Thanet Locals on Thanet District Council - The Basic Idea.
After the success of Thanet's Reaction to Westwood Cross I was going to now be announcing "local reactions to Sandy Ezekiel". However maters have arisen that have caused me to put that worthwhile topic on hold for a short while. I will now try to explain why and see if you agree.
It has become apparent to me that very few people in Thanet have anything approaching a full idea of how Thanet is run. We all know that KCC and TDC are part of it and we are ware that MPs also form part of the picture. These things are common knowledge but after that it gets a bit blurry for many of us.
For example many of us are quickly learning how the planning process works but how many of us know who to complain to if councillors fail to do their job? Do any of us know, for another example, who is answerable for the behaviour of the council tax collection department? What percentage of us know what the "Scrutiny Panel", "Standards Committee" or the "Overview Scrutiny Panel" do or how they differ from each other?
What are the powers and authority of councilors? What are the checks and balances against abuse of those powers? What are the requirements on the behaviour of the councillors?
How many of us even know how to contact a councillor or even who our councillor is? We bloggers and local pundits might know but most people I talk to have not got a clue. In order for evil to prevail good people must simply do nothing - and nothing is all most of us are able to do through lack of knowledge.
Some locals (like Michael Child) maintain pages of reference material on the subject just to make things easier for other people. Others try to make portals and some of us seek only to explore publicly our feelings.
Yet between the local pundits there must be quite the wealth of information as to what the council is, how it is run and what can be done to bring it under some sort of scrutiny. I am therefore going to make the next Thanet star project "local insight into Thanet Council". I hope to run this slightly differently.
I intend to summarise my knowledge and encourage others to do like wise. I wish to encourage you all to use my contact form, phone number, SMS number or online chat id (when I am online that way) to get my attention to each and every local page on and off the council's websites, your own websites or blogs or any other source of information. I hope to create a library of facts and information that makes complaining, campaigning and understanding something any person in Thanet could hope to do.
If councillors want to help they are welcome to submit HTML or plain text documents explaining the process of local governance along with a short public biography + links (100 words or less) and I will make sure it is published and fully attributed (unless you ask to be anon and state that you wish the supplied doc to be placed in the public domain).
Local bloggers and site owners - feel free to publish what you know in an easy to read format (ideally with a somewhat even tone but I understand the desire to comment) and I will link to everything I can.
If you don't own a blog then I recommend looking at some of the free options. (More on that topic) If you don't fancy starting a blog of your own feel free to write a blog post style comment in My Contact Form and I will be more than happy to consider publishing it (unless I'm likely to get sued or beaten up by Sandy Ezekiel in which case I might investigate further first).
My main point is, however, just to get the information collected and collated - published and available - ready to be used by the man on the street. If that means working really hard on something that fails to earn me any money then I will still feel it is time well spent. I would rather have to skip lunch a few times than let the council hide behind mystery and smoke.
With councillors from other councils (Cllr Perkins of Canterbury Council) saying of Thanet Council the it is
[...] run absolutely disastrously. They've sold off all their assets, they've got no money [...] as bloggers, readers, pundits and local "grass roots reporters" we have something akin to a duty to dig deep into the "facts" and demand answers. Abusive local councillors or no.