Friday, January 20, 2012

East Kent Hospitals - Turn back the clocks

If you thought the idea of an evening spent listening to local councillors, debate next years council budget was depressing, you'd be right, however the prelude to the meeting in the form of a briefing given by Stuart Bain Chief Executive of East Kent Hospitals, referring to the future of emergency treatment for major trauma, wasnt without some concerns either. 

I understand that management of East Kent Hospitals are currently "engaging" with staff, doctors and local MP's over changes in dealing with major trauma. This apparently follows from advice by the Royal College of Surgeons, the drift of discussion (I wont use the word consultation just yet, since that's the formality were we comment on official proposals that are usually set in stone) anyhoo if you'd like to bone up on the subject this document might help.

The jist of East Kent Hospitals University Trust thinking is that improved resources will be funnelled into the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, and similar plans being suggested for the Medway Maritime Hospital at Gillingham and the new Pembury Hospital (That's the one even the locals struggle to get to) the rationale being that major trauma injuries currently treated in London Hospital's should be dealt with closer to home. 

It sounds a good idea and maybe it is, however many of us remember that its not too long since you couldn't get anything but the most basic emergency treatment here in Thanet, so I'd like to see some confirmation that Margate Hospital is not once again to be sidelined and rundown. 

After Mr Bain had made his presentation questions were invited, Cllr Iris Johnson piped up expressing appreciation thanks and gratitude to the chief executive for coming to the meeting, Cllr Ezekiel raised important points about the difficulty relatives and friends would have visiting particularly those on low incomes, Cllr Ian Driver, also bought up travel time (as someone who once worked in Ashford my best time, late for work! is around 40minutes) and more importantly the issue of treating the elderly, nationally it's clear that some old people are neglected and over the years I've seen short comings first hand, however from his response to that last issue and my own correspondence with Mr Bain and resulting in a prompt resolution, I'm inclined to think that things are genuinely improving.

When the "consultation" proper takes place which I understand will start in April, lets hope we get all the facts and  that focusing resources in Ashford does not mean the thin end of the wedge in which we see Margate Hospital reduced once again to cottage hospital status despite being in the middle of East Kent's largest population.

UPDATE Since posting this it has been suggested that maybe I have attributed things that I shouldn't etc. see comments So as ever you may wish to read this with caution, it is my personal take and recollection.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Channel 4 News - Are these people real

Just an idle thought about media bods, watching the channel four news last night (Wednesday) , I couldn't help noticing the gulf between what I consider normal in the current job market and the seeming unfamiliarity of the presenter of last night's channel four news.

Unemployment is a miserable existence, it isn't just money, work or not working defines you, it's a the thing that makes you belong or not, outside of the underclass workshy bludgers, most of us prefer to work.

Watching Jon Snow, interviewing a young man who having graduated from university last summer with a degree in archaeology and has yet to find a full time job, although he has had several temporary jobs, maybe I got the newsman wrong but Snow seemed somewhat surprised at the state of the jobs market.

Anyway if you didn't see it, here's how I recall some of the interview, Jon Snow "I gather you even got to selling Christmas trees?" a question in style and  tone which I thought would be more appropriate had the subject been involved in drug dealing or people trafficking.

Subject "yes, yes Christmas I sold Christmas trees"  

Jon Snow still reeling from the depths to which people can sink "When you were sitting your archaeology degree you can hardly have thought, you'd end up digging up Christmas trees"

And then this from Mr Snow "How difficult is it for you, as somebody who has now been through 7 or 8 months of not having a proper job?" now I appreciate many of you will be in a steady job, following a conventional career path, or retired and out of the game but come on, millions in this country perpetually work on temporary contracts, I just wonder what world media bods inhabit.

Jon Snow will be down in these parts at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate, at the end of the month having been given the honour of opening "Turner and the elements" exhibition, this I understand will be an exclusive soiree with art/media industry wallahs, the monied classes, perhaps he could, spend an hour or two outside the media bubble and do some research while he down this way and see how ordinary people exist.

