Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Half Hour is No Good

On Friday, the Thanet Gazette published an account of the Birchington parking story but appears to have missed-out some important detail. Birchington councillor, Dr Alasdair Bruce, has asked me to carry a copy of the letter he sent to the Gazette, as he is concerned his argument wasn't clearly reflected in the story that appeared there.

Alasdair writes:

"I have been attacked by Cllrs Worrow and Cohen, for not voting in favour of ½ hour free parking in Birchington. As a District Councillor, I am under an obligation to my constituents to do my best for them, but I am also under obligation to the whole population of Thanet to vote for the best for the island.

As I am a scientist by profession, I do not make claims that cannot be supported by evidence. Therefore, I spent three days in Birchington High Street at the start of this month, gathering as many traders’ opinions on the parking issue, and several opinions from customers in the shops.

Clearly the response depends on the trade itself, but of the 73 shops I visited, 49 were in favour of all day Saturday free parking and 23 in favour of ½ hour each day (2 chose neither, 1 chose both!). That is a resounding 67% for all day Saturday, in line with rest of the island, and only 31% in favour of the plan that Cllrs Worrow and Cohen put forward. 

Most importantly, out of all the traders, only 1 had previously been asked about Birchington’s parking issue and another said he had been invited to a meeting…….which was subsequently cancelled without him being informed! There were a lot of additional comments made such as: -

- ½ hour is no good to the elderly population or mothers with small children.

- ½ hour is no use if you need to go to the other end of the High Street.

- Thought we already had ½ hour as had received a leaflet saying so!!

- ½ hour not long enough, gives insufficient time with customer

- Find a better option!!!!!!!!

- Why should Birchington be different to the rest of the island?

The current Cabinet, and in fact the entire council, have been misled by two self-serving individuals, who made unsupported claims without even asking the traders or residents of Birchington, about the parking issue within the village.

I have no problem with showing my results to the current Cabinet and I stand by my survey details. So, I have no hesitation in inviting any member of the Cabinet to come with me back to the traders in Birchington to ask the same questions I asked:-

1) Do you want ½ free parking in Albion car park every day or free parking, in the same car park, all day Saturday?

2) Has any councillor asked you for your opinion before?

These two councillors stated in December that the traders wanted ½ free parking without offering any evidence. For the sake of Democracy, the council cannot ignore such irresponsible behaviour.

The cost to the ratepayer for ½ hour free parking in Birchington is £24,000 opposed to £6,000 for Saturday……the cost to the Labour party is 2 votes. Which will prevail?"


simon moores said...

At the same time Cllr Chris Wells has sent me a letter he has written to Labour's Cabinet member, on a similar theme but involving Broadstairs, which is self explnatory:

Dear Alan

I believe you have recently been in shops in Broadstairs speaking about the local petition and assuring shopkeepers that parking fees are not TDC's doing but the fault of KCC.

Perhaps you would be good enough to put that statement to me in writing or by email, demonstrating how you reach that conclusion.

Yours sincerely

Chris Wells

Anonymous said...

blimey - a councillor that gets out and actually speaks to the people, that's a rare breed. Well done cllr Bruce - but as he says which will prevail. I think we all know.

Anonymous said...

The paper must have a real downer on the Tories - isn't this the second time they've failed to print what was said by you lot?
If I read the paper right - cllr Cohen said the traders wanted some free parking in Birchington - all that this poll shows is that they want Saturday and not 1/2 hour - so no problem there. If that's what they want Worrow/Cohen can just amend their plan, or is that asking too much.

simon moores said...

I believe that what is being said here is that Cllrs Cohen and Worrow claimed to be speaking on behalf of the traders in order to use their independent vote to push through a highly controversial parking plan which impacts the rest of Thanet but had not at any time consulted the traders they represent,

Anonymous said...

I've just looked at Ville Views and this is a quote from Cllr Harrison at the last council meeting ...

