Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Place for Faith?

I was struck by the headline, opposite, in today’s Kent on Sunday.

In the story, Cllr. Chris Wells, KCC’s cabinet member for education, said he “Broadly agrees” with David Cameron’s defense of parents who fake religious conviction, in order to gain a place for a child in a faith school and that it’s happening in every faith school in the country. He added that “Parents were prepared to jump through hoops” to get their children into a good school.

It would be interesting to see if readers agree with David Cameron. Would you pretend that you had a religious conviction to get your child a place in a good school or are you closer to the other side of the spectrum of conviction like former No10 advisor Alastair Campbell and his partner Fiona Miller, whose view appears to be that one should set an example and send one’s child to the nearest (sometimes inner city) state school, regardless of its standards. What do you think?

Last week, the BBC were out and about attempting to gauge public reaction to the news of council tax rises. What struck me and its frequently reflected in local newspaper stories and on our Thanet weblogs is that not a single man or woman ‘on the street’ interviewed, understood the relationship between central and local government and that only a proportion of local services are paid for by local taxes.

In a heavily oversimplified view, It may be best to think of a local council like a cash-strapped household with the bills going-up all the time. It has fundamental priorities, which for a council can be the likes of social welfare and rubbish collection and a corporate plan which it works towards, which in our case can include the regeneration of Margate and growing the local economy. Where the latter is concerned, if it grows, then there are more jobs and more people paying taxes, a proportion of which are spent on paying for and improving services and so-on. If you have an unusually high proportion of the population unemployed or on sickness benefit then, like any home with the same, there’s very little money to go around and you can’t get credit either.

So when people say, “I blame the council for X & Y” it could well be that the council simply hasn’t the money to spare for anything beyond the items it has budgeted for and the councillors are there to offer a level of democratic oversight on decisions and spending, rather like the shareholders of a large company.

But you wait. There will be more letters in the paper next month asking why the council is spending £30 million of our council taxes on the Turner centre. So perhaps we should ask ourselves why local government is so poor at explaining what it does or is it that the preconception that the public holds is so strong, no amount of communications will make a difference?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

£30 million? I thought it had only gone up to £15.4 million. The problem with Council Tax is that it does not take into account the ability to pay,;the same fault as the 'Rates System'. The original Tory thinking that good administration by Councils would keep Council Tax levels low has of course been completely undermined by a Labour Government that manipulates where Central money is sent. The Tory Party needs to consider Local Taxation based on an ability to pay as a proportion of income. The present situation means that some of us who are just outside the benefits net are now paying disproportionate levels of Council Tax. In a few years time, Council Tax will take a fifth of my disposable income after tax.

DrMoores said...

It's only an example. You will read lots of wild figures thrown around for the Turner costs on a regular basis

Anonymous said...

A more pertinent question would be
"How much and in what manner is money wasted by Local Authorities on incompetent and ill advised management?"

OneWhoKnows

Michael Child said...

Simon with Turner K9 I am afraid that I have a perception that the Conservative county council are to some extent funding it and that TDC will probably have to pick up the tab for running it, so please correct me. Frankly though one way or another I feel that we are paying for something that has no sympathy for its surroundings that is too insignificant to do anything other than detract from the real problems.

The situation in the town centres is really desperate and we don’t need masses of money thrown at it, just a temporary removal of miles of unnecessary double yellow lines and parking management so we can compete on an equal footing.

In Ramsgate we desperately need our seafront parking retuned and our new swimming pool on the old marina site where it can kick start tourism. We also need an urgent review of the non development of the Pleasurama site, this huge project has no one actually coordinating it so that the people concerned are not communicating with each other let alone local people. Last week I had to get the contact details of the builder for the team repairing the cliff and earlier this year the contact details of the architect for the environment agency, this type of thing doesn’t inspire confidence.

