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Saturday, 31 January 2015

"Parkway Prats" Support Station They Once Opposed

Green Party Councillor and Thanet South General Election Candidate Ian Driver has denounced TDCs Labour Cabinet as “Parkway Prats”. His comment follows their recent decision to support Kent County Council’s plans for a £14million Parkway Station at rural Cliffsend after having strongly opposed the idea during the last Council elections in 2011.
Said Driver “I am flabbergasted by the jaw-dropping scale of Thanet Labour’s hypocrisy. In 2011 they sought election on a manifesto commitment to “support moves to reduce the travel time to London but not at the expense and environmental damage of a new Parkway Station”.
In an article on Thanet Labour Party’s blog site dated 24 April 2011, Richard Nicholson the current Deputy Leader of the Council said “are we expected to believe that this (Parkway Station) is a good use of public money?... this (Parkway Station) will create an enormous parking need on green land and more traffic snarl ups especially at peak times….This Parkway is not justified nor needed”.  On 20th January 2015 the same Richard Nicholson agreed “to note the current position with regard to progress on the Thanet Parkway Station and confirmed support for the project”.  I wonder why he has changed his mind?
Writing on the Thanet Labour Blog site on 3 May 2011, just 2 days before the council election Councillor Clive Hart, said “we’ve outlined our continued support for shortening travel times to London. However, Thanet Labour is always mindful of our local environment as a Parkway station with a huge car park, just doesn’t make economic sense”
But on becoming Leader of the Council just one year later Hart, who also assumed responsibility for economic development, quickly changed his mind about the Parkway Station. He engaged in secretive discussions with Kent County Council, Dover and Canterbury Councils and the Kent and Medway Local Economic Partnership which resulted in the publication, in early 2013,  of Unlocking the Potential: Going for Growth – Kent and Medway’s Growth Plan, which supported the development of a Ramsgate Parkway Station. I wonder why Hart, like Nicholson also changed his mind? Hart was later replaced as Leader by Iris Johnston who  enthusiastically supports, the Parkway Station plan. I wonder why she has changed her mind?
I am amazed that Thanet  Labour  has never had the honesty and decency to tell the voters that they have changed their mind about a key manifesto pledge? It’s astonishing that a modern political party which claims to listen to the people, should make false promises to the voters of Thanet and when safely elected and in charge deceitfully go back on their word.  But there again, as I explained in a previous post, this is not the first time Thanet Labour have lied to and duped the voters.  They did exactly the same  thing when they recently allowed the building of houses on the EKO  site at New Haine Road, after having said in their 2011 manifesto they would oppose developments  on green field sites. Labour-led Thanet Council has now demonstrated on at least 2 occasions that when it comes to promises to the voters they are liars and hypocrites. Saying one thing and doing totally the opposite. This is especially worrying because the promises they have broken were all about protecting Thanet’s environment which, has the draft local plan shows, is under serious threat of overdevelopment. A party as dishonest and deceitful as  this is surely not fit for public office!  Ranting aside, I share many of the  reservations about the environmental impact of a
Thanet Parkway station which were raised by the Labour Party in 2011. I am also extremely worried that the development of a Ramsgate Parkway station will be a magnet for developers to  embark upon massive housebuilding programmes around rural Cliffsend which,  until we have a local plan in place in 2017, will be legally irresistible.Finally in 2011 Richard Nicholson warned that the development of the Parkway station might threaten the continued existence Ramsgate station.  It’s interesting to note that Labour Parliamentary hopeful Will Scobie also thinks that Ramsgate station’s future is questionable. Just over a year ago the Thanet Gazette reported that
“COUNTY Councillor Will Scobie has questioned the need to refurbish Ramsgate rail station when there is the possibility of a new station being built on the isle Cllr Scobie, who is also the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for South Thanet, said: "I am fully supportive of these plans as long as Ramsgate station continues to be used. The lack of consultation about the proposed new Thanet Parkway station concerns me. If that goes ahead do we need to spend £400,000 improving a station that will decline in use?”
Surely if Ramsgate station, which saw the arrival and departure of more than one million passengers” last year,  is to be protected then the Parkway station must be opposed. No ifs, buts or maybes.
Sadly the Parkway Prats who make up the Council’s Cabinet and aspire to represent the town in Parliament  don’t’ see it this way!
I will be posting soon of the environmental implications of the Parkway Station  
Here's something to do with Parks and Prats




My Letters to The Press Local Plan and Drugs






Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Farage Will Devastate Thanet's Economy.


