Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Manston Night Flights

A picture tells a thousand words and on the subject of the future of Manston airport and the night flights debate, this one tells it all.

Quite how our Labour Council Leader, Clive Hart, is going to deal with the demand on the airport to manage a constant flow of arriving  and departing small jet aircraft for the summer Olympics, is anyone's guess. His letter on the subject is here, but he remains content to avoid the broader argument over the number of night movements,  Labour's posturing and its wider message on the future of our airport remains as uncertain and as perilous as ever.

You can find Bob Bayford, the Conservative Group leader's response to Clive Hart's letter, here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Touch of Spice

I've had very little opportunity to blog over the last week as I'm sure readers will have noticed. I did find time to have dinner with two pilot friends at the new Cinnamon and Spice Indian restaurant on Margate seafront on Friday night. Sitting watching the celebrities leaving the launch of Turner & The Elements at the Turner Contemporary on a perfect seaside evening, I found both the food and the service to be good; so worth a visit to enjoy a regenerated Margate.

I'm thinking of wandering-up to see the new exhibition at the Turner this afternoon, after all, we've waited along time to see the a series of works devoted to the great artist and I'm sure it will prove to be a great draw for the town.

Yesterday, I joined some friends from our local dojo for an away day seminar in Sussex with Kyoshi Karl Long, who had come over from the States to teach. Karl is a delightful person who exemplifies the principles of courtesy and modesty one might expect of a great martial artist and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to learn from him once again.

A group of Karate and Aikido enthusiasts will be off to Japan in April to study with Hamada Sensei and they were due for a second day, which was scheduled to start at 7am on a south-coast beach to toughen them up for what is to come. Quite frankly, I'm much too old for that kind of thing now but I admire both the, spirit, determination and the self-discipline of those that do.

I suppose everyone deserves a rest from political commentary for at least a week and anyway, we have Cabinet coming-up again very soon where the Hartsdown Park and Margate Football Club application will be back once again for determination. I think I've commented more than enough on this subject and so now we wait to see what length of lease will be awarded to the club, so good luck!

I may not be blogging as regularly as usual over the next week as I have to prepare a presentation for an upcoming NATO intelligence conference. I'm privileged to be invited  to give a briefing but as the only civilian speaker present, as far as I know, I'm somewhat daunted by the challenge.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lost and Found

I happen to be a non-exec of a local technology company and from time to time we have some interesting visitors to the office in Minster. 'Nasty Nick' is a friend of Vic' the MD, the voice in the background and a regular guest. You can almost guarantee, I'm told, that between them they will get up to something unusual. Some good-humoured banter caught with an iPhone.

Meanwhile, I'm in London blogging on my iPad so more later perhaps!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Going Down

I'm seeing a great many searches reaching this site for information surrounding a report of a young women being stabbed in Broadstairs and all I know about the incident is that the Police were called after an altercation between two Thanet College students, both women, at Granville Road on Friday lunchtime.

The Kent Air Ambulance flew the victim, who reportedly had serious chest wounds to the Royal London Hospital where she is in a stable condition.

I find it interesting that the newspaper story has finally broken surrounding the organised nature of Eastern European gangs and families selling The Big Issue. I came across this extended 'family business' control of the pitches in a triangle between here, Whitstable and Dover in Thanet when I was the Cabinet Member for Customer Services & Benefits and challenged an underage girl selling the magazines in Westgate. I had a very revealing chat with her and her broken English was good enough to paint a picture of how it all worked. When I contacted the Big Issue's Head Office they agreed the magazine was facing a problem but it wasn't one they couldn't do anything about because the group involved have a legal right to be in this country and a legal right to sell The Big Issue.

Last night I had dinner with an old friend, a prominent figure from the diving industry who is visiting from the States. Catching-up with what happened to many of our mutual friends over the years, I asked him if 'Captain B'  was still in business, the man who first taught me deep, mixed gas wreck diving twenty years ago.

Apparently 'B', with his world-class reputation as a wreck diver, was asked to investigate a side scan sonar anomaly, which showed a non-ferrous metal mass, 400 feet down on the seabed, a very challenging Trimix dive indeed. He dropped down the shot line onto the spot, which turned-out to be a large concreted mass of gold coins. He surfaced a very rich man, promptly sold his dive business and hasn't been seen since. I had to laugh and wish him well; a real pirate made good!