"I worry sometimes Chair that the members opposite have lost sight of the fact why we’re here, why we’re elected, why we stood for election because as I understood it to represent the people in our various wards and to try and make life a little better for them, try to somehow maintain what they already have."

So, no doubt he will not be voting for the 1/2 hour parking in Birchington - cos that's not what the elected want.

Birch Tree said...

I am one of the elderly population in Birchington and 1/2 hour really isn't enough. All that has to happen is you get stuck in a queue at the Co-op and you're done for.

Sarah said...

Picking up on your point Simon - how did the paper fail to point out the most important fact I.e. only one trader asked before this survey. How can anyone say they represent the village when they have only asked one shop?

Anonymous said...

I'm confused - is Simon Day now saying that he agrees with Alastair Bruce or Jack Cohen or is this an old quote? Not sure why he was even asked, he never does anything for the village!

Anonymous said...

"all day Saturday, in line with rest of the island",I live in Margate,can someone tell me where I can take advantage of this please

Michael Child said...

If the current political situation in the council has reached a point where councillors are actually asking local traders what they think about decisions like parking, that relate to surviving as a local trader in these very difficult trading times, then I think this is highly beneficial.

Cllr Hornus said...

I have often felt that Cllr Cohen has been confused about the situation with parking in Birchington.

When it has come up for discussion he only seemed to talk about free parking and assumed that saying no to 1/2 hour free parking meant no free parking at all in Birchington.

This has never been the case and it seems clear from the conversations that Cllr Bruce has had with the traders and residents that all day free parking on Saturday (which would be the same as the rest of the island) is what people prefer.

I think Cllr Bruce has shown an excellent example of how a local councillor is supposed to work. He has talked with the traders and residents about the policy, has presented his results openly without any alteration or spin, and is standing up for the policy that people actually want.

I hope the Labour leadership take the time to read this and think carefully about there response (which I look forward to hearing at the next full council meeting). I also hope they thank Cllr Bruce for doing the work they or the independent Cllrs of Birchington (who are the only ones they have discussed this with as Cllr Hart admitted) should have done.

Gordon Bennett said...

In the Gazette, Clive Hart is quoted as saying "we gave the councillors of Birchington the option of free parking on Saturday but they rejected it and said this was the view of the traders in the area".
Clearly it is not the view of the traders - so does that mean this will be looked at again before the meeting. This really does seem like Cohen and Worrow just wanted to see how far they could push the Labour administration to get their own way. Clearly it's working and we all have to pay for it. Face up you two and admit you got it wrong or Labour listen to the people instead.
And by the way, b*****y good work Bruce

Anonymous said...

This is for
Chris Wells - have you had a reply yet?

Michael Child said...

With a politically motivated issue like this that caused a Conservative councillor to resign the whip changing the balance of power in the council I don’t think that the results of public consultations by the councillors involved could be seen as valid.

Science is a strange business where the experimenter observing what is going on can actually change what is going on and this is no reflection on the integrity or honesty of the observer.

In fact much of the physics that makes the computer you are using work is based on properly understanding this.

simon moores said...

Michael if you think a certain Conservative councillor really resigned over this issue then you are being startlingly naive!

Tim Clark said...

Good God Michael, you don't really think that Cllr Worrow resigned over a bit of car parking? I don't see how his resignation can have any bearing or influence on what Cllr Bruce found out during his fact finding. And why not chuck in a bit of chaos theory whilst you're at it? That unobserved falling tree in the Amazon or the butterfly in the Congolese rainforest are just as likely to have affected the result.
The last line is just patronising - I suspect that our two scientific councillors have forgotten more about computer than you have ever known.

Anonymous said...

Or probably mischievous as usual, Simon. By the way, if you have not already checked it out, take a look at the film of Thursdays meeting over on Thanet Press Releases.

simon moores said...

Yes I saw it., very twisted interpretation of what has been said about it; ie the comment on Worrow being hung had nothing to do with it!

I'm guessing an audience of not more than 10 anyone like to correct me?

Michael Child said...