Reference was made to getting a "proper job", assuming this means secure ongoing employment, this is something that is disappearing for much of the workforce, the only part of the economy immune is the public sector, its a worry the news presenter seemed so unfamiliar with how things are, perhaps one question that Snow could have asked the former student, harsh but relevant why archaeology? why not something a bit more appealing to employers?  To anyone looking for work, my advice is to take anything going.

PS Yet to graduate from the University of Life, what do I know, which might explain why I only expect to make it through to the end of my next shift.

Blogging Hell

Crikey some days you think that blogging has come of age, and then something crops up you think it's as crass as it always was.

God knows here on the planet Thanet, there has been enough twaddle spoken and written about blogging often by those who should know better.

I see Cllr John Worrow is off on one with his recent blog posting (sadly unavailable as I post this) about ethical diversity blogging or something similar yes I know the stuff I inflict on those without the self control to avoid these pages with a load of twaddle and really if I had any decency about me I wouldn't do it, I mean think of all those poor vulnerable politicians, and jobsworths who can't defend themselves.

Still it seems that John is suggesting bloggers come together and appoint vigilantes sorry wardens to monitor blogs with a mind to curbing racist and religious intolerance, a noble idea, but in the real world there will always be cranks and criminals who will abuse free speech and then of course there will always be those self appointed arbiters of what's right and wrong.

At the end of the day we all know the difference between reasoned fair comment and twisted words of propaganda and inuendo, so while I concur with John's motives, I think he is barking up the wrong tree with this one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kent Watch - Crazy Boris Island Back On

With the government pushing ahead plans to build a high speed rail link at the bargain price of £32 billion, so that you can have the dubious pleasure of arriving in Birmingham 20 minutes earlier than currently, it's no surprise that the same government are to launch a consultation to build a new estuary airport in North Kent.

Many of us thought that this crazy idea was dead and buried, but hey London elects eccentrics, Boris Johnson a man who cannot steer a brush through his hair, has a vision of how to navigate Britains future air transport policy, and unfortunately people like the Prime Minister presumably take him seriously but since the both attended Eton (a special school for rich kids) you can understand the connections.

Obviously big business is in favour of pouring tons of concrete into the Thames Estuary ignoring any environmental concerns that may exist and of course for people in North Kent the chance of jobs is not easily dismissed, still as someone who travels into London frequently on inadequate roads, I just wonder what the effect of switching the millions of people currently using Heathrow Airport on to the A2, Dartford Crossing or my favourite the Blackwall Tunnel would be.

Anyone who lives in London will be aware of the constant noise generated by air traffic, it starts around 5am and continues all day, which is something that will be noticeable all along the North Kent coast, and will be considerably more irritating than opponents of Manston could expect from  a regional airport such as we have here in Thanet.

Still consultation or no if big business wants an airport, it will happen, take the highspeed London-Birmingham  line at 32billion, which is probably just the starting price and the only benefit would be a few people arriving minutes earlier into Birmingham, while millions of commuters are packed like cattle into commuter trains throughout London and the South East.

If Boris Johnson lived in a village I'm sure a job could be found for him, although I suppose Mayor of London suits his unique character, just a pity he can't keep out of Kent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What did the Blairs ever do for us?

Watching all the ballyhoo just recently focussed on the movie "Iron Lady" I cannot help feeling that Hollywood is ignoring the most influential right wing British prime minister of recent time Tony Blair.

This is my personal view, both Thatcher and Blair are seen to have had a significant impact on the nation, in the case of Thatcher her motives were honestly set out, it was clear that big business particularly the financial sector were to be the main beneficiaries of Thatcherism and societies week and feeble would be the casualties. At no time did Margeret Thatcher ever give the impression of compassion for societies less able, her objective was to assist those equipped with drive and ambition.

