Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Along for the Ride

In between some rather depressing local crime news, here's a little sunshine and music to remind us that summer is only six months away and Malaga is only £25 or less on EasyJet. I say Easyjet because the Seguro Holidays website which takes bookings for flights out of Manston appears to terminate on 31st October. I thought I'd take a look at what's on offer and was surprised when I hit a dead end.

An alternative way to spend a weekend I suppose, is shown below courtesy of the Spanish Air Force. It's amazing what can be achieved with several Stugeron anti-motion-sickness tablets and a small hand held video camera.

Suspects Caught by Armed Police

Thanet Extra reports that armed police have arrested four men in a swoop at a hotel in Ramsgate.

The raid on the Oak Hotel, on Harbour Parade, was a joint operation between Kent and Sussex police in connection with an armed robbery at a jeweller’s in Chichester.

The men they were hunting were guests at the hotel and armed police swooped at about 10.30am on Sunday.

The men are in custody but police are still hunting other suspects from the raid. The operation is continuing.

A New Initiative on Assaults Tested

A new initiative is being tested out in Thanet to try and get a more accurate picture of the number of assaults being committed.

It comes after research showed that only a quarter of violent assaults are ever reported to the police, which means that no-one knows the full picture of when and where assaults take place and who the victims and attackers are.

Now hospital and ambulance staff are helping assault victims complete a simple tick box questionnaire, which is designed to find out the scene, date and time of the crime, the nature of the injury, the victim's age, gender and race and the number and gender of the attackers. The questions will also try and find out whether the victim or the attackers had consumed any alcohol before the attack, as almost half of assaults are believed to be drink related.

The scheme was first developed by the Shepway Community Safety Partnership and is being backed by the Thanet Community Safety Partnership. Project Manager Nigel Cruttenden said: "Although this is about getting a true picture of the number of assaults in Thanet, let's remember that the chances of becoming a victim of assault are much less than you might think. Generally, you're more likely to be a victim if you're male, aged 16 to 24, under the influence of alcohol and out very late at night or early in the morning. This research will be really valuable to us in finding out whether these assaults are just 'one off' incidents or whether the victim has been attacked by the same person, or people, before. Only by getting the full picture of the level and types of assaults taking place in Thanet can we put measures in place to help tackle the problem. I'd ask everyone who is a victim of assault to help the emergency staff in filling out these questionnaires, as they will provide valuable information for us and will help our work in making Thanet a safer place to live and work."

Kent Police - Welcome for Partial Home Office Refund

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, has given a cautious welcome to the Home Secretary`s decision to give Kent Police at least a partial refund of the money that the County Force has spent in preparing reports in relation to Home Office proposals for police force mergers.

The MP,(one of the founding members of the Police and Parliament scheme) who has been campaigning in the Commons for the refund, said at Westminster this morning:

"The announcement that Kent police will get back from the Home Office £100,000 of the money spent fighting the aborted merger plans is of course wselcome.

This exercise has cost a very considerable amount of high-level police time and effort that could and should otherwise have been spent on law enforcement and the total cost of the work is estimated at nealy a quarter of a million pounds so this is clearly not a refund in full.

Nevertheless, some good will have come out of the study, which will assist in force re-organisation and in streamlining Kent Police as a flagship stand-alone strategic organisation.

Hopefully, Mike Fuller, the Chief Constable, and his team will now be able to put this behind them and get on with the very real task of delivering for the people of Kent the policing that is required to make and keep the County safe and lawful".

Gone to Blazes

One of our readers, Gina writes: "Just thought I would forward you the photo of my daughter's car which was fire-bombed in Essex Gardens Birchington on Wednesday last at 10.30pm.

There was no apparent motive for the attack but it mas malicious and personal, we cannot think of anyone who would do such a terrible thing. A brick was thrown through the car window and petrol poured inside the car, which was then ignited. The only reason we can think of is jealousy.

The car was my daughters 18th birthday present and she cherished it, needless to say she is extremely upset. Although insurance will pay out they never actually match the cost of replacement. Once again we lose out to mindless thugs....makes you want to move out of Birchington!"

Ed: Quite agree Gina. I had heard about this and its an awful example of how times have changed in Thanet, with thuggery escalating beyond more simple vandalism - keying a car - into far more serious crimes. What can I say? I'm sure that readers will feel just as angry as me at the damage done to your daughter's birthday present.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Little Surveillance

Interesting day at Rochester on Friday, with the airport turned into a filmset and closed to visiting traffic. They were busy making a film called "Surveillance", starring Simon Callow and others, where the plot involved stealing an aircraft in an attempt to leave the country.

Lot's of takes and 'derring-do' aerial chases, the internet and all that I'm sure, so I won't spoil it for you. It's due to be screened at next year's Cannes Film Festival.

I rather wondered, from this and the Ridley Scott production in June, where actress Keira Knightly was cast as as a lost pilot, how on earth they ever get these films finished, as so much time appears to be spent preparing for filming, standing around waiting for takes or sitting in the canteen.

That's show business for you I guess.

Broken Blogger

Blogger appears to be broken again. This seems to be happening quite frequently these days with the Blogger servers collapsing under the strain of several million weblogs, many of which are now based in Thanet.

If you can see this, then it's all working again; that's unless it fell over after publishing, which leaves me in a logical contradiction.

After Dark

Halloween is upon us and in the New Labour paradise in which we now live, the BBC reports that 1.7 million of us are frightened to venture out on the streets of Britain after dark. It's a sobering statistic and police are gearing up to deal with this annual product of the pumpkin marketing industry, by promising to issue £80 fines for anti-social behaviour. Finding the police walking the streets after dark might be more effective.

In fact Halloween here is unlike the Halloween I remember from living in the USA. There's a more provocative and unpleasant undercurrent, if you listen to the BBC news report, with the elderly in or on the fringes of large estates dreading the evening to come. I do wonder how many might actually have heart attacks brought on by the stress that comes with hearing marauding gangs of teenagers or "kidults" coming to the door and demanding "Trick or treat". The sad thing about it all is that it's an imposition and not an option. Business has decided that such a thing should exist and make money and has gone to considerable lengths to modify social behaviour in order to encourage a quasi-American perception of the "celebration." For those that would rather be left in peace, celebrate it as a friendly community effort for kids, or simply ignore it, can't, there's no opt-out where marauding pumpkins and hooded witches are concerned.

