Friday, January 27, 2006

The iPod Test

In her Thanet Gazette column today, Jane Wenham Jones’ comments: “Let’s face it, your average local authority can barely run a bath let alone a commercial venture” and in a second remark she describes one of our local councillor as an “Old duffer”, leaving enough scorn for other “Old duffers” at Pierremont Park planning meeting.

A grand old age should bring with it considerable experience of the world and with it, respect. In local politics however, this position is frequently an excuse to hang on to influence, well beyond one’s sell-by-date. This is, I believe, the nature of the problem we are experiencing in Thanet, a frozen political morbidity that delivers limited value and even less confidence to the electorate.

We should be asking ourselves whether as a community, we can afford to have decisions made on our behalf by elected representatives who are in constant danger of dozing off in the middle of an argument. I don’t doubt that many of our councillors have given great service over the years but this is the 21st century and Thanet faces immediate and pressing challenges over the changing face of the island its population and its long term future.

If any councillor is not able to use the internet as easily as he or she can read the local paper or change channels on a television, then perhaps it’s time to leave and make way for a younger generation of local politicians. At next year’s local council elections I intend to remind local people that a brighter future for Thanet may lie in the hands of new local politicians under the retirement age of 65 . If we can’t find any then we should be asking why politics on the island has stagnated to the point that younger people in their forties and fifties might not wish to be involved or indeed, feel excluded.

And if Thanet Life is still around next year and growing as quickly as it is today, then I plan to use it as a platform to support anyone with energy and new ideas, regardless of political affiliation, who may think that he or she can make a difference, doesn’t have local party support and would like to try for a council seat. Thanet needs change, it needs a vision and it needs political representatives it can believe in and trust with its future and I hope here is somewhere for it to start.


Anonymous said...

Charlie Young (age 93 years plus, no I am not joking) should be the first to go, should have gone years ago, actually should not have stood for election last time, not been in good health and the other councillor for Salmestone is not so old but is an invisible man, we are just not represented. Come back Iris, all is forgiven!
James Maskell should stand, he has iffy speling (sic) but his heart is in the right place and he has his finger on the pulse and seems to have common sense, something sadly lacking in TDC.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what I have been thinking when I realised that I had not beeen invited to ANY of the local meetings I am entitled to attend as a "paid-up" member of the party. Naturally I will not be renewing my membership this year as it is a pointless exercise to be involved unless you happen to be retired and a member of the coterie of ancients who run Thanet as their own personal social club.

Anonymous said...

My goodness are the usual suspects quiet , or perhaps its past their bedtimes
ps Iris is probably on the last train to nowhere

James Maskell said...

I'm still here! :)

Simon hits the nail with the above post. Its not just about the local economy or development. Its about local representation too. If the Councillors wont do it, then the local community must find the right people to lead it.

Salmestone has been lacking in active representation for some time. Ive been aware of the problems in Salmestone since the 2003 elections and have met both Cllrs Fuller and Young in recent months. Cllr Fuller let me down and Cllr Young has done all he can to help, though I remain concerned about him.

As Ive said before, leaders need to emerge in areas where representation may not be strong. Its up to those people to stand up and say "Im going to do my part for the community and Im going to fight to make things happen no matter what obstacles might be placed in the way, because I promised to do everything possible to make their community better".

Anyone with concerns about Salmestone ward, dont hesitate to email me at You can also come and see me at work at Andrew & Jills (at the Victoria Lights) and Ill do what I can to help you out.

Anonymous said...

James you should be a politician, you now say that the geriatric Cllr Young who is more like 96 now "has done he can to help" well just as an example of your change of opinion I remember you stating on this very forum that he was totally dismissive to you about the Victoria Rd traffic light safety problem.
He is normally dismissive, or so I have found personally, and IMHO is about as much use as a chocolate teapot these days.
Young only got in because of the number of voters who voted Labour,for the party, not for the candidate on his merits.
And Fuller should never have stood either, never answers my queries and also has a bad attendance record at meetings as far as I can see from the TDC statistics.

Anonymous said...

anon again!

It makes you wonder.... but NOW I realise WHY we are being kept in retention in Thanet. The older ones, don't like CHANGE. I wouldn't mind getting on to the Council, but in an active way. I suppose I'm more Labour, but disgruntled with present happenings. (I used to be Tory, but the Thatcher/Major regime did my head in, and not wishing to become brain damaged, went over).
I certainly have vision, and all my suggestions have been beneficial to Thanet.(With the possible exception of the Turner Contemporary - nothing will change my mind on that, not even bribary).
How does one go about getting selected for representing?

