Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Politics Online - The Sandy Ezekiel Interview

Yesterday afternoon, I met with Thanet Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel and put to him, some of the questions that readers left for me last week.

A five minute audio interview turned into ten minutes, Sandy Ezekiel’s first ‘Podcast’ but I suspect that we had more than enough material to go on for an hour or so.

With this in mind, we came up with another idea. Each week, I will take what readers tell me is the most pressing issue to take-up with the council. It could be Westwood Cross, Dreamland, Litter, Planning, you name it. I will then put this and any supporting material to Sandy Ezekiel who will give us a written answer in a column of his own.

I think that this is an excellent idea. It makes local government in Thanet more accountable, receptive and more visibly “in touch” with what people are thinking than ever before and every and any step forward towards a more positive working relationship between public servants and the population at large has to be a good thing in my mind so my thanks to Sandy Ezekiel for his cooperation.

On another note, I’ve had an email from the BBC Politics Show which says:

“We are currently filming our first two campaign groups and are planning to film a couple more later in this run – June time. Either myself or Trudi, the programme editor, will be in touch later this month when we decide which groups we’ll be focussing on.”

So Perhaps ThanetLife will feature on the political landscape this summer?

The RSS Feed can be found here for Podcast enthusiasts.


Anonymous said...

Very illuminating. As a Ramsgate resident, though, I would have liked to have heard more about the Pleasurama development, and how they're going to build it there when the concrete cliff facade is in such a desperate state.

Anonymous said...

I was born in margate and it saddens me to see the sorry state the town is in.filthy streets and the highstreet is a barren waste with all the shops closing and moving to westwood cross.we were told that marks and spencers were staying as a foodhall....i walked up the high street yesterday and was ashamed when some visitors were talking about margates is so sad..i welcome the great new cafes and bars on the piazza and am looking forward to the turner contemporary but we need a high street and some attractions to woo people here WHY cant we have a fabulous water themed all weather park on the dreamland site?i just hope something is done before it is too late...

Nethercourt said...

Well I thought SE came over quite well.
Well he would, I suppose, having no doubt been given a preview of the questions...?

Mind you, I must admit that there has been a noticable improvement in the way
Ramsgate's seafront is kept, I just wish some of the people who use it would treat it with a bit more respect.

I can appreciate the councils lack of enthusiasm for compulsory purchase orders. In the main, just another way for the legal profession to line it's pockets.... Are there not such things as 'enforcement orders'though? To compel owners to maintain property to a suitable standard?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dr Moores for the work put into this; very interesting and worthwhile.
I am not entirely convinced by SEs comments on Dreamland; a 10 to 15 year view is far too long. We have already had 5 years of nonsense and if the present owners are not prepared to put the development needed into it, which quite clearly they have failed to do this year, they should be forced to move over. An asset identified by the Inspector as crucial to regeneration of Margate must surely be capable of being subject to compulsory purchase? Has this option been considered and what legal impediment exists? If TDC'wished' to follow this route does it have powers to do so?

Dave Chamberlain said...

Sorry, can't listen in to this interview (glad I'm not deaf) but a less dramatic problem as my speakers packed in. From what I understand SE states Dreamland is a 10-15 year view. Firstly, tastes and fashion will have changed in that time, a generation will have grown up to young adults and it seems a long term view. Secondly, annonymous of 4:48 hits the nail hard on the head, the High Street is filthy, it has been for years, every little paving block is covered in blackened gum and some of the locals don't know what a rubbish bin is. I'm more than happy going to Westwood Cross, clean safe and good shops. I'm amazed at the apathy of some locals when they crow 'Westwood Cross, it's just like any other shopping mall' which is what someone said to me a while back. So what, at least you have these shops locally now and investment leads to jobs and some wealth, even if KCC/TDC don't put the investment in ahead of the build, i.e. roads! Back to Dreamland, sorry 10-15 years is no good, tough problems call for tough solutions, i.e. compulsory purchase.

Dave Chamberlain said...

Can I just add, on a nice day go to Margate Train Station and look out across the sands to the Jetty and the seafront and the town looks great. I came one stop too far on the way home from london a few weeks back so walked from there and I was astonished at the view. Is this why the Turner Museum would have been built on the Jetty? It's the first thing one would notice exiting the station. It's only when you get close one has their doubts. I'm interested in how the old town area is developing, maybe that will lead the way with private small scale enterprise. Look at the North & South Lanes in Brighton to see what I mean.

stuart said...

oh you silly man.

he repeatedly said that dreamland should remain for 'leisure' use. it should be kept for 'tourism' - why does this council not recognise the difference between the two?

why do they also not recognise the dreamland site is the single most important tourism site in the area? they are insistent upon us having an art gallery so why can't they insist upon the visitors having an amusement park to visit again?

he has said there is no short term option. not true - established operators have made their plans clear to the council to invest millions of pounds in the site.

quite frankly, i don't care if my bins are emptied by sita or by the council (in new lorries with an orange rave attached to the front) - but i do care if godden & co are allowed to build on our most important site for tourism.

stuart said...

