Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dysfunctional Doncaster Council. Toxic Thanet Council.

Doncaster council is described as “dysfunctional” over at least 15 years of incompetence and now has direct rule by Ministers and the Audit Commission.

This comes some years after the “Donnygate” corruption scandal - which seems very tame in comparison - with councillors and civil servants fiddling expenses and 21(!) of them convicted.

Certainly for far less amounts than MP’s expenses – now nearly 400(!) MP’s have repaid c.£3k each.

One quote today from Labour’s whistleblower Ron Rose who described the Doncaster councillors and civil servants as:

“even being able to drag Zurich down to Third World status”

And the Audit Commission (the Government’s inspector of c.440 UK councils) said:
"The council is not properly run and as a result it is failing in its legal obligation to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which it exercises its functions, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

"Those leading the council - the mayor and cabinet, some councillors and some officers - do not collectively have the capacity or capability to make the necessary improvements in governance.
"The council will not improve without significant and sustained support from external bodies.

"This corporate governance inspection was undertaken because of repeated evidence, over more than 15 years, that the council is not well run."

And in Thanet?

After at least 15 years as one of Britain’s worst councils and far longer as one of Kent’s worst?
The Gang of Four remain silent.

Silent on:

• 0% payrises of several thousand pounds – isn’t that deliberate fraud? The “before and after the 0%” payslips should show the detail to repay
• Pleasurama and tax haven contracts and Swiss Bank accounts – why the chopping and changing of Caribbean islands and Swiss banks for public land for these contracts and where are they?
• ChinaGate and Thanet Labour’s largest-ever political donation of £25k after a unanimous council vote on warehouses and massive public opposition – to be fair, I understand the same donation was offered to the local Tory party
• Missing air and noise monitors at Manston since 2006 – and air pollution over 4 times the EU limit(!) on some roads. Over 4 times!
• No cleanup schedules and toxin details for Manston, Richboro and Pegwell Bay – recently described with one of the UK’s most polluted rivers (both the Stour and Medway in Kent)
• Thor mercury a toxic dump supposedly closed in 1988 but expanding(!) in 2007
• 2 gasworks with cyanide and arsenic in the soil
• Third World mortality rates: dying at 69 in Thanet and 81 in Kent
• £60M tax funds switched between the towns depriving them of ongoing regeneration
• The waste of vanity projects like cargo airports on the drinking water or art galleries in the sea – or merely car parks for swimming pools and ice rinks

Thanet of course has been rated one of the worst UK councils also by the Audit Commission and also repeatedly.

We seem to have a still-born election in Thanet with silence from Messrs Ladyman, Gale and Sandys on these issues.

Silence from 56 councillors.

Silence from KCC.

And silence from TDC’s 750 civil servants.

Not one public statement.


While in Corby this week the 19 toxic victims receive over £4M compensation for similar brownfield poisonings.

We seem to have a cosy club of silence shielding both councillors and civil servants and MP’s as the towns collapse and public die.

Exactly the problems highlighted in Doncaster and the UK generally: the party political system working against the public and operating behind closed doors.

The party politicians agree to cosy up to each other and the civil servants, to do little and do even less effectively.

Until the brown sticky stuff hits the fan or oozes out of the soil.

What exactly are our MP’s Thanet policies?

Not their national party policies – we hardly need £250k MP’s for mere handraising and seatwarming in Parliament on identical policies.

Their Thanet policies.

Thanet has collapsed and it’s never been mentioned in Parliament - while Doncaster now has direct rule from Parliament.

To be fair to Thanet’s civil servants there has been a clear-out of much of the dead wood – although with a 30% increase of 250 civil servants it seems further confirmation of “massive public policy failure” – requiring more civil servants.

And a new vision for Thanet and emphasis on “Cleaner, Greener, Safer Thanet”.

Recording of public council meetings begun some 20 years after broadcasting Parliament live.

Yet Infratil continues to do as it pleases as the death toll from air pollution rises.

Dreamland has closed for 4 years now.

Drains and benches are broken for decades.

And no specific regeneration policies exist beyond job title shuffle, increasing civil service bloat and rejigging the same faces around.

And our councillors – almost all the ones I know of to be decent people trying to improve things – still have no sight of council salaries for council meetings. Still have “pink sheets” with “confidential” information shielded from the press and public. That’s empty ceremony not a council service.

Simply being led by the nose to approve £22M civil service salaries by default.

While Ramsgate Town Council is crumbling with duplication of the same TDC faces for inaction, no budget detail of Thanet’s £60M tax-take for failure, no minutes or accounts published since November, and after a year the only policy being to continue to leave Albion House derelict and add the Custom House to the tax-bill.

Along with closing the Tourist Centres of Ramsgate and Broadstairs to allow “mobile” centres and “signs”. For improved-service-by-closure.

And closing Margate and Ramsgate Museums to locals and tourists.

And leaving the Granville as derelict with a new carbuncle added to it “for developer value”.

And no foot ferry despite tax-repairs to the Port to enable lorries and cars to pollute the harbour and bypass the towns.

Perhaps Doncaster is better run than Thanet: at least the mines were the only industry in the town.

While we seem to have not one but the 3 premier tourist towns of Kent decimated in “death by council”.

Silence from Gale with 30 years of watching Margate burn down. How can he improve things now?

Silence from Ladyman after 13 years of Ramsgate falling down. How can he improve things now?

And silence from Sandys after 3 years. Wouldn’t she have improved things by now?

Why would the election make any difference to these towns except securing employment for 2 MP’s?

And creating a strange gerrymandering of the electoral boundaries splitting Margate in half – aren’t these only supposed to change in towns with major population changes? Or have the towns literally died off?

“Reducing crime” or “more jobs” hardly counts as MP policy – what would be the alternative “more crime” and “less jobs” – while Margate is now one of the most derelict High St’s in Britain and even higher unemployment: 20% in parts of Margate.

And Infratil are allowed to pollute our own citizens.

Yet change is possible:

• elected Lords
• fixed terms
• the new “recall” powers of 10% of the electorate
• elected Police, NHS, Education etc chiefs
• full disclosure and scrutiny of NHS, Police etc
• a Margate Town Council for Kent’s last unrepresented town – now even split in half
• an East Kent Council for the forgotten coast

Reforms just like America has had for 200 years.

200 years.

With a hung parliament the 6th May election is likely to be followed – like every hung parliament - by another rerun election within 12 months.

With only silence from our national politicians and copycat national manifestos only just released (just 2 weeks before a national election called at 6 weeks notice!) the only sensible option is to boycott the election.

A boycott shows the politicians and civil servants that even with “recall” they have failed Thanet.

Yet another Thanet election with a reduced turnout, spoilt ballot papers and silent politicians provides no mandate for the “Doncaster of Kent”.

A boycott shows failure is not acceptable from our elected representatives and civil servants.

With only silence and copycat national policies - and no Thanet policies at all - how will our politicians and civil servants be able to:

Stop the Pollution.

Stop the Corruption.

Stop the Construction.

Time for Change.

Boycott the 2010 National election.

Clean out the 2011 District election.

Implement Recall and Direct rule.

Time for Change.

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