Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Standards Below

If there was any question whatsoever in readers' minds about a small group of Thanet councillors, bringing local politics into disrepute, then perhaps, last week's council webcast, now available online, should swiftly settle the matter. I recommend that readers move swiftly towards minute 50 and beyond to observe the debate involving the 'Diversity Champion' and the issues and complaints surrounding the absence of transparency under Clive Hart's Labour administration.

At minute 61 we have Cllr Driver accusing the Conservatives and Ken Gregory of "criminal homophobic attacks' and complains about 'Unsubstantiated, politically-motivated attacks' on Cllr Worrow, 'The best diversity champion in Kent' and driven by 'Underlying homophobia' by the Conservative Group.

At minute 63:45secs I pop-up and try and explain to the chair that Cllr Driver is being rather economical with the truth and the record of the Thanet Independent Group and its diversity champion, Cllr Worrow is available at . Cllr Wells, at minute 70, points out that diversity has a very broad brush but oddly enough, Cllr Worrow has only championed a very limited spectrum of interests.

Cllr King's speech at minute 77:00 deserves some attention.

If you can bring yourself to watch the video, which isn't very clear in important parts where background remarks have been edited out, I would be interested in any comments on what took place.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely shocking ... that the picture quality is so poor, the sound is almost in audible and that it only plays on the left channel! How much are we paying for this "service" when hosting it on YouTube would be both free and superior quality?

Anonymous said...

I don't even have to watch this as I am already aware that these guys are in my opinion, at best a bunch of dangerous nutters who are not serving the electorate properly.
And to think I used to vote Labour!
At least I didn't - and wouldn't - vote TIG.
All the gay stuff is OK but why do many Gay people have to go on about their gayness all the time instead of getting on with the job?
Its like Daffyd in Little Britain.
Mike from Cliftonville West

Anonymous said...

TDC Members seem hell bent on maintaining the appalling reputation that the Council has had since it was formed in 1974. When will Members of all sides finally wake up to the fact that the general public are sick to death and totally disinterested in the petty back biting and squabbling from all sides. We don't want the sordid details but what we do want is decent unbiased democratic representation. Cllr Bayford hit the nail on the head when he said less and less council business is coming before Members and instead being done through the back door by officers. Please please please wake up to the fact that all the while Members are squabbling over ridiculous petty vendettas, your officer machine, with all the decent ones having left or been side-tracked, are running rings around you. If Members can't sort themselves out and take back the absolute control currently exercised by your officers, then the sooner TDC is abolished and we have a Unitary Authority for East Kent, the better.

Michael Child said...

Simon I have been trying to follow bits of this today although the video quality is so poor that it is heavily pixelated even on my mobile, I have only got as far as most of the bit about recording council meetings and the use of technology in council meetings.

Presumably like me you have the ability to record meetings without it being obviously apparent that you are doing so, microphones and cameras being so small now and a reasonable smart phone being able to produce far superior video quality than anything the council seem to be able to produce.

What do you think should and shouldn’t be allowed in terms of the use of technology by councillors and members of the public in council meetings?

Anonymous said...

I've no idea who the person is who starts speaking at around 50 minutes (maybe someone can tell me?), but he needs to learn some manners whether he's in the wrong or right!

Chris Wells said...

In many ways the Thanet Life description of last weeks unnecessary and bloody minded meeting is rather less lurid than I recall, and I listened a lot and took little part myself in the proceedings. It is interesting to note that it would appear any mention of Cllr Worrow is taken as either 'homophobic' or 'personal attack', both in the council chamber and by some commentators outside. This is one of the ways he avoids the proper scrutiny of his performance in any role.

I was rather more excised by the reference in Cllr Drivers initial speech of the 'murder' of Ian Tomlinson, which caused a number of members on all sides to exchange uneasy comments and glances but went unrebuked by the Chair.

It's all really rather sad, and once again, undermines the reoutation of the council. I say once again, because yes, there have been others who have previously damaged the reputation of the council, on all sides of thepolitical divide. However, thereis a difference between individual misdeeds, of which there are plenty on all sides, and an insitutional corruption of democracy, warped by personal vendetta and a need to score points - on all sides at some point so far this electoral term.

Unless this is recognised and gripped by some senior councillors soon, I believe serious lasting damage to the reputations of us all is inevitable, because no one, on any side, seems now to believe that in the council chamber there is room for real work forthe residents, only politicking and sniping. And yes, I certainly do my fair share of that as well, but am prepared to admit it and want to change it. Not something I am hearing from many others.

I'm not john Worrow said...

Hmmm, feels like I havent commented on here in ages.

Tried to watch the webcast, but obviously unwatchable because of such dreadful quality. So based upon that experience, if someone else can do a better quality recording (wouldn't be hard) then I'm all for it. Would like a better camera angle aswell so I can see and learn what all the councilors look like (some councilors dont look like their pictures on the thanet website).

