issues such as China Gateway, Manston Airport etc (it would be impossible to produce a leaflet each time and distribute it) and for local people to question me and debate my views. Often people send me information which can change my view.

4. It shows the work we do. Many councillors have low profiles rarely appearing in the papers and a blog shows the work that a councillor is doing and how responsive they are.

5. It allows interaction, publishing photos, advertising events, recommending websites, conducting opinion polls, linking to podcasts.

Do you think it is right blogs should be regulated under a “code of conduct”?

There should be no separate code of conduct for blogs. The same standard should apply to councillors whether they write in a newspaper, speak to a group or publish a blog. For example the blog code of conduct intends to stop “personal attacks”. Yet Cllr Ezekiel often makes "personal attacks" in his Gazette column. That’s fine by me, it is freedom of speech. Why does he want to allow it in the newspaper columns he writes, but stop it on blogs? My view is that he is over sensitive. He can give criticism, but has great difficulty in taking it. We have seen in the two Standards Board cases that when criticised he can lose his temper. That in my view is one of the reasons he is keen to stop blogs like mine which legitimately criticise and examine his record. Yet Cllr. Ezekiel wishes to retain the right to make personal attacks as he did at the 21st May Full Council meeting, when he criticised Cliftonville West councillors.

Again I defend his right to make criticisms of others, why he is unable to accept that he will be examined and criticised?

We have enough laws such as libel already and current regulations are sufficient, what is the motivation for seeking to increase regulation and by applying it to only one method of freedom of expression?

Your thoughts on a proposed ban?

Cllr. Moores has confirmed there is a proposed policy on local blogs. I think he should publish his draft at the earliest opportunity. This will allow for the widest possible consultation. By keeping the plans secret for as long as possible, he is limiting debate on a matter of legitimate public interest.

As to why this policy has come about I have checked with Thanet Council officers and they advise me they can find nowhere else in the country that has separate regulation of councillor blogs and the internet by a local authority.

As to where this idea came from I do not know. However, I have the mental image of Cllrs. Ezekiel and Latchford when visiting China on their China Gateway visit, talking informally to their Chinese Communist Party hosts. As the evening progresses the talk gets to their respective political critics, with Cllrs Ezekiel and Latchford bemoaning their coverage in local blogs. A Chinese official tells them that they have solved this problem by monitoring and controlling the internet. A light bulb goes on in their heads, and they return with the idea of blog regulation.

I know that Cllrs Ezekiel and Latchford are keen to promote companies from China investing in Thanet, but in suggesting controlling councillor blogs they are trying to do too much to make potential Chinese investors "feel at home!"

Just going to put The Clash's Clampdown on.......

Thursday, 23 July 2009

400-600 NEW HOUSES TO BE BUILT ON HAINE ROAD?

Thank you to everybody who voted in the poll on Haine Road traffic, 74% wanting traffic calming. Following on from my last post tonight at a full meeting of Thanet Council residents presented their petition calling for traffic calming. Peter Smith the residents spokesman gave a superb exposition of all the problems residents have faced. Brilliantly about 25 people had come along to support Peter. Fitting in history, facts and hopes for the future he literally finished spot on 3 minutes as the bell went to mark that his time was up. As he walked back from the front he rightly got a massive round of applause.

I popped out to have a brief meeting with everybody present from Haine Road. I was able to advise them that Thanet Council is considering changing its planning vision to allow 400-600 houses to be built between Old Haine Road and New Haine Road as part of a plan to turn Westwood Cross into a small town in itself. The land which is mostly agricultural and rural and character at present is zoned to be light industrial.

I was at a briefing meeting earlier this week where officers were unable to fully explain their plans in detail. As we ran out of time we have scheduled a new meeting for councillors to be briefed. The plan then, is for Thanet Council in the autumn to go out for months of consultation with the community. That's good and how it should be. Plans being shared, councillors as elected representatives briefed and then time for local people to take a view on the proposals put forward. I'll be returning to this subject in the future.

UPDATE 24.7.09 For details of Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel's latest attempt to ride roughshod over rules and to ignore democratic procedures click here and here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

IS THIS MARGATE'S BIGGEST EYESORE?


There can be few bigger eyesores in Margate than Ye Olde Town laundrette shop in King Street. I have written previously about the need to be realistic about the number of shops that Margate can sustain. After the business failed, as the photographs show the property became dilapidated. I heard one story that the state of the property was such that the washing machines with all their vibrating had eventually fallen through the floor.
King Street is a busy one way cut through with narrow pavements and double yellow lines on both sides so retail premises are going to struggle to be viable. Round the corner by the old Town Hall parking often covers pavements. Sadly Kent County Council did not recognise this and applied to Thanet Council for planning permission for a shop and two miniscule flats.

