Monday, 12 November 2012

Honest Opinions and TDC Cabinet

Before I do the TDC Cabinet report, a brief word on the story of the moment. I’m not going to get too upset about Lisa Richard’s blog, which isn’t that offensive. Margate is a mixed bag, doing well in the Old Town and there is an effort to improve elsewhere but it is a work in progress. If Driver wishes to get upset about it, fair enough, but the better response is to see it for what it is - an honest assessment of Margate - and continue to seek solutions to the deep-rooted problems in Margate.

Deputy Leader Alan Poole was unable to attend the Cabinet meeting held last Thursday. Visiting members were (no particular order) Cllrs Elizabeth Green, Will Scobie, Campbell, Watkins, Driver, King and Edwards. There was supposed to be a report on Arlington House and how the Council handles it but as you might expect with the Public Inquiry underway, the report is put off to the next meeting.

Risk Management up first, where adjustments to the existing one was fairly simple stuff with updating of the terms. An additional section is being added to show that Members should be aware of how risk should be considered during Council business, say with the Budget. Agreed with a few words from Cllr Wise asking about what advice was sought in the preparation of it. Nothing revelatory was said.

The Corporate Plan up next with consideration of the second quarter’s progress. A lot of queried items here such as the Parking Strategy item which readers may recall came out of the mess that is the existing set-up which the Cabinet is quietly trying to distance itself from, despite their having installed it in the first place.

Budget monitoring was a simple nod through, with a bit of dipping into reserves to meet some shortfalls. Not serious but noteworthy all the same.

Council Tax Discounts Scheme up next where we saw the Cabinet enjoy a moment of Tory-bashing. Driver had a moment to speak for the Overview and Scrutiny Panel backing up the Cabinet. These are the sorts of decisions that have to be made. Never nice but these are the times we are in and there’s very little local authorities can do about it apart from taking the hit.

The draft Budget plans up next where we had the first skirmishes of the Budget season. Without doubt this is a far more fluid Budget with much more involved and so it wasn’t like last year where it was a simple debate about how to use the New Homes Bonus (remember the argument over floral grants?), though this one seems to have a bit of change on that front. Cllr Wise led for the Tories on this one arguing that there had been “no attempt to find savings” and that reserves are being used in the wrong way.

It appears the Star Chamber process has come to an end, this being elaborated on a bit by McGonigal who explained that the process had run its course and that “more innovative, more imaginative” processes had to be found. She didn’t say what alternatives were being sought but perhaps this is something to come in the third quarter report.

Labour’s defence was that the earmarked reserves would grow and that savings for next year have already been found (according to my notes Hart claimed £995k). There was, much like the item about Council Tax Discounts, Tory-bashing and Everitt summed things up by saying that constant change isn’t good for an organisation, which is all well and good when all things are equal but if funds are being cut then change will have to come. Isn’t that why the Council spends £90k on a Director for Transformation?

There is a very long way to go with this and I promise to blog much more about this draft Budget in the coming weeks

Onto the Armed Forces Covenant which saw an exchange between Chris Wells and Hart. Wells argued there was a possibility of a political angle being put upon this and warning that the Council must make sure that the Covenant is treated in a bi-partisan fashion. Hart, not impressed about this, claimed that Wells was trying to “turn it into as political fight”. The bit I thought was wrong was how the Council seemed to justify signing the Covenant because it’s a “wonderful PR opportunity for TDC”. I don’t think the Council means for it to come across as taking advantage of it but to me, it does. The Covenant should not be about TDC.

Community Right to Bid next, where as debate wore on it became more clear that this could get a bit sticky with serious complications possible. All sides, including the Officer, agreed on this.

Skipping East Kent Arrangements, Kent Waste Management Strategy saw a number of Cllrs speaking out against the Richborough tip closure. As posted on Thanet Life, Ian Driver has said that a call-in is underway (deadline is 16th Nov) and that Overview and Scrutiny is to set up a Task and Finish Group. A letter is to be sent to Paul Carter to complain about this decision.

Performer of the night was without a doubt Chris Wells, his talk on the Corporate Plan worth the price of admission alone. 

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