Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More Mast Fuss

I see that the Ursuline College phone mast story appeared in the Thanet Times yesterday and since I last wrote about the subject - below - , North Thanet MP, Roger Gale, has emailed me to tell me that he "Has written to the Council on behalf of St Angelas and the Ursuline opposing the plan on both health and (more constructively) road safety grounds. I have also met with Hutchison /3G personally to explain my concerns to them."

Add this, to a comment from an old friend who was head of the Radio Telecommunications Agency, who describes placing phone masts in school grounds as "crass", then we have, what I believe is a local tide of support against the idea.

The problem is now one of planning as government doesn't recognise any health-risk objection. Local councils, as you know, have their hands tied by central government where planning regulations are concerned, so I'm trying to ascertain what valid objections might lead to a compromise that would keep everyone happy.

Just to recap, Ursuline Head teacher Sister Alice Montgomery is fighting plans by Hutchinson 3G to put a mast outside the school on Canterbury Road, Westgate.

Sister Alice, 55, dubbed it 'madness', adding: "Experts simply do not know enough about the technology. It has the potential to harm young people. We have 1,000 children here and King Ethelbert school next door also has 1,000 walking past the site every day. If the worst happens, trying to prove someone's health is linked to a mast is virtually impossible.

The Shape of Things to Come

You can feel the cold wind coming.

The Institute for Fiscal studies reports that "Since Gordon Brown became Chancellor 10 years ago the total rise in tax revenue has been £40 billion or £1,300 per family".

The independent institute predicts that Gordon's "First years as prime minister" will see not only the "tightest squeeze on spending" for a decade but also increases in taxes; a 10 billion increase in the tax burden a £10 billion cut in public spending.

At 2006/07 prices, Mr Brown is reportedly spending £22 billion more than Kenneth Clarke did in the last Conservative administration, but raising £31 billion more in tax, leading to him borrowing £9 billion less and bringing public sector net debt £80 billion lower than under the Tories.

So if we want to see even more "Guardian" non-jobs, like "Diversity Awareness Officer" on £30,000 a year, we are going to have to pay dearly for them in future.

Chances are I'm told that we may see a General Election in March 2008 to try and leverage the UKIP vote - unhappiness with Europe - at the expense of the Conservatives as the best chance of keeping Labour and possibly Gordon in power, so the real pain for us all in terms of taxation may not come until after this date.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Measuring Outcomes

With local elections in May, some readers might be interested in the "Conservative approach to improving public services" and David Cameron has just popped-up with a speech on the subject. The salient sentence is I think this one: "In place of targets that measure processes, a focus on objectives that measure outcomes."

Mind you, given week after week of bad news from the public sector surrounding both the Home Office and the Health Service the poor old voter might be forgiven for wondering if the mess we now find ourselves in can be resolved within the space of any one Government's term of office?

Improving public services

"No Minister"

"Dr Ladyman is a victim of his own Government’s broken promises on Disability Facilities Grants", says Laura Sandys, The Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for South Thanet.

“I feel sorry for Dr Ladyman" adds Laura, "Having stuck his neck out for disability facilities grants, he has found that he has been let down by his own Government. He gave clear and very specific reassurances to Thanet District Council that the Government would match to the tune of 60%, the funds that the council allocated for these important investments – and then was betrayed at the last moment."

"Our local council came up trumps with a 100% increase in grant monies totalling £400,000. They responded to the needs of the residents despite very tight budgets. But where is the Government when the people of Thanet need them…

Either Ladyman has been ignored by is own Government or he took his eye off the ball. Whatever the reason, it is the people of Thanet who are being subjected to yet more broken promises and dashed expectations with only £478,000 provided for the most needy.

Having had a disabled father myself I know how important these grants are. It is the families who live with disability across Thanet who will feel abandoned at the last moment by our MP’s Government!"

Ed: The caption in Russian reads, "New Thanet - New Labour."

What's your view on the disability debate? Has Dr Ladyman been hung out to dry and has TDC been short changed?

All Stop

According to the news this morning, 30% of the windmills in the giant windmill farm out to sea opposite Whitstable, have broken down. Given that windmills farms are only 24% efficient when all the windmills are working, can somebody complete the puzzle and tell me how productive and cost-effective the Whitstable Flats array is and what contribution this makes to the national energy policy?

It also begs a second question, If 30% have broken down at Whitstable, how many are likely to break down in the new array to be built opposite Ramsgate?

Hard Labour?

A nice story from Chaz Jones with the strong underlying message, "Dont' jump to conclusions when you see groups of teenagers."

"While driving to the airport to work on Saturday morning, I spotted a group of about a dozen young people, working on the edge of the fields by the Manston Road up near the junction by Reclamet. They have been out doing something along the Manston Road field verge for several weeks. There always appeared to be adults with them, and a couple of cars.

I have assumed for the last few months that this bunch of yobs were paying their debt to society with some good old fashioned hard labour, and smiled at their discomfort!

Yesteday, having finished by late morning, I went home via Reclamet, to collect a tyre for my sons kerb bounced metro. As I rounded the corner, there was this bunch of 'yobs' again. What I saw however was them, with the adults, all laughing! Curiosity then got the better of me, and I went back to ask them who they were, and what they were doing.

It turns out that these, NICE, young people are indeed doing Community service, not for the courts, but for their Duke of Edinburgh's award badge! They were planting a hedgerow, sponsored by Quex Park estates, and have planted some 1500 plants since November. They have in fact planted a hedge and trees all the way from the Reclamet corner down to Shottendane Road over the last 2 years, as well as other sites all over the rest of the area.