KCC’s planning application to create two extremely cramped flats in Margate's Old Town was refused by the Thanet District Council Planning Committee on 15th July following a heated debate.

Firstly, under public speaking rules, local resident and businesswoman Lynn Jackson complained about the design of the flats and among other concerns informed the committee that both of the proposed units were under 40 square meters in floor size. (The average new UK flat is 76 square metres.)

Speaking as a Margate Central ward councillor which covers King Street Iris Johnston then also attacked KCC developers for the poor design and warned they were in danger of creating a hovel for the future. She then suggested the committee look at a neighbouring property to see how renovation could be carried out in a far more sympathetic manner, in keeping with Margate Old Town.

After listening to the debate, planning committee member Cllr. Clive Hart became incensed by what he had heard and he too berated KCC for the appallingly cramped design. He said that it was bad enough when cowboy builders came up with such plans but for a local authority to do so was simply unforgivable.

Matters became heated and Cllr. Hart tried to refer to an article from the Guardian newspaper (worth reading) that he had recently copied to every member of Thanet District Council but Planning Chair Ken Gregory tried to cut him short and to curtail debate.

The passionate debate made a big impression on Thanet Planning committee who then overturned the TDC officers recommendation to approve the application by voting 10 to 4 for refusal. A good result in the end. However, it is disappointiung that KCC tried to build a flat as small as 34 square metres and that Thanet planning officers did not suggest to them this was inappropriate. How small a flat would they recommend?
This road has difficult access, but as can be seen the property is in a far better state from the rear. I hope KCC will come forward with proposals for 2 larger flats or one townhouse which would incorporate the proposed shop. This would be the best way to redevelop the Old Town of Margate and clean up this eyesore as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

SANDY EZEKIEL SNEAKS IN 10% HIGHER CHARGES

I was sorry to see in last week's Thanet Extra an article on "Pay by the minute parking fee trial". I had predicted here on 1st July that Thanet Council would be increasing parking charges and so it has proved. Thanet Extra says the increase will be 10%.

Regrettably Sandy Ezekiel pictured in the Extra has chosen to selectively consult. He is shown with Ramsgate Town Council Conservative Councillor Pat Doyle, and talks about the need to talk with businesses. I agree consulting with businesses is important, but what about residents and shoppers? They are part of our community too.

I checked with the Mayor of Ramsgate Dave Green as to what he knew about the parking trials in Cavendish Street. He had heard nothing. 5 of the 8 trial areas are in the South Thanet constituency, but Steve Ladyman MP had received no details they could advise me of. The same applied to other Labour councillors where the parking schemes are being trialed.

This is petty party politics. It also lessens the reputation of Thanet Council if it does not seek to widely consult and is selective in who it talks to and briefs.

For my part residents, shoppers and businesses all tell me the same thing. For the town centres to compete against the free parking at Westwood Cross there should be 10 or 15 minutes free parking to encourage people to "pop and shop". Instead people shop out of town where they can park for free. I do not know if this would work better, but I think it should have been trialed.

Thanet Council could have tried their scheme in 4 areas, and the short term free parking scheme in 4 other areas to see which worked better. Ramsgate, Cliftonville and Margate town centres have Labour representatives. They are in touch with their communities. It is regrettable Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel did not access their local knowledge and acted in a partisan way. He should want to work with all parts of the community to make Thanet a better place.

Monday, 20 July 2009

MINSTER FLOWER SHOW

On Saturday I went to Minster Flower Show, which was blessed with fine if windy weather. The parade through the village had many of the Kentish floats but I've featured my favourites from both ends of the age spectrum. The Minster and Monkton Royal British Legion Womens Section "Ageoretts" danced and pranced.
The Minster Mayhems showed off their traditional English dances, preserving our heritage in the modern world.

Inside the massive marquee there were excellent flower displays and cakes to feed an army. I lingered over the vegetables. In some categories, I would have fancied my own produce if I had been able to enter.

