Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gale's View - More Sports Facilities Needed.

If a local church (Holy Trinity, Northdown) can raise £1.4million to build a superb community centre then surely a County of the size and importance of Kent can generate sufficient funds to provide decent sporting facilities for its young athletes?

I raise this because we have, in both Herne Bay and Margate, exceptionally talented young swimmers that need and deserve the opportunity to train in an accessible Olympic-standard 50-metre pool. At present they have to travel far afield - even to Lille in France - to gain access to competition standard water. The University of Kent, the Amateur Swimming Associations preferred option as a venue, has land available but other priorities for the increasing fees and funding that it receives from State and students.

In Maidstone, I am told, there is a club with a demand for high-quality diving facilities. They too are denied the opportunity to train under championship conditions

The Canterbury coastal strip is bereft of adequate field sports provision and the Sports Hall on Herne Bay Pier, home of the Country's only international standard roller hockey club, is past its sell-by date and needs replacement. It needs replacement not with a shed at the back of the town but with a modern and purpose-built arena that can accommodate spectators and welcome visiting European teams.

In Margate, the Hartsdown Swimming Pool and Sports Halls are nearing the end of their natural life and the other Thanet swimming pools are ripe for upgrading. Would some of the most socially deprived young people in the South of England not benefit from the chance to burn off their excess energies through participation in high-level competitive sport?

I am quite certain that a similar situation prevails throughout much of the County and, to a large extent, throughout the South East. (The K2 Centre at Crawley in Sussex is excellent but beyond the geographical reach of many trying to combine sports with education or employment.)

We are told that, as a nation, we are becoming obese. The chances of producing the next generation of Thorpes and Thompsons and Davies and Holmes are, unless we get off our backsides and start delivering, remote. Either we are serious about the Olympic Games that Seb Coe and his team worked so hard to deliver or we might as well flog the project to France, let the Parisians pick up the tab and kiss thoughts of gold medals goodbye. Compared with the opportunities to train that are available, for most sportsmen and women participating in most athletic disciplines just across the Channel, what we have to offer, not just in Kent but nationally, ought to be a source of whatever sense of shame we have left.

In 1998, before this Government passed a new Lottery Act, Sport received £397 million from the National Lottery Fund. With millions siphoned off into the Big Lottery Fund to pay for costs otherwise and properly met through taxation by Central Government the money paid into sport has been cut by a third to, last year, only £264 million.

Kent County Council is, we are assured, committed to maximising the benefit, for its residents, of the 2012 Olympics. Like the County, however, our more local city and district authorities have been short-changed by central Government and are strapped for cash. That should not be an excuse for throwing in the towel.

We can either sit back and wring our hands and let nothing happen or we can develop a comprehensive plan and then set out to raise, from business and public subscription, through bequests and through every grant, however pitiful that we can acquire, the funds to bring those plans to fruition. To do that will, of course, require the active and determined support of the KCC and of local authorities that sometimes seem more dedicated to generating sedentary facilities than venues for sporting activity. It will also require the commitment of all of our sporting clubs and the people of the County and it will require a sense of vision.

We are faced with either an insoluble problem or a golden opportunity. The question is, do we have the will and the desire to participate and to win or will we prefer to sit on the sidelines as pathetic spectators and watch as the world overtakes us in the fast lane? That question needs an answer now, because time is running out.

Don't Breathe In

Just in from collecting the 'New Look" 2007 design for the Airads aircraft and I had to catch the train from Herne Bay station, where the kids were quite openly smoking cannabis on the platform at teatime. Pointing this out to the station master as he walked past me through the cloud of smoke drifting across the tracks, he replied that there was no point challenging them as he'd only get abuse in return.

I'm sure he's right but if teenagers believe they can smoke dope openly and freely in a public place what, I wonder, comes next? Perhaps I'm just old fashioned?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ramsgate FC Raises Money for Memorial Fund

A mixture of veteran Ramsgate players, along with some of the current 1st team squad, helped raise a total of £801 for the Jessica Smith-Bellem Memorial Fund at a match played at Southwood last Monday (27th November).Jessica was the 10 year old daughter of St Luke’s assistant manager Sam Bellem. She was tragically killed in a road accident in September in Canterbury.

