Sunday, January 30, 2011

Down the Pan

A change from tumbling local political careers for a moment! While I was away in London this week, I noticed there was a public meeting on the future of Margate’s caves that I couldn’t attend. I did ‘Twitter’ for the handful of people who might see it, that on a personal note, I would be delighted to see the caves brought back into use as a visitor attraction. However, the enormous costs of doing so, repairs, access and compliance, given the surveyors and HSE reports make this highly unlikely with a figure of around £150,000 needed just to ‘make safe’ I’m told. That’s a figure on top of the several millions that other historic sites and buildings need for running repairs around the entire island.

So for now at least, it appears the caves will remain closed until a time comes in the future perhaps, when Thanet’s economy can support the funds required to bring them back into use.

On Friday, I visited the public toilets in West Bay. Not because I had been caught short but because of the report of another mindless example of vandalism which,  to all intents and purposes, has put them out of action for the immediate future. You may recall, it was only recently that a significant sum of council money had been spent on improvements and repairs since the last attack.

So what are we to do? Firstly, in this time of austerity, where does the money needed to repair these and similar public conveniences across Thanet come from? Secondly, do we really have to run public loos from 9 to 5 and at night, turn them into hardened military bunkers which are impervious to teenage vandals? Finally, with at least two remaining public toilets in Westgate having reportedly appeared on an internet directory for more sinister or should I say salacious reasons, what kind of society are we now living in or am I oppressing someone by raising the subject?

It’s hard if not impossible to ‘defend’ Thanet’s public conveniences once night falls, given that many of them sit well out on the seafront and are vulnerable to passing kids armed with a grudge and a lump hammer. The council, I know, wants to keep as many open for public use as often as possible but the repairs bill is enormous, sucking in money which should be better spent elsewhere. Other than appealing for people to report anything suspicious they might hear or see to the police – normally late night dog walkers – I do wonder what people would reasonably expect of the council when money is short or in our own case, we need to find £1.8 million of savings in the coming year.

Finally, one of my fellow councillors told me a story from last week, when he was walking in Cliftonville and saw the characteristic ‘Hoodie’ with a magnificent ‘Staffie’ in harness. The dog did what dogs do best on the pavement and the councillor was very surprised to see the young man reach in his pocket for a suitable bag and collect the mess. “One can’t paint all these young dog owners with the same brush’ thought the councillor, at last the message on dog-fouling must be getting through. He was immediately disappointed when the ‘Hoodie’ in question then chucked the bag and its contents into the nearest front garden and carried on as if nothing had happened!

I suppose we can be thankful at least that the owner used a bag. If evolution takes its course then one day in the far future, he’ll be ready to take the next step in properly disposing of the mess!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Daggers in the Forum

'There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.' Shakespeare - Julius Caesar

It looks as if Mark Nottingham's 'From One End of Kent may soon be no more. A lttle web-based research for news on the titanic struggle now taking place in Thanet's Labour Group, reveals that Mark has a card up his sleeve and is busily preparing his new campaign website, soon to be revealed, no doubt, to the small number of active supporters on his existing and rather pink-hued weblog. This is now liberally sprinkled with  vigorous, 'anti-Clive' sentiment by the like-minded, who clearly believe that all roads lead to, well Nottingham, where our local Labour party's politics is involved.  As work on this website still appears to be in progress, one must assume that Cllr Nottingham, having achieved his political objective and forced his leader's resignation, expects to be quickly returned to the bosom of his party and re-selected by his supporters; despite the best efforts and alleged 'Dark Deeds' of his colleague, Councillor Kay Dark and others that he refers to in his nine page complaint.

I was struck by one comment which conjures up for me a parody with the well-known scene from Monty Python's 'Life of Brian.'

"A number of Labour party supporters, including myself are going to form the 'Real Thanet Socialist Party' We have spoken with the electoral Comm and have the paperwork to create this political party; we will be fielding candates in every Labour stronghold ward in Thanet. However, if Clive Hart stands down as leader, for the good of the party, we will re-consider this."

Now if the video clip below doesn't paint the same comic picture of local socialist politics at its most farcical in your own imagination, please tell me why. After all, Thanet needs 'real' socialists but rather less, I suspect than it needs 'Real Ale', which reminds me,that I'm delighted to see that a Microbrewery has applied for planning permission to open in Westgate's St Mildred's Road.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clive Hart Quits?