The adults were teachers who run the Award and the youngsters were from several local schools and colleges. They have been going for ten years, have planted nearly 20,000 plants, and go under the name of the 'Trees for Thanet' group. They proudly showed me their group's badge stuck onto the side of their trailer.

I told them who I thought they were, and it appears, they think that everyone else thinks that as well! So, next time any of your readers are driving along the Manston Road, and see a bunch of kids on their knees, give them a 'toot' and a cheery wave. This bunch of kids are good ones, giving up their time for a worthwhile cause, and also trying to make Thanet a nicer place to live in."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Public Service

Sorry, been out, watching Swindon Town at home, quite literally from above, followed by a 70 minute run back into Manston in the dark. Did I miss anything?

The Thanet Times seem set to pick up the story surrounding the Ursuline phone mast on Tuesday. I see that the council responded very quickly to my own email objection, as a letter of acknowledgement was waiting when I arrived home this evening; an indicator perhaps of why Thanet Council's customer service rating has suddenly rocketed following a recent audit. Do you remember how dismal it was a year or so ago, well of late it's visibly improving from where I'm sitting.

On another note, Cllr. Tomlinson spotted my earlier note that the skip in the St Mildred's Bay car park was filled with waste paper beyond overflowing and immediately arranged for it to be taken away and the surrounding area tidied. There's true "public service" for you and thank you councillor!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Big Bird Comes to Margate

A cautionary tale that might encourage you to keep your pets inside, because a rare giant vulture with a wing span of more than 11ft has been spotted in the skies above Thanet.

The rare white-backed vulture, a native of Africa, is believed to have escaped after being bred in captivity and no, it's not perched on the Nayland Rock Hotel in Margate, before you ask!

Any reported sightings to the RSPB please and if it carries of your pet, please let me know.

A Shortage of Porridge

Watching today’s news with a second paedophile released on to the streets by an Exeter judge because of the lack of prison places, I’m wondering what the point of having a non-existent deterrent is?

The Sunday Times revealed last week that most burglars aren’t now jailed but 100% of community charge objectors – normally old age pensioners are. This week, it seems that it’s OK to be a paedophile because there’s no room at the inn, or even the 'nick'.

In the end, one’s left thinking what’s the point of it all, why is nobody ever responsible for anything anymore and why, when we’re paying more taxes than ever, we can’t have a criminal justice system that’s fit for purpose or even the needs of a small and disorganised central African state!

Answers on a postcard please!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Westgate Watch

There's been some speculation over the alleged permanent presence of a police car in Lymington road, Westgate.

Reader, 'Westgate Watch' who sends in this picture, tells us that "It was the same spot again today, from 10.55 when I came home, to at least 11.50 when I went out again. No one seems to ever see the occupant, but it always parks in the same place! Unless it is a new remote control car that gets about by itself! "

"I would not mind", he adds, "if the occupant got out and had a wander about, it might help with all the recent vandalism in the area. But it would appear to be a courtesy stop every duty day. Not very proactive policing! "

So is this an invisible beat officer or something even more hi-tech. Does anyone know the answer to Westgate Watch's question?

Ten Cars Destroyed

Police are appealing for information after vandals damaged and burned more than 10 cars in a single attack at a tower block

They struck in the early hours in the second-storey residents’ car park at Arlington House, Margate, causing damage estimated at thousands of pounds.

Firefighters and police were called and on arrival discovered a Suzuki Vitara, a Ford Fiesta and a Daihatsu 4WD burning. Other cars parked near the burning vehicles were badly damaged by the fires. A witness said one of the cars exploded.

Police say 11 cars had their door locks forced. Of those, six suffered fire damage from being set alight or being near one of the burning cars.

Police are looking for four men aged between 18 and 20 who were in the car park about two hours before the fires.

They would also like to speak to another man seen in the area, who is described as white, about 5ft 8in tall, slim and with short black hair. He wore a white polo shirt and blue jeans.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Det Sgt Tristan Kluibenschadl at Margate police station on 01843 222195."

Indecent Assault on 12-year-old Girl

Police are seeking witnesses to an indecent assault on a 12-year-old girl by a group of young boys.

Police say the incident happened after the schoolgirl got off a bus between 7.15pm and 8pm at the Bellevue pub at Cliftonville, Margate, on Sunday, January 21.

She walked down Northdown Road toward Prices Avenue where she saw a group of boys, aged between nine and 12.

A police spkesman said: 'She acknowledged the group and kept walking to the junction of Northdown Road and Prices Avenue where one of the boys caught up with her, spoke to her and pulled her toward him. The boy then touched the girl.

'She pushed him away, at which point a second boy tried to cuddle and touch her.'

Anyone who saw the incident is asked to contact Det Sgt Claire Munday at Margate police station on 01843 222066. "

Criminal Gangs in Schools

I think I may have mentioned this after I chaired the 'Tackling Organised Crime' conference at the end of last year. I don't think it's a problem on our immediate doorstep but at the conference, one Assistant Chief Constable described this as a major inner city problem now getting worse and the gangs are spreading farther afield; i.e. you will find the Jamaican Yardies operating in Kent now.

The Times reports these gangs are using children as young as nine to run messages between members and act as drug mules, parents were told last night.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said that the problem had been identified in Birmingham, Manchester and London, where gang activity outside schools had started to enter them. Urgent action was needed, he said, before it spread and became a “genuine worry” for parents and pupils."

The police will tell you that it's much much worse than the government is admitting!

Criminal gangs in schools:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Don't You Oppress Me!