Tony Blair gave the impression, that he was motivated by the notion of helping the masses, his New Labour invested in slick popular cliché and meaningless phrases like Education, Education and one I seem to recall from 1997 the notion that if you voted for Labour in that year's general election you would as a bonus also be saving the NHS and probably the world.

It's been a while since my last posting, and in all honesty it's tough to get motivated, generally I scan through papers as most of us do and when something sort of irritates me I make a note of it  (evernote) which I'll either use or let drift until the moment is past, however sometimes several items crop up and recently a few Blair stories have floated into view.

We all know how hollow Blair was on the Education Education mantra, his government was the first to introduce tuition fees and treble them! on saving the Health Service that clearly didn't work either as a gander at this last weekends Sunday Times and Mail Online reveals Mrs Blair is attempting to raise £65 million to plow into private clinics (the first is apparently to be opened in Hackney in the olympic village), Blair the statesman it seems is available for hire, as this report suggests, even a country like Kazakhstan not known for Human Rights, can for the right money, get him and the his old team also Blair the taxpayer, provokes concern, on a turnover of £12million and spending £2.3million on staff, his  "firm" apparently paid out only £315,000 in taxes.

Still I have ever faith that when Holywood do Tony Blair, we will see the real man, his honesty, frugal lifestyle, concern for the people who once trusted him, I'm sure those items that have riled me up into this post will be proven to be the wild imaginings of the media.

I also don't doubt that one day Tony Blair will be able to explain the legality of his Iraq war, why British Service personnel have been in Afghanistan for years, defending a corupt regime, and just as a side issue what sort of deals if any he did with Rupert Murdoch before and during his time in office. 

Of course like her or loath her there was always an inherent honesty about Mrs Thatcher and of course it would be unfair to compare the two former Prime Ministers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Humble Labour?

Just. Chomping through lunch, taking a quick gander at my paper (the i) and I see once again, Labour top bods are having one of their periodic moments of contrition, in which they fess up to past crimes.

David Milliband has spoken of his frustration, long may it continue, their even admitting that cuts are necessary, whatever next.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Kent Watch - Local News survives into 2012 but for how long?

At the end of last July things looked bleak for local news coverage, when it was announced that Kent Messenger were in the process of acquiring rival newspapers owned by Northcliffe media  and right now things are not that chipper.

The Office of Fair Trading took the decision back in October to refer the proposed take over, to refer the matter to the competition commission since clearly the deal would result in market domination of news and advertising media in Kent by one company.

Anyhow as things have turned out it seems that Northcliffe Media who own the Thanet Times & Gazette are  considering amalgamation with its Canterbury Times paper according to "The three Thanet and Canterbury titles are now likely to be merged in the new year, following an review of the proposed move led by Richard Karn, Northcliffe's managing director for the south east."

Since Northcliffe have already closed newspapers in Kent and other regional newspapers, it seems likely that such a merger will remain a possiblity for some time, and this being Thanet you can just imagine, that if this goes ahead then, we will end up reading more about Canterbury than Thanet although according to wikiepedia there happen to be 132,000 of us islanders compared to 43,000 odd city dwellers.

Unfortunately much of the debate that should have taken place last didn't, for some reason BBC local news, such as it is, didn't think it was news worthy of anything other than minimal reference and why would they, local news papers to tend to report in areas that the BBC don't such as local crime and of interest to you and I  local politics.

I hope that both Kent Messenger, Northcliffe manage to prosper by reporting local news, but I fear that both companies have it in mind to invest as little as possible. Perhaps one day in the near future local news coverage will depend on amateurs, hardly a reliable source, anyways I've got matters that need urgent investigation,  unfortunately these are related to a computer game,  LA Noire, highly absorbing and entertaining .

