My congratulations to Roger Gale's team in NTCA for having his circular through my door by 1400 today!
Roger will have my support this year, yet again, simply because I believe he has been a jolly good MP for North Thanet and because Dane Valley Ward is still in his constituency. I have not been entirely happy with his view on China Gateway and his past support of the 'Ezekielites' but that is now history. His Labour opposition is so low key as to be derisory and I have yet to see what the Lib Dems have in mind. I think that it is a safe prediction to make that Roger will be returned by the electorate to Westminster on 6th May.
Steve Ladyman over at Thanet South is in an interesting position. Boundary changes have meant that he has lost Sholden to Dover and Minster and Monkton to Roger Gale in N. Thanet but now has Cliftonville West and Cliftonville East in South Thanet. There are many in these wards who have never bothered to get out and vote Labour as they have taken the view that Roger Gale was un-assailable; that might well now change. It is also interesting that Steve Ladyman has been working for 2 years (post Transport Minister) as a very good constituency MP and gaining a great deal of respect locally as a good Thanet MP, as has Roger Gale on the north side.
Whilst Laura Sandys, has been working hard as prospective parliamentary candidate for Thanet South for a long time, she is still perceived as a Cameron 'choice' parachuted into to mix it with the locals and quite frankly has not made the impact that she would have hoped for. She has also to face the 'Ezekilite' factor in Thanet South and in Cliftonville that last month's change of Leader might perhaps have been too late to alter perceptions. For too long, Conservative TDC has been perceived dimly by its electorate and many might now avoid voting for Laura as a simple protest against their Conservative Council. There is no doubt that the Thanet electorate does its own thing and perhaps that is healthy.
After a rapid analysis in the 'Strife' Office, the collective view is that Thanet will still have the same faces as our MPs after 6th May and that perhaps that is no bad thing.
If the rest of the country decide that Brown et al are worth another 5 years then heaven help us but that is what democracy is all about, isn't it?
I must say that I was unimpressed to read in yesterday's IOTG that in 2012, we might see a big wheel back at Dreamland, similar to the one we saw briefly in 2006 and 2007.
As we approach the 2nd anniversary of the Scenic Railway arson attack whilst Dreamland and its Scenic Railway was being guarded by Probe Security ( recently they seemed to have watched cars with no parking tickets more closely before being 'sacked'), it might be appropriate to remind readers about what has not happened. The good thing about 'blogs' as opposed to papers is that you can search archives easily and remind yourself of events.
Let's start with an IOTG report in the week of 24 April 2008 that was referred to by Strife, ' IOTG is reporting that renovation has been ordered by TDC or compulsory purchase will be initiated'. If my memory serves me well, the owners of Dreamland were seriously miffed by this approach and remarks made at the time , by hopefully, soon to be 'ex-deputy leader' Woger Latchford. What was revealing was this quote by Toby Hunter of Waterbridge: "It might sound odd but we have no idea to what extent it (The Scenic Railway) is insured."
Here is what Eastcliff Matters had to report in April 2008:
One thing I can support Thanet Council on, or at least members on the Planning committee, is on the legal action being taken to ensure Margate’s historic scenic railway is properly repaired.
Thanet Council’s planning committee has voted unanimously in favour of taking legal steps to secure the future of the fire-damaged feature at Dreamland. Members gave officers the power to serve repair notices on the former amusement park’s owners, Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, which will compel them to bring the 1920 ride back to operating condition.
Issuing the order is seen as a last resort move by the council, but also gives it the option of compulsorily purchasing the entire 15 acre site - possibly including the Dreamland cinema - and paying for the work to be done before reselling it again.
I predict now, that it will be necessary, and that the current TDC administration will bottle out of the decision. They have already shown their colours when they overturned the Planning Inspectors recommendation that the Dreamland Site be reserved for leisure.
Well how right, Cllr David Green was.
TDC not only failed to enforce a planning notice concerning the security fencing put up on the site in 2005 but clearly has not enforced repair of The Scenic Railway. In addition, readers might remember the £48,000 or so, of TDC tax-payers money, that was spent on additional security fencing after the arson attack. There is no record of this cost having been recovered by TDC and was this amount hidden in the 'write-offs' of debt by TDC recently, that TDC refused to divulge details off?
