Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ask Sandy - Setting the Story Straight

Here, is the answer to the reader question that I sent to council leader, Sandy Ezekiel, regarding the fate of the Revolution Skate Park. Sandy writes:

Let me quite clearly state the Council wishes to see Revolution Skate Park remain open.

Let me also make it quite clear that we do not have any members on the board of the Thanet Development Community Trust (TCDC).  Why?  Because I believe that a member of Council that sits as a board member of any organisation has an obligation to that board.  Cllr. Ingrid Spencer and I attended meetings of TCDC as observers and if they wish to discuss confidential matters, we make it clear that we will make our own judgements as to the confidentiality of any item on the agenda. Should TCDC wish to go into a closed meeting and not have the business placed in the public domain, they then have the right to ask us to leave.

To date, senior officers and I have met with Dan to gain an understanding of his business and why there is a potential vast increase in rent. The meeting was friendly, but frank about what we could and couldn't do.  

During the meeting, Dan was advised to: -

  • Obtain his own valuation on a reasonable market rent for his premises

  • Look into the possibility of arbitration under the current Landlord and Tenant Act

  • Try and seek a reasonable explanation from TCDC as to why the hike in rent is justifiable, as the current rental value as determined by the District Valuer for business rates is nearer the rent as currently being charged by TCDC.

  • Business rates are not subject to discounts by the District Valuer.  It is their job to obtain a fair market rent for business premises.

  • Look into forming a trust; this could bring benefits in savings, such as business rates.
I am still awaiting confirmation from Dan on the outcomes of the above matters raised at our meeting.

We are meeting with TCDC this week to see if we can reach a permanent solution. TCDC were set up by the government to enhance and benefit the residents of Thanet. I believe if they are to continue to be of benefit to Thanet, then they have the opportunity to just that in supporting the Skate Park.

Many of your readers will also be aware that Cllr. Chris Wells is also working with TCDC, Dan and I to try and bring about a solution.

Chris has expertise in funding and his help is most welcome by all.

Following the meetings that are taking place this week, I would be happy to meet with any of your readers to inform them of the outcomes.


stuart said...

Yet more dribble from Sandy. Everything seems to be out of his control doesn't it.

The leader of the local council should be able to put pressure on such important matters in his area whether or not he has ultimate control or whether it is in his job description.

Every time I read a quote from Sandy written anywhere he says he is powerless.

Not yet, but hopefully one day we'll have a council leader that exerts his authority.

Anonymous said...

Quite Stuart. And he doesn't even answer the questions readers have raised. But then, we don't know what question was put to him by Dr Moores. Straightforwardly, did he and Ingrid Spencer say anything about the skateboard park at the Trust Board meetings? Were they there when the issue was discussed? Did they comment on any papers issued about the park?

DrMoores said...

I just put your questions to him but can't guarantee that the answers are the ones you might be looking for. After all, he's a local politician and on a personal note, I'm grateful that he even bothers to respond on what is a modest local weblog.

As mentioned earlier, you'll have to dig a little deeper on your own I suspect!

Anonymous said...

It is to this site's credit that Thanet Councillors, including the Leader, are prepared to answer questions and post information here. We should all encourage that engagement. However, the value of it, and of the site, is significantly diminshed if members only write what they want readers to read, and do not give over all of the relevant information and detail. That then makes the site simply a shop window for them and their views.

In this case, Councillor Ezekiel has confirmed that Thanet Council supports the skateboard park and does not support the planned rent increase.

What he does not explain, however, is how we have reached this current confused position, and most importantly what he, and his colleagues who sit on the Trust's Board, have been doing there to prevent this sorry development.

He says that he and Ingrid Spencer represent the Council on the Trust's Board as observers, not Trustees. The Council's own website shows Ingrid Spencer and BOB BAYFORD as the representatives on the Trust's Board, in both cases valid until May 2007. There is no indication of when, or why, he took Mr Bayford's place. Further, there is no indication that they have observer status, rather than trustee status.

The Trust's business plan for 2006 shows Ingrid Spencer and Bob Bayford as TRUSTEES.

Is there confusion between the Council and the Trust about the role of Thanet Council's representatives? If there is, who is responsible?

Is Bob Bayford still entitled to attend Trust meetings?

Have Sandy Ezekiel and Ingrid Spencer said anything at a Trust Board meeting about the rent increase for the skateboard park? Have they opposed it?

Did they fail to attend a meeting when the subject was discussed?

Did they fail to read papers sent out by the Trust that made the intended rent increase clear?

These are simple questions that can be answered simply and factually. It will do much for Councillor Ezekiel if he does so.

Anonymous said...

Point taken Dr Moores. Councillor Green has undertaken to pursue this whole issue, and it is probably prudent to look to him now to continue to probe. There may be nothing untoward here, there may not even be what at the moment looks like a blunder. But the inability to provide direct answers quickly (and that refers to Councillor Wells's involvement)generates suspicion.

You frequently draw attention to what you strongly believe are examples of maladministration on the part of central Government. It is obviously right to highlight and pursue local cases too.

Chris Wells said...

It is the trusts website that is out of date. The returns to companies house and accounts correctly show the resignation of Cllrs Bayford and Spencer, but are not required to show who may attend as observers. I cannot comment on why we now have observers I was not part of that decision, you do have a partial explanation from the leader of TDC.

Which meetings were attended and what was said, again I was not there so cannot comment. I do know that Cllr Ezekiel is robustly engaged now for sure.