Sorry, I've been a little slow to post this as I've been in London all day and inevitably, SouthEastern Trains were late getting me home. The open letter, shown below,  from Cllr Clive Hart, the leader of the Labour Group is self explanatory and so I won't add any corrections or make any comment of my own. I do notice however that Mark Nottingham has now switched his website off from public view! (12:00 it's back on now after edits)

Without wishing to prejudice either side and with Mark's original letter gone from sight on his weblog, I think it's only fair that readers can compare the two, given the fuss surrounding the allegations and counter allegations and so I've included the original letter from Mark, to Clive here.


Mark Nottingham's wildly inaccurate and defamatory allegations made in his 'open letter' to me have come as a great disappointment. He appears to be very angry at the situation he finds himself in, and sadly he is therefore lashing out at anyone and everyone, whilst totally failing to look at himself.

Firstly, I can't help but note the timing of Mark's 'open letter' to me which coincides with my having two close relatives (my mother and brother) in hospital, both fighting extremely serious and potentially life threatening conditions.

Mark's sad and anxious rant is full of inaccuracies, false allegations and ridiculous innuendo and it says far more about him and his state of mind than it does about myself or any other member of the Labour Party.
I have a longstanding and completely unblemished reputation and in particular I have spent the last two decades, leading, supporting and working passionately with and for numerous community, voluntary and political organisations at local, county and national level. My life is an open book. My comprehensive CV is attached to this email and absolutely anyone can follow my daily life through twitter & facebook on the internet.

Labour is a democratic party and local branches choose their own candidates for town, district and county elections, it was therefore Mark's own Ramsgate branch who decided to 'deselect' him. I am a member of Cliftonville branch and I took absolutely no part in the selection meeting held in Ramsgate. I feel extremely sorry for Mark but at the end of the day, members of his own branch, for whatever reason, decided they didn't want him to be their candidate in the 2011 elections. If I were Mark I would be asking myself what had I done to make that happen, not trying to point the finger at everyone else.

Mark's concerns have been thoroughly investigated and rejected by all the relevant bodies and committees here locally in Thanet and following yet further and extremely thorough investigation, the Labour Party South East Regional Director has confirmed "Labour's candidates for Thanet District Council were selected by the Labour Party's agreed process. The allegations made by Mark Nottingham have been fully investigated by the Labour Party and all of his complaints have been dismissed. Mark Nottingham is not a candidate for the Labour Party for the Thanet District Council elections".

Unfortunately, Mark will simply not accept the situation.

Those are the facts, but for clarification of the situation that Mark finds himself in, I now introduce a statement that I would swear to be true in any court in the land:

"On the Saturday morning following the Ramsgate TDC selection meeting in 2010, Mark Nottingham appeared behind me in a car park just off of Northdown Road in Margate, as I was parking my own car.

He came up to me and started to complain that 'someone' had told him I had somehow arranged for him to be de-selected.

I told him he was daft and that I had absolutely no part in the proceedings. Indeed, as group leader, his deselection as a candidate had caused me all kinds of problems. I also told him I was only present in the room on that evening to make the meeting chorate if I was needed (as per party rules). I wasn't needed but I stayed simply to be respectful to all candidates (as did the rest of the Executive Committee). I also told Mark - absolutely truthfully - that had I been allowed to vote, I MOST CERTAINLY WOULD HAVE VOTED FOR HIM.

I then asked Mark who exactly had been saying I'd been working against him, because I wanted to speak to them personally and put them right - I was very assertive with this reply because I knew I had done absolutely no such thing. Mark would not say who and I can only imagine his original suggestion that I was involved in some way was some kind of trick to 'out' me as 'someone against him', if it were true. It didn't work because IT SIMPLY WAS NOT TRUE!

MORE IMPORTANTLY, because I had been so assertive with my absolutely truthful response he then started to get very agitated and told me he didn't care about next year's local elections and that he would 'shred' all those involved in the selection process. He most certainly used the word 'shred' in relation to those involved and although I can't remember his precise words he definitely said he didn't care about next year's elections.