There are times, with this country going downhill so rapidly, that I rather wonder if I'm living on the permanent set of Monty Python's 'Life of Brian'.

Am I delusional or do others feel the same about politics and political correctness in a world gone barmy?

After all, what have the Romans ever done for Thanet?

When the Going Gets Tough

A new zero tolerance approach to environmental problems in Cliftonville West is already paying dividends.

In the past fortnight, five property owners have been issued with Fixed Penalty Notices, requiring them to clear their drains within 48 hours.

All five landlords, none of whom live locally, responded to the Notices and cleared the drains in less than 24 hours.

Had the owners failed to carry out the work in the required time, the Council would have cleared the drains and then sent a bill for the work and officers' time to the landlords of the properties involved.

Failure to pay any bill could result in a charge being put by the Council on the property.

It's the first time that the Council's Renewal Area team have issued Fixed Penalty Notices as a first step, without a warning letter being sent out first and it's an approach they will now be using for problems such as dumped rubbish.

In a second story of the council taking action, the manager of a takeaway in Margate has been fined £1,000 for selling hot food without a licence after 11pm in what's believed to be the first case of its kind in Kent. Ahmet Tasliyurt of Northdown Road pleaded guilty by letter at Thanet Magistrates Court to the charge of providing late night refreshments without a Premises Licence.

This comes after officers from Thanet District Council's licensing team visited CJ in Northdown Road on 16 November 2006 and noticed a sign on the door, stating that the premises were open from 3pm to midnight. The officers explained that selling hot food after 11pm without a Premises Licence was an offence and Mr. Tasliyurt stated that his solicitor was dealing with this.

In December 2006, officers returned to the premises and witnessed people buying hot food after midnight. When asked to produce a copy of the Premises Licence, the Licensing Officer was told that Mr. Tasliyurt's solicitors were dealing with the matter. Mr. Tasliyurt was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £100 costs.

Adoption - Gale backs Churches over Issue of Conscience

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, has this (Wednesday) morning publicly expressed his support for the position taken by the Catholic and Anglican churches over the subject of the adoption of children by homosexual and lesbian partners.

In a statement the MP has said:

"While every person in this country is subject to the law as enacted by parliament it must, surely, also be right for those wishing to do so to be able to adhere to articles of faith that are important to them. I believe that we, in parliament, have a clear duty not to discriminate against established and deeply held religious convictions in precisely the same way that we should not discriminate upon grounds of race, disability, age or sexuality. This is a difficult judgement but we are here to take difficult decisions and we should not allow one group`s "rights" to prevail exclusively against another. In this instance there is no question of prohibition because there are alternatives for adoption through other than faith agencies and we should be bold enough to acknowledge that fact and grant the requested derogations".

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gang Trouble in Broadstairs

Reportedly Police were drafted into Broadstairs after a tip-off thugs were planning trouble in town.

More than 15 extra officers, joined by British Transport Police flooded the railway station and town to prevent what police described as 'sinister intentions'.

A public disorder unit with marked vehicles, officers, police dogs and Thanet Eyes, a mobile CCTV camera toured the town last Friday evening.

Supt Joanna Young said: "An officer received information late on Friday that large groups of youths were planning to visit Broadstairs with an intention of fighting.

"We acted quickly to deter disorder and remind those intent on causing trouble that it won't be tolerated. Broadstairs is a pleasant place to visit but occasionally people visit the town with sinister intentions."

When Two Cows...

With few of us any having any really good suggestions on how to improve the economy here is a short lesson in economic theory explained using cows:

Socialism: You have two cows, and you give one to your neighbour

Communism: You have two cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

Fascism: You have two cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

Nazism: You have two cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

Bureacratism: You have two cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, then throws the milk away.

Traditional Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

Now for the teaser question. Which cow will you vote for in the next election?

Behind the Mast - Part 2 - Protest Required

Apparently the Ursuline College are against the planning application for a mobile telephone mast outside the school and have asked for help in challenging the application: TL/TH/07/0009.

Sister Alice Montgomery, the Headmistress has asked if concerned residents and parents would write to Thanet District Council's Development Controls Section (PO Box 9) Cecil Street, Margate, CT9 1XZ or email Planning Services with their objection within the 21 days before the application closes.

Don't forget to give your address or any objection won't be valid.

I'm emailing first, would anyone care to join me?

Simply cut and paste the text below into your email to the planning section.

Dear Sir

I wish to register my objection to the plans to position a phone mast in the Canterbury road Westgate outside the Ursuline College. Your reference TL/TH/07/0009.


Yours faithfully.

Name & Address.

French Windows

One of our Broadstairs readers tells me that he's come across a new way for developers to play fast and loose with the planning process that demands new buildings (blocks of flats etc) have off-street parking provided.

In his busy road, just off the High Street, he says a house has been knocked down and a new 'block of flats' is going to be built around what remains of the previous house's 'French windows.' Apparently this counts as 'refurbishment' of the building and releases the developer from the regulations governing the provision of parking, even though the new building will have rather more floors than its predecessor.

Does anyone know more about this and is it indeed a recipe for greater and more rapid building blight in the area?

In fact, the other day I was flying a photographer around Herne Bay, where several fields adjacent to the Thanet Way and the railway line are marked for concrete expansion. It's a shame, Herne Bay is relentlessly growing towards Canterburyy.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Behind the Mast

With a brand new, gleaming ticket machine outside Westgate station, the young lady in the ticket office gives it a week to survive the elements and the local hoodies. I'm inclined to agree with her but we can "open a book" on the odds of its survival past the end of the month if you like!

Regular reader Amy ask:

If we really want mobile phones mast outside each of the Westgate secondary schools?