James Maskell said...

Ive also said before that both Councillors had one last chance to do something to show they are right to be Councillors. Cllr Fuller has blown that chance and in my opinion should not be a Councillor. As you say, his record says it all. Hes not replied to my letters either and turned down his own offer to meet and discuss the issues around the Victoria Lights.

Cllr Young has been helpful and hasnt really been that dismissive. I am concerned about him because I still think he lacks the courage to push ahead in leading the community. For me, Cllr Young needs to consider whether its good for him to be a Councillor given the pressures and stress it puts on him. He hasnt blown his chance yet but the local residents are losing patience. Hes doing all he can, but what is required is something he perhaps isnt quite able to do now, full active representation. And before Iris Johnston comes back at me, Charlie Young is a nice guy. But to be a Councillor you have to have the ability to do the job in full. I know from my meetings with him that his mobility is a big concern. I may be a Conservative but I have a heart. He hasnt blown his chance yet. We shall see in the next few weeks though.

Usually you can get in contact with a local party and ask them about standing in 2007. You can stand as an Independent but it helps a lot if you have the backing of a party.

Anonymous said...

I'd say it is people in Thanet like James that we should be hoping do stand in 2007. As Dr Moores says, we need a fresher outlook to really push Thanet on. Good luck James, I hope you stand although you would not be my ward councillor it could only be good for Thanet.

Anonymous said...

re; anon again !!

First you need to tell people who you are !! as it appears we have plenty of councillors already who are as good as Anonymous in action and word

Steve Kilbee

Andy Pandy said...

I had the pleasure of attending my first council meeting recently. I left the meeting feeling rather beige, as if I had just attended a 1975 A Level debating class. Apart from an extremely small minority, I felt as if the majority of people were the type who never made the grade.

Is this a characteristic of all local councils? Will we never get what we need (a majority of councillors with knowledge, passion, creativity) as those most suited will probably be working on bigger and better projects?

Anon Also said...

Well it seems to me, as someone who's not lived here long, that part of the problem is that Thanet politics are very polarised, and appear to be run by the same old people arguing about the same old issues.

Whatever you say about the Lib Dems (and I admit there is plenty to say about them at the moment), in my experience they are extremely efficient when it comes to sorting out local issues and getting things done.

In Haringey, my local councillor was Lynne Featherstone. She was extremely responsive, and could easily be contacted. She never once failed to reply to an email. As a consequence she became our MP at last year's election, partly because she had gained a lot of respect by getting things done locally. And she still replies to individual complaints and queries, even as a busy MP.

Where are the Lib Dems in Thanet (and to get the jokes over and done with, yes, they probably have got their backs to the wall)?

Even the so-called new guard (i.e you lot) seem to be either dyed-in-the-wool Tories or stick-in-the-mud Labour.

James Maskell said...

The Lib Dems have one Councillor (Councillor Emes, member for Bradstowe ward) and obviously no MP in Thanet. Cllr Emes votes with Labour at Council. There is also an Independent Councillor (Cllr Pickering for Thanet Villages).

Thank you everybody for the kind comments. As I said earlier in this thread, anyone with concerns or issues they want to raise relating to Salmestone, by all means contact me and Ill do what I can to help. Come to Andrew & Jills and introduce yourself. It would be nice to meet some of you.

About Council meetings. I regularly attend Council meetings (usually Planning and Full Council but Ive also been to Cabinet, Executive Policy and Scrutiny and JTB). You get used to it after a while, andy. The arguing can get petty when it comes to set pieces (wait for the Budget Full Council meeting, its the annual spectacle).

loopy lou said...

James, sorry to go off a a tangent here but no doubt Simon can start a new topic on this if he wants to - you mention James that you go to planning meetings at TDC.
A while ago TDc gave itself planning permission for flats to be built in a car park in Harold Road Cliftonville - I see they have now entered the land for sale (with benefit of planning permission) in the next Clive Emson auction.
I suppose that if its going to be built on anyway then TDC might as well get the financial benefit but it still seems rather a strange and sleazy tactic when a council gives itself planning permission so it can benefit financially.

Anon Also said...

Thanks for the update, James.

