Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Purdah Time

I've been away this week, back in time for the cabinet meeting last night and to read the dozen pages of allegations that Cllr Mark Nottingham is making about his colleagues in Thanet's Labour Group which may or may not include the kidnapping of his cat, 'Molotov.'

It strikes me there's an online battle going on for public opinion on the left of the island's politics. On the one side, we have Cllr Nottingham's supporters and even his brother-in-law, slugging it out for public opinion via the pages of BigNews Margate and on the other side of the fence, the 'Thanet Reaper' appears rather closer to the Clive Hart loyalists. Me, I'm quite happy to be a Conservative and simply watch this Punch and Judy spectacle playing itself out from the sidelines.

We are in to the so-called political 'Purdah' period, so I've embedded a link for anyone who isn't sure what it all means, me included. In the age of the internet, it all gets a little nebulous but I have to keep an eye on what I write about to avoid having my wrists slapped. Others, I'm sure, will take absolutely no notice at all!

I've responded to a letter in this week's soar-away Thanet Gazette, which alleges the council will be spending "£1 million a year to run the Turner Centre, will be spending "£1.5 million to build a deeply unpopular building in Pierremont Park and cannot provide £200,000 to re-open the Margate Caves."

The extent of Thanet District Council's financial commitment to the Pierremont Park community centre project is actually £43,500. There is no secret million pound annual council budget to run the Turner Contemporary, as both its operation and presence is funded by grant funding from elsewhere. The Margate Caves I've explained in some detail in earlier posts.

Repeating imagined  figures often enough, does not make them in anyway true but I'm confident I will be seeing them reproduced again elsewhere in the run-up to the 5th May elections.


Anonymous said...

Whichever way you look at it, WE are paying a substantial amount of money to subsidise the TC.

DrM. said...

Who are "We" I wonder? Give that every man woman and child in a heavily benefits dependent and deprived Isle of Thanet is subsidised by an average of around £7000 a year and Turner has been 'Given' to us as a welcome route towards badly needed regeneration, the "We" in this case are the likes of the Arts Council, County Council, wealthy bankers etc etc.

Michael Child said...

Simon I don’t think you are in purdah yet as the election isn’t officially announced until Monday and you have until the 4th April to decide if you want to stand, so at least theoretically there could be candidates out there who don’t know they are going to stand yet, who therefore wouldn’t now they are in purdah.

With the Turner money thing it does seem as though TDC will be picking up some of the tab, for the sort out the area around the gallery business, and of course with the arts council decreasing their funding the lions share does seem to be coming from KCC and therefore a big chunk out of our council tax.

I suppose like me you may be wondering when your £7,000, your wife’s £7,000 or for that matter your children’s.

The catalogue of bizarre occurrences like the silly walks that surround the Turner does go on, the last one that I have heard of is the moving of Margate Tourist Information Centre across the road into the Droit House, any idea if TDC paid for this? Any idea if this move is to be done for artistic reasons or just as a pointless waste of public money?

Interesting thought that the grim reaper may be a Labour councillor, I wonder if his her hood slips during purdha and doesn’t revel the assumed skull, but the fleshy face of a candidate their vote would go up or down?

Readit said...

Simon, As a candidate in the forthcoming election you are no longer a councillor until re-elected, any comments you make are your personal or party views and are not covered by "Purdah", which relates to council officials promoting candidates as stated in this Wikipedia sentence.

"This guidance prohibits publicity, in any form, by public officials, of candidates and politicians."

Cllr. Mike Harrison said...

Some confusion here, sitting Councillors remain Councillors until the poll actually starts at 7 am on polling day.

Purdah applies to sitting Councillors and refers to them making OFFICIAL statements on behalf on their Authority. There is nothing to prevent ANY Candidate making a comment on any matter using any media available.
Newspapers,radio, tv etc have a duty to ensure that equal coverage is given to all candidates.

Public Officials should NEVER at any time promote any particular Party or politician.

Hope that helps.

Readit said...

Thanks Mike, I did simplify the situation to illustrate that Purdah only applies to OFFICIAL council publicy and does not affect what candidates say on their own behalf or on behalf of their party.

I think it is important that this is clearly understood so that a level playingfield for discussion is available throughout the media and blogs.

DrM. said...

Best keep quiet about things I suppose in the run-up to May!

"Infamy infamy they've all got it in for me!"

Or is that Mark Nottingham!?