Watching Sky News interviewing solidiers in Iraq, I was struck by the comments that people at home "have a go" at them for what they're doing over there. We've lost too many of our people in this rather hopeless war, I would agree but the men and women of the armed forces are doing a thankless job and placing their lives on the line because it's their duty, not because they necessarily want to be shot at by the militia and the Taleban.

I recall years ago and when a very different enemy was involved, the Argentinians, that public support was high but as a soldier, if you wanted decent kit and even waterproof socks - very important in the Falkland Islands- , you had to do your shopping at Millets. Today, the personal shopping part is still largely true but when the troops are fighting in the most intense actions since the Korean war and you have well-reported incidents, such as a wounded soldier harangued in an NHS hospital ward, one wonders why some members of the public forget so easily that the armed services swear allegiance to the Queen and it's only an unhappy political coincidence that they happen to be the unfortunate but very brave instruments of a bungled foreign policy initiative in the Middle East.

Thanet Life

"Banana Dictatorship" - Gale's View

The Thanet North MP and former current affairs journalist Roger Gale, has accused the government of "banana dictatorship tactics" in its endeavour to deny Independent Television News journalists full facilities in Iraq.

Roger Gale said:

"I spoke with the editor of ITN earlier in the week when the dispute between ITN and the MoD first emerged and at that time it seemed hopeful that commonsense would prevail.

Tonight's news reports indicate that the government is determined to "punish" ITN for its audacity in daring to report the truth as its journalists perceive it.

British journalists have reported upon the war in Iraq with great determination and courage and at Prime Minister's Question time this week Blair shed what must now be seen as crocodile tears over the death of one such television journalist.

That reporters have found it necessary to cover what they have regarded as the plight of British servicemen returning to the UK to be treated for battle injuries is a matter of fact. That Blair and his apologists find this uncomfortable should be no excuse for employing the tactics of a banana dictatorship and for trying to deny ITN journalists in Iraq full reporting facilities. The suggestion that "British servicemen cannot have confidence in the reporting" is, frankly, offensive. Servicemen and women and the British public will no doubt choose to believe either the journalist's assessment of Iraq and its casualties or the view of the authors and publisher of the "dodgy dossier".

I have just returned from a Festival of Remembrance in Margate where we celebrated the memory of those who gave their lives to defend our liberties - the greatest of which must be freedom of speech. I feel that it ill-behoves those in high places, up to and including the Prime Minister, to seek to gag our reporters because they do not like the message."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Missing Canons - Anyone Seen Any?

Valuable 18th century bronze canons were stolen from the Powell Cotton museum in Birchington in what looks like a well organised raid involving a flat bed truck.

With each one weighing almost half a ton, a bit of history looks destined for the scrap metal merchant’s foundry.

Only in Thanet, one might think that villains are so desperate that they go after a museum’s guns but it’s no longer unusual. Remember the stolen Henry Moore sculpture?

Given some of the many valuable exhibits in the Powell Cotton museum, I wouldn’t be surprised if the crooks came back for something rather easier to carry in the future.

Thanet Life

Gale Attacks MOD Iraq Policy

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale has this morning attacked Government measures taken to limit ITN News Reporting from Iraq.

Speaking at Westminster the MP, a former radio and TV journalist and member of the NUJ said:

"ITN reporters have, in common with a number of BBC and other extremely brave reporters, sought to bring accurate and factual news from some of the most dangerous places in the world.

As part of that coverage ITV has quite properly sought to highlight the medical needs of injured members of our armed forces and the manner in which government is, on occasions, signally failing to meet those needs. (This is an issue that was also highlighted during an interview between John Humphreys and a military surgeon on the Today programme this week).

That this government is now seeking to "punish" ITN for reporting facts that may be unpalatable but that are of huge importance to service personnel, to their families and to the wider public, is outrageous.

Blair's government has a less-than-proud record of attempted media manipulation but this move, effectively censorship, is beyond the bounds of any acceptability.

The Prime Minister must acknowledge that he has no right to seek to exercise control over the media and his Secretary of State for Defence must immediately reinstate full facilities for and co-operation with ITN journalists"

Car Crashes at Police Station

A man died after his Mitsubishi car left the road and crashed into railings outside Margate police station at around 11.45pm on Tuesday.

The 50-year-old victim, who lived in the Margate area, died at the scene. He has not yet been named.

A 27-year-old Margate man who was a passenger in the car was treated at QEQM hospital for minor injuries.

A police spokesman said: "At 11.46pm a Mitsubishi car travelling uphill towards Cliftonville failed to negotiate a right hand bend, left the road, collided with metal railings and came to rest in a park."

Fort Hill was closed until about 5am while members of Kent Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit investigated the tragedy.

Could Do Better

In this year's performance tables, Kent Police rate a C+: Chief Constable Mike Fuller recognises the need to improve its performance in reducing crime and citizen focus, which are rated fair compared with other forces, but deteriorating compared with Kent's performance last year.

Out of Pocket

It's only a small shorfall: Kent is facing a staggering shortfall in funding for vital public services over the next ten years.

Consultants commissioned by Kent County Council estimate that based on the current levels of goverment grants and inflation rates, the authority faces a cumulative £1.2billion shortfall on what it needs to provide "essential services.

The Secret Policeman's Ball

Your home is no longer your castle:

From today, a new army of council tax inspectors will have the right to enter homes - and fine any householders up to £1000, for refusing to co-operate with the new council tax assessment. They will be able to exlore your home at will and take photographs of home improvements that could mean higher bills.

Britain takes another step on the road to becoming a police state but with none of the benefits!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Plot Thickens

The plot thickens and takes on the constituency of treacle! It appears that blogger, Eastcliff Richard has now collapsed into a state of paranoia, with a delusional theory that I, with the help of the BBC, set him up in an attempt to unmask him.

This conspiracy theory is up there with the best, little green men at Roswell and the gunmen on the grassy knoll.

