Thanet Star

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.

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Public Comments

This Normal comment was left by Jack Kelly [score: 0]:

I thought it a pity that Pat Sebastian did not stand for TDC again. Seemed very capable.

I did come across a story of a vulnerable man in Margate who was really put under the cosh by violent neighbours. And a TDC cllr put the man up in his own home for a while whilst he tried to sort out the violence, intimidation and vandalism.

I do wonder if such patently caring councillors feel they are swimming against a tide.

As an outsider who moved to Thanet in 73 the area was noticeably different to other areas of England.

It immediately struck as odd that mature men still socialized in gangs and had not grown up to stand as individuals.

The very odd thing at that time was that benefits employees called themselves "Professionals" and spoke of having a "Career".

One fifty year old clerical officer from Thanet went for a promotion interview at Ipswich. On his return he confessed that he had never seen a rush hour before on the scale of that docks and industrial town. And he found the industriousness and urgency unsettling.

But he was also shocked because the Ipswich staff asked him why he was still just a clerical officer at fifty. The longest serving clerical officer in the Ipswich Office was two weeks service. Benefits admin was seen as a stop gap job for merchant seamen on leave or students awaiting college.

And oddly enough Thanet with its low risk parochial self important benefits clerks still managed to assess more claims wrongly than the two weeks and off Ipswich staff.

One very significant thing for Thanet's economy was the local vindictive operation of paying under benefits entitlement. The most serious aspect of this was the area's private care home industry.

The principal civil servant Fred King boasted to me that he underpaid them all and none got their fuill entitlements to resident fees.

With all the country to choose from it was Thanet where the three Grannie business poor care standards documentary expose's were set.

But being fair to people actually trying to operate an old people's home they were unwittingly played into a worse cash flow crisis by the mean spiritedness of their fellow dog in the manger Thanetians who worked in benefits. Not prepared to test themselves in industry or further education the Thanet benefits clerk grabs his job and sits there for life, dog in the manger, malignantly trying to ensure that no one gets better off than they are.

The magistrates clerk in the 70s was referred to by out of area solicitors as Thanets version of Burkes Law.

And generations of Thanet Police failed to accustom to the disciplines of evidence.

In the 90s a Thanet Police Chief wrote to a complainant that his recorded delivery letter had not reached the officer to whom it was addressed. And informing the complainant in future to address his letters properly to the him George Rogers Area Commander.

In Thanet it is only outsiders who say NO to that. (John Allen)

And the locals find it irritating !

Well wakey wakey Thanet. My father and uncle fought a war to stop the George Rogers Gestapo attitude establishing in this country.

A constable is an independent ministerial officer of the Crown. A constable does not have an "Area Commander" this is just an affectation.

Constables are not given orders other than by judicial warrant. they are charged with duties BY WHOMSOEVER and IN WHATSOEVER WAY. It was unlawful for the "Area Commander" to operate a mail intercept of mail sent to independent ministerial officers of the Crown (Constables).

And at TDC there was a councillor (believed to have been a source to area commander George Rogers) taken before Chief Executive where he allegedly admitted to running a mail intercept at the council.

When the late John Allen took up cudgels as Chair of East Westcliff Residents Assn other cockneys laughed and warned him that the Thanetians would bring their complaints by the dozen, load stoic old John up with bullets and then scarper expecting John to fire them on his own. And boy did that prediction turn out true.
28/07/2008 17:47:58

This Normal comment was left by James Maskell [score: 0]:

First port of call would be the TDC Constitution which Im pretty sure explains the system.
29/07/2008 08:39:29

This Normal comment was left by Cllr Mike Harrison [score: 0]:

Probably true James if you can (a) understand it,
(b) find an up to date copy and (c)find a copy in plain English !

And I helped write it !
An excellent idea Matt.
29/07/2008 09:24:11

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

We have a Constitution! (There's something else I didn't know until now). I Guess the next step is to locate said constitution. I guess we will find out how much "official speak" in a write up I can still understand... gulp.

Any ideas on the finding an up to date copy Cllr Mike Harrison and (Mr) James Maskell ?
29/07/2008 20:22:32

This Normal comment was left by Cllr Mike Harrison [score: 0]:

take a look here:-

how up to date it I dont know, it should be current but,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
29/07/2008 21:08:32

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

Thank you very much for the link. I have downloaded a copy and will begin dissecting it shortly. I take your point about it being current or slightly outdated but at only a year old (2007) that seems quite up to date given the history of that particular website when it comes to updates.

Regardless of my professional feelings on that subject it should prove to be an interesting read... hopefully.
30/07/2008 23:40:35

This Normal comment was left by Cllr Mike Harrison [score: 0]:

ok, any questions, fire away and I will do my best to translate it into plain English !
31/07/2008 13:24:51

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

Thank you for the offer. It was not too bad after all. However I did start to see a massive golf between the text I read and the actions I have been reading about.

All in all I was left feeling that it was a nice little fantasy and that my utter lack of faith in the institution of Thanet Council was fully justified. If the constitution mattered to more people then maybe this would be good.

I wonder if TDC can find a few thousand to have a Simple English Summary written - the laws regarding accessibility & anti-discrimination and the number of people with disabilities such as dislexia & dispraxia along with the people for whom English is not a first language and those adults that have limited literacy skills should mean that it is a legal obligation.

We can only hope that dissemination of the document in summarised form might cause the council to come somewhere close to fulfilling the requirements.

I'd write it but all my enthusiasm for the subject has been sucked out by the discovery of just how widely it is disregarded.
01/08/2008 18:11:35

This Normal comment was left by Cllr Mike Harrison [score: 0]:

Several points here,,

Firstly please dont tar ALL Councillors with the same brush, there are quite a few on both sides of the political spectrum who are hard working, decent people just trying to do their best for the Community they represent and sticking to the principles in the Constitution.
Secondly although the Members who were on the rather grandly named Constitutional Working party were clear what we wanted by the time it was translated into legalese it loses some of the plain meaning.
Thirdly and rather more importantly you are absolutly correct about accessibility but the Council seems to go along the lines of if its on the Internet its available which is fine for you and me and folks who will read this and other blogs and have Internet access at home/work but for a large number of people many of whom I represent having a computer is a luxury they cant afford never mind Internet access.
02/08/2008 16:57:50
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