He then walked off and across the road to the Labour office. I was extremely annoyed by his ridiculous allegations and even more so regarding his comments about 'shredding' fellow members and his total disregard for his Labour colleagues and the forthcoming local elections.

I got back into my car, drove out of the car park and stopped just outside the Labour office. I entered and stood in the doorway. In front of at least four other members I shouted from the doorway across the room at Mark that I was appalled by his ridiculous allegations, his remark about shredding his fellow members and his attitude towards the 2011 elections. I added "what happened to you at the selection meeting was a tragedy and as I said, had I been allowed to vote I would have voted for you, but after your comments across the road in the car park just then, I can only say the Ramsgate members made the right decision at your selection meeting, whatever their reasons".

The next morning I met with Mark and another member in the same office in an effort to reconcile matters and by the end of our hour and a half long meeting I truly thought I had convinced Mark of the truth that I had absolutely nothing to do with his deselection. I felt we were leaving that meeting on good terms so I told Mark I would put his appalling comments made in the car park down to his anger and forget the whole matter.

Unfortunately, despite the total absurdity of his allegations, Mark has continued to blame myself and several other innocent members over this matter, and to this very day. He absolutely fails to see that he himself could be in any way responsible for what was clearly his own unpopularity with his Ramsgate colleagues".

I repeat, I am quite prepared to swear the statement above to be true in any court in the land.

I am a team player and always have been. However, I simply refuse to be the leader of a group with a member who behaves in the manner of Mark Nottingham.

  1. I therefore intend to stand down as the Leader of the Labour Group.
  2. As I have done consistently, every single day for well over three weeks now, I will continue to visit and support my close family members in our local QEQM hospital.
  3. I will remain a loyal Labour councillor and continue to work with colleagues Cllrs Linda Aldred and Doug Clark for the residents of Cliftonville West and to retain our seats at TDC, where we still have so much work to do.
  4. I will continue in my role as secretary of Cliftonville Labour Party.
  5. I will most certainly continue with all my numerous voluntary and community roles in organisations across Thanet.
6) I will consider the possibility of any further roles within Thanet Labour Group after the May elections, if and when I am re-elected, in a group which the Regional Director has clearly stated will not include Mark Nottingham.

7) I will also be taking time to seriously consider possible legal action against Mark Nottingham.

Cllr Clive Hart

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cllr Nottingham Goes Nuclear

How to win friends and influence people in politics! The mostly absent member for Northwood has reappeared this morning, with a lengthy weblog entry timed neatly for the front page of this week's Thanet Gazette, attacking Labour leader, Clive Hart and the selection processes of Thanet Labour.

As one might expect, the catalogue of personal injustice in this 'open letter' to Cllr Hart, goes on for pages and I suspect that everyone other than the public at large, have known of Mark Nottingham's de-selection battle for months now. Whether this was a consequence of a rather eccentric and often unpleasantly personal weblog, being viewed as an uncomfortable political embarrassment by his colleagues or indeed, his attendance record at council or his ward, I really can't say. However, should you have the time to read through this considerable document, you'll also find the same tired references to 'Conservative Kitten Killers', councillors from Panama and members of the present cabinet with 'a record of misconduct.' It gets better of course, as Cllr Nottingham, among a series of other revealing allegations about Cllr Hart and his own colleagues, writes:

"sic Cllr Kay Dark had been secretly working with Conservative councillors to undermine her (Cllr Liz Green) as a Labour Kent County Councillor" and that he has been the subject of 'threats and intimidation.' 

Readers should draw their own conclusions but other than 'Carter Ruck', the first two words that spring to mind are 'Paranoia' and 'Barking'. With only months to go to the local elections he's chucked a hand-grenade into his own political group in a manner which is most unlikely to find him support. It's all rather like the movie, 'The Godfather' with Clive Hart placed squarely  in the sinister leading role. As a Conservative, I really can't thank him enough for revealing the power-struggle and inner strife within the Thanet Labour Group. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Starring Role

I was asked to put-up this poster, looking for volunteers and promoting the effort by local people to start a small nature reserve on the seafront at  the Westbrook undercliff on Sunday 20th February.  I plan to put in an appearance, so see you there I hope.