So much of the ground-breaking kit we used to wear and use in the old days - pictured - is now obsolete and sitting in my attic, pink hood included. Twenty years ago, rebreathers were an exercise in dicing with death because the software to control the gas mixture was very much in its infancy, now they are safe and state of the art and Suunto even do a Trimix dive computer that doubles as a wristwatch.

Looking at the half submerged hull of the Italian cruise liner on the news, the difficult job of the search divers can't be underestimated.

Lots of recreational divers have dropped on to wrecks lying on the seabed but not that many go on penetration dives. Some twenty years ago, I dived on the Zenobia, a 'Roll-on Roll-off' ferry that sank at the entrance to Larnaca harbour, lying on her side in 138 feet of water. I was invited by the company that controlled the wreck to go down with them through a hatch on the bow into the inner car-deck and access the ship from there and I confess that it was one of the stranger experiences of my life, much like a scene from the Richard Cameron movie, 'The Abyss' as wearing bright dive lights, we lit-up the interior and passed rows of Volvo trucks parked-up and tied down where they were abandoned.

How on earth one searches through a ship the size of Concordia, a small floating city, is hard to grasp. The difficulties and potential dangers are enormous.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I stumbled across a photograph of a Norton motorcycle 'John Player Special' on the web tonight and it sent me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

There was a time, over twenty years ago when these wankel-engined beasts dominated motorcycle F1 racing. This was  a period in my life, before I developed a passion for flying, that I had a very pleasant sideline road-testing 'Superbikes,' for a number of the country's most popular motorcycle publications, such as Performance Bike and Motorcycle International.

I remember being loaned the only available road-bike in the country and being instructed by a worried editor on no-account to bend or crash it before taking it out along the A3 accompanied by a photographer. With Pirelli racing tyres fitted we went down to Wimbledon as the tennis was on, for some shots outside the All England Lawn Tennis Club, where we got some very pretty girls to pose on it and then a little further on to Tippets Corner roundabout to catch the bike tucked right over as it attacked the bend.

As developments in engine and composite technology made remarkable strides at the beginning of the nineties, another racing great bike that appeared  around the same time  was the 750cc Honda RC30, which was unbeatable for a while on the track. I actually bought one of the few available when the road-going model appeared. It had a very radical seating position which felt as if one was perched on a bar stool.

As I lived in London at the time, I did the original road test down to Thanet as an excuse to visit my mother and can recall a couple of lads knocking at the front door that afternoon in Westgate, asking if they could look at the bike in the drive as they had never seen one off the track.

Other memorable machines were Yamaha's oval piston 'OW01' , Yamaha's VMAX, Suzuki's 750RR, which was stolen from right outside my front door, of street, one night and of course the Kawasaki beast of a  ZZR1100 which had me up to 155 mph on a straight-run test.

Later of course motorbikes became lighter, stronger and much much faster and I finally bowed-out with the first Honda Hayabusa before settling down to more sedate and very capable off-enduro tourers such as my BMW RS1150S

Today, the roads are so much busier and far more dangerous than ever before and if any young man told me he planned to buy a motorcycle, as much as I love them, I would do my very best to put the idea out of his mind.

Of all the people I've known over the years, who shared the same passion for motorcycling, possibly more than half are dead, paralysed or gravely injured, normally as a consequence of of either careless accidents or encounters with careless motorists.

Looking back however, those 'Top Gear' days before the arrival of speed cameras and endless traffic jams on the M25 were great fun and while today, it costs me an extortionate £27.00 to fill-up my BMW bike, then it would only have been a 'tenner', tops!

Kicking Around

Last night's council meeting went-on a bit, starting with a report on the proposed and controversial QEQM A&E  service move to the William Harvey at Ashford. It moved on to a  fierce political argument over the budget for flowers and whether this should be cut or not and James Maskell offers a good summary on his blog.  What we did witness was Ian Driver voting with the Conservatives, which does rather put an end to any thoughts he might have had for a prodigal return one day to warm bosom of the Labour Group.

It was interesting, that twice in one evening Ian voted for the common-sense position of the Conservative group, to derisive howls of outrage from his former Labour colleagues, who must by now be somewhat nostalgic for the return of Mark Nottingham.

The broader principle of last evening, which is why Ian Driver left the Labour Group, is that Labour plan to spend the modest pot of money in the Council  budget that the Conservative's had put aside as a contingency against the economic situation worsening or further Government grants being cut. I suppose this is what makes the two political groups different from each other.

