Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Blown Away - The Storm of 2013

The great storm of October 2013 wasn't quite up to its predecessor but still managed to take the lives of five people and leave 600,000 without power.

For the first time, Twitter offered a useful means of tracking the storm's progress and impact and I found #Storm2013 very useful as a source of news. At the same time, Twitter was also filled by the vacuous remarks of celebrities and those who should have known better, complaining that the storm was exaggeration, hyperbole or just a damp squib, where they happened to be.

Since the Great Storm of 1987, the ability of MetOffice computer to predict the weather has improved by over a thousand times but we should always remember that predictions surround probability and not fact and this, from time to time, catches me out as a pilot, when a forecast that appears pretty solid, looks nothing like the prediction when bad weather wraps around my ears in an aircraft.

Yesterday's weather appeared pretty accurate when I was out in my garden in the early hours trying to save the greenhouse from blowing away, as the wind found its way inside and started to blow out the panels. 1987 was a different beast but this time around the data was clearer, with winds aloft in the Atlantic of 200mph at the Southern point of Ireland.

20 Ships Sheltering Off Margate
Since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and more recently, Hurricane Sandy in New York, forecasters, have leaned towards the worst case scenario rather than underplay the data, in an attempt to alert the public to the risk to property and life. It's a difficult balancing act as most people can't look at the pressure charts and draw their own independent conclusions in regards to track and impact.

In this case, most people were better prepared than 1987 and while, until the last moment, the forecasters were not entirely sure where the track would take the storm, we can be thankful that it was not as bad as it might have been if a handful of conditions had all converged neatly as it passed over the South of Britain.

Locally, it looks as if business continued uninterrupted. We lost some trees and the Great Wall of Ramsgate. Cllr Poole, I'm sure breathed a huge sigh of relief that the Pleasurama site was not flooded but I do suspect that with extreme weather becoming more common, it won't be long before we see a repeat performance of Sunday, emerging one dark day from the North Atlantic.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It's All Rubbish I Tell You

"You Must be Having a Laugh"
After so many comments and email on the subject of the new rubbish collection service by Thanet Council, which now involves an potentially confusing selection of bins and receptacles, I arranged a meeting earlier this week, with the Director of Service, Mark Seed.

Readers may be pleased to know that I raised many of the issues that concern them and I'm now reasonably confident with the answers and the process of the service roll-out, which starts in November. I will be asking Mark to take a much closer look at the published calendar of collections, to address what appear to be reported inconsistencies causing a worry to some.

The new service has already been trialed successfully in pilot areas of Thanet and is a fact of life in areas such as Medway. None of us like multiple bins cluttering our streets and driveways but I think that all of us understand that recycling is now a way of life and that landfills that fail to separate the reusable from the redundant are not the way of the future.

The new collection service is something we can't avoid and so the great majority of households, mine included, will have to learn to live with it. That said, there are a couple of important points that may reassure those households that simply don't have the space or which exist in areas which are quite unsuitable for the new regime. Parts of Margate and Cliftonville which have been in 'special measures' for rubbish collection, since I was in the Cabinet, are a good example.

If an area, a block of flats or a street is deemed unsuitable, then I'm told, the rubbish collection and bin regime, will simply remain as it is today. If you believe that this is true of your property or that perhaps elderly or vulnerable residents may be unable to deal with the blue, the black, the red bag and the food bin collection cycle, then call the Council (01843 577727) or alert one of your local Councillors.

As an example, the area of Station Road in Westgate, was raised as an example as the flats are above the shops and I also drew attention to potential 'issues' in Adrian and Ethelbert Squares, as well as many of the retirement blocks close to the seafront.

For most of us though, there isn't an option and we need to remember to put out our waste food and place high value card into the red bag for collection. Otherwise everything else remains the same.

There is a video which explains all of this cleverly hidden on the Council website. I did ask them to send me the link but nothing has appeared. No surprises there, so until they do, here's the official Clive Hart version and I will continue to look for the real instructions video and embed it further below, so you can see it

Finally, I had my water meter installed, like many other households this week. There is a suspicion that Southern Water may have used the opportunity to lift the tariff and I see my Labour colleague, Cllr Iris Johnston, is already on the case, seeking clarification. If it proves true then I would regard this as quite unacceptable in a difficult time for everyone with utility bills. If I hear more I will share it here or on Twitter. (@simonmoores)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dig Deeper

Attempting an Escape from Glasgow's Science Centre
In the absence of anything longer, just a few pictures from my week, which involved one presentation in Manchester, a big power outage at Gatwick and a second presentation at Glasgow's Science Centre, which didn't see me home until 1:30 am, thanks to a somewhat delayed EasyJet flight.

With all the excitement surrounding Manston airport being sold for a £1.00, I'm told I'm on the new airport Cabinet Advisory Group. Quite what it's remit will be I don't know as yet but to quote that well worn expression, "It's good to talk."

