Saturday, March 31, 2007

Gale's View - The Clunking Fist

Those of Kent's Labour MPs - and it appears to be most of them - who see Gordon Brown as the next Prime Minister following the departure of Tony "I will serve a full term" Blair, might do well to invite "The Clunking Fist" to bang on a few doors in East Kent. All the signs are that Mr. Brown's `last budget` has all the lift-off of the proverbial lead balloon!

Out on the pre-council election trail over the weekend it became apparent that it took all of five minutes for the great British public to see through the thin smoke and cracked mirrors. There are a very large number of disillusioned people out there and that two groups, in particular, are unlikely to be `illusioned` again as long as `the present lot` are in office.

First, the pensioners. Those who have modest retirement incomes derived from state pension and, perhaps, a little occupational pension have become used to paying their taxes at, mostly, the 10 pence. rate. Seeing that disappear in a cloud of dust and the rate "lowered" to 20 pence has not overjoyed them.

It's not much comfort, either, to be told that by April 2011 their personal allowance will have risen to £10,000 tax-free or that "the poorest" will receive additional pension credit. The Credit System is, as many know from bitter experience, a nightmare and there are few who would wish to rely upon the Revenue and Customs computer to dispense the largesse with which they will be required to pay increased gas, electricity and council tax bills.

One of the other key areas of concern is the situation now faced by small businesses. Kent's commercial economy is based, to a very large extent, upon the hundreds of our local small firms who individually each employ a handful of people but collectively are responsible for a huge slice of the County's household incomes.

The Lord only knows why this Chancellor of the Exchequer has, in his last gasp, chosen to punish small firms - but punish them he has. With immediate effect, appropriately from All Fool's Day, firms which make profits of up to £300,000 will face a one per cent rise in Corporation Tax. That tax will rise again in 2008 and again, to 22% in what many believe will be election year, 2009. That may not seem, at first, like a huge rise but it could well mean the difference between a small company - a corner shop, a hairdressers or a taxi company, say - deciding not to take on an extra employee or to invest in larger premises or more modern information technology or other equipment. In short, it's another slap in the face for those entrepreneurs that bring home the bacon.

A colleague who is more adept at high finance than I tells me that Gordon Brown has raised tax by 5p in every pound to a current 38.3%, that his annual debt interest bill is only £2 billion short of our entire defence budget at £30 billion and that it represents enough to wipe out the student tuition fees now paid by every aspiring graduate some eight times over - every single year!

Remembering, as I painfully do, the long and harsh political night of 1997 I would say in friendship to my Kent Labour colleagues that they would do well to either find someone else for Her Majesty to invite to form a government or make arrangements for a premature change of career direction.

Manston Escape

Don't forget that Kent International Airport is hosting a holiday show, tomorrow, Sunday, to promote the Kent Escapes range of summer holidays for 2007. - You will find the brochure at the bottom of the links section on the sidebar.

The event, which is open to all, takes place from 11am until 4pm.

There will be massive on-the-day discounts, with families able to save up to £200 and couples up to £100 on the cost of visiting Faro, Palma or Alicante.

Thousands of people packed into the terminal during a sunny Sunday afternoon in May last year, and over two days at the end of September, when the airport hosted similar events.

As well as being an excellent family day out, the show will be useful for anyone with questions about the Kent Escapes services available this summer.

Representatives from Kent Escapes and Infratil Airports Europe will be on hand to offer advice and information, and there will be presentations during the course of the afternoon to provide information about this year’s destinations.

There is no admittance fee and free parking will be provided. What’s more, there will be special offers and giveaways - win a holiday and other great prizes.

Three Cheers for Jim

An early example of blatant illegal immigration and dog smuggling from another era, 1912 in fact, as Mr J.B Manio is captured in front of his Bleriot monoplane, with 'Jim' at St George's Hill in Margate.

Jim was quite rightly siezed by our local finest and as you will read, was eventually recruited into the local Home Guard during the Great War and trained to bark at German Zeppelins. Mr Manio continued his flight to London, where fifty years before the building of Heathrow, he managed to land on a house.

It's Never Our Fault

Here's some cheery news of our expanding police state to start the day that you might have missed in the small print of the Budget:

"Under the changes, introduced in the Commons last week, taxpayers will be forced to second-guess assessments from HM Revenue & Customs inspectors and scrutinise the work of their own accountants or pay hefty penalties for mistakes.

Taxpayers will have 30 days to spot an error in a Revenue assessment or face penalties of up to 30 per cent of the amount of the unpaid tax.

The revised penalty regime, which comes into force at the start of the 2008 financial year, will also see taxpayers lose the defence that previously operated where a mistake was the fault of an accountant or tax adviser. In the past, if a taxpayer was entirely innocent, the Revenue could not apply a penalty.

The updated penalty regime applies to late or unpaid income tax, corporations tax, PAYE and VAT."

Mind you, it get better, with the news, this morning that Gordon Brown defied repeated warnings from his own officials about the potentially devastating impact of his £5 billion-a-year raid on pension funds and went ahead with it regardless.

Mr Brown announced the scrapping of tax relief on dividends paid into pension funds in his first Budget in July 1997, in the single biggest change to the pensions system in a generation.

Experts claim that the move has deprived the country’s savers of at least £100 billion over the past decade, during which Britain’s private and occupational pension system has struggled to stay afloat. The changes affected the 11 million people in Britain with company pensions and the 7 million with personal pensions.

With the great majority of the population now looking towards a retirement of stark poverty, suppose it was a good idea at the time! What do yo think?

Friday, March 30, 2007

TKmax(ed) Out

I had to smile at the TK max credit card fraud story today, 48 hours after the close of an ecrime congress, where we heard that the largest criminal "Bot Network" of computers detected to date is 1.5 million, by the Dutch government computer emergency response team, who spoke at the event.

You can, by the way, hear the BBC coverage on 'Moneybox' here. All about 'Smishing', 'Phishing' and 'Vishing' with some input from me.

I spoke with both Sky News and the BBC this morning, who were looking for pundits, Thanet, being a little too far away to send an outside broadcast camper van with a satellite dish on. Sky very sensibly went after Professor Ross Anderson at Cambridge as suggested, who in turn, revealed what a complete mess the whole ecrime reporting system is.

From Monday, the banks assume responsibility, from the police - who don't report it anyway - for online crime. So if you are ripped-off, go tell you bank and they are supposed to inform the police, who will do... "err" probably nothing, because they have no budget and limited resources, which is why the responsibility has gone to the banks and the argument continues in circles.

Whatever, it's a huge farce and I said as much in an interview for the next BBC Money Box programme alongside the FBI, Microsoft, Ross Anderson and others.

One comment from the conference this week, was that if a retail chain isn't seeing enough shoplifting, then its merchandise isn't attractive enough. The same argument applies in the online world too. As long as fraud represents an acceptable percentage of bank's turnover, then they will take limited action to deal with it because of the cost and inconvenience of implementing much stronger safeguards. That's tough luck for the consumer, like one chap I met this week who had his passport stolen and with it, his entire identity over a year. He found himslef being summoned to court appearances for crimes he hadn't committed and much worse in terms of credit.

Even worse, convincing the police and the authorities that he had not suddenly changed from Dr Jekyll in Mr Hyde was even more difficult and there's little sympathy and no victim support if you discover that you aren't you anymore.

In the United States, where identity theft is now rampant, people have had to declare themselves legally dead. In this country though, we have the Inland Revenue and being dead is no excuse.

Feel the Force

Pictured, Britain's answer to the Iranian naval threat in Thanet waters, with thanks to the Margate Historical Society.

One interesting observation being that our naval air power in the Persian Gulf is about equivalent to the Royal Naval Air Service presence in Margate harbour in 1913.

Babes in the Wood

If today's news from Iran hadn't already confirmed our nation's second-rate status then Gordon Brown's visit to Afghanistan to inspire the troops, confirms it, with an added touch of hypocrisy.

Iran's territorial waters may soon extend to the Kent coastline and if they did, what would we do about it if a couple of cross-channel ferries were taken into custody for espionage? Absolutely nothing I'm sure.

