Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Really Big Knife

More violence in Margate on Wednesday, when a man was threatened with a knife and robbed of cash, a mobile telephone, a watch and a silver bracelet on the seafront in Cliftonville.

The victim was walking from the sands atup the slope to Ethelbert Crescent at around 10.30am when a man approached him asking for the time. When he got out his phone to check, he was pushed and threatened with a large kitchen knife until he handed over his possessions.

Police are hunting a white man, aged between 17 and 18, around 5ft 10in, of slim build and with light-brown hair which is combed forward.

He has a two-inch scar running down his left cheek and spoke with a local accent. He was wearing a white hooded top, dark-blue jeans and blue trainers.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police in Margate on 01843 222073.

In a second incident on Tuesday, a French teacher was punched in the face when he tried to stop a confrontation between one of his students and another youth in Hawley street, Margate.

The teacher was with a group of eight students when a group of youths walked past them and a girl flicked her cigarette at one of the French students.

A row took place and as the teacher tried to separate the two a boy attacked him. He is described as aged 13 or 14, 5ft 2ins tall, stocky build with blonde hair.

The teacher did not need hospital treatment.

Anyone who saw the incident, which took place on Tuesday, May 22, is urged to contact PC Kim Lumpkin on 01843 222060.

Ramsgate wasn't immune either. An 18-year-old was assaulted and punched at about 2am on Sunday, May 27 as he walked along Penshurst Road. Police say he has been at the town’s Prince Harry pub with friends and after he left he was involved in the altercation with two men.

They are thought to be aged between 18 to 21. Both are around 5ft 8ins to 5ft 9ins tall.

One had black, spiky hair and wore a dark t-shirt and grey tracksuit bottoms. The other was blond and wore a grey hooded top with black stripes on the side and light blue jeans.

Anyone who saw the men in Penshurst Road or in the pub earlier are asked to contact Det Sgt Claire Munday on 01843 222060.

Ed.. it's sad enough to see such stories but the Margate account, 5' 2" and thirteen years old, attacking an adult? The lad must have 'issues'.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Anyone for Tea?

My council email address has only been active for less than a week and I'm already being spammed. Given that it exists for people to email me for genuine reasons, you can imagine how peeved I am to find email like the one below.

"Dear Simon Moores

This is Valentin Bayoukansky, who is writing to You, I am the russian journalist and being a great tea-lover and its collector at tea.

Now in my collection 1495 samples of tea. (The biggest collection of Russia) Also I have made “a mosaiс tape ” ribbon with tea packages 75,5 m long and I go on doing that so far.

I would like to inform you, that I write the book "The British about tea" in which they tell about the tea predilections.

Our tea project has interested :

Her Majesty, Queen of the Great Britain Elizabeth II, and the Prime Minister Mr Blair, and the Mr Michael Howard - Leader of the Conservative Party, and the Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson, and the Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, and the Mr David Bintley CBE Director Birmingham Royal Ballet, and the Mr Ken Hensley the singer .........

Please, support our project and send us answers to the following two questions for book:

1) Can You remember anything, interesting events in Your personal or public life connected with tea?

2) What images and thoughts arise in Your mind when You hear the word “tea” ?

I shall be happy if You will answer me.

With the deepest respect Valentin Bayoukansky. "

Ed: it goes on a bit and I can't imagine how both Tony Blair and Michael Howard became involved. Perhaps some of our readers would like to send him a suitable reply to add to his tea encylopaedia?

Neptune Square

Another archive photo from Tony, who writes:

"This is a picture of Neptune Square, Margate in the 1930's which once stood where the left hand lane of the Fort Hill dual carriage way is today. In the top right of the photo is the seamans mission. All this was demolished under a so called "slum clearance" in the 1930's so the new Fort Hill could become a dual carriage way. The demolition displaced the Margate maritime community who lived there."

Ed: Just imagine. What a pretty sight it would be today. It's tragic how much of Margate's past was knocked down to pave the way for some rather ugly development.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Write With a Lisp

I thought I would call PC World at Westwood Cross today and ask why my laptop, which was deposited there to have its keyboard fixed under guarantee, at the last Bank Holiday, hasn't reappeared?

I had first asked ten days ago and had been told that it had been collected and would take long, after all, it's only the "F" key which has stopped working.

When finally, PC World called me back this morning, it was to tell me that "Surprise" my laptop was still where I had left it and they couldn't understand why it hadn't been collected. "That's not much of an excuse" I told the chap at the other end of the phone. "It's not an excuse" he replied, "It's a reason" "and xxx, who should have done it isn't here today to ask."

So now my laptop won't be collected "again" until Thursday and then they have no idea how long the repair will take, ten days being a best estimate.

Forgive me if I'm not impressed, given that I needed one so urgently, that I had to buy a second laptop to tide me over until the first was fixed.

Every reason to give them a miss next time and I'm a "Business Customer", so Lord help "Joe Public"!

Memories of 44 - Lest We Forget

Following-on from yesterday's post, my thanks to Tony Ovenden for sending over the records of two Liberator bombers that crashed in Thanet in 1944.

From one of the documents, it's clear that one of the two aircraft, from the 392nd USAAF bombing group (BG), - Based in East Anglia near Wendling, Norfolk, - crashed off the the beach at Westgate on 27th April 1944. The other, from the 446th BG, - Station 125, Flixton - crashed at Foreness Point, both following a raid over Germany.

It's clear that the censor did not pass the report for the Thanet Gazette and until now, I had no idea of the incident, which had the Westgate aircraft ditch on the beach to avoid the town.

Thanks to the internet, we can discover more about the men and the missions involved on that day.

Returning debriefings gave an account that the Westgate aircraft had been hit by flak with one man bailing out at 1930 hours, and the ship finally crashed landed at sea near Westgate-Kent with (5) of the crew killed and (4) injured in the crash. The date of this final 392nd de-briefing account was 1 June 1944. No other information was given in these general reporting at the time though one member, Sgt. Kent, who had bailed out earlier, was taken as a POW.

After the war, Sgt. Kent, one of the surviving crewmen and the only POW, gave the following account of the crew’s plight in a report given 9 March 1946:

"We took off from England about noon after a very quick briefing which only the Pilot and Navigator attended. I was flying as spare Radio Operator at the time and did not know any of crew members until that day. We bombed an airfield in France and were very near the French coast on our return trip when we were struck by flak.

The plane started in a slow spin (and) the Co-Pilot left his position and started pulling off (his) flak suit and oxygen mask. The Engineer prepared to leave his position in the upper turret. It was my duty to clear the flight desk, open the flight deck doors and the bomb bays, which I did and stood waiting for orders. The plane was still dropping and the Engineer came out of his position trying to get his feet on the cat-walk where I was standing. In order to make room for him and for the Co-Pilot who had left his position, I was forced to bail out. I delayed opening my parachute for several thousand feet and then looked around expecting to see others about, but saw none nor could I see any plane going down. While a prisoner, I heard in a round-about-manner that the plane had kept on in a rather long coasting dive until it hit in the Channel a little way from the English shore; and that one man at least (had) survived the crash. I give you the above information with an open mind as it came to me from fellows who had been in the same outfit (392nd) as I, but might have been speaking of an entirely different case...".

The following members of this aircrew are interred in the U.S. National Overseas Military Cemetery at Cambridge: Ross; Aughinbaugh and Rich. There is no information listed for Sgts. Munford and Fink. Both Ross and Aughinbaugh are shown to have been awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ghost from the Past

Distant echoes of sixty years ago this afternoon, as a ghost from the past, a Spitfire, roared over St Mildred's Bay at low level, attempting to maintain a visual reference in the appalling Bank Holiday weather. No photo I'm afraid as he was there and gone in seconds under the rain.

I certainly wouldn't want to be airborne in this muck and there's already a second Spitfire and the Red Arrows, sheltering at TG Aviation, over at Manston from the wind and the rain.

The Southend Airshow should have been taking place today and I expect the organisers of that event will be wringing their hands in despair at a washout weekend. Much the same everywhere looking at the sports coverage. I was supposed to have been flying over the World Superbikes championships at Silverstone yesterday, which would have been better off using jetskis.

I have a book on the Second World War written by Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum, who was based at Manston and recounts being lost after a dogfight with a German aircraft in weather just like this. To find his way home, he follows the coastline above the sea until he almost hits the towers at Reculver and then he knew that safety and Manston's runway were just in front of him.