Labour are now a minority in Thanet but hold the council  on the whim of  two independents, each with his own unique personal agenda, Jack Cohen and John Worrow, which I'm sure many readers would agree is an unsatisfactory position for democracy on the island.

As I predicted in an earlier post, the Council voted on recommendations for the future of Margate Football Club and firmly kicked the back to our dithering Cabinet to decide the issue and the final length of any leases. The 3G artificial pitch was recommended for refusal but my argument surrounding the length of any long lease for the hotel, once again shot right over the heads of heckling Labour members.

Without going into detail, the club and the council will now 'negotiate' a long lease but the club has to produce financial documents proving why they need it. I wish the Council luck as I've been trying for many months to get the owners of the club to explain why their 'nonnegotiable' 125 years requirement was necessary while my own information suggests that a rolling thirty-five year lease might be more common practice in such circumstances.

According to my last email exchange with the club a week ago, their new deadline for a decision on the award of a lease for the hotel development, runs out on Monday but I've seen so many similar 'deadlines' over the last year that I'm sure another rabbit will be pulled-out of the hat.

I'm sure every councillor is behind the club's aspirations but as I said last night, one can't throw the proper process out of the window where the award of public land is involved. Planning consent exists for the hotel but the insistence on a 125 year lease gives an impression that there is a hidden agenda where the land is involved.

Last night Council moved that if the club wants the hotel and the lease, then Mr Piper and Mr Lever are going to have to finally produce the financial evidence that supports their position to give the Council the confidence it requires to grant a long lease. I'm sure readers would agree that this is not unreasonable and I would urge the Labour Cabinet that makes any final decision on the lease, to make quite certain that firm conditions are in place, in regard to the future use of the land and the completion date of the hotel.

I wish the fans and supporters luck after such a long game.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Between the Lines

Several of our Thanet blogs have some bizarre postings this week.

Labour's Mike Harrison appears to be sending some kind of coded message to my colleague, Chris Wells, expressing, unless I'm mistaken reading between the lines, a nostalgia for the old naval tradition of rum, sodomy and the lash. As Mike reportedly used to work for the railways, this is indeed worrying and perhaps he can reminisce for us a little more on his experiences of working in the early days of steam?

You will see that I had a waffle about insurance and Meerkats, James Maskell has dome some rather incisive work on planning, Tony Flaig looks forward to 'Tony Blair - the Movie' and this week, our diversity champion, John Worrow with his finger held tightly on the pulse of local opinion, worries about Abu Qatada and whether we are Islamaphobic and treating the preacher and anti-Semitic terrorist suspect unkindly.

You can't say that it doesn't make for interesting if not entertaining reading.

Postscript: I arrived home to read the following 'Notice' on John Worrow's weblog which came as a bit of a surprise. What a 'diversity blog warden' is I find hard to fathom. Is it a joke and would he or she have powers of arrest here in Thanet? Where can one apply?  Is it the Council offices perhaps and is some kind of official CRB  or political vetting required by Labour Group leader, Clive Hart and Cllr Mrs Fenner, (pictured further below)  who was 'Pleased' to create the diversity post for John in the first place?

In contrast the Council's modest blogging code of conduct pales to insignificance. Tomorrow's  meeting is going to be even more lively than I thought!


1, A new official Diversity Blog will be launched on Febuary 10th

2, A Public Meeting is to be held to talk about the responsibility of Bloggers regarding the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, with the aim of recruiting voluntary Diversity Blog Wardens, known as DBWs.

3. DBWs will become the blog and social network equivalent of Neighbourhood Watch Coordinators and will focus on Thanet users.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Compare the Meerkat

I have been accosted by a marauding band of Meerkats, seeking to gain control of my house insurance! After relieving me of my credit card details, they did remind me, that as a hard-working minority group in our society, they believe they are badly in need of a diversity champion to represent them, because they occasionally feel exploited by the media and misunderstood by the general public.

Anyway, I got a cuddly toy out of the deal and it was £200 cheaper than renewing with the equally appealing Churchill the British bulldog. If you don't shop around at renewal time then you can expect to be paying rather more than you expected.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In Search of A Loaf

I was in Northdown Road earlier today and could not help but notice the prominently-placed estate agent's sign, advertising local properties in Polish, which came as a bit of a surprise. Passing through, I popped-in to a convenience store to buy bread and milk and was equally bemused to discover that the bread was from Poland too, with the exception of a lonely-looking Kings Mill sliced white loaf, which was cheaper than its European cousins and which I adopted and brought home with me to Westgate.

