I’m what’s known as a ‘double hatter’, I sit on both Thanet District Council and Kent County Council as a local councillor. As Thanet District councillor for Newington and Kent County councillor for Ramsgate, I have a great variety of issues and responsibilities to attend to. I believe in accountability and transparency and I like to provide up to date reports on the range of activities I’m involved in. I hope you find my updates interesting and useful?
Margate Mosque celebration
I was very grateful to be invited to visit Thanet’s Mosque on Union Crescent in Margate. This was to celebrate Eid al-Adha, an important festival in the Islamic calendar. It was good to meet the Imam and his wife and listen to an inspiring sermon, essentially about the value of living in peace and harmony. Most would agree that this is a key message in today’s troubled times.
Support for Mencap leaflet
I had a request to support the local Mencap Women’s Group production of an easy read leaflet which aims to raise awareness that domestic abuse is everywhere and that anyone can be affected. The women’s group has designed a simple and effusive leaflet which is being distributed around Thanet. I was delighted to attend the leaflet launch on 4th September and very pleased to see the story covered in the Thanet Gazette.
Britain First question
Like many others, I was extremely concerned to hear that Britain First are intending to march through Ramsgate. I have raised this issue with DCI Sharon Adley from Kent Police. I also spoke out at Thanet District Council’s full council and asked “What steps has the Council taken to limit the negative impact on the community of Thanet of the proposed Britain First march on October 14th 2017, given that this group is racist and xenophobic and in the light of recent atrocities in London, Manchester, Barcelona, Finland, Charlottesville and other places?”
DCI Adley responded to say that they were fully aware of the rally and would provide me with an update.
The long awaited reopening of the pavilion on Ramsgate’s main sands was welcomed at the end of August. The £4.5m invested by pub chain JD Wetherspoon has transformed the once derelict building into an asset for our town and finally allows diners and drinkers unrivalled views of our magnificent beach.
In the months preceding the opening and weeks since I have been talking to local businesses and hearing both enthusiasm and concerns about ‘spoons. It remains to be seen what impact it has on local commerce, but I believe the largest Wetherspoons in the UK will be a draw for visitors to the town and will have a positive effect on other trade in the hospitality and leisure sectors. I’m also glad to hear that many new jobs have been created and that these come with opportunities for training in transferrable skills.
There is much discussion about the future of the Manston Airport site. Many people are unaware that plans on the table are for a ‘cargo hub’. This would mean a great deal of low flying aircraft and the disturbing possibility of night flights over large parts of Ramsgate, including Newington, Eastcliff and Central Harbour and of course the beach and Royal Harbour area.
The current owners, Stone Hill Park (SHP) wish to move forward with their plan for housing, leisure areas and advanced manufacturing units. This would really help Thanet meet its housing targets (set by national government, we need to build 17,400 homes). It would also help to bring quality jobs into the area.
On the other hand a competitor, the newly formed company, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), are calling for a Development Consent Order (DCO). This process will take a long time and puts all other plans on hold, including those of site owners, SHP.
South Thanet Labour feel it’s time to move forward. We are currently in a stalemate position. We are very concerned about the impact of a cargo hub on residents and businesses. The RSP plan will be heavily polluting, may see night flights across our area and will have a negative impact on our local community and environment. It will not bring the high quality jobs we badly need. RSP is looking to create ‘warehousing’ type roles which will be in highly automated environments with minimal workforces. In addition to the aviation issues, fuel and cargo will need to transported into and out of the area by HGV. Adding more heavy traffic to our roads and pollution to our air.
We would prefer to see a focus on plans that economically regenerate our area, that bring in quality jobs and skills. We support plans that that help us to meet our housing targets and that will actually help to protect the greenfield sites. I will update residents again in due course – hopefully with some positive news.
I’m pleased to say the coffee morning on 26th August was a great success, with many local Labour Party members popping in for a cuppa and a catch up. It was good to see some new faces and to be able to enjoy some sunshine in the garden. I’ll soon be organising a pre-Christmas one, with home made mince pies on Saturday 16th December – save the date. I imagine that will be indoors!
Police press release
Many people have been in touch with me, and other councillors about what can only be described as low level crime. Thanet Councillors were invited to meet with DCI Pritchard of Kent Police and have an opportunity to put forward questions and seek clarification on policing policies and resource in the area. On the basis of that meeting the local Labour Party published the following press release.
Labour Kent County and Thanet District councillors are concerned about the growing impact of low-level anti-social crime across Thanet.
Ramsgate residents and business owners frequently complain about ‘anarchy’ on Thanet streets. This ranges from street fights, rogue traders and petty thefts to night-time economy crimes such as street fights and drunken behaviour and more serious crimes.
Many local people report feeling uneasy and unsafe and want a more visible police presence.
Complaints bought to the attention of both Kent County and Thanet District councillors include scooters causing a disturbance and groups of youths hanging around to violent disagreements between neighbours, anti-social behaviour outside homes, takeaways and public houses and in other public spaces and even theft of food from the elderly. All these have an increasingly negative impact on the quality of life for residents and blight businesses.