Meanwhile, Gordon, fresh from the electoral approbation of a group of carefully-chosen ten-year-olds on Channel 5, has blamed pesky foreigners for the increased tax burden imposed on small businesses in the Budget, when speaking to the House of Commons Treasury Committee yesterday.

Brown was asked about the benefits of immigration by the committee, which was meeting to discuss the Budget. Brown quoted Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, who said immigration contributed 0.25 per cent of US economic growth.

Asked why the tax burden for small businesses had increased, Brown claimed that large numbers of immigrants from eastern Europe were being encouraged to register as managed services companies in order to reduce tax. He said people were registering before even arriving in the UK.

"It is a problem we are determined to solve without penalising the company which is investing in the future."

Now if you happen to run a small business, you may not agree and so the only way to avoid an increased tax bill is to either become very large, very fast or learn Russian and buy a premier league football club.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Instead of Television

TV Licensing called today to remind me that if I didn’t pay my outstanding license fee before the weekend, then I would no longer be legally allowed to watch tele-visual gems, like tonight’s BBC “F***Off I’m a Hairy Woman.”

Worried by the prospect of missing this, a two hour East Enders omnibus and constant reminders that the real Britain exists within the cultural perimeter of Shepherds Bush, I gave in and paid-up. Either that or the TV detector van would be waiting for me to switch on whatever ghastly rubbish the corporation chooses to serve-up on Saturday morning.

I’m writing this now because there’s nothing worth watching and on the news, it’s all about the plight of a young woman sailor, who further to her first confession that she strayed into Iranian waters, she’s now, in a second letter, calling for a complete withdrawal from Iraq. What next I wonder? I vaguely recall something about giving comfort to the enemy and “Name rank and serial number,” and Col Bob Stewart on Sky News, is equally perplexed that we’ve forgotten everyone else in the party and are happily allowing the Iranians to leverage the lone woman among the captured group.

Based on this, how many people out there now think it’s sensible for women to serve on the front line? As Colonel Stewart pointed out, equal opportunity doesn’t stop once the enemy gets his hands on you and in this case all we have available is the weak threat of an ASBO against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who seem to be treating the matter as a huge joke at our national expense. What defies belief is that government has some naïve faith in Tehran playing by international law.

But this is the Middle-east and our rules don’t apply. Day is night and white is black and a border is where you say it is one minute and somewhere else the next and “No” you can’t have your ball back or even your sailors until whichever political group feels that it’s achieved a small victory over its rivals in another ministry.

It’s depressingly similar to the lecture on governance I gave in the region two weeks ago. Government projects grind to a halt because ministers and ministries won’t cooperate and are deeply suspicious of anything that might give a small advantage to the chap running the other department.

In Jordan two years ago, the Prime Minister instructed all the different government departments to write down their processes, so the team that I was with could identify the first six to start re-engineering. Only around 40 departments out of two hundred responded and only a handful of these were intelligible. The reason, most departments had never written down their processes and anyway, they would be damned if they were going to share the information with anyone else. So the Prime Minister was ignored. I’m sure Iran is little different, although I have a standing invitation to visit from the telecoms Minister.

Staying with the subject of international differences, I think back to Tuesday night, at a drinks party, full of different nationalities, mostly senior police officers from 30 countries having fun, even the Mounties this year, with the Russians being the most affable. Perhaps the UN would achieve rather more in the world if business was carried-out in the bar. You can rely on the Russians and Ukrainians to brink their own supply of vodka too!

Excess Postage

Has anyone had a note from the Post Office, telling them they have postage to pay on a letter?

Trudge off to Margate post depot then, park, wait for letter. Pay postage and....

It's a flyer from Domino's Pizza!!!

Go direct to Domino's in Margate High Street and ask for postage refund while delivering an angry rebuke.

Which bright spark came up with this idea of posting flyers without stamps, I don't know but I expect, at the very least, a free pizza next time I order one!

I wonder if it was just me or the entire epopulation of Thanet?

Another Cliftonville Murder?

Police have launched an investigation after a man found with serious head injuries in public toilets later died in hospital.

Police say they are treating his death as suspicious following the discovery by a cleaner in toilets in Fifth Avenue, Cliftonville, near Margate, yesterday at about 9.30am.

The man, who was in his 40s is believed to be from the Margate area where he is thought to have had several addresses. He died last night in Margate's Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital at about 8.40pm.

He has not yet been formally identified. A post mortem is being conducted to establish the cause of death.

Det Ch Insp Dean Barnes said: "We urgently need to know how this man received such severe head injuries. I would appeal to the local community to have confidence in the police that any information provided will be treated sensitively and in confidence."

Two men have been arrested in connection with the death and are being question by detectives. They are a 44-year-old man from Margate and a 21-year-old, of no fixed home.

A Time to Fight Back

A good article in The Telegraph on some rights you didn't know you had left. Worth a quick read for amusement if nothing more.

"A motorist has just won a two-year legal campaign after a traffic warden issued him a ticket. Simeon Ademolake won because he had driven off before the warden had written a ticket."

Read on..

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Short of Funds

I'm chairing the ecrime congress this week and normal service will be resumed shortly.

Having met the Under Secretary of State, Vernon Coaker, this morning, it appears that while government is supportive of the good work being carried out against online criminals by the Serious & Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), no money will be forthcoming to do more to address the worrying scale of a problem sketched-out today by APACS, Barclays, Paypal, Symantec and others today.

To be honest, we are up the creek without the price of a small paddle and there's a waterfall ahead!

A World of Teen Violence

A worrying story on the Marlowe Academy from icKent today:

"A world of internet bullying, youth gang crime and teen drug deals have been exposed by Marlowe Academy pupil Habib Abdalla.

The 15-year-old ex- Margate gang member has shared his inside view of a frightening world of teen violence in a bid to stop more kids being sucked into a world of crime.

Writing in Oi magazine, created by pupils at the Ramsgate school, Habib said: "Teens from any place, anywhere, rich or poor, are becoming involved in gangs and the violence and horror they bring with them."

'The reason is their reputation is built on respect, the result is building this respect through acts which create fear.'

Read on:

Ed: In a professional capacity, I'm not confortable with bebo, the social networking site for teens and younger and made my feelings clear to them recently.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On Crispin's Day

A football team that can't beat even Israel, a cricket team whose vice captain binges himself into a sodden stupour and somewhere unknown in Iran, a small party of kidnapped Marines and sailors, fate unknown but likely interrogated, blindfold and handcuffed in a cell.

All rather unthinkable in my grandfather's day and even I can remember a time when our sense of national identity and pride was based on different values and standards, frowned-upon in today's BBC-driven, all-pervasive atmosphere of political correctness.

I thought I would add the clip below, which I am sure everyone will recognise. It stands for something, an ideal of Englishness that we lost somewhere along the way in my own lifetime. Good riddance some will say, "you were oppressing foreigners and being unkind to the French" but as long as Shakespeare is taught in school, a distant memory of courage, true leadership and real pride in our history and our small country will remain in the minds of a dwindling few.

A Lightning Coach Tour of Margate

A comedic glimpse of Margate today, courtesy of reader, David Chamberlain, who writes to tell us that Marty Feldman's "Lightning Coach Tours" sketch from over thirty years ago, is available on

Reminding us that Margate was once a tourist Mecca before the arrival of cheap airfares, it shows the pier we once had and even the Prospect Inn in all its glory.

No clip of Dreamalnd, sadly enough but it was very much a presence and I can still recall the excitement of a visit as a small boy, having saved enough to go on the dodgems or the scenic railway.

You won't see very much activity on this weblog until later in the week as I'm a little busy, so enjoy the "Lightning Coach Tour" and a glimpse of what once was and is no more!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Those Magnificent Men

Here another photo of the same aircraft coming in to land at Cliftonville, with "Daily Mail" written under the wings. I'm actually wondering if this was taken in 1909 rather than 1913 because of the date of the newspaper's air race but if anyone has any information, please let me know.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Melrose Hotel Cliftonville

Thanks to more photos from Tony, an idea for the forthcoming airshow - well air display - at Cliftonville in June.

Can anyone date the aircraft and the occasion? It was taken in August 1913 and could be a Daily Mail racing monoplane. It could be much earlier still.
The photo can be found in the library

Aufklarungsverbande over Thanet

Reader, Tony Ovenden, has very kindly sent in an unusual photograph taken by a Luftwaffe 'Aufklarungsverbande' reconaissance unit on May 19th 1940.