I'd just like to add that i'd really like us to be having a local election.

And could someone tell me does Sandy Ezekiel run the council or does Jimmy Godden?

Quite clearly, they are both showmen.

Anonymous said...

anon again!

I've got it...


"Dreamland 2 Towers Caravan Site" (Arlington House & Dreamland Tower). Tourist and Leisure all thrown in to ONE... another Brilliant idea, by yours truly!
Ask Mr Ezekial.... he will go for it 120%.

Anonymous said...

hi, i have just discussed this topic with 3 generations of people thanet born and bred,and as soon as the name jimmy godden was mentioned we met on a common ground.
His unfortunate accidents with fire in thanets prime tourist positions leads us to wonder if he is just to unlucky to lead us into the future and "insure" us the people of thanet for a prosperous future.
On the plus side we all agreed the streets are looking cleaner

Anonymous said...

Is this a different Sandy Ezekiel to the one I'm thinking of?

Surely this one who claims to be involved in talks with other park operators interesed in the Dreamland site must be different to the one who has publicly claimed twice this year that there are no operators interested in running the site (Once at the Local Plan Inquiry and once and then again at the Turner Contemporary meeting).

His previous assertions flew in the face of evidence from the SaveDreamland campaign, now he seems to want to take the credit for talking to other park operators.

Dr. Moore - Perhaps a question for your next meeting with him would be "When did you become aware of other operators interests, and why did it take the council so long to become aware of them?"

Andy Pandy said...

Dr. Moore. How about turning this feature into a true Podcast with the use of RSS feeds or something similar?

DrMoores said...

The RSS feed can be found at

Andy Pandy said...

Woop, ta very much.

Anonymous said...

It is great to have a forum but does anyone every listen to us?i agree with anon who said about the sorry state the high street is in,but unlike dave i think westwood cross and all the money being put into it is what is killing the town and if you live in margate it isnt near us!i see now there are more plans to build a thousand new builds up there,what about the roads?why couldnt the money been spent in the town.the new cafes and bars on the front really help and i am also looking forward to the turner contemporary,lets just hope they hurry up as we need to see improvement now!

Anonymous said...

There is the possibility that all the building at Westwood Cross may have the reverse effect to the one desired. At one time, I used to do everything in my power to avoid going to Canterbury because of the traffic congestion. When you factor in the extra building now taking place at Westwood, and the further traffic chaos that this is likely to cause without drastic road improvements, it may well drive people back into the towns to do their shopping, rather than spend half an hour or so stuck in traffic jams.

Worm said...

The 1000 houses being built at Westwood Cross is a folly of monumental, and I do mean mental, proportions.
In an age of depleting water supply, along with a shortage of dentists,doctors and schools already in this area, it will result in gridlock with the poor people who unsuspectingly spend their hard earned cash on a property there, unable to have their teeth fixed, illnesses treated or children educated except in schools miles away which they will be unable to get to owing to the fact they won't be able to force their way onto the main road. If there is some vision of a new Margate,it certainly won't be at Westwood Cross.
Margate is gem of a town. It's a pity the people on its own council don't seem to realise it.

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

The people on the Council do realise that Margate is a gem of town, which is why they are spending so much time tryting to find ways to encourage development in the High Street and Dreamland. The changes necessary to bring the town back to life will cost millions of pounds, which TDC does not have, so we rely on private developers, and government agencies to help us do it. We are working with them, and KCC, please support us.

It is fact however, that Westwood Cross is popular with people from all over Thanet as well as further afield, hence the car parks being often full. And further development will no doubt also be popular with the masses.

As for the 1000 homes, I believe it is also fact that the lack of critical mass of population density has been a key factor in discouraging businesses of all kinds coming here for many years. Improvements to roads, more schools and doctors will all come, but they are are a function of KCC or national government - don't blame TDC.

worm said...

Unfortunateley the signs do not seem to support the suggestion that infra structure will all come.
Have you been paying attention at all to the goings-on in the NHS? Do you ever drive, or try to drive, through Westwood? It's no good encouraging people to come and live here if they can't so anything when thry arrive.
Also,is it not true that Thanet Council's Planning Department has been penalised for its inefficiency by the Government?
Due to poor performance by the Planning Service, TDC has missed out on a sizeable grant that might have made a considerable difference to the area. While Maidstone gets £450,000, Thanet is left with only £15,000. Perhaps a proportion of your concentration on aquiring funds from Private developers and Govt agencies might be better spent making sure your own departments perform properly.

James Maskell said...

Wait a sec... Thanet Council cuts back on staff numbers due to foreseeing a future budget deficit meaning a lessening in manpower in the departments. That leads to the Government punishing the Council due to this lessening manpower. Am I missing something here?