Since flying began, I'm sure a great many lost pilots in bad weather have been thankful for the Reculver towers. It's an old trick to drop down low over the sea, where there's nothing to collide with and look for a visual reference along the coast when the cloud is as low as it is today.

From Geoffrey Wellum's book, "First Light", which recounts his time at Manston in 1941, a photo showing, left to right:

Allan Wright, Geoffrey Wellum, Tich Havercroft, Brian Kingcombe in the 92 Squadron Spitfire cockpit, Unknown, Jock Sherrington, Sam Saunders (with cap) Bowen-Morris, possibly Bob Holland, Tommy Lunn.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Bridge Too Far?

Westgate residents may wish to know that the application to convert the former Bridge Hotel in St Mildred's road into single, self contained flats, was approved by the council planning committee despite an objection by Cllr Goodwin.

The only possible means of objecting to the change of use was the parking argument but as highways department had approved the application, the committee had no choice but to pass it but, I understand, for commercial sale - an important point - rather than for use by social services. If I can clarify this a little further I will add a comment.

Coming-up again soon is the Harold Avenue appeal, as reported in the Thanet Gazette this week and I would remind readers that as a councillor I am unable to express my position without comprimising my ability to act as a local representative voice at any future planning meeting.

However and given the publicity and local feeling surrounding Harold Avenue if you wish to express a view on the subject, please send me an email to cllr-Simon.Moores(at) and I will open my own file on the case. Residents can always ask their councillors to speak for them at a meeting if they wish.

Fluffy Bunny News

Tony Ovenden has news of a lost Rabbit.

He writes:

"I have a lost pet domestic rabbit found in the Nottingham Castle beer garden. There is a second one also on the loose. Do you know of anyone who has lost one. - or even two. "

Ed: To lose one Rabbit is careless but to lose two is an extravagence. I will ask!

Fantasy Island

Grounded by the imminent arrival of traditional British Bank Holiday weather, I'm scanning through the Sunday papers this morning. Among the stories that caught my eye was one in the Mail on Sunday, an excerpt from the book, Fantasy Island, by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson, which explores the many myths of Blair's Britain, with some interesting facts. Among them, "Between 1992 and 1999, our fastest-growing occupation was hairdressing" and "Britain is not a creative economy, but a cooking, cleaning and call-centre economy in which millions are toiling away in low-paid, low-skilled jobs."

If you don't wish to feel depressed, then don't read it but then in other papers, we have news that police will have anti-terror new powers to stop people within weeks - part of the Prime Minister's legacy - and that among the new powers the authorities have is one to lock people up in a mental institution indefinitely if they are seen as presenting a danger to the state; a popular device in the old Soviet Union. If the same rule could be done to crazy politicians of all parties then at least it might appear fair to the public at large!

And in The Observer, worries that Britain is 'sleepwalking' towards US-style segregation of schools along racial lines , revealed by government figures that show many towns are developing schools that are overwhelmingly white, Asian or black.

The Conservatives, last night outlined a plan to reverse the segregation - setting targets to ensure white and Asian pupils are educated together but the solution on offers appears to lie in targetted integration, which sounds vaguely like the "bussing" which created so many problems in the United States and which I am sure may have the same result here if it is tried. That's not to say that we should not work to prevent segregation but the environment in many UK cities is such that it is almost unavoidable, raising much more worrying questions over the nature of an increasingly divided society in years to come.

The fact of the matter is that nobody appears to have a practical answer to a problem that reflects human nature and the way in which groups with a common identity or ethnic background tend to congregate. What would you suggest?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Miracle in Progress

I was out and missed last night's BBC South-east news coverage of Margate's regeneration story and thanks to ECR for spotting it.

He has a different slant on the story as you might expect but fundamentally it's all about the good news as seen from the BBC studio, "The economic miracle" taking place in Thanet. If I'm totally honest, I would say that it's early days to be thinking of miracles. We have many of the necessary pieces of the infrastructure jigsaw puzzle in place to regenerate the economy but we also have a number of pressing problems that demand urgent attention too, workforce skills, investment, housing and deprivation being among them.

The mistake is to mock the report. Everyone here shares a common goal of trying to make Thanet a better place but there are many different opinions on how we can best jump-start the local economy. There is however a single blueprint or plan in place and like it or not, it's the one that may hold the best chance for success and we need to give it a sporting chance to succeed before we start anticipating its failure.

You can watch the BBC news report here.

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

Blowing Uphill

Another happy Lemming leapt over life's cliff this afternoon with a little air-suport help from a marriage proposal over Maidstone. Good luck to the happy "Jo" and "Steve" in adding to an unbroken record of saying "Yes" to the magic question.

Once I was finished, it was back into Westgate and the Linksfield road recreation ground, where the afternoon sports and fun day was taking place. Even in the dull weather, this appeared to have been a great success,with the most visible attraction being the TDC inflatable, five-a-side football pitch, with a mini soccer tournament going on. All credit to everyone involved, in particular, Tony Bailey, the Community Warden, TDC's Leisure & Sports Officer, Chris Tull and KCC Councillor, Robert Burgess. All four of us took the opportunity of having a brief discussion on improving the facilities for the local children on both sides of the Canterbury road.

I explained to one local couple who stopped me on the beach this morning, that money, or the lack of it, is the biggest challenge we are facing here and what little I am given as a ward councillor for local projects has to go a long way. This is why I'm looking to see if we can release any County money, where Cllr Burgess holds the keys for Westgate and Westbrook projects. As you can imagine, these things don't happen quickly but if we all work together as a community, local government officers and councillors, pushing the funding boulder uphill becomes a little easier I'm told.

Private Public Partnership

A poll on Sky News this morning suggests that viewers are overwhelmingly against the idea that private schools should lend their resources to neighbouring state schools.

Reported in most of the broadsheet newspapers, Labour's Alan Johnson said he wants private schools to take pupils on secondment from local state schools, open their science labs to comprehensives and offer many more bursaries to poor families.

“Private schools need to do more to earn their charitable status,” he says.

“It’s not enough just to lend their playing fields, it’s about the science lab, it’s about teachers - there are excellent Maths teachers in private schools.

"Let them give a bit of their expertise to the state sector.”

Ed: Other than the really big, well-known private schools like Eton, I don't know of any, which aren't struggling financially and I do know many parents that are struggling to keep their children in private education because of rising school fees.

Now it strikes me that if one part of society wishes to pay for their childrens' private education after tax and by going without luxuries that others take for granted, then the resource should be used for what it has been paid for by the group involved. Wouldn't the same argument apply at a golf club or even a restaurant, suggesting perhaps that the chef be lent to the cafe down the road to improve the menu there?

That may sound flippant but isn't the comment: "Let them give a bit of their expertise to the state sector.” equally flippant, implying an overworked, individual teacher's duty in an area where the state has clearly failed.

Where does this stop and would it make any difference to the decline in our education system which is costing the taxayer billions and is not "fit for purpose" when its end results are contrasted with other nations.

What do you think?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Light in the Tunnel

Following-on from an item we discussed here recently, Kent Online reports that

"Thanet is in the grip of a social housing crisis, with many people waiting years for disability adaptations or even leaving the Isle to find a suitable home."

The story add that "With more than 4,500 households on Thanet council’s waiting list and a woeful central government disability grant, there is little light at the end of the tunnel."

Commenting on the report, Cllr. Zita Wiltshire, the new Cabinet Member for Housing at TDC, said: "There is a backlog of people waiting for disabled facilities grants in Thanet, as there is elsewhere in the country.

"Thanet Council increased its input to the DFG budget this year, but unfortunately, this wasn’t matched by central government, as reported earlier this year.

"It is very difficult to manage the size of our waiting list without increased funding. However, we have introduced a new priority system and other measures in an attempt to reduce the waiting times and impact for those people waiting.

"There are currently more than 4,500 households on the Council’s waiting list, with 165 in Band A, and 171 with an Occupational Therapy assessment, stating that they need an adapted property to move in to.

"One of the difficulties that this group faces, in addition to the lack of affordable housing generally, is that very little affordable housing in Thanet is suitable for adaptation, particularly where level access or a lift is required.

