Friday, 18 April 2014

Green Party Urgent Action to Tackle Kents "Killer Pollution"

Kent Greens are  calling on KCC to take urgent action to tackle the county’s “killer pollution” problem.

According to a major report published  by Public Health England (PHE) last week, 25,000 people, aged 25 or over, died from  cardiovascular and respiratory causes  linked to long-term exposure to air pollution in 2010 (1).
Kent has the highest rate of air pollution related deaths in South East England at 745. Neighbouring Surrey had 527 deaths, East Sussex 294, West Sussex 429, and Hampshire 294(2).

Out of the 12 Kent District Councils, Thanet had  90 air pollution related deaths, the largest number in the county. Canterbury was in second place at 81. The lowest numbers of air pollution related deaths  were in Ashford with 50 and Tunbridge Wells with 46 (3).
Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver,  said “Too many people are dying prematurely because of airborne pollution produced by  cars and industry. This pollution is also a cause of respiratory illness amongst children and young people and is a major contributor to climate change. KCC needs to urgently review this unacceptable situation and review and strengthen its strategies to reduce airborne pollution and premature deaths across the county”.

“Thanet and the other Kent councils should all  be investing more money in the development of better cycling facilities, the promotion of walking and the improvement and expansion of affordable public transport. There should also be an major increase in roadside vehicle emission testing to catch and fine  polluters”.
The PHE research  was published several days after a report commissioned by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, revealed that almost  42,000 Kent school students attend schools located within 150 metres of busy roads (roads with more than 10,000 vehicle movements per day), placing  their cardiovascular and respiratory health at  high levels of risk (4).


  1. Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014.
  2. See above report
  3. Figures extracted from 1.Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014.


Attributable  deaths





















Tonbridge and Malling


Tunbridge Wells






  1. Keith launches air pollution report in Canterbury

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thanet Council Independent Review Cover Up?

In early March, Thanet Council was visited by 4 Local Government Association Inspectors to conduct a Peer Review. The Peer Review is a critically important process which provides an independent assessment of how good (or bad) your local Council is. It’s the only way for residents to find out if their Council is good, average or appalling when compared with others.   Clearly  a lot is riding on the outcome of the Peer Review  for both senior council officers,  political bosses and most importantly, of course, for  the people who pay for and who are  served by Thanet Council.

The Review Inspectors are extremely knowledgeable. Some are senior Council managers with  years of hands on experience. Others are serving, or ex, councillors with track records of leading councils across the Country. Their job is to evaluate  how the Councils they review are   performing  in relation to setting priorities for the local area, financial planning, political and managerial leadership, governance and decision making and organisational capacity. At the end of the process a report is produced by the Inspectors which says how well, or otherwise, the Council is doing and what it might need to do to become better.  Councils  are expected to publish their Review reports so that residents can see for themselves how well their Town Hall is doing.
In Thanet’s case the Inspectors looked at reams of TDC  documentation before their visit in March, in what is called a “desktop audit”.  This was followed by a 3 day visit to Thanet where the Inspectors interviewed Council staff and councillors and sat in on a number of meetings. I had a one hour interview with 2  Inspectors which I must say was very thorough and quite challenging. It was clear to me that the Inspectors were the real deal. They  were not in Margate on a tick-box exercise or  jolly bureaucrats outing. They were here to do a proper job of work.

After their visit the Inspectors produced a  draft report which was sent to  the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader  almost three weeks ago. Since then silence!
I have asked to see a copy of the draft report. My request was denied.  0n 24th April there is a Full Council meeting. Yet despite the fact that the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader will have   been sitting on the draft Peer Review report for almost one month when the Council meets, this critically important document has  not been included on the agenda of that meeting. The 56 democratically  elected Thanet District  Councillors have a right to see the draft report. There is no legal reason why this report can be hidden or withheld from them.