It seems to me that a cynical dereliction of duty by TDC has ocurred and that TDC, the owners of The Dreamland site and The Dreamland Trust are going to rely on the tax-payer's largesse in the form of the recent £3,500,000 'Sea Change' funding from a Labour Government to not only repair the Scenic Railway but put together a number of knackered old rides to create an 'old' half-sized version of Dreamland that 'failed' in 2002 despite attracting 700,000 visitors to Margate. Now forgive me if I have got this wrong, but I thought that the owners of Dreamland were going to have to fund the 'Heritage' Dreamland as part of the deal to let them put housing on 49% of the site that was and is the 'Key to Margate's regeneration'?
The property magazine that quoted that Toby Hunter was anticipating a £500,000,000 project for housing on Dreamland seems to be the real reason why this farce has gone on for so long and the Independent Planning Inspector who stated that 'the this Key site to Margate's regeneration would remain a derelict site for years if TDC did not act effectively' has been vindicated.
I leave you with a poster that highlighted the only 'reconstruction' of the Scenic Railway that has so far ocurred. (see below).
I see that Thanet Life has announced the news that Strife predicted almost 3 weeks ago, (click here) that at tonight's Conservative Group Meeting, Cllr Bayford would be elected as the new TDC Conservative Leader with Cllr John Kirby being the only other candidate. My congratulations to Cllr Bayford and to the Conservative Cllrs in Thanet, for at last taking a decision that they should have made last year, to replace their Leader.
As predicted, it would seem that Cllr Bayford will 'understudy' Cllr Ezekiel until May when at Full Council, Cllr Bayford will be installed as the Leader of TDC. I hope that Laura Sandys will now have a better wicket to bat on in South Thanet but I am concerned that this move for change will be too late to benefit her.
I trust that Cllr Bayford will now look closely at how he is to regain the confidence of much of the electorate in Thanet before the 2011 Council Elections. I am sure he is already considering the structure of his Cabinet and that perhaps a new Deputy (Cllr Bruce comes to mind here) and standing down Cllr S Tomlinson and Wiltshire might be a good idea. Would a leaner Cabinet make sense?
He should also consider the make-up of that vital Committtee, Planning. If Cllr Bill Hayton cannot return to the Chair here due to KCC committments, then perhaps a sensible choice would be Cllr Mike Jarvis. who has already demonstrated he is a man of principle and integrity. Cllr Bayford needs to consider if the present Chair (Cllr Gregory), Cllr M Tomlinson and Cllr Simon Day have long passed their sell by dates on Planning and that the retoration of public confidence in TDC's Planning Committtee should be a priority.
Cllr Bayford might also like to get to grips with the perception, rightly or wrongly, that for too long TDC's senior officers would appear to have been the 'tail wagging the elected dog'. Their professional advice and expertise is vital but the bottom line should be that they are all servants of the elected members of TDC acting on behalf of their electorate.
Cllr Bayford has a tough job ahead of him and I wish him the very best. Openess, genuine consultation, frank admission of mistakes when things go wrong (as they always will) and a reaching out to The Labour Group and Independents to utilize their talents and expertise to make TDC more effective, are positive steps that are now needed. The petty silliness that has characterised TDC for too long needs to end.
He might also like to get the message across that TDC's share of the Council Tax we pay is roughly only 14% of the total. Bertie's charge by TDC actually works out at only £3.59 per week and for that I think I get pretty good value for money with my bins emptied; parks and beaches looked after and the service from TDC's Gateway.
Of course there are issues of concern, but a Council is ultimately judged by its public's perception of it. Look after the electorate more; get all of your Cllrs more active in their wards. When Thanet residents feel that their interests, needs and concerns are a greater priority to its Council than developers and 'grandiose' wasteful schemes, then Cllr Bayford, you will have them on your side. Good luck!
My thanks to Masie (see Masie Grace's blog here) for her first pic of Tracey Emin's artistic neon sign " I Never Stopped Loving You" that now adornes Droit House.
Having reported the battle with TDC by The Swan in Westgate to get a simple, tasteful lit sign installed above its door, one has to wonder about this adornment to Droit House. If ex-Margate girl Tracey didn't come up with this for free, how much has it cost the TC? We are entitled to ask this question because as KCC Council tax payers we will be subsidising TC to the tune of £1,000,000 each year, if not more, in the years to come.
We could have saved ourselves and Tracey the trouble perhaps, by inviting some of our local graffiti scroats to get their spray cans out and give us something more vigorous and earthy to adorn Droit House. Their work would be vandalism of course, where as this is art. Really?