Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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.

6 comments:

Michael Child said...

Simon I certainly wouldn’t to rob you of the possibility of voting on the Pleasurama development behind Ramsgate main sands problem, here is an update, I have just received 14.5.2007 a copy of the engineers report on the condition of the cliff.

Back in 2005 Thanet District Council commissioned a report on the condition of the cliff. In April 2005 Jacobs Baptie who are very highly regarded engineers surveyed the cliff and produced a detailed report on its condition, the conclusions of the report were that the cliff was in poor condition and that it needed repairing urgently before any construction work was carried out, that even after the repairs were carried out it would be inadvisable to pile drive in front of the cliff and that the nearest a crane could be safely erected to the edge of the cliff was 22 meters.

So our council commissioned this highly expensive survey and then decided to do the opposite of what it recommended I have published the most important pages at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/report.htm

This is a quote from an email I received from TDC this month.

“The only remaining obstacle to commencement of works is the signing of Highways agreements, which are complete from a Council perspective. Works to alter car parking arrangements near the site will be undertaken and then construction will commence.”

I can only describe their attitude, as gross negligence that will probably result in manslaughter, here is another quote from the same email from TDC.

“An assessment has been made, and the cliff structure will be stabilised after piling driving is complete, in accordance with needs established by the engineers report. A significant sum has already been set aside for these works.”

To have sat on this report for two years whilst answering my questions about the safety of building on the site with a series of lies is not a situation that I am happy about.

As the proposed building can only be constructed by pile driving it is self evident that no construction company will ever take on the job, the health and safety executive wouldn’t let them so the building will never happen.

What should happen now is that work to repair the cliff and the railings should start immediately, an urgent assessment should be carried out on the condition of the cliff behind Kent Terrace, the site should covered with tarmac for parking and other tourist related activities before the summer season starts and the whole situation regarding the use of the site reviewed.

DrMoores said...

Thank you Michael!

Anonymous said...

What I find extra-ordinary is the way our 'local' democratically elected councillors are effectively silenced by such rules. Am I right in saying that if you express an opinion etc, you are now allowed to speak on the issue at Council but are unable to vote on it? Have these rules always existed or is this our Labour Government's way of effectively muzzling democratically elected local representatives.? So much for the proclaimed intention of strengthening local democracy!

DrMoores said...

It's not quite that way but close under the new procedural rules. I suspect it ensures that one doesn't arrive with a bias in advance of the facts, which would be presented at a council meeting; i.e. Westwood Cross.

As a result, it's only sensible not to "soap box" on issues without considering the implications in the chamber. As my education continues I hope to be able to refine my position!

Anonymous said...

Your item 'Train Trouble' on Sunday elicited the comment about 'dilapidated,criminal infested, un-manned railway stations'. In order to maximise profits why should Westgate be manned at all? Lets have it continue to fall into decay; be covered in graffiti and be a magnet for all the low-life in our vicinity. It doesn't matter about visitors to Thanet, or our own children travelling to and from school safely or single women returning late at night from London; they will have CCTV watching the moment when they are pushed onto the line or sexually assaulted.Pictures should re-assure us all that Transport Police might be able to identify any miscreants.

Michael Child said...

A pleasure Simon, you are vir probus, doctus, diligens; concionator bonus.

A t the end of the seventeenth century local government in this area was mostly carried out by the clergy, they had quite a reputation for our aspiring new councillors to live up to.

Archbishop Wake's private notebook (Notitia Dioces Cantuar,) now in Canterbury Cathedral Library describes some of them.

Patten of Whitstable kept a mistress and did not pay his debts; Bourn of Ash was "allied to the sons of Eli" ; Roberts of Queenborough, ale-house sot and debtor, "so impudent as nothing is like him"; Bate of Chilham, "proudest and stiffest man" in the diocese, allowing corpses to lie unburied for want of fees; Burroughs of Kingston, "most horribly covetous" ; Ansell of Stowting and Cade of Sellindge, Jacobites and taven-brawlers; Edward Dering of Charing who fought his own sister at the Swan Inn and threw her "head-cloaths" into the fire; Hobbs of Dover, who amassed pluralities; Isles of New Romney a notorious sot and Jacobite; Nicholls of Fordwich who preached that George was a Foreigner, a Lutheran, and a Beggar-"a wicked, swearing. Lying, Drunken man".

So you see it is no longer entirely true to say. Thanatos nullo serpitur angue, et angues necat. (there are no snakes in Thanet……….)