Sunday, 28 November 2010

Demonstration in Tunbridge Wells!!

I shall be at the demonstration outside Tunbridge Wells Town Hall at 5.00PM on Tuesday 30th November in support of the petition to be presented to the Council concerning the future of the civic complex. Looks like a lot of people will be turning up.

I haven't been on many demonstrations/marches. 

When I was a trade union official I marched with my members to a meeting at the Civic Theatre in Chesterfield and on a national march to Parliament where I met my MP, Eric Varley.

I marched through London three times on anti-Iraq war demonstrations.

Also attended a demonstration outside County Hall, Maidstone protesting at the closure of the Middlefield old peoples home in Rusthall as well as attending a protest meeting on the same issue in Rusthall.

Where will the Council move to?

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has withdrawn from its proposed purchase of the former Land Registry building in Hawkenbury.  Much play was made of the fact that a number of statutory organisations would be under one roof, together with a number of voluntary sector organisations. Assuming that was plan 'A', what is plan 'B'? 

Has the Council identified another property it could move in to?  Shouldn't we be told?  I suppose the empty Morrisons supermarket is one option!  Is there space in Union House?  Assuming the Council has not identified another location, staying put is the only option currently available.

The natives are revolting

Councillor Roy Bullock MBE, Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, refers to the electorate as the 'natives'. Fellow Conservative councillors with serious concerns about the proposals to demolish the town hall/assembly hall/library/police station/museum/adult education complex are described in a leaked e-mail as the 'enemy within'.

Dennis Healey stated that when in a hole it is essential to stop digging.  Roy has not heeded this advice: instead more excavators are being employed.  The Council meeting on 30th November will provide a further opportunity for Roy to dig even deeper.

Why bring the opprobrium on his head?  Roy has been a dedicated public servant on the borough and county councils.

A demonstration is planned  outside the town hall on 30th November before the special council meeting called to consider the petition opposing the demolition of the civic buildings.

Just as Europe has been and continues to be a divisive issue nationally for the Tories, so the fate of the town hall is dividing local Conservatives  and will continue to do so.  Next May's local elections will be interesting. Roy's seat will be fought next May and he can expect a concerted effort to topple him.  I don't give the rest of the Tory candidates much hope as opposition to the town hall proposals will grow and grow.  It is known that some of Roy's cabinet colleagues are unhappy with the current state of affairs.  Who will have the guts and determination to lance the boil?

There are other issues: the demolition of the bandstand in Calverley Park and the  barmy decision to move the tourist information centre into the Gateway.

Clearly some local Tories have not taken on board what happened in Cranbrook. There, badly handled proposals concerning the future of the council's Cranbrook offices, led to the electoral defeat of Peter Davies, an excellent councillor.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

What am I doing?

 I keep being asked what I am up to these days. So here is the little list of activities I am engaged in.

Food Bank for Kent: This is my major activity.  You can read more here which also has a link to the Food Bank website.

Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource: I continue as a director of this organisation.

ACT NOW: I am an active supporter of this organisation which seeks to mitigate the damage of the 'cuts' to people with autism and their families.

Secondary School for Edenbridge:  I am supporting a group which is promoting the setting up of a secondary school in the town.

The Lottie Betts-Priddy Education Trust:  A UK based charity working to improve educational standards in Sierra Leone.

You can find links to all the above on my blog's home page.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Trust the Germans to mess up Europe.

The lights are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime. Thus spake Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary in 1914 at the start of the First World War. The lights went out again in 1939 at the start of the Second World War.

Is 2010 the third time in a century the lights are going out over Europe? The world wars brought about by German territorial ambitions of Kaiser Bill and Fuhrer Adolph were resolved only by the sacrifice of millions of lives and huge damage to property.

The price to be paid for German intransigence in economic and fiscal matters in the EU will be the destruction of living standards in Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and now Belgium, the home nation of the EU President Herman van Rumpoy.

Chancellor Merkel of Germany has insisted that the holders of sovereign debt will have to suffer a 'haircut' on their holdings which basically means they will not get all their money back. Said, soon after the Irish agreed to be 'helped', the consequence of her remarks no doubt made to placate German citizens, has been to make the sacrifice of the Irish worthless as pressure has mounted on Portuguese and Spanish bonds. The very thing the Irish bailout was intended to avoid has been caused by the outpourings of Merkel.

Hitler failed to subjugate Europe my military means - just. Merkel may succeed where guns failed.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


The Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource AGM was conducted by our chairman Len Horwood today with his usual efficiency. I was re-elected to the board for another three years.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource

Tomorrow is the AGM of Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource. Mental health has been a low priority of governments, even in good economic times. Difficult times ahead, but TWMHR has a strong board and excellent staff, so hopefully it will survive the financial buffeting to come.