The mixed herbs looked artistic, and I always struggle with carrot fly, so have stopped growing them. My onions never reach the size here. I noted Fred Fright was winning more than anybody else, what a wonderful garden he must have. The organisers had encouraged entries into all categories, by granting free entry to the show for all local people entering any of the vast number of categories.
Outside there were races for all ages, many local bands blasting out, birds of prey, lots of stalls, a magic show and play area for the under 5s and a host of stalls and some old style fairground attractions. Something for everybody in the family. I'll be back!
Disappointingly this traditional English show which had hundreds of visitors was not featured on our local Visit Thanet website.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

PROUD OF SANDY EZEKIEL

Clive from Margate contacted me to point out the Thought for the Week religion column in this week's Isle of Thanet Gazette. He is disappointed by the column's implied criticism of the Thanet Pride event this week. I agree. The writer of the piece is the Reverend Stuart Gay, from St. Philip's Church, Palm Bay. The key points of the column are

"My favourite quotes from the Book of Proverbs in the bible are

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall"

and another in a similar vein:

"A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honour.""


and the column concludes with

"Pride is not wrong in itself. But it should be measured. Flaunting it will lead to our own downfall. there are some things we should not be publicly proud of. I'll leave you to work out what that means this weekend."

It is disappointing that the Reverend Gay is oblique with his last comment and does not say what he means. I agree with Clive's interpretation that this is a criticism of the Thanet Pride event this weekend celebrating the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

I remain a critic of Thanet Council's Conservative Leader Sandy Ezekiel. One thing he was been consistently sound on is his support for Thanet Pride. This against a backdrop where Conservative Party leader David Cameron has supported homophobic measures, and where Kent County Council Conservative Councillors have long fought to discriminate against gay people. Sandy's support has been consistent and direct.

I am proud that Thanet Council leads the way in Kent in supporting the Thanet Pride event each year. Long may it continue.

I was in Margate this morning and the town was the busiest I have known seen it for some time as people were setting up for today's Thanet Pride. Every street parking place I could see was taken and many people were dressed up for the event. I took a few photos.

Clive finished his comments by wondering whether the Reverend Gay was ever teased for his surname?

I am proud that local politicians of all hues are supporting Thanet Pride into the future.

Friday, 17 July 2009

TRAFFIC TALES FROM HAINE ROAD - THUMBS UP TO TESCOS


The campaign to get "Old" Haine Road closed or with serious traffic calming meausres continues. Local residents have had letters in the papers. The history of problems can be found here.

I am pictured here with local residents. These are some of their tales from the last couple of weeks:

"When Old Haine Road was closed over the Christmas period we had few problems regarding traffic, the emergency services also went round
the other route.

We all now have to endure speeding motorists and also abusive ones, and to make things even worse eggs , barbecue sauce and spit (saliva) being thrown at cars when parked in the road. A car window was smashed by a bunch of irate moped riders who had to stop to go round a parked car.


We even have abuse hurled at us and our visitors, when we pull up outside our properties to get on to our driveways."

"One evening at approximately 4.30, there was a serious accident involving two cars at the entrance to the Farm outbuildings by the ambulance station. Firemen were present with cutting equipment. This accident follows one, where the smashed car went into the field. The recent crash has provided two more cars in the field.

Whilst having to put up with abuse from drivers turning around on my drive, I and my neighbour noticed the traffic on the New Haine Road free flowing with no gridlock at the Toby roundabout. Interesting, a serious accident blocking our road but the New Haine Road continued to run smoothly. Just what we suggested."


"As you are aware I park my car on the road. I had an egg thrown on my car. I promptly stood out in the road with the pressure washer and cleaned it. As I was cleaning the windscreen a driver came along and hurled profanities at me through his open window. Forgetting I had the pressure washer in my hand, I turned to look at him and the spray from the pressure washer caught him straight in the face which seemed to clean his language up nicely! Perhaps pressure washers could be used alongside speed guns to stop the abuse!!!"

" Outside my house we've recently had a visitor with a speed gun. A very nice chap as well,
He managed to stop seven (7) motorists for speeding whilst we saw him; 2 male and 5 female drivers, in half an hour what a nice revenue he made.

After speaking to him he informed us that this was hopefully going to be a regular thing over the next several weeks. Can you publicise this so drivers know to behave better?"

One further problem is that of local businesses ignoring the signs restricting Old Haine Road to vehicles of 7.5 tons or less in weight. Some coaches from companies such as Buzzlines and Carol Peters have ignored the road sign, and use the road as a supposed a short cut, although they then often get caught at the islands by streams of traffic, so save no time. Despite complaints to the drivers and the companies this continues. Contrast this with Tesco. As soon as they were told, their drivers stopped and none of their vehicles have since been seen breaking the law. Thumbs up to Tescos.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

TOURISM MATTERS


Last month I published Paul Conyers-Silverthorn's views on tourism.