"Hutchinson 3G(UK ltd) has made an application (TH/07/0009) for prior approval for a 15m high telecomms mast to be erected close to the exit of Ursuline College on the verge, yes, the verge of Canterbury Road between the pavement and King Ethelbert School's boundary.

Hundreds of pupils pass within feet of this spot daily and it is a waiting area for the bus stop. The jury is still out concerning the effects of strong electro-magnetic radiation on young people in particular and it does seem the height of folly to even consider putting a mast in this location. Sources tell me that Headteachers at King Ethelbert's and Ursuline are uniting to mobilise objections.

Presumably this verge is KCC owned? I hope parents of pupils at both schools and Westgate residents will tackle their KCC and Thanet Councillors over this matter. The public has until 29 January to lodge complaints and Councillors have until 5 February. I find it hard to believe that any-one would dream of putting a mast in such a place but it is reported that Hutchinson has a number of such applications lodged with TDC for various sites along The Canterbury Road from Birchington to Westbrook."

Who agrees with Amy?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Get Viper

Of course, when we got to the Big Brother house, Channel 4 had other ideas as the clip suggests....!

(Now there's 8mb internet speed running off the Thanet exchanges, good internet TV speed is now a reality.)

Newsround

No shortage of controversial news this weekend, outside Thanet at least.

We have a Met police officer describing Surrey police, where he lives as being unfit for purpose as they can't be bothered to turn up to deal with complaints of vandalism. Where I have I heard that before?

Cherie Blair takes the Cabinet Secretary to task over No10 'perks' being her 'human right' under EU legislation. She should know as an EU HR lawyer but she's done rather well out of the last ten years.

At the passing-out of a new batch of police constables, one young woman refuses to shake the hand of Sir Ian Blair. Why? Because he's a man and she's.. well we won't go down that road for sensible minority, cultural and religious reasons but it does rather raise questions over her professional ability to tackle male offenders and I sense a worrying discrimination case looming before she finishes her probationary year. Would you agree?

What else? Gordon Brown, who now reportedly believes he will be the next PM, plans to (Defence) review the future of the Red Arrows and by all accounts they are toast if he has his way with the budget. So best get some final photos of the boys at this year's Thanet Air Show, it could be their last flyby unless public opinion forces a change of policy. I guess it's them or an aircraft carrier or even decent sand coloured-fatigues for our soldiers instead of highly visible NATO green in Afghanistan. You choose.

And of couse Jade is very sorry, as she should be I suppose. What interested me watching Big Brother yesterday is how Endemol very obviously edited out the banner flyby at 14:00 on Friday. The shutters would have dropped and the occupants of the Big Brother House would have had something to say but it's as if it never existed. Strange that!

When interviewed, Jade denied Big Brother producers warned her that she had become an international figure of hate and advised her to apologise to Shilpa.

She said: "I wasn't briefed about what was going on outside. Big Brother can only be Big Brother - he's not allowed to tell you anything.

"But I knew a story had broken out because of the aircraft that were over the house. I said I thought it was something to do with me and Shilpa and the argument."

Oh and finally, if some nice councillor is reading this, the skip in the recycling area of St Milded's Bay car park has been filled beyond capacity, is open and waste paper is blowing all over the place. Could we have this replaced and the area tidied-up next week please before it becomes a complete mess!

Friday, January 19, 2007

ID fraudsters Jailed

Having warned people about ID fraud here, I see that a gang of identity fraudsters who stole more than £500,000 have been jailed for a total of 10 years.

The three men defrauded banks, credit card companies and financial institutions over three years.

They all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud charges and were sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court this week.

The men used stolen identities of a number of people from Thanet, Dover, Maidstone, North Kent, Medway, Sussex and Kingston in Surrey to help generate money.

ID fraudsters steal half a million pounds:

Big Brother Says BB Bullies Out!

I never thought I would watch Big Brother, let alone play a minor role in the publicity. We've been sitting above the Big Brother house this afternoon in the Airads aircraft towing a banner saying "BB Bullies Out." Sky News appear to have mixed up their schedule and the Sky "copter" left short of fuel before we arrived but a constant loop has been running on Sky News and the BBC picked it up too.

Sky News reports that Jade saw the banner from the hot tub which explains her behaviour with Shilpa later in the day. Can't say that I noticed her though!

We were extremly lucky with the weather window at Denham, there should be a howling gale blowing and there wasn't, although we did have our problems on the pick-up with a broken hook which forced us to run late.

A huge traffic jam along the M25 gave plenty of scope to display the message: "BB Bullies Out" on the way into Stapleford to drop the banner. From an advertising point of you I guess you can't buy the kind of coverage we saw today without spending a small fortune!

Strangely enough, another advertising agency called us with a request, in addition to The Sun newspaper. The former asked if we could drop a dummy Formula I car driven by a stuntman in a gorilla outfit, by helicopter into the Big Brother garden. You can imagine my reaction. Not possible in the nicest possible way... cheaper and easier to shoot the Gorilla I told the chap on the phone! Perhaps he did?

Photo courtesy of airadsimages.com

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Spare a Bob for Nazanin

Just to remind ourselves why living here in Thanet is still better than living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, here's some cheering news from The Register that schoolgirl Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi has been spared the rope following an international internet campaign.

To recap, Nazanin Fatehi was in January 2006 "sentenced to death for murder by court in Iran after she stabbed one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park in Karaj (a suburb of Tehran) in March 2005".

In June 2006, "the Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi announced a stay of execution and the call for a complete new retrial" - scheduled for 10 January.

