Thursday, 30 April 2009

Thanet MPs split on Gurkhas

Last night the Government was defeated on a Lib Dem led motion on Gurkhas right to settle in this country. As I posted last time, its a disgrace that the Government wont grant the right to settlement, which is their dues after their own sacrifices for this country. The Governments argument is basically on costs, claiming it would cost upwards of £1bn. If those numbers exist, then publish them. A number of times the question was asked of how such a figure was arrived at but no answer was given to it.

Roger Gale voted in favour of the motion while Stephen Ladyman voted against.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Playing games with Gurkhas...again

How dare the Government mess the Gurkhas around. The Gurkhas lay their lives down on the line and for what? So the Government can screw them over with immigration rules?

The new criteria are (they need to meet one of the following):

-Three years continuous residence in the UK during or after service
-Close family in the UK
-A bravery award of level one to three
-Service of 20 years or more in the Gurkha brigade
-Chronic or long-term medical condition caused or aggravated by service

Each and every one of them simply by being there has shown more than enough bravery to meet that requirement. Quoting the Gurkha Justice Campaign, "The Government decision of 25th April 2009 on Gurkha settlement rights is yet another huge betrayal of the Gurkhas who have served our country".

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Invitation to Tim Garbutt

As local bloggers may have noticed, Tim Garbutt and I have been debating his emerging policy platform for the next General Election as Independent Green candidate for South Thanet on his blog. Weve gone over policies such as the viability of him as MP sacking the "Gang of Four", the strength of a corporate manslaughter prosecution against Thanet District Council and the ability he would have to interfere in planning decisions made by TDC and reverse those decisions he personally disagreed with.

After the first post I made on his blog questioning his policies, he put into effect a moderating rule, which is very typical in light of anonymous flaming attacks we see on local blogs. However recently my comments havent appeared at all. A glitch Im sure. To make up for this and to continue our debate on his policies, I invite him to comment on my own blog, safe in the knowledge that posts wont disappear.

Id like to know under which laws he will enact many of his policies. If such powers are available then surely he can quote them. I invite him to explain how he will create a "County Senate", its composition and how it will operate. How will the new organisation fit in with the rest of local government?

Does he think it fair that men who are democratically elected to TDC should be sacked to make it fairer for women candidates not elected? Does he feel that someones demographics should matter or is it more a case of their ability to perform that should matter? Bearing in mind that age goes both ways, is he indicating that he would sack older Councillors to make sure that younger candidates are allowed a free ticket to the Council Chamber? In short I am asking, does he believe in meritocracy?

He may not wish to respond to these questions, but Im sure that the residents of South Thanet would be interested in his answers. Looking at the local papers he isnt able to conduct surgeries and his email address is out of action. He refuses to go to Council meetings so the ability to talk to him directly about his policies is limited. So come on Tim Garbutt...what's the worst that can happen?

Monday, 16 February 2009

Children in care bashabout

With local elections on the way, you could bet on a political row to spice things up. This time its about children in care and the apparent lack of action in the years since the publication of the report into children in care in Thanet way back in 2005. The report was scathing about it and described a community at "tipping point". In response to Cllr Chris Well's comments on the situation and calling for more action not words in this weeks Kent on Sunday, fellow County Cllr Clive Hart has taken offence, accusing him of jumping on the issue for political purposes and claiming the credit for himself (something I havent really noticed despite living in Cliftonville for not far off 3 years).

My concern is that with this turning into a "who was there first" argument, the serious issue behind it will be lost. I remember just before the report was published being shown the preface to it and told that "finally we can do something about it". Since then its fair to say not an awful lot has been done. As I have said in previous posts here, these are very vulnerable people with futures dependent on the provision they receive.

Its all well and good highlighting the issue and complaining about the lack of action but what exactly can be done? Laura Sandys has spoken about appealing to London boroughs and the Mayor of Landon not to send more our way and yet I doubt little will change by asking nicely. Some have indicated that sending them back to their previous local authorities will deal with the problem. It may well be out of sight and thus perhaps out of mind but you would have washed your hands of it without actually dealing with the actual problem. If the children are in Thanet then surely we have a duty of care to ensure the best interests of the child are taken at all times.

I'd like to know who is ensuring that the children in care in Thanet are actually building a future. Is it not possible for a TDC Cabinet member to add to their responsibiliities an overwatch function for children in care? On this issue I would suggest the Cabinet member for Community Services, in this case Cllr Zita Wiltshire. As far as I know this is done solely at County level, which doesnt help much given KCC interest appears to stall when they get to Canterbury. Surely this is something where TDC can step in and work more effectively with KCC to improve things.

The numbers entering the care system are increasing substantially since Baby P and it is absolutely essential that a proper strategy be in place. Many in Thanet may not like the children in care being here, but here they are and we must do all we can to provide for them. The cost of failure is simply too high to just ignore our responsibilities.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Endcliffe Hotel Enforcement Notice?

The Planning Committee came across a tough decision at last month's meeting regarding the Endcliffe Hotel in Cliftonville. It was granted planning consent to be rebuilt for housing after it was burned down in 2005, but hasnt been rebuilt according to the plans approved by the Council in 2006 and as the owner, claiming financial problems, has refused to put in a fresh planning application (the Council would be minded to refuse the current building if proposed for a fresh application). Therefore Officers are recommending that an Enforcement Notice be served insisting upon demolition and rebuilding according to the approved plans as no changes would alleviate the problems in the eyes of the Officers.

The Committee chose to do a Site Visit to the property to see it for themselves and therefore to decide at the next meeting on 18th February on whether to issue an Enforcement Notice. Its a very tough call to make. It is very much out of keeping with the adjacent buildings, looking very bland sadly like so many other developments, without any character (we're not expecting masterpieces of architecture, but we surely expect buildings that fit in nicely and show quality) and certainly does not look like the approved plans. Its also obvious that there are people living in the property. It is apparent that conditions of the original planning consent have been breached.

There are questions for the Council to answer as to why the building was allowed to be built as far as it did before the Council noticed. Hopefully this will mean that the Council sharpens up its monitoring operations.