One can’t expect to write a newspaper column without criticism, even in the Thanet Gazette and Cllr David Green is worried that his own letter, attacking my rant of last Friday won’t be published there but at least it can find a good home here.
David accuses me of being a Conservative-stooge, parroting the party line but to be honest, I don’t care who’s in charge, as long as they don’t sit on their thumbs and deliver value and justice to the electorate. I would agree that the Council Tax revaluation is a particular dislike of mine, when it’s being suggested by government that because the capital value of people’s property is now greater, they should pay higher taxes, even though they receive no fiscal benefit from the value of their homes beyond the ability to borrow against them. Perhaps if the government that David supports were to rid itself of just some of the million or so civil servants that it has introduced, we might not have to pay such high taxes in the first place?
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s a rosy socialist world of opportunity we live in under New Labour. I should know, I used to work for them in Downing Street!
In an excellent letter, David writes: “Your columnist, Simon Moores contrives to link council tax revaluation, house building and development control in a poorly argued rant that leads to him detecting a lack of leadership in our local council.
Council tax is a Conservative introduced tax based on the relative value of properties in a local area. Its big drawback is that it is not based on the ability to pay, though subsequent Labour governments have modified it to give relief to those on benefits and pensioners. Whilst we have this tax, surely Dr Moores would agree that it is fairer that it be based on the true market value of properties, which is all revaluation seeks to do. Some will gain, equally others will lose.
Dr Moores repeats parrot-like the Kent Conservative line over house building. Over development may be a problem in areas of Kent nearer London, but it certainly isn’t so in Thanet. Currently identified brown field land plus the area around Westwood Cross is more than enough to meet the demands of the S E Plan. In fact we are already building more housing than is required. Westwood Cross housing is a specific response to what we are told are the requirements of inward investors for their staff. What is also needed is much more social housing, currently virtually stagnant, to meet the needs of the 3500 families on the Council waiting list that are currently prey to unscrupulous private landlords.
The Planning and Development Control system in England is based on the principle that citizens should be able to build what they like on land that they own. Over the years various controls have been added to modify this right to mitigate detrimental effects. It is this basic right though that has produced our varied villages and town centres. Dr Moores is rightly concerned about Westgate Seafront. The remedy here is to declare a conservation area, something within the powers of the local Council. Then the council would have more powers over what is built and potential developers would have a clear picture of what is required. Local councillors have failed their residents in this respect.
I can agree with Dr Moores on one point, and that is concerning lack of leadership at the Council. The current administration arrived without a manifesto and has coasted whilst projects in the pipeline from the previous Labour administration have come to fruition. Council officers try to fill the vacuum but inevitably opt for safety first and lack the feeling for what is required locally.”