If you can't make it out, then it's of St Nicholas at Wade, with what would be today's Thanet Way, running from top to bottom along the left of the image.

It's now scanned and in the photo library if you wish to see the larger version.

Civis Brittanicus Sum

Watching the news today; the detention of fifteen British sailors and Royal Marines by the Iranian navy, I’m reminded of the “Don Pacifico” incident from my school GCE history, years ago.

Don Pacifico, a British citizen, lived and worked in Greece for a period of time as the Portuguese consul. In 1847 his home was attacked and vandalised by a mob whilst the police looked on and took no action. He appealed to the Greek government for compensation but when it was not forthcoming he appealed in 1848 to the British government.

Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary took unilateral action in support of Pacifico, after the Greek government persisted in refusing to compensate him. He sent the Royal Navy to blockade Greek ports and harass Greek shipping. The blockade lasted 2 months. The affair ended only when the Greek government agreed to compensate Pacifico, after Greek ships were seized by the Royal Navy.

Palmerston received a great deal of criticism from both foreign powers and domestic politicians but defended his actions in a five hour speech before the House of Commons, comparing the British Empire to the Roman Empire. "As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say, Civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen], so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him from injustice and wrong."

So here’s the question for discussion. Does our present Prime Minister, Mr Blair, politely inform the Iranians that their ports will be blockaded or Tehran, swiftly removed from the map by one of our nuclear submarines, unless our sailors and their vessel are returned within 24 hours or will he grovel, through diplomatic channels, over many days and perhaps weeks and allow the Iranians to demonstrate who is really in control in southern Iraq and that our lads, now being held in some dank Iranian cell, can’t count on our government to back them up?

What's your view?

Go West

With all the fuss over the proposed 1,000+ new homes at Westwood Cross starting to surface and a special council meeting on 4th April,if any of our councillors of any party wish to examine the site from above, for a better view and understanding of the local impact, - which I would encourage - then I'm happy to act as unpaid aerial "taxi driver".

Sensibly a minimum two at a time, splitting the modest fuel cost and landing fees incurred with the inspection.

Bremner's Budget

I thought you might enjoy comedian, Rory Bremner's version of Gordon Brown's budget speech. What's worrying is that he does it rather better than Gordon Brown and the figures are much clearer than they were on Wednesday.

Would you agree?

Watch it here.

Meanwhile, here's a "Nasty" from this week's 'Lyons Report' on Council Tax:

"Pensioners will be asked to sign away their homes to meet their soaring council tax bills, it was claimed yesterday"

The Lyons Inquiry into local government funding has recommended they use equity in their homes to pay council tax. Critics labelled the proposal a new “death tax” as any cash released would have to be re­paid from the sale of the property when the householder dies; an estimated average bill of £64,000 per pensioner per family.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Great Westwood Plan

Plans to build 1,000 homes at Westwood are to be considered at special Planning Committee and Full Council meetings next week (week beginning Monday 2 April).

The application will first be heard by the Council's Planning Committee on Wednesday 4 April at 7pm, at which public speakers will be able to talk in support of the application or raise matters of concern.

One person can speak in favour and one can raise concerns. Only those who have previously raised concerns in writing to the Council about the application can apply to speak at the meeting. The Parish Council also has the right to speak at this meeting.

The following night, on Thursday 5 April at 7pm, the application will go to a meeting of the Full Council, as it is a departure from the Local Plan. The Local Plan, which first went out to extensive public consultation in 2001 and was eventually adopted in 2006, allocated 1,000 homes for the site. However, the application marginally exceeds this number. There will be no public speaking at the Full Council meeting.

The proposals for the site have undergone a number of significant changes in response to public consultation, since the application was first received by the Council in May 2006. In that time, officers have negotiated a Section 106 agreement with the developers, after local residents raised concerns about the road network in the area. The agreement requires that, amongst other things, major highway links in the area should be constructed and completed before anyone moves into the housing development.

The application also proposes a school, medical centre, community building, play areas and open space, along with some commercial and employment use on the site.

Online - Thanet from the Air

I'm reminded that you can now buy "Thanet from the Air", a collection of aerial photos of the island from Michael's Bookshop as an online purchase.

I hope to update it one day soon, with close to 1,000 photographs now in the archive but at £5.99 it's not a bad little coffee table book.

I need to go over and update the photographs of the Sea Bathing site, the Marlowe Academy and others soon.

Huge Bill for Toilet Vandalism

Vandals have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage at public toilets across Thanet over the past two weeks.

In the worst incident, the newly refurbished toilets at Stone Bay were defaced by graffiti over the weekend (Saturday 17 – Sunday 18 March), after the painters had only finished work on the outside of the toilets on Friday afternoon.

Youths also flooded the toilets at Alpha Road, Birchington on Saturday and at the public toilets at Minnis Bay, toilet paper was taken out of the holders and put all over the floor, in the sinks and the toilets. The previous weekend saw nine windows broken at the toilets at Joss Bay.

Head of Commercial Services, Mark Seed, said: “Thanet District Council has invested a lot of money in improving public toilets across the area, as local people have told us that this is an important service to them. That’s why it’s so frustrating that the hard work is being undermined by a mindless minority. Local people have made it clear that they want the Council to provide public toilets and they’re a valuable asset for the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year. We all need to work together to stop these vandals. If anyone has any information about who is responsible for these attacks, I would urge them to contact our Safer Cleaner Thanet Unit on 577888 with as many details as possible. We need to put an end to this vandalism, as it’s costing local people dearly.”

Horse Struck by Car

Kent Online reports that a horse has died on Tuesday after it was hit by a car. The incident happened just past the St Nicholas at Wade roundabout on the London-bound carriageway of the Thanet Way.

The animal died at the scene. The driver of the Citroen car was taken to hospital in Margate for a check up but later released.

The tragedy happened at about 6.15pm. Police closed closed the London-bound carriageway until about 8.15pm.

Ed: One has to ask what the poor horse was doing on the dual carriageway at dusk? Had it escaped from its paddock?

The Great Budget Fudget

"Gordon Brown the Chancellor yesterday gave Gordon Brown the future prime minister a platform to call an early election provided he reaches No 10. " - The Times

Ed: I predicted this several weeks ago. If Gordon moves in to No10, then he has to consolidate his rather weak position as quickly as possible and before either the opposition parties strengthen or the electoral boundaries are re-drawn.

Either way, economists agree that the budget was a "smoke and mirrors" trick, leaving everyone - apart from the wealthy - worse off in the end and paying more tax.

No surprises there!

Not So Cheap Flights

County Councillor Chris Wells answers a reader's question on the real cost of cancelling the flights to America project from Manston:

"As promised I asked your question at the scrutiny committee at county hall today, and here is the reply.

The total loss to KCC up to the moment they called a halt £289,565.

The money came from the Kings Hill Regeneration Fund. It is public money in the sense that it flows into the county coffers, but it is not money from the council taxpayers of Kent. This money is generated by KCC's own operations at Kings Hill and is then put into this fund (which totalled £1.5 million this year) to be used as one off expenditure on projects that could bring significant economic benefits to the county.

The estimated return if the seats had all been sold and tourists came into the county was around £2.25 million.

This was flagged up as a significant risk as a venture when it was begun.
Every single county councillor was sent a letter outlining the proposal and the fact there was significant risk - not one from any party urged the council not too invest."

Ed: Read the story in detail here.

On the KCC website, please look under Council and Democracy, Partnerships, Kent-Virginia - where there is a link to Direct Flights Project on the right hand side.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Budget Briefing

I'm still trying to absorb the details of what, in the end, looks like a neutral budget, in the face of the May elections.

The BBC has an analysis here but amid talk of tax "cuts" the true costs..i.e. petrol, beer and much more, will look to creep upwards as one might expect.

Some good news but only modest improvements, particularly around the controversial subject of inheritance tax:

Tax exemption for capital gains will rise from £8,800 to £9,200, and will be £18,400 for married couples.

Inheritance tax will threshold to rise from £285,000 now to £350,000 in 2010.