Green Party Councillor and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South, Ian Driver,  says that UKIPs “Little England policies will cause serious damage to Thanet’s economy leading to a massive rise in unemployment, the collapse of local businesses and hardship for many families”.
His comments follow the publication of a report by the South West Research Company which estimates that Thanet’s  Language Schools generate  a staggering  £47.8 million per year. Based upon detailed economic research carried out in 2013 the report claims that:
·         Approximately £6.3 million per year is paid to  the districts 2,800 host families
·         Students of the language schools accounted for approximately 495,000 visitor overnight stays in Thanet
·         Language students spend on average £28 per day  in local shops, cafes, bars and restaurants  
·         1,138 jobs were directly or indirectly created in Thanet as a result of the Language Schools and their students
Many local businesses have said that the Language Schools and their students make up a high percentage of their customer base, and that they would struggle to keep going without them.
Said Driver “this report demonstrates, with extensive well researched facts and figures,  what many people already knew to be true; that Thanet’s economy and thousands of jobs are  dependent upon the districts Language Schools”.
“The report estimates that 71% of the language school students come from western, central and eastern Europe. If Nigel Farage’s  UKIP succeeds in taking  us out of the EU it will be much harder and more expensive for these European students to travel to the UK and perhaps they will look at other EU destinations to develop their English skills such as Ireland”.
“Nigel Farage likes to portray himself as a plain speaking person with common sense ideas. The truth is that he is plain stupid because the consequences of UKIPs Little England policies could lead to the closure of Thanet’s Language Schools  spelling  devastation for the local economy.  Unemployment would rocket, many businesses would fold and the already high rates of deprivation and poverty would increase”.
He added “this is probably the first time in political history that a candidate has stood for election advocating polices which will  seriously harm and damage the living standards of most of his voters. As every day passes it is becoming clearer that the leadership of  UKIP are a rag-tag band of foolish, foreigner-hating  misfits bereft of any sensible policy. To vote for this shower could be very dangerous”.
Driver said that a Green led council would make it a priority to work with the Districts Language schools to support and further develop their business enabling an  expansion of the industry and more spin off benefits for the people of  Thanet.



Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dame Janet; Farage’s Nemesis?

So Nigel Farge the misguided Craig McInlay and Russ Timpson are clinging to their laddish beliefs that men only hustings are a jolly jape. Like tap-room tyrants they circulate mocking tweets and photographs deriding me for refusing to join their   top table because women have been excluded from the audience. Although he didn’t turn up either, Labour’s Will Scobie is clearly scared of unambiguously aligning himself against gender exclusion at a parliamentary hustings; saying to the press he didn’t want to make a “song and dance of it” and he didn’t want to upset the Round Table because of their excellent charitable work.

Well I am deeply ashamed of Farage, McInaly, Timpson and even Scobie. Their pathetic response to the men only hustings might explain why in South Thanet women are paid on average £107 per week less than men; why in South Thanet more women are living poverty than men. It might explain also why the overwhelming majority of MPs, who they aspire to join, have remained tight lipped and silent about flying flags on Government buildings at half-mast to mark of the death of the despot King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. A despot who ruled over a country which treats women like chattels, which publicly beheads  and flogs women, which excludes them from politics and bans them from driving. Yes boys it’s so funny to joke about inclusivity isn’t it! But they forget one thing. Ramsgate has a tradition of women’s equality. It was home to the indefatigable Dame Janet.  A pioneering female politician, she was elected to the Town Council in 1913 long before most women could legally vote. She became Ramsgate’s first woman Mayor in 1923 and was a staunch supporter of the suffragettes. She was also a major patron of the town.

I wonder how Dame Janet might have felt about women being excluded from parliamentary hustings meetings.  I wonder how she might have felt about the immature and jokey way in which most of Ramsgate’s Parliamentary hopefuls have treated this incident.
Dame Janet and what she stood for still commands great respect in Ramsgate. Perhaps some politicians need to think a bit more carefully. What Are You Afraid of Boys????






Friday, 23 January 2015

Ramsgate Port & O'Regan's Things You Need to Know

Green Councillor and South Thanet Parliamentary Candidate, Ian Driver, has called on TDC to “conduct an extremely thorough examination of the history of the O’Regan Group and its associated companies before it contemplates developing any type of commercial relationship with this organisation”.
Driver’s warning is based upon information he has uncovered about the involvement of companies linked to the O’Regan Group in major pollution scandals and court cases in Ireland.
In an article in the Irish Times of May 2005 it was reported that

Cork County Council could face a clean-up bill of €43 million if an environmental study on the effect of illegal dumping on an area of special conservation concludes that the area requires restoration. The council will take a €200,000 civil action in the High Court in Dublin next week against the firm responsible for the dumping, in an effort to secure funding for a full investigation into the ecological damage.
In February, Aggregate Supplies and Transport (AST) Ltd was fined €100,000 for dumping 100,000 tonnes of waste at Weir Island, Barryscourt, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork. The council had claimed AST was using builders' rubble, soil, subsoil, plastics and timber to fill in an old quarry, and that the dumping also affected 5,000-6,000 square metres designated as a natural heritage area of special conservation. AST, through Louis O'Regan, pleaded guilty to disposing of waste without an appropriate licence at the site on December 17th, 2003, and to a second charge of holding, recovering or disposing of waste in a manner that was likely to cause pollution. Judge Patrick Moran said: "This was no small enterprise to bring 100,000 tonnes of waste on to the site. The defendant had a total disregard for the requirements of waste management legislation." Despite the success of the criminal proceedings against AST, the council is left with the problem of cleaning up the area. A council source said: "The questions are, to what extent the quarry will have to be cleared out or capped, and to what extent the material will have to be removed to have some of the wildlife habitats restored." Full ecological investigation of the site will cost an estimated €200,000. The council has already received a quote of €43 million if the site has to be restored. It will appear before Judge Frank Clarke on Thursday to sue AST for €200,000. It is also expected to ask the judge to "lift the corporate veil" to make Mr O'Regan personally responsible for damages. It is thought Cork council will cite a High Court case of July 2002, when Judge Philip O'Sullivan made such a judgment in a case of illegal dumping, Wicklow County Council v Fenton, Swalcliffe Ltd. Swalcliffe's directors were ordered to carry out remediation work on a site in Coolnamadra, despite claiming they had no knowledge of illegal dumping. When contacted by The Irish Times, Mr O'Regan, who owns the land and the quarry, denied the material was affecting an area of special conservation and vowed to fight any personal liability. "I am not concerned in the least, as the legal owner of the material is actually the council. It is their responsibility. I will appeal it to the European Commission as the material came from projects funded by the EU," he said. "The material there has not and will not ever cause any pollution. I live there. It's immaculate."