His points prompted me to find out more about what Thanet Council is doing on tourism. A monthly bulletin is produced and July's edition is below. Good to see so much being done, one small criticism, I think this should go to as many councillors as possible County, District and Parish so that they can be better informed. I know all my Labour colleagues act as advocates for tourism in Thanet. Looking at the emails Thanet Council sends out very few seem to be copied to Parish councillors, and it would be good if they were better informed on local matters.

"Welcome to Tourism matters for July 2009

London advertising campaign under way

The Visit Kent and Southeastern London advertising campaign kicked off on Monday this week, and Thanet is one of just four lead partners. The campaign is being promoted through highlight poster sites at London Charing Cross and London Victoria (featuring both Botany Bay and Joss Bay), 53 digital 6-sheet posters across London rail stations, 3500 London Underground tube cards, promotions on Heart London radio, 200,000 voucher booklets, poster sites across the Southeastern network, PR and a dedicated campaign website www.visitkentbytrain.co.uk The campaign runs throughout July and August.

This impact of this year's campaign will be measured through voucher redemptions at the participating venues, which include Crampton Tower, Dickens House and Powell Cotton Museums, Joss Bay Surf School, Sea Searcher Boat Trips, Shell Grotto

The London campaign follows on from a 2 July full page feature on Thanet…”Sandy Bay after Sandy Bay”….. in the London Evening Standard and a full page on “the Great British Weekend - Broadstairs” in the Times on 11 July.

Pride in Thanet - new nomination cards available

Let’s make it a bumper year for getting visitors to nominate you and your colleagues and staff for the Pride in Thanet Tourism Awards. You should now have nomination cards for the awards to be presented next year. If not call into your local Tourist Iinformation Centre to get a supply.

More Congratulations…

..and apologies for neglecting to mention them in the last e-bulletin but we had two Thanet winners out of 13 categories in the 2008 Taste of Kent Awards. Cliftonville Farmers Market was voted the Kent Farmers Market of the Year for the third year in a row - quite an achievement. The Best Kentish Beer award went to Ramsgate Brewery’s Gadds No 3.


Visit from new Chairman and Chief Executive of Tourism South East

Recently appointed TSE Chairman - John Williams, and Chief Executive - Mike Beddingfield, will be spending the day in Thanet on 23 July to find out about what’s going on in the area and how TSE might be able to offer support.


Beaches and Bays Questionnaire

For the fourth year running the B&B questionnaire has been produced and copies are in the process of being distributed to tourism businesses throughout Thanet. Please encourage your visitors to complete the questionnaire, which provides valuable feedback on visitors’ views on Thanet’s Bays and Beaches.

Training for taxi drivers

Visit Kent has obtained funding from Tourism South East for a two half-days training course specifically for taxi drivers in Thanet. The course is provisionally scheduled for 29/30 September and will probably be held in Margate. The course is aimed at providing taxi drivers with better knowledge of what’s going on in the area to help them to improve their service and the way that they interact with visitors.


Farewell

...to John Haywood of Turner Contemporary, who is leaving next week. A big thank you to John for his contribution to putting Margate (and Thanet) on the map for its Turner and other creative connections.

..and don't forget...

...to check out the events listing on www.visitthanet.co.uk to see what's happening over the next month - including Thanet Pride, Big Sky Jazz Festival and Carnival Soul Weekend in Margate; Sound Island Music Festival at Quex Park; Cliftonville Farmers Market; Broadstairs Folk Week and Fireworks displays; Ramsgate Costumed Walks...and much much more...and while you're on-line, check out www.thanetcoast.org.uk for what's going on along the coast."

I have removed contact email addresses. If you want further information contact me and I will steer you in the right direction, or you can get in touch via the websites listed in the last paragraph.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

JOHN WORROW – EMBARRASSING BIRCHINGTON


Following the last 2 days posts (click here and here for them) John Worrow is a Birchington councillor who is failing to represent the good people of Birchington properly. I would far rather not be writing about him, but as he wants to waste taxpayers money, let me demonstrate how inconsistent he is being. His Standards complaint to Thanet Council about me publishing a report of a meeting I was not present at, will cost Thanet Council £3-4,000 as a minimum.
John Worrow objects to freedom of speech. When his conduct is examined he complains. John Worrow publishes false and insulting comments. People often think politicians are inconsistent. John Worrow demonstrates that in his actions.
Here is what John Worrow wrote about me on Ken Gregory’s blog, Village Voice on 14th March 2009. These were “approved” posts:
“Cllr.Nottington.
Whether you are right wing or wrong wing is not the only issue here; you are also showing yourself up to be very rude and unpleasant.