Save Our #56 Bus Route

Laura Sandys is calling a meeting on the 56 Bus on 29th March at 14.52, embarking at the Silvers.

“The minute I received the first letter concerning the bus route in late February I have been working to save this important bus service. I have been in touch with Kent County Council and, while in the first instance, not receiving the satisfaction that we all require, I have gone further to bring this to the attention of Keith Ferrin, Cabinet Member for Transport.”

“I hope that the meeting on the bus will attract many of those who have written to me and that our concerns will be listened to by KCC.” Says Laura.

“I have been working closely with County Councillor Bill Hayton and Roger Gale MP and we will do everything that we can to ensure that the full service is retained. I have also spoken to the bus operator who is keen to continue to provide the existing service and knows the importance of the service, in particular to our senior citizens”. Reports Laura

“We cannot promise anything but all our efforts are going into securing the bus route that so many depend upon.”

Happy Budget Day

The big day today, as Joe Stalin, AKA Gordon, our next Prime Minister, announces new and interesting ways to remove more money from our wallets.

The Times predicts that he will announce an extra £80 million for the security services, about £400 million for Iraq and Afghanistan and as much as £1 billion for child poverty. Going to war seems to be costing us rather alot of money these days and that's just the tip of the iceberg revealed in Parliament. Much of it, we never see.

If the Chancellor has any sense, he will announce a cut in corporation tax before we lose any more large businesses. Locally, we don't need to be reminded of the size of the Pfizer estate which used to be called Sandwich. Pfizer has already cut a chunk out of its UK workforce and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking elsewhere for cheaper operational bases with a good supply of skilled graduates at lower costs than are available here in the UK at present.

In our thriving economy, with the tax burden at a record high, prices of goods and services are now climbing at an annual rate of 4.6 per cent. The last time they were so high, in 1991, interest rates were above 11 per cent and the housing market was in the midst of a severe crash.

Pensioners are being hit worst with some retired households facing inflation of as much as 9.1 per cent, a figure higher than for any other category of household because of the comparable amount spent by pensioners on heating and water charges, which have risen sharply over the past year.

Without much doubt though, this budget is going to hurt you and me somewhere, either directly or indirectly and through stealth, Brown's favourite ploy. "Vote Tony - Get Gordon" because it's what we're going to get, like it or not.

Cliftonville Murder - Man Charged

The BBC reports that 23-year-old Daniel Mazza, of Clifton Gardens, has been charged with the murder of David Gavin, 26, who was discovered at his home in Athelstan Road, Cliftonville on 14 March.

A woman, 19, and a man, 28, questioned in connection with the incident have both been freed on police bail. Another man was released without charge.

Detectives are still appealing for witnesses to the incident to contact Kent Police or Crimestoppers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A New Localism

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to meet Oliver Letwin at Westminster and I will confess that several of the remarks he made, struck a chord of common sense, even if I am biased towards the centre right in politics. I made some quick notes before I forgot.

“This government”, he said, “is better at absorbing money than others but rather less good at delivering quality and value than other countries.”

“The centre-left approach to well-intentioned goals has not been successful.”
And perhaps most importantly for local politics he talked about “The New Localism, in “an open-textured and modern world” giving back control to local government from a centre that has created intensive monitoring and a, targets-based culture: “

“We recognise” said Letwin, “the same challenges and share initiatives but have a different view of how they will be realised.

Reflecting on what Letwin said, I think that you and I recognise that “Big” government doesn’t work. With a public sector expanding by 13% per annum and the private sector by only 8% there’s an obvious problem around the corner, pointed out by another person yesterday, who said that we have only ‘4.5’ world class universities in this country , 39% of our PhD students come from abroad and we can’t retain them. We will see a budget speech this week from a Chancellor who has to find the money to pay for public sector growth and there’s the problem, public sector expansion of this kind is on a par with chronic obesity. At some point in the not too distant future, the patient, in this case, the UK economy, is going to have a coronary as it depends on an increasingly shrinking private sector workforce to support everyone else.

So do you think we need a new localism - which many see as a 'fudge' and to wrest control back from the centre. Le me know.

In the Swim

Local people have less than two weeks left to make their views known on the future of swimming pool facilities in Thanet.

So far, nearly 800 people have filled out questionnaires, which were included in the most recent issue of the Council's magazine Thanet Matters, and returned them.

Copies of the surveys are available at Ramsgate Swimming Pool and Hartsdown Leisure Centre and can be sent out on request by calling 01843 577120. The survey can also be filled in online at Questionnaires must be returned to the Council by Friday 30 March.

Council officers have also been to Ramsgate Pool and Hartsdown during peak times of the week to encourage people to fill in the questionnaires and send them back.

The questionnaire covers a range of issues, including people's top priorities for public swimming pools, how much they use the current facilities and what would encourage them to make more use of local public pools.

The survey also asks local people to pick one of the following three options for the future of swimming pools in Thanet:

1. Rebuilding or refurbishing the existing pools at Hartsdown
Leisure Centre and Ramsgate Swimming Pool.

2. Rebuilding Ramsgate Swimming Pool adjacent to Ramsgate Sports
Centre and refurbishing Hartsdown Leisure Centre.

3. Developing a new facility at the Marlowe Academy site on the
Euro Kent business park.

Communications and Marketing Manager, Sara Thompson, said: "It's vital that local people have their say on this issue and we want as many residents as possible to fill out the questionnaires and return them.

People don't have long to make their views known now. The consultation runs until Friday 30 March, so time is running out. We'd like to see more than 1,000 questionnaires being returned to us by that date, so if you haven't filled yours out yet, please don't forget to do so, as we want to hear your views on this important subject."

Ed: A direct link to the internet survey is a good idea and here it is.
Please fill it in or you won't get much choice at all!

I get the impression that the centre of gravity is moving off towards Westwood and the Marlowe and people I speak to, at least in the Birchington and Westgate areas don't like the idea of losing Hartsdown at all. All agree that Ramsgate is just too *** difficult to get to via Westwood these days for time poor families.

I will be interested to see if the "official" survey shows says the same opinions but vote if you can.

Photo courtesy of Michael Child

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sounds Like Us

The Guardian reports that the hidden cost of the government's housing plans for south-east England was yesterday estimated to be at least £20bn. The sum, calculated by the Environment Agency in response to Labour's intention to build nearly 1.5m new homes in the region, includes new flood defences, sewage plants and waste tips for communities, but not providing water for developments in drought-prone areas.

Bearing in mind that Thanet has a sixty degree view of the world from Ramsgate, the development that is demanded of us will place a strain on our resources.

Best read the details and decide for yourself.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gone Digital

I appear to have triggered a local digital television war on YouTube, following this months earlier "grabs" from the site and the suggestion that we run our very own "TAFTA" awards for the best and worst local productions.

Digital TV channels are cropping up everywhere and domains like "" are busily being registered. No decent content yet though but I'm looking forward to our own local versions of "How Clean is Your House", "Beano's French Cookery Class", 'Casualty QEQM' and the new soap opera, "Cliftonville Road."

By the way, spotted at Manston this weekend , one chap looking for an enterprising way of earning a living from aviation.

Quick Flash

Flash Earth has updated its satellite imagery, using Microsoft VE and the result is that you can just about zoom down to the bird-bath in my garden from space - no kidding!

You can find a link on the sidebar but here it is, enjoy the view!

Outcasts by Name

Today's video spectacular comes from the 'Broadstairs Outcasts.'

If you happen to recognise any of these teenagers then disown them immediately or better still, lock them up until they improve their taste in background music!

Spot the Policeman

Only one in 58 police officers is out on patrol at any given time, despite an increase in officer numbers, new Home Office figures show.

Just 2,400 out of a record 143,000 officers in England and Wales are out deterring criminals and reassuring the public - about four per town of 90,000 people - while more than twice as many are back at the police station doing paperwork.

The Home Office said the police had many other important front line duties apart from patrolling.

Ed: "Tough on crime - Tough on the causes of crime." Does that ring any bells?

Ladyman in Cash For Access Allegations

We have had the cash for honours scandal which still continues and could yet haul in the Prime Minister and today the Sunday Times has yet another sleaze story, which this time involves Transport Minister and Thanet South MP, Dr Steven Ladyman, who, with Gerry Sutcliffe, the prisons minister, were named during a two-month investigation into “cash for access” by newspaper.