In an Irish Examiner article  dated 26 June  2008 an O’Regan Group related company is alleged by the Irish Government to have been involved in the unauthorised excavation to toxic material at the site of a former Irish Steel Plant at  Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour, in what has become one of Ireland’s most serious pollution scandals in recent times. 

The Department of the Environment last night said any suggestions of a “cover-up” of the scale of the contamination at the Irish Steel site were “entirely false”. In a statement, the department said it had acted on best expert advice when deciding how to deal with the waste at the site. The department said it had hired Hammond Lane Metal Company Ltd to carry out a “surface clearance” of the site and its waste tip. The waste and debris on the surface had been caused by the demolition and decontamination of the Irish Steel buildings.
Inert waste beneath the surface — such as in the lagoons — was to remain untouched. It is understood expert advice suggested this inert waste would prove an immediate threat only if disturbed. The surface clearance was the “final step” in getting the site to a position where a risk analysis, could be carried out and decisions taken on its future remediation. However, the site surface clearance was not undertaken by Hammond Lane, but by subcontractors Louis J O’Regan Ltd. The department made clear it had never entered a contract with the latter.
“Louis J O’Regan Ltd is a sub-contractor of a sub-contractor of Hammond Lane Metal Company Ltd,” said the department. Louis J O’Regan Ltd uncovered a “sub-surface sludge pit” of hazardous waste and began “a series of unauthorised works”, the department said — in other words, removing some of the waste from the lagoon. The department, with the Environmental Protection Agency and Cork County Council, wanted the lagoon capped with inert slag material — to ensure the waste did not pose a threat.
“Despite repeated instructions to stop these unauthorised works, including by letter from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office on May 23, 2008, the sub-contractor continued to excavate significant volumes of buried hazardous material,” said the statement. “Following legal advices, the contract with Hammond Lane was terminated with immediate effect on May 30, 2008, with instructions to vacate the site by 17.00 Tuesday, June 3, 2008.
“The sub-contractors refused and continued to operate without authorisation and in a piecemeal fashion, causing a threat to the environment by its actions. They finally left the site following discussions with Hammond Lane Metal Company Ltd,” the department added.
With the EPA and the council, the department said it organised “an immediate assessment” of the situation by environment consultants. “All such necessary works will be undertaken to secure the site and ensure that no danger is presented to the local environment or residents arising from unauthorised actions by Louis J O’Regan Ltd and pending the Government’s decision on the future use of the site.”
 In an article  on the Business Irish website dated 11 June 2008 details of O’Regan’s battle with the Bank of Scotland Ireland over a large unpaid debt are recounted;  along with an account about a claim on the estate of alleged relative in the USA who’s body  was exhumed after more 60 years for DNA testing.   
A Cork businessman embroiled in a $160m inheritance battle featured in an RTE documentary has been served with a €196,000 judgment by Bank of Scotland Ireland (BOSI). Detailed in next week's Stubbs Gazette, the judgment was registered against Louis O'Regan on June 3 after BOSI's financing of Mr O'Regan's machinery for a quarry project turned sour.
Mr O'Regan, a businessman in his own right, is best known for co-piloting his father Dermot's 20-year battle to establish a claim on the estate of an American woman who died in 1941. Culminating in the exhumation of two bodies in 2004 and featured in RTE's 2005 'Family Silver' series, the inheritance battle is ongoing. The claim could ultimately see Dermot O'Regan become heir to the American's $160m fortune.
Mr O'Regan last night confirmed the €200,000 judgement but said he had already began moves to counter sue BOSI.  The judgment stemmed from a dispute over money the bank loaned to Louis J O'Regan Ltd to buy machinery for quarrying work linked to the Ennis bypass, Mr O'Regan said. He added that his company later lost the bypass contract to Whelan Limestone Quarries, a competitor whose undertakings BOSI has had a floating charge over since 2003, as confirmed by records in the Companies Office. "I could write Bank of Scotland a cheque in the morning, but I'm not going to because as far as I'm concerned they're subsidising a competitor of mine, and on that basis I'm taking a legal challenge," Mr O'Regan said.
He added that BOSI is still advancing money to Whelan's even though the company's most recently published accounts are for 2003. Companies Office records show BOSI has given three loans to Whelan's since the floating charge was secured in 2003. A spokesman for the bank last night declined to comment on the bank's dealings with either Mr O'Regan or Whelan's, citing the ongoing legal wranglings. Mr O'Regan's other claims to fame include a 2003 plan to build a €10m explosives firm in Munster which ultimately morphed into a 2005 joint venture to build an explosives firm in the UK.
Meanwhile, the inheritance battle returned to the headlines in February. Mr O'Regan's family was given leave to have further tests carried out on samples from the exhumed bodies. "We're still pursuing the inheritance, but I'm snowed under with work at the moment," said Mr O'Regan. His company's activities include a new readymix plant in East London, a cement import business in south London, cleaning up the Irish Steel site in Cork, and quarrying work in Lismore, Co Waterford.