As well as seeing Belmonte Bowmanor Thanet Sunday League Division One St Luke's face up to Ryman Premier regulars Ollie and Warren Schulz, Liam Morris, Stuart Vahid, James Gregory, Shane Suter and Chris May (in goal and out on the field), the crowd were subjected to other treats in the Ramsgate XI including assistant manager Danny Ward scoring a goal, Vice-Chairman Paul Jefcoate and his son Josh, Ada Hubbard (on the pitch without a medical bag), Nathan Jefferys, Aaron Perry, and legend Mark Harrop.

The final score was 7-1 to Ramsgate, including a Vahid hat-trick, and everyone packed the clubhouse after the game to see who had won the various raffle prizes donated by a number of people.

Sam was overwhelmed at the generosity shown. “I would like to thank everyone who attended the game and many thanks to Ramsgate FC, especially Jim and Danny Ward, Vic Todd, Arran Ayres, Martin Able and the players who took part. Ramsgate opponents for the evening, Paul and Anita Taylor and all the players of St Lukes Football Club. Finally a thank you to the match officials who donated their match fees.”

Tough on Dumping - Tough on the Causes of Dumping

Tougher action is being taken in Cliftonville West by the Renewal Area team to tackle the problem of dumped rubbish.

In the last month, five property owners have been threatened with legal action if they fail to remove rubbish from their front gardens, following complaints from local residents.

Four have now responded to the threat of Statutory Notices and have removed the rubbish. In the one remaining case, the Renewal Area team are proceeding with legal action against the property owner.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said:

“Local people living in the Cliftonville West Renewal Area have told us that dumped rubbish is a major problem in the area. It’s something that our Renewal Area team have been working on for some time, but it’s become obvious that simply asking people to deal with the problem on their own doorstep is not enough in some cases. Where people fail to respond to requests, the Council will not shy away from taking legal action and that’s exactly the line that the Renewal Area team are now going down. This should send out a strong warning to anyone who’s got dumped rubbish in their front gardens – that the community and the Council are not prepared to tolerate this sort of behaviour any longer.

If you don’t want to have legal action taken against you by the Renewal Area team, the message is simple – clean up your act or face the prospect of tough action to force you to do so.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Passports - Tighter Security Means Delays - MP

Tighter controls over the issuing of new British Passports will mean delay and inconvenience for applicants, says North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale.

Speaking following a Commons briefing for MPs given by the Executive Director of the new Identity and Passport Service (IPS) , Bernard Herdan, the MP said at Westminster:

"The price that we are all going to have to pay, in time, for enhanced security and the safeguards against identity theft will be measured in more time taken to process applications and a need to travel to IPS centres for individual interviews.

With effect from the second quarter of 2007 every first-time adult (over the age of 16) applicant will have to be subjected to tighter checks on biographical details and a personal interview before a passport issued and the 5-day fast-track passport will cease for all first time applicants. Interviews will be by appointment only at a time and a location that will, insofar as is possible, suit the circumstances of the applicant.

At present the closest Interview Offices for my constituents in North Thanet are planned to be in Dover and Maidstone. (I have today written to the IPS to suggest that there should be an additional location in East Kent) and all offices are required to be open on at least two days of each week, one of which days must be a Saturday.

The process will take up to six weeks from start to finish - so those planning holidays and student travel for the latter part of next year will need to allow plenty of time to ensure that passports are received in good time.

With the introduction of "biometric enrolment" and the addition of fingerprints to passports in 2009/2010 every renewal will be subjected to the same process as existing passports time-expire. The service expects some 600,000 first-time applicants in the first year - about 1000 for each parliamentary constituency - and will have to interview an estimated 6.5 million people a year from 2009/2010. That is a very tall order indeed!

I have established that although from 2009/2010 all fast-track and 1-day passport renewals will be phased out there will be an emergency service to provide for the issue of a restricted passport in cases of family bereavement and other very exceptional circumstances.

A huge number of people are going to be adversely affected by the need to remove from the system a relatively small number of fraudsters but this is the cost of a world facing a terrorist threat and the requirement to enable law-abiding people to travel freely between countries. Unwelcome - but sadly a reflection of the world in which we now live"

Watch Out

Beware, it appears - now confirmed - that Kent police are using civilian operators in Thanet to operate the mobile speed camera van, frequently to be found concealed at the edge of the dual carriageway from Westgate in Birchington.