Goodbye Cindy

Cindy, our Jack Russell, came into our lives aged 10 months from the Last Chance Animal Rescue Centre near Edenbridge. A week ago she became ill and yesterday took a serious turn for the worse, so bad in fact that today she had to be put down. She was just a few weeks short of her fifteenth birthday.

Cindy will live on in our hearts and will be missed by the many friends she had in Rusthall.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

No longer glad new day for KCC

I have been perusing the Quality Care Commission/Ofsted report on KCC childcare services. It is a damning document and the overall conclusion is that the provision is inadequate, defined in the report as failing to meet minimum requirements.

An apology and a promise to do better from Councillor Paul Carter, the Leader of the Council.  No hint of resignation though, not even from the councillor who holds the Cabinet portfolio in this area.

The Ofsted site has a report on the Annual unannounced inspection of contact, referral and assessment arrangements within Kent County Council's children's services.

In a letter to KCC dated 9th September 2010 is the following:

In addition, it is considered by Ofsted that the findings of this inspection and the

identified area for priority action are likely to become a limiting judgement of the
annual children’s services assessment when considered with other evidence. This
means the annual assessment is likely to be limited to ‘performs poorly’.

In December 2009 the assessment was performs well.

Why this quite dramatic reversal?  What has KCC Overview and Scrutiny been doing during this period?  A response from KCC is needed, not simply apologies and a determination to do better.

Remember, in all this the subjects of this inadequacy, vulnerable children.  They deserve better, we as people living in Kent deserve better.

Friday, 19 November 2010

KCC: Childcare services

A matter which must be investigated urgently is what the Overview & Scrutiny Committee of KCC did or did not do in respect of the issues raised by the OFSTED report. Was it supine or pro-active in the exercise of its functions? We should be told.

The NHS Overview and Scrutiny Committee did not do a very good job in investigating the problems at the Kent & Sussex Hospital and Maidstone Hospital when these places were killing fields. I will say this much for Councillor Carter: he had the chair of the committee replaced, but by then the horse had bolted.

Arrogant and inadequate: a political epitaph, hopefully

A damning OFSTED report concludes that Kent County Council's childcare services are inadequate. The Great Leader of KCC, Councillor Paul Carter is interviewed by the BBC. A hand-wringing performance in which an apology is proffered and a promise made to improve the services to meet the failures identified in the report, but no hint of a resignation.

Why is it that politicians who are responsible for a mess then think they are best placed to retrieve the position? Breathtaking arrogance. If they were any good the problem would not have arisen. The smell and exercise of power overcomes any sense of humility, responsibility and, to use an old fashioned word, honour.

Whilst letting matters rot in his own back yard Councillor Carter has been strutting the Kent stage exclaiming how wonderful it is that the council will have more power in the future. The council should get its own house in order. A good start would be to replace the Leader.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tourist Information Centre? Try the Gateway!

From This is Kent:

VISITORS have slammed Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's decision to shut The Pantiles's tourist information centre for four days a week.

The information service is operating from the council's Gateway centre on a temporary basis.

The council said the move was a "pilot" and this week denied the relocation would be permanent.

But tourists told the Courier they believed it could deter them from returning to the town or recommending it to others.

Stephen Herbert, from Devon, who was visiting the town with his wife and mother-in-law, said: "We haven't got a clue where we are so we definitely would have gone in to get our bearings. We're not walking up the hill though, my mother-in-law wouldn't be able to manage it."

Meanwhile, Linda Talmadge, from Kingston in Surrey, had to ask in shops for help.

She said: "We headed straight for The Pantiles because that's what I remember about Tunbridge Wells. We wanted to get a map. We shan't bother now."

The four-day closure has also been criticised by Pantiles traders and bed and breakfast owners, who said tourists should not be made to wait with benefit claimants and people making complaints.

"I think the tourist information centre needs to be where the tourists go," said David Evans, whose wife Ann owns Rosnaree B&B in Upper Grosvenor Road.

"The tourism prevention process is alive and well," he added.

The pilot runs until Easter next year when the Old Fish Market office will open.

I love the comment 'the tourism prevention process is alive and well'.  

This blog has commented before on the stupidity of the decision to move the TIC from the Pantiles to the Gateway.

Trains across Kent

In recent weeks I have travelled by train from Tunbridge Wells to Dartford, Swanley, Canterbury, Ashford, Dover and Westgate-on-Sea. Apart from one journey all the trains were on time or within a couple of minutes of their scheduled arrival time. The one exception was the day I travelled to Dover. A passenger had been taken ill just after the train I was to catch at Tonbridge had left Charing Cross.  A long stop at Waterloo East to take off the passenger and by the time it reached Tonbridge it was running forty minutes late

I like uneventful!  The day I went by car to Deal I was caught in a massive traffic hold-up on the M20.