Said Driver “the evidence I have uncovered   about the O’Regan Group and its owners is causing me to wonder if they are fit and proper persons to be operating a concrete block manufacturing and waste wood processing facility at the Port of Ramsgate. I am also aware of  other issues relating to the O’Regan Group  which also raise serious questions about their plans and suitability about which I will be posting on my blog shortly and speaking to the  Council about. In my opinion I do not believe that the O’Regan Group should be allowed to operate at the Port of Ramsgate or anywhere else in Thanet. Should there be an application for planning permission or an environmental permit or negotiations to rent space,  I will be making my views  known through the proper channels. I am astounded   that 2 former senior officers of Thanet Council would try to pass off a deal with a company with such a questionable track record as being good for Thanet and Ramsgate. Mind you I shouldn't be that surprised  because one of these former officers helped to do the secret debt deferral deal with TransEuropa Ferries which has cost council taxpayers £3.4million 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Thanet Labour Sells Our History to Bribe Voters


TDC Councillor and Green Party Election Candidate for South Thanet , Ian Driver, has expressed his “utter astonishment”  about plans to dispose of  the Theatre Royal in Margate and the Broadstairs Pavilion. Said Driver “the Theatre Royal and the Broadstairs Pavilion are iconic buildings   loved by locals and visitors alike.  I simply can’t believe that the Labour-led  Council wants to sell them off”.  This  decision, will be a massive worry to the hundreds of people campaigning to save the Pierremont Hall in Broadstairs which was recently mothballed by the Council and might now face a similar fate to the Theatre Royal and the Broadstairs Pavilion.  The decision also follows the disposal of the historic Ramsgate Pavilion to mega pub chain company Weatherspoons on a lease of over 100 years. “The Labour controlled Council is crudely  asset stripping  Thanet’s publically owned historic buildings in a cynical effort to win votes by keeping the Council Tax down in an election year” said Driver.  “I accept that these buildings are expensive to maintain, but the Council has the option of setting up charitable trusts and seeking heritage lottery and other funding sources to repair and maintain these historic buildings, but they have refused to explore these options preferring instead to privatise the cultural history of Thanet. I will be opposing these proposals and fighting against the selling off of Thanet’s family silver”.

Speaking about  the Theatre Royal, Driver said "the Council claim that they are simply seeking  a new operator on a long lease to maintain and run this beautiful Georgian building. The truth is that in these austere times and with massive cuts in grants to the arts its extremely  unlikely that an outside operator will come forward. Just look at the difficulties the Council had in securing an operator for the Dreamland Amusement Park, which is a much more lucrative proposition than the Theatre Royal. My belief is that no operator will come forward and the Council will sell off this fabulous building. Maybe  to Weatherspoons for pub?

Thanet Green Party is  opposed to selling off our historic heritage. Instead we would consult with the community and work with local  groups and charities to find new imaginative ways to preserve our rich history. There are many examples across the country of iconic buildings being preserved and profitably managed by community action, rather than asset stripped and sold for political advantage. 

 For more information contact Ian Driver on 07866588766
The reports authorising the disposals can be found here http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=3698

















Farage, Ramsgate Round Table & Testosterone Fueled Misogyny

Green Party election candidate for South Thanet , Ian Driver,  declined an invitation to speak at a parliamentary hustings  meeting held in Broadstairs last night because it was men only.
The meeting, organised by the Ramsgate Round Table, was attended by UKIPs Nigel Farage, Tory Craig McInlay and LibDem Russ Timpson. 
“Whilst I have great admiration for the work of the Round Table  and  their charitable fundraising, my principles do not allow me to  attend hustings events which exclude  women, men, disabled people, minority ethnic groups or LGBT  people” said Driver.
UKIP’s Nigel Farage  appeared to be making fun of Driver (and Labour’s absent candidate who failed to provide organisers with an explanation for his no-show)  by tweeting a photo  showing defaced pictures of the absent  candidates in front of their  empty seats.
“I provided a full explanation for my non-attendance to the Ramsgate Round Table” said Driver. “If Farage and the Round
Table think standing up for women’s equality is funny and something to make joke about then I pity them”.
“It’s a well known fact that UKIP and Farage are less than sympathetic to gender equality  issues , but I am very surprised and disappointed by the actions of the  Round Table. Despite their claim to be a non-political organisation, their juvenile  prank with the defaced  pictures of the absent candidates, was an effort to ridicule my principled decision not to  speak at a men only hustings meeting. Their response suggests to me that they might share UKIPs testosterone fuelled misogyny” Thanet Round Table appear to me o be #solastcentury. 
 “Women in South Thanet earn on average £107 per week less than men. They are more likely to be living in poverty than men. They face the highest rates of domestic violence in Kent. To exclude them from a meeting of parliamentary hopefuls who may be legislating on issues which will effect women  is frankly unfair, especially when they make up a majority (51.8%) of Thanet’s  population”.
Its time that Farage, McInlay, Timpson and Ramsgate Round Table stopped being so last century and accept that gender equality is a serious matter.
Last summer Driver’s daughter Suzie launched a one-girl, disguised  protest outside Broadstair’s  men-only Comrades Club.



Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Thanet JobCentres: Investigate "Criminal" Sanctions Targets

Two weeks ago I published  a post  in which I revealed that the Jobcentre Plus offices  at Ramsgate and Margate had sanctioned 5,273 benefit claims in a 21 month period  from October 2012 until June 2014. I said that this was twice the sanctioning rate of anywhere else in Kent and I speculated that this massive number of sanctions, the equivalent of 251  per month,  was “because Jobcentre bosses in Thanet are more hard-line than their colleagues elsewhere in Kent. Perhaps they are operating unofficial sanctions targets and putting pressure on front line staff to sanction first and ask questions later”. Well it looks as though I was spot on!
According to evidence submitted to the Government’s Work and Pensions Committee, who are investigating benefits sanctioning;  Jobcentre bosses have indeed been setting unofficial sanction targets in offices around the country. Staff working in Jobcentre offices have claimed  that their bosses  put them under intense pressure to meet these unofficial targets. They claim that they were threatened with disciplinary action if they did not meet these targets. It would appear that thousands of   benefit claimants, especially vulnerable claimants, are set up to fail. They are given demanding job application  targets; their job searches are subjected to forensic levels of  scrutiny, they are  forced to attend short notice
meetings – all with the deliberate intention  of  causing a breach of the so-called jobseekers agreement which then leads  to sanctions.
Much of this evidence has been reproduced in the Guardian newspaper this week and is extremely disturbing. Thousands of innocent people who’s only crime is to be vulnerable and out of work, are being bullied, harassed and victimised on the orders of Job Centre bosses, to reduce unemployment figures and cut the amount of money spent on benefits.  Many of those sanctioned are forced into destitution, poverty and reliance on friends, family and food banks to get by.  It makes me so f***ing  angry that public service  managers are allowed to  behave in this awful inhuman way. In my opinion this behaviour is verging on the criminal!
I will be making a formal complaint to Jobcentre bosses at Margate and Ramsgate. I will be asking for a full explanation as to why the rate of the sanctioning is so high in Thanet when compared with the rest of Kent. There is no justification for targeting people who are down on their luck and making their already difficult lives intolerable.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Green Party Driver Local Plan Consultation Undemocratic and Insulting


Green Party Councillor and General Election Candidate for Thanet South, Ian Driver, has criticised the  public consultation arrangements for  Thanet Council’s Local Plan as being  “undemocratically short and totally insufficient”. He had argued that the consultation should be at least 12 weeks, but the Council’s Labour controlled Cabinet decided on 8 weeks. Driver said that the 8 week consultation period (9th January to  9th March) “does not provide enough time for people to read and make comments on the 262 page document”. He added “the local plan is one of the most important documents to
have been produced by the Council in a long time. It sets out the Council’s policies about regeneration, employment, transport, housing and the environment covering the next 16 years. It’s a long and very complex document which directly effects everyone living in Thanet, that’s why local people should be allowed more time to read and comment on it”.

Driver pointed out that last year’s public consultation on setting up a town council in Margate and parish council in Westgate took 13 weeks and that Canterbury Council’s local plan consultation in 2013 lasted 10 weeks. He also highlighted  Government  guidance on public consultation which recommends that;

“Timeframes for consultation should be proportionate and realistic to allow stakeholders sufficient time to provide a considered response. The amount of time required will depend on the nature and impact of the proposal (for example, the diversity of interested parties or the complexity of the issue and might typically vary between two and 12 weeks. For a new and contentious policy, 12 weeks or more
may  be appropriate”. (1)

“Its clear to me” said Driver “that because of its size complexity and importance,  the local plan consultation should fall within the “12 weeks or more” category. Allowing only 8 weeks on a matter as important as this is an insult to the people of Thanet and proves once again that TDCs bosses and political leaders are contemptuous of democracy and want to exclude residents from having an influence over the future of their district.”

If elected to the Council in 2015, Green Party Councillors, will be fighting for improved communication with the public including properly managed consultations on policies which effect the lives of Thanet residents.

1.   See Consultation Principles Guidance, The Cabinet Office 2013


  




Friday, 16 January 2015

Green Surge Hits Thanet

Thanet Green Councillor, Ian Driver, has welcomed  the huge surge in membership of the Green Party, making the Greens with 47,000 members the third largest UK wide political party ahead of UKIP and the Lib Dems. In Thanet the  membership has trebled in the past six months to 100 and support grows daily.

Driver, the  Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South said: "While the establishment continue to claim that the Green Party is not a major party but the Lib Dems and UKIP are, we are not only polling higher than the Lib Dems but we have more members than either party.

"We had an MP four years before UKIP and we now have more MEPs than the Lib Dems. Despite the establishment wanting to silence us, there is a Green revolution happening.

"I welcome all our new members in Thanet  and across Kent. With this rapidly growing support we can get Green Councillors elected to Thanet Council this year  and begin to transform it into an open and transparent organisation which is accountable to the people. We may even have some  Green MPs elected, including here in Thanet. Events are showing that the old fashioned political parties are collapsing. Its time for modern 21st century parties with fresh new ideas to run the council and the country”



Thursday, 15 January 2015

O'Regan Ramsgate Port Plans Transparency & Meeting Video

I publish below and exchange of correspondence between Steven Boyle TDC Legal Officer and myself about about the O'Regan Group proposals for Port of Ramsgate. I am very intrigued to know how many meetings the O'Regan Group and/ or its agents have  held with the Council and what internal discussions have taken place between senior council managers and political bosses. The Council said they want to be open. Lets see how open they will actually be, espescially due the to the massive public interest demonstrated at the meeting on Monday.