However, this is effectively a dispute over terms of trade between 2 businesses - one of which is engaged in community support, the other of which provides a welcome leisure facility. Neither is under council control. neither is funded by the council currently. We can provide advice, support, concern, perhaps even a little pressure, but at the end of the day the decision is between the 2 businesses. I am facilitating discussions between them in an attempt to get them talking directly rather than exchanging hostile comments through newspapers - so really whilst that is going on must maintain a discreet silence and neutrality until that role finishes if I am to retain the confidence of both parties.

Direct answers will not come quickly in blog site terms, but pretty rapidly in real life terms as the lease ends towards the end of this month.

Patience for a little longer, please.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Chris!
What seems to worry most people is the way TCDT has a dual identity as a Ltd Co reporting to Companies House and as a Charity reporting to the Charity Commisiioners. Public funds have been, and are involved for use in Thanet for 'charitable' purposes and the dual role of TCDT may appear to lead to obfuscation of the way these funds are spent. The information from the latest TDCT accounts available seem to show that one part pays the other? There is no reason why a modest rent cannot be paid by the Skate Park, if TCDT or TCDC are happy with that; they are not required by any legislation I am aware of to insist on a full market rent. If this were the case, charities renting accommodation to the elderly needy would have to price the geriatric poor out of their 'alms houses' and put in City 'yuppies' as tenants!

I hope you can resolve the basic issue of a fair rent to continue the existence of Revolution Skate Park. Maybe we could see an RSPT and an RSPT Co Ltd?

Chris Wells said...

Charitable trustees are required to make the best use of their assets, unless of course the recipient group are part of their charitable objectives (alms house example. If a profit making limited company can be part of a charitable objective would be a difficult point in law I suspect....

Anonymous said...

Surely assisting with a low rent to provide unique facilities in Thanet for youngsters qualifies as meeting with the aims stated to the charity Commissioners?

Anonymous said...

Having read Sandy's reply I believe he will do whatever he can to ensure that the skate park remains open.
Its a difficult situation and one which needs handling properly.
Frankly I am not really a Conservative voter yet the more personal contact at first hand or at a distance I have with Sandy the more I am impressed that he has Thanet's interests at heart and will work towards them.
He has certainly sorted out my problems quickly and effectively and whats more he has been pleasant about it.
He can't work miracles but he is doing the best anyone can, nothing happens overnight.
I have attended TDC functions over the past 10 years and at least the old guard of mutual backscratching old fogeys are well on their way out and decent effective Cllrs are coming in, with notable exceptions, like in Salmestone.
I hope the electorate will vote sensibly next year, not for parties as such, but for decent Cllrs.
Chris Wells also seems to be decent cogent right thinking hard worker. I would vote for him if he stood in my ward although I am by habit and nature an Old Labour voter.
Anyway it looks like "Citizen Wolfie" Maskell from the Thanet Liberation Front (or possibly just the Conservatives) will be my candidate.
You've got my vote Mate, like it or not.
Remember James - a vote is a vote is a vote! Never mind where they come from.

Chris Wells said...

Thank you! I will unashamedly take the occasional bouquet amongst all the brickbats - but would remind anonymous he has the chance to vote for me in KCC elections as I represent his area there. I am looking forward to working with James Maskell making sure Salmestone is better represented in the future. Indeed a vote is a vote. I won my KCC seat by around 60 votes, at least 50 of which I know were from disenchanted labour voters at both the national and local scenes. Clive Hart for Labour who also has a seat in this 2 seat division was 400 or so votes further ahead. Will be interesting to see if that holds up now people have seen him in action... or perhaps more accurately, self promotion.

James Maskell said...

Thanks anonymous. Interesting point about the importance of political parties in local government. It shouldnt matter at this level, but to some it does...its unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

Chris - I think and hope Clive Hart does retain and improve upon his vote share. There is nothing wrong with someone who is genuinely passionate about local affairs promoting himself. Let's face it, if his self promotion is successfull and it raises his profile, this can only be a good thing for those he represents.

Rather than bashing his style I think more people should take a leaf out of his book.

Chris Wells said...

Rather than get into a long drawn out debate about style and substance I withdraw the last sentance of my post of 6.22am. Clive always gets wound up if I dont mention its a 2 member seat and I should perhaps have stopped at that point.

Anonymous said...

Be careful with your comments Chris as Cllr Green seems to be in hot water over on 'Eastcliff Matters'! A touchy lot at TDC perhaps?

Chris Wells said...

Was not aware of that when I decided to change the last sentance. There is a sense of hysteria in the air, unusual for it to be rampant so early before an election. One might think that there is some desperation about some approaches to policy and truth. I am simply going to try and be less vituperative in what I say because of the hysteria everything will get blown out of proportion - and there are serious issues to be dealt with seriously which would progress better without the hype and half truth that so often surrounds anything that is said or written. I would imagine Cllr Greens troubles stem from 2 things : repeating accusations that he had explained to him as untrue; and allegations of deliberate approaches to avoid scrutiny and proper procedure, which he should now be called upon to prove. We'll see.

Chris Wells said...

Go for it, anon, just go for it....

Anonymous said...

What does:

Go for it, anon, just go for it....

mean?????? Must refer to a removed post.

Chris Wells said...

Sadly, yes it does. Perhaps Simon should remove that comment as well. it just confuses as it is

DrMoores said...

I realise it leaves a gap but I don't remove any post unless I really feel I have to. As always, I ask readers to show respect for others and their opinions and will remove posts containing bad language or contemptuous of offensive comments