The audio file in the original story - you can find below - strongly suggests that the self-proclaimed Ramsgate media millionaire is barely out of short trousers, one very good reason for remaining anonymous, one might think.

Perhaps I should offer a Thanet Life prize for the person who finally completes the jigsaw puzzle now steadily forming a picture of the real person behind the fantasy character.

Don't Drop It

The problem of litter is being tackled in Margate this week (Wednesday 25 October) as the next stage of the Thanet is Beautiful campaign gets underway.

The campaign, launched by Thanet Council in July, aims to show people how much there is to be proud of in Thanet, using beautiful images of the area, and warns people of the penalties they could face if they are caught dropping litter.

That message is being reinforced next week by Thanet Council’s team of Community Wardens, who will be out on patrol in Margate town centre, warning people who are seen dropping litter, dumping rubbish or allowing their dogs to foul. They’ll be told that they risk an £80 fine if they’re caught again.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Services, said: “We’re stepping up our campaign to remind people that Thanet is Beautiful and that they need to help us keep it that way by not dropping litter. This is a gentle and friendly reminder, but in the future, if anyone is seen dropping litter, they risk an on the spot fine of £80. Local people told us they wanted higher fines for anti-social behaviour and that’s why the fines have gone up now. It’s time the small minority of people who spoil our area in this way realised that the vast majority of our community are sick of their behaviour and want to see action being taken. That’s what today is all about.”

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, said: “People have told us that they want to see cleaner streets and that’s what the Council has been delivering since we brought the street cleaning and waste and recycling service back in house in April. But we can’t do it alone. If people continue to litter the area, then they will face tougher penalties. It’s the same as vandalism and graffiti, all issues that our Environmental Action Programme is continuing to tackle. The Council is doing everything it can, but we need the community’s help as well. It’s time we all worked together to keep Thanet beautiful.”

Ed: It's not just litter. The dog wardens are now in action and your hound poops at its peril. I watched one warden home in on a Spaniel in the twilight of Sunday evening. Do they have night vision goggles? £50 fine apparently!

Thanet Life

Westgate - It's the New Ramsgate

This story in property news caught my eye:

'The evolution of a premier new address': "The market is incredibly buoyant in Thanet with many Londoners now shunning Brighton as their commuter base or second home, in favour of coastal towns in Kent such as Margate and Westgate-on-Sea, which offer better value for money. According to statistics from BBC online, house prices in Thanet are already up by 8.8% from last year and the influx of purchasers with bigger budgets will undoubtedly push prices higher, so I would advise homebuyers looking for a luxury home that will continue to achieve this excellent level of capital appreciation, to buy now.”"

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Graffiti Arrests

A 19-year-old youth has been arrested for drawing graffiti on a wall in Tippledore Lane, Broadstairs last Wednesday.

The youth, from Broadstairs, will appear before magistrates at Margate on Tuesday, October 31, charged with causing criminal damage.

A second, 17-year-old Birchington boy was also arrested for drawing graffiti. He has been cautioned by police officers for causing criminal damage to a wall.

The pair were stopped in Tippledore Lane at about 3.30pm on Wednesday, October 18, by two Thanet council wardens who had been patrolling the area in response to reports from residents of people causing graffiti in the area.

The wardens contacted police officers, who arrived and arrested the man and boy on suspicion of causing criminal damage. "

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Way of the Sword

6th Dan Sensei Dave Ansell, Chief instructor of Shin Ichi Do Dojo and one of the Iaido Federation, grading officers, demonstrates at a seminar at Richard Obbard’s dojo in Broadstairs yesterday.


I've just discovered "Goggles", the Google Earth flight simulator. Starting it in London, you can recognise Hyde Park and then to fly off the Thanet if you like.

With flights from Manston to Virginia USA starting very soon, here's a service preview based on the successful local carrier, Yorkshire Airlines, operating from Leeds Bradford. Whether Kent International can add a similar 'local flavour' to the 'Thanet Experience' for our American guests remains to be seen but I'm sure we can rely on on our tourism experts to deliver!

Drive On

We’ve had our fair share of deaths and injuries on Thanet roads, caused by ‘foreign’ drivers. Some would argue rather more than our fair share too.

The Mail on Sunday reveals that: “Thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers are legally allowed to drive on our roads even though many would be incapable of passing a British driving test, safety campaigners have claimed.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander faced calls to end a legal loophole entitling people who have an overseas licence to drive in the UK for a year before taking a test.

Critics claim foreign licences are often bought on the black market in their country of origin or handed out after tests lasting as little as five minutes.

The Department for Transport denied foreign licences were a safety risk, adding: ‘We don't want people here for a short period of time to have to go through the process of getting a licence.’”

Fair enough?

Except that I have both a Saudi Arabian and a US driver's license to add to my UK license. The US license, from Florida, demanded a driving test and a multi-choice exam. Not as difficult as our own test but still formal and regulated.

Ironically, my Saudi license was earned differently. This was many years ago and in 'The Magic Kingdom' they demanded that foreigners all drive on a local license. The procedure was relatively simple.

1) Go to the hospital for a medical and an eye test with a copy of your national license.

- The doctor asks: “How are you feeling today Mr Moores?” I reply “Fine thank you.” “Good” he replies and signs my form, directing me on to the optician.

- Sitting me down, the optician asks me to read the lowest line on his wall chart. “It’s upside down” I tell him. “Very good” he says and directs me on to the police station as my next stop.

2) At the police station, I spend four hours in an Arab scrum before a donation of cash gets me my Saudi license. An official obligingly punches a whole through the photo on my US license, to prove he has seen it, making it completely useless in future.

Next stop, and some months later the Thanet Way.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Voice of Eastcliff Richard Revealed - Exclusive!

Is this the voice of Eastcliff Richard?

I was playing with some new software this morning and realised it could unscramble voices in the same way it can scramble them. So as an experiment, I ran the BBC 'Eastcliff Richard' weblog interview through it and this is what I got. A bigger mystery and not quite what I expected; ECR being rather younger than I thought.

Ed: The BBC tell me that the voice track is the one he sent them.

MP3 File

Gale's View - A Nice Day!

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has rejected five appeals against their decision not to authorise the NHS supply of Alzheimer's Drugs to patients in both the early and the late stages of the disease.