Lots of people are becoming very exercised indeed about the new rubbish collection system of multiple bins, which starts next month; I've even been collared on the street. So I have asked for a meeting with the Director of Service at Thanet District Council, Mark Seed, to share some of the many concerns that appear to worry people. I should add though that I'm simply a Shadow Cabinet (CON) member in opposition and the man with the grand plan to date, has of course been Cllr Alan Poole (LAB) so I'm not particularly optimistic that we might see any refinement of the new policy on recycling, whether any appeal to common sense is involved or not.

The View from Manchester's Hilton
What little I saw of Glasgow was in the pouring rain on arrival and still going strong when I left the city. I'm impressed by the way that their Science Centre has copied our own Science Museum in providing a great learning and experimentation environment for children and it was packed whenI arrived; reminiscent of a wild scene from the St Trinian's movie but with no Margaret Rutherford in sight.

Fortunately, the event started after the centre closed to the public, so for a while, at least, I was able to wander around and have it to myself, while I waited t deliver my 6:30pm presentation.

With luck, as we dive deeper into winter, I will have some more time to blog but as you will have no doubt noticed, it's very much ad-hoc at present, if only because I have been travelling quite frequently over the last month.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On your Bike

Another week of running around catching airplanes, my own or Easyjet's, depending on the distance involved. The new, 'First4Lawyers' advert appeared for the first time yesterday, so that's two TV adverts now running concurrently with our aircraft and I'm looking out for Ryan Air.

This morning, it's a return from Manchester, which, with a tailwind, shouldn't take much more than ninety minutes. Monday's flight up was pretty grim, sitting in the rain and cloud for most of the trip up to the city airport at Barton; followed by a presentation in the aptly named 'Cloud' room on the 23rd floor of the Manchester Hilton.

Tomorrow, it's the science museum in Glasgow and if readers are lucky perhaps they'll keep me as an exhibit of an unreformed Conservative local politician from the distant island of Thanet.

Manchester Hilton
On Sunday afternoon we were surprised at home to have four teenagers, three with bicycles, one without, come on to our property, through the large closed car gates and try and get into the bicycle shed. They were promptly chased-off but be advised, if you live in Westgate, that these lads appear quite undeterred by high walls and closed gates in broad daylight.

Time to go to the airport. I see Manston has been bought from the other blogs, so more later perhaps.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dublin Stroll

Dublin has come as a bit of a jolt after my first return since I upset the Finance Minister at a Croke Park conference by revealing that the nation's books were being mildly 'cooked' in the software sector.

The rest was of course history, as is the Finance Minster and the Government that mired the Irish Republic in near impossible-levels of debt when the financial crash revealed the weakness of its economy.

The centre of Dublin however, is in strong contrast with Barcelona yesterday and in parts, reminiscent of Cliftonville's Northdown Road. It reflects the real economic hardship, unemployment and similar high levels of diversity on every corner.

I have a presentation to give at the Guiness Factory a little later and an interview to give to the Sunday Business Post before heading back towards Gatwick.

I was delighted to hear by email, that a locally kidnapped Chihuahua has been recovered safely. The owner tells me a bizarre story, worthy of 101 Dalmatians, that involves a kidnap from her garden, that led, via CCTV on the trains, all the way to Brighton. Apparently, it was Facebook that proved instrumental in finding the dog, which illustrates one of the 'real' benefits of Social Media.

Finally, the very tired and repetitive political rhetoric from Labour's Cllr Poole and Cllr Fenner can be more than tedious at Thanet District Council's meetings from a pair with a tenuous grasp of history and an even more dismal appreciation of simple economics.

You may see what I mean if you listen to Cllr Poole's regular cant against "rich bankers' - I think he said 'bankers' - at the last Council meeting, which was of course was recorded and is once again available for the public to see, appreciate or throw rocks at. If you don't wish to watch the whole thing then Cllr Poole's performance starts one hour in and of course, don't forget to watch Cllr Driver's latest display of amateur dramatic talent.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Light, Camera, Action

I walked to the bank Margate and back this morning at took a few photos along the way, briefly stopping to act as a member of the public, for the teenagers conducting their school project survey.

A Council meeting this evening and on the agenda, the vexing topic of whether meetings should be filmed. This has been the subject of some concentrated attention by the Constitutional Review Working Party and I hope that tonight's business will see agreement across the political divide on how we can both respect the rules governing privacy - the consent of individuals to be filmed -  and more efficiently broadcast the business of the Council. What we need is a sensible compromise that recognises the changing nature of the democratic function the 21st century while recognising the selective risks that accompany any filming of Council business.

Well  done Westgate teenager, Raisa Hollaway-Hambidge, who figures as a major contributor to The Dementia Diaries, launched last Friday at County Hall.

Kent Online reports, that in the book, "Raisa, writing under the name Sarah, gives accounts of conflicting emotions: happy, sad, puzzling and poignant, just the way she felt them. Her stories appear alongside the real-life accounts of other young people to create a novel in cartoons and diary extracts, to raise awareness of dementia among young people."

Copies of the book have been sent to every school in Kent and will be available in county libraries.I have my own copy available here for £5.99 and it's excellent!

Finally, after a long wait, I see that the new Go Compare TV advertisement, filmed in March, appeared yesterday. You wouldn't believe how long we were going round and around in circles during filming. Looks as if a little post production CGI has turned the red letters green too!