Are there any Lib Dems out there working towards becoming more of a force in Thanet politics?

Anonymous said...

It were much better that TDC "gave its self planning permission" than to sell the land cheaply to a developer who would then benifit to the detriment of the local rate payers.
If this had happened with the E.H.A
at the old Seabathing hospital they would have had millions of pounds to plough back into heath services instead of letting a developer cash in on their stupidity. I never understood why
this was not investigated

Steve Kilbee

James Maskell said...

Planning. I do understand your concerns about the Council giving itself planning permission. However, contacting the Ombudsman is an option, who can investigate whether it was right for the Council to actually do that. There are appeal processes too.

About the Lib Dems, Im not sure really where the presence is for the Lib Dems. I know they contested both seats in the General Election. I would think they try hard at the University to get support.

For those in Salmestone and those with an interest in the area, there has been another collision at the Victoria Lights. From what Im hearing a motorcyclist was knocked off his bike by a car driving the wrong way up College Road this afternoon. Thankfully the cyclist appears to have been fine and was able to walk away from the scene. God knows why the car was driving the wrong way up College Road. This is the part next to Salmestone Primary School.

I am not happy about this at all and just serves to highlight how dangerous this junction is. Its no wonder why people are terrified of crossing the road there.

Anonymous said...

I hope they get that sorted before I need a walking aid! In all seriousness it's a ridiculous situation. Money needs to be spent and it has to be sorted now. Those poor people in their offices who earn good money for sorting out transport will have to start earning their money. What a shame!

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Simon, your comments at the head of this thread seem to be a general rant about the age of some councillors, rather than sound comment about the decision that was taken. As an interested observer at the meeting, I do not believe that age was the issue there, and think that JWJ did herself a disservice by using this as an opporunity to blame the Council and "old" councillors for the decision. It would have been interesting to see what the decision would have been if so many Planning Committee members had not felt obliged to declare an interest for one reason or another, and excuse themselves from the debate. JWJ criticises John Kirby for his views on the application, but he is the one who said it was a shame so many members felt they could not take part. The decision may well have been different if they had been there. The end result was that those who did take part in the debate were not connected with Broadstairs, and so had little personal interest in the outcome. That was the real issue, and the greatest shame.

The question of barring people from standing as a candidate for election because of their age raises interesting questions of discrimination which I am sure could land the Council and political parties in all sorts of hot water, should they try to enforce a rule. I will be watching your political progress with interest next May, to see whether your electorate picks up on the fact that you have indicated that you believe anyone over 65 does not have a contribution to make towards the future of Thanet. Almost a scandal for one in your position?

Considering that a good percentage of people who live in the areas you are likely to represent are over that age, you may live to regret that remark. They certainly have a right to be represented by people who understand and share their problems, and for most, the emotive projects which feature so regularly on this site are not likely to be most important for them.

Still on the theme, I was in a meeting with Cllr. Young earlier this week, and I can assure you that he is still as sharp as any member in their forties, in fact much more so than most. The electorate obviously recognise this, which is why he keeps getting elected, unless of course you consider all the electorate, and not just those over 65, to be redundant?

As for you James, I am sure you know that the Councillors you need to get close to for the traffic lights are those for KCC, not the District, so am surprised you keep harping on about Cllrs. Young and Bowen on this matter.

Finally Simon, several months ago I offered you 2 challenges, which should not stretch you too much:
1. Find a way to influence planning decisions in your ward.
2. Establish who the movers and shakers are in Thanet, and then interview them for Thanet Life.

Am not clear that you have moved forward on either of these yet, but as you are so eager to point out deficiencies in others, perhaps you could prove to us that you are capable yourself?

Looking forward to the response. Will be good practice for the Budget meeting on 23rd February!

DrMoores said...

First, I should ask if anyone else considers my obsevations to be an ageist rant or simply an expression of local opinion, as found in Jane's Gazette column on Friday.

I believe my remarks were placed firmly in the context that hanging on to a political position when one's energies are not up to the task is not in the public interest or perhaps I'm wrong?

Finally, as I have mentioned before, I have the luxury of being an observer and what I attempt to do here, as impartially as possible, is draw attention to local issues and problems that I feel are in need of remedy. I do not have the arrogance to suggest I have the solutions but I believe that an open forum of this kind is healthy and necessary because without it there is no other comparable moderated platform for the people of Thanet to express their opinions.

