Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Resident Blogger

Having received my copy of 'The Record' this afternoon, the newsletter of the Westgate & Westbrook Residents Association, which I support and of course includes my own ward, I thought I would pop-along and visit their newly advertised 'Blog site'.

Quite frankly, I was a little worried by what I discovered, two gambling sites being promoted on its front page. From a professional perspective, I regard such embedded code as a potential security risk to one's own PC and I can't for the life of me think why the residents association thinks this might be a good idea, with so many free and popular engines, such as Blogger and Wordpress available. I recommend taking it down straight away and starting afresh!

Secondly, I'm equally surprised by the 'Chairman's Report.' Once you have a councillor chairing a residents association there is a danger of a 'political' bias appearing, in much the same way as my own weblog perhaps but to suggest that "Thanet Council has a policy of excluding Westgate from the 'Shop Local' scheme" is quite incorrect. Cllr King was present when he, I and Council Leader Sandy Ezekiel discussed it.

Shop Local is a modestly budgeted pilot initiative, supported by traders, that has been rolled out to the main high streets in Thanet where parking restrictions and charges apply. If it proves successful, which looks to be the case, we were told it will be expanded across the island. Westgate, thankfully, does not have parking charges and wasn't included in the pilot.

Like Cllr King, I have also been corresponding with the banks in regards to placing another ATM in Westgate but without success. The simple reason is that it's a commercial decision for the banks and nothing whatsoever to do with the council, although both Roger Gale our MP and Roger Latchford, the Deputy Leader of the council have made attempts to convince the banks otherwise.

Simply stated, the financial institutions do not regard Westgate, small as it is, as being financially viable for a second cashpoint and remind me that there are two ATM machines at the Marks & Spencer drive-in at Garlinge and several in Birchington. This doesn't help the elderly and those without transport at all but Somefields help by offering a 'cash-back' service and withdrawals are possible for those people with Post Office banking accounts. It's not the news that people want to hear but I'm sure readers will understand that if governments struggle to prevail over the banking system, Westgate councillors have a somewhat harder challenge in making them listen to our own community needs.

Finally the council's 'Shared Services' project which seeks to save £6 million of your money over the next five years is a little more complex than it is both presented and dismissed in three paragraphs of the WWRA Chairman's report. I would take a very different view of the project in the light of a £168 billion public sector deficit; I suspect that local people would be very pleased to find ways of saving what little money we have and improving services through working with our neighbouring authorities to eliminate duplication. Let's take Human Resources or even ICT as an example. By centralizing and sharing these processes large amounts of money may well be saved and that's the goal of shared services and its written, strangely enough, into the heart of this Government's own public sector strategy.

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