It is quite obvious that you hand pick the posts that you use.

However, Cllr. Gregory is a gentleman and respects all views.

If being rude and unpleasant is your nature, just carry on, you are a recruiting sergeant for the Conservatives.”

and

"It appears that Thanet's very own answer to Michael Foot is not that keen on free speech unless he agrees with it.

Dishing the dirt seems to be his favourite pass time at the moment as well as wearing it..."


Compare this with what I have published about Cllr. Worrow, which remember was written by a correspondent at the Manston Airport meeting, not by myself:
“The motion was carried by a majority of the committee although Cllr. Latchford and Birchington Parish Councillor John Worrow didn't support the motion. Parish Councillor Worrow who seems to be shadowing Cllr. Latchford at all public events, watched carefully to see his Thanet District Council representative's reaction before voting. Dressed in a very similar fashion to Roger Latchford, he appeared to some to be a "mini-me" of his mentor.”
My post has been confirmed as accurate by several people over the last few days. Nobody can do that for John Worrow’s posts about me.

In Cllr. Worrow’s ill-considered and regrettable comments, he falsely asserts that I select comments to be posted on this blog based on who people support politically. That is not true, and he has no evidence to support his malicious allegation. John Worrow is not telling the truth, and he is letting Birchington down by acting in this manner.

He says I am rude and unpleasant, yet he has never met me!

Why did he post this comment? At that time in March, on this blog I was criticising the conduct of his fellow Conservative, Cllr. Ezekiel who had been found guilty of being reasonably aggressive by the Standards Committee. Have a look at the posts which he thought were objectionable if you wish

I remain, as many local people do, unhappy with the low standards of conduct Cllr. Ezekiel brings to public life. I can only conclude Cllr. Worrow considers expressing a widely held view as being “rude and unpleasant”. Whereas when Cllr. Ezekiel is rude and unpleasant, John Worrow’s silence speaks volumes for the partisanship of his judgment.
On my appearance, at a winter Council meeting I had cycled to the meeting through snow wearing jeans, a fleece and weatherproof jacket. John Worrow may think a blazer and slacks should be worn at all times. They are not very practical for winter cycling! Environmentalism or pomposity? I know which I'm choosing!

I will leave you, dear reader, to make your own comparison of the statements above. You can draw your own conclusions as to why John Worrow wants to spend thousands of pounds of OUR money making a complaint about a factual report I published, when he sees no contradiction in writing far more offensive unsubstantiated comments about me.

I think the £3-4,000 John Worrow wants spent on a full investigation of this matter should be spent on Thanet Council's shortage of wheelie bins, or keeping open public toilets that have been closed. That would be far better for Birchington than his current embarassing actions.

UPDATE 22.7.09
I have received written confirmation that John Worrow has withdrawn his complaint.

ANNIE CAULFIELD A VOICE INSIDE MY HEADPHONES

There was better than predicted weather (so often the case in Ramsgate!) for the Friends Of Ramsgate Library (FORL)Summer Fayre in Vale Square, which maybe had put a few people off. I had a good conversation with Central Harbour councillor Peter Campbell who seemed to know as many people present, as "Mr. Vale Square" and Chair of FORL Jocelyn McCarthy.

I have written before about how much I enjoy listening to podcasts on my commuting, and the excellent service provided by BBC Radio 4. Special guest opening the Fayre was local resident Annie Caulfield, a woman who is often inside my headphones.

Annie was talking about her travel books throughout the afternoon. I listen to Annie as a presenter on the travel programme Crossing Continents, and also her regular appearances on From Our Own Correspondent. Looking at her website Annie has entertained me for many years, as a writer for Lenny Henry, Comic Relief and the drama This Life, and many more credits that you can find on her website.

Annie's latest book Show Me the Magic is on the rarely heard about country of Benin in West Africa. She's already writing her next book on Spain, with Gabon likely to be the next country to receive her amusing insights. It was kind of her to give so generously of her time.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

THE SORROW OF JOHN WORROW


Sounds like the title of a Bob Dylan song from the 1960s doesn’t it? Thank you so much to everybody who has been in touch following yesterday’s post. It has been suggested that it may be that John Worrow has not got a sense of humour. I do not know as I have not met him, but eagle eyed readers who have encountered him, noted I took down a comment I had posted which referred to Cllr. Worrow. It was published in the comments section to the article on Sunday 28th June about Cllr. Paul Carter being referred to Standards.