Meanwhile, in contrast to 'Outside Turner Contemporary' and over at that other local literary blogging delight, The Thanet Star, self-proclaimed local business tycoon and entrepreneur, Lord Matt of Margate, is reportedly feeling the pinch in these troubled times and clearly believes that his content is worth sponsoring to the tune of £100 a month in order to keep his site - which fell-off the web this weekend - alive a little longer.

Personally, I think a small donation to 'Help the Aged', a memorial bench on the seafront or some other worthy charity might be more personally rewarding than a regular supporting mention on The Thanet Star but just think of the publicity you could achieve for your business or brand , should you choose to sponsor Matt's struggling weblog instead of going for a small advertisement on Facebook!

All I can offer is 'Good Luck'!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Passing Trade

I see that Tony Flaig, formerly of 'Big News Margate' now has an exciting new weblog, Outside the Turner Contemporary. Nothing I'm sure to do with the capture of passing trade, with the gallery due to open in three months.

I can see it now, national and international television and radio flocking into Margate for the opening and looking for local colour, ready wit and cynical comment, just happen to stumble across a weblog with a conveniently similar name to the gallery. A cunning plan worthy of the mysteriously vanished 'Eastcliff Richard', who is now rumoured to be holding up a fine new concrete bridge on the new road being built south of the airport, on account of having upset one of our well-connected local businessmen! Either that or he's enjoying a Martini on his yacht in the Caribbean!

I'm somehow reminded of Marvin, the paranoid robot from Douglas Adam's 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', in the role of unofficial Margate tour guide.

On Thursday, council voted through the re-structuring plans for TDC management, in order to make considerable savings to the embattled public purse.  Labour's 'cabinet of all the talents', were reminded that the last time they reorganized in a similar manner when they held power, it added £500,000 to the wages bill but times are tougher and we have to find savings of £1.8 million simply to stand still. Rather than voting for the reorganization, Labour abstained, en masse, partly I think because they didn't really understand the detail in the balance sheet and no single member of their front bench team was capable of interpreting the contents of the report. For once, readers may note, no pre-prepared press release or should I say speech appeared, which reinforces my view that they are quite incapable of sensibly debating anything detailed on council policy and strategy, 'off-script.'

Back at Westminster, with the loss of Alan Johnson, Labour has lurched so visibly to the 'Left' with Ed Balls now Shadow Chancellor, that the news this morning reports that donors are leaving the party. Andrew Marr was interviewing the new Shadow Foreign Secretary and former Gordon Brown's right-hand man, Douglas Alexander on the BBC and remarked that the shadow opposition now looks very much like the previous Government's front bench with the exception of Gordon Brown. Ahh well said young Dougie, we are a different party now. I bet they are, just ask the Trade Unions.

Finally, I see there's a vigorous web-based campaign building up against the proposal to repaint the Margate light house on the Harbour Arm from its present fantastical shade of grey concrete. I had some vague notion that its often helpful to have lighthouses visible by day as an easy reference for passing ships. After all, hundreds of years ago, passing ships used to dip their sails in honour of the statue of 'Our Lady of Bradstowe' when they passed the North Foreland but I would have thought that once again, with the Turner Contemporary opening only weeks away, a touch of colour might brighten-up the view I see when walking my dog towards Margate in the mornings.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Greenhouse Jobs

The letters page in 'Your Thanet' this week, once again illustrates how European employment laws and local planning become mixed together in indignant criticism of Thanet District Council.

Thanet Earth is a fine example of this. The initial planning application was passed with the best possible intentions by councillors. Why? First and most important of all was the prospect of badly needed jobs, some 500, or more anticipated when the greenhouses reach full capacity. Second and less important was placing Thanet on the map. It has a microclimate which makes it attractive in a country which needs to grow more food and new businesses and new jobs invariably go hand in hand.

I read today that two thirds of all new British jobs in the last year went to workers from abroad. Whether that's accurate or not I don't know but in Thanet, an area of high deprivation and unemployment, encouraging business and employment is a priority on all sides of the political divide. However, local people have both to apply and compete for work with others from the European Union and there's absolutely nothing that can be done to ring-fence jobs. What we do hear from employers in Thanet as much as councils anywhere else, is that because of our benefits system, local people aren't prepared to take the low-paid, physically tiring and often repetitive contract work that goes with working on the land but Eastern Europeans will.