"Clearly, we have been affected by the 'Right to Buy’, but we are working with our Registered Social Landlord partners to identify new sites for building affordable homes, including having some affordable housing on large strategic sites like Westwood Cross, and where possible we will be have a percentage of adapted homes on those sites."

Ed, this story returns us to the question of priorities. With little or no funding available and other local authorities as far away as Manchester reportedly "advertising" B&B accomodation in Margate, there's a huge strain on the existing social housing stock. Many people living in Thanet might also advocate the introduction of border control at the St Nicholas roundabout but without money and with a growing demand for new houses on the island, the council finds itself very much between a rock and a hard place in trying to achieve the best with the resources that it has available.

Quick Dispersal

Following on from the discussion below on gangs and groups, you might be pleased to discover that a dispersal order, aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour, will come into force in Broadstairs from Friday 1st June.

The order, made by Thanet District Council and Kent Police, is designed to give the police powers to disperse groups of people that they believe are causing trouble or intimidating others. The dispersal order will run for six months and will be in force 24 hours a day. It applies to groups of any age.

It will cover an area of the town, which includes the seafront from Harbour Street to Queens’ Gardens, Granville Road, Queens Road, Pierremont Avenue and the length of the High Street from Pierremont Avenue down towards the seafront. Pierremont Park and Victoria Gardens are both within the dispersal area.

Cllr. Chris Wells, Cabinet Member for Safer Neighbourhoods, said: “I am delighted to be making this early announcement of our continuing determination reduce anti-social behaviour in Thanet. We know this is a major concern for locals in Broadstairs, who suffered problems throughout last summer, and we are determined to ensure the town does not suffer the same problems again. This is not about disrupting the many festivals and events which take place during the summer months. People who are behaving themselves, have nothing to fear from this dispersal order. But if you come to Broadstairs this summer with mischief in mind, the powers are in place to deal with you straight away. Many in the town will be particularly grateful for the curfew order on younger teenagers who congregate outside shops and off licences on summer evenings.”

Although the dispersal order applies to all ages, a curfew has also been put in place between the hours of 9pm and 6am on anyone under the age of 16. During these hours, the police have the power to take anyone under this age home.

Sgt. Dave Knox of the Crime Reduction Unit for police in East Kent said: “Dispersal orders have proved effective in other parts of East Kent because they give police officers the power to disperse groups of people causing problems for the local community. We are fully aware of the criticism sometimes leveled that the problems are simply shifted to other areas and we have measures in place, including the use of fixed and mobile CCTV cameras, to assist us to act quickly and prevent this from happening. The curfew is an additional tool enabling officers to take young people home when they persist in anti-social behaviour and spoil it for anyone trying to enjoy an evening out in Broadstairs.”

Ed: Please note that this is "dispersal" and not a "disposal" order, given that some members of the Broadstairs community would much prefer the latter form of action applied than the former. It's a start and perhaps we can see it next in Birchington, Margate, Ramsgate and other areas that have experienced problems with congregating 'group' of teenagers, although I'm sure that a great many of the hard-core troublemakers may in fact be over 16 so dealing with them is an equal challenge.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Little Mosaic Law

Kent Online runs a story today on a Ramsgate man who has notched-up 197 hoax calls to the emergency services.

A Judge has criticised the current 'namby-pamby' state of ASBOs that often are unenforcable after an application was made for such on order on a man with mental health problems.

Adaku Oragwu, prosecuting at Canterbury Crown Court, said an ASBO - an anti-social behaviour order - would prevent George Moses, of Clements Road, Ramsgate, from committing further nuisance offences But Judge Timothy Nash questioned how such an order would achieve that Moses, 39, was to be sentenced for making hoax calls to the emergency services about gas leaks, illness, assaults and burglaries.The ambulance service alone received 197 999 calls and crews were intimated by his behaviour. One crew waited down the road and saw Moses running towards them brandishing a piece of wood.

Mr Moses' lawyer, commenting on the attempt to place his client under an ASBO, said:

"I am horrified by the proposition that an order be put in place that prevents this man from contacting the police. That is a grave restriction on public rights and it should not be embarked on."

Meanwhile, Judge Nash said: "We live in this namby-pamby state where everybody rushes to get ASBOs. The latest figures show they are not anywhere near as successful as intended and there are so many breaches people can't keep up with them, the local authorities don't do anything about them and the police don't, they don't have the manpower."

Ed: So from the sound of it, expect more hoax 999 calls ad infinitum!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gangz and Groupz Explained

Just in case any of the foreign students being mugged in Thanet don't know it, news today that:

"On the orders of a government agency, gangs of teenage criminals should no longer be called "gangs" because it might offend them.

Instead they should be referred to as 'groups' and their crimes described as 'group-related'.

The instruction comes from the Youth Justice Board, which organises probation, training and detention for under 18s.

It echoes the decision by the Metropolitan Police three years ago to drop the phrase "gang rape" and replace it with "group rape".

Ed: The Oxford English Dictionary says a gang is "any band or company of persons who go about together or act in concert (chiefly in a bad or deprecatory sense, or associated with criminal societies)".

So that's alright then, make sure you identify the thugs as being from a group and not a gang!

By the way, the video is from a popular YouTube production which reportedly shows the youths in the background burgling a house as a group of policemen stand outside.

Squeezed for Space

I've just been having a poke through all the different planning applications in my Westgate ward for the last twelve months and I count 173 new homes, the great majority being houses rather than flats.

Now that strikes me as being quite a large number, as I started the exercise thinking it might be a nice round figure like 50 and it shows how wrong one can be.

There's an increased density in Westgate these days that is immediately noticeable in the shortage of parking space in strategic areas, such as outside the surgery and in the village. If the planning applications continue at their current pace - and there's no reason to believe that they might not - then in five years, little Westgate is going to look very squeezed for space unless we keep a very close eye on its growth.

I also wonder, under this week's new planning regulations proposed from Westminster, how many giant garden conservatories/outdoor cabins are now going to appear over the course of the summer.

I'm reminded of one resident who extended part of their small house in what is now thankfully the conservation area - with a bright white PVC conservatory on a 19th century building. This is now quite literally visible from ten thousand feet without any trouble. I sometimes wonder if the aircraft routing back to Heathrow along the coast use it as a visual reporting point?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Little Care

I've been sitting over Birmingham this afternoon, promoting the new campaign for the Foster Care Associates at .

It's an admirable organisation and for more information you can visit their website for more information on fostering children.

More Unprovoked Thuggery

In yet another example of how risky it now is to be a foreign student studying in Thanet, A 17-year-old dutch teenager was assaulted in Ramsgate.

The victim was walking with his 13-year-old sister near the Parade when the attack took place.

He was punched in the face by another boy in what police say was an unprovoked attack.

The offender is described as aged between 16 and 18, of slim build, with cropped blonde hair. He was wearing a black jacket, a white sweater with black stripes and black trousers.

Anyone with information about the incident, which took place at around 5pm on Monday, May 7, is asked to contact police on 01843 222060.

The Great Leap Forward

Here's an interesting and encouraging piece of economic news today.

The Isle of Thanet Extra reports that as many as 1,000 jobs could be coming to the county on the back of a major development involving China.

Thanet firm Commercial Group Properties has agreed a 10-year lease on a 1,000,000sq ft development at its Manston International Business Park, which will see a host of Chinese businesses setting up on the site.

The deal is with the Beijing Association of SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) and surety is provided by Chinamex, an arm of the Chinese government.

Ed: This could be really good news with lots of different spin-off opportunities for Thanet and so I'll be watching the progress with real interest.

Let Them Come?

"Consider first Margaret Hodge," writes columnist, David Aaronovitch in The Times, "the radical minister. Bravely breaking with decades of accepted practice and flaunting several taboos, Ms Hodge argued for a change to council housing rules to favour those who could be regarded as 'indigenous' over those who could be classified as “new migrants”, regardless of actual housing need! "

Hodge's argument may strike a chord here in Thanet, which has seen the social balance shift quite dramatically over the last decade in west Clftonville and central Margate. Aaronovitch however sees any movement towards favouring the indigenous over the new arrival as an unnaceptable injustice and adds:

"For me this created the wonderfully retro image of the asthmatic children having to stay put in the damp house by reason of their incorrect origins, while the perfectly healthy indigenous couple got in ahead of them on the housing list. All of which, according to Ms Hodge, would “promote understanding which leads to better tolerance and integration in our society” by making white people feel that life was less unfair."