Of course the Chief Executive and  Leader will rightly claim that they are checking the content of the draft report. But surely that can’t take a month or longer. This is an independent report and Thanet Council  bosses or political leaders  cannot veto or change the views arrived at by the Inspectors, otherwise the whole purpose of the review would be an utter nonsense.  The only thing the Council can do is to put right any factual inaccuracies and correct a few spelling mistakes and typos. This is a process which should only take a couple of days, especially bearing in mind  the critical importance of the review. But here we are  approaching a month after the draft was received by TDC and its still  locked away in the Council’s safe? Why?
I can only assume that the report is locked away  because it contains bad news. In fact rumours are already circulating that the report includes some very bad news indeed, especially regarding the managerial and political leadership of Thanet Council.  It’s mere speculation on my part but issues like secrecy, cover-up, maladministration, bullying, rock-bottom morale, will probably feature large in this report. In light of ongoing problems regarding TransEuropa Ferries, Dreamland, East Kent Opportunities, Planning investigations,  and Skateparks, the last thing the Chief Executive and Council Leader want is a report slamming the organisation they are responsible for running. So, in typical Thanet Council style,  why not watch your backsides and save your well paid jobs by hiding the report until the things gets a little better.

Shame on Thanet Council and its secretive, unaccountable bosses. I publically challenge you to publish the draft report of the Peer Review in it is full unedited version right now. For once be open honest and truthful. The people who pay your wages and allowances have a democratic right to know if you are providing value for money or not.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Margate’s Dreamland Becomes Margate’s Nightmare

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has warned that “ less than impressive”   financial planning  and project management is likely to mean that Thanet Council’s flagship Dreamland pleasure park project will not be open for business by the April 2015 target.

Speaking after a  briefing meeting for TDC  Councillors  on Tuesday 15 April. Driver said “Dreamland  is set to open in less than a year, but operators for the rides, stalls and  cafes are yet to be selected, as are the contractors who will  manage day to day park maintenance. This is a process which will  take many months and could easily be delayed even longer. Tenders for the repair and refurbishment  of the Scenic Railway and other rides have not been evaluated or  allocated to contractors  and there is uncertainty about  how many rides will be in place and operational on opening day”.
Driver also expressed his doubts about whether the remaining £12million project budget will be sufficient to cover the costs of  opening the park. “There is very little flexibility in the budget” he said. “officers were very evasive and unconvincing about contingency planning. There appears to be no  Plan B to deal with cost overruns such as  a higher than planned compensation payment for the compulsory purchase of the park,  or higher than anticipated costs for the repair of  the scenic railway and other rides. There are also serious doubts about whether the £2million already invested in emergency repairs to the Dreamland Cinema will ever be recovered from the owners”.

"Although I am 110% behind the Dreamland project and hope it will be a runaway success, I am a  realist and have  an awful feeling that the project is beginning to  flounder because of less than impressive  budget and project  planning preparations. I‘m not the only Councillor to feel this way. A number of other councillors expressed concerns similar to mine during  the meeting and several more confided to me afterwards  that they doubt the project will be completed on time and on budget.  If  these doubts are proved to be right  then the only  option would be for the Council to borrow several  £million more  which will have to be paid for by the taxpayer.
A number of Councillors at the meeting also expressed worries about whether the Dreamland Trust, which will manage the  park when open,  is capable of  effectively  running a  complex theme park. One councillor complained that the Trust was raising public expectations too high and making unfounded claims about what will be in the park when it opens. Another complained about abusive remarks against the Council made by  Dreamland Trust volunteers and it was also suggested that a commercial company would be a more effective manager of the theme park  than a not for profit charity.

In a separate development, Driver has submitted a formal complaint about being denied the opportunity to copy financial information presented at the councillor Dreamland  briefing. “After the meeting had ended I asked a senior  officer to roll back the presentation slides so that I could take notes on the Dreamland  financial information. The officer refused saying that she did not trust me to keep the data confidential. I was amazed by this unprofessional and prejudicial response. At no point before or during the meeting were councillors advised that the information being presented was confidential. In fact most of it has already been published.  Also the taxpaying public have a right to know how much the Council is paying towards  Dreamland. This is yet another example of the North Korean style culture of secrecy and cover up which is a sad feature of Thanet Council and  which I determined to expose and end”.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Thanet Leader Hart SkatePark Hypocrite

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has branded Thanet Council’s Labour Leader as a “deceitful hypocrite” for approving the bulldozing of  the Little Oasis Skatepark, Cliftonville, in an “secretive SAS-style dawn raid” on the 27 March which destroyed thousands of hours of voluntary work and cost taxpayers £4,000.