So what's the answer? We can't close the border and in fairness, if the council didn't try and encourage employers to come to the island, the criticism would be even harsher. Intel and Microsoft aren't likely to set up factories here because they can get better tax-breaks and a cheaper, more skilled and educated workforce elsewhere, so don't be too harsh on your local councillors when they approve planning applications on the back of potential jobs, because they often see a much bigger picture and like me, want the very best opportunities for the people of Thanet.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Missing Meerkat

The BBC news this morning reports that a bus service is running to carry train passengers between Ramsgate and Whitstable this morning because of a death on the railway line in between the stops but I don't know anything more at the moment.

It's sad to read that the Meerkat that went missing from its enclosure at the Wingham Wildlife Park near Canterbury was found dead in a dog waste bin in Sandwich last Wednesday.  Apparently is was seen to have been struck by a car; trying to find its way home I suppose! The police have reportedly arrested two people who were questioned on suspicion of theft and possession of drugs.

What can I say that's of any consequence when you read of something as futile as this! Kidnapping a small animal from from a wildlife park? Perhaps they planned to sell it back for a huge ransom to fund their lifestyle choice?

Finally and to cheer everyone up, our Government debt smashed through £1trillion for the first time yesterday. That's interest of £43billion due this year alone. The published debt does not include 'off the books' items such as the cost of public sector pensions and private finance initiatives - or people’s own mortgages, credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance said the real national debt was close to £8trillion;  more than £300,000 per household or rather more than the value of a kidnapped Meerkat.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

By Westgate Pool

I'm pretty angry as I write this, so that's never really a good time to 'Blog.'

On my afternoon run in the bright sunshine a little earlier, I stumbled across an unhappy scene at the Westgate boating pool where a drowned Staffordshire Bull Terrier was being recovered by its distraught owner. I helped lift it, collar and lead still attached, into a couple of black rubbish sacks so it could be carried home.

I've reported the incident and its address to both the police and the RSPCA, who said they will investigate the unusual circumstances of the dog's reported escape from the person minding it for the owner yesterday evening and its subsequent suicide; depressed as it may have been by the prospect of being evicted from its home.

Readers will know from my earlier posts that I regard the growing number of undisciplined 'Staffies' and their owners as a real problem in Westgate which at times makes it unsafe for me to walk my own small dog on the beach. A week ago, the record was a pack of five, between two owners, in a loose maul dominating the entire beach. However, I'm still a dog lover and this afternoon's incident only illustrated what I see as a much broader problem as times become harder for people and pets alike! Sadly this afternoon also brings back buried and bitter memories of trying desperately and unsuccessfully to rescue a small girl in almost the same spot one summer's afternoon over thirty years ago!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where Did They Go?

Having received a short lecture in Cabinet last week about the greedy excesses of bankers from Labour's Councillor Watkins, where I wonder did all these former members of Gordon Brown's last Labour government find new jobs between now and last May?

Lord Daviesh – Former Minister for Trade Promotion and Investment
Ruth Kelly – Former Secretary of State Department for Transport
Lord Malloch-Brown – Former Minister of State Foreign Office
Lord Myners- Former Financial Services Secretary
Ian Pearson - Former Economic Secretary HM Treasury
Jacqui Smith – Former Home Secretary
Baroness Vadera – Former Under-Secretary of State Enterprise
Admiral West – Former Under-Secretary of State Counter-terrorism

I think you've probably guessed the answer. With the remarkable exception of the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who is loyally serving his constituents in a remote part of Scotland, all the above have found lucrative new employment and one must conjecture, generous bonuses among the very same group that Labour blames for all our woes.

I'm only surprised that David Miliband hasn't joined them but then again £50,000 a year as a non-exec Director of Sunderland isn't bad pocket money as long as they don't ask him to play and there's a certain inevitability that when Labour have discovered what a disastrous choice they've made with brother Ed, his star will rise again!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Over Promoted

I read in today's 'soaraway' Thanet Gazette, that I'm now the 'Deputy Leader' of the council! I would of course like to thank the editor for my sudden promotion but have to ask if she's told my colleague, the real Deputy Leader, Councillor Wise yet or whether I should break the news over the bacon sandwiches at our regular informal cabinet meeting on Saturday morning?