The comment was from someone called "John", here it is:

"Mark,
I expected to see Cllr Carter, although I accepted his appology and I do NOT believe it to be a standards issue.

The way I chose to vote was my decision, I am not under any kind of "Whip", I am a parish councillor.

I almost spat out my cornflakes with laughter when reading your "Mini-Me" comment; we need more humour in politics; however I see us more as OBE-Wan Kenobi and Skywalker.

Kindest Regards
John"


I published the comment in good faith. Later that day John Worrow contacted me to say

“Cllr. Nottingam 'John' is not my profile. It is not an approved statement of mine.”

When I saw his request that evening (which had other personal details I am not publishing) I removed the post. I had intended to respond to it with a comment saying how much I had enjoyed the comment, that perhaps Margaret Sheldrick could be Princess Leia (Margaret is renowned for her sense of humour and fun, she may find meetings with Mr. Worrow somewhat tiresome!) and inviting readers to nominate other local notables for other Star Wars characters such as Darth Vader, Jabba the Hut etc.

Can anyone explain to me what an “approved” statement means? Does this mean John Worrow has to clear his statements and comments with somebody before writing? If so who is this higher authority? OBE-Wan Kenobi (Roger Latchford)??? (Just joking John!)

Another reader has suggested that if they were referenced as having Roger Latchford as their mentor they would be deeply offended. Is this how I upset John Worrow? I can assure him this was not my intention. I think John Worrow could learn a lot from Roger Latchford. The timing of when to apologise when you are in the wrong on a Standards matter, is something Roger Latchford could advise John Worrow on and save Thanet Council potentially thousands of pounds.

So there you have it one paragraph, and one comment (removed promptly), and John Worrow’s sorrow means that he has made a formal complaint. Please keep the information coming it is good to have so many people confirming the accuracy of the report in my original post. Nobody has written so far to dispute these facts.

UPDATE 22.7.09
I have received written confirmation that John Worrow has withdrawn his complaint.



Friday, 10 July 2009

KEEP'EM PEELED - AN APPEAL FOR HELP


A formal complaint has been made to Thanet Council Standards Committee that I have failed to treat Birchington parish councillor John Worrow with sufficient respect.
I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Worrow.
So what have I done to the honourable member of Birchington Parish Council?

I have mentioned him in this article

The exact words referring to John Worrow are:

“The motion was carried by a majority of the committee although Cllr. Latchford (pictured at the bottom) and Birchington Parish Councillor John Worrow didn't support the motion. Parish Councillor Worrow who seems to be shadowing Cllr. Latchford at all public events, watched carefully to see his Thanet District Council representative's reaction before voting. Dressed in a very similar fashion to Roger Latchford, he appeared to some to be a "mini-me" of his mentor.”

This is where I need your help. I am of an age that remembers Shaw Taylor (pictured at the top) and Police 5. So in that style I need to ask have you ever seen these two men together? Think back, what were you doing on the evening of Friday 26th June? Did you see these two men seen at Manston Airport at the Consultation meeting? Or were my correspondents making it up?

Were they wearing certain items of clothing to go about their business? Perhaps you might have pictures of them? Were they stylistically similar? Or were my correspondents making it up when suggesting they were a pair of smart casuals?

Now concentrate hard, if you were at the scene of the “crime” against John Worrow (pictured in the smallest photo). This is very important. When voting on whether to report Paul Carter to Kent County Council Standards Committee who put their arm up first? Whose arm went up second? Was there a leader of the gang undertaking this joint enterprise?

These I think are the key points I will need to address in defending Cllr. Worrow’s allegations, and safeguarding the honour of my esteemed helpers. If you can give any help as a witness to the events of Friday 26th June, and the subsequent suggested loss of face of John Worrow, please get in touch.
And if you see these two men together, report it as soon as you possibly can, as Shaw would say:
Keep em Peeled!
UPDATE 22.7.09 I have received written confirmation that John Worrow has withdrawn his complaint.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

HAINE ROAD YOUR CHANCE TO VOTE

To the right of this post at the top you will see an opportunity to vote on whether there should be traffic calming. I cannot provide you with an exact map, as neither Multimap nor Google have updated their maps to incorporate the new bypass.