The legal issue of civilian operators being employed to catch motorists was supposed to have been explored in court last week I think, but I can't find the result yet.

There appears to be a loophole in the law that makes it illegal and motorist groups had raised a challenge.

The downside of this is that as a society - and I've just spoken to Kent Police - we know very well what "Trained operators" implies in real terms to the motorist encountering parking attendants and clamping companies on an everyday basis. The police don't operate a commission arrangement for police officers involved in everyday law-enforcement but one wonders what the motivation is for a trained civilian contractor with a radar gun? Was he or she "visible" to the public and wearing a yellow jacket or is it warmer inside the van I wonder. Can we trust the integrity, accuracy and the calibration of all civilian radar gun operators in the same way that we share absolute confidence in our police and London parking attendants to follow the rules?

You tell me?

Vive La Revolution

Good news for the Revolution Skate Park in a news release this morning:

"Thanet’s young skaters can look forward to years of fun after a deal - 25 year deal with 5 yearly reviews - was signed between Revolution Skatepark and Thanet Community Development Trust to secure its future.

A five year deal was brokered by Cllr Chris Wells after it was feared during the summer that the park might close. Cllr Wells said, “After many hours of individual discussion, and a number of meetings exploring every possible avenue, an agreement has been reached that everyone is happy with”.

Dan Chapman, owner of the Skatepark, expressed his delight at achieving a long term lease and greater order to the outdoor arena. The length of the lease makes investment in the park both more likely and more cost effective. Skaters can look forward to new and more exciting challenges, our future plans are very big, the sky’s the limit now – the next 5 years are about evolution as well as Revolution”. Mr Chapman would like to thank everyone who has helped and supported the Skatepark over this time.

Keith Single of Thanet Community Development Trust said, 'we’re delighted to have been able to play our part in keeping a Skatepark in Thanet; Chris Wells’ help was invaluable but the youngsters are the real winners.'

Cllr Wells said, 'When people stop me in Broadstairs High Street now I can finally smile and say, yes it’s secure. Revolution is staying, and I know they will smile at a job well done'."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rising Sea Levels

If you hadn't already noticed: Britain's coasts and oceans are being changed for ever by rising sea levels, bigger waves and stronger storms, a government report will warn this week.

Just a look at the beach at St Mildred's Bay - now more bowl shaped - and the tidal range along the Thanet coast have convinced me that something's up.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Political Hit & Run - Any Witnesses Please?

A story from one of our readers:

"On Sunday last (19th November) a silver BMW hit the North Thanet Conservative Office in Birchington, "(The Forge) and did significant damage to the building.

There is a crack from floor to ceiling on the outside of the building and the gas meter was shunted forward on the inside. Nearly a week later there has been no crime report number, no visit from the police to survey the damage and no questions asked by our 'boys in blue'. It would be fair to say that they have no interest in one of the oldest buildings in Birchington (300 or more years old) being significantly damaged by a hit and run driver.

One of the local councillors saw the offending vehicle in the road outside the Forge at 8.45 pm but did not see the damage done to the building so did not connect it. It wasn't until the following morning when I called him and he recalled what he had seen.

The police have not asked him for a statement.

The Conservation Department of TDC have been out (within two days) to observe the damage. There is upwards of £5,000.00 damage done, the corner of the building will have to be knocked down and rebuilt and this is the local MP's office !! Who is to say it wasn't a deliberate act, but then, if the police don't care, why would anyone else?

I thought perhaps you would like to run the story, after all, someone knows who the silver BMW belongs to. I have the smashed headlight glass if the owner would care to call in at the office to collect it!"

Friday, November 24, 2006

One More Stabbing - Police Seek Witnesses

This site is increasingly looking like a catalogue of local crime and it's not meant to be that way.

Two teenage boys have been charged in connection with a serious assault in Love Lane, Margate, on October 5th.

A 16-year-old from Ramsgate and a 14-year-old from Margate are accused of causing grievous bodily harm with intent following an attack on a 35-year-old Margate man who suffered stab wounds and a broken leg during a fight between two groups of people.

A 17-year-old Ramsgate girl was also arrested on Thursday but she has been released without charge.

Police are apealing for the occupants of a car that stopped at the scene of the attack to come forward.