Reading the paper,  I see that the great Hartsdown Park and Margate Football Club debate continues to run and I'm still seeing copies of emails that are flying around on the subject. I'm not sure how many different ways there are of reassuring the public over the future of the park and I attempted to explain the detail on Monday at the Westgate & Westbrook Residents meeting. I'm pleased to see the local paper published my letter on the same subject, which was also produced on this weblog last week.

In an election year, readers are bound to see a great deal of exaggerated coverage on what the council is or is not doing on everything from local development to council tax and litter collection. Inevitably, simple facts will be buried under a snowstorm of objections, petitions, letters and comments when invariably, the answer can be found at the end of a telephone line or simply by sending me an email.

Local Labour, I see, are already starting on a rather unpleasant campaign, with inflammatory press releases designed to manipulate the search engines.

Rather than attack the content of these statements, which are frequently at odds with my own recollection of events, I want to make it clear that nobody prevents the opposition from involving themselves in proper debate. However, most recently, the local Labour group have appeared at both Council and Cabinet with pre-prepared statements or indeed, short speeches, such as that delivered by Cllr Watkins on Thursday evening which rambled on extensively about 'Conservative Millionaires' and the number of 'luxury yachts' being sold at this year's London boat show.

In council, much like Parliament, one would expect the opposition to ask a question and then receive an answer. At Westminster, you will see the Speaker intervene if an MP wastes parliamentary time by launching into a prepared speech and the same is true here in Thanet. As I politely pointed-out to Cllr Johnston on Thursday: "I would be very happy to answer your question if you actually have one to ask." (sic)

What I would be very unhappy to see is local Labour, who lack political debating skills in any real sense of the word, turning-up to council meetings with speeches, that magically appear as press releases after the event. As such, the chair has every reason to ask the person involved to sit-down rather than 'Filibuster', which is what we have been seeing in recent months. Politics is a form of live entertainment and standing on a soapbox, delivering a speech, which frequently has little or nothing to do with the subject in hand, is not a good way of serving the people of Thanet. I hope Cllrs Watkins, Poole, Johnston and Hart in particular will take notice. I am pleased to say that Cllr Nicholson is uniquely capable of speaking lucidly without subjecting us to a lengthy and pre-prepared speech on the faded glories of socialism and the moral collapse of international bankers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Local School League Tables 2010

For readers with an interest in education, I've added a league table of Thanet's secondary schools from today's results on the BBC website. In today's Daily Mail, I also see the Marlowe academy receives a mention.

The last column reflects 'Points are allocated for A-levels, AS-levels and other Key Stage 5 qualifications, depending on the grade achieved. The score is the average number of points per pupil at the institution.'

The CVA column (A/AS) is a statistical measure of pupils' progress between leaving primary school and finishing Key Stage 4 (age 16), in comparison to other children from similar backgrounds. Higher numbers indicate better progress.

The really significant column is the English Bacc,(baccalaureate)  which has been mandated by the new Government and ranks schools by the proportion of pupils who pass GCSEs in the five specified subjects required at 16 for a broad academic vocation; i.e English, Maths etc rather than the 'softer' vocational subjects which have arguably skewed the league table results under the former Labour government. This is very unpopular with comprehensive headteachers and a glance at the tables probably explains why.

The full list of A-C, GCSE results in alphabetical order, where Dane Court and Clarendon House come out top and  that you will also find Michael Child 'Blogging' on are:

Charles Dickens Broadstairs 28%
Chatham House Ramsgate 94%
Clarendon House Ramsgate 97%
Dane Court Broadstairs 97%
Ellington and Hereson Ramsgate 32%
Hartsdown Tech College Margate 43%
King Ethelbert Birchington 34%
Marlowe Academy Ramsgate 14%
St George's Broadstairs 41%
St Lawrence College Ramsgate 75%
Ursuline College Westgate-on-Sea 57%

As an afterthought, I've included 2008's GCSE tables for comparison. You'll find these on this weblog under "tables" in the search box.