There is one reality however. There are not enough homes and social housing stock to go around and house prices are rising all the time so what is the answer? Is Hodge right about giving priority to those "local" people who are in the queue already or does need; i.e "I have five children to your two", always come first?

It's a subject that is bound to raise strong feelings and here in Kent in particular. Who do you think is right? Hodge or Aaronovitch

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Class Struggle

One expression I heard used, for the first time in many years, at last week's full council meeting, was "Comrades". Surprised to hear it again after so long, for some strange reason, it stimulated a mental flashback to the scene below, from Monty Python & The Holy Grail, which illustrates the atmosphere of the seventies and the concept of a "class struggle" that I thought was long dead and buried in mainstream British politics but still survives with faint echoes here in Thanet

Powerboat News

One of Thanet's major summer events is expanding this year to include a new spectator sport in its line up, which is set to feature world champions.

The Ramsgate Powerboat Grand Prixwill this year also feature waterskiing. The event, already one of the biggest events in the national powerboat racing calendar, will take place over the weekend of Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th July and will see the return of the popular closed canopy V24 boats, which can get up to speeds of 80 miles an hour. They will be joined by offshore powerboats, K class racing for youngsters and Hotboats, a new addition to this year's line up. The Hotboat classes have been designed to allow the larger, more powerful craft to take part in racing, some of them exotic one of a kind creations.

More than 20 ski boats are also expected to take to the water with world champion waterskier Kim Lumley and her boat "Under Pressure" heading a star-studded lineup of competitors. Men's European F1 silver medalist Karl Brooks, from Essex, with his boat "No Mercy" will also be competing. They are both currently competing in the world championships in New Zealand.

Land based entertainment will include a continental market, street entertainers, bands, with a firework display as the finale on the Saturday evening.

The Ramsgate Powerboat and Waterski Racing Grand Prix will start at 10am on both days, finishing at 11pm on Saturday 7th July and at 6pm on Sunday 8th July. For more information, contact the Ramsgate Royal Harbour Marina on 01843 572100.

A Little Tax Credit

I opened the "Tax Credits Annual Review" package from those nice people at HMRC this morning and promptly ruined my weekend.

I think all of us know how botched the entire system has been since inception, with many people in Thanet having experienced real personal hardship through Inland Revenue mistakes. Now, this latest form appears to be nothing less than a second tax return, which also wishes to know the ethnicity of the applicant.

The fundamental problem for most self-employed people in completing the return is that it requires most of the detail that would be contained in the annual tax return by the end of July rather than January of next year, with particular emphasis on "other forms" of income; i.e. were you ever paid in cash or did you receive the benefit of a chocolate bar from a previous employer?

I'm not joking about the chocolate bar. Two years ago, I had my first tax inspection - we will all have one every five years or so now - The inspector, who took the trouble to travel all the way from Edinburgh for a very simple job, spent a morning at my accountant rustling through all my receipts and pulled-out one with a trumphant expression. It was a petrol receipt which included a 36 pence 'Topic' bar.

"Was this chocolate bar included on your client's P11d" asked the Inspector.
"No" replied my accountant, "Very often my client has no time to take lunch and the chocolate bar should be classified as subsistence."

The two spent some time arguing over this vital detail before the Inspector conceded that perhaps I was not involved in an organised chocolate evasion fraud but it does illustrate how invasive, convoluted and indeed, downright stupid, the system has become under the man who is about to become our next Prime Minister.

When I was canvassing before the council elections, I met families who were being squeezed by rising interest rates and were worried by the same tax credit system that was supposed to be helping them. The guidance notes for the pack are 34 pages long and I wonder how many people will be able to read and understand the detail that is required and the implications of making a simple mistake?

Tens of thousands of people made simple errors last time around and their lives were made a misery and you can guarantee that if you don't make a mistake of your own, the in that lottery controlled by the Inland Revenue, there's an excellent chance of a mistake being made for you with little or no chance of justice at the end of it. One of Gordon's greatest gifts to the nation you might think or perhaps you have another opinion of the system we now enjoy?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

War Of the Wealds

I found myself admiring what I think was Madonna's mansion this morning, not that she would approve but it just happened to be in between where I was coming from, Compton Abbas and where I was going to, a gathering just south of Bournemouth airport.

What struck me was how much space there is outside the South-east, with the rest of us being squeezed into ever smaller parcels of land. Take the area between Redhill and Leatherhead, just South of the M25 as another example. Running alongside Gatwick and out towards Southampton, it's an unspoiled vista of an England that only now seems to exist in Hugh Grant films. Huge country houses and small villages that have escaped the developers attentions and will continue to do so, I suspect, because they represent a significant seat of influence and power in the country.

But roll past Sevenoaks on the descent into Rochester and you see what looks like a virus spreading across the countryside, the fresh looking colour of new brick estates, marching east, like story-book aliens from HG Wells, 'War of the Worlds" or perhaps it should be 'War of the Wealds'?

I suppose the fact of the matter is that Somerset is too far from London for affordable housing and Ashford is too near and Greater London, for all of us, seems to get a little closer every day

Friday, May 18, 2007

Under Scrutiny

Sorry, been out at Reading today, a good five hours round trip on the motorbike, once the traffic misery has been taken into account. Without the bike, I suspect I would still be stuck in the endless queue on the M25.

I haven't had a chance to comment on last night's council meeting and others have already beaten me to it. There was an 'energetic' debate over the 'Scrutiny' function - see below and a great deal more besides.

Before I go out again and for anyone with a constituent interest in Westgate, I've been placed on the licensing board, governance & audit committee and joint transportation board, and Cllr Goodwin is on planning and licensing.

Now here's the 'official' communication on the future of the scrutiny function at the council, which ruffled more than a few opposition feathers last night:

Thanet District Council has operated a scrutiny function since May 1999, where scrutiny panels examine the decisions taken by the Cabinet, investigate the key issues that affect Thanet and make recommendations for improvements.

Since then, progress assessments by the Audit Commission have found that the scrutiny process in Thanet does not provide strong and effective scrutiny and challenge to the Cabinet. In 2005, it was described as being "underdeveloped" and "still seen within the Council as adversarial and political, and its policy development role, except in finance is ineffective." A follow-up assessment a year later described scrutiny performance as continuing "to be variable overall, though with some improvement in its approach to financial decisions."

In light of these comments, Members were last night asked to consider the future of scrutiny arrangements at Thanet District Council and it was decided that in future, there would be one panel, chaired by Cllr. Bob Bayford.

Cllr. Martin Wise, Cabinet Member for Finance, Improvement and Customer Services, said: "We are determined to run an efficient and effective council for residents in Thanet and part of that is ensuring that scrutiny is working as effectively as possible. Scrutiny can play a very strong role in helping to improve the value for money that we provide to our residents. Officers have been looking at how scrutiny works in other councils across the country and having a single panel, chaired by a member of the ruling group, works well in a number of other areas, which is why we have decided to follow this model."

Cllr. Bob Bayford, Chairman of Scrutiny, said: "Over the past eight years, scrutiny has been led by the opposition group in Thanet. During that time, it has stuggled to be an effective scrutiny and overview function, which is essential for any council. It's clear that the time has come for a different approach and that's why the Scrutiny Panel will now be chaired by a member of the ruling group. That shouldn't present a problem, as the scrutiny function was designed to be non-political. In taking on that role, I firmly believe that you don't have to be a member of an opposition party to challenge what the Council is doing, but it's also important to remember that scrutiny is about more than that. It's about helping to inform policy and decision making."

Ed: I hope that makes it a little clearer but I'm sure there's an alternate version of events in circulation. By the way, I note - thank you Michael Child - that the link to councillor information from the TDC website appears to be inoperative. I will try and discover why next week.

And before I forget, Last night's Annual Council meeting saw Cllr. Sandy Ezekiel re-elected as the Leader of the Council for the fifth year with Cllr. Roger Latchford as his Deputy. Cllr Latchford will also take the Cabinet portfolio of Economy and Culture, which covers such areas as planning, the Port of Ramsgate, Ramsgate Royal Harbour Marina, tourism and culture and events.