I think it was the estate agent's sign rather than the bread which surprised me most because it made a powerful statement about the changing nature of the community in Cliftonville, The last council report I saw, told me that only 17% of the local population (Margate Central and Cliftonville West)  are originally from Thanet and over 30% of the population come and go over any twelve month period.

We have been hearing a great deal about 'diversity' over the last week but in Thanet, it's the changing population demographic that I first think of when I see the word. Of  late, we've been seeing some confusion between 'Minority' and 'Diversity' coming from one source on the island, a topic I believe, which needs to be more inclusive and rather less narrow and excitable than the argument.

In particular, we need to reflect on how we adapt locally,  to both managing and interpreting the needs and interests of so many diverse,  Eastern-European and Middle-eastern cultures, crammed tightly into a handful of wards across the island. These are resource and cost intensive for all the local and central Government agencies involved in trying to achieve positive outcomes for the communities involved.

But if you think about it, Thanet is fast becoming as much of a multi-cultural society as anywhere else in the country, it's just taken a little longer for it to happen because the road and rail connection from London stops when you reach the seafront. I've written many times before that the challenge for the future still lies in stimulating a local economy, in a way that  attracts big businesses like the offshore energy industry and offers real jobs, careers and opportunity for everyone. Instead and more often than not, we are frequently seen by cynical newspaper reports, as the end of the line for benefits claimants, exported from overcrowded, struggling London authorities.

Perhaps I'll write more later but for now I intend to sleep on it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Seriously Speaking

It may come as a surprise but I for one, am a firm believer that one should never take oneself or one's politics too seriously. There's always room for a little irreverent satire or a sense of humour in any subject, even, dare I say it, diversity or free parking, as I'm sure readers will agree!

The last government, helped along by Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman, tried very hard to abolish the national sense of humour altogether but I've heard it rumoured that even young Ed Miliband has been seen in the company of a well-known comedian; possibly working-up some new and original material for Prime Minister's Question Time in the weeks ahead. Lord knows he needs it!

Driver Runs Off the Road

I've just read on young Will Scobie's weblog the surprise news that Ian Driver has resigned from the Thanet Labour Group and gone into the wilderness to join  the growing 'Popular Front.' This now leaves the Conservatives as the majority political  party on the island but Labour in control.

Whether Cllr Driver has actually resigned, in the true sense of registering it with the council is a moot point, as readers may recall this happened once before when he fell out with 'Reg' and the Judean People's Party - see clip - over plans for world supremacy, whether they really hated the Romans and were radical enough for Thanet. However, politics makes for strange bedfellows and  this begs the question of whether he and our new council diversity champion,  John Worrow, will be establishing their own populist splinter faction and what this might be called is anyone's guess.

This now puts Clive or was that 'Reg' in an awkward position because there's the constant risk of Ian Driver simply abstaining over critical votes and I for one think he's more likely fallen out with the Labour group over their budget plans, rather than being disappointed that John Worrow, instead of he was, given a Mr Men badge with 'Diversity Champion' written on it.

Local politics is now really and truly hung and that's not good for Thanet. All political parties enjoy their own eccentric if not lunatic fringe and the LibDems more than most. However, we now we have two well-known 'Loose canon' careering around with their own unique ideas of what it means to be a district councillor and this is somewhat at odds with the majority view of what the role is supposed to involve.

So now, in Thanet, we have Conservative, Labour, three Independents under Tom King and  now Driver and Worrow, two members of a rather bizarre 'Popular Front,' one which is temperamentally aligned towards Labour but may vote tactically to achieve their own animal diversity parking agenda objectives.

All rather worrying and I suspect readers may feel the same.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deal or No Deal?

So while I've been in London today having a very pleasant lunch with the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff, I see the political elves have been busy and I discover over on the magical 'Worrows World,'  the following announcement, which will, no doubt, quite overshadow the council budget and any decision over Margate Football Club at the 19th January council meeting:

"Today, I was delighted to receive a telephone call from Clive Hart, the Leader of Thanet District Council, asking me to take on the role of TDC's Diversity Champion. In this new role I will be working together with the cabinet to help ensure that equality issues are integral to the Council’s performance. I talk about this in more detail, in The Isle of Thanet Gazette on Friday."