This is not a "Nice" decision. It is a decidedly nasty one! It is not based upon "clinical excellence" but upon cost. Although NICE agrees that the available drugs provide clinical benefits at all stages of the disease they say that the NHS, which of course wastes millions of pounds every year, cannot afford the £2.50 per day per patient that would give relief to the sufferer and to their carers - those who daily have to endure the condition with them.

I know that may of my constituents suffer from, or are caring for a loved relative that suffers from, this awful and debilitating disease that effects not only the individual but whole families. As one of my constituents - and no doubt there will be very many others - has already written to me:

"This decision is clear evidence of the continued and totally unacceptable discrimination against people suffering from one of the worst illnesses in the world".

Of course it is easy to special plead hardship cases for those suffering from a number of dreadful conditions and equally clearly there has to be a body responsible for ensuring that medicines do delver real value for money. In the case of the Alzheimer's drugs, however, it has been clearly demonstrated that the prevention or suppression of symptoms of aggression and other benefits has enabled husbands, wives and other carers to maintain families in the home without recourse to still more expensive residential care. It has also prevented the alternative prescription of sedatives that may cost as much or more as the drugs that NICE refuses to recommend.

NICE has not included, in its narrow assessment, the impact that treatment has upon cares and has not accurately represented the cost of long-term care in their economic model. As the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, said in the Commons debate on the NHS workforce and Service last week:

"Because of the nature of the regulations prescribed by the Government the benefits that NICE can take into account apply only to the National Health Service and to publicly funded social care. The benefit to carers and their families beyond that point cannot be taken into account".

Alzheimer's drugs do not offer a cure for dementia and they are not effective in all cases. But they have transformed the lives of thousands of people with dementia and the lives of their carers and I think that those of my constituents who daily face these problems need and deserve the best drugs that are available.

The Government is embarking upon yet another re-organisation of the structure of the Health service that will cost millions of pounds in redundancy payments, administrative costs, re-locations of Trust headquarters, new letterheads and the like. I believe that those that I represent feel that we have been through more than enough organisational turmoil in recent years and that much of this money would be better spent providing sharp-end healthcare in the form of the best available drugs for those who so desperately need them.

Seaside Hotspot

A couple who falsely claimed more than £2,000 in handouts are among a small army of cheats making Thanet a benefit fraud hotspot.

Tatum Cahill and Peter Bishop have been exposed by the Department for Work and Pensions but they are the tip of the iceberg. Benefit fraud being detected by Thanet council has also soared.

Benefit cheats have defrauded the taxpayer out of almost £300,000 in the six months between April and September. That's cash that should go to jobless and sick people.

People who suspect their neighbours or workmates of being ''on the take'' are being urged to make anonymous tip-offs to Thanet council's fraud investigation team."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Downhill Racer

While The Times reveals that drunkeness and rowdiness in neighbourhoods is causing increasing concern among the public - sounds familiar - with street crime and violent robbery continuing to rise, friends offered me two local stories this week.

The first witnessed a motorcyclist, a visitor to Thanet, knocked off his bike in Cliftonville, when a car driver opened his door, while driving, as the bike attempted to overtake him. The driver fled the scene, leaving the motorcyclist lying in the road. The police were informed.

The second, from St Peters, tells me that frequently drunken anti-social rowdiness from teenagers is a growing nuisance for residents.

Catching graffiti gangs is a good first step but there's a much wider problem it appears, just from listening to people's local stories of what's happening in their neighbourhoods and how anti social behaviour has changed dramatically over the last two or three years.

What's your view? Have the police got the situation under control by being more proactive - more speed traps I notice - or is Thanet steadily going downhill in regard to street crime?

Thanet Life

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Mixed Development

A group of MP's have been in Margate to look at the needs of coastal towns, as part of a major national inquiry.

The Select Committee from the Communities and Local Government department (previously the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) is considering whether coastal towns are getting the support and funding that they need and whether more regional initiatives are needed to help certain parts of the country.

The Inquiry has been taking oral and written evidence over the last few months and yesterday (Wednesday 18 October), some of the MP's on the Select Committee visited Margate to learn more about the barriers to successful regeneration. They also wanted to find out people's views on the current help available from regional and local government and whether there is a need for new initiatives to support towns like Margate.

During their visit, the MP's saw the development at the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital, Dreamland, the work undertaken by the community in Dalby Square, learnt more about the Council's work in the Cliftonville West Renewal Area and visited Droit House to hear about plans for Turner Contemporary. They also spoke to representatives from local organisations and young people about their views on Margate and its regeneration.

Leader of Thanet Council, Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel, said: "We wanted to highlight to the MP's that we have already done a lot in Margate and Thanet with the regeneration funding that we have received over the last few years, but there is still much to do. That was the message that we put across to the MP's and now we'll wait to see what recommendations they make and what action the government takes in response."

He added: "Continued funding from regional and national government is key to our aims of regenerating Margate. For example, money from the South East England Development Agency has already enabled us to purchase the former Marks and Spencer building, which is now being used for the latest Turner Contemporary exhibition and which will soon be the temporary home for the town's library. Eventually we'll be looking at a mixed use development at that site, to help bring people back to live in the town, along with modern retail space and commercial floor space. This is the sort of project that can make a real difference to the area and for that, we need government money to kick start the investment."

Gypo - The Movie

A new film, set in Thanet, it premiered at Edinburgh in 2005 to massive acclaim, and went on to pick up the British Independent Film Award gong for outstanding production. Less than a year later and the UK's only certified Dogme film is set to hit British screens.

According to the critics:

"For the first half hour Gypo is just exactly what you'd expect it to be - a dull, grim, worthy trawl through some fairly desperate existences in Margate."

Apparently it gets better so read on.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Good Kicking

A man was kneed in the groin when he tried to sexually assault a 16-year-old girl in an incident that took place in Cliftonville Mews, Cliftonville, near Margate, on Saturday, October 7.

The girl was walking through the area between 7.45pm-8pm when she was approached by the man who pushed her against a wall and assaulted her.

The girl responded, causing him to double over and giving her the chance to run away.