Mercifully, the five judges who reviewed her case "determined that the act was unintentional and was indeed a case of self-defense". As a result she was "exonerated from the charge of murder".

That's the good news. The bad news is that the judges "ruled that disproportionate force was used by Nazanin while trying to defend herself and her 15-year old niece" and ordered that she pay 'dieh', or 'blood money', "to receive a pardon from the family of the deceased before she can be released from prison".

Nazanin's lawyers say they "intend to appeal the payment of blood money, but since this may take several months they also have requested bail so that Nazanin may be released from prison immediately. The court has set bail in the amount of 400,000,000 Rials (over US$40,000)".

Since the poor girl's family is a bit cash-strapped, the Help Nazanin campaign is asking for donations. All cash received "will be allocated to the requested bail and other campaign costs" and, if the appeal is successful, "any excess donation fund will be used to assist Nazanin's family as well as any other cases of other girls sentenced to death in Iran" under what passes for justice in the Islamic courts.

I dipped my hand in my wallet, an event rarely seen, and sent some cash to the fighting fund. We're sure those of you with a few quid to spare will be happy to do the same. You can find details on how to make a donation here.

Blown Away

I see that Manston is forecasting a wind speed of 65 knots this afternoon, which is pretty scary, so best tie-down any small animals and chimney pots.

The weather isn't set to improve again until Sunday and then it's forecast to get cold. If this is global warming we can expect much worse as the North Atlantic warms and feeds these large polar front depressions in winter. Lord knows what the weather will be like in five years at the present rate of change. Hurricanes over Margate perhaps?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

After the Devil

With what appears to be the rapid decline of our legal system or at least its shambolic and unholy mess, I was reminded of the Thomas More speech from actor, Paul Scofield, in the classic film, "A Man for All Seasons."

In conversation with William Roper - Perhaps today it should be Tony Blair instead, it goes like this:

William Roper: "So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!"

Sir Thomas More: "Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?"

William Roper: "Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!"

Sir Thomas More: "Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

If you think about it, only Henry VIII and perhaps Oliver Cromwell had changed as much in the previous five hundred years as in his own private Reformation, Tony Blair has done in ten.

A Uniform Mess

If you thought there was a point of no return when it came to school uniform scruffiness these days then you won't be surprised to hear that the Department of Education, few Skills and Political Correctness (DES) has told schools stop sending children home if they flout rules on uniform.

In a move which has been criticised by the Conservatives and teaching unions, the DES has warned heads against ordering pupils out of class to change their clothes.

Some schools have attempted to pursue a 'common sense' policy by asking scruffy pupils to go home and change

The ruling emerged when one of Tony Blair's flagship city academies was criticised for sending home pupils after they broke uniform regulations. - This must have been pretty bad for an Academy to send children home -

I put much of it down to the BBC and the damage down by the children's series, 'Grange Hill' years ago. Before that, simply wearing a pair of red socks could have you sent home, today, I wonder why some of our local schools even bother with a uniform.

A Uniform Mess:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ladyman Votes Against the Sub-Post Offices

Laura Sandys writes to tell us that "Stephen Ladyman voted against the Conservative motion to save post offices in Parliament last week. South Thanet has already lost 7 post offices in the last ten years and could face 3 more closures in the next year. It is both urban and rural post offices that are at risk."

On Thursday there was a vote in Parliament in support of the sub post offices around the country that are under threat from closure by this Government. South Thanet’s local MP voted against this motion, which called for post offices to have greater freedoms to develop their businesses – their key to survival.

“The Government is putting post offices in a Catch 22. It is on one hand taking away the services that they use to provide exclusively – and at the same time saying that they face closure if they can’t be financially sustainable.” Said Laura Sandys Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for South Thanet. “ I have been campaigning to keep our post offices open and ensure that they have the ability to make ends meet through new business opportunities. I invited Alan Duncan, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to South Thanet to meet our sub post officers the week I was selected here. I know how important our post offices are to the communities they serve and they need our support.”

“Dr Steven Ladyman voted against this motion with the rest of the Government as they intend to let our sub post offices wither on the vine – and then turn round and say that they are not financially viable. “ stated Laura.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sleepwalking Ever Closer

It must have been in 2001, when a friend "J" who worked for the security services told me that we only had to worry about government when it was joined-up.

Now we hear that "A huge Whitehall 'superdatabase' of people's personal details could be created in a bid to improve public services."

It's not a new idea and I vaguely recall giving an interview on the subject five years ago, when I called the initial proposal the "Beria Principle" after Stalin's ruthless spymaster. He would have loved the idea!

The proposal is likely to encounter resistance from civil liberties groups who fear the creation of a 'Big Brother' state and it's a subject I'll be looking at when I chair the 2007 ecrime congress in March.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, who will be there, has already warned that Britain may be 'sleepwalking into a surveillance society'.

The database idea has emerged from the Government's policy review on public services, which is headed by Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton and to be honest, given the awful state of privacy in this country, I have absolutely no faith that such a huge database of personal information will be safe in the hands of government.

What do you think?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thanet Children Victims of Crime

Today, we have shocking Thanet Gazunder story that children in Thanet have been the victims of almost 900 crimes during the past year.

Police figures show more than half were victims of assault with the greatest number aged between 12 and 16.

The catalogue of crime includes 37 children who were threatened or assaulted before having items such as mobile phones stolen.

Children in the 12 to 15 age group are most at risk of being assaulted, robbed or having personal items, such as phones or school equipment, taken.

Against the background of this story is another, which hasn't made the papers, as I'm told on good authority that one of our local secondary schools has a record number of expectant mothers this term. At the present rate, it won't be long before double figures are reached.