According to a TDC press release, one of the reasons  for the raid was to clear the skatepark  so that the Council owned open land, on which the Skatepark was based,  could  be sold or rented to commercial  organisations who have expressed an interest in the site. But it has now been revealed that  plans to dispose of the open land conflict with the policy of the Council’s ruling Labour Group and also with TDCs Corporate Plan.
During the 2011 Council elections Thanet Labour published a  Manifesto which said  that they were “opposed to the Tories’ every move to sell off open spaces where it affects recreation and well-being”; that  “Labour will resist attempts to build on well-used community open green spaces” and  “Building on green field (undeveloped) sites will be resisted wherever possible”.

After taking control from the Tories in late  2011, Clive Hart became Labour Leader of Thanet Council. His first job as Leader was to produce a Corporate Plan setting out the  Council’s priorities. One of those priorities was entitled “Preserving our Public Spaces”, which said that open land  “enriches the quality of lives for our communities and visitors alike” and which the Council promised it was  “committed to preserving.”

It didn’t end there. The Plan said that  the Council would involve “the community in the planning, design and management of open spaces”; that it would consult “with the public on enhancement of public open spaces” and “increase the number of local residents and groups involved in the planning, design and management of public open spaces”.
But despite these clear, unequivocal, undertakings, when it came to dealing with the Little Oasis SkatePark, TDC Leader Hart  tore up his promises to the people. Instead of supporting a popular community use for public open space, he sent in the bulldozers. Instead of protecting public well used open space for the benefit of local people  he decided to sell it off. Instead of consulting and engaging with local residents about the use of public open space, he ignored the Little Oasis skaters and their incredible achievements and ordered a top-secret dawn  raid on a hugely successful recreational facility built and designed for the community by the community.

Said Driver “The Good Book teaches us that by their works ye shall know them. We now know Councillor Leader Clive Hart to be a hypocrite who has broken his promises not just in relation to Little Oasis SkatePark,  but also the East Kent Opportunities Planning Application at New Haine Road, Westwood Cross. Did he seek the permission of the Labour Councillors he leads to renege on these promises? Or did he simply go behind their backs?  Like most reasonable people I believe politicians should be truthful and honest with the public not duplicitous, deceitful and hypocritical. Its time for a change.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Little Oasis Bike Ride The People's Fight Back Begins

Today's bike ride in support of the Little Oasis SkatePark  was a great success. Organsised at very short notice over 100 people turned up, which shows the level of  anger and concern over the issue.

The Skatepark was demolished last week in a secret dawn raid  on the orders of the Council Chief Executive Sue McGonigal and with the full support and backing  of Council Leader Clive Hart. No efforts were made by Hart, or the Council he leads,  to meet and consult  with the skaters and try to rectify the alleged safety problems.  Instead they responded like bullies, crashing into the park with their heavy artillery and destroying thousands of hours of voluntary work. 

But today's bike ride shows that Thanet youth will not be cowed into submission by our "irresponsible" Council Leader Clive Hart and his out of touch councillors. The bike ride was the first example of organised public resistance to Thanet Council's incompetence, high-handed arrogance and sheer stupidity,  which I have seen in my 3 years as a Councillor. I hope to see a lot more  resistance because speaking honestly Thanet Council and its political leader Hart have  lost the respect and confidence of many of the people they are supposed to be serving - the Pleasurama Development Disaster at Ramsgate, the secret TransEuropa Ferries £3.4 Million Debt Scandal. The outrageous East Kent Opportunities Planning Appeal which will cost Taxpayers £100,000, the soon to revealed Dreamland Funding Catastrophe,  and now the Trashing of Little Oasis SkatePark   Hart and his cronies are not fit to run the Council  Its time for a change. You can vote them out in 2015!!!