The attacker is described as white, about 6ft tall, of slim build, with cropped hair. He was wearing a dark T-shirt with Lonsdale in light-coloured writing on it and dark jogging bottoms. He smelt strongly of alcohol.

* Anyone who witnessed the incident, knows the identity of the man or has any information, is asked to contact PC Andy Eley at Margate police station on 01843 222074. "

Good Result

A bit of good news from the policing front at last. Seven teenagers were arrested after graffiti was scrawled on beach huts along Broadstairs seafront.

The youths, aged between 15 and 21, were detained late at night at Dumpton Gap by police who also seized spray-paint aerosols and other items.

Three 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old from Broadstairs and an 18-year-old from Margate were cautioned for causing criminal damage.

A sixth person, a 21-year-old from Broadstairs, was cautioned for having articles with intent to destroy/damage property. A 17-year-old Broadstairs boy was released without charge.

A police spokesman said: “We are currently running an operation in Thanet targeting criminal damage and graffiti, using various means.”

Thanet South Selects Cameron 'A' List Candidate

Thanet South Conservatives have selected Laura Sandys, one of David Cameron’s 'A list' candidates, as the constituency’s parliamentary hopeful to fight the next election.

Her selection makes her the first candidate in Kent to be adopted from Mr Cameron's elite list of candidates for one of the county's seven Conservative target seats.

Ms Sandys, 43, has been a political consultant for 15 years and was recently on the shortlist to succeed Michael Howard as the candidate for Folkestone and Hythe."

Her selection means that Mark MacGregor, who contested the seat in 2001 and 2005, will not have a third run at becoming an MP.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

MP Seeks Action on Inquests

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, is calling for action to speed up the inquests into the deaths of British service men and women killed on active service in Iraq and Iran.

In a specific question appearing on the Commons Order Paper today (for written answer tomorrow, 18th October) the MP asks the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs,

"When she expects the inquest into the death of Lieutenant Marc Lawrence, RN to commence".

Further questions, tabled for written answer next week, seek to probe the full extent of the number of inquests now outstanding and, following a Ministerial statement before the summer recess, what additional resources have been made available to and taken up by the Oxford coroner to expedite the hearings.

"My young constituent, Marc Lawrence, was killed in a Fleet Air Arm helicopter in March 2003" says the MP "and his body was recovered and flown to Brize Norton in June of the same year.

I appreciate that as all of the military bodies are flown into Oxfordshire this places a burden upon that Coroner's Office but this is something that a proud and caring nation ought to have made proper provision for. It is intolerable that grieving families are unable to bring closure upon an awful chapter in their lives because of bureaucratic delay. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence have a right to know how and why and where their son died, as do all of those other bereaved families.

There appears to be something of a "service personnel get killed in war" attitude about this that does not reflect the requirement of the day and age and circumstances in which we live but might rather suggest a government in denial of the questionable nature of its cause.

I hope that the earlier Ministerial statement will now be followed up with ministerial action"

Thanet Life

All About Photos

With all this fuss over a referee attempting to ban parents from taking photographs at a local Kent football match, I thought I'd help everyone get the facts of photography in a politically correct digital age.

Firstly the emphasis on the Protection of Children Act (1994) is on the distribution and storage of "Indecent" images and so taking school sports / school play 'snaps' would not fall into this category but many schools are being overzealous in their attempts to remove any risk of liability for absolutely anything these days.

The Information Commissioner has published a document that reveals the myths of the Data Protection Act (DPA) in regard to photography. You can find it here.

Basically, for most examples, there's nothing that prevents you taking photographs - e.g. football games, public events etc and as far as I can see, it's never been tested in court. It's only when images are stored in relation to identity, e.g student ID cards, that issues regarding to legislation, like the DPA come into force. But then I'm no lawyer. Best read the guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office!

Thanet Life

Monday, October 16, 2006

Law is Toothless - Official

I thought I would share this little gem of political correctness from the Daily Mail with you today:

"Police dogs are being muzzled to stop them biting and injuring suspected criminals.

Rather than biting suspects, the dogs have instead been trained to disable their targets by leaping at them and delivering a flying 'head-butt'."

Ed: Alsations are now very much out of favour and enter the new breed of toothless police dog on the left, trained to launch itself at fleeing criminals in an effort to trip them-up."

Thanet Life

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Margate Market - A Way to Keep the High Street Going?

Amy J. writes to tell us:

"I enclose a photo of Margate High Street on Friday afternoon with the market attracting the crowds. Reports are that the lower High Street has not been so busy in a long time. There have been suggestions that a regular market would help re-invigorate the lower High Street but of course traders already there paying expensive business rates and with high fixed costs would need to be consulted first. The coffee shops will be happy!"

Thanet Life

We're Oppressed Too

Irish travellers appear to be upset that they were not invited to take part in the filming of the "Margate Exodus", apparently because they are white and as a consequence feel discriminated against; or so the report in Kent on Sunday suggests.

It could however be because the producers didn't immediately think of them as being refugees in the same sense as say Rwandans, given that health, schooling and general state benefits are kinder here than they are in the Irish Republic.

What's your view?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Go Slow

Far too murky today, I'm afraid, to have taken any decent photographs. Next time perhaps. I did notice however how remarkably good the old Sea Bathing Hospital building in Westbrook now looks as the exterior renovation nears completion.

What looks like a complete mess at Dreamland, the remains, I think of the Margate Exodus set, I assume? It looks as if a bomb has hit the place from above.

Having struggled into Westwood Cross a little later with my daughter, I wonder how on earth it's going to cope at Christmas. I found myself going round and around for ages looking for a parking space, having crawled along the Margate Road.

While she shopped, I thought I'd get a coffee at Cafe Nero. I was still queuing when she came back and so gave up. The teenage staff there this afternoon wouldn't last five minutes working in a London cafe. Thanet has a visible pace of its own which I'm sure we all recognise.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Don't Look Up

I'll be floating about over Westgate tomorrow afternoon - Saturday - weather permitting, as Terence Painter Properties are running a Spanish homes property sale from their Westgate branch and Airads has been asked to help promote it from above.

Westgate Golf Club

As it's a relatively small area to patrol, I'll try and take more photos of Westgate for you to download if you wish. If your'e quick, you can send in some special requests and I'll see if I can oblige.