Years and years of our main tourist site a building site because no one in TDC will take responsibility and decisive action, now they have thrown half a million pounds at it TDC money, but since no one thought to give the plans to the engineers doing the work the foundations of the cliff façade appears to suspended a meter above the ground, do you want the photographs?

Its nuts man for a year I have been asking the simple question in a tidal surge storm how do the 1,500 people inside escape with the cliff behind them, half a million pounds but not the coordination to build escapes into the cliff while the work is being done.

Now I am a businessman in a town that TDC are governing not a political radical trying to snipe at you all so what about some answers.

Ken Gregory said...

Michael,

Surely the same tidal surge that causes you concern with the pleasurama developement would wipe a pool at the old marina site?

With regard to your yellow line problem, they are 99% of the time there for a reason, It costs money to police them, and so we only put them in if needed. Sorry to say you cannot trust the average motorist to park sensibly.

Michael Child said...

Ken as the swimming pool is not likely to be 17.4 meters high so the base line of it wouldn’t have to be 6.05 meters above ODN to keep the top of it below the cliff top, this with a predicted highest tide of 5.5 meters above ODN this effectively means that any waves higher than 0.55 meters will reach it. The sort of waves we are likely to have in tidal surge storm would stir up the cars parked under the building and they would bang against the building supports with undesirable results.

Nor would a swimming pool have 1,5000 people living above it who would need to escape perhaps in the middle of the night when the equivalent of Michael Fish’s, there will be no hurricane, occurs.

As far as parking goes, the previous Labour administration removed all our sea front parking to fit in with some plans for Pleasurama as there was to be no through road all of the Marina esplanade had to be made two way traffic, now I am told that due to the need for cliff maintenance there will probably have to be a through road against the cliff behind the development.

So through all the years of this administration the town has been blighted because this stupid decision was not reversed.

Behind my own shop is a dead end road now double yellowed, so I park my van in front of someone’s house instead of across my garage gates. Behind me are masses of council flats with car parking for every flat although only about half of the residents have cars, all this town centre parking remains empty and wasted.

So once again don’t throw money at it, you are already policing the double yellow lines what’s so different policing a parking scheme, people pay to park and you get revenue to pay for the parking attendants.

Anonymous said...

IS IS NEVER RIGHT TO LIE ABOUT RELIGION OR ANYTHING ELSE. DID THE CONSERVATIVES NOT LEARN FROM ARCHER. NOTHING HAS REALLY CHANGED ABOUT THE TORY PARTY.


Irene O'Brian

( Westgate )

DrMoores said...

Irene

"CAPS" is the internet equivalent of "shouting" I'm sure you didn't mean your comment to be takethis way

Michael Child said...

Simon perhaps she thought no one was listening there does seem to be a bit of a hush, Irene I would recommend you read Lord Archer’s book prison diary, it like my comments beg some interesting questions.

If you go down to Ramsgate seafront you will see the concrete cliff façade weighing several tons sitting on a pile of mud. In the town centre the shops are going bankrupt, not nice, I wonder if Lord Archer would let this happen were he on the TDC cabinet.

Anonymous said...

Mackays in Margate High St (Upper end) is closing down; "can't afford lease any more, business is so bad". Watch out in the next few weeks for those who have hung on so far, start to put shutters up. Lower end of High St has likely candidates. Hang on in Michael.

Michael Child said...

Our towns need to be put in special needs not next year next week, after all if you put a sign on Ramsgate saying parking amnesty in operation, what the hell? We need some good old capitalist though here.

Michael Child said...

Irene a thought for you and simon on shouting, we have just been swimming there was a child of about 5 standing on the edge of the pool and a woman in the water below trying to get it to jump in, eventually the woman shouted at it, the startled child half fell half jumped but neatly grabbed the woman’s bikini top and sank with it.

poor girl said...

I duno blokes taking about bikinis I don’t know, I could see myself start to smile, David Lynch comment who knows, how do you spell Badalamenti, is that it? They have a relax on Sunday evenings, tomorrow Michael they will be all answers.