Newington walkabout with Madeline Homer

I met with Thanet District Council Chief Executive Officer, Madeline Homer for a walkabout in Newington recently.  Despite the bitter cold the 2.5 hours walk around was a useful exercise. I was able to raise a number of issues with her and another council official, Gavin Waite, Director for Operational Services.

These are the points I raised with Madeline Homer. I will be following these up:

  • move the existing adventure playground closer to existing young persons facilities near to the community centre.
  • let’s have a system for the removal of bulk rubbish items & engage with the local community & third sector group to help the less able to benefit. Allow sufficient time to allow this to bed in.
  • discussed the lack of street furniture on the green ways. This would be a nice additional & may well be valued by parents & older residents. It would also be a nice demonstration of council care from Thanet District Council. Gavin Waite seemed to think this would be possible & I would be very glad assist in finding the right site.
  • our walkabout showed up a lack of round markings on Bush avenue & Melbourne drive. Whilst there have been no accidents here – it would be a good idea in the interests of safety, to add double yellow road markings. I have had complaints about this site.
  • the alley we looked at had no street lighting & created a dark & possible unsafe access point between fully occupied residential areas. ( adjacent to the big local facilities )
  • a number of people have raised the fact that they cannot hear when calling Thanet District Council phones lines. This needs addressing. There are also frequent comments about not getting through.
  • street signs also requiring up dating.

I made Madeleine aware that I hold regular surgeries in addition to the employment surgeries & have offered help to the people in Northwood.

Dealing with poor council service

Last but not least I raised the issue of how the council employees sometimes deal with Thanet District Council residents. The treatment can be poor. Madeline asked me to prepare an anonymised statement. See below:
I was contacted by a very pleasant sounding women. She was off work on sick leave and it transpired that she had a very serious and potentially life threatening illness. This required time off work (which is unpaid) she had both time off for the illness, for operations – 3 so far – and recuperation. She has no entitlement to sick pay. She lives alone. She had been given a very large bill, heart stoppingly large, by accident. After a period time she resolved this – but it caused her extreme worry and anxiety.  As it would do to anyone in the same situation. She had called Thanet District Council to discuss her concerns and to ask them not to take any action (should there be a need to – but after the last debt fiasco she was rightly taking no chances). She was shocked, saddened and surprised by the attitude of the staff member who she spoke to who she said was rude, seemed hostile, non listening and generally unpleasant. The staff member was also unhelpful. So she needed to involve others to assist her.

It’s a great shame that the person on the end of the phone couldn’t have ‘stood in her shoes’ felt her worry and pain. For many of us there is a tipping point that we are all close to.  We could easily end up needing support at a time in our lives when we are vulnerable. I would ask the council to reflect a culture of dignity and compassion. This would be professional.