Dear Mr Boyle,

Thank you for your e-mail. 

I am pleased to note that the Council is aware of the need to be open and transparent about its  dealings with the O'Regan Group and its agents Mr White and Mr Brown.

With this in mind I would be grateful if you could tell me how many meetings  Council has had with the O'Regan Group over the past 18 months. Could you let me have the dates of these meetings and the names of those who attended including agents acting on behalf of the O'Regan Group. Could you also provide me with copies of minutes/ notes of these meetings and copies of any documents discussed at these meetings. I would be grateful if you could tell me if the Cabinet and/ or the senior management team have discussed the O'Regan proposals. If so when and could you please let me have copies of any reports, notes, emails etc pertaining to such discussions.

I would also be grateful if you could tell me whether there have been any discussions about rentals and costs which might have to be  paid by the O'Regan Group for use of council land at the Port or elsewhere. Could you also let me know if  the council has  adopted a view as to whether planning permission will be required for the O'Regan group to implement its proposals.

Finally as the Green Party PPC for Thanet South and as a Ramsgate Councillor I would be grateful if you could keep me up to date with any ongoing discussions with the O'Regan Group or its agents about their plans for the port. I would also like to be notified as soon as the Council receives any planning application from the O'Regan Group regarding its proposals for the Port.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely
Cllr Ian Driver 
  


From: Steven Boyle
To: Cllr-Ian Driver
Sent: Thursday, 15 January 2015, 9:50
Subject: RE: Proposed Development at Ramsgate Port

Dear Councillor Driver

Thank you for your e-mail concerning the O’Regan Group of Companies and the potential
for them using former employees.

You cite two former employees as being involved with the company. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is no restriction on these two former officers in terms of their work preventing them working for a company in relation to this matter and I note that you are not seeking to imply any impropriety on either of their parts. That said given the former status I agree that the Council needs to be open on its dealings and mindful that no advantage is conferred.

You are perfectly entitled to raise this as an issue and as such I will be ensuring that those who have involvement with the company in their dealings with the Council are aware that they need to be open and transparent in their dealings.

I am grateful for the notification.

Yours sincerely
Steven Boyle
 ________________________________
From: Ian Driver <ianddriver@yahoo.co.uk>
To: "steven.boyle@thanet.gov.uk" <steven.boyle@thanet.gov.uk>
Sent: Tuesday, 30 December 2014, 15:24
Subject: Proposed Development at Ramsgate Port

Dear Mr Boyle
Proposed Development at Ramsgate Port
I understand that discussions are (or are likely to be)  underway between the Council,  the O’Regan Group of Companies and its agents about the development of waste wood processing and concrete block manufacturing operations at the Port of Ramsgate. I understand that there is a public meeting in Ramsgate about this matter on 12th January which will be attended by Council officers and that planning permissions, statutory licences and lease agreements may have to be secured if these proposals are to be implemented.
I have many concerns about these proposals particularly the environmental implications which I will raise at the appropriate time through the appropriate channels. However my reason for writing to you as the Council’s Monitoring Officer is my concern about the agents working on behalf the O’Regan Group.
It is my understanding that the agents are Mr Brian White former Director of Regeneration at Thanet District Council and Mr Doug Brown formerly a senior planning manager at Thanet District Council. I believe that Mr White may have had director-level responsibility or involvement in  the management of Ramsgate Port and Harbour and was involved in dealing with the  TransEuropa Ferries  debt problem. I believe that Mr Brown was also involved as a Council officer in the work of the Port including managing the development of the Port and Harbour Master Plan.
I am not any way suggesting or implying any inappropriate behaviour, but because Mr White and Mr Brown were both formerly very senior council officers and both had in-depth involvement and knowledge of the workings of Ramsgate Port and Harbour, I believe that Thanet Council should in the interest of transparency and accountability proceed with the greatest of care in its management of this matter.
As you are probably aware the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, the Committee  for Standards in Public Life and the highly regarded anti-corruption charity Transparency International have all recently published reports which highlight  the dangers of the so-called “revolving door”  in the public sector. These reports recommend  that where former public employees take up employment with other organisations which requires them  to negotiate  with their previous employers great care must be taken to ensure that old or continuing relationships with former work colleagues are not exploited to gain advantage for the new employer.
As I have previously stated  I am not suggesting for one moment that what is happening  in this case is any way untoward, however  as an elected Councillor who is aware of the controversial nature of the O’Regan Group plans and the involvement of 2 very senior ex-employees in their  execution, I seek your reassurances that the Council will take the utmost care in managing this sensitive matter. In this regard  I would be grateful if you set out in writing what practical steps the Council will be taking to manage this unusual situation.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Cllr Ian Driver



Two Pub Landlords and an Election P*** Up

Here's my letter to the press. Al Murray if you are reading this please get in touch and I will buy you a pint!


Al Murray the Pub Landlord has a democratic right to stand for election in Thanet South. I respect  this right, but the cynic in me suggests that this is more about reviving a stalled career on the back of Thanet South’s  voters,  than a serious effort to engage in the  politics of one of the most deprived parliamentary constituencies in the country.
True, Murray’s candidature may provide  huge comic potential, which might undermine  UKIPs  angry Little England appeal, but conversely   irony and satire can sometimes  lend  credibility to the target.