Now while I would be among the first to congratulate the young mothers to be, the numbers involved - allegedly - are symptomatic of a far deeper problem on the island that needs tackling sooner rather than later and together with the robberies story above, should be a source of concern to all parents of teenagers in Thanet.

I know which school is reportedly involved but it would not be correct for me to provide the name as it's a highly sensitive issue.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Holiday Paradise

Skegness will become the new Antibes at the heart of a North Sea Riviera as unbearably hot summers drive tourists away from Mediterranean resorts, the European Commission forecast yesterday while announcing new targets to combat greenhouse gases.

Nobody mentioned Thanet however. Time for the council to act in defense of the Ramsgate Riviera!

Secondary Schools in Thanet League Tables

More than 300,000 secondary school pupils failed to reach the Government’s target of five good GCSE passes in subjects including English and maths, league tables released yesterday show.

With the school league tables now out, the link below shows schools in this area ranked on the proportion of pupils achieving the Level 2 threshold - equivalent to five GCSEs at grade C or above - including English and maths GCSEs.

Ties are broken on the average points score per student. Smaller schools with fewer than 30 pupils taking the exams are not ranked.

The Marlowe Academy, Hereson, Hartsdown Technology College and King Ethelbert are in the last fourteen, Further up towards the middle ranking you'll see Charles Dickens and Saint Georges, and then going further on and up you'll find the Ursuline College, St Lawrence College Clarendon and Chatham House with Dane Court up towards the top 20 of the table.

Education League Tables Secondary schools in Kent:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Vertigo

It seems that the NAO - National Audit Office - liked my photograph of the Marlowe Academy being built next to the old Ramsgate School, so much, that they want to use it in their forthcoming report on 'Academies' to Parliament.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that it's really a photo of the new Westwood Cross 'Dunkin Donuts'.

Track the Motorist not the Murderer

Once again, the Home Office is in the centre of a farce which confirms its continued lack of fitness for purpose, leaving poor John Reid to try and pick-up the pieces.

What amazes me is how the civil servants involved could have continued so long in reportedly throwing 27,000 files of dangerous criminals into a room, without one person, with even a small spark of intelligence, saying: "Don't you think we should tell the police about this lot?"

The problem we all face from government today is that nobody inside it appears responsible for anything, least of all mistakes that leave the rest of us poorer, injured or dead, other than an enquiry and a reprimand and we see the sad results almost weekly.

On another subject, I read that the government's latest proposal to introduce road pricing will mean you having to purchase a tracking device for your car and paying a monthly bill to use it.

* The tracking device will cost about £200 and in a recent study by the BBC, the lowest monthly bill was £28 for a rural florist and £194 for a delivery driver. A non working Mum who used her car to take the kids to school paid £86 in one month.

*On top of this massive increase in tax you will be tracked.

* Big brother will know where you are at all times.

* They - whoever they are - will also know how fast you have been going, so even if you accidentally creep over a speed limit in time you can expect a Notice of Intended Prosecution with your monthly bill.

If this thought worries you, then you can sign the petition on No 10's new website (link below) and pass this on to as many people as possible.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/traveltax

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fancy a Cheap Motor Guv?

I see that a Ramsgate man has been fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £100, after pleading guilty to two counts of illegal street trading.  Can we have a blitz on the same in Westgate please?

Anthony Delo (50) from Wellesley Court appeared before Margate Magistrates Court today (Monday 8 January). The Court was told that in the first incident, a police officer was on patrol in Broadstairs Road, Broadstairs on Tuesday 31 October, when he saw two vehicles for sale on the highway. On Thursday 2 November, the same officer was again in Broadstairs Road and saw the same two vehicles parked and unattended, both of which were still being offered for sale.

The officer attached a “police aware” notice to one of the vehicles, a Vauxhall Agila, but as he went to attach the notice to the other vehicle, a Renault Clio, he became aware that the notice was being removed by a man, who confirmed he was Mr. Delo. He also confirmed that he was the owner of both vehicles and that he was a registered trader with Kent County Council and that he was aware of the existence of prohibited roads for street trading, one of which is Broadstairs Road.

He was fined £250 for each offence and ordered to pay £100 costs to Thanet District Council.

More Storms Forecast

A new record this morning, 24 ships opposite Margate ande storms are set to batter Britain from today, bringing severe gales, heavy rains and floods.

Winds of up to 70mph will lash eastern England as the storms roll off the Pennines, and flood warnings were put out last night after already weeks of heavy rain.

A Met Office spokesman said: “It will be wet and windy throughout this week. There are several storms developing to the west of the British Isles."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Special Needs Education - Royal School's MP Attacks Minister

The Member of Parliament representing Margate's Royal School for Deaf Children has attacked Cabinet Minister Ruth Kelly for her "two-faced attitude" towards special needs education.

Speaking on the Commons` first day back at Westminster after the Christmas recess, Roger Gale said:

"So far as I am concerned any parent should have the right to act and use whatever resources are at their disposal in the best interests of their children. To that extent I have no problem with Ms. Kelly's decision to send her child to a fee-paying school.

Successive education Ministers, and Ms Kelly was one such, representing this Government have, though, done untold damage to Special Education Needs provision and the Royal School for Deaf Children in my constituency is a prime example of how Government policy can, through Ministerial vandalism, wreck centres of excellence.

In the name of "inclusion" Mr. Blunkett instigated what amounted to a vendetta against special schools. As a result, many children have been compelled, under wholly inappropriate conditions and with inadequate support and financial resource, to attend mainstream schools while specialist state and private schools have been starved of placements and funding. As a result, superb establishments with dedicated and highly trained staff have been forced to close, merge or, as in the case of the RSDC, downsize.

