Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Monday, 28 September 2009
Today Sonny Leong (top picture) Chair of Chinese for Labour hosted the first ever Chinese community fringe meeting in Britain by talking about the importance of how the many parliamentary candidates and MPs in the audience could use the provided campaign toolkit to identify and work with Chinese voters. In seats with majorities in the hundreds like Oxford East and Finchley and Golders Green with almost 2,000 Chinese voters, their votes can decide the outcome. In some seats in 2005 Labour lost votes amongst the Asian community because of Iraq, resulting in George Galloway winning his seat, and assisting the Liberal Democrats to win in a number of seats like Hornsey and Wood Green, Brent East and Manchester Withington.
Jack Dromey (3rd picture) Deputy General Secretary of trade union UNITE talked about how Labour’s legislation on gangmasters addressed the exploitation of casual workers. This was tragically seen when Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecombe Bay.
Finally, rushing in from previous meetings Foreign Secretary David Miliband apologised for the brevity of his appearance. He was the star attraction with the many photographers, and two television cameras zooming in to get their shots. David Miliband talked about the need to fight for the diverse values of Britain both domestically and internationally. We are diverse not homogenous and we should be proud of that.
Sunday, 27 September 2009
He arrived early for the meeting and discussed developments with a number of people. I had a chat with him and he was delighted that High Speed 1 has now started the trial service from Thanet and pleased the full service will commence with the Hitachi trains in December. What he wants is for there to be more High Speed rail links across the country. It is wonderful that East Kent now leads where the rest of the country will follow with a 21st century popular service for the future.
When he spoke from the platform he gave an exhilirating optimistic exposition of how he sees high speed rail leading economic development and environmental transport. Switching effortlessly between domestic and international examples his passion for how rail now can be as leading a part of the economy now, as it was when the Victorians were building new lines.
He talked about how rail could be popularised further noting how much demand for rail had increased. Talking about the distances between major conurbations in Britain he outlined how much better a fit rail was than short flights, or long drives in a car.
He spoke of how other countries like France have moved ahead of Britain and how Britain needs to match or better their network. Pointing out that countries round the world like China were recognising the importance of rail infrastructure and investing now, he noted how America was being left behind.
The role of trade unions in promoting environmentalism is often overlooked. ASLEF have been campaigning for many years to have the two thirds of the UK's rail track that have diesel services electrified. On the other hand trainspotters remain mostly male and this fringe meeting had a higher proportion of men than most meetings.
Gerry Doherty General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staff Association wanted to see the High Speed 2 service to the north of England and Scotland greeted with the enthusiasm that Spain was developing its new services. He warned though that it would not solve congestion quickly and that the principle of massive investment in rail needed to become the political norm.
Bob Rixham the National Rail Officer for Unite talked about building a wider coalition of support for rail expansion. Like Gerry he was enthused by Andrew Adonis' commitment but wanted a wider political commitment.
Tosh McDonald from ASLEF the train drivers union talked of Andrew Adonis as a breath of carbon neutral fresh air. Rarely is a government minister greeted with such unconditional acclamation from fellow speakers. He condemned the Conservative proposals to cut back rail investment in Crossrail across central London and that they would only have High Speed service to Leeds when the country needed a service that went further north.
Saturday, 26 September 2009
I am sceptical about mediums. However, I wonder if they will be able to assist with an unsolved local crime? Earlier in the year allegations were made that a Thanet councillor who was the worse for wear was abusive to a doorman at a Margate licensed establishment. When denied entry they demanded as to whether the doorman knew how important they were.
As I understand there were CCTV pictures and a film of the alleged perpetrator why was this not published on the internet in a Thanet version of Criewatch? I know from members of my family who have worked in licensed establishments in Margate that they want a zero tolerance approach to any anti-social behaviour. They share knowledge and want to expose anybody who misbehaves.
I think it is most unfortunate that Cllr. Ezekiel did not take the opportunity to try and tackle this incident of anti-social behaviour vigorously. Perhaps someone in the audience tonight will be able to ask the medium to look into the past and identify the individual to clear up this matter.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
I am pleased that the campaigning I have been doing along with Liz Green and Alan Poole to improve Haine Road is finally going to bear fruit.
Pictured are local residents explaining the speeding problems they face on a daily basis to Thom Morris from the Isle of Thanet Gazette in July.
Work is scheduled to start on Monday 12th October. The works will involve the installation of 12 sets (2 cushions per set) of traffic calming speed cushions, 75mm in height, evenly spaced over the length of the 30mph speed restriction between the Toby Inn roundabout, and the roundabout at the Spratling Street junction with the A256. Traffic signing and associated white lining will also be installed.
The aim of the traffic calming scheme is to help reduce traffic speeds on the Old Haine Road and to get more traffic to use the New Haine Road.
Parts of the Old Haine Road will be closed for up to 5 weeks in 3 separate phases whilst the work takes place although residents will still be able to access their properties. The works are programmed to commence on Monday 12th October 2009 with a maximum duration of 5 weeks although it is hoped the works will be completed much sooner.
If you have any problems with the roadworks you can call Kent Highway Services on 01304 242326
I hope the work is successful and that Old Haine Road residents get the improved quality of life they deserve.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
"Well, generally, a lot of my friends seem to regard Thanet as a "shithole," but I disagree. Even my old school friends from Deal seem to view Thanet with nothing but contempt - full of "chavs and pikeys," they regard it - so I thought "Shithole is a state of mind" would be an apt slogan for a blog. It's intended to mean that if people consider Thanet to be a "shithole" then it's more of a reflection of their jaded perspective than it is a reality.
In other words, if (like me) you want to strive to make Thanet a better place - and, let's face it, there is a bit of deprivation here and there - then "shithole is a state of mind" is my little rallying call for people to realize that instead of deriding it, we should accept that our negative perception of it is only a state of mind, and that we should endeavour to improve our little area in any way we can.
In general, my blog's really supposed to be lending a bit of constructive criticism or opinion pieces on local issues, but it's also grounded in a general appreciation for the area - I certainly don't enjoy the bad reputation Thanet has, largely because I think it's a lovely place in many ways and has a great deal of potential. Anyway, sorry my answer's a bit longwinded, and I know the slogan's a bit coarse or rude, but I felt like it needed to be said (especially to a lot of my disillusioned young friends)
Hope this explains where I'm coming from."
Spot on about how others can perceive us Luke and glad to see you challenging your contemporaries. We have one of the best, if not the best climate in the country and a coastline to be proud of. Nobody does more to Promote Thanet than Don.
Monday, 21 September 2009
I love this story about London Borough of Hillingdon Conservative Councillor Geoff Courtenay (pictured hunk of the day) being deselected by the Conservative Party for being "93% sexy". his main crime seems to have been to have had a sense of humour....
Posting on Facebook, councillor Courtenay filled out a 'How Sexy Am I' quiz, which told him he was '93 per cent sexy'. Posting below it, Courtenay wrote: "Why are they saying 93 per cent? I demand a recount, I want 100 per cent."
Councillor Courtenay is known among his counterparts for his sense of humour, but the top brass in the Conservative cabinet did not find it amusing. In a letter from Christopher White, Conservative group chairman, Councillor Courtenay was told: "The selection panel had several concerns when interviewing you, there is the issue of your lack of judgement over inappropriate material being placed by you on your social networking site Facebook.
The Conservatives are continuing to try and oust him. Perhaps he should move to Thanet and become a councillor, there are after all several jokers who have done rather well in the local Conservative Party.
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Today I found myself looking for a pub lunch on the east side of Deal. First pub was still locked at 12.15, second didn't do food and the third only did a fixed 3 course menu which seemd to only be available to locals. Heading back to Ramsgate I was glad none of the first three options had worked out as I found the Coach and Horses at Hacklinge on the Deal to Sandwich Road.
The pub with its charity bookshelf, jokes and golf memorabilia had more character than the first three combined, with just one table left it was good timing. Honesty meant later arrivals for food were turned away rather than being kept dangling. Politics is available for discussion from your hosts who predict VAT will be going up to 20%. I think they are wrong, but I was having a day off so noted rather than engaging with their views.
A classic roast went down very well, and the regular option rather than the available large meal was more than enough to fill you up. The highlight though is the pub garden which has an outdoor dining area and childrens swings and climbing frame.
To one side is a classic fruit and vegetable garden with a large greenhouse. The greenhouse has tomatoes, chilis and cucumbers. Like me Penny Barnes hostess and head gardener is suffering from mildew which started on the cucumbers but has now transferred to the tomatoes, at least it is towards the end of the season. Penny's father used to be a market gardener, and her vegetables are neatly laid out and healthy like a professional. Leeks, lettuce and all the usual favourites. Penny is particularly proud of her herbs. The carrots for the roast dinners are cooked with a selection from the garden. A particularly flavoursome touch to distinguish the roast was home grown caraway seeds cooked with the cabbage.
The south side of the vegetable garden has a border full of the pictured physalsis (Cape gooseberry). These foot high lanterns look glorious at this time of the year and are a tribute to her tender care. It will be a long time before I see such a superb pub garden again, go eat and enjoy seeing where some of your produce has come from.
Saturday, 19 September 2009
My aim is to concentrate on Thanet and Kent politics and I hope that is largely what I do. I am also fortunate that a number of Labour colleagues and others have given extensively of their time and knowledge. I am always happy to publish guest blogs. The suggestions of friends mean I have never been short of content, and I often do not get round to posting ideas or even drafted pieces because events move on. My apologies especially to those who have put in effort to things that do not see the light of day. My thanks to most local bloggers who have been encouraging and supportive. Having constructive disagreements is one of the pleasures of blogging. We can have political discourse at a level that a local paper can barely touch upon.
I am also fortunate that I have local Conservative opponents who provide colourful content. It motivates me to blog because I despair at their poor or double standards. I am lucky (but I do not think Thanet is) that what could be a sleepy District Council generates a lot of "interesting" stories.
I think Thanet probably has the leading local political blogging scene in the country. There could even be a doctorate in studying it for some bright politics student. In a small way I am playing a part in the local politics of the future right now. I have asked around, and nowhere with such a relatively small population has such vibrant views expressed eloquently and excruciatingly depending on your perspective.
I thank Eastcliff Richard for his congratulations and read Tony Flaig's analysis with interest. I'm a 3 by the way Tony. I do not write this blog to attract numbers or rankings, I write it because I enjoy it and to advance the Thanet Labour cause. We could have some interesting categories to assess Thanet blogs.
Best photography? Most amusing? Best analysis of Council meetings? Top airport coverage? Historical analysis? None of these would I have a chance of winning in Thanet. Then we could move on to the really important categories.....
Local politician with most photographs of himself on his blog? I know I cannot win that. Citing of most personal achievements? Again I have no chance. How about namedropping?
Should I mention the time I took tea with the Queen and Mrs. Thatcher, or my time working for Hillary Clinton? I cannot see what relevance they have to how I perform as a councillor in Thanet and to current events, so I will leave that to others.
I know though, that some others think these categories vitally important to their reputations in local politics. I occasionally have wicked thoughts about playing name dropping "ping-pong" with a fellow local blogger, but that would be a distraction from discussing how poor Thanet District Council is in some areas, and how unacceptable the conduct of several Conservative councillors is. That affects us all daily, costs us money, and gives Thanet a tarnished reputation it does not deserve.
To be clear I am happy as a backbencher who blogs. I do not seek to be a MP/MEP/Council Leader/Cabinet member. I do seek to have better results and value for money for Thanet, and believe that can be delivered best by Labour. I will continue to go on about green tourism, the need for more accountability and openness, campaign for better quality, and more representative councillors in Thanet, better street cleaning, and anything else that takes my fancy. Sometimes I will try to be a citizen journalist and report on local matters. Thank you to everybody who comments, emails me, writes for the blog or talks to me about my blog. It would not be where it is without you.
Thank you again to everybody who has helped and supported me.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
"He told staff last night that he will step down next May when his contract expires to pursue other interests. Speculation had been mounting over the summer that then man who has led one of the country’s top-performing councils for six years was reviewing his options."
Let's have a go at translating that - he has not been headhunted for another job (pursue other interests) and quite possibly means that he had been advised that his contract was not going to be renewed or was unlikely to be renewed (speculation has been mounting.......reviewing his options).
Interesting phrase that he was reviewing his options, as if Council Leader Paul Carter and his colleagues did not have the chance to review their option to renew Peter Gilroy's contract. No doubt it will all become clearer in time.
There have been some controversial matters.
In April Peter Gilroy was labelled a "disgrace" after Clive Hart exposed that he pocketed £12,000 on top of his £238,000 (£70,000 more than the Prime Minister receives) annual salary - for not taking all his annual holiday leave. More details here.
I highlighted last week the unnecessary money spent on Kent TV, but I think the responsibility there lies with politicians not officers no matter how committed they were to the project.
The biggest disappointment surely was all the millions of punds of money that recklessly went to Iceland when banks were collapsing (some people seem to forget it was reckless banks that caused our current financial circumstances) and was lost. For details click on my March guest post here from Mike Eddy . Let's recall what the Audit Commission wrote:
‘Kent negligently deposited money after credit ratings for Icelandic banks were downgraded below acceptable levels’
With hindsight, it can be seen that senior officer time that could have been devoted to having better financial systems for millions of pounds, was instead being prioritised to ensure senior officers were able to get paid thousands of pounds for not taking annual leave.
Peter Gilroy has undoubtedly many achievements in the past and especially with regard to social care. It is unfortunate that he leaves after poor decisions have come to light in the last 6 months. I do trust he will take all his holiday so we do not have to pay him any more money before he goes.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
traders in Minster.
"Having lived in the St. Peter's area for 38 years I've seen many changes, some for the better but many for the worse so it was with some anger I read Thanet District Council's (TDC) asset disposal list. There I spotted a scheme for the car park in Hopeville Avenue, St. Peter's, Broadstairs. Thanet District Council plans to make this a pay and display area with the possibility of some residential development on part of the car park which is pictured. Quite how this would fit in is anyone's guess.
Part is Co-operative retail property and is clearly separated from the rest of the car park by a low wall. The garage area is council property but there is speculation among locals that some of the rest is church property so that is a question to be sorted out by the church authorities before TDC gets its way.
This car park is essential to the life of the village from those attending the services and events at both St. Peter's Church and Salem Baptist next door; those hiring the church halls (bottom picture) for functions from wedding receptions, funeral teas, slimmers' classes, blood donor sessions, playgroup activities, clubs, flower shows; residents without on-street parking; the local shops, the café, the dentist, the newsagent, the pet supplies shop. The list is endless. The award-winning Village Tour brings many visitors to the area and for all these groups the availablilty of a free car park is a major attraction.
We mustn't forget those who visit the churchyard where their loved ones are buried nor the elderly who need local facilities since the only bus from here is an hourly one to Broadstairs.
The shops and other businesses have suffered this year from the six-week closure of the road for gas mains replacement. Extension of the 'yellow peril' of double yellow lines is on the cards so those who live here, shop here, drink or eat at the local café must be wondering how much more the area can take before more shops revert to houses and join the bakery, bank, hairdressing salon, greengrocer's, that have been lost to other shopping areas over the last few years.
I can report that local resident Cllr. Michelle Fenner is taking the matter up and Thanet Labour's Shadow Cabinet will be raising the asset disposal programme at tomorrow evening's Cabinet meeting. Thanks to my husband John Matterface for additional research on this."
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
I am delighted to hear that Sandra Hart has been selected as Labour's candidate following belated news from Panama that Conservative Stephen Broadhurst is to finally resign. Members of Margate Branch of the Labour Party met at their local headquarters in Northdown Road on Monday evening and unanimously endorsed Sandra Hart as their Prospective Candidate for Dane Valley Ward.
Local girl Sandra spent all of her teenage years living in Upper Dane Road and as an adult, starting a family, her home for almost another decade was in Victoria Avenue. Sandra therefore knows Dane Valley Ward through the personal and practical experience of living, growing up and taking on new responsibilities in the area.
For the last ten years Sandra has owned a long-established hairdressing business in Northdown Road where she previously served her apprenticeship and managed a team of workers for a further twenty five years. Recently she has promoted it as a Fairtrade business.