However, the important point is this: Farage and the Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem candidates  are all members of politics'  “austerity establishment”  and are firmly tied to a programme of draconian cuts to  public services.

With the exception of the Greens, not one of them is campaigning on the extremely serious issues facing many people living in the constituency,  such as tackling  the massive health inequalities in a district served by a hospital in special measures; dealing with significant educational  under achievement  in a constituency with its  major comprehensive school also in special measures;  regenerating an economy with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest wages in south east England;   calling to account an out of control  Jobcentre, which is  sanctioning benefits at twice the rate of anywhere else  in the county;  providing more social housing for the 6,000 people lingering on the longest housing waiting list in Kent;  campaigning to reform a council described by the Local Government Association as “toxic” and by Eric Pickles as a “democracy dodger”.

Sadly, Murray’s candidature will  detract attention from these issues and provide yet another excuse for the “austerity establishment” to avoid talking about  the consequences of their actions in a seat they aspire to win. In my opinion,  Murray’s candidature is counterproductive and an insult to the people of Thanet South,  many of whom are struggling to get by in hard times. 

Finally for those not familiar with Thanet South politics, you may like to know that there already is a pub landlord standing for election in the constituency. He is Nigel Askew, who runs the Queen Charlotte, my local,  in Addington Street  Ramsgate. It is, as far I know, the only anti-fracking pub in the world! Nigel is standing for Bez's Reality Party.
My fear is that, rather than campaigning about social justice, public services  and regeneration in one of  the most deprived areas of the country, we will have the spectacle of two pub landlords and a well know pub regular vying for votes in a contest which, with the help of the media circus which is already gathering in Ramsgate,  soon be reduced to a pissup in brewery.

Councillor Ian Driver, Thanet District Council
Green Party Prospective  Parliamentary Candidate Thanet South



Tuesday, 13 January 2015

People Power Ramsgate Style

Last night about  250 people braved stormy weather to attend a public meeting about the O’Regan Group plans to locate a waste wood processing and concrete block manufacturing facility at the Port of Ramsgate. Mr Doug Brown and Mr Brian White, both former senior employees of Thanet District Council presented the plans on behalf of the O’Regan Group. It was clear that everyone attending the meeting was opposed to the O’Regan plans. Questions were asked and points raised about the dust, noise and traffic that will be generated by the plant.Concerns were expressed about the impact of the plans on Ramsgate’s reviving  tourist industry.Some people were worried about the amount water to be used to process the wood and manufacture the concrete block and how the polluted water would be managed. Others were very worried about the impact on the plans on the site of special scientific  interest and the European special area of conservation adjacent to the Port and  a number of people expressed their fear about the airborne dust and aggregates on the health of people living in Ramsgate.Sadly the presenters were unable to provide convincing answers to any of these important questions, much to the annoyance and frustration of  those attending the meeting. Quite clearly O’Regan and its plans are not wanted in Ramsgate. But I suspect this is not the last we will hear from them. As one of the O’Regan presenters let slip; they have chosen Ramsgate as a base for their potentially polluting activities because its cheaper than Medway and Sheerness ports!
So I think over the course of the next few months we can expect to see a planning application and an application for environment agency permit to allow  O’Regan’s to operate their  ill-conceived plans at the port. We need to be ready to organise and work together to oppose these plans and I’m sure we can easily transform  the 250 or so people who turned up last night into a formidable force of thousands. It was clear to me last night that people care passionately about
Ramsgate and they don’t want to sell it cheaply to dirty, noisy, smelly industrial development on our beautiful seafront.
The people spoke loud and clear  last night. If O’Regan’s come back they can expect to learn what People Power is all  about, especially People Power Ramsgate style . This is what John Lennon had to say to about it and here is a video  of Ramsgate people telling it like it is last night 




O'Regan Meeting Part 1



Mr White Truly Loves Ramsgate Seafront

At tonight’s packed public meeting to discuss the O’Regan Group plans for the Port of Ramsgate I spotted 2 familiar faces who had turned up to  represent  the developer; Mr Doug Brown a former planning manager with Thanet Council and Mr Brian White the former Director of Regeneration and Planning at  Thanet Council and Mr Brown’s ex-boss.
I am sure they are doing a great job for O’Regan and providing excellent value for money. I am equally sure what they are doing is perfectly legal and above board. But I do believe that there is something unethical about  former senior  public servants moving into to the private sector and then using their public sector knowledge, expertise  and contacts to negotiate with their former employer on behalf of their new bosses – the so called revolving door. It simply doesn't feel right to me.
Nor does it feel right to House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, or the Committee  for Standards in Public Life or the  highly regarded anti-corruption charity Transparency International  all of whom have recently published reports which highlight  the dangers of the so-called “revolving door”  which they argue can sometimes give rise to corruption, preferential treatment and unfair advantage in business dealing. Not that I am suggesting that this is the case here.
But seeing Mr White and Brown  did get me to  thinking and I suddenly remembered that as  Director of Regeneration Mr White had more than passing interest in the future of the port of Ramsgate. In fact Mr White was one of main architects of the ill-fated and top secret TransEuropa debt-deferral agreement which resulted in council tax payers having to stump up £3.4 million to cover the unpaid fees when the ferry company went bust 2 years ago. It was the same Mr White who was involved in the Pleasurama development which continues to blight the seafront more than 12 years after SFP Ventures was appointed as the developer.
Mr White has now teamed up with the O’Regan Group to use his  undoubted knowledge, skills and experience, and his remarkable track record of successfully  managing developments and business on Ramsgate seafront, to bring us something we desperately need  to kick start our leisure and tourist economy – a large waste wood and concrete block manufacturing facility. Located right next to the Royal Harbour; adjacent to a site of special scientific interest and a European special conversation area; within a stones throw of residential areas and cafes and bars.Likely to be noisy, smelly and dusty and use massive amounts of fresh water in an area described by experts as being water stressed  – this development is just what we need!
Despite the unanimous opposition of the 250 or so people who turned up to the O'Regan consultation meeting, Mr White appeared to suggest that his client will continue to  push on with its plans to develop a potentially polluting facility at the port of Ramsgate which if it gets the go ahead will almost certainly impact negatively on the revived tourist economy in Ramsgate.
But who am I to make comment on this issue  because Mr White has demonstrated through his actions over the years that he is man who truly loves Ramsgate seafront and who would do nothing to harm its interests.