Skills have been lost and partially qualified or unqualified staff have taken over responsibilities that others have studied for years to be able to satisfy.

The RSDC is not the only North Thanet School to suffer. In Herne Bay the Hearing Impaired Unit at Hampton Primary School, a state school, was, as a result of Officers bending to DFeS diktat, effectively destroyed and a small but brilliant team dispersed.

These facilities, once lost, may never be restored and it is for this reason that there is a lack of opportunity to meet the needs of those like Ms. Kelly who suddenly find that they have to satisfy a domestic demand.

Basically, this Government, rotten to the very core, is saying "What the State provides is good enough for you but its not good enough for us".

I hope and believe that an incoming Conservative administration will first halt and then reverse the decline. "Inclusion" is a fine theory but the theory and the reality of real children are not always compatible"

A Dump too Far

A Cliftonville man has pleaded guilty to dumping a sofa chair.

Andrew Mullen (31) from Ethelbert Gardens appeared at Thanet Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 19 December.  The Court heard that the sofa chair was found dumped on land close to Ethelbert Gardens on 13 July 2006, by one of the Council’s Environmental Health Officers.  The officer made enquiries and interviewed Mr. Mullen, who admitted that he had dumped the item the previous afternoon.  He also admitted that he knew what he had done was an offence.

Mr. Mullen was fined £100, but as he is a serving prisoner, he was therefore immediately deemed to be in default and was sentenced to seven days custody, which will be added to his existing sentence.

Cllr. Ingrid Spencer, Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Services, said: “We are determined to take action against those who dump rubbish, as this case shows. Our Environmental Health team is working hard to catch those who litter our area and it is exceptionally encouraging to see this result. It’s time people realised that we are taking this issue seriously. That’s why we launched the Thanet is Beautiful campaign earlier this year, to start getting the message across to people that dropping litter or dumping rubbish is not an acceptable way to behave and that we will take tough action against them whenever possible.”

Happy Days

A record number of ships anchored north of Margate this morning. I counted twenty-three when the normal limit appears to be seventeen. Is anyone expecting a hurricane?



Thanks to Barrie Smith for sending in the photo of St Mildred’s Bay from the early 1950’s. Happy Days!

Can you imagine the fuss from the CAA and the Health & Safety today if you tried to park a seaplane on the promenade? Not a high-visibility yellow jacket in sight anywhere, just a good place for the United States Navy to park while the crew buy an ice cream and chat to the holidaymakers. Of course the big seaplane slipway is no longer there today.

If only I had a time machine!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wanted: For Crimes Against Common Sense

You may be amused or perhaps shocked to read in the papers today, that the same Chief Constable know for ruthless crackdown on speeding drivers - including a 62-year-old who was jailed after being caught doing 38mph in a 30mph zone - has refused to release photographs of two escaped murderers, Jason Croft and Michael Nixon, on the basis that to do so would violate their human rights.

Proof positive if you didn't know it already, that the lunatics are now firmly in control of the asylum!

Read On:

Friday, January 05, 2007

Speed Partnership

I had a sharp exchange of words today with the civilian contractor inside the “Kent Road Safety Partnership” van.

Note where he’s parked at the very edge of the change of speed limit marking the dual carriageway on the Canterbury road outside King Ethelbert’s school in Westgate.

Taking offence at my photographing his activities, he opened-the van door, stopped shooting motorists and challenged me.



I’ll prĂ©cis the conversation but basically I asked him why he was “shooting” cars as they left the 40Mph zone when guidelines I have read – following the last story on the subject – appear to state that that mobile camera unit should give 250 yards for traffic to slow before photographing them. “There are no guidelines”, he insisted, the moment you enter that 30mph zone, you’re breaking the law and I’ve got you and he waved a handful of photos in my face. At £60 a conviction, I estimated that he was holding about £2,500 of Polaroid photos, all with the offending car, date and speed stamped on them!

“How can you sleep at night?” I asked. It’s after Christmas, Thanet is one of the poorest areas of the country and being fined £60 for not instantaneously slowing from 40 to 30 will really hurt some people. This has nothing to do with law-enforcement, face it you’re just a tax collector and you’re criminalising people for no reasonable purpose. Are you telling me you’ve never exceeded the speed limit?”

“We give them a 20% benefit of the doubt” he told me, as if it justified what he was doing. Meanwhile, several hundred pounds of Birchington-bound revenue had escaped him as we were talking.

Think about it. By the time his wages, his van and equipment have been paid for, a thousand motorists or so have to be caught doing 36 in a 30. Obviously the fixed speed cameras along the Canterbury road between Birchington and Margate aren’t making enough money for Kent police?

Instead of a man in a van, what about a policeman or an extra community warden in the villages. What he was doing today had very little to do with road safety in Thanet and a great deal to do with the state squeezing more money out of you and me at any and every opportunity. Why do we put up with it I wonder?

Is he right and am I wrong? What do you think?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Single Sex Education to End in Thanet?

One of our regular readers writes to tell us:

"As Marlowe Academy, with £20 million pounds spent on it, continues to pull pupils from Hereson Boys and Ellington Girls, the writing is now on the wall for these two very good single sex high schools, whose value added results and continuing GCSE improvement show what an excellent job they do for their pupls.

Ellington Girls moves to its new site at Newlands Farm, Bromstone this Spring but it will be joined by Herson Boys in September 2008 as the two schools will merge into one. Staff at both schools had a warm New Year Greeting when they returned to work after the Christmas Break to be told that they will all face redundancy and will have to apply for posts at the new school ,although 'ring-fencing' will be operated. A new name has yet to be given to the new school.