I think its blatantly unfair for the Government to keep money away from TDC because of actions which im my eyes looked forced. TDC needs that investment to sort out Planning services and improve the related frontline services.

Anonymous said...

Cllr Wise, a Thanet population of 150,000 is not a critical mass? have you thought that 'locals' have to go to Westwood to shop as the high streets in Cliftonville and Margate have been killed off by Westwoods development. As for money at Westwood recirculating in the Isle, you have got to be joking.

worm said...

"A future budget deficit" caused by a wasteful and incompetent Local Government as well as mean and corrupt National one.
Heard anything about the staff pension scheme lately?

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Worm 2.50pm I have driven back and forth to work through the Westwood Cross area for the past 17 years. Apart from during road works, which will bring improvements, I have not had any increase to my journey time. Traffic congestion at any time in Thanet is no worse than anywhere else I have visited of comparable size, and is better than most.
Travel to Canterbury, Maidstone, Ashford, Bluewater, etc. to prove the point.

The Planning Department has lost a number of officers over the past year, due to a very buoyant market for the skills required. To maintain parities within our own organisation, we have not attempted to match what is on offer elsewhere. There are an extraordinary number of planning applications coming forward at this time, which is a very healthy sign for Thanet, and we are working hard toregain our previous good performance in this area.

Anonymous 7.30pm The population is closer to 130,000. Take the children out of that number, and factor in the near 30% of the rest who are in receipt of benefits of one kind or another, and you do not have a huge number who have money to spend.

Most people I talk to love having a shopping centre like Westwood Cross as an option. It may not suit everybody, but clearly please very many.

Worm 6.25am The Council underwent a major organisational change to save nearly 10% of it's budget to pay for new equipment and resource for our Waste, Street Cleaning and Recycling services. We took these services back in house because we believe we can deliver a better service to Council Tax payers by having direct control over the workforce.

We increased Council Tax by 4.5% so that we could fund the following:

- Additional cleaning for public conveniences, £35,000.
- Improvements to the pest control service, £20,000.
- An additional £40,000 to improve sports provision in the area, particularly for children. The Capital Report also included an allowance of £200,000 which will be TDC’s share of funding for a major new project to build an 8 lane running track to competition standard at the Marlowe Academy.
- £50,000 for Youth Development Work.
- An additional £40,000 to secure and develop significant new events for our towns.
- £20,000 for the Thanet Coast Project which brings together people of all ages to help them learn about and care for our unique coastline.
- £20,000 of revenue funding for each of the Town Partnerships to help secure the work that they do to enliven our towns.
- £2,300 to help achieve further Blue Flag Awards for our beaches.
- £10,000 of additional support to bolster our Parish Agency Agreements.
- £30,000 to the Theatre Royal (subject to certain conditions).

I don't think that all these are a result of a "wasteful and incompetent Local Government", but rather the complete opposite. If you have a contribution or ideas that will help deliver further improvements I would be pleased to hear from you.

worm said...

Hmmm. Firstly if you have not noticed an increase in traffic congestion at Westwood Cross over the last 17 years or even the last year, then you are unique amongst Thanet drivers who travel that route. Perhaps there has been no increase in your journey time because you have a faster car. Or maybe it's the time of day you travel.

Secondly, one of the reasons people in this area do not have money to spend is the notorious meanness of local employers. One example is TDC's current employment of contract beach cleaners on a 47 hr a week for an hourly rate of little more than minimum wage, including bank holidays. They worked every day at Easter with no extra remuneration and one day off in the week in lieu, so the Council can crow about cleaner beaches and seafront but at the cost of exploitation of the people who are employed to do it.
This repesents the general attitude of many of the employers in Thanet. I know personally people who are owed wages by employers in this area going back some months. This attitude to employment is nothing short of Victorian. How can it improve when the District Council takes advantage of the unemployment rates also?
If people who can afford to buy a house move to Westwood Cross, realistically, the most likely viable employment they will find will be off Thanet.
Thirdly, 1,000 houses means 1,000 Council Taxes and is it also true that the Council receives money from the developers for every 1000 houses built? If not please correct me. I will be relieved to hear it if it is not the case.

Anonymous said...

I drive a diesel Fiesta at rush hour. The only queues are from the Lord of the Manor to Pfizer - soon to be corrected after investment from KCC.

Are you suggesting that the only reason the houses will be built is so that the Council will receive additional Council Tax?

Wise said...

Last comment by Martin Wise

worm said...

No, I am suggesting it is one of the reasons and in borderline cases may make the difference between granting permission and not.
As for the traffic, I am glad it has not affected you. I, on the other hand, am continuously inconvenienced by it along with many other people.

worm said...

Oh and another thing; given that the government is so keen to cut subsidies to Local Councils do you not think there might be a relationship between the amount of development planned by the Government in the South East and the amount of Tax to be gained by that development?