DS Claire Munday said: 'During the assault a car stopped next to the group fighting and the occupants told the group to leave the victim alone before driving off.'

Another Margate Rapist

Another Margate Rapist Goes Down: "An Asylum seeker who raped a young mother has been sentenced under public protection provisions because he poses a significant and high risk of harm to women.

Both the men involved were recommended for deportation and will be on the sex offenders register for life while in the UK.

Ed: What's the bet they'll be with us forever because they'll be oppressed if we deport them back where they came from?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Late Tackle

It’s been a little quiet here this week; I’ve been up in London chairing the “Tackling Organised Crime” conference and now I’m trying to type this on a lurching train, somewhere near Faversham.

I’m not joking when I tell you that the train was delayed because a car hit a bridge near Rochester, again, the second time this has happened to me in our journeys. Let’s not forget the fallen tree this summer too. The railways, bless them!

The state of organised crime in this country is now sufficient to leave anyone feeling depressed, I’ve heard from the SOCA, the Met, HMRC and several senior officers from the regions and it is, I think, time to look for that retirement home in Canada or New Zealand. The police appear equally unhappy at the game of political football being played by the Home Office with a possible rival for No10 incumbent and the lack of resource and funding that goes with. Government not taking organised crime as seriously as it should in their opinon.

You maybe pleased to know, that among other statistics, the influence of Jamaican ‘Yardie’ gangs is just about everywhere in England barring Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Essex! Kent and with it, Thanet was included on the map. Apparently the only reason that the Yardies aren’t in a handful of places is the energetic defense of ‘home grown’ gangs.

Another statistic for you, beyond the billions lost to VAT ‘Carousel Fraud’, gangs in city secondary schools are becoming a significant problem with children as young as 12 being recruited in a phenomenon that you would normally associate with Los Angeles and of course, violence and the gun culture goes with this.

I could write rather more but the confidential nature of some of the briefings means that I can’t share anything that is not in the public domain. Let’s just say that Thanet for all its anti-social problems with vandalism and hoodies is still much better off than Shepherds Bush. That reminds, next time you drive along the ‘Westway’ towards Hangar Lane watch out for cars swerving into yours. The contrived accident fraud is costing insurance companies millions with some popular hotspots. Some gangs can clear £100,000 a day in insurance claims involving fake accidents involving more than one driver; i.e. one car forces you into the second and speeds off, leaving you to think it’s a simple accident. Very often it isn’t.

It’s the new industrial scale and reach of organised crime which is so worrying and it occurs to me that it’s on a parallel to fighting the Taliban in Pakistan. We can keep on shooting and bombing until we run out of ammunition and they’ll keep on coming with no shortage of recruits and of course a bumper opium harvest to fund the attacks.

Is there a solution or perhaps a few words of comfort from what I’ve heard this week? I’m afraid not. It’s the ‘Red Queen Principle” from Alice in Wonderland. Anyone involved in fighting organised crime has to run as fast as he possibly can, simply to stand still. Perhaps we should simply tax it and like Northern Ireland, offer some of it’s best operators a seat at the table.

What do you think?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Call Time for Challenging Late Night Pints

Challenge the brewery and lose your house!: One to read today, given growing opposition to late night drinking and the problems that go with it.

A group of pensioners faces financial devastation after daring to object to their local pub opening into the early hours.

In a landmark case which threatens to stamp out any opposition to late night drinking, a pub giant is demanding £29,000 legal costs from four elderly residents who complained about their plans. "

Friday, November 17, 2006

Knife Attack Robber Hunted

Police have released an e-fit image of a man they would like to speak to in connection with an incident in which a 78-year-old man was robbed at knife-point.

The victim parked his car behind his home in Hertford Street, Ramsgate, at about 6.55pm on Tuesday, October 24 and was confronted by a man holding a knife demanding money.

He handed over the coins in his pocket, which totalled about £5, but the robber demanded notes. The man ran off towards Queens Street.

The robber is described as white, in his early to mid 30s, about 5ft 10in tall, of medium build, with stubble on his face. He was wearing a short blue coat with a hood, which was pulled up tight around his face, and white trainers.

Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to contact Det Con Sara Jackson at Margate police station on 01843 222069.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Animal Welfare

A 17-year-old boy admitted killing a hedgehog by kicking it more than 20 feet into the air and throwing it several times.

