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.