Lobbyists claimed Sutcliffe was prepared to hand over his private Whitehall diary to them, while Ladyman was claimed to have divulged information on policies such as road-charging.

Last night both ministers confirmed they had discussed government business with the lobbyists and that they were “friends” with the firm’s employees. However, both strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

Read the full account and decide for yourselves, here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Second Man Held in Cliftonville Murder

The BBC reports that a second man has been arrested by police investigating the murder of David Gavin, 26, who was discovered at his flat in Athelstan Road, on Wednesday night.

The 23-year-old man is being questioned at a police station in Kent, a police spokeswoman said.

Officers are continuing to hold a 28-year-old man arrested on Thursday after being given an extra 30 hours.

Detectives are appealing for witnesses to the incident to contact Kent Police or Crimestoppers.

More than 50 officers are working on the investigation. A post-mortem examination revealed that David Gavin died from stab wounds.

The victim was seen having an argument in Athelstan Road earlier on Wednesday, which involved more than one person.

Treading the Canvas

I've been out canvassing in Westgate today with Cllr Goodwin and our MP, Roger Gale. It's been revealing to hear what people think about our local government and what most concerns them; i.e. rubbish and wheelie bins, the state of Margate, Westwood Cross development and the height of the barrier at the rubbish tip, to name but a few.

What struck me most however, is the strength of feeling against the present government and while I found two people who "don't vote" and several "undecided", by far the great majority want to use their vote to send a very 'Blue' message of protest on May 3rd and expressed their support, so thank you to any of you who have discovered ThanetLife as a consequence of my doorstep visit.

I'll be running around much of Westgate in the coming weeks to see as many people as possible but please drop me a note if there's some issue that needs a doorstep answer.

If you need a postal vote for May 3rd, you can download one here.

Take Two Aspirin & Vote Labour

I was watching the Health Minister, Lord Hunt, squirming on Sky News this morning over the crisis surrounding junior doctors and today's big protest march in London.

According to the doctor's spokesman, the whole process of selection and career progression for doctors is a mess and they feel abandoned. Worse still, government is playing with the statistics, as usual, to meet its targets. He cited himself as an example. "Training to be an orthopaedic surgeon", he said, normally takes 14,000 of experience. Now the new plan seeks to cut this to 6,000 hours." "It's crazy", he commented, "dumbing-down the qualifications when I know that I won't be experienced enough to treat patients properly under the new regime."

There was a long debate with Lord Hunt and the Sky News anchor suggested that if he were in charge of a FTSE 100 company, he would be expected to resign. Will he? Of course not, as he "acted swiftly" and is now going through an urgent process of consultation with doctors' representatives.

Matthew Parris in today's Times newspaper asks: "What will happen to Labour when it loses the coming general election? Based on the performance of Lord Hunt in the Health Service, you might think this inevitable but a second comment in the newspaper reminds us that:

"The Boundary Commission for England can only advise government to keep the parliamentary constituency boundaries fairly reflecting the geographical balance of population. It is a fact that in a General Election if the current boundaries remain unchanged, Labour would have a 60 seat advantage over the Conservatives even if they polled the same percentage of the vote. Will Labour allow all the appropriate changes before the next election to let the voters' voice be heard fairly? Would turkeys in the UK vote for Christmas?"

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beware of the Blog

A report today warns that, has been infiltrated by a number of phishing sites.

In some cases, the Stration mass mailer is being used to drive traffic to these fraudulent sites. Beyond the problem of spam and phishing sites, a number of sites have been compromised with malicious code.

Hundreds of other Blogging sites (covering subjects ranging from Star Wars, school, furniture, Christmas, cars, and girlfriends) are also infected, according to net security appliance firm Fortinet, which has published an advisory highlighting its concerns.

Ed: My advice is make sure your AV protection is up-to-date and avoid surfing or downloading Blog sites you don't know that hold "active content"

The Cliftonville Chronicle

Welcome to a new weblog, the "Cliftonville Chronicle."

An entertaining title for an area in the news this week, well every week perhaps and local residents might be forgiven for coming up with altenative titles, like "Crimewatch Cliftonville."

Following this week's murder in Athelstan road - In Margate, according to the media reports - the stark contrast between "Nice" Cliftonville and "Nasty" Cliftonville, is self evident . This remains a priority for local government in its on-going effort to reverse the decline of twenty years of forced DSS migration into bedsits and cheap hotels which finds a small army of teenage mothers, mixing with refugees, abandoned teenagers and individuals that no other local council will accomodate.

There's alot to do and I'll be looking forward to seeing the Cliftonville Chronicle reminding us all of where the urgent priorities are for an area which was once a gem of the British seaside.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Zero Tolerance Required

The comment added to the Marlowe attack on foreign students, reproduced below, did rather interest me, as I'm just back from giving a speech at a middle-eastern universities conference.

Now if Thanet really wanted to re-build its vital EFL sector and could reasonably assure the security of foreign students and particularly those from the Arab world, then the connections to re-explore our potential exists with among the universities across what's called the MENA region.

"A few months ago I had a discussion with an Egyptian businessmn who was planning to set up a language school in Libya and wanted to recruit British EFL teachers to work there. He cited the racial abuse and assaults so many Libyans and Egyptians had suffered in recent years in Thanet as being a major reason why so many foreign students are frightened to come here."

Margate The New Marbella

Read it and weep Ramsgate. According to a new report, Margate is becoming the new Marbella!

The Post Office believes that a new holiday trend is now emerging. A new study has found that 13 per cent of people in Britain are planning to holiday at home this year, largely because it is seen as a more environmentally-friendly strategy.

Nearly four in ten of those surveyed said that the UK has a great deal to offer and it seems Margate will be one of the preferred choices this summer.

Post Office head of travel Kevin McAdam said: "People are now more than ever making important lifestyle decisions based on their knowledge and understanding of environmental issues. As a result, many travellers are planning to make the most of the UK's holiday spots.

"Our advice is that the travel industry will have to wake up to the fact that Margate could be the new Marbella."

"Visitors are advised to drop in on Margate Museum, which investigates the town's fascinating history through a series of displays and exhibitions. The magical Shell Grotto is similarly popular, as is the annual jazz festival in July."

"Plans are also underway to build a permanent gallery in Margate in honour of JMW Turner's association with the town, although this has provoked a fair amount of controversy in the local area. "

Ed: Comments invited.. I'm looking forward to reading them!

Mayhem at the Marlowe

A masked youth reportedly held a bread knife to the throat of a foreign student and hit another one in the head with a traffic cone during an incident in the street.

Detectives say the Czech youngsters had left the Marlowe Academy in Stirling Way, on Ramsgate's Newington estate, when they became the target of racial abuse.

A group of youths barracked, pushed and shoved them as they headed for the Hare and Hounds pub bus stop on the main Margate Road.

A boy of 12 suffered cuts and bruising when the traffic cone was rammed into his face. Three other Czech boys ran to a nearby newsagents and urged the shopkeeper to call the police.

They were followed by the youths and it was then that one boy was grabbed and had the knife held at his throat. The shopkeeper ran out and shouted at the attackers who ran off.

Any witnesses to the incident, which happened between 5pm and 5.30pm on Monday, March 5, are asked to contact Det Con Clare Walker on 01843 222089.

Ed: It's not hard to understand why the English language training that was once a key part of the local economy is dying a death. If you lived abroad, would you send your child to learn English in Thanet these days? Let me know what you think.

Murder Inquiry in Cliftonville

I'm hardly back a few hours when I read that a young man has been murdered in Cliftonville - no surprise - while I was away.

The victim was reportedly discovered in a property in Athelstan Road, Cliftonville, at around 8pm last night.

Pathologists will be carrying out a post mortem to establish the cause of death.

The victim's identity is not being released until next of kin have been notified.

Det Chief Inspector Jon Bumpus, who is leading the inquiry, said: "The victim was seen earlier in the evening arguing with a man in Athelstan Road and we would very much like to speak to that person as he may have information that can help with our investigation.

"We would also urge anyone who saw anything suspicious or knows anything about this murder to come forward and speak to us."

