Set up by the Council as a partnership between the public and private sectors and supported by TDC staff and money, the organisation aims to encourage investment, training and employment in the district. However, its meetings are held in private and none of its 3 specialist working groups, on the Green Economy, Employment and Skills, and Heritage which were set up more than 2 years ago have produced reports. Despite promises to do so, no community organisations have been appointed to the Board either.
According to Driver “half of the 17 Regeneration Board members do not live in Thanet. Even the KCC representative on the Board, Councillor Mark Dance, is not one of Thanet's eight County Councillors but lives in and represents Whitstable. How can a Regeneration Board made up of 50% non-residents be qualified to make decisions about what’s best for Thanet’s economy?” Driver also pointed out that Board member, Frank Martin, is the Chief Executive of Hornby which has announced that it will be moving its remaining jobs and operations out of Thanet in May.
Said Driver “Thanet Regeneration Board/ Invest in Thanet has been an unmitigated disaster. Its lack of meetings; its non-local makeup; its secrecy, its failure to include the
community sector or
to deliver on its work plan demonstrate that its creators, TDC’s Labour Cabinet, aren’t serious about
regeneration and don’t appear to be serious about tackling the district’s
unacceptably high levels of unemployment”.
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In contrast, Driver and the Thanet Green Party place regeneration and job creation at the top of its priority list. Its recently published manifesto for the forthcoming Council elections talks about harnessing Thanet’s massive potential for economic growth and job creation through the development of tourism, the green economy, and collaboration with the owners of Discovery Park and the Manston Airport site.
Driver also says that, if elected, he will argue for the replacement of the failed Regeneration Board/ Invest in Thanet with a new more dynamic organisation which will be open and transparent and made up of local employers, educators, community groups and cross-party councillors who have strong knowledge and experience of Thanet’s economy. The group will access expert professional regeneration advice as required, but the emphasis will be to develop ideas and plans for economic growth and job creation from the bottom up, rather than having them imposed from the top down by out of touch politicians and bureaucrats who don’t know what’s happening on the ground in Thanet.
In the last two weeks alone, research by Thanet Green Party members have identified two new potential sources of large-scale regeneration funding for the district. A properly co-ordinated regeneration plan would help us access such funds to bring much-needed job opportunities to Thanet.