By the way, before anyone gets the bright idea of serving another injunction on me the Council was ordered by the Information Commissioner to release these confidential TransEuropa Ferry  papers to me last year. This is the  ill-fated deal which cost you £3.4 million and which was kept secret from you for more than 2 years by council bosses and the Conservative and Labour Party Leaders. This was a shameful and expensive scandal  which demonstrates Thanet Council's continuing culture of secrecy and mis-management

 If you want honest and open government in Thanet vote Green in 2015 



Saturday, 10 January 2015

Thanet's Hard-line Job Centre Bosses Top of Sanctioning League

Green Party Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South Ian Driver says he believes that Thanet Job Centre bosses are operating an “unfair and hard-line” sanctions policy against the district’s benefits claimants.
His comments follow an  analysis of Department of Work and Pensions statistics which reveal that during the 21  month period from October 2012 – June 2014, Thanet Jobcentre managers disallowed or  sanctioned  5,273 Jobs Seekers Allowance claims; that’s an average of 251 sanctions per month which is twice the rate of any other district in the Kent County Council area  and over  20% of all sanctions and disallowance decisions  in Kent (1).
Said Driver “even allowing for Thanet’s high unemployment,
the number of sanctions are massively  disproportionate when compared to other areas of Kent. I can only assume that this is because Jobcentre bosses in Thanet are more  hard-line  toward sanctioning claims  than their colleagues  elsewhere in Kent. Perhaps they are operating unofficial sanctions targets and  putting pressure on frontline staff  to sanction first and ask questions later. Either way the statistics for Thanet suggest that something very unusual and unfair is happening. The victims of this approach are most likely to be vulnerable and disabled people especially those with mental health problems and learning disabilities ”.
Driver’s criticisms are supported by growing evidence which indicates that  the application of benefits sanctions is beset by problems. Reports to the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons in 2014 and countless press articles have demonstrated that the sanctioning  regime  is unfair, applied inconsistently, subject to abuse, and is the cause of extreme hardship; and even suicide  for some claimants,  especially those who are vulnerable or disabled(2).
Such is the level of concern about this issue that a Department of Work and Pensions Select Committee on Benefits Sanctions has been set up by Parliament to look into the matter. At its first meeting on 7 January,  leaders of several influential campaign  groups and charities called for the immediate suspension of benefits sanctioning and the major review  of how the DWP deals with claimants who fail to follow the rules(3).
Said Driver “there is no doubt in my mind that some of the most vulnerable people in Thanet have been abused and forced into severe hardship and poverty  by the insensitive and hard-line approach  of senior Job Centre bosses. I sincerely hope that the Select Committee will demand  a root and branch overhaul of a system which is clearly unfit for purpose and dangerous to boot”

Ends for more information contact Ian Driver on 07866588
Notes
  1. Number of sanctions per benefits office and per Kent County Council District set out below. Figures extracted  from https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions-decisions-made-to-june-2014
Benefit Office
Ashford - International House
1,473
Canterbury - Northgate House
1,264
Dartford - Lowfield Street
2,311
Dover - Maison Dieu Road
2,028
Folkestone - Trinity Road
2,807
Gravesend - The Grove
2,248
Herne Bay - Bank Street
955
Maidstone - County Gate
2,273
Margate - Mill House
3,720
Ramsgate - Queens Street
1,553
Sheerness - Millennium Way
1,109
Sittingbourne - Roman Square
1,469
Tonbridge - Bradford Street
806
Tunbridge Wells - Northgate
942
Whitstable - High Street
35
24,993
District Council
Ashford
1,473
Canterbury
2,254
Dartford
2,311
Dover
2,028
Gravesham
2,248
Maidstone
2,273
Shepway
2,807
Swale
2,578
Thanet
5,273
Tonbridge and Malling
806
Tunbridge Wells
942
24,993

2.    Sanctioned ; what benefit? Citizens Advice Scotland 2014, Tough Love or Tough Luck: Report of the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee 2014, Independent Review of the Operation of Jobseekers Allowance sanctions DWP 2014

3.    Government urged to suspend benefit sanctions regime The Guardian 8 January 2015