I am 100% behind the Little Oasis Skatepark. It should be rebuilt on the same site at the Council's expenses and to a design agreed by the skaters. It should be done as quickly as possible.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Clive Harts Irresponsible SkatePark Scandal

I was appalled by the article in today's  Thanet Gazette in which the Council's Labour Leader, Clive Hart,  described the  Little Oasis  skaters as an " irresponsible minority of people" . Unlike Clive Hart I met many of the skaters after the park had been trashed by the Council last week and not one of them appeared to me to be "irresponsible". On the contrary the people I met had freely devoted  many hours of their own time to  building the park. Some had invested their money in buying materials and equipment for the park and others had been  volunteering at the park to teach beginners s how to skate. To describe these people as "irresponsible" is arrogant and offensive and  Hart should apologise. The only irresponsible person I know of is Hart who, according  to the Gazette, sent an e-mail to  his Labour councillor colleagues ordering them to keep the dawn raid on the skatepark top secret.

I for one, find it hard to  believe  his claims in the paper and on twitter, that the decision to trash the skatepark was made Council officers and he had nothing to do with it!  Clive Hart is the Leader of Thanet Council. That makes him the most powerful politician in Thanet. The Little Oasis SkatePark is in Councillor Hart's constituency. Its inconceivable that Hart was not consulted and involved in discussions about a secret dawn raid on a  Skatepark in his own patch! His explanation fails to convince me. My freedom of information request might throw some light on what really happened here and just how truthful he is being.

Furthermore I am not convinced that trashing the park was the right answer. The Council should have temporarily closed the park, met with the skaters to discuss the safety problems and agreed a plan of works to put any problems right. Instead Hart and the officers arranged a clandestine SAS style raid to vandalise and destroy a massively popular facility for local youth, designed,  built and paid for by local youth.

Since becoming a Thanet Councillor I have been told time after time by Hart and senior managers that the ethos of Thanet  Council is to promote community development, courage dialogue, engagement and consultation with the people, increase volunteering, get the different nationalities to integrate, get fit and healthy. Well in my book Little Oasis Skatepark ticked all these boxes many times over. But despite this, Hart and top Council bosses hypocritically destroyed something which was delivering Council polices in shovel fulls. Shame on Hart. Shame of Thanet Council!

Last but not least old people like me are always whinging about why young people don't get involved in politics and why young people don't vote.  Is it any wonder  why they are contemptuous of politics when you see how  harshly Thanet Council and its Leader Hart have treated them. I think even more of Thanet's young voters will be staying away from the polling stations next yearn precisely  because of Hart's irresponsible criticisms of young people and the aggressive, bullying  way in which the Skatepark was trashed. I would of course strongly advice you  not to turn your back on politics. Use your votes to throw  Hart and his colleagues out of office and join and vote for parties and independent candidates who  fight for young people.

See you on Sunday

Thursday, 3 April 2014

TDC Leader Hart "Nobbles" Misconduct Investigation

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver,  alleges  that  TDCs  Labour   Leader, Clive Hart,   is  “ desperately trying to nobble” an independent investigation into claims of improper interference with a major planning application.

The planning application for 550 houses at  New Haine Road  Ramsgate  was submitted by  East Kent Opportunities LLP (EKO),  a property development partnership  jointly owned by Kent County  Council and TDC.  TDC’s  Planning Committee rejected the  application in October 2013. EKO then  launched an appeal which will be heard later this year.

Three weeks ago Driver submitted a complaint to TDC  alleging that the Council’s Chief Executive, Sue McGonigal,   may have tried to improperly influence  the planning process in relation to the EKO application. An external assessor has now been appointed to review Driver’s allegations and decide if there is a case for the Chief Executive to answer.

In the meantime,  TDC  Leader Hart and  his Labour Cabinet colleagues, Councillors Michelle Fenner, Allan Poole and Rick Everitt  put forward proposals  which would have resulted in the departure of  the Council’s Monitoring Officer, who is managing the investigation into Driver’s allegations,   and his replacement with someone, who Driver claims “ might be more pliable than the incumbent, making easier for this extremely serious investigation to be nobbled and any alleged misconduct covered up”.  However,  Hart’s  plans were defeated when Independent, Conservative and UKIP councillors voted to block his  proposals  at a meeting of TDCs General Purposes Committee  earlier this week.