Leo Curtis was given a 10-month referral order and ordered to pay £500 costs.

The incident, which took place in Dunstan Avenue Westgate, involved Curtis reportedly 'showing off in front of his friends' and was described by the RSPCA as 'a despicable act of cruelty'.

Ed: This summer I was out with my daughter when I saw three Westgate teenagers attempting to beat a young seagull to death with a stick. Unfortunately a polite request wasn't understood but a little more colourful intervention saved the bird. What surprises me is that with so many animal welfare programmes on television is how the incidence of reported animal cruelty is rising so rapidly, according to RSPCA records.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Undead

The Queen's speech to Parliament today left me feeling rather less than optimistic about the future, with a battery of new criminal justice measures to try and plug the gaps left by almost a decade of failed and failing initiatives aimed at tackling terrorism, criminal and anti-social behaviour.

Next week, I'm chairing the "Tackling Organised Crime" Congress and ID cards are bound to be on the agenda. The debate over whether these will work - much like wheelie bins in Thanet - rages on but to give an idea of the level of fraud being encountered in the UK, in 2005 CIFAS , the fraud prevention service, undertook a data matching exercises for a number of different agencies, the DWP, DVLA, HMRC and the then UKPAS to check how many of the addresses on their files were also on the CIFAS files as being associated with identifed fraud cases. The “average” match expected by CIFAS was 2 - 4%. That found was over 20%.

“Deceased Persons” Fraud has increased ten fold over the past five years (from 8,000 to 80,000 cases and is costing the Financial Services industry approximately £340 million (and therefore the UK’s Treasury £100 million in lost Corporation Tax).

Some comfort then, to think that when you shuffle off some person may well re-appear with your name, that's if they aren't using it already.

My advice, for what it's worth, visit and check your credit rating, just to make sure that your'e alive and well and not supporting someone else's credit card application.

Youths and Yobs

Sounds familiar to Thanet residents:

According to today's Times Newspaper, "No group has received so much government attention in recent years as the loutish minority. In September, the Downing Street Strategy Unit calculated that roughly a million youths and their parents were costing up to £250,000 a year per family in terms of the crime they cause, the state benefits they receive and the prosecutions undertaken against them.

The Government is spending billions of pounds a year trying to prevent or tackle problems associated with such people, who make up about 2.5 per cent of the population. There is a pressing financial need to sort them out, apart from the obvious moral imperative. "

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

From the Hart - A Little Local Nostalgia

Cllr Clive Hart Writes:

"When I was a teenager, Margate was host to a star act every single week of every single year. I really was a lucky kid!

This is a true story that brought back all those wonderful memories.

Margate was designed to foster entertainment!

One Friday evening in the late 90’s I was watching Top of the Pops when on came Whitney Houston. I can’t remember which song she sang but it was one of her softer numbers and she sang it superbly. When she finished I said to myself ‘beat that’. Then a beautiful young girl from Wolverhampton hit the stage and sang Greatest Day. Now I remember that song clearly but not Whitney’s. Beverley Knight sang her heart out on TV and won me over for life!

So just imagine how delighted I was to see this young lady performing live here in Margate on Monday evening.

She hit the stage running with a stream of magic hits and a voice so powerful it shook the cliffs either side of Winter Gardens. Slower numbers such as 'Gold', 'Sista Sista' and 'Shoulda Woulda Coulda' followed and the audience was simply spellbound by the dynamic range of Ms. Knight’s incredible voice.

She ended her main set with my original favourite ‘Greatest Day’ and by this time absolutely everyone in the ballroom was dancing.

Then, just when the audience thought it was all over, the magnificent venue exploded with light and sound into another string of hits for the mind-blowing finale!

This was what the Winter Gardens main hall was built for – a crucible to showcase true British talent and there is no talent in Britain with more energy than the wonderful Beverley Knight.

It really was – just like the old days!"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hidden Entrance

A different kind of 'graffiti' has appeared on the promenade at Grenham Bay in Birchington. This is however much more in the way of art than the scrawled tags alongside it and inevitably, I suppose, the spray paint that will inevitably deface it.

I don't know who did it but in contrast to the teenage mess between Westgate and Birchington, I prefer this kind of original and rather imaginative art any day.

Does anyone know more?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bit of a Fix

If you need your home computer to be fixed don't go to PC World's repair centre, a new report has warned.