Athelstan Road, which links Northdown Road shopping centre and the cliff tops at Eastern Esplanade, has been cordoned-off.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 01303 289600 or Kent Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. You do not have to give your name and you could receive a cash reward

Sexual Orientation Regulations - Debate Stifled - MP

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, has today, accused the Government of trying to stifle debate prior to a vote on the highly contentious sexual orientation regulations.

The Regulations, which will give teeth to aspects of the Equality Act 2007, were considered as a Statutory Instrument in Committee Room 11 this morning and carried.

Only one of ten back-bench MPs hoping to speak (most not members of the committee appointed to deal with this issue) was called to speak in the debate which is timed to last for just one and a half hours.

Challenging the Leader of the House (Jack Straw) on the floor of the House at Business Questions Roger Gale asked why this Statutory Instrument was hidden in committee when the Government was finding time, before the Easter Recess, to have another Instrument relating to Casinos debated in the Main Chamber.

The MP also asked

"Will the Leader of the House guarantee that this measure will not be slipped through on a formal vote late at night or as a deferred (paper) division before the House has at least had the chance to discuss this issue during the Easter Adjournment debate."

Responding to Roger Gale and other members Jack Straw said that the issues had been debated during the passage of the Equality Bill, had been "thoroughly considered" during the Statutory Instrument hearing and that the procedures used had had the support of the Opposition Front Bench.

After the exchange Roger Gale said:

"With most of the churches in the country up in arms against these detailed proposals - which were not, of course, available during the passage of the Equality Act - and with many Members of Parliament wishing to register, on behalf of themselves and their constituents, strong objections to these measures it is, frankly, outrageous that the House will be denied a proper debate on what should have been a short bill on the matter.

Whatever view is taken - and it is clear that there are forcefully and honourably held opposing positions - it is quite wrong that such a sensitive issue should be brushed under the carpet as the result of a clandestine front-bench deal to avoid controversy and division.

There will, as a result of this squalid episode, be very many people who will feel, I think rightly, that they have been denied the right to have their views fully and properly aired in Parliament.

Episodes like this can only bring the House into further disrepute and make the public feel more strongly than ever that parliament is irrelevant to their desires. This is a very sad day for British democracy".

Looking Down

Having not written a word for a few days, I’m writing a few somewhere between Italy and Sicily at 35,000 feet on the way back in from the Middle East this morning as everyone at home is waking up.

I’ve come to the conclusion that somewhere in this part of the world there’s a huge factory in the desert turning out tens of thousands of camels, carpets and fake handbags to be sold in every bazaar from Tunis to Aswan. Once upon a time, one could find something unique in the Souk but today one has to try much harder or go “off the beaten” track to find a souvenir or any real interest or value. Oman is good for Frankincense and Silver and Dubai is great for Gold and Russian gangsters but most other places, going shopping means having to run the gauntlet of stuffed camel traders, shouting “Luvly jubly mate –you from England?” as if this were some powerful magic spell, with the power to part the foolish tourist from his money. Del Boy Trotter has a great deal to answer for if that’s the best sales patter we can export to Arabia!!

By the way, a word of warning to anyone thinking of upgrading to Microsoft’s Office 2007. Don’t unless you have taken a deep breath and thought about it first. Now I happen to work with the company and had my copy free and because they’ve decided to change all the menus and features around that I took a decade to learn, I’m now going insane trying to find my way around the software. Where’s the “Edit” menu gone? Worse still, Outlook has eaten my contact file database and 90 minutes on the phone with Microsoft support in Bangalore still hasn’t resolved the problem, which sees my email crashing two or three times a day.

I’m not going to touch Windows Vista until I can afford a new and more powerful PC and even with the one I have, I regret the upgrade to Office 2007 because it’s much more resources intensive than its predecessor.

Over the Alps – which don’t seem to have that much snow this year - and time for a catnap before the English Channel makes an appearance. I’ll catch up with the local news and the abuse over "knuckle-draggers" a little later today

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Turneround Margate - A New Weblog

A second new website has appeared this weekend and webmaster 'Jon' writes:

"I would like to let you know about the latest blog from Thanet, and wondered whether it might be of interest to your readers.Turneround Margate will write about the redevelopment of Margate and Thanet (particularly through the encouragement of art and culture). We are in this for the long run, and plan to take action in sparking redevelopment, not simply record other events."

Visit it at

Ed: Nice looking website Jon. Well done! I've put a link into the sidebar as well!

We are the Future" - Veteran MP Tells Re-adoption Meeting

"The responsibility for the future of our Country will lie in our Conservative hands".

That was the clear message given by North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, to his local party's annual general meeting this weekend.

Following his unanimous re-adoption as the Conservative candidate to represent North Thanet at the next general election the MP said:

"The New Labour project has failed. Those who elected the present government have been let down by a Prime Minister and an administration that have squandered money, trust and opportunity in equal measure.

We are the future. Once again, as in 1979, the Conservative Party will have to answer the call, undo the damage, restore faith and trust and confidence in our nation and in our Houses of Parliament and again build the kind of nation in which our people want to live.

Peoples aspirations remain the same. Families, young and mature, want security of home and job. They want to have a comfortable roof over their heads, they want good and swift access to healthcare for themselves and their children. They want a choice of high-quality education. They want to know that the streets are safe. They want our environment - our countryside - protected. They want dignity and tranquillity in their later years. They want our place in the world to be respected and perhaps above all, they want the right to realise their dreams through their own hard work and their thrift and to pass on the fruits of their endeavours to those who follow them.

Those are all of the desires that Margaret Thatcher confronted when she formed her first government in 1997 and they are as relevant today as they were then.
We have to give back to people the pride that they justly should take in their own achievement, the right to earn and to invest and to spend without direction from a nanny state, the right to take responsibility for those near and dear to them and to do so in a society where the boundaries are clear and where the differences between what is just and what is unjust, what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, are clearly understood.

We have to overcome institutionalised political correctness and replace it with a diverse and an optimistic society that has faith and belief and confidence in itself.
We can do all of that. We have done it before and we can do it again. We have "watched the things we gave our lives to broken" but our tools are not worn out - they are as sharp as ever and possibly more needed now than at any time in our history. We are working, and we will go on working, towards the day when we shall be able to say once more of Britain "It's great to be Great again"!.

The New Monaco of the North

I just noticed that the website counter passed through the quarter million mark as I was out walking the dog. I guess half a million is next but that's rather a long time off I suspect.

Eastcliff Richard, I notice has been the first to take-up my suggestion of running a competition for the best "Thanet" short film on the YouTube video site.

By the looks of it, ECR has been up all night 'dubbing' and produced a tourist guide to Ramsgate which reminds us of the considerable effort required to improve the town, if indeed it is to become the 'New Monaco' in time for the summer's 'Yacht Week' extravaganza.

Sadly, as he is in fact an anonymous character, I don't think he qualifies as a competitition entrant but he makes a very good point for the video medium as something that local government, keen on promoting tourism, should sit-up and take notice of.

Meanwhile, I've been looking at the Foreign Office travel advisory website for my next seaside destination this month. Not quite as many seagulls and hoodies as Ramsgate and a possible risk of being targetted by terrorists, so caution is advised. Quite obviously the FCO researchers have been touring Cliftonville instead! - Remember the tragic story from earlier this month -

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Life's a Beach on Margate Sand

If you missed it,then here's the Quad bike racing on Margate beach, courtesy of one spectator who placed it on YouTube.

Young Ramsgate

Michael Child of Michael's Bookshop in Ramsgate writes:

"Snapped this lot just down the road a couple of nights ago, they were very keen that I publish their pictures on which I've just done! "

Ed: Their reach now extends to ThanetLife. too About time we had some younger readers!

Home Movies

I had to wait until this big Antonov cleared-off before I could get going towards Brighton this morning. It's comforting to see that the Russians still maintain the bomb-aimer's position in the nose on their large transport aircraft!

On another topic, if you can find a "local" video on YouTube that you think is worth sharing with all our other readers, let me know.

We have had our local "Yobz" attemting to set themselves on fire - better luck next time boys - so outside of the home BBQ films I wonder what else there is out there which offers an instant impression of 'Thanet Life?'