Said Driver  “Thanet’s Labour leadership are  desperate to kill off this investigation because they are key players in the  unsavoury EKO  story.  It was TDC  Leader  Hart,  along with Chief Executive McGonigal, who  supported  EKO’s plan to build 550 houses at the New Haine Road, even though they knew it  was against Thanet Council’s Planning Policy.  It was  TDC  Leader Hart, along with Chief Executive  McGonigal , who supported EKOs  decision to appeal against the rejection of their plans, even though they knew that the appeal is  likely to cost Thanet taxpayers up to £100,000.

I congratulate those councillors from across the political divide   who were brave enough  to stand up against the Labour Leadership’s crude efforts to manipulate,  influence and kill off  a very serious investigation into alleged misconduct in public office. I am a firm believer   in open and transparent government and if there has been any wrong doing by politicians or officers there should be a fair and proper investigation which is not nobbled or fixed for reputational or party political purposes. I trust that Councillor  Hart and his colleagues will now act in public interest and  let due process take its course without  further interference.”


Monday, 31 March 2014

EKO Cover Up Begins???

Here is a letter I sent to the Council's Monitoring Officer earlier today. The contents speak for  themselves. Suffice it to say I am extremely concerned that the proposal described in my letter
might possibly have an adverse impact upon my complaints about the management of the East Kent Opportunities Planning Application.

Dear Mr Patterson
I have received the report for the General Purposes Committee tomorrow, seeking authority to appoint a temporary Monitoring Officer. I am extremely surprised that   the General Purposes Committee will be making this appointment. It is my understanding that the appointment of statutory posts such as the Chief Executive, the Section 151 Officer and the Monitoring Officer are decisions reserved for meetings of Full Council where all 56 councillors can exercise their choice, rather than a committee compromising of only 10 councillors.

 As the Council’s current Monitoring Officer I seek your advice on the constitutional appropriateness of this appointment process. I would also be interested in knowing if the appointment of statutory officers has been conducted in this unorthodox way before, especially bearing in mind that it was Full Council which recently decided to un-couple the joint appointment of the Chief  Executive and Section 151 Officer, not the General Purposes Committee.

I note that the report proposes  that Madeline Homer the Director of Community Services takes on the role of Temporary Monitoring Officer. I would like to ask the following questions in relation to this proposal.

1.      When did the proposed post holder pass her law degree

2.      When did the proposed post holder qualify as a Barrister

3.      When did the proposed post holder last practise has a qualified legal professional

4.      What areas of the law did the proposed post holder practise in

5.      What previous experience does the proposed post  holder have in local authority/ public administration law and how recently did the proposed post holder have professional experience of working in this field

6.      Is the proposed post holder carrying out Continuing Professional Development to maintain registration as a legal professional

As you are aware, the post of Monitoring Officer is very demanding from an intellectual and time point of view. I am extremely concerned that adding the statutory duties of Monitoring Officer to the already heavy workload of the Director of Community Services is an extremely  high risk proposal. This is something which Councillors were worried about when they recently decided to remove the Section 151 Officer duties from the Chief Executive. I see this situation as no different and believe  that it would  be foolish  to proceed with the appointment of the proposed post holder to this very onerous job because she already has an extremely demanding workload. To proceed with such appointment may well undermine our duty of  care to safeguard the  health and safety and of our staff and may perhaps lead to mistakes and omissions in her work as a result of stress and pressure resulting from this appointment.
I am also extremely concerned about this proposed appointment  because of the existence of major conflicts of interests.

Your are aware that the proposed post holder  has submitted a complaint about me to the Council’s Standards Committee. I wonder how this complaint can be fairly and properly  managed by a Temporary Monitoring Officer who’s role is to advise  and support the Standards Committee in investigating complaint against members. I would be fearful that if the appointment went ahead I may  not have a fair hearing at the Standards Committee.

As you know I have already complained to you about the proposed post holders  role in the submission of the East Kent Opportunities planning application . It is my contention that she may have  behaved in such a way as to contravene Thanet Council’s Constitution. In my opinion it would be entirely inappropriate for the General Purposes Committee to appoint to the post of Temporary Monitoring Officer someone who may have been involved in taking  actions which it might be decided have breached the Council’s Constitution, or other laws and rules which she might  be employed to uphold and advise on.