Consumer magazine Computing Which? carried out an undercover investigation of independent and major stores that offer a computer repair service"

In the report, Computing Which? advised its readers not to go to PC World if they need to get their computer repaired. The magazine's editor said: "We think that they [PC World] should overhaul their training – they could learn a lot from independent retailers."

PC World can you fix it? :

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Jam Busters

Husky 3

One solution to beating the Westwood Cross morning traffic jam can be seen in this photo. Dog food is still cheaper than diesel - Just!

Watch out for the TDC dog wardens though.

Keeping Thanet Tidy

Thanet Council's team of Community Wardens have been out and about across Thanet warning people not to drop litter and asking them to help keep Thanet beautiful.

Successful days in Margate, Cliftonville and Broadstairs have seen a total of more than 50 people receive warnings. All picked up their litter after being asked by the Wardens, so none were issued with fines, but they were warned that fines are being increased to £80 and if they drop litter again, they risk being fined.

The initiative is part of the Thanet is Beautiful campaign, launched in July, which aims to remind people how much there is to be proud of in the area, while warning them of the penalties for dropping litter.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: "Our Community Wardens are playing a valuable role in helping to get the message across to the minority who still insist on dropping litter in our streets. The warnings that were given out made people very aware that if they persist in this behaviour, then they will end up getting fined. Our residents have told us that they're not prepared to tolerate people dropping litter, dumping rubbish or allowing their dogs to foul and that's why we're increasing the level of fines for those who continue to do these things."

The Community Wardens will be in Ramsgate next week and will also be on the trail of persistent bloggers.

Fake Hit & Run Assault - Police Appeal for Witnesses

A motorist was attacked after going to the aid of a fake hit-and-run victim.

The 35-year-old driver was pulling out of the Murco service station in Hereson Road, Ramsgate, when the incident happened.

He was flagged down by a young man who pointed to his friend lying by the roadside and said he had been knocked down by a car that sped off.

He asked the driver, from Broadstairs, if he had a mobile telephone and could help. When the man got out of the car to ring the police, he was grabbed and his arms were forced up behind his back. He was then punched in the face.

Police say he struggled with his assailants who grabbed, then dropped, his telephone. During the fight he headbutted two of them. He said there were more than eight young men aged between 18 and 25 involved.

They ran off along St Andrew’s Road opposite the petrol station and into Ramsgate cemetery.

The victim, who reported the incident later that day to police, suffered a quarter inch cut above his right eye in the struggle.

Any information about the attempted robbery that happened on Friday, November 3, between 5.45am and 5.50am should be given to PC Andy Eley on 01843 222074.

The Turner Report

Swept Away: Worries that a multi-million pound art gallery could be swept away by a freak storm lay behind Kent County Council’s decision to scrap the Turner Centre, a long-awaited report has revealed.

But while the report sets out some details of what went wrong and catalogues a series of problems and wrangles over the design, it omits to say how much senior county councillors knew about design changes that meant costs spiralled from £18million to £39million in a matter of just months.

Pizza Rapist Jailed

A Threat to the Public :

29-year-old Margate pizza delivery driver and asylum-seeker Qadar Hazarmeshe who carried out three sex attacks has been jailed by a crown court judge.

The Afghanistan-born man was given an indeterminate jail sentence after a judge at Canterbury Crown Court ruled that he posed a “significant risk” to the public."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Say No to 0870

CS writes:

"I don't know if this is something you might like your site visitors to know?

I am on one of these systems (not talk talk) that I pay a fixed fee for all telephone calls and broadband charges. However if I dial 0845 or an 087... number I am charged an additional fee. There is a website that gives an alternative number. i.e. Southern Water: is 0845 272 0845 I am charged for this call however if I dial 01903 264444 I don't get charged for the call.

Hope this is of help."

Ed: Thanks CS. I'm sure this has been given a mention - the cost of charges - once before here. It's all part of a shameful racket by companies to squeeze even more money from their so-called customers for the privilege of what should be called 'Customer service' and plainly is not in many cases.

Nash Road Homes

One of our readers, David C. writes:

"You may care to know that on driving past Star Lane this weekend I notice that next to the proposed new development which would appear on the L/H side, on the R/H side (corner of Nash Road & Star Lane) the site there (former factory) has been acquired by Abbey New Homes. I haven’t noticed any other blogs pick this up yet."

