Monday, 18 June 2007

Love Kent, Love Ramsgate manifesto: Summer 2007

Love Kent, Love Ramsgate

An Independent Manifesto.

Thanet Council - senior officers and councillors - is deeply flawed. As always the staff on the ground are trying their best for what the Audit Commission has rated as one of Britain’s worst District Councils: nearly bottom out of 400 UK Councils.

TDC is the Albania of Kent councils.

Much of the problem lies with the senior officers and councillors – but also it lies with the fact that the vast majority of Council Tax goes to KCC and quangos: what are they doing to improve decades of neglect?

National Politics fails at a Local Level

The national political system doesn’t work and certainly not at the Thanet level or indeed at County level with KCC: we have Tweedledum and Tweedledee political parties now. There’s little major difference between Tory, Labour and LibDem: high tax, blizzards of legislation and little real change.

Parliament’s Rowntree Report cites that the problem with politics is now the main parties themselves. Seeking State funding simply makes them even less inclined to reform a poor system.

Manston is the proof.

The shameful spectacle of Manston night flights: night flights beginning before the consultation had begun – and the susbsequent brazen deceit simply highlights how rotten Thanet Council – and the checks and balances are.

Independent Politics.

Here’s what I propose: an Independent platform to split the vote of the national parties to break the local deadlock and policies that impact on KCC and how national policies are applied locally.

The key principles will be those of lower tax as per the Taxpayer’s Alliance, greater public accountability as per the FOI and US democracy, independent politics as per the Rowntree report and greater environmental attention as per Friends of the Earth.

Specific policies are:

1. Freedom of Information: TDC is riddled with secrecy – like many UK public institutions – simply designed to hide political failures. We’ve paid for all the public information, institutions and salaries: we should know what’s being done in our name.

If elected I will insist TDC becomes the leading FOI (and EIR) Council by ensuring all Council information is proactively available to the public.

No exemptions, no “document disposal” (or shredding) and any exemptions of document witheld will be itemised and subject to a Public Interest Test. There should be almost none.

Let’s find out who the Caribbean Directors of Pleasurama are too?

2. Manston airport: the scandal of flights over a town and nature reserve without due democratic process. I’ll insist on a Public Inquiry – and evaluation of pollution levels in the towns and the outflow into Pegwell bay. Our councillors seem to have been jeopardising the public’s health and safety for their own glory.

3. Manston and Wye: as with the selling off of Green belt at Wye we have over 50 Councillors in Thanet: what are they doing? Let’s have an “end of term” report from them as to what they’ve achieved for their allowances. Senior officers are on over £80,000 and senior Councillors on nearly £20,000 – for what?

3. Police, Health and Education: let’s have the same public updates to Council and Town Council from these service providers. I propose that – as in America – we have elected heads of these bodies for greater public scrutiny.

4. Toxic Thanet to Green Thanet: time to reverse the trend of Maidstone environmentally dumping on Thanet: I’ll aim to ensure the large supermarkets in Thanet have stricter recycling policies than anywhere in Kent. I’ll ask Friends of the Earth to advise on Best Practice. As well we need extra funding from KCC’s £1.3 billion public funds to improve Ramsgate seafront and parks and World Heritage sites like Pegwell bay and the Military Arches.

5. Virginia: I’ll seek closer ties with our democratic cousins including the inaugaration of the “Governor Kaine award” for the public official who actually reduces most Council costs in Thanet.

6. Council Tax: none of the parties are lowering it: I’d suggest a 30% reduction is possible through eliminating bureaucratic waste, delay and quangos: I’ll ask the TaxPayers Alliance to advise on Best Practice.

7. Services not Paperclips: Council tax is going up. Why? What are we getting for it? Ramsgate Harbour is unpatrolled so people and drug smugglers, Manson has had gun runners and repeated night flight breaches. Time for each Dept to create a TDC “Service barometer” of headcount, costs and achievements. I’ll abolish the post of TCD Chair as wasteful and rotate the role amongst our Mayors.

8. Services not Quangos: we pay Council tax to TDC who give it to KCC and Westminster who then give it back to unelected quangos: let’s have a list of which unelected quangos are operating in Thanet beyond public scrutiny – and what we’re paying them – and then abolish them.

9. Local Democracy: who are the East Kent Partnership? Why are the police moving to Canterbury? We seem to have stealth erosion of local services: let’s have the police back in Margate and let’s have a KCC Cabinet Member for Thanet and Dover. It’s absurd that some of the most deprived areas of Kent have no representation at KCC.

And – as always it’s not just about local politics but the national policies that are carried out in our name down to a local level.

10. National Politics: I’ll seek a voluntary code of conduct from our 2 Thanet MP’s (Roger Gale, Tory and Steve Ladyman, Labour) that they’ll respond to their constituent concerns and not their Party Whips to reject at a local level State abuse of centralised power: who voted for a DNA database? Or selling off the Coastguard? Why are Kent police creating random road blocks with “State partners” like the Dole Office? Why are the DVLA selling data to companies like Tesco? Who voted for House Inspectors?

Go Independent.

As the Americans found a few years ago we seem to have (ever-increasing) taxation without proper representation.

I propose that a vote for an Independent in Thanet and Kent – any Independent – is a vote for a more democratic and efficient local Council and Kent services – and ultimately better regional and national governance.
KCC has been Tory ever since it was founded over 70 years ago: such stagnation seems to have resulted in almost no checks and balances on how public monety is raised and spent.
Creating a coalition of Independents across all Kent elections will ensure that local Kent issues predominate - not the national issues of the national parties.
Join Me.

Please vote for Tim Garbutt and if you want to contact or join me as an Independent to split the vote in Thanet or Kent then please telephone 0787 963 1550 or email: