Sunday, 29 November 2009

Margate's Millions - where are they being spent?

A new guest blogger, my colleague Cllr. Iris Johnston (pictured) who represents Margate Central one of the most deprived wards in the country.
"Roger Gale MP did his best to avoid crediting the Labour Government for all it has tried to do to help Thanet since 1997 in last week's Thanet Extra.
However, he had no choice but to grudgingly mention Labour Minister Margaret Hodge’s announcement of the 3.7 million pounds of Sea Change money for Dreamland.

It was the British Resorts Association working with Government, when I represented Thanet District Council (TDC) at Conferences in 2001, that led to action on helping sea side areas. I had to remind Conservative TDC on several occasions that we needed to get a bid in for Sea Change funds and we even missed the first tranche.

Thanet also received 3.7 million in April 2006 for a Safer Stronger Communities Fund within Margate Central and Cliftonville from the Labour government. Unlike Roger Gale, Thanet District Council acknowledges a further £700,000 for the next 2 years on its website. New play areas in Dane Park and Cliftonville, and significant crime reduction measures along with return to work initiatives and housing renewal funds show real Government commitment to Margate. I have never seen Mr Gale as the local MP at any of the meetings to make these things happen, nor indeed supporting pensioners bus passes, nursery provision or the minimum wage.

The fact that unemployment has dropped from over 23% in 1995 to, a now unfortunately recently rising, 5.7%, shows we cannot be complacent. The Governments 4.9 million Thanet Works funding along with other schemes to help people find work and train for employment must be targeted appropriately. Thanet District Council gets £65 Million of tax payers money annually from Central Government to cover Housing and Council Tax benefits and Labour councillors' regular requests for a breakdown on how exactly this is allocated are still outstanding.

Mr Derek Harding, who deserves great credit for his efforts in getting the 3.7 million pounds for Dreamland, attended TDC's Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 17th November at my request. He mentioned that around £4o million had come into Margate for Regeneration purposes. It is the responsibility of all councillors to ensure it is best and quickly used to regenerate Margate. Mr Gale might like to join us rather than spending so much time defending his allowances system."


  1. Welcome to blogging Iris. It has a history of being safer than petition-clipboard exercises. I had been meaning to ask you if you were a Margate Charter Trustee when Roy Ford was Mayor 97/98 ? And if perhaps you recall a vote about ending grant funding of a pseudo military cadet group called Kent Adventure Training Corps. This group, according to an FOI response from KCC, lost its KCC Youth Group affiliation status in 2003.

    I have an as yet unanswered question to a Cllr Ted Watt-Ruffell on which way he voted.

    I do recall that you shew commendable concern at about that time about youth groups and the influences Thanet Youth might be exposed to.

  2. The depressing thing is that you can't see where the £40 million has gone? Just been to see the excellent "Thanet on film" and so sad to see how the Lido and Margate was in it's heyday and how little improvement there appears to be now even with the money spent? still the same boarded up buildings and rough areas in the 1990s and now! The leader of TDC who is shown on the film is from the labour party but he is unable to answer the same questions as the current incumbent and that is 10 years ago!
    Not sure what the solution is but one comment resonates "no-one wants to move their company here" in reference to the business parks, why not try to help the local entrepreneurs instead? around here unless you are member of the "in crowd" there seems to be precious help available, it appears that the ruling crowd only help their own!

  3. If you look at Wales. South Wales has enjoyed huge amounts of grant aid. From the 1936 Special Areas Reconstruction Act on to the Barnet Formula. I think the amount, for example, the Celtic Lakes Industrial Estate at Newport was looking at in the 1990s was 1.6 billion pounds.

    In the 1970s, as the English taxpayer largesse flowed, articles appeared in the South Wales press appealing for A level students not to leave school and take jobs in Admin. But to proceed to University on Engineering and Science degrees. The "Admin" jobs in Civil Service and Local Authority should be left for the less able (Secondary Modern level) school leaver.

    Then as now there was a stark choice for the school leaver. A low risk, secure, over rewarded parochial job in public sector or take a risk on poor reward to pursue excellence on a degree in technology.

    As we step down from the undersubscribed degree courses wereach the local tech HNC level in engineering etc. And colleges like Ebbw Vale were gaining dispensations to validate HMCs with an easier and lower level mathematics content. IE They were churning out screwdriver economy engineers incapable of R and D. Indeed colleges began to lean their courses to be bespoke courses for the employers and the course became another brand of grant aid. Free training packages for a particular industry chuurning out people of little use anywhere else.

    Get to the 1990s and Matsushita (Panasonic) with its huge grant aided presence in Wales was being asked "Why don't you take on Welsh apprentices" whinge whinge. So Matsushita said OK but we will set the Japanese standard of apprenticeship entry exam. Which Welsh school leavers failed. Matsushita then told Wales unless your standards of education improve even grant aided inward investment will dry to a trickle.

    And the Welsh bleated "But we can't run higher technology courses .. no one want to go on them"

    Meanwhile the town halls bulged with housing allowance clerks, council tax benefits clerks, clerks' clerks.

    A study in the 90s reported Wales as having the least skilled workforce in UK.

    A final story about Panasonic. We were self employed contracting on their shut down. Some of their Welsh staff were working the shut down period and we noticed them religiously switch off the lighting before tea break. Then switch it back on when they returned. A Jap engineer smiling approvingly.

    So we went to the Jap "That is costing you money. It is cheaper to leave fluorescents switched on for that period. The striking currents to switch them back on are far more expensive."

    "Yes" he smiled "But a Welshman put the idea in our suggestions scheme thinking it would save us money. So we decided to give him a small reward and agree it. We thought it was worth the extra electric bill to encourage the loyalty and discipline they were beginning to show"

  4. Richard I think the word you should use is Japanese rather than the abbreviation you've chosen.

  5. Does that mean nobody can used "Brits", Poles etc? If so the Brit Awards are in trouble. I cant see the difference.

  6. Have a look at

    it is not definitve as we know with wikipedia! Personally I think the term is a negative one, although clearly that was not Richard's intention hence my publishing his comment, but also my expressing my view.