The photo above is of course Westgate Golf Club.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Northdown Farm Accident

One of our readers has sent in a story anonymously. He or she writes:

"Yesterday, morning an 18 year old new employee at one of the units at East Northdown Farm was crushed when heavy sheet steel fell on him. He had been left alone and reportedly without supervision to use a heavy metal cutting guilotine when the accident happened.

The unit is one of three units with planning permission for only B1 light industrial (suitable for a residential area), but which has been allegedly - according to the author - used for B2 heavy engineering for several years. Thanet District Council enforcement have acknowledged this breach of planning control but have to date failed to take any action.

Two paramedic vehicles, two ambulances, two police cars and a fire engine attended the scene. The air ambumlance was also called and attended. The Health and Saftey Executive were called by the Police and the unit was closed by the HSE because of the dangerous environment.

The young man in question was eventually taken to Margate Hospital by ambulance and is now recovering after suffering severe injuries to his arm. An HSE investigation continues."

Thanet Life

Web Cameron - What Do You Think?

Labour MP Sion Simon has posted a video spoofing Conservative leader David Cameron on the YouTube website. Do you think its funny or "a new low in British politics", in bad taste.

What do you think?

Talking of "You Tube", here's the other clip of the day that is causing a stir in the news. Soldiers "playing chicken" with a Hawker Harrier.

Thanet Life

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Royal Sands of Ramsgate

Work is set to start on a major leisure and retail development in Ramsgate, following the finalisation of a legal agreement.

The Royal Sands development, which will feature a quality hotel, retailing and housing, will be built on the former Pleasurama site on the town's seafront. The development agreement between Thanet Council, owners of the site and SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd. will see the leasehold being passed to the developers. The agreement also ensures that the hotel will be built and controls how the site will be developed, with different parts of the project due to be delivered by particular dates.

Council Leader, Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel, said: "This is a major step forward for Ramsgate and the whole Ramsgate Renaissance project, which will see the creation of a world class marina. The signing of this agreement gives us a quality hotel in an exceptional site on the town's seafront, along with new retailing and housing, which will increase what's on offer for both residents and visitors to Ramsgate.

This development is set to bring major benefits to the local economy, helping to bring more people into the town to live, work and visit.

Let's not forget that Ramsgate is regularly highlighted in the national press as the place to buy property and that can only be good news for the town, bringing in more inward investment and supporting local businesses."

He added: "This agreement has taken a long time to secure, but we had to ensure that we got it right before work started on the site. Having done that, we can now ensure that Ramsgate will get a new high quality hotel, which will provide much needed facilities for both visitors and local businesses. The Council has got the best value for money for taxpayers and we will get a quality development to benefit the whole area."

Work is set to start on site in spring 2007, with a projected completion date of 2010 and during this time, repairs to the cliff face by the site will be also undertaken by Thanet Council. Options for the roof treatment of the development will now be put together and presented to the Council's Planning department, who will be talking to the Eastcliff Residents' Association about the options put forward.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Shorter Life Expectancy in Thanet

Commenting on Thanet as a visible pocket of shorter life expectancy in contrast with the rest of Britain, Scott Gavin writes:

Featured on the BBC website today is a report on the findings from a two year health survey across the whole of the UK.

Some of the key highlights from the report are a that on whole we are living longer, more than a million of us have given up smoking in the last eight years and we are less likely to suffer an early death from cancer or heart disease.

However, looking at the results of official statisticians, you can clearly see which parts of the country rank lowest in life expectancy.  The reasons behind this are unclear, but the obvious candidates are lack of exercise and poor diet.

One startling thing for me was to see that although the south is on the whole healthier and living longer compared to the north, our very own part of East Kent ranks in the bottom end for the whole country.

This could be seen as an opportunity, or it could be seen as evidence of under funding from local government in promoting health and fitness and the provision of adequate sports facilities.

I think the timing of this report coincides well with the launch of PlayLocal in East Kent.  If nothing else, I hope this encourages people to pursue a healthier lifestyle and buck the worrying trend we are seeing for this part of the country.

Another Fatal Motorcycle Accident

Why, as I motorcyclist, the story below reveals why I fear the roads in Thanet, more than anyone else in the world, with the exception of Israel, Portugal and the Middle-east.

Incidentally, I had to abandon my motorcycle at Rochester station and take a train to London Victoria yeaterday, the traffic jam from the Medway bridge being so bad. If one can't get to London on a motorcycle, it suggests that its becoming pointless trying to drive anywhere anymore.

The Herne Bay Times reports that A 61-year-old car driver has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and drink driving following a fatal road traffic collision.

The tragedy happened on the A28 between the St Nicholas at Wade roundabout and Birchington on Sunday afternoon.

Kent Police say that at about 1.40pm a car and a Suzuki motorcycle collided on the Margate bound lanes of the A28.

A 34-year-old Thanet man riding the motorcycle died at the scene. His name has not yet been released.

The car driver, from Herne Bay, has been bailed until November 21 pending further enquiries.

Police close the A28 was closed until just before 8pm.

Thanet Life

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Full Moon - High Tide

Saturday's unusually large moon over Westgate. You may have noticed that the tide today, Sunday, was remarkably high and residents along Minnis Bay can count their blessings that the wind was relatively calm and from the south as the sea reached closer than I have ever seen it, to the top of the promenade at lunchtime today.

Thanet Life

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Police Enquiry

The local scandal of the police not responding to a 999 call from St Nicholas primary school has now reached the national papers.

The Daily Mail reports:

"An inquiry has been ordered after police failed to respond to five 999 calls from a primary school reporting an armed intruder.

The man broke into the school brandishing a lump of wood and threatened staff by telling them 'you're dead'. "

Thanet Life

Here Come the Talebin

Forget the veil but perhaps you might be inclined to join the ‘Talebin’ a new protest group worried about fortnightly rubbish collections?

The Daily Mail reports:

“Fortnightly rubbish collections are to be forced on millions of homeowners by a backdoor stealth campaign, it was revealed.

The cynical instructions on how to use stealth tactics and steamroller opposition have been put out on behalf of Environment Secretary David Miliband.