Still I cannot help thinking that had Kent Messenger purchased Northlcilife Media's Kent newspapers, all of Kent would have a monoculture of printed news via Kent Messenger. I hope local  papers can limp on till the recession is over and or publishers have found a better way to "moneytise" their products.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Catherine Bearder MEP Meeting with Live Export Protesters

I just wonder sometimes what people, expect of their politicians, just before Christmas, Catherine Bearder Liberal Democrat, visited Ramsgate to meet with activist trying to stop the export of live animals through the port of Ramsgate.
Katherine Bearder's meeting just prior to Christmas was attended by a variety of people opposed to live animal exports, coming, as they did with differing perspectives, politics and expectations, this is a tricky subject since transporting animals halfway across Europe for profit is just wrong and part of the reason why I`ve not rushed to comment, that and having other things going on during Christmas.

Still first things, first the business in exporting live animals is without a doubt abhorrent to most of us, as I understand the argument put forward by those in farming is this, that there are simply not the facilities in this country to deal with slaughter animals for food preparation, which is something I find hard to believe, still it's difficult to actually find any facts out, as I suppose few of those involved are keen to expand further on the grim nature of their business.

As I mentioned earlier fact finding is not easy so you will have to forgive me for not having too many cluttering up this post, and hearsay is just that, such as the criminality of those involved, or the suggestion that this trade also is connected with ritual slaughter, these are things that I couldn't verify although it's clear that the middle eastern countries import live animals from as far as Australia.

It's easy to understand the intensity of emotions  by activist,  to any normal person this trade cannot be justified and particularly not for someone to make fat profits, which is why so many have signed petitions opposing the trade and why politicians from across the spectrum are adamant that things need to change. So it was good to see Labour well represented with Cllr Driver, Poole, Hart and Fenner at the Meeting with Catherine Bearder, Liberal democrat MEP for the South East, and Independent Cllr Worrow (Till recently Conservative). 
It's not easy to measure the impact of this type of meeting but as an observer I thought it worthwhile on several levels , the meeting iitself was  well reported in the media , and some of us were better informed than we had been before going into the meeting I`m sure Catherine Bearder discovered things from the activists, particularly in terms of poor enforcement of existing regulations, and no doubt the activist learnt something of the workings of the European  parliament, and me I thought how this was a good example of people working together.(photo Bill Furness, Catherine Bearder MEP & Me)

Perhaps there should be more meetings in which politicians are working towards the same aim, also as an observation, I thought Thanet's Cllr.Hart new political supremo was sincere and enthused in doing what could be done to prevent this trade continue through the port of Ramsgate. Also it's worth reminding people that outside of arena such as the printed word letters pages of the local press or blogs things are a bit  more civil as illustrated with Clive Hart  seen here shaking hands with my fellow Liberal Democrat  Bill Furness.

The petition to stop long journeys closes today, so if you hurry you can still make your displeasure known but just now the total number of signatures was 1027781.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

KENT WATCH " a strong organisation that knows where it is going!"

So says Paul Carter Conservative Leader of KCC, as he muses on Kent Council's coming year, in fact so confident is he,  as a new year dawns he himself is off on some motor rally throughout January, and of course, as we all know, Paul Carter also decided, from what can be gleaned from the murky and secretive world of the council, that at great cost to the public, it no longer to needs a senior professional officer to head up the organisation.

The word anarchy springs to my mind, but then I haven't just said goodbye to many, many thousands of pounds, by removing, a previously valued manager of the council, mid contract for reasons. which haven't been explained or discussed adequately.

As I see it,      it's (KCC) like a ship with no one at the helm and no flippin rudder til sometime in February. 

Read the briefing for yourself, what I found interesting, are those things that are not really mentioned such as, how did KCC children services become so run down and in such a dire state by the start of last year, also the controversial removal of Katherine Kerswell, was it really a cost saving exercise or something else, anyhow perhaps the most revealing thing about Cllr Paul Carter, is this comment referring I guess obliquely the Katherine Kerswell issue "On another note, my New Year’s resolution for next year must be to improve our relationship with the local press.  It has felt in recent weeks that some stories have been particularly biased against KCC.