In general, I dont understand the arguement against members of the public being able to record and edit sections of the meeting. If they really wanted to, they could probably do it already with the exhisting webcasts.

Although if scrutinised, because some of the audio is turned off in parts of the webcast, someone could in theory dub in something extra out of context and claim it's the original audio. Members of the public wouldn't be able to check on the webcast for authenticity.

I dont know John Worrow, but I think the point made about a diversity champion should have a more diverse range of involvement then just single sex marriages, and single sex relationships.

He should represent more or help others with disabilities, racial/cultural differences as examples. If he has been doing so already, I havent seen anything about it excempt the minnis bay day centre.

I've still never been to one of these council meetings and to be honest, I dont actually know when they are held! Also if you go to sit in the audience, are you aloud to eat and drink? Will Ian Driver ever do Panto? :p

Anonymous said...

Chris, maybe you should tell that to Simon?

Michael Child said...

Simon, Chris, I have now watched the whole thing, what comes over most to an ordinary member of the public is the terrible presentation of the video and Cllr Driver’s suggestions that some sort of watchable video should be allowed. Much of the rest was very difficult to follow, given the dreadful video production. It certainly didn’t come across as showing the independent group or the Labour group as being any worse than the Conservative group.

I do think there is a very real possibility that the Conservative group could become perceived as being against diversity and equality, which I don’t think is their intention in these antics.

Simon Moores said...

Michael you surprise me... but on reflection, probably not. However, on this occasion I think you may find your views are not shared by council officers, the public at large and quite possibly the majority of councillors present. Many Labour members included.

Michael Child said...

Simon, you have to appreciate that I didn’t go to the meeting and am just trying to communicate my impressions after struggling with the webcast, which wasn’t easy. Obviously as you were at the meeting it isn’t possible for you to view it without your impressions formed by being at the meeting. This wasn’t in any way intended as a hostile comment, I would get one of your friends who has no knowledge of Thanet politics to view the thing and communicate their impressions to you, rather than take my impressions. I would doubt that many people will watch the whole webcast, but I don’t think those who do are likely to be swayed particularly towards or away from voting for any particular party, which is presumably what you had hoped for in writing the post in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Michael here. Without actually being there, Cllr Hart comes across as well-mannered and authoritative, which is more than I can say about the (presumably Tory?) heckler.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I really think you are missing the mood amongst Thanet's politicians. This is now less about swaying the electorate and more to do with getting some sensible and orderly local governance dealing with the issues of concern to the people.

The point scoring and name calling has really gone too far, with many decent councillors of all political persuassions fed up with it, but the TIG element seem determined to keep it going.

The comment about Ian Tomlinson being murdered introduced by Cllr Driver is a good example of the distractions in the chamber. Whatever one's views on that incident, it is nothing to do with TDC nor is it of benefit to Thanet people to raise it.

Sadly, until the sensible majority of councillors get their act together and work as a team, this vociferous minority will continue to milk their power base and introduce their pet causes, regardless of relevance to Thanet.

This does nothing to serve me as a resident and council tax payer or you as a local businessman.

Chris Wells said...

The system in use is out of date and unfit for purpose. We were assured again last week that procurement of a new sytem is on the way. Prior to permitting any recording by others, there has to be a verifiable, proper and usable recored of the meeting to refer to and thus identify editing etc.

Sadly, Cabinet is not even being recorded at the moment - when it is not cancelled for lack of business, an incredible statement in the circumstances of the moment - which is why the arguments about who said what to and about whom in the August Cabiner spill over into full council instead.

The single camera angle in use at the moment does not in any way reveal the nature of what goes on around the room, and shows the reactions of only a few councillors.

For me, I believe the council is in crisis in two ways. Firstly, the current administration is pushing their ability to make delegated decisions to the very edge of its power, thus for all the talk of transparency is keeping council scrutiny at a distance from their decisions, sometimes until three months after the event. Secondly, the scrutiny of these decisions is held through committeess chaired by the balance of power TIG Councillors, who appear to be encouraged to look to other public authorities for their work, not at TDC which should be the main remity.

This is politically very clever, but is hardly the transparency and openness so often claimed by the current socialist leader. Trouble is, what is politically very clever, undermines the confidence of outside bodies and potential investors, who cannot have long term confidence in a strategic view of the island for delivering economic stability and development.

And yes, I am sure some of those criticisms could be thrown at past administrations as well, but we are talking about the difficulties of the moment, which, are, in my view, undermining confidence in business potential for us all.

Michael Child said...

Chris, Tom, my comment only related to how the thing looks to an outsider. On the issue of the quality of the video, I believe the image quality is substantially reduced from the quality produced by the camera. I would say if the council get better cameras but then reduce the image quality to the same standard before publishing it online then throwing money at the problem won’t produce much of an improvement.