Finally, I am very concerned that the appointment of the proposed post holder to the Temporary Monitoring Officer post may well have a potentially adverse and unfair impact upon my ongoing complaint to you as the current Monitoring Officer, and to the Police,  about the EKO Planning Application. As you know the proposed post holder has a very close working relationship with the Chief Executive against who I have complained in relation to EKO. I have also complained to you as Monitoring Officer about the proposed post holders actions in this regard. To appoint this person to the Temporary Monitoring Officer post means in effect that she will be overseeing the management of extremely serious allegations against herself and a close work colleague and line manager. This situation seems entirely inappropriate and leads me to speculate that if this appointment proceeds as suggested in the Committee report there will be a significant conflict of interest which could possibly mean that my complaints and allegations about EKO  may not be treated fairly.
I hope that as Monitoring Officer you can look into these matters and advise me what action you may be able to take.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Ian Driver

Sunday, 30 March 2014

EKO Dodgy Meeting & Information Request

My requests for information about KCC/ TDC property speculation company East Kent Opportunities (EKO) and its planning application and appeal relating to 550 houses at its New Haine Road site are meeting with  resistance. Are there things  which KCC and TDC want to hide?  See below a freedom of  information request I sent to EKO Executive Officer, Matt Hyland.
This is the same Matt Hyland who along with a highway consultant and a planning consultant  held a meeting with Thanet Councillors (including planning committee  councillors) on 9th October 2013  less than a week before the  Planning Committee met to decide the EKO application.  At this meeting, which was chaired by senior Council Officer, Madeline Homer who is responsible for the Council's Planning service , Hyland and his colleagues  reportedly lobbied hard to persuade Councillors to approve an application which was  contrary to Thanet's planning policies. Many people, including myself,  believe that this lobbying meeting was in breach of TDCs Planning Protocol. The Protocol only allows planning applicants the opportunity to give a brief presentation at planning committee meetings.  It makes no provision for an applicant to invite all 56 Thanet Councillors (including members of the Planning Committee) to a cosy chat with tea and biscuits with the intention of trying to persuade them to support an application which breaks TDCs rules. Would you be allowed high level access to decision makers to discuss your application to build a garage or an extension? Of course not!
What happened here is in my opinion an abuse of process. I will be asking questions about who ordered this briefing and why, especially bearing in mind the subject under discussion was against TDC policy!
Some people have said to me that because the EKO planning application was large and strategic in nature, holding a briefing of Councillors was the right thing to do. If this was the case then why does  TDCs Planning Protocol not allow for special exceptions such as this?  Even if a such a meeting was permissible under the Protocol, holding that meeting less than a week before the Planning Committee made a decision on the EKO application is highly inappropriate. Its timing could be seen by many as an unfair and improper effort to influence the thinking of decision makers  immediately before an important meeting. Would you have the chance to do this with your garage or extension planning application. This is nothing short of unfair and improper lobbying access which the overwhelming majority of planning applicants are prevented from doing. In my opinion the lobbying meeting of 9th October brought Thanet Council's planning process into disrepute!
The unfolding saga of the EKO planning application and the planning appeal appears to be all about the Leader of the Council  and senior council officers trying their best to persuade, force and bully democratically elected councillors to accept a planning application which was against Council Policy and which was unanimously rejected by planning committee members. This is an outrage and those responsible for subverting and conspiring against the Council they lead or work for should be brought to book.
Dear My Hyland
Please provide me with

1. Copies of the full audited accounts of EKO from its  establishment to date, including the breakdown of incomes received and all expenditures made on a year by year basis.
2. Copies of the full non-redacted minutes of every EKO board meeting since its establishment
3. Copy of the EKO risk register
4. Copy of the EKO Business Plan
Please tell me how many times Councillor Paul Carter has attended meetings  of the EKO  board and the dates.

Please advise me how much money has been spent by EKO on
1. The preparation of the planning application for building houses on the New Haine Road site, including application fees and the cost of external consultants and the cost of public consultation

2. The preparations made to  date of the planning appeal against Thanet District Council's Planning Committee rejection of the above planning application  including application fees and the cost of external consultants
3. An estimate of the total expenditure to be made by EKO in preparing, submitting and presenting the above  planning appeal against Thanet District Council.

Yours sincerely
Ian Driver