Well here is news for Cllr Carter he might also wish to improve his relationship with his own Conservative backbench colleagues some of whom I understand were a bit miffed to have, had the run around, on the Kerswell issue, particularly egregious, since he'd suggested during a leadership challenge that he'd consult members outside his cabinet colleagues more.

An interesting and more educated analysis of Paul Carters briefing is available just here, from Kent Messengers Political Editor Paul Francis, in which Cllr Carters suggestion of media bias is addressed, to round this up, lets hope Kent does not experience any crisis during January because it seems, there is nobody with the clear authority to take charge of the council till February.

I hope this year Kent County Conservatives learn to live with a democratic society which allows for a free press and objects to political parties manipulating local authority media resources to their advantage.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Guest Blog by Bill Furness

As some of you appreciate, although I happen to be a Liberal Democrat, I don't set out to overtly promote Liberal Democrats, for the simple reason this blog was started as a personal take on what goes on in these parts and certainly I don't stifle comment either, although I have to say, I feel more than a little guilty, for not mentioning some of the parties achievements, particularly dumping ID cards, giving schools additional funds to focus on disadvantaged children, increasing tax threshold so 880,000 low paid workers don't pay income tax.

Bill Furness a fellow Liberal Democrat has kindly taken up my offer contribute to this blog, for which I am grateful. 


BY Bill Furness Executive member of Thanet Liberal Democrats

With the start of a new year with Xmas over and the credit card payments yet to be made, those that are fortunate to have a job look in trepidation at the way that the economy is going here at home and in Europe and how it may affect the labour market here in Thanet.

At least we can all look forward this year to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Olympic Games and, importantly for all the people of pensionable age who are set to benefit after Liberal Democrats in Government delivered the biggest pension rise in history.

From this April the basic state pension will rise by £5.30 per week, this is more than it has ever increased before, making the new rate £107.45 per week for a single person. a stark contrast to the last Labour government which insulted pensioners with a miserly 75p increase!

Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP said:

“I hope this pension increase demonstrates our commitment of fairness to people who have worked hard all their lives.

From April 2012 the basic state pension is forecast to be 17.1% of average earnings, a higher share of average earnings than in any year since 1997.

At a time when the nation’s finances are under severe pressure, this government will be spending an extra £6.6 billion in 2012-13 to ensure that people are protected against cost of living increases.

No less than £4.5 billion extra on state pensions, over a billion pounds extra on disabled people and their carers and over a billion pounds extra on people who are unable to work through sickness or unemployment.”

Under the Lib Dems’ triple lock pensions guarantee, the basic state pension will rise every year in line with either earnings, prices or by 2.5% - whichever is highest.”

It’s a step in the right direction and shows that despite being the smaller part of the coalition, Lib Dems are more than just about sound bites, as we discovered New Labour and the previous government to be by up-rating the pension credit as well, the poorest pensioners benefit in full from the triple lock, and they have also up-rated working age benefits by 5.2% protecting the real incomes of the poorest.

That said, I still believe that the basic state pension needs further improvement, as local people of pensionable age often spend their money in the local area and many are involved in a variety of roles in the local community.
This is just one of the Liberal Democrat policies that are being put into place, we may be a junior partner in the coalition but our policies are gradually being introduced and acted on.

Implementing reforms and legislation is one thing but the Liberal Democrat “Voice” is being heard on many issues and hopefully brought into fruition this year, it is unlikely that 2012 will bring much cheer, with so many people struggling in this extraordinarily difficult time but the Liberal Democrat party can be proud in alleviating the situation for millions of families and look forward to similar achievements during this year.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


The BBC certainly knows how to welcome the new year with a seasonal episode of Eastenders as character Pat Butcher's death is milked for every nuance of misery know to dramatists, half way through the final appearance, its going to be grim as the BBC can make it, including being evicted even as the last few breaths are taken.

Happy New year everybody!