The remainder of the Cabinet for the next Council year is:

Cllr. Shirley Tomlinson - Commercial and Environmental Services (including street cleaning, waste and recycling, grounds maintenance, beaches, environmental enforcement)

Cllr. Chris Wells Safer Neighbourhoods (community safety)

Cllr. Zita Wiltshire Housing (including Council housing, - homelessness, Renewal Area and private sector housing)

Cllr. Jo Gideon Health and Communities (including leisure services, sport)

Cllr. Martin Wise Finance, Improvement and Customer Services

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Series of Small Steps

I'm delighted to see that the repainting of the public toilets in St Mildred's Bay, which started yesterday, is almost complete. My thanks to the council for moving so promptly on the request to have this done before the holiday season starts.

I would never describe them as pretty but with bright white paint and blue railings, they now look a great deal better than they were in this morning's drizzle.

Remaining with the subject of Westgate buildings, I understand that no public objections have been lodged against F/TH/07/0457 for the change of use of the Bridge Hotel in St Mildred's road to twelve, self-contained single flats for "Adult social care facilities."

This application will be heard at the planning committee on May 23rd (19:00)and if you have any formal objections, you should email these to or write to Thanet Distict Council, Planning Services (PO Box 9) Cecil Street, Margate, CT9 1XZ. You can also pass comment here as Cllr Goodwin is on the planning committee and I'm sure he will read anything under this entry.

Please note my remarks in the earlier story this week: "Qui Tacet Consentiret" in regard to my stating any personal position on this and any other local planning application.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Basketball Anyone

I have asked the TDC leisure department to give me the costs of setting up a half-basketball court on one of the two top tennis courts at Westgate. The courts would be unaffected but it would allow local children to play the game outside school when tennis isn't being played and out of season.

I had noticed recently that with the tennis net posts removed from one of the courts for the last few months, that children have been using the space for five-a-side and for cricket practise.

Does anyone object to the idea of putting a half-court basketball space with a hoop in there if the option appears at a sensible cost. It would come out of my small local improvement budget and Cllr Goodwin has offered to contribute from his.

Seaside Harvest Time

About two weeks ago, I noticed while on my afternoon run, a group of about four men of possible eastern-european origin, harvesting the cockles and mussels in West Bay, towards the end of the promenade there. Unusual I thought and promptly forgot about it until I heard that others have seen this too.

I have just had a chat with the Thanet coastal project - see sidebar link - and apparently this has been reported elsewhere. It is not illegal but the project wishes to measure any environmental impact and has asked that if you see this happening, please report it to

Harvesting of this kind only becomes an issue when the product is used for commercial consumption from a food safety perspective and so there's an equal interest in knowing who the cockles and mussels are being sold to.

Road Closed

As I write this at 14:20, the Canterbury road in Westgate is closed in both directions, with the Kent air ambulance sitting on the dual carriageway outside St Augustines.

A little earlier, an elderly lady was struck by a car while crossing the road outside the Summerlands retirement home. She is in a critical condition and still being treated by the road side.

Cllr Goodwin and I just happened to be in the area for a 'walkabout' and so I've done what I can to inform both KMFM and Invicta radio to warn people of the traffic disruption.

All credit to the pilot of the air ambulance for squeezing into such a tight space and my thoughts go out to the accident victim who the paramedics are trying very hard to keep her with us.

Ed: Sadly, I have just heard that the lady involved has died at the scene.

Grammar Schools - "Kent Must Defend Its Choice" - MP

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, has this morning said that Kent must continue to fight to defend the future of its grammar schools and of educational choice.

Speaking on Radio Kent the MP, himself a former grammar school pupil, said:

"Cameron`s policy not to introduce more grammar schools is not new. What is new is the astonishing suggestion, made by Shadow Education Secretary David Willetts, that because few grammar school children do not receive free school meals this means that children from poorer families do not benefit from grammar school education. The concept that only "middle class parents" are able to "play the system" to get their children into grammar schools is bizarre. There are still parents from all walks of life who regard the education of their children as of paramount importance and who are prepared to forego luxuries such as foreign holidays to pay for extra-curricular activities for their sons and daughters. Is that now a crime?

Kent has a strong tradition of defending its grammar schools and I trust that we shall continue to do so.

I also question Willett`s wisdom of nailing my party`s colours to the City Academy mast. The jury is still very much out on Blair`s creation and before we leap to endorse it and promise more it might be a good idea to ensure that this does not turn into yet another educational gimmick.

Finally, in this new spirit of egalitarianism, I trust that every member of the shadow cabinet that has endorsed Mr. Willett`s view will give a clear undertaking that they are not sending and will not send their own children or grandchildren to public schools which, because of New Labour`s abolition of the Assisted Places Scheme, children from the poorest families may no longer be educated!".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Booze Cruise

Driving back from Ramsgate on Saturday night at around 10:30pm, I watched a group of visibly under-age teenagers walking along the road carrying several boxes of lager as I passed by.

Who I wondered is selling them the booze and where are they getting the money from to buy it?

Then, this week, we hear that police have confiscated more than 45 cans and bottles from young people during an operation to crackdown on underage drinkers in part of Kent.

Kent Online reports that a team of five officers visited areas across Thanet that have been the subject of complaints about alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.

They stopped 70 youngsters, the majority of whom were under the age of 18.

As well as seizing alcohol, the young people were warned about their behaviour and told that Thanet is a designated no alcohol zone.

The main areas covered in the operation were Victoria Gardens in Broadstairs, Ellington Park and Boundary Road Park in Ramsgate and the Albion car park area in Birchington.

PC Sue Luck said: "Underage drinking on so many occasions results in anti-social behaviour including criminal damage and violence.

"Excessive drinking will not be tolerated and those who sell alcohol to youngsters will face the consequences."

Ed: The police need to re-focus on Ramsgate from what I saw on Saturday.

A Community Order

On the front page of the Thanet Times today, news that a former Hartsdown College teacher, has been given a 36-month community order with supervision for "kissing and cuddling a 13-year-old pupil girl who he had turned to for company when he was feeling low.

34-year-old Samuel Webb ended the relationship with the girl after exchanging more than 2,000 text messages, but it came to light when her father received a £250 bill for her mobile phone.

Webb, formerly of Approach Road, Broadstairs, but now living in Oxford, admitted one charge of sexual activity with a child.

The rest of the story can be found here but is the sentence sufficient or indeed appropriate given that nature of the position of trust that Webb enjoyed?

Qui Tacet Consentiret

Writing this on the train to Victoria this morning, I’m wondering if I will arrive in London on time. I’ve mentioned before that the train can prove to be a bit of a lottery but it’s still quicker and less stressful than the road, which even on a motorcycle, makes the journey a huge challenge once the Medway bridge has been crossed.

The train, having just stopped at some signals, not for long I hope, gives me an opportunity to gaze out at the country scenery adjacent to my window, where a huge muddy canvas marks yet another housing estate being built outside Faversham.

I discovered this morning that Westgate station will go ‘Part-time’ in two weeks. 08:00 to 11:00 opening I was told. That’s not good news in terms of an unsupervised space running parallel to the village for most of the day. In fact, the station is looking very shabby these days. The last coat of paint on the building must have been applied when I was still going to school in Broadstairs and it shows.

Cllr Goodwin and I are getting together tomorrow to have a stroll through Westgate and make a note of the issues that are most immediately visible. I’m a little concerned that the railway station, where many people will get their first impression of the village, looks as shabby as it does and I wonder if anything can be done or will the railway company simply leave it to slowly rot away alongside a score other similar small stations in Kent?

Last night, I attended a meeting of the Margate Charter Trustees in the Old Town Hall. I hadn’t realised the extent of the work done by the group in support of local charities and good causes and it demonstrates how much positive work goes on behind the scenes that many people, including me, weren’t aware of.

Finally, I wanted to point out a difference between what I can and can’t write now I’m an elected representative. It’s only natural that people in Westgate would like me to take a firm position on issues that are of concern to the community; over development being a good example. However, when I’m writing here, I have to be aware of new rules and regulations which mean that I have to be careful when it comes to any expression of a personal position on any matter which may find its way into the council chamber for a vote. Let’s say that I write that I’m against the development of new flats at the mythical Acacia Ave in Westgate. If Acacia Ave now comes up in council business then procedurally – my understanding anyway – I could find that my published position could rob my community of a vote, as I could be seen to have made my mind up in advance.