As for being capable, I make no claims as my own role often involves advising national governments and not district councils.

Anonymous said...

I am the KCC Councillor for that area, and have been involved in discussions about \Victoria traffic lights for some time, and additionally the QEQM parking problems, proposed traffic lights to aid them, the Helena Avenue parking problems, yellow lines there, and the recent discussions about the Hartsdown area as well.

Thing is, I dont constantly run toi the newspapers, or print leaflets proclaiming all these matters, just regard them as an important part of the job I was elected to do. Do contact me direcly if you have any questions or points to make.

I am on record as stating that the Victoria Traffic lights improvements as they stand are inadequate for what is needed, and that stronger action on hospital parking and its impacts are desperately needed. Far more than will be added through the nurses home development.

Speaking as one whom Simon clearly believes is young or was it youngish? political parties choose tghose they feel arethe best candidates that come forward for selection. In my first TDC council meeting the outgoing chairman Barry Coppock told us all you could not do a councillors job and not put your family second. I thought that night and do to this day think I do not want decisions about my community future made by people who put their families second, that does not accord with my values or those who voted for me. But there is the dilemma. It is possible to spend all free time politicking in some way and lose touch with real life. Indeed most of the worst politicians are those who went straight from education to politics and never tasted real life outside this funny little world politicos live in. So we want some life experience; enough income stability to devote some time; feet on the ground with a family life; and now these people must be young:which probably means we should only elect those with direct experience of teenage pregnancy and its culture, they will have real life experience and still be young. Seem to remember Simon, such groups are not quite your favourites however?

This all starts with the basic error of equating JWJ's writings as having a serious contribution to any debate. Those who support her view are eloquent gents, those who dont are old duffers; she doesn't even mention the forced withdrawal of all Broadstairs councillors (from which I take heart, as all the old duffers must be in Ramsgate and Margate, not Broadstairs as you all thought). This article is a typically deliberately inflammatory piece, not really worth discussing and I speak as one who was relatively nicely treated by her!

Chris Wells

DrMoores said...

Chris is quite right and I should add, suitably young enough and experienced in the ways of the world and large families, to suit most if not all of the necessary criteria! Of course we need to have Councillors who are are mature enough to base their decisions on a broader experience of life but we also need to have elected representatives who need to decide that they are in place for all the right reasons and have the energy to devote to the role.

I think Jane, in her column, simply expressed the frustration that many people feel over politics in Thanet.

Anonymous said...

Come to Thanet, 1950s solutions for 21st Century problems... PS.. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny!

Keep Thanet backwards campaign!

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Don't expect us to respond to those who don't even have the bottle to put their name to their comments.

James Maskell said...

Martin, as you know, Chris Wells has campaigned hard over the Victoria Lights and the parking problems around the Hospital. I dont have a problem with the KCC Councillors. I know that at least one Councillor for the area is paying attention to the problems. I was not "harping". Im highlighting the District Councillors because they have a more important role on this one and neither appear to be really motivated to actually do something to help. And by help I mean put in place action not just talk. Talk is cheap. The District Councillors are the ones with the real local knowledge as the wards for District elections are somewhat smaller than KCC wards. This you well know since you stood for Margate and Cliftonville KCC ward last year. District Councillors have intimate knowledge with small wards. KCC Councillors have more people and a wider area to respond to.

I dont care whether someone is young or old, its whether they are up to the job. We all have to work to pay the bills and we all have families (well I dont, but Im sure in time things might change) but being a Councillor means putting aside the time to do the job since you volunteered to do it by standing for election in the first place.

The fact is that there is no full active representation and that even those who have known Charlie Young for many years have their doubts about him. Im not trying to drag him down or belittle him, Im just passing on what the local residents already think. The local residents want someone in the job who has the maturity but also the energy to do the job.

You wont respond to people who dont post their names? There are 5000 people in Salmestone and I dont know all their names. I would still talk to them though or respond on this site, irrelevant of whether I liked what they had to say. Ill respond to that anon. they're right. Age shouldnt be a barrier to anything in todays society. However, if a persons age restricts their ability to do a job, then age becomes an important factor in whether a person is appropriate for the job.

DrMoores said...

Well said James. It's not simply a question of age but one of ability, motivation and perhaps a little vision. I recall,when I was your in my teens, there was a chap who used to drink at the Bungalow hotel in Birchington. Another piece of lost history. He had been a pilot in the First World War and was still as sharp as a button with the most amazing stories to tell.