Known for my naïveté Simon, it’s all those years as a shop assistant I think, perhaps you cold explain what I should really have thunk.

Tim yes you are of course quite right I wouldn’t know an Apple if it fell on my head as Simon can confirm.

simon moores said...

To give Michael credit I suspect he's pretty good at computing and probably builds them in his spare time!

Anonymous said...

Cllr Alisdair Bruce says

"As I am a scientist by profession, I do not make claims that cannot be supported by evidence. Therefore, I spent three days in Birchington High Street at the start of this month, gathering as many traders’ opinions on the parking issue, and several opinions from customers in the shops."

It will be interesting to see how he votes on night flights, for which the request have so far been backed up by nothing more than guesswork by the airport, and the most responded to consultation the council has ever undertaken.

Anonymous said...

Anon, exaggerating the night flights response a bit aren't we? Out of a population of 132,000 just over 2,000 responded. This would tend to suggest that the vast majority of people in Thanet are not that bothered.

On the parking issue, at least Cllr Bruce made an attempt to sound out the traders before leaping in with some proposal, like others do, simply to raise their own profile.

Tim Clark said...

Best be guided by Hannah Thorpe's wise words regarding the night flights consultation. It was the largest response to a TDC consultation ever and as she said if you choose to dismiss this one then you must dismiss all those in the past and in the future.

Anonymous said...


Those campaigning to save the Richborough tip got over 3,000 signatures on their petition, more than responded to the night flights consultatuion, but at the last count that closure is still going ahead.

Maybe KCC are already ignoring petitions and consultations.

Restless in Ramsgate said...


Petitions are different from council consultations. Residents can collect their own signatures for petitions that they phrase however they wish and the No Night Flights group have been out on the streets in Thanet several times to my knowledge as well as collecting thousands of signatures online. I was told that NNF were not going to submit their petition numbers as part of the consultation as they wouldn't count.

I think the point being made by Anonymous and Tim is that this was the largest response to an official consultation that TDC has ever had and so to ignore it would call into question all other consultations. It will indeed be interesting to see how they all vote given this.

Anonymous said...

Restless, largest it may be, but it is still only 1.67% of the Thanet population, so hardly a mandate for anything. That said, getting down to realities, it is not TDC's shout so it is all rather irrelevant.

Mind you, these days debating things they have no control over seems to be par for the course for TDC. They will probably have a debate on becoming a republic next, especially if Ian Driver has anything to do with it.

Restless in Ramsgate said...


Indeed, but that wasn't really my point. If numbers matter, then throughout our democracy we'd have to move to compulsory voting as they do in Australia. Generally, in UK local elections, you get around 30% of the electorate turning out to vote. If you then look at the percentage on which the 'winner' is elected, you are looking at very tiny numbers. On the point of mandate, what numbers would you like? Over 50%? Well, we don't have that in our general elections even so I guess nobody has a mandate to do anything. What we do have is a simple majoritarian system - not the majority of the eligible population, but the majority of those who turned out to express a view.

So, my point is, the system is the system. Alternatively, we change the system. Otherwise, the apathy of the vast majority will always be misused by all sides. We could all claim that the 'majority' think this or that simply because the majority remain silent. Ultimately, we live in a democracy where you are entitled to vote, encouraged to vote and will have your views registered if you choose to vote. If you don't, then tough really. Similarly, if the night flights consultation resulted in the largest ever response, the issue is not about validity but rather why are the vast majority of the local population so apathetic about the political process.

Tim Clark said...

The Richborough petition was a KCC one. Population of Kent is about 1.43 million. Therefore petition attracted 0.2% support.
Anyone can play with figures.

And yes, mine is one of those 3000. Closing Richborough is madness.

No-one is claiming that the consulation is supposed to be a mandate, just an indication. And as Hannah pointed out it is a strong indication, stronger than anything that TDC have ever consulted on before. The AWP meeting was very badly organised and frankly may yet come under scrutiny from the LGO, just the sort of thing that we don't need. But that's another matter, and an area that Simon has steered clear of.