Town hall chiefs have been told to go ahead with ending weekly visits by the binmen in winter - so that the cold weather will keep the smell down.”

How would you feel about fortnightly bin collections if they came our way? Would you join the Talebin?

Thanet Life

Friday, October 06, 2006

Under the Veil

Should we support Jack Straw's comments on Moslem women wearing the veil or condemn them?

The Islamic Human Rights Commission called Mr Straw's views "astonishing" and accused him of discrimination

Is the veil a cultural statement, a political expression, a statement of devotion or perhaps all three and does it, as Mr Straw suggests, reinforce "separateness" in a British society already under cultural stress from its attempts to co-exist with Islam?

What do you think?

Add One More Margate Stabbing

A man was stabbed several times in the stomach and back during an incident in Margate on Thursday night.

Police were called to a fight, involving two groups of people, opposite the Salvation Army charity shop in Love Lane, Margate, just before 11pm.

The 35-year-old victim, who also suffered a broken leg, was bleeding significantly and paramedics initially treated his injuries as life threatening.

He was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital where his condition improved rapidly.

Police cordoned off the scene of the attack and investigations are continuing.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 01843 222192.

One More Armed Robbery in Thanet

One more armed robbery in Thanet this morning to add to the growing list. Can anyone remind me, which town or village hasn't had an armed robbery yet? It's a clue for our police, rather like joining-up the dots in a child's puzzle.

Police are hunting two men after a Securicor van was robbed outside the Lloyds TSB on Broadstairs High Street at around 11.45am when a people carrier with two people in it pulled up.

Police say a man wearing a balaclava and carrying a black handgun got out and robbed the guard of one of the cases. He then got back into the vehicle, which sped off towards the train station.

The people carrier was later found abandoned in Albert Street in the town.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 01843 222194 or Kent Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Play Local

Reader Scott Gavin writes:

“I just wanted to drop you a note to draw your attention to www.playlocal.co.uk which is a site created by myself and a work friend, for use by people who want to set-up or take part in fitness or sports activities. Whilst it is not Thanet specific, it does hail from Thanet and this is where I want to get as many people signed up from as possible, before releasing it further afield.

It's free to use and always will be. We just want to encourage people to get out and active, in as many ways as possible. Take a look at the about page for more info!”

A Touch of France

Mime artists, stilt walkers, roving musicians and acrobats will be spearheading a French invasion into Margate next weekend (Saturday 14 October).

The one day street festival is being put on by Thanet Council and links into Turner Contemporary’s Unité exhibition, which highlights the work of French artists.

Performers will be out in the High Street area between 10.30 am and 4.00 pm, with acts including Accordian player Anthony Bryan, silent clown Vinny, stilt walkers, Incadescence and French mime artist Mimbo. Human statues will also be out and there’ll be music from Douce Ambience and Oyster Opera, who’ll be on a musical walkabout and a roving Jazz band.

Locally based groups will be providing an opportunity for visitors to get involved with D’Expressions holding street dance workshops between 11.00 am and 12.00 pm and Art Monkeys holding pavement art workshops in the area around Boots between 10.30 am and 12.30 pm and 1.30 and 4.00 pm.

Work will also continue on the Margate Giant, with workshops taking place at Crate in Bilton Square, off Margate High Street between 1.00 and 4.00 pm. The workshops are being run by Strange Cargo, who have been commissioned by Turner Contemporary, with support from Thanet Council and the Maritime Heritage Trail.

Cllr. Roger Latchford, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, said: “This French festival is all about showcasing the great benefits that art can bring to an area. The Unité exhibition, being staged by Turner Contemporary over the next few months, is an excellent opportunity to bring performing artists, such as musicians and acrobats, into the centre of Margate. Not only will the festival help to boost the local economy, but it will give both local residents and visitors a first class event to enjoy. Traders in Margate have also told us that they’re keen to see more events being staged outside of the main summer season and we’re happy to deliver that with this French festival.”

A continental market is also being held on Thursday 12, Friday 13 and Saturday 14 October by the Margate Town Partnership in the lower half of Margate High Street, which will be closed to traffic.  

Hardly a Police State - No Police in Sight

You have to worry over the sorry state of local policing when you read this story from the Kentish Gazette. The fact that children may have been at risk and yet the police failed to respond in an efficient and adequate manner raises a number of very serious questions that should be of concern to the community in North Kent.

"A Head Teacher has slammed police for failing to respond when an aggressive man armed with a piece of wood got into his school and threatened to kill staff.

Stuart Pywell, who runs St Stephen’s Juniors in Canterbury, says he is appalled and angry that repeated emergency calls for help were ignored.

He said: "There were at least a dozen children and staff directly at risk yet no officer attended."

Mr Pywell has written to the Chief Constable Mike Fuller demanding an explanation and apology.

Mr Pywell says the drama happened last Wednesday afternoon when five young men were seen fighting with sticks and lumps of wood in the school grounds.

Staff dialled 999 and were assured a patrol was on its way.

But the situation worsened when one of the men, who they thought was fleeing the gang, managed to get into the school when a back door was opened."

Thanet Life

"Not the End of the CSA" - Gale's View

In the sweltering dog-days before the House of Commons rose for the summer recess two events took place.

The first, widely reported, was the "Not The End of the CSA" statement made by Secretary of State John Hutton. John Hutton is a decent and honest man but he has, I fear, made a pig’s ear out of a dog's breakfast!

We now know that those nine hundred thousand people who are either being required to pay money that they believe they do not owe or who are not receiving money to which they believe they are entitled, are to be left to flounder in the morass of an organisation that is dispirited, unloved and past its sell-by date. Many of these thousands appear, judging from my caseload, to live in North Thanet and they represent, in the Secretary of State's own words, "debts of over £3 billion with little prospect of recovery"!

Alongside these unfortunates a new breed of applicant will have claims handled by a "re-designed", as yet to be consulted upon and named, organisation that may or may not prove more able to more efficiently dispense more and fairer determinations. "This is not" says John Hutton "a re-badging exercise but a fundamental change" . The jury may, I suspect, be out for a very long time.

The other, much less-publicised but potentially still more far reaching and disruptive, event was the second reading of the Government's Welfare Bill.