Anonymous said...

as a matter of interest, will the turner be exempt from business rates or is a charity? and if they are not exempt how much will their rates be in comparison to those businesses that are actually bringing money to Thanet?

Anonymous said...

Michael, its cheaper to run the tourist info from Droit house. Anon - Worth remembering that the main and sub (electricity etc) contractor for TC are a Kent/Thanet based firms, half my mates have been working on site are based in Thanet and all spend their wages in Thanet etc, good for the local economy wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

Why is is cheaper to run in the Droit House Simon, & by how much (& how much is it costing to transfer equipment etc?)?

Anonymous said...

So if we're all that heavily subsidised that makes Simon as much of a sponger as the unemployable chav on the street corner. And the TC may have been given to us - because obviously as heavily subsidised council tax payers my contribution to KCC was actually negative - but who pays for its upkeep?

DrM. said...

The TC upkeep is not paid for by TDC and the subsidy figure I referred to earlier is quick average - it's higher in Margate and Cliftonville - of total subsidy divided by population.

Simply stated and unlike wealthier districts around the country, our local economy with its small working population and high deprivation index, doesn't make us self sufficient. So while a few families may have zero debt and benefits a great many more reflect the national trend where 1/3 of households receive up to half their income in benefits

Anonymous said...

anon again!

What about using some of the £5,000,000 that the TDC invested in that Icelandic Bank?

Did we get it all back with interest paid?

£100,000 of that would cure the Margate Cave problem, and the other £43,500 Pierremont thingy.

DrM. said...

People wonder why I get a bit terse sometimes so let me answer the last question as there's a similar but longer reply in this week's Thanet Gazette letters on similar wild figures.

Firstly, TDC removed any funds it had in any Icelandic banks BEFORE they collapsed. I think a round of applause is due here, don't you think?

£100,000 might repair Margate caves but then who would pay the on-going costs of running them as a business? This is why we are encouraging proposals from "The Friends"

Pierremont was agreed rather a long time ago!

Steve Higgins said...

"There is no secret million pound annual council budget to run the Turner Contemporary, as both its operation and presence is funded by grant funding from elsewhere."

So Doc, why did Thanet District Council pay £81,500 to Turner Contemporary in January?

DrM. said...

If that's the best rumour you can throw in my direction Steve then forgive me if I'm not impressed!

The last Govermment had a fund called 'SeaSide' for struggling resort towns and for the specific purpose of making them more attractive. We had to spend the money on a qualifying project or give it back.

So guess what, we decided to spend it where it would be most useful

No TDC funds were involved

Steve Higgins said...

Hi Doc, just repeating a line from your blog and looking for an answer to a question TDC's supplier spend team seem reluctant to answer.

For the record, I'm a huge supporter of Turner, but very concerned on how funds and grants are spent by TDC.

I understand the £200,000 SeaSide grant was to "support the most deprived seaside local authorities to to tackle unemployment and drive regeneration."

£81,500 went to Turner and £100,000 has gone on improving the journey experience from the railway station to Turner. What happened to the remaining £18,500?

Can you also advise on how giving £81,500 to a fully funded ( not by tdc) enterprise drives regeneration? Perhaps some insight into what they are spending it on will answer this question, which of course you would have asked them before handing over the cheque.

DrM. said...


I've answered one question and that's enough. I'm not some kind of public oracle on TDC budgets and in any event, this does not lie in my portfolio. I suggest you pursue your interest elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I suggest a FOI request Steve. TDC complain about the expense, but, as Michael Child & other bloggers keep pointing out, if they were a bit more forthcoming in how they spend OUR money then the FOI requests wouldn't be needed (Simon could at least point you in the right direction to get the info).

DrM. said...

I would be surprised if Steve is a stranger to the FOI process!

FOI exists to serve a purpose I support and that is to strengthen a transparent democracy. But like other examples of our liberal democracy and the Human Rights Act, it can be abused; often for no other reason than personal interest or fixed agenda. It is a process that is not without cost.

If the public were aware of how much a tiny number of individuals cost the local purse each year in frequent and repeated FOI requests, then they might be unpleasantly surprised.

In a liberal and transparent democracy like ours, the oversight is through councillors and the associated cross-part audit and scrutiny committees to hold Cabinet and council officer decisions to account. While FOI should be and is encouraged, local government has valid concerns that at times it does not meet the fine-tuning purpose it was clearly designed for.