"I've spent my personal life living in and bringing up a family locally and my working life looking after the needs of clients and staff. I would now welcome the opportunity to help people in a broader sense and to put something more into my local community"
Margate Labour Branch Chairman Cllr. John Watkins said
"Sandra has been an active member for the past decade, regularly helping to deliver ward newsletters and updates to local residents and for the past five years attending key council and group meetings as our local liaison officer. For the past six years Sandra has also supported her husband Cllr. Clive Hart with his office and public duties at both District and County level so she understands the role of a local councillor very well indeed"
I have been impressed at how many meetings Sandra attends. She is a very good listener, and this will redress the balance of those of us who maybe speak more frequently than we should! When she does speak Sandra summarises matters well, and bring an insightful perspective. She understsands as a businesswoman only too well the variable record of Thanet District Council in supporting local commerce. I know she was disappointed at the recent 10% increase in parking charges for shoppers in difficult economic times. The partisan approach taken by Thanet Conservatives to efforts to promote shopping locally is a further regret.
Having been involved in the process as a member of Thanet Labour's Local Government Committee I have been impressed by the conduct of Sandra's husband Clive who is Thanet Labour's Group Leader. He encouraged a number of other Labour Party members to stand for election, and it was unfortunate that family commitments forced an outstanding trade unionist to withdraw as a candidate during the selection process. At no stage did he canvass for his wife Sandra, declaring his interest at all stages of the selection process. There were a number of other very capable candidates who put themselves forward, which augurs well for Labour for the next elections.
In the end though Margate members selected Sandra from having seen her at so many community meetings, and recognising her outstanding local connections. Sandra's husband Clive was ineligible for both the shortlisting and selection meetings, but was very pleased when he got the call to say that Sandra wanted to spend more time with her family.
Good luck to Sandra, she will make an outstanding councillor.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Friday, 11 September 2009
With David Cameron adding yet another Old Etonian to the Shadow Cabinet - the Baronet Sir George Young - this Daily Mail cutting seems appropriate as it features at number one on the left George Osborne. Yesterday he made a speech on best practice by Conservative run local authorities. Unsurprisingly, he decided not to mention Thanet District Council as a top Tory run authority.
He did however, say this about Kent County Council:
"Kent County council has massively reduced their transactional costs by leading the way in E-government."
No evidence, just an assertion probably found for him by a researcher. Part of this is the Kent TV initiative and highlighted last month how this included money to fly people across the Atlantic to make videos about folk festivals. Not what I see as a core activity for a local authority.
Steve Ladyman MP said:
"George Osborne praised Kent County Council E-government yesterday,claiming that Kent people have got more for less. But when the Tories say more for less they mean more for the wealthiest few but less for the many. Kent Tories’ put the most vulnerable at risk by charging the elderly more for their care and used the extra money they raised to fund their £600,000 Kent TV e-project. Despite Cameron’s claims to have changed the Conservative Party, local Tory politicians pursue the same agenda which they always have done.”
I know which I want from a local authority, affordable care for our elderly and vulnerable members of our community. Especially poignant when we are marking 70 years since the outbreak of the Second World War and all that generation gave to us.
Not a TV station which could be run for free on Youtube.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Moving further along under the Eastcliff there is Ramsgate's Sea Garden which is in need of a little TLC. Although as my picture shows (click on them to enlarge) the weeds were welcome to a cluster of snails.
I visited with officers from Thanet Coast Project who were keen and enthusiatic on the attractions of Ramsgate. They sadly showed me how quickly one of the shelters further along the cliff on the way to Broadstairs had been vandalised with graffiti.
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
His councillor colleagues from the Labour group and the two Conservative members with whom he shares his Rushmere ward have worked to ensure that neither local residents, nor Ipswich in general suffer as a consequence. The local media have also been supportive, running regular updates of his experiences in Afghanistan.
Alasdair must be one of the most outstanding councillors in the country. I salute him.
Monday, 7 September 2009
Labour's, Steve Ladyman MP posed for photographs between Cllr. Roger Latchford and Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel, Deputy Leader and Leader of tanet district Council. Regrettably, Roger Latchford was in a grouchy and bad tempered mood on this great day for Ramsgate and Thanet.
The journey flew by and I file this post from St. Pancras station where there is free w-fi throughout.
Several members of the press were present at Ramsgate. A great Labour government achievement for Thanet.
Saturday, 5 September 2009
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Sandy Ezekiel writes "I would like to personally ask you to attend this meeting and give your feedback on our campaign."
"At this meeting there will also be a chance for you to find out more about Small Business Relief and the Business Rates Deferral Scheme."
"I look forward to seeing you and discussing how we can work together to promote local shopping to local people."