Just in case it hadn't escaped your attention, almost fifteen years of a Labour government gave the United Kingdom enough diversity legislation, both European and domestic, to sink the Titanic, if it were unfortunate enough to have run into the weight of the European Human Rights Act instead of a small iceberg.

I for one, thought Thanet District Council was pretty good at diversity, with a capital 'D' but clearly not sufficiently enough for Clive or is that 'Reg' and the 'People's Front of Thanet.'

What worries me most now, is not the question of minority awareness or diversity consciousness, because all political parties are fully-signed-up to the principles involved. I don't believe our council, on its excellent record, has anything to worry about but I am concerned by what looks very much like a kind of McCarthyist agenda, driven by a single individual, with a casting vote, seemingly desperate for a degree of personal recognition, a clipboard and a laminated badge. All this at a time when Clive Hart and his crack team from the Judean People's Front, really should have more important matters to worry about after a rather indecisive first month, fiddling with the levers of power. Furthermore and after years of Labour's Harriet Harman's influence and interference as a Minister, our council officers could do without anymore potentially expensive 'box-ticking' exercises on diversity and equality.

And if for one moment you had any doubts about the deal to keep Labour in control by one vote, I think you now have the answer. I suppose we now need a 'Shadow' diversity champion to distract and complicate the business of local government even further?

Back then to 'The Life of Brian' once again, for a suitable comic analogy and I can feel a stoning for blasphemy coming on.

Monday, January 09, 2012

All Change for Musical Chairs

My goodness, the press releases are flying about this afternoon!

In the blue corner, Leader of the Conservative Group, Bob Bayford, talks of "Shameless Labour hypocrisy," and in the red corner, the new Labour Leader of the council, Clive Hart exclaims: "We inherited a Cabinet system from the previous Conservative administration at TDC that appeared clearly designed to fudge and confuse staff, councillors, the press and the public. Cabinet members with ridiculously patronizing titles.. "

At this point, I have to come clean as a former Cabinet member, who had a title before Christmas, err.. 'His Luminescence, the Cabinet Member for Planning, the Environment & Regulatory Issues'. A bit of a mouthful I'm sure but what was written on the tin. If someone could explain where the patronizing titles were I would love to know, as the budget for business cards ran-out almost a year ago and my own just says 'Councillor for Westgate on Sea.'

What we appear to have now is Clive doing a little light work in between the daily swim and the afternoon nap. Alan is in charge of parks  trees and bins, Rick is the money man, Michelle finds herself in charge of business and IT- sorry I have to pause briefly for a giggle - and that hard-working socialist pocket battleship, the voluble Iris, is pretty much in charge of everything. She's got regeneration, tourism, planning, homelessness, cream teas and she's Mayor of Margate to boot, which is, I'm told quite unprecedented. Add to all this two sets of remuneration, a gold chain and a big smile to match.

How the Conservatives will meet this innovative shuffling of responsibilities has me baffled, particularly as behind the scenes, lies the long and duplicitous shadow of Worrow, - 'the reformer' - ready at a moment's notice, to emerge from his mystery lair and answer the call from the Mayor and keep Labour in power.

We live in interesting and occasionally funny times, I'm sure you agree.

Nothing Comes Free

An interesting statement on Thanet Online over the weekend which begs the question in regard to people's understanding of how their council tax might be spent.

Michael Child writes: " I pay the council to do various things on my behalf, one of which is to promote and supply information about Thanet events online."

This is an interesting argument, because if I use an analogy, it implies that I might be a season ticket holder at Margate FC but might expect the same benefits and value as a season ticket holder at Manchester United!

Any council is obliged to provide a raft of statutory services, of which there is a list and councils invariably spend what they have left on 'Nice to have' rather than 'Need to have' services. Over the last fifteen years or so, thanks to the generosity and extravagance of successive Labour governments, the list of services has expanded almost as quickly as the army of well-pensioned public servants employed to oversee them.

Today, we find ourselves in somewhat harsher economic conditions with £3 million cut from the budget. Councils up and down the land are exploring what they have to provide and what they can no longer afford to provide on a shoestring, to meet reduced grants, income from business rates and what little they actually have to keep from the council tax.

I dare say that in Thanet, if a handful of well-known enthusiasts, did not keep throwing  expensive and time-consuming Freedom of Information requests at the council, then  we wouldn't be worried about the revenue loss from offering thirty minutes free parking in Birchington.