A report on Kent County Council's proposals can be found here. This report was agreed at the last meeting of Thanet Council's Joint Transportation Board. My photo shows the Isle of Thanet Gazette's Thom Morris reporting on Haine Road. He produced a story which you can click here to read.

Dozens of local residents have signed a petition which reads:

"We the undersigned hereby petition Thanet Council and Kent County Council for the closure of Haine Road between the Spratling Street and Toby Carvery roundabouts. If in the final event this is not possible then we petition Thanet Council and Kent County Council to provide traffic calming to a standard that would substantially reduce the volume and speed of traffic using this stretch of road."

This will be submitted to Thanet Council's next meeting on 23rd July.

You can sign this petition on-line by clicking here.

Background on the history of this issue can be found at my previous posts:

Haine Road - Speeding Still A Problem 1st June
Haine Road - Update on Traffic Problems 9th April
Haine Road - From Queues to Rat Run 7th April

I will be writing more about this soon.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

£9MILLION FOR THANET DOCTORS, SCHOOLS AND PHARMACIES

A health investment will be made in Thanet worth £9m over 5 years. It will be called the Thanet Community Care Scheme and it will be a General Practitioner (GP) led service, managed by Concordia Health Ltd. It will be in Ramsgate High Street and Margate High Street.

Although it will provide an easy GP access service for everyone it will aim to target unregistered patients and people who use Accident and Emergency inappropriately and will be open 8 to late, 365 days a year. It will also do work to reduce health inequalities and community outreach work using a mobile clnic and services provided via Boots pharmacies in Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Westwood.

12 local primary schools will be involved in work to get children to address health issues early and they will be working with Scrine and Porchlight to target homeless people or people in substandard accommodation. The aim will be to address the 12 year life expectancy disparity between people from disadvantaged backgrounds and people from prosperous backgrounds. By using the mobile unit and staying open late it also aims to make services more accessible for everyone, for example by providing a late service in Cliftonville and an early start service in Ramsgate.

The scheme has been cleared with local GPs so they are not 'threatened' commercially by it and people will not be forced to register with it but can stay with their own GP if they already have one.

No doubt local Tories will still attack this as a 'Darzi Clinic' - but no existing GP service will be cut back. So more money and services for our extra health, that is the difference of having a Labour government.

Monday, 6 July 2009

THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY

The Kinks classic song "The Village Green Preservation Society " is a classic track of the 1960s. Bertie Biggles on Thanet Strife has been campaigning on the problems in Dumpton Park Drive and I have commented here.

"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good people do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

Thanet District Council is attempting to give itself planning permission for a 4-bedroom house upon land for which it holds no freehold title. Despite 18 months of evidenced, legal argument against it, the planning department pursues its course despite being forced to temporarily withdraw it at a full Council meeting on 23 April. For the full story so far, visit http://www.thanetstrife.blogspot.com/

and read ‘The Extraordinary Conduct of TDC in Dumpton Park Drive’ parts 1 – 4.


Steve Ladyman MP is supporting the local residents. He writes:

"Along with many thousands of pounds spent in legal advice against Thanet Council, Dumpton Park Drive residents have applied to Kent County Council to have the ‘open land’ between 132 & 134 Dumpton Park Drive, Broadstairs given ‘Village Green’ status. This area, which Thanet Council does not own, has been taken for granted as a pleasant green space and a community asset and focal point in this stretch of Dumpton Park Drive for over 40 years. Thanet Council does not own it therefore it cannot sell it, why then is it attempting to grant planning permission to itself? I invite you to show solidarity with your neighbours and join them in free refreshments. Let’s show we’re a community rather than just the providers of cash for Thanet Council to run itself to its own agenda

I will be making a speech and local Councillors will be in attendance.

I look forward to meeting you and enjoying the summer garden party.

If you require any further information, please contact 603368.
"

Sunday, 5 July 2009

QUESTION TIME

Following on from my post last week on Laura Sandys not answering questions on policy. Today's Independent on Sunday says:

"never has a party been enjoying such an easy ride into Downing Street."

The article asks for a series of policy questions to be answered. Click here to read it. I think when put on the spot, the Conservatives will struggle to answer. As the article's headline says:

Come on, Mr Cameron, let's have some answers.