My point is that he was a young man in his nineties and had an energy that would have put men half his age to shame. But all of us, pilots or politicians need to know when it's time to give way to new people and new ideas.

The volume of comments and traffic this thread has attracted, demonstrates, I would suggest, that this is a subject that is of concern to local people and one certainly worth debating as we have done this evening.

James Maskell said...

The anon is right. The people in the Council are getting older and one worry is that without fresh blood in the Council, the direction will remain the same. Without change, stagnation occurs. Change is necessary for Thanet and that includes the representative function of the Council. Parliament is the same, as the elder MPs retire, usually to the Lords, younger MPs come in to fill the void. And as we can see from the Conservatives, youth can re-energise an organisation.

little weed said...

Something needs to change in Thanet, and I don't mean spending a fortune on a white elephant art building which hardly anyone wants and which won't improve the place for most people.
I have just come back to Margate after 2 months abroad in USA and seeing the town with fresh eyes I am appalled at the dirt and litter, the dereliction, the appearance of some of the population - it would not be going too far to say we are approaching third world standards in some respects, I know that although the "real" third world countries have a lot more problems to contend with than we have many of their population have stronger family ties and relationships and are happier, more law abiding and more content than some of us are.
The direction we are going here is down the toilet,no two ways about it.
We need radical changes with councillors more in touch with reality, rather than the mutual backscratching old boy (and old girl) network we presently have.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about the JWJ article was that she did not mention har ruddy book !!!

Cllr David Green said...

An interesting discussion on this item.
As usual, the people with no responsibility always seem to have all the answers. I’m afraid reality is a little more difficult. I’m content to leave it to the electorate, at the ballot box, to judge my and my fellow councillors’ performance.
To return to the original thread; the ethos of Planning is that the members of the committee should hear the evidence for and against an application without any preconceived view on the item being considered. In my opinion, those that withdrew were quite right to do so if they felt that a reasonable member of the public would feel they were prejudiced one way or the other. If it had been me, I would have sort a substitute for the whole meeting so as not to deplete those voting on such an important item.
The point about Planning is that the Committee is not required to judge whether the site in question is the best place for a particular facility or even whether there is a need or whether it is cost effective. Planning starts from the assumption that the owner of land can do with it what they like unless there are good community reasons why they should be restrained from doing so. Those present came to a judgement on the evidence they heard. I personally think it was a mistake for so many senior Councillors to exercise their right to speak to the Committee especially as, with the exception of Chris Wells, they spoke to the need for a community centre rather than the merits or otherwise of the particular application. I also think it is a mistake for John Kirby to sit on the committee, not necessarily for the reasons discussed in this thread, but because John is Cabinet member for Planning Policy and he risks unduly influencing his colleagues on the Committee.
What is important to realise is that Planning Permission allows the development to go ahead on this site. It does not mean it must be on this site. That is a matter for the land owners and the funders. The ultimate decision is still a political one, and with elections coming, both sets of campaigners still have all to play for.

James Maskell said...

"As usual, the people with no responsibility always seem to have all the answers. I’m afraid reality is a little more difficult."

Wheres the ambition, drive and passion to improve Thanet? Im asking seriously here, whats stopping us from making Thanet better? Defeatist talk isnt what the 130,000 people in Thanet are looking for.

Anonymous said...

anon again!

All the Thanet Council has to do, is wake up!
If they want to see a City in trouble, take a look at the empty shops in Canterbury. Their Councils exhorbitant rates are closing businesses down daily. It wont be easy, but, a start has to be made somewhere, and it has to be radical.
The thing is, to discuss things only, will not bring the change. Ideas put forward, then the best option to be used.
It shouldn't be political argy bargy, but, beneficial for Thanet.

Anonymous said...

I do find David Greens comment entertaining. Those without responsibility have all the answers is exactly how the labour opposition have behaved in council and outside since they lost the election in 2003!

What he may have been trying to express is how easy it is to come up with ideas, and how much harder it is to sell those ideas to people who may fund them. Especially when the labour opposition rush to the press to announce things that are not yet approved.

It isalso true to say that if you dare express a vision for Thanet, people queue up to mock you, even on this website the council leaders vision has recently been royally shafted.

In the end you follow your conscience, doing the best you can to achieve the best for your area and its people, and then ask them to pass judgement on your efforts.

Chris Wells