It all sounds convoluted and that is, I suppose, why we have a democracy. So please don’t try and draw me into making public statements of position on potentially controversial matters, as rather like a lawyer, my first priority is to serve the interests of my client community and personal expressions may run contrary to this.

This all reminds me of the trial of Thomas More: “The maxim is "Qui tacet consentiret": the maxim of the law is ‘Silence gives consent’. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied. “

So as a councillor, rather than a ‘Blogger’ it may sometimes be expedient to remain quiet until such a time as speaking or writing can deliver the best result in the right public forum.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Support a Volunteer Project in Africa

Teenager Tiffany Cavanagh, Head Girl at the Ursuline College in Westgate, has asked if I would let people know of a "Wine and Wisdom" evening at Birchington Church Hall, Our Lady & St Benedict Catholic Church on Friday 18th May at 7pm doors open for a 7.30 start.

The purpose is to raise money to fund her volunteer project in Kenya in July. She will be working with children, teaching English, counselling victims and orphans of AIDs and working on community development.

Ticket price is £6 with a glass of wine and buffet included, Bring your own extra soft drinks and alcohol of your choice.

Talking 'bout' My Generation

Diabolical weather on the approach into Thanet this afternoon. It's not often that I feel airsick as the pilot of the aircraft. So much much for May. Perhaps April was our Summer and now we are experiencing an early Autumn?

Remaining with the subject of Autumn and a neatly contrived link into the "Autumn years", here's a great YouTube video which illustrates that life most certainly begins at sixty and more!

Lost at Sea

A windsurfer was left drifting out to sea in 30-knot winds when his equipment broke at the weekend.

Kent Online reports that the male windsurfer was taking advantage of the winds at Minnis Bay, with two other boarders from a surf club when the accident happened, just before 4pm on Saturday.

With the light failing he was quickly driven more than a mile out to sea towards the Margate Hook sands.

In the end the windsurfing club’s safety boat found him and the inshore lifeboat brought him back to safety.

Stone Age Thanet Discoveries

Kent News reports that Stone Age artefacts have been discovered during excavations along an 11km pipeline route in Thanet.

Teams from Wessex Archaeology found the archaeological remains along the pipeline route between Foreness Point at Margate and Weatherlees Hill near Sandwich, during work last summer on a £80 million environmental improvement project by Southern Water.

Now the finds are being studied by experts so that as much as possible can be learnt about how people have lived in Thanet since the Stone Age.

The earliest finds are more than 5,000 years old and the most recent date back to the World War Two.

Read on.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Surplus Sale

I spent a very pleasant evening on the "Grand Turk" in Ramsgate harbour yesterday evening and was sorry to hear from the Captain, that this wonderful ship, is having to be sold off as it is "surplus to requirements."

The Grand Turk is a replica of a three-masted sixth-rate frigate, well known for depicting HMS Indefatigable in the TV series Hornblower, although the historical Indefatigable was a much bigger ship. She has also served in the same TV series as the French ship Papillon. She was built primarily as an action vehicle for the international TV and film industry. Nowadays the tall ship is used mainly in sailing events, for corporate or private charter, and for receptions in its spacious saloon or on its deck.

The Captain told us that she was built in Marmaris, Turkey in 1996 for the price of £2 million. An authentic replica, she is based on historical drawings, of the frigate HMS Blandford built in 1741. The deck is lined with cast iron smooth-bore cannons.

Wikipedia reveals that a frigate was not large enough and insufficiently heavily armed to fight in the "line of battle". Her function would have been primarily to scout for the main fleet, giving support where necessary, or carry messages.

Sally-B Postponed

I've just heard from TG Aviation at Manston that the B17, 'Flying Fortress', Sally-B, won't be coming in to Thanet after all, because of the bad weather that is expected here all day.

The visit has now been postponed until noon next Saturday and if I hear anything more, I will let you know.
And now for something completely different by way of an intermission:

Train Trouble

A concerned reader, Adam, writes:

"As a Birchington resident who reads your blog, I would just like to mention a couple of incidents in the past week which highlight Southeastern Trains contempt for the general public.

Firstly, whilst waiting for the Birchington – Victoria connection last Wednesday evening I was shocked to see two girls running across the train track between the platforms of Birchington station. Some boys were throwing stuff onto the third rail nearly causing one girl to nearly fall straight onto it. When they boarded the train they were bragging about it and mentioned they were surprised to see stuff explode because they didn’t realise the electric power was on.

The point of this really is about two things:

1. The lack of any security presence at small stations (and on trains), a small price to pay for the ridiculous increase in fares across the local network.

2. As the rail franchise is not the Government’s responsibility it should be up to these rail companies to spend money on education about rail safety and be held to account for their uncaring attitude towards the public

Secondly, the usual pre-dominance of engineering works at weekends is hardly a good way to promote those nice Thanet posters on display around Denmark Hill, etc. Unfortunately, to get to work for Saturday night in London, I had to ring Southeastern four times to get replacement bus information only to be told at each turn by different people that all the trains were running like clockwork from Birchington, and National Rail Enquiries gave the same info. Telling them that I was watching a 1940s replacement double decker going creaking past my window seemed to have zero impact on my argument.

To be honest, these companies have such disdain for the public that commuting between Thanet and London has become like a nightmare on perpetual loop."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

You'll Never Walk Alone

Illustrating how weak my football knowledge is, I just had a call from a nice Polish chap called "Jerzy Dudek" who want me to do a little job for him over Anfield tomorrow.

He's promised to send me a football "jersey" so I remember who he is next time... Seriously!

The weather looks pretty awful though, so fingers crossed!

Due South

Is Gordon coming this way? It's what I'm attempting to work out this lunchtime as our Prime Minister in waiting, flits around the South-east marginal constituencies as part of his new "Golden Gordon" charm offensive.

South Thanet would be a natural choice, as it's now as marginal as one can get but does Gordon or his advisers know where Thanet is? A few minutes ago Gordon was 'Live' in Gillingham and so forty minutes would be enough for a rendezvous with Ramsgate to offer a little support to his - sorry Tony's - hard pressed Tranport Minister, Dr Ladyman.

If he does turn-up, I do hope I have enough time to arrange a welcome message. Any suggestions anyone. Thirty-two characters maximum.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hurry Along

Saturday morning starts with breakfast at TDC rather than McDonalds, although they are rather close to each other. This is one of about fifteen orientation briefings over the coming two months which are now in my diary.

Among the subjects I have to catch-up on are customer services, scrutiny, licensing, housing and development and thankfully, most are being arranged outside the normal working day, at weekends or in the evenings, recognising that even local councillors have day jobs too.

Staying with the subject of the day job, I’ve an interesting assignment next week, when I have to deliver a new technologies briefing to the board of Yell.Com. Yell is a huge company on both sides of the Atlantic and there’s some speculation this week in the press that they may be a Google acquisition target. All these companies, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Yell included are attempting to come to grips with the Web 2.0 model and the fundamental, almost Marxist change in commercial business models that comes with it. Think of YouTube, Joost, MySpace, Bebo, Facebook and Flickr to name but a few of the more successful models.

One question I have been asking myself, is how the local government online presence in an area like Thanet, might leverage some of the Web 2.0 tools to deliver richer information and services without incurring any increased costs in the process. Tourism information is an excellent example of how services like Google maps and Flickr can give a much more detailed impression of the area to potential visitors.

Back in Westgate today, I had another look at the trench being dug along St Mildred’s road and another chat with the works supervisor and several of the shops affected by the pipe-laying. The worst case scenario now appears to be three weeks to finish the job and the best estimate, two weeks but either way, the disruption will be painful and is bound to cost the adjacent businesses money. Parking in the village during the day is now next to impossible but as I may have mentioned previously, there’s nothing that can be done to hurry the work along.

Strike a Light

Flicking through the pages of the Thanet Gazette this morning, I'm struck by the impression that arson is increasingly becoming a tool of the local vandals; two examples being the repeated burning down of the allotment sheds in Dane Valley and torching of the Margate Sea Cadets' minibuses. Whether the impression is an exaggerated one or not, the fact remains that as a community, we have a collective problem to worry over, if members of our "yoof" are expressing themselves by torching other people's property.