I believe the initial recording would be available to councillors in the from of a dvd, so you may wish to verify my assertion here. There is also no reason why the council shouldn’t use a free video host like YouTube.

I guess on the subject of perception of the current council problems, trying to persuade us voters that the Conservative group are universally right on the basis that TIG are universally wrong doesn’t seem to be working universally well. There is an emerging thread of these stupid people are so damned politically clever that is washing a bit thin. Your options are very similar to those of the Labour group at the beginning of this term, obviously it would be impossible to win over support from part of the Labour group, this then leaves you with the common ground you hold with the independents.

I don’t think there is any future in expecting some sort of cross party unity between sensible councillors, it presupposes selecting and isolating the those councillors who are not sensible in your own group.

An alternative would be constitutional reform, but didn’t all of the councillors, even those insensible make a mockery of the consultation?

I'm not John Worrow said...


Just been reading through the minutes of the W&WRA meetings. In July, August and September it was mentioned that the Strength Youth Cafe has been in need of a laptop.

Doesn't actualy say why specifically a laptop or what it's going to be used for. If it doesn't need to be a laptop, then my understanding is that the Westgate Library is imminantly going to replace all of it's computers.

Maybe you can go rescue some of the departing computers for the Strength Youth Cafe. A lot easier and cheaper to replace a keyboard or mouse on those, then repair a laptop if the kiddies spill or break something.

They only run slow because of the way the operating system as been configured, and the screens have been set on low resolutions which make your eyes hurt.

They have Microsoft Windows COA's on the back of them, so reinstalling the standard operating system back on them isn't a problem.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The Youth Cafe don't want old laptops.
They're trying to get a nice £90,000 grant to buy them according to Cllr Robert Burgess.
You couldn't make this stuff up.

I'm not John Worrow said...

£90,000 to buy laptops! thats taking the piss. £90,000 could go a long way with providing safe and clean streets in the area, instead of spending it on fancy laptops which will be broken and unuseable within 6 months.

I know apple market their macbooks as being tough and made from a solid piece of aluminium, it will still break the same as any budget laptop if you chuck it around, drop it, break the power socket, smash the screen, rip the keys of the keyboards.

I and most likely others in Westgate would like to see the breakdown of the £90,000 grant application.

This reminds me of a previous £100,000 grant handout in 2010 awarded to a project called Champions TV. After a few months after receiving the grant, the project seemed to be dead. I have no idea what happened to the grant money.

I'm feeling really angry and disgusted about this right now, I guess others will feel the same aswell if they find out. £90,000 could make a big difference locally with more policing, street cleaners, dealing with the dog do do.

Anonymous said...

Calm down dears, i doubt £90,000 is just for the provision of a laptop, and more likely to be for continued operation of the Youth Cafe.

A grant of that size is likely to be from the Big Lottery Fund, or something along those lines, not from the council and will certainly not take away from funds to police, clean the streets etc.

Though having worked as a funding officer for a youth organisation i sincerely doubt they'd get a grant of that size, they'd hardly reach the minimum criteria, let alone find someone willing to prepare a bid of that size.

If Westgate Library were to get rid of it's computers i'm sure they'd be many a CVS organisation willing to take them, so lets hope they don't all end up in a skip!

Robert Burgess said...

Just wondering who would start such untrue rumours, and a shame to all who believe them. The Strength youth cafe newly set up in Westgate, is after a few laptops and asked for one from various sources, including the wwra. The person who said I have asked for £90,000 for laptops is very misinformed or just lying. The reason for laptops is because the space is rented and used by others the rest of the week. Therefore need to be packed away. Also 2nd hand laptops have to be wiped clean of everything because of safeguarding or data protection, and has to be audited by the the companies giving them away. So it is actually cheaper to buy new laptops with the software already installed . Surely trying to help the people of Westgate and Thanet general , in particular young people , is a good thing?

I'm not John Worrow said...

@Robert Burgess

in ref "Just wondering who would start such untrue rumours, and a shame to all who believe them."

I am one who believed, as it was fully plausible going by previous history.

This project was awarded £100.000 and vanished after a few months.

Yes, I totally agree and applaud that you wish to help the population in Thanet. I now understand the reasons why they have asked for laptops due to space and storage limitations.

I do not agree that buying laptops will be cheaper in the long run. The Strength Youth Cafe runs once a week on a thursday evening, where as the Westgate Library is closed on a Thursday. How difficult would it be to use exhisting resourses already within Westgate?

I'm not John Worrow said...

Actually on topic for once ;)

On the webcast, the chairman states recording and broadcasting of the council meeting is not allowed. 23 minutes into the webcast, Cllr Ian Driver pretty much gives his permission and invites everyone to record him and plaster him on youtube.

So would it be legal if anyone sampled bits out of the council webcasts of Cllr Ian Driver only and mashed it together onto youtube?