Chatham House Grammar School for Boys (SEL) 96%
Clarendon House Grammar School (SEL) 96%
Dane Court Grammar School (SEL) 96%

Ursuline College 48%
Ellington School for Girls 30%
The Charles Dickens School 29%
The Hereson School 20%
St George's Church of England Foundation School 18%
Hartsdown Technology College 16%
King Ethelbert School 11%
The Marlowe Academy 7%

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Blessing of the Sea

A glorious winter's day in Margate for the annual 'Blessing of the Sea' ceremony by the Greek orthodox community. Mayors, Members of Parliament, Charter Trustees, representatives of the different faith communities, the High Sheriff of Kent and many more, were all bussed down from the Winter Gardens for the service in front of the Nayland Rock Hotel.

While the Sun was shining and the view across Margate, magnificent, the sense was one of a strong community spirit preserving a long tradition in a colourful and reverent service at the edge of the water.

Friday, January 07, 2011

A Game of Two Halves

I'm finding that as the TDC Cabinet Member for Planning, I'm frequently the last person, if at all, that any member of the public, opposition councillors or indeed the media, asks when it comes to finding an authoritative response on an issue; even though readers will know, I'm easy to contact and quick to share information where I can. Last month's Montefiore tennis courts debacle in council was an example of what happens when the facts are ignored and an already resolved issue finds a new life of its own as a convenient  political football.

Another example was the artistic photograph of a Ramsgate hairdresser's wife displayed on the wall of the building in the town's conservation area. The headlines scream: "Council Loses Battle" but the reality is somewhat different. One can't put-up a large advertising poster on a building in a conservation area without planning permission. It's like putting-up fly-posters! Without approval, you can be prosecuted. Fill-in the appropriate application form, as I said in a BBC news interview in the summer and your request will be properly considered. So when finally these forms were duly completed and submitted, the application was granted. End of story. No lost battle on my part but hey, didn't it look good in newspapers! And did anyone bother to ask? Of course not because then, it wouldn't have been a good story!

This evening, I would like to set the record straight with the correct position relating to development at Margate Football Club’s Hartsdown site.

There have recent been reports in the press that may have given residents the wrong impression and I think it’s important to make it clear exactly what’s happening.

Firstly, I have to go back to 2006. That’s when the club received planning permission for a development that included a football stadium, 80-bed hotel, children’s play area, fitness club, theme bar, conference and banqueting suites, along with 10 five-a-sides and one full-size all-weather pitch. That application and the process it went through, before being approved, received widespread publicity at the time.

The situation today is that planning permission still exists. Some parts of the application has been built or developed, namely the five-a-side pitches, and should the football club wish to build the rest of what was approved, they would be perfectly within their rights to do so as long as this remains within the permissions already granted.

If they wish to make material changes to the application that was approved, then they would need to submit an amended application. It’s something that frequently happens and every time it does, the council then asks for the public’s views, before making a decision. That would happen here as well. No planning application would be decided, without first giving people the opportunity to comment.

If the club required more land for the project, then the council, as the landowner of Hartsdown Park, would also need to give consent to the leasing of the land. With a major investment into Hartsdown Leisure Centre in the last year, I think it is most unlikely that the council would give approval for park land to be used for leisure facilities. We see Hartsdown Leisure Centre as the major leisure facility in that area.

The ball lies firmly with the football club. The decision is a simple one. They can build what’s already been agreed, or if they wish to change it, they can apply to the council. I want to make it abundantly clear, that if this is the case, local people will have their opportunity to have their say on the matter and we will of course be taking their views into account in any decision we make on the park’s future.

Crunch Time

Another car accident on Westgate Bay Avenue just after 9am this morning and this time, one of the cars involved has gone straight through the wall of Ethelbert Square, almost opposite the doctors' surgery.

I've asked the council to make the wall safe as soon as the car is moved but once again, it's one of those incidents where it's hard to work out the exact circumstances that led to the damage.

I've written before that Westgate Bay Avenue has more than its fair share of crashes and partly because it's so busy. However, taking road safety into account, I'm not personally convinced that a great deal can be done to mitigate the risks because so many of the accidents, are, in my own view quite avoidable from a driver perspective and not simply a consequence of a busy road.