Now I would like the council to provide lots of things and achieve world peace at the same time but I know that the financial and resource gap between obligation and aspiration is a huge one and becoming larger all the time.

Local government does what it can within its budget. A relatively poor area such as Thanet cannot afford the ambitions of a wealthier district such as Henley, the income simply doesn't exist. There's a constant pressure on services to be more efficient and cost effective in the public sector but frequently, as I see in  the  IT business giants, too few people end-up spinning too many plates and the result is predictable.

Money talks but here in Thanet, there's always been an emphasis, as I've written before, on delivering resource to the most hard-pressed and deprived members of our community. For many of them, the internet and blogging is invariably something that only other people can afford to indulge in but also explains, given the challenges we face, why "Nice to have" always seems to be out of reach.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Blessing of the Sea - Margate 2012

Not as cold as last January for the annual orthodox Blessing of the Sea ceremony on Margate sands by the local Cypriot community. A well attended town tradition, with our Mayor, both our MPs, Charter Trustees, representatives of different faiths and neighbouring districts, the Cinque Ports and the police and emergency services, as well as a large crowd watching from the promenade.

As always, once the religious ceremony was complete, a very brave small boy, dives into the cold sea to retrieve a wooden cross and then is retrieved and wrapped-up warmly to applause from the crowd.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

People's News

I'm out assisting 'Sir Roger' on his constituency clinic today and so before I go, here's another 'Thought for the day' in picture form based on a somewhat cynical view of  progress among the People's Front of Thanet to date.

Pity about the aqueduct plan for Pierremont Park and the fate of the new Margate coliseum at Hartsdown has yet to be decided, by 'Reg' and  the Mayor, who were recently seen inspecting the colour of the grass.

Worse still for Reg,  that chief scrutineer and essayist of the political left, Newington's answer to Oscar Wilde, Cllr Mike Harrison has returned to blogging after a prolonged  literary absence!

I make no apologies for the parody of Thursday's Cabinet meeting or the recurring 'Life of Brian' theme and no ex-lepers were injured in the writing of this entry.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

In Extra Time

I can’t really describe tonight’s Cabinet meeting of Thanet District Council as a ‘Game of two halves’ but in many senses it was. The one person everyone was looking forward to seeing in the chamber was however conspicuously absent or perhaps observing unseen!

The new Labour administration kicked the Pierremont Park community centre firmly into touch and Margate Football Club’s pitches and Travelodge hotel application were the victim of an unfavourable referee’s decision and sent back to the changing rooms or at least a full council meeting later this year.

We had some political waffle about ‘the disgraceful state of repair’ of our legacy buildings but without any recognition of the last report I was given in 2010, that estimated a sum of £11 million was required by the council, simply to keep them all going; we have so many fine buildings from the Victorian era to maintain.

As the former Cabinet member for Planning I had told Margate Football club that the decision was on the council agenda and would be determined before Christmas. However the incoming Labour administration, removed it from the business and tonight turned this into a non-decision. This now confuses me for these reasons:

1) Mr Piper and Mr Lever met with me and insisted on several occasions that there was an absolute deadline required for a council decision on their lease application to be met by the middle of December or the development partner, Travelodge, would pull-out and the club would be unable to move on and up.

2) Labour members and in particular, Cllr Hart,  didn’t appear to grasp, that the entire development picture for the future of the club and the artificial pitch, has, for the last year, been predicated on the council treating the a slice of the park  as an asset disposal under its rules and granting a 125 year lease for the hotel and nothing less, as I have written before.

Now it’s quite possible that Mr Piper has a different agenda or indeed a different development timeline designed to convince Labour members that he hasn't  shared with me. However, any final decision will be made by the entire council on whether to grant the long lease the club insists it requires to deliver on its plans. I now wonder if it has become irrelevant, unless the Travelodge deadline has now slipped well into 2012. I’m sure supporters and local residents would really like to know but Labour missed the opportunity to be decisive and the game continues on, well into extra time and may in time be settled by a penalty shootout in the council chamber.

The 2012 council budget… what can I say? It’s really the Conservative budget with some tinkering around the edges which even Cllr Ian Driver regarded as completely daft and said so. I never thought I would find myself in agreement with him!

In a nutshell, Labour has released money for events, bread and circuses the Romans might say but they have taken it from the council’s contingency fund at a time when Government warns that we may be even harder-up next year.