Ed: By the way, Figures released in Nationwide Building Society’s House Price Survey for Outer South East England, show house prices up 5.2% for the year, the fastest rate of growth in the region since the first quarter of 2005. Growing infrastructure such as road and rail links and the promise of the high-speed rail link between Ebsfleet and Stratford continue to benefit the region, with house prices in Thanet in particular up a remarkable 15% this year, well above the rest of the region or the national average of 6.9%.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Big Bang

City View

Two days of stunning November weather, with high pressure sitting over the country. This is the view of London's 'Docklands' early on Saturday morning, on the way out to Turweston, just West of Silverstone.

Expect lots of fog around on Sunday as a consequence of the Guy Fawkes fireworks celebrations. The carbon particles in the air will hold the moisture and unless the wind increases from the predicted overnight calm, we'll have perfect conditions for post-fireworks fog.

November 6th is commonly one of the foggiest mornings of the year.

The Rising Cost of Energy

Energy bills reach £1,000: A report in today's Daily Express, focusing on British Gas, says:"Customers’ biggest beefs were allegedly inaccurate bills and British Gas’s failure to respond to inquiries" .

I was startled by the massive jump in my own standing order to British Gas, when the winter estimate arrived last week, even though I had taken advantage of their two year price protection scheme. It took me a long time to get through on the phone to their customer service line and when I did get through, the girl couldn't help. Apparently another department does the estimates and I have to wait until the middle of this month for a second letter which will give the details of the last six month's usage and their "Winter" projection, which triggered the rise in the standing order.

Not only is this grossly inefficient, it's worrying too. Energy bills appear to have more than doubled in the last year. The average gas bill is now £510.60 per year, while electricity is £453.24. Many customers are paying more. The painful hikes over thelast twelve months have only compounded earlier misery. Gas prices have almost doubled in three years, while electricity has gone up by around two-thirds.

If the Winter cold snap arrives at the end of this month as predicted, then the most vulnerable elderly people will surely suffer because they won't be able to afford to heat their homes or wait three months for a government heating allowance to appear.

It's even more scandalous when you hear that: "Last month Britain was so awash with gas that traders were forced to pay to get it taken off their hands. "

Friday, November 03, 2006

Council Considers Job Cuts

Council considers job cuts: icKent reports that Thanet Council is considering cuts to highly-paid staff to avoid a council tax hike.

Documents leaked to the Isle of Thanet Gazette show chief executive Richard Samuel is considering cutting two posts to save £100,000.

A review of managers at the authority began in the summer, in a bid to save cash and ''streamline'' the council.

The chief executive has drawn up a seven-page consultation document which includes seven options for change.

The proposals include axing at least one of the three directors, thought to be earning more than £70,000 each."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ramsgate Result In

Postal ballot papers, sent to nearly 29,000 homes in the unparished area of Ramsgate, asking if ‘they want a Parish Council for Ramsgate’ have been counted.

The referendum, which asked the question “Do you want a Parish Council for Ramsgate”, had been organised in response to a petition presented to Thanet District Council, calling for the creation of a Parish Council for the non-parish areas of Ramsgate.

Nearly 12,000 ballot papers were returned to Thanet District Council, which amounted to a turnout of 41.06%. The count, which took place over two days, revealed 58.47% in favour of a Parish council and 40.8% against.

Those who were eligible to take part in the referendum were those who were registered to vote on 1 September in the following wards:
• Central Harbour
• Cliffsend and Pegwell (excluding the existing Cliffsend Parish Council area)
• Eastcliff
• Nethercourt
• Newington
• Northwood
• Sir Moses Montefiore

The next steps of the referendum will be the presentation of report to a meeting of Full Council later this month (Thursday 23 November) with a recommendation that a report setting out Thanet District Council’s position on the creation of a Parish Council for Ramsgate be submitted to the Secretary of State.

Gale's View - Rural England Faces Meltdown

Be concerned. Be very concerned. Rural England faces meltdown.

We do not think much of our farmers, do we? Even here, in the Garden of England, surrounded by fields of potatoes and cauliflowers, orchards full of apples, top fruit and soft fruit and the occasional lamb or cow the fact is that most of us live on the coastal strip or in urban clusters. We work in offices and shops and schools and hospitals and there are more "Chelsea Tractors" in towns than there are of the real thing off the road and on the land.