In the past year, I've seen two accidents at this spot and possibly four or five in total along a stretch of four hundred yards. One involved me nursing an elderly man who had walked out in front of a car, until the ambulance arrived.

Local residents who drive along the same area will know that they have to keep their eyes open because only too often and I'm speaking from experience, drivers using the busy doctors surgery can present a serious traffic hazard to other road users.

Parking restrictions would be highly unpopular and speed bumps ineffective and so I'm open to suggestions on how we might better avoid more such avoidable accidents in the future?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Deficit Deceit

Today's Times newspaper reports  Ed Miliband's new 'catchphrase' today. It's 'Deficit Deceit' rather than 'Deficit Denial' and apparently, Labour's strategists are so alarmed that the party was seen to be giving in to the somewhat overwhelming evidence of a totally 'cocked-up' economy, that Ed the Younger is now fighting back and will insist, that the prevailing economic mess was a consequence of the downturn in global economy and nought to do with the over-spending record of the last Labour government.

Ed Miliband told the newspaper that: “Labour is not to blame for Britain’s debt mountain and accuses David Cameron of peddling a “great deceit” about the previous Government’s record to pursue a damaging programme of cuts.

Much like the sheep in George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' if they chant it enough times they'll start to believe it's true!

You can listen to Ed Miliband's interview on Radio 2 today here. Apparently it went down like a lead balloon, which may yet be the fate of  the young but uninspiring Labour leader

Meanwhile, back in the real world and not the realm of political fancy, the BBC reports that Romania is to tax witches; apparently a group that has avoided the attention of politicians in past centuries, on account of having a nasty habit of cursing them. With eyes on its EU membership, the Romanian tax authorities clearly wish to be inclusive and are concerned about the VAT status of spells, the witches' extravagant bonus culture and the contribution that this may have made to the harsh recession in that country. I'm sure that our own Chancellor will be watching the results with some interest, given Britain's own experience of  the last Labour government's, 'Harry Potter' - now you see it now you don't - economics

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Royal Slam

An unhappy two-car accident on Westgate's Royal Esplanade, just after 09:30 as I was out walking my dog.

While there is an ambulance in attendance tending to one elderly male driver in the silver Peugot, I don't see any sign, thankfully, of serious injury to either occupant.

Quite how this happened, I can't quite fathom by looking at it. If you know the road, then it's frequently clear of any traffic at all and wide enough for a three lane motorway.

The principal witness appears to be a rather annoyed large black Labrador from the Ford Ka, tethered to the cliff railing who appears to have been a passenger.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Ford Prefect

It was one hell of a mess below me at Ford Open Prison and you can see the results in today's papers.

As you may have guessed by now, I'm not a natural 'Guardian-reader' and rather believe that if you burn down your rather cushy open prison and cafeteria, then you should be accommodated in tents nearby, until such a time as you've re-built it. Let's not forget the Human Rights Act though, which now appears to include access to booze, drugs and Sky Sports and so the 'tents option' is unlikely to be one favoured by the Home Office as it struggles to find space for the now homeless 'open prisoners' elsewhere.

You can tell we've had Xmas locally. Someone has tried to stuff an old TV in the waste-bin at the tennis courts near me and even the beach bins are overflowing with wrapping paper. It does seem like an awful lot of trouble to go to, roaming the seafront with an armful of Xmas paper and looking for somewhere to dump it!

VAT rise tonight and back to work for millions tomorrow in the year where austerity ceases to be something we talk about and becomes instead something we all experience. There is never a good time to raise taxes and especially unpopular taxes like VAT. Although Labour keeps quiet about it now, former Chancellor, Alasdair Darling did admit that this was one of his options if Labour had won the General Election. Either way, we can't avoid it and like any businessman I worry about the impact it may have on consumers, while recognising at the same time that unlike Greece and the Irish Republic, we can't bury our heads in the financial sand until its too late.

This may be the year that the common currency collapses - an 80% chance - and the Euro goes- twin-track between the German and France and the 'others'. Fortunately, Britain, with its own currency is protected from the inevitable market chaos that this might bring but it won't by any means make difficult times any easier if it does split along geographical lines.

Back to work for the nation tomorrow and good luck to all of us, sailing in very choppy seas indeed.