Friday, 3 July 2009

TWO OF THANETS FINEST ARTISTIC TALENTS

It looks like Tracey Emin has paid homage to the late lamented, other great artistic talent from Thanet Oliver Postgate, click here

Thursday, 2 July 2009

WOULD LAURA SANDYS DEFEND OUR SCHOOLS?

Local reader J. Hirst has sent me an Open Letter to Laura Sandys. The pictures are of two of the local improvements the Labour government has provided in South Thanet. The new built Montefiore Medical Centre on Dumpton Park Drive, Ramsgate. This houses the East Cliff Practice which was made up by the joining of the former Mildmay and Addington Street Surgeries, and the Grange Practice. Below is the Science Annexe at Clarendon House Grammar School in Ramsgate.

"Dear Ms. Sandys,

I keep reading that David Cameron, the Conservative Party Leader, wishes to cut public expenditure by 10% in order
to protect the NHS, a service that has saved thousands of lives since its creation in the 1940s. One of the Conservative MEPs for this region, Daniel Hannan, made an outrageous attack on the NHS recently but perhaps he is able to afford private health care unlike most who rely on the NHS and value everything about it. At least Mr. Cameron has pledged, to date, to support the NHS but is talking about other services suffering as a result.

If the NHS is to be protected from cuts then perhaps you could explain where the 10% axe will fall? Will education, my own area of expertise, be hit?

In the South Thanet area the government's investment in new school buildings has seen outdated buildings replaced by new, modern facilities. Will a Conservative governemnt renege on the government's plans to continue that programme?

Will local teachers lose their jobs as headteachers grapple with a 10% cut? Will teaching assistants who take a burden from the shoulders of hard-working teachers lose their jobs?

Will headteachers have to cut their books budget, computer investment, sports facilities? What impact will all this have on the attainment, behaviour, examination success of our local schoolchildren?

This area has seen a marked increase in attainment and aspirations o
f our school-aged children with more than ever going on to further and higher education, aspiring to success.

As a retired teacher I am familiar with the old buildings in which I had to teach - draughty, cold, poorly-equipped with inadequate supplies of books, stationery, facilities etc. Do you seriously wish those days back for our children and grand-children? My grandson is benefiting from being in a modern building with superb facilities that make learning a delight not a burden. Surely you cannot wish to deny him that continuing throughout his years in school?

Yours sincerely,

J Hirst"


I note Laura Sandys has a high regard for Daniel Hannan notwithstanding his attacks on the NHS. I will publish any repsonse from Laura Sandys.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

THANET COUNCIL TO INCREASE PARKING CHARGES?


A number of local business people have been in contact to say that they have been told that Thanet Council may be planning to increase parking charges. Some of them have asked for free short parking for say the first 15 or 30 minutes. This suggestion I am told has been rejected despite the tough economic times for businesses. Some have said the enforcement of parking charges means that passing shoppers who might just quickly stop and pop in are instead going to shops outside the town centre. They feel this again favours Westwood Cross over ton centre shops.
I understand the new scheme is that it will be 20p for the first 10 mins and then to pay 1.5p for every minute after that up to 2 hours. This seems a bit complicated and like the business owners I am unclear as to how this will work. Rumour has it that the proposed 6 month trial scheme will come into force on Monday.
I am amazed that such a matter of public interest is apparently being treated as a secret confidential matter. It is unfortunate that when people call you as a councillor asking you what is going on, that you are unable to assist them.
Why can we not have an open debate on parking? Why does Thanet Council not consult local shoppers and business people with say 2 or 3 different options to see what local people want? Why impose something that they no doubt have carefully worked on, but which may have overlooked the views of the community?
It is regrettable that local people and local councillors are being kept in the dark. Will people be confused by the new scheme and then be penalised?
It really is simple as to what should be done. Here's an email I received today from a council officer:

"Within the next few days, we intend to publish details of Members' Allowances on the internet; that is to say, the allowances payable to Councillors in the current municipal year and those paid to them in the previous municipal year.

We are already required by law to publish this information in a local newspaper and we plan to publish, on the internet, exact equivalents of those notices.

As a matter of courtesy, we are informing you of our plans before they are implemented.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to let us know."
Now that is the way to do it, I will write again if I get an email telling me about the parking charges. If nothing is happening, a number of business people have been unnecessarily bothered.
Some members of the Cabinet complain that local people get the wrong impression of Thanet Council. Perhaps they should look at how they are selectively releasing this information on changes in parking charges to see why people get that impression. I wonder whether the new scheme will actually be an opportunity to disguise an increase? That might explain the secretive way the information is currently being treated.