This low-level crime and anti-social behaviour is creating a culture of fear in Ramsgate and is not being adequately tackled as policing resource is focussed on more serious crimes leaving petty crime to flourish.
During a recent briefing to Thanet District Councillors from DCI Superintendent Andrew Pritchard, it was noted that serious crime is being tackled well by specialist officers, but DCI Pritchard said he had only so much resource ‘pie’ to go around and could not tackle everything.
Cllr Karen Constantine asked DCI Superintendent Andrew Pritchard if the imposed cuts of 13% fewer Police officers and 8% fewer PCSOs between 2010 and 2016 had had a negative impact? DCI Pritchard acknowledged his budget was ‘fragile’ and said he would welcome more dedicated officer support so he could “slice the cake in the most effective way”.
Labour councillors have no doubt at all that more Police and PCSOs are needed on the ground.
DCI Pritchard explained that about 20% of Police time is spent dealing with people with mental health issues.
Labour Group Leader Jenny Matterface stressed “Thanet has high levels of deprivation and high levels of mental health issues. We need resources not only to deal with this but also to take preventative steps. Early intervention is vital”.
The Labour councillors are writing to local MPs Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay to urge the Government to allocate more Police resource to Thanet.
Labour’s 2017 manifesto contains a commitment for 10,000 police officers for community beats.
Bulk refuse collection in Newington
The ‘Bulk Collection’ went ahead in Newington, Ramsgate during August. Key roads were concentrated on, with over 100 bulk items put out for the refuse service. I’m now pressing Thanet District Council (TDC) to ensure this facility is offered to the rest of the Newington Ward. I had fully anticipated that this was going to happen, but it appears I need to keep the pressure up. You can trust me to be persistent!
Wherever you are in Thanet, if you have bulk waste you can call 01843 577115 and TDC waste removal service will collect your waste promptly and for a reasonable price. It’s a great service for locals who don’t have the means to transport bulky items to the tip, so please support it. Visit https://www.thanet.gov.uk/your-services/recycling-and-rubbish/request-a-service/bulky-waste/ for more details.
Other ‘rubbish’ problems
I am frequently contacted about waste issues. You can arrange for this to be collected yourself by contacting the council, and you can check bin collections and request spare bins by filling in an on line request, its quick and easy,
To report a missed bin collection, fill this online form in.
I finally met with two officers from KCC, along with Ramsgate Town and Ward councillor Peter Campbell, to discuss the hoardings that are at the boundary of Pleasurama on Ramsgate sea front. It transpires that the owners are planning to move ahead. I know many people have felt frustrated at what has been and incredibly slow process. Here is the answer from KCC. Received on 28th September.
Sent on behalf of Matthew Balfour
I write with reference to your complaint email of 18 September concerning the development of the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate.
I can confirm that our highway’s street works team have been in communication with the developer’s representation (MP Associates Ltd) in regards to the hoarding around the site.
MP Associates Ltd has informed us that their client is currently completing preparations for a start on site this autumn. Our team have requested if they can provide an anticipated start date.
They have also provided an e-mail address email@example.com that can be used for making enquiries about the development.
I hope that this information will prove helpful for you.
Member for Malling Rural East
Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste
Kent County Council
Let’s hope this is happening and that the land is used appropriately.
Monkton Nature Reserve
One fine Sunday in August I attended the official reopening of the Frenken Room in the Field Study Centre of Monkton Nature Reserve. It was my first visit to the beautiful spot nestled in an old chalk quarry and a real treat to see this tranquil haven tended and supported by volunteers. The refurbished room will be a welcome resource for schools and other groups who use and enjoy this local gem.
Harbour Street barrier
I’m very pleased to say following a visit by Paul Valek and Kelly Garrett and with ‘good will’ and common sense from Richard Styles and Rebecca Smith of Ramsgate Town Council. The traffic issue on Harbour Street in Ramsgate Town Centre has been bought under some control meaning that shops, business and pedestrians now enjoy a car free zone. I’m also delighted to report that the street signs at the entrance to Harbour Street have been moved down (to ensure people can see them as they turn into the street).
Ramsgate Town Centre and anti social behaviour issues
I have met with PC Stephen Moat and Andy Howe to discuss serious concerns about Ramsgate Town Centre. A further meeting with the police and local businesses has now been arranged. If you are involved in the local business community and would like to be involved in the meeting, or wish to speak with me about your concerns please contact me directly.
County and District Council case work
Case work remains dominated by dealing with housing needs and rubbish! We have a terrible housing crisis, with demand outstripping supply many many times over. The introduction of Universal Credit in other parts of the UK is throwing people into a future crisis and creating housing debt.
Labour has said Universal Credit is in “total disarray”, after a government study found that lengthy benefit payment waiting times were causing claimants to run up hundreds of pounds in debt and rent arrears. Labour joined welfare organisations calling for change. One in four new Universal Credit claimants waited more than 42 days for a first payment, while nearly half of families said moving on to the benefit had led them to fall behind with rent for the first time.
During all of this activity I managed to have a great summer week with my grandchildren who love coming to Ramsgate and particularly the beach. We were blessed with great weather and a seemingly endless supply of ice cream. It’s one reason why I ❤️ Ramsgate.