Arson is a serious crime but at present the pyromaniacs appear able to strike at will and without any fear of being caught. What, I wonder will be burned down next?

One further story that caught my eye, involved a comment from Thanet Council's housing officer, Brendan Ryan, who "Believes that homelessness in Thanet is being made worse because the isle houses other councils' vulnerable people."

This story on page nine of the Gazette is probably one that is worth reading and thinking about a little more, as it illustrates a fundamental problem, the local housing and care crisis, being faced by the council and our community which has had other authorities problems delivered to Thanet to deal with, with visible results in both Margate and Cliftonville.

Thanet is like a small boat moored-up against the massive ocean liner which is London and the South-east. The much larger vessel has run out of cheap cabin space and is starting to capsize under the weight of arriving passengers and the short-term solution is to fill the small boat, the SS Thanet and ignore the Captain's objections that it too will sink under the load.

"Thanet, is effectively picking-up the problems of other councils," says Brendan Ryan but this is a challenge which is inextricably linked to the challenge of local regeneration and one I'm not convinced that we will see a solution to under a new Prime Minsiter, Gordon Brown who may be unwilling to recognise that the South-east can have urgent problems to solve which are equal to those of the poorest London boroughs.

Sally-B this Sunday

Wartime B17 Flying Fortress, Sally-B, will be a visitor to Manston this coming Sunday lunchtime as part of a ceremony to mark the airfield's vital role in the Second World War and as a tribute to the 79,000 Allied air personnel that died in the conflict.
She's bound to be a little noisier than the other traffic as she flies low-level circuits of the island but I'm sure that on this occasion, residents won't mind too much.

On Tuesday May 22nd watch out for two P51 Mustang fighters from the same vintage as Sally-B. These will perform a fifteen minute display over the Grand Turk saling ship as she leaves Ramsgate harbour. The display is free but donations to Cancer Care Appeal are welcomed.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

St Mildred's Trench

In case you happen to be wondering what is happening in St Mildred's road, Westgate, then the shopkeepers have already been on to me today and I have been out to see the local traders and the results of the roadworks.

To cut a long story short. Morrisons are laying a new gas pipe in Westgate and you will have seen the work running up and down Westgate Bay Avenue. Now it's the turn of St Mildred's road outside the shops.

I have spoken with KCC Highways department and the inspector came down to have a look this afternoon. I also spoke with the works supervisor on the job and here's the bad news.

It could take up to three weeks to lay the pipe depending on what they find when they dig-up the road. I have stressed the interruption to local business and the fact that the elderly won't be able to park outside the Post Office and chemists.

Morrisons will try to have the job finished as quickly as possible and have agreed to try and keep as many parking bays in operation as possible during the course of the work. I will be checking on this from time to time and won't hesitate to make a fuss if they don't keep business and parking interruption to a minimum.

Being new to the job of being a councillor, I'm discovering that it's really outside my control but I can at least try and hasten the work along.

Realistically, only a percentage of the local population read this but if you can pass the word along, it will be a great help.

Spinning out of Office

It's not to late to save Tony Blair. A modest donation to the Prime Minister's legacy fund might still be enough to convince him to stay on and keep his election promise to last out the term of his government.

Alternatively, the world needs Tony rather more than we do at home and the US university lecture circuit does pay rather well - which is where I once met Harold Wilson -.

I rather wonder though how long Gordon Brown will last? The BBC are on message this morning talking about a "leadership" battle with Michael Meacher. Do they realise how silly this sounds? Is Gordon losing sleep over 'the fading Meachie'? Possibly not.

Interest rates will most likely rise today. In the final analysis, that's the only legacy that most people will care about.

North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale has just sent in his own impression of the Blair legacy. He writes:

"The decade of Blair is ending as it began - with the Prime Minister spinning his way out of office.

Blair is orchestrating his exit via a short cabinet meeting, photo opportunity, flight to Durham and announcement to his party faithful, to try to put a shine on the end of a disastrous third term of premiership. Nothing, though, can conceal the fact that this electoral decade, which began with great promise and popular hope, has terminated in the shroud of Iraq and with the cloud of the "Cash for Peerages" scandal hanging over this Prime Minister's head. A man who once criticised the probity of the Conservative party has found himself embroiled in Ministerial scandal and disgrace, the dishonest Iraq war dossier and political derision.

Blair has certainly helped to bring to a conclusion the Northern Ireland peace process commenced by John Major and he deserves credit for that but elsewhere in domestic policy as in foreign policy he has failed.

Despite Blair's 1997 promise that the people of the UK had "24 hours to save the NHS" he leaves behind a health service saddled with debt and overwhelmed by bureaucracy. The man who promised to be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime" has, as Prime Minister, presided over a doubling of violent crime and gun crime and a police service that is now paralysed by red tape.

The "economic miracle" is also unravelling. Blair's Chancellor, Gordon Brown, took credit for making the Bank of England independent but Brown takes the blame for destroying the best-funded pension provision within the European Union. As a result of a £5bn a year raid on pension funds many of today's pensioners have been short-changed. Additionally we have seen a raft of stealth taxes introduced and council tax has risen by a staggering 90% since 1997. Interest rates are now also on the rise and with massive personal debt and mortgage repayments that will impact swiftly upon very many families.

When the door of 10 Downing Street closes on Mr Blair for the last time, in July, he will leave behind for Gordon Brown, a man who has been a partner in the failures of Labour government, a chalice that is both poisoned and tarnished. The sooner this episode in our Island's history is brought to a complete end, the better."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New Boy

Not much in the way of posts this week I'm afraid. Another day run-off my feet, with five hours of exams at the CAA building at Gatwick, followed by a dash for the coast through endless roadworks and M25/M23/M2 traffic jams on my motorcycle, to make the new councillors induction evening at TDC in Cecil Square by 7pm.

I see that I now have another email address, this time one at TDC but I can't find it again among all the materials, the product of several trees, that were handed to me this evening, along with my building pass. I'm sure it will turn up.

There's a wealth of information to read and become familiar with and a one sobering statistic is seen in the remarkably high level of deprivation present in Cliftonville and Margate Central, which casts a long shadow on the rest of the island and plans for development and economic growth.

A growing volume of email is going to present a new challenge in future and I wonder if the weblog will suffer an attention deficit as a result. I hope not

Meanwhile and back at the ranch, so to speak, I'm typing this on Microsoft's Windows Vista, which is very Apple 'Mac-like' I agree but a little frustrating in some areas. The principal problem I'm encountering is its internet security. It simply doesn't like 'Blog' sites, possibly due to Java or active content. With so many new whistles and bells to become familiar with on this very smooth looking PC Operating System, I haven't yet worked out how to adjust the security settings to suit my own needs.

The advice is don't try Windows Vista unless you have a PC that's fast enough to take it but when you do, I think that like me, you'll be pleased with the overall effect and there was me threatening to go out and buy an Apple Macintosh a month ago!

Finally, thanks to Michael Child for this photograph of an earier cliff collapse in Ramsgate. Michael writes:

"Simon during my on-oing dialogue about the Pleasurama development one aspect has been my concern about the safety of pile driving next to the cliff and building so close without first filling the big voids, it has become necessary to make my point more clearly to those involved."

Ed: Point made I suspect!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Up in Smoke - Again

Sue, whose allotment shed was burned down by vandals a couple of weeks ago has sent in an update and the news isn't good.

She writes:

"After the fire that destroyed the 2 sheds at Dane Valley on 12th and 13th April, two local companies came forward and kindly donated 2 sheds to replace those destroyed.

The companies were RT Bell and Co and O & S sheds of Garlinge. The replacement sheds were put in place today. The work was finished at around 3 pm.

I'm sure you can guess what I am going to tell you. My husband returned to the plot around 6 pm to find the new shed on his plot on fire and the windows of the other shed smashed out as well as the plants trampled.

There has been no improvement in security, no increase in the effectiveness of policing in the area. No measures taken to compensate anyone for these losses. The one offer of help from any council related organisation was from The Windmill Project which was cancelled because of TDC's reluctance to contribute. No wonder. They know the consequences of their own lack of action.

None of you good people, no matter what your position or job seem able or willing to do anything to prevent this continuing."