Wednesday's woes are no hoot.

A long suffering supporter of Sheffield United (The Blades) I have been most concerned at the poor performance of the team this season.  Yesterday's win at Millwall provided some encouragement but the club hovers just above the relegation zone.

Across the city, Sheffield Wednesday (The Owls) are performing reasonably well.  However a black cloud is looming in the form of the Inland Revenue taking the Owls to court over an unpaid tax bill of £600,000. On top of that the Co-op Bank is owed £26 million by the club. What I cannot understand is why the Revenue does not act much sooner whilst amounts owing are lower. And why do banks permit football clubs to rack up the level of borrowing as has happened in this case?

What is it about football clubs which causes individuals to throw commerical logic through the window? 

£600,000 is three weeks wages for many footballers in the Premier Division which in itself shows the ludicrous state of football finances. The sooner football clubs join the real world the better. It is not the role of government departments or the banks to shore up failing commercial organisations.

A secondary school for Edenbridge?

'You never appreciate anything until you have lost it'.  Thus spake an Edenbridge resident to me yesterday concerning the closure a few years ago of the town's Eden Valley School. There were problems with the former school. Many Edenbridge parents chose not to send their children to the school and the buildings were expensive to maintain.

A few residents have started a campaign for a new secondary school in Edenbridge. As might have been expected, Kent County Council has shown no interest apart from the usual buckets of ice-cold water being dispensed.  The campaigners are meeting the local MP, Sir John Stanley, later this week to try and elicit his support.

One avenue open to Edenbridge residents is to go down the free school route. It is long, complicated, tedious and time-consuming, but it cuts out KCC.  It is probably the only route residents can take.  Now we are in the era of the Big Society, Localism and community empowerment it will be interesting to see who joins the campaigners and supports their cause.

Sherwood By-election

Ted Jolley's old seat comes up for election on 16th December. I expect the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour to contest the seat.  I understand the English Democrats are planning to contest the election and it is possible the Green Party and United Kingdom Independence Party might field candidates.

Should be an interesting contest.  The Conservatives hold two seats and are defending the vacancy. To which party will disaffected Coalition parties voters turn and in what numbers? Looks a very open contest and  difficult to predict the winner.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Nostalgia Corner (3)

Pit villages were mono-cultures. Almost all the men worked in the nearby colliery and wives stayed at home looking after the kids. The centres of social life were the local shop(s), Post Office and the Miners Welfare. The Welfare was where families socialised. Women were not served at the bar and often would sit at tables with their children whilst the men congregated round the bar discussing union matters and the fortunes of the local football teams.

When the pit closed the sense of community was lost. The men had to find work miles away and the women had to find part-time work. Household income dropped dramatically. The reduction in disposable income affected attendance at the Welfare and in many cases led to closure. The corner shop(s) closed as they could not compete with the supermarket. On leaving school many of the young people drifted away - on their bikes - to find jobs.

Some scoff at the concept of working class solidarity and its virtues. Pit villages had it and we are much the worse for its demise.

Kent Travels

For the past month I have been touring Kent on a bus promoting the work of voluntary sector organisations and volunteers. The bus has been to all the district council areas in Kent. What has impressed me has been the welcome and goodwill we have received from residents across the county: from Dartford to Dover and Sheerness to Tunbridge Wells.

The voluntary sector is expected by central government to play a major role in delivering the localism and Big Society agendas. Councils for voluntary service and volunteer centres have a crucial role to play: the former as a catalyst to connect front-line charities and community groups to government agencies, the latter to recruit and place volunteers.

The government should be encouraging local authorities to ensure there are sustainable CVSs and VCs across the country. Without them the localism and Big Society agendas will flounder.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Rusthall Parish Council?

From the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's website:

The draft proposals on whether or not Rusthall should be parished are now open for consultation after being agreed at Full Council on 20 October 2010. The consultation will close on 31 December 2010.

The Council's website has an on-line consultation which it is easy to navigate.

It is not my intention to re-iterate my concerns. My deliberation now is: shall I put myself forward as a candidate? I have to say that my previous experience of being a parish councillor leads me to the conclusion that I shall not. The tedium of meetings made me feel suicidal and murderous. On the other hand, elections are fun and a few spanners can be thrown in to the works to upset some candidates expectations. On reflection, a few days fun leading to years of boredom in the event of being elected is not an appetising proposition.