This Bill (John Hutton again, poor man) "sets a new direction of travel for our welfare system" that "marks a major shift away from the established orthodoxy which has always treated functional limitations as automatically disqualifying people from the world of work".

In plain English that means that " we are no longer prepared to accept the fact that because you are disabled you cannot go out and get a job and we have to pay you benefit."

There are many people currently drawing incapacity benefit who would indeed welcome the opportunity to get back into better-paid employment and there is much that can and should be done to assist them. I will support any legislation that properly sets out to provide that assistance and to bring about that end.

I fear, though, that hidden in the fine print of the "transformed medical assessment" to which claimants will be subjected lies the desire to exclude people from what will be known as "the support group" and to reduce benefit paid without a corresponding investment in opportunity for those that wish to and are able to take at least some kind of work. When John Hutton says that "it is not our intention to be punitive as we develop these approaches" I believe him. Sadly, though, when it comes to the interpretation of legislation, particularly by those with little or no medical qualification, injustices are all too likely to occur.

Retrospective legislation (like the Child Support Agency that interfered with existing agreements reached in courts of law) almost invariably ends in tears. Whatever arrangements, under the provisions of the Bill, are made for new claimants it is by no means clear how and when those already in receipt of incapacity and other related benefits will be invited, allowed or compelled to "migrate" (to use the jargon) to the new system. The debate before the recess did not make clear whether or not Members of Parliament will, in due course, face a flood of complaints from claimants who have faced cuts in benefit arising from the provisions of the bill.

The Secretary of State appears to have said that existing benefit levels will be protected. However strong the desire to remove fraudulent claimants from the system we need to know that that is so. If vulnerable people find that they are losing out we shall have the makings of another legislative disaster on our hands, so there is much work to be done and many undertakings to be sought, during the committee and report stages of this bill in this autumn.

Thanet Life

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fishy Story

One of Britain’s most curious sand art drawings will be taking place at Broadstairs’ Viking Bay on Saturday 14th October.

This year, the Thanet Coast Project’s Big Draw project has linked up with environmental artist Paul Goodrick to lead on the creation of ‘a line of fish’.  Each fish will be made lying tail to mouth, and as more are created to join the shoal, they will be seen to gradually swim their way across the whole of the bay!  

Each person, family or group, can make one fish and then more if they like. The making process will start at 10.30 a.m. at the southern end of the beach on the wet sand below the high tide mark, underneath the clock tower, and then make their way towards the harbour.

Tony Child, Thanet Coast Project Manager, said: “I hope that we may inspire many people to come along and join in this fun event.  During the morning, the line of fish will grow as more join the shoal and they migrate across the full width of the bay! Our sandy bays are fantastic for this type of event and are ideal for showing the beauty of our coastline.  There’s also a more serious side behind this – as we hope to raise awareness of the wildlife that we do not usually see, because they are usually hidden within our seas. Our fishermen and shore anglers may often see our live local fish, but the rest of us may not until it reaches our plate covered in batter and usually accompanied by chips!  It’s still one of the most defining meals in the UK and, as consumers, we can chose the types of fish that we eat.  We can help by choosing fish that come from well-managed and sustainable stocks.

“People who would like to take part will need to bring along a ‘garden spade’ or similar implement and wear old shoes and clothes for the beach and weather conditions on the day.  People can sign in, and after a quick introduction, we will gradually spread out in sequence along the shore line, moving forward as we create our fish.”

Customers Matter

Quite coincidentally, a publication I occasionally write for, eGov monitor, has picked up a Thanet story:

“Customers Matter – that’s the message from Thanet Council in a new initiative, which will see those in charge of services heading “back to the floor”.

As part of National Customer Service week, which runs from Monday 2 – Friday 6 October, Cabinet Members, who are responsible for services at the Council, will be finding out what life is like at the sharp end for the Council’s team of officers.”

Read on:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

England Wins - Thanks to Thanet

England have won the World Junior Tae Kwon-Do Championships for the first time - and it's all thanks to Thanet.

Thanet students from Master Wolf's Academies were responsible for six of the ten individual and team gold medals won by England en route to the title in Melbourne, Australia.

Thanet Life

200,000 Impressions Later

I notice that the website just ran past 200,000 this afternoon and triggered my semi-retirement as a consequence. Call it ‘Gardening leave’ if you like. Thank you for all your support and I will keep it going but posting rather more occasionally than you've been used to.

If you wish to contribute your own stories, photos and news, then it’s all welcome as I rather like the idea of this continuing as a collective newspaper than a single ‘Blog’.

Thanet Life

Hammer Mayhem in St Peters

Following-on from my request for reader ‘contributions’ to keep the weblog rolling, here’s a first, I hope, from Amy Jones – Thanks Amy:

"Last night a friend of mine who lives in Northdown Road, St Peters was woken at 1.00 am by the police to be told that a gang of young yobs wending their way from the Co-op in St Peters back towards the 'estate' off Westover Road had included his car window in the trail of mindless damage they were leaving behind them. Cars by St Peters Co-op, the bus shelter and cars 'en-route' had received the 'hammer treatment' as did the telephone box in Beacon Road by the bike shop. The police proudly told my friend that they had recovered the hammer. His thoughts are that a little bit of preventive policing might be more appropriate than reactive policing.

I have yet to tell him that whilst this gang were causing 'Hammer Mayhem' in St Peters, less than a mile away, no less than four police cars and eight police officers were sitting in the lay-by on Ramsgate Road by B&Q , stopping cars and ostensibly checking for 'insurance' and no doubt sniffing hard for alcohol on breath. Quite clearly our local police have different priorities to local people's priorities!"

Ed: Probably a traffic unit, which a comment on an earlier story suggested don’t ‘Do policing’ as we know it but focus on traffic offences instead. Very useful but we could do with more of the other type of police persons that “Do yobs” instead.

Incidentally, the average speed cameras have been reportedly turned on as you negotiate the A2 roadworks into London, quite a distraction and a worry if you are driving. A review of the Government's speed cameras policy was demanded yesterday after official statistics showed that only five per cent of crashes are caused by drivers breaking the speed limit.

Thanet Life