Very few of us, these days, are left to "plough the fields and scatter" so they aren't worth a lot of votes and they get scant attention from the majority and, therefore, from politicians.

We do, though, care about animal welfare and thousands of us go fishing and walking and cycling and we expect our green and pleasant land to be there for us, with streams stocked with trout and sparkling in the sun, a landscape stuffed full of quaint cottages and tea rooms serving scones and cream, dry stone walls and neat hedgerows and fluffy things bouncing around in the sunshine.

Forget it! Unless there is a dramatic re-think and a Treasury U-turn all that could be a thing of the past.

The Department of Food & Rural affairs (DEFRA) has had its budget cut by a massive two hundred million pounds. Cynics say that this is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, putting a warning shot across DEFRA`s David Miliband to remind the boy-Minister not to stand against him in the tussle for the keys to 10 Downing Street. Others say that DEFRA is simply profligate and needs its sails trimmed.

Either way, we lose. The Agencies responsible for flood defences and for maintaining our rivers and our pathways and our landscapes are now suddenly deprived of cash. And there will be significant cuts in the State Veterinary Service.

The SVS needs to expand, not shrink. Avian Flu remains a very real threat, particularly if the EU ends its ban on the sale of wild-caught birds as some mad Brussels bureaucrats would wish. Foot & Mouth Disease is not a distant memory. Equine Flu and other horse-diseases are all too easily imported. Bovine Tuberculosis is the most serious current threat facing livestock. And there is the small matter of the transport of live animals and the welfare of those beasts in addition to the policing of the pet passport scheme and other necessary regulatory controls over live and dead meat.

The chaos that is the Single Farm Payment scheme has already led farmers to bankruptcy and even suicide as late payments cause cash flow problems. Those caring for livestock do not have the money to pay for veterinary call-out fees and medicines to treat animals that, at market value, may be worth less than the cost of that treatment.

While the former head of the Rural Payments Agency (Blair's instrument for "managing" the payments) continues to draw his salary on "gardening leave" the new Minister responsible, Lord Rooker, tells Members of Parliament that there is no quick fix, that he will not make promises about when our farmers will get their money and that it "is all the fault of the computer"!. Which means that we can expect that more farmers will go to the wall.

As we gather for harvest festivals we need to remember that all is not safely gathered in. Unless we, in the towns, are prepared to take a stand for rural England the produce laid at the foot of the altar will, before long, all be imported and our Cattle and our Sheep and our Pigs and our poultry will be suffering from disease in a manner that most can only begin to imagine.

Urban Britain needs to wake up and start shouting before it is too late.

Gimme an ASBO

The Times newspaper reports that yobs want an ASBO as a badge of honour : "Half of antisocial behaviour orders are breached by teenagers, who regard them as a “badge of honour” among their friends, according to a critical report published today. "

I recall the same thing was written here months ago, when commenting on the record one of our local ASBO 'celebrities' in Cliftonville and I did notice this week, a second lad, whose face has appeared in the local paper, in Westgate with a friend, hanging around outside one of the childrens homes; leading me to wonder what he was up to this far west.

His photo was published partly as a warning to local people and I wonder if the result only makes anyone who sees him now, a little paranoid. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

As Xmas Approaches So Do The Scams

Beware of this fraud which is reportedly circulating locally:

The Trading Standards Office are asking people to be aware of the following scam:-

A card is posted through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to contact them on 0306 6611911 (a premium rate number).

DO NOT call this number, as this is a mail scam originating from Belize.

If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £15 for the phone call.

If you do receive a card with these details then please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 02072396655 or ICSTIS (the premium rate service regulator) at:-

or your local trading standards office. This is a genuine scam and is under investigation by ICSTIS.

Ed: £15 seems a little high - I think it's probably £1.50 looking at another user comment. Given ICSTIS track record on such matters, I doubt the fraudsters are particularly worried.

North Wind - High Tide

A dramatic view of St Mildred's Bay this morning, as the North wind, drove the high tide up over the promenade with a force that one rarely sees. Lot's of people pausing to take a look at the waves washing over the sea wall.

Other photos in the set can be found here for download if you wish.