So Labour locally have done what their government did nationally. Spent a huge part of the safety net on populist and token gestures, that will have an almost insignificant affect on anybody in Thanet, but which could put the Council in a very difficult position in the future.

The Conservatives, being as fiscally cautious as you might expect, kept council tax unchanged but worried that in the present perilous economic climate, we might need the money for something really important in the future. Labour, playing Russian Roulette with the events budget think otherwise and on this we must disagree, politically, financially and philosophically. I suspect that even Karl Marx might throw a wobbly but then I’ve a great idea for a new tourist event for Labour to fund with all that extra cash from the 'New Homes Bonus Fund' and I even have a Trade Union boss ready to support it!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

On the Other Foot

Fearing that 'Retired' might somehow discover a loose connection between my last entry and the IRA bombing of the Deal Barracks, it's time to move swiftly on.

Tomorrow evening, being Cabinet, I already have a selection of cartoon subjects prepared in lieu of any press release that may appear on ThanetLab, a news site that frequently displays more political ingenuity than Winnie the Poo.

Up until now, Clive and company have been heavily and predictably scripted, which did rather lead me to wonder whether it would be more efficient for them to simply forward the speeches to the Democratic Services officer and spend the evening at home. Whether this will now change remains to be seen or perhaps both sides could simply exchange their scripts and go to the pub instead?

In fact, the shoe is firmly on the other foot, because the new Labour Cabinet now has to answer questions and on our side of the room, we don't heckle well and neither do we trot-out the familiar prepared speeches about 'Greedy bankers' and the recession being a 'Conservative myth.' In fact, I really urge members of the public to come along and watch local democracy in action, particularly as there are several important items of business and I'm pretty sure the independent councillor, formerly known as 'Worrow', will put in an appearance to liven-up the evening's business even further.

I did start this entry with the aim of ignoring politics and writing about something totally different but failed miserably, as attentive readers will have noticed. I see over on Guido Fawkes that there is now a campaign to save Ed Miliband and I urge all my readers to contribute generously and give any small change they may have over from the inevitable  'Hart Failure' campaign which is about to begin.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Losing Steam

Yesterday's blog post turned out a pretty lively discussion on petitions and officer time, which finally meandered-off in the rather bizarre direction of tight trousers before losing steam late in the evening.

Today, being the first day back after the New Year holiday, I find I'm locked-out of my council email, as I assume all the passwords changed and now have to wait my turn to be reinstated and make the urgent request for more dog mess bins between St Mildred's Bay and Barnes Avenue car park in Westbrook. A ward councillor's life is filled with a rich variety of unusual tasks when not doubling as a political superhero.

Remaining with the subject of the miraculous, I'm inviting a caption competition for today's cartoon from one of my favourite films, brought up-to-date for the modern politically-correct audience. Can you think of anyone who might fill the part?

I may add more later...

Monday, January 02, 2012

In the Shadows

We had the first 'Shadow' cabinet meeting of the new year today at Bob's Broadstairs office, while most people were still warmly tucked-up in bed. Being in opposition felt much more relaxed as we waded through the council items for Thursday evening.

I'm expecting the public gallery in the chamber to be crammed with Margate Football Club supporters waiting to hear what Labour will finally decide on the club's future, following the pre-Christmas pitch inspection. I think we are all looking forward to seeing if Cllr Iris Johnston, who turned the matter into a political football a year ago, will finally get off the fence and actually take a position on this one.

Chris Wells will be dealing with both Fort Hotel and the Pierremont Park community centre issue, as he's very familiar with both projects. As one might expect, Martin Wise will be asking acerbic and searching questions about the draft budget and where exactly Labour plans to raid the piggy bank, which, I'm sure, may come as no great surprise.

Over the Christmas period, James Maskell has leapt to the public's attention as both a serious and sensible political blogger with 81 comments on a single story, while the ebullient young Will Scobie has demonstrated, on occasions this month, that he's barely out of short trousers. The artist formerly known as 'Worrow' has changed his blog strap-line yet again.

I awoke this morning to discover that Eastender's indomitable Pat Butcher had joined, Steve Jobs and Kim Jong Il in the choir invisible. This sad story of national importance dominated the BBC's breakfast coverage and serious domestic  news coverage will be resumed later today. I'm waiting for the Prime Minister to announce a message of condolence to the cast and a week of mourning.

If that's all we have to worry about in 2012 then things can't be half as bad as we're told they are!