Friday, March 09, 2007

Margate Civic Society

Webmaster, Mike Wilton, writes to tell us that Margate Civic Society has a new website which can be found in the links section - just under the Winter Gardens or by going straight to:

The Thanet TAFTA Awards

And the March 2006 'TAFTA' for the worst Thanet home movie ever, goes to the director of "Thanet Yobz Makin Flames" offering the audience a number of very good reasons to stay indoors at night.

Warning, best viewed with the sound turned down as the "F" word prevails.

Alternatively, they could be sent away under the loving care of the instructors at Lympstone CTCRM where their futures might look a little different.

Going Up the Wall in Thanet

One new way of keeping abreast of what the youth of Thanet are up to these days is to monitor the YouTube website. Here we have a fascinating and creative example of one group devoted to running up and down walls on Margate sea front; encouraging us all to think seriously about the provision of local activities and resources designed to prevent the kids from "Going up the wall."

What's really sad is that a generation ago, what these kids are doing would have been the most basic gymnastics in the schools I once taught in. Today however, even being educated in a "specialist sports" school means that children have a good 60% or less physical education than they had in the eighties.

Times and teenagers don't change that much though, I used to do much the same at their age in Westgate and broke my arm falling off the promenade, aged thirteen. That was before the safety railings were introduced.


There's been quite alot of traffic across the website this month and having just looked at the counter at the bottom of the page, some 'lucky' reader is going to be visitor 250,000 I would guess before the weekend is out.

I did of course think of winding Thanet Life down not so long ago but the traffic keeps building and while this remains consistent and people aren't bored rigid, it would be a shame to let it go.

Meanwhile, if work gets in the way, this month in particular, you may notice sudden gaps as I'm travelling but normal service will be resumed by the end of the month I hope.

Conveniently Invisible

Margate, "Marked by its physical isolation and relative deprivation", in contrast with Brighton's buoyant economy. Discuss?

A quote from today's Thanet Gazette that describes Margate as "A run-down dumping-ground for families from inner cities" with eight times more children in care from outside the area than Tunbridge Wells, placing enormous strain on local resources.

The trouble is that out of sight is out of mind where the inner-city authorities are concerned and from the highest tower block in Lambeth, Thanet is conveniently invisible.

Thanet and Margate will never be able to fulfill its potential if it remains a place to lose other people's problems but how do we say "No" in large letters that central government will take notice of? Introduce border controls at St Nicholas perhaps?

What's your view, how do we make a new Brighton out of Margate beyond painting parts of it pink?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Nothing to Answer For

Two pieces of good news this week.

The first, that following a police enquiry, Cllr Roger Latchford has been found blameless and free of any stain on his considerable integrity, reinforcing, in the minds of many, the "dirty tricks" allegations against an those who made the complaints in the first place.

In fact, Cllr Latchford appears to have attracted considerable sympathy for his position as the unfortunate victim of a politically-motivated witch hunt and the consequences, in the local elections to come, may be the very opposite of that which the complainants hoped for. None of these have of course, ever read or passed-on an email of dubious humour, provenance or good-taste.

The full story should all be in the Thanet Gazette today but strangely enough, it's not!

The second piece of good news is that the Air Show is back. Not quite as big as before but with the Red Arrows, RAF Falcons, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and more. So a sigh of relief for Thanet's tourism, as the airshow bought in 50,000 people last year and ironically, well done to Cllr Latchford, who has been instrumental, against all the odds, in finding the support required to make the air show happen in 2007.

Wind Farm Approved

Approval has now been granted for the construction of Thanet Offshore Wind Farm to be sited 11km off North Foreland.

This will consist of 100 x 3MW turbines. The scheme is anticipated to be the first, and largest to date, of the Government's Round 2 Offshore Wind Farm developments and is due to come on line in 2008.

Residents of Ramsgate may find it a little windier than usual from 2008!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Volunteers Wanted

I'm looking for volunteers who might be able to help in my campaign for a better Westgate in the local council elections, by doing some leaflet deliveries before May.

If you think you can help, I'd be very grateful and just send me an email and I'll reply with more details.

Deep Deep

Having heard John Reid blame Michael Howard for all our social ills or at least those at the Home Office, it was quite a coincidence to bump into him today at the lift in Westminster. "It's all your fault Michael", I said,well not quite but there was some suggestion in a second conversation that Mr Reid was so deep in denial that he needs a step ladder if he's to escape from the Home Office!

Actually, I was up in town discussing the thorny problem of ecrime and for anyone interested in agrowing problem. Here's a link to my Silicon.Com column on the subject today. Nothing to do with Thanet but then a local friend had his wife's Tesco credit card scammed recently, so living here is no protection against the attacks of the 'Phishermen'.

All About "Seaside Issues"

The government must do more to improve the economies and quality of life in some of England's most run-down seaside towns, a committee of MPs says.
The Commons local government committee said many coastal communities had poor housing and that influxes of elderly people put pressure on social services.

It called on ministers to end a "policy vacuum" on seaside issues.

The MPs also found that in England as a whole since 1997 there had been a 2.2% increase in claimants of incapacity benefit, special disability allowance or income support. But in seaside towns the rise had been 12%.

In some of the poorest resorts, the MPs added, the economy must develop beyond the low-wage, seasonal tourism trade.

Read on...

It's the Other Bloke's Fault

I watched Dr John Reid blaming Michael Howard - the former Conservative Home Secretary - for the immigration problem, with open-mouthed amazement this morning.

On Sky News, he was busily telling us that ID cards are the solution and that the Conservatives were and are the problem. Earlier this week I was with Professor Ross Anderson from Cambridge, the acknowledged expert on the technology surrounding ID Cards and his opinions in regards to the value of identity cards as a practical solution to identity managment, differ greatly with the Home Secretary. Having campaigned on the same technical platform I have to agree with him.

So, John Reid, is, after ten years, only now clearing up the mess that the Tories left or that's what he would have you think. Immigration, crime, guns, you name it, it's all the other bloke's fault and now he's found out about it, he's putting it right.

All this comes as Councils across the country are facing rising costs to deal with refused asylum seekers who are yet to be deported. Hillingdon Council was the first to admit it was planning a one per cent increase because of the number in the borough.

Does Dr Reid really believe the electorate are that dim? Apparently so.

I'm off to see the Shadow Home Affairs Minister today, so it will be interesting to hear the reaction at Westminster.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Not a Record to be Proud Of

Not so long ago I predicted a "bumper" crop of teeange pregnancies at one of Thanet's secondary schools and today, I see the Thanet Times is running a front page story that the Island has more than any other spot in Kent. From 2002 - 2004 there were 71 under-sixteen pregnancies and 356 under-eighteens.

When the 2004 - 2006 figures emerge the results could be equally worrying and once again, the results are concentrated in a couple of key wards, the most deprived in Thanet.

To achieve these figures suggests a catalogue of failure at different levels of responsibility in our community and there's no end in sight and no answer either to a cycle of deprivation which will carry-on to another generation with the results visible in the growing special needs requirements of local schools.

Experts say the problem stems from deprivation, numbers of children in care, young offenders on the isle and the number of teens who have no ambition.

Despite topping the tables for under-18s and under-16s becoming pregnant, Ruth Herron, of Kent Teenage Pregnancy Partnership, says the numbers are coming down. She said: "The problem is linked with young people who have no aspirations or opportunities. There is a huge amount of work being done in schools to tackle this problem."

Every town has its problem but I'd prefer that Thanet, with so many other problems, wasn't top in this category of despair.

An Englishman's Home

I'm not a regular reader of Richard Littlejohn but I think he has a point in his column today when he writes:

"Labour is about to introduce a law which will, quite literally, legalise daylight robbery. A bill giving bailiffs the power to break into our homes received its second reading in Parliament yesterday.

If it passes on to the statute book, any of us could find our front doors kicked in and our valuables seized. "

Ed: It's a little like the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in its original form which would have given "responsible persons", i.e. traffic wardens the right to access your PC. It's not quite as simple as that but it was very close and before media attention was drawn to the clause, the Home Office were very keen to push the legislation through.

The problem with this new legislation is the way it might "leak" into other areas, i.e. a firm of cowboy clampers are sent in to recover an alleged parking debt. It's rather worrying and proves conclusively that an Englishman's home is certainly not his castle or even as strong as a paper bag come to that!