Ed: I'm appalled by the blatant vandalism and the evidence of an arsonist on the loose. Other than 24-hour policing or security, I don't know what the answer is but I will be making some calls. After Sue's last letter, I did take the matter up with the council (before I was elected) and I know that my concern and Sue's are shared by council officers. I suspect that this is not a matter of will but a question of resources to deal with the matter. When I find out anything further I will send you a separate email.

A Teenage Army

Schools are producing an "army of the unemployable" as tens of thousands of teenagers quit education at 16 with no qualifications, head teachers said yesterday.

It's a problem I'm sure we are well aware of in Thanet and with house prices rising across the country and a growing shortage of cheap, rented accomodation in the big cities, the opportunities for young people to "get on their bikes" and find work at the unskilled end of the market, which hasn't been taken is much reduced.

According to a study from the National Association of Head Teachers, (NAHT) tens of thousands of children disappear from school rolls every year. Last year, 15,000 pupils in their final year went missing and more than 70,000 did not show up for GCSEs.

In deprived areas such as Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham, the number of children passing GCSEs has actually fallen in recent years.

Government guidance, criticised at the same conference, rather than addressing the near catastrophic teenage statistics, the Elephant in the living room, is instead looking elsewhere at a another looming problem and schools with large numbers of white pupils have been told that they may be taken over or closed if they fail to promote race relations and links between different religious groups.

Jim Knight, the schools minister, said yesterday the rules would be enforced by Ofsted, which has the power to sack the governing body or recommend closure if schools fail to comply.

Either way, whether its education or integration or both together, government is looking at a social time-bomb and no party of any colour can claim to hold the answers in an economy that simply can't afford a lost generation if it is to compete with the growing Asian "Tiger" economies.

One example for you. IBM is rumoured to be cutting 100,000 jobs, from Europe and the United States this year and will transfer these to a much cheaper Asia. The writing is on the wall and simply creating more public sector jobs in Europe will accelerate the inevitable economic train wreck. The new French President, Sarkozy, understands this and I wonder if Gordon Brown does too?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Temporary Glitch

No, I haven't been away or even diplomatically silent. My internet connection went "down" over the weekend and after hours of frustration, I narrowed the problem down to a faulty router. I've just been out to PC World to buy a new one and this is the result, I'm back but with a small flood of emails to respond to.

So thank you everyone for your comments, congratulations and suggestions and I will do my best to catch-up over the next day or so.

A little later.

I had to return to a certain PC store, when having managed to get the router working, my laptop decided that the "F" character on the keyboard, rather than the "F word" was no longer required. The end result was one laptop back to be fixed under guarantee. I'm now trying to get to grips with Windows Vista, as this week of all weeks, I can't afford to be without a laptop PC. Vista is colourful, I'll say that about it but I'm starting to wonder, after twenty years in IT, whether the technology is leaving me behind or perhaps my brain is simply slowing down.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Anyone for Tennis

I'm just back from PC World at Westwood Cross, where I had to go to get some bits and pieces for the office. I took my motorcycle and if I had taken the car, I might still be in the queue which starts from Margate football ground.

Taking the "bike" is rather more dangerous than perhaps flying at tree-top level along the same route and to be honest, where local traffic is concerned, I would feel safer in the aircraft.

My first very modest effort at a local improvement has materialised, a new net to replace the one vandalised on the St Mildred's Bay tennis courts. Noticing that with only one tennis court in use on the top section, the local children are using the space for either cricket or football, I rather think that it might be a good idea to put in a basketball hoop and perhaps some facilty to use the top courts for "five-a-side" or cricket practise as well, out of season. The only equivalent is a long way away on the Linksfield road and some kind of equivalent facility on the north side of Westgate, making better use of the top tennis courts, makes some sense.

What do local people think?

Look East

Reading the Daily Mail this morning, I see the paper predicts that we will be an Islamic state within two generations. Nothing new here, as I remember reading the same wild prediction in the pages of The Observer newspaper on a flight back from Athens in 2001.

Mind you, the same warning is true of much of Europe now, the inevitable consequences of a birth rate one can't argue with. It's the French that will most likely go that way first but as the Daily Mail points out, in England, we are so deeply in denial that by the time we wake-up to the social implications it will be too late.

Perhaps then finally, the trains will run on time and criminals will be subject to the full force of Islamic law. There are a great many people who might think that this would not be such a bad thing but as time passes, tensions that presently exist between communities look set to increase and no single country in Europe appears to have a sensible answer to managing the progress of this inevitable change.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Gone Green

I forgot to mention amid all the election excitement, that I've developed a distinctly green tinge, as you'll see from the story here.

I was over at Earl's Court exhibition centre on Tuesday, chairing something called "The Green Technology Initiative", a new forum that will become a knowledge resource for IT industry managers and directors that want to reduce the carbon footprint of their business.

Perhaps it's something we can use as an example for local government here?

Any thoughts are welcomed.

Thank You Westgate!

Just in case your'e wondering, the people of Westgate returned me as a councillor today and I would like to thank everyone who voted for me for their support. The results weren't called until after 3pm and I have been fielding telephone calls and emails since I arrived home.

Ten candidates ran in Westgate and the principal results were:

- Simon Moores (Cons) - 754
- Tom King (Independent) - 696
- Brian Goodwin (Cons)- 687
- Ingrid Spencer (Cons) 673

Congratulations to Cllr Brian Goodwin who was returned and Tom King who squeezed Cllr Spencer out and commiserations to the hard-working Cllr Spencer who has achieved a great deal for local people during her time in the Cabinet. Thanet's local government will feel her loss.

The full Thanet local election results can be found here. Overall it was Conservatives, 33 - Labour,19 - Independent,3 - Ramsgate First, 1

Now you know where to find me, I will be doing my best to make the village a better place for us all but give me a little time to settle in and discover how we can best make improvements.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Nottingham Castle Tragedy

A very local tragedy, in fact almost a next door neighbour. I heard last night that Richard Would, the landlord of my local, the Nottingham Castle Hotel in Westgate had died, just over two months after he was a victim of a serious assault in the pub.

Richard was treated in hospital for a week before being discharged. He was found collapsed at home on Tuesday morning.

According to the report on Kent Online, a Home Office pathologist is carrying out a post mortem examination to establish the cause of death.

Det Chief Insp Anne Brittain, who is leading the police investigation, said: "At this time Mr Would’s death is unexplained. He received severe injuries in the attack and was still suffering complications as a result of the assault, for which he had been prescribed medication.

"Twelve people were arrested on suspicion of assault and 10 remain on police bail pending further enquiries. But we still want to hear from anyone who may have any information about what happened that night in February.

"I am confident there are people who have more information and know who is responsible for this attack. I appeal for them to come forward."

Two other men, both customers aged 30 and 35, were also injured in the attack which happened between 12.20 and 12.40am.

Anyone with any information can telephone 01622 654850. Alternatively people can call Kent CrimeStoppers free and anonymously on 0800 555111.

Ed: Richard was an excellent and well-liked landord and my deepest sympathy goes to his family at this time.

Pause for Thought

Sorry readers, if it's quiet, there's nothing suspicious happening, it's simply because I've been six hours over Southampton today with their city election banner and when you add another two and a a half hours getting their and back, I have been off the ground rather more than on it today.

While I'm busy encouraging the good people of Southampton to vote tomorrow, I hope that the equally good people of Thanet will be doing the same. It will prove fascinating to see, On Friday, how people wish to shape the democratic future of the island, so may the best man or woman win.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Kent Online reports that the "Save Dreamland Campaign" say its vision for a heritage amusement park based around the historic Scenic Railway is a world’s first.

The group has met with Thanet council and the Margate Renewal Partnership to develop the concept that would include some of the remaining examples of Britain’s amusement park heritage.

The listed cinema building would also be brought back into use with rides, shows, bars, restaurants and an amusement park/seaside heritage museum.

Read on..

Wherefore Art Thou, Romeo Bravo?

Richard Littlejohn's column in the Daily Mail this morning could equally make you laugh or cry with his stories on policing and political correctness.

One example, the Metropolitan Police decided to spend £70,000 sending officers on "Shakespeare awareness" courses.

"The programme was designed to instill "inspirational leadership" by drawing on Henry and Julius Caesar. Wherefore art thou, Romeo Bravo Echo?"

The others aren't much better, a police helicopter scambled to chase a stolen pedaloe and two children nicked for not having a tax disc displayed on a home made wooden "go kart," so read on.