Sources also report that Chatham House and Clarendon are to merge, initially at Chatham House and then the new school will be moved alongside the new Ellington/Hereson School at Bromstone to be on site by 2010. Will this mean the effective creation of a single sex 'mega cluster school' for Thanet with the distinctions between grammar and high schools eroded as 'resources' including teaching staff are shared?

This clearly spells the end of single sex education in Thanet and a reduction in parental choice. It will also throw up some very valuable spaces for redevelopment in Broadstairs and Ramsgate. As a parent with children at the schools mentioned, I specifically wanted single sex education for them and now that choice will be gone."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Blowing in the Wind

I don't know if anyone wants to take bets on when the bin men will come? I've now pulled all my rubbish off the street until tomorrow. Perhaps they'll turn-up then or perhaps they are taking an extended Xmas break? Does anyone know?

Following on from my last post on identity theft, I have in front of me an Egg motor insurance policy - expired - that blew past, perhaps from someone else's rifled bin bags.

Your policy number sir is 420024*** you are 26 and the last three digits of your mobile phone number are 994. From the details in front of me and a few extra bits of paper, say a phone bill or a council tax bill, I could make a fraudulent credit card application in your name.

The going rate for this kind of information to crimninal gangs is about £5.00 but I'm going to shred your details. Let everyone else be warned and go out and buy a shredder today!

Paper Foxes

I see that the Xmas rubbish is still where I left it, outside the gate; the same thing for everyone else in the street waiting for the rubbish collectors. The interesting thing is that every bag has been torn-open and rifled and it's not been by seagulls or foxes either.

I started using a shredder a couple of years ago, knowing what I do about rampant ID theft in this country, which is fast becoming a plague. A couple of household bills and before you know it, someone is claiming benefit in your name. also check your credit rating every year, just to be sure that someone else isn't using your address.

Now if you thought the taxman was proof of our living in a police state but with none of the benefits, read today's newspaper story that tax inspectors are being offered bonuses of up to £2,000 to squeeze more money out of the rest of us.

They can earn up to three per cent of their salary if they track down more unpaid tax.

Official figures show the taxman takes nearly a quarter of all pay, compared with less than 19 per cent before Labour came to power in 1997.

HM Revenue and Customs is under pressure to increase the amount it collects every year, which means tax inspectors are feeling the heat.

Statistically, this all means that someone reading this piece of news is going to be on the receiving-end of the government's own extortion racket. I recall there was a scandal about the same thing in the USA a few years ago but here, we fail to recognise that civil servants can and often do abuse their powers where financial "incentives" are concerned. What's your view? Do you trust the taxman to be fair?

Taxman's bonus for making you pay more : "

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Absolute Rubbish

I know I'm confused about the date of the next rubbish collection, so here's the timetable for anyone sharing my uncertainty:

Monday 1 January - no collections will be made due to the Bank Holiday. Your collection will take place on Tuesday 2 January instead.

Tuesday 2 January your collection will take place a day later on Wednesday 3 January.

Wednesday 3 January - your collection will take place a day later on Thursday 4 January

Thursday 4 January -your collection will take place a day later on Friday 5 January

Friday 5 January your collection will take place a day later on Saturday 6 January

For those homes on the wheelie bin scheme, there will be a double collection of recycling on Monday 8 and Tuesday 9 January. On these two days only, the Council will be collecting extra items for recycling that do not fit in the wheelie bin.

New Year Lab Nap



New Year proved too much excitement for this Labrador who found that he couldn't quite get to grips with listening to iTunes with the earphones provided.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Christmas Hang Over

With satellite television carrying a near constant barrage of debt-relief advertising, Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for Thanet South, Laura Sandys urges families in debt to get help in the New Year.



“If debt has mounted up over Christmas, I urge people to contact the range of organisations that can help them get out of debt, and not enter new arrangements that will merely increase the debt.” Said Laura Sandys who has made debt relief one of her key issues since being selected as Conservative Parliamentary Spokesperson for South Thanet.

“While many will be recovering from overindulgence from food and drink there are some in Thanet that will be facing a much longer term hang over from Christmas – that of debt. In Thanet, as across the country, people are encouraged before Christmas to take out store card loans and loans from home credit companies. It is after Christmas when the illegal lenders – loan sharks - then target those who are unable to meet their repayments.”

“With over 7 million people in the UK facing debt problems, personal debt is one of the most serious social problems facing the UK today” said Laura Sandys. “It is in the next few weeks that many families in Thanet will be feeling the pinch. It is exactly at this time when illegal lenders will be pushing their loans on the most vulnerable – offering immediate cash at rates ranging from 100% - 400%. “

Debt not only creates financial vulnerability but also causes significant social problems. 10 million people suffer relationship problems because of debt, with financial difficulties contributing in some instances to divorce, crime and drug dependency. “I am committed to campaign to secure greater safeguards for people on the lowest incomes and severely punish those who exploit the financially vulnerable for their own ends.”

“There are several organisations that can help people in debt and Thanet District Council has been running debt advisory meetings as well. With Britain’s debt increasing by £1million every 4 minutes, I am calling for the Government to crack down on illegal loan sharks that prey on the most financially vulnerable and improve financial education in schools so that our children don’t fall into the debt trap,” stated Laura.


Organisations that offer advice in Thanet include:

* Citizens Advice Bureau: 01843 225973
* Consumer Credit Counselling Service: 0800 652 0775.