And some more madness for you... Churches are now required to display "No Smoking" signs!

A government spokesperson from the Department of Health said: “Churches and other places of worship are not exempt from the ban and we provided the same guidance literature to all affected enclosed public places.“ Guidance will be published for businesses in plenty of time before the new law comes into force. “We will work with churches to ensure that their responsibilities are clear under the law. Prominent signs will be required at each entrance. “The design of such signs can be flexible and designed to match surroundings.”

Ed: That's good, you can display one over the crucifix then. That should keep the government insprectors happy!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Dulce et Decorum est..

I’ve been in Westminster today and had to rush back to tie the aircraft down at Manston against the fierce gales predicted this evening. I watched the Coastguard Islander trying to land against the crosswind earlier, well done that pilot, he was almost flying sideways by the time he managed bring the nose wheel down on the runway.

A couple of news items caught my idea today in the absence of any visible local interest stories.

The first is that David Cameron is arguing that Head teachers should be given tough new powers to expel disruptive pupils from their schools. Now to me, this sound like an attack of common sense politics and the Conservative leader said that boosting the authority of heads would be a key weapon in the fight against teenage gangs and in tackling a growing culture of "disrespect for knowledge".

One radical Tory plan to boost discipline is the scrapping of parents' right of appeal against permanent exclusions.

Now does anyone, outside perhaps of the BBC, really think that disruptive pupils should continue at school regardless of their impact on the children around them? I know there’s no easy solution to the problem and I recall, many years ago, when I was teaching at Tulse Hill Boys and came across a big lad called Michael G. who had been excluded from Wandsworth Boys when I was teaching there too. In fact, Michael, by the end of his short school career, had, I think, been excluded from every school in South London, some more than once. He wasn’t a bad lad as such; he was just large, had a short fuse and was very violent and perhaps should have been directed into boxing like his namesake, Mike Tyson, who he did rather resemble.

Unfortunately, David Cameron doesn’t seem to have a really good solution in regard to what you do with a lad like Michael G. when you have run out of schools to expel him from; wait for him to carry out a nasty assault and end up in Jail or simply hope that one day he’ll discover a vocation for social work and the priesthood? Stranger things have happened.

The story that most raised my blood pressure today, was the one involving an “Injured soldier who was told to take off his uniform in hospital to avoid offending ethnic minorities”, and who is now suing the Ministry of Defence for £2.8million.

Reportedly, after landing at RAF Brize Norton he was taken to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham in a lorry because no ambulances were available, which is bad enough if you’ve been blown-up but to be told by the doctor to remove his uniform, in case it caused offence, is mind boggling.

The last time I looked, Birmingham was still part of the United Kingdom, even though there are some who would prefer otherwise and I think it’s time that we allowed our soldiers to wear their uniforms in public again, as a badge of pride and not prowl around in “civvies” just in case someone might feel oppressed or offended by their presence. With two more Royal Marines killed in the last twenty four hours, it strikes me that it’s fine for our soldiers to wear their uniforms when they are dying in the service of our country but it’s not acceptable for them to wear that same uniform on the streets of the country they are dying for.

"My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori."

Wilfred Owen pictured.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Narrowing the Gap

Does anyone have any real idea of what the Liberal Democrats mean by "Narrowing the inequality gap?"

To me it sounds like a euphemism for the "Redistribution of wealth" argument; i.e. we all pay more taxes in the hope that those less fortunate than us will use the genorosity to climb out of the poverty trap.

Ten years of affirmative action from the present government along similar lines has achieved very little in real terms, so why the LibDems think they can do better, I don't know.

Simply super-taxing the rich and the middle-classes will kill the economy stone dead as the former will simply go and settle somewhere else, while the latter watch what little they have left of their savings and earnings eroded.

A Dozen Flats Too Many

Now I’m keeping a friendly eye on Westgate, there’s the matter of planning application F/TH/07/0188 for Beach Rise, opposite the Nottingham Castle pub car park.

The owner wishes to change the building into 12 self contained flats and I’m going to object for two reasons. The first, that it’s now, I believe in the newly expanded Conservation Area and the second because there’s no place to park at most times of the day in either Beach Road or the very narrow Beach Rise and possibly twelve more cars would stretch the area beyond breaking point.

In the planning application there is “A public car park within walking distance” and “The level of parking is considered sufficient.”

The suggestion is then that new residents park their cars in the council car park and pay parking fees then. I somehow don’t think that either these or the council would be impressed with such a fine idea. As for sufficient parking elsewhere; the very narrow Boundary Road’s double yellow lines have almost worn out and I’m asking that they be repainted and the Nottingham Castle’s public car park is almost filled to capacity already with the cars of other Beach Rise residents.

I have passed my concern to Councillor Goodwin to pursue and objections need to be in by 21st March. This kind of hare-brained scheme is the kind of application that Thanet residents now have to watch out for more closely than ever before, as accommodation is squeezed in ahead of any common sense assessment of the potential impact by the developer. Mind you, 12 flats is a nice return on investment on one large residential building and one can understand why these applications are made.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In the Umbra

The Moon over Thanet as the eclipse looks at 22:00 as it moves well into the umbra stage.

Pity I couldn't get a better shot without camera shake!

The Dog in the Red Coat

I just noticed that the web counter at the bottom of the page is getting very close to the quarter of a million impressions mark. It doesn't seem that long ago that I thought that 10,000 was a good result!

There's been quite a jump in traffic over the last week and I'm wondering, now that I'm in politics, well sort of, whether I have been equally nice to everyone, children and small animals included and of course absolutely 'politically correct' in all my opinions. If not, then you can bet that I'll be reminded of any slips!

My electoral agent for Westgate is pictured above, so if you spot her, do come-up to register your support. And "Yes" I know it's a red coat and either it's a cunning disguise designed to confuse the opposition or they were out of Tory blue at the time.

Remaining with politically correct for a moment, you may recall that after the last election, I put my money on young David Miliband as the man to replace the' Dear Leader', Tony, rather than the dour, unsmiling, finger-nibbling Gordon Brown. I'm not alone in predicting a disaster for Labour in the local elections, Channel 4 News did last night, with a survey of leaders from Labour-run councils across the country. "We're doomed", said one.

No, I think that the disaster will be so truly awful, as everyone gets their chance to vote against the all pervasive political correctness and policy insanity that surrounds us, that Labour will need to think twice about Gordon and young David may yet be the best chance the party has once the charisma of Blair has departed the stage. After all, nobody can argue that the scowling Chancellor has charisma or even vaguely knows what it means.

Young Miliband did slip on a TV interview not so long ago, perhaps revealing his private opinion on the succession. You be the judge!

About Me

Playing Chicken

If you know the Canterbury road traffic lights in Westgate, opposite the library, you'll know it has had more than its fair share of fatalities, which is why it now has pedestrian crossing lights.

Yesterday, I was stopped in front of the lights, watching three teenagers, "hoodies"in trendy gang gear, between, I guess 13 and 15, sauntering along from the village. They weren't at school and they weren't 'local' in the indigenous sense of the word and instead of waiting and crossing on to the central reservation, they stepped into the road in front of me and walked right through the crossroads and the speeding dual carriageway traffic towards the library, where they finally skipped back onto the pavement again laughing at the thrill of surviving. Motorists did of course have to stop or slow to avoid hitting any one of them.

A police car came from the Minster road in the opposite direction. Did it stop to ask why the boys weren't at school, not that I saw.

You see this kind of deadly juvenile daring behaviour from time to time in Westgate, either on the roads or the railway line; I've seen both but it all rather begs the question as to why, half way through the term, if a place can't be found for these boys in local schools or the authorities are unable to prevent them truanting, then who is failing them and us so badly by allowing them to roam at will in our community?

Ed: Nearly 600 school-age children are being convicted or cautioned for crimes every day, according to new Government figures.

The rate at which youngsters - school pupils and youths - are acquiring criminal records, and being placed on the national DNA database after being arrested, has surged in the past two years. Much of the crime is "youth-on-youth" as we have seen recently in Thanet with the local paper reporting 900 offenses over the year. - See earlier story in the archive.