Councillors in the clear....13 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 13, 2003 - 05:35 PM

Four of the six Shepway Councillors accused of bullying and breaking the district’s code of conduct were sensationally cleared this morning (Thursday).

Cllrs Martin Rose (Cons), Joy Macmillan (Cons), Michael Lyons (Cons) and Bernard Sealy (Lab) all received letters from the Standards Board of England clearing them of any wrong doing.

Cllrs Colin Tearle (Cons) and Paul Marsh (Lib Dem) are still waiting to hear their fate.

Cllr Tearle, who is district councillor for Swingfield and Acrise and a member of the cabinet, described the affair as “handbags at dawn� and said that he was confident that he and Cllr Marsh would be similarly cleared of any wrong doing by the Board.

He added: “Joking aside, it seems to me this is all about councillors being persecuted for basically doing their jobs.

“I am concerned that it could have very serious repercussions, including the possibility of legal action by those accused.�

“Either way it has created an awful lot of bad feeling throughout the entire council.�

The accusations centred on allegations of intimidation and bullying and inappropriate behaviour by councillors towards council staff and were made by chief executive, Ron Thompson, on behalf of his officers.


100 cars removed from Shepway streets....12 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 12, 2003 - 05:24 PM

Operation Cubit run by South East Kent police working with the DVLA, Highways Agency, Shepway Council and Kent Fire Brigade to clamp down on untaxed and abandoned vehicles has enjoyed a successful start.

In the first seven days of the operation, more than 100 untaxed and abandoned vehicles have been removed from the streets of Shepway, and hundreds more are expected as the operation continues in the South East Kent policing area over the next several weeks.

Any vehicles found, or reported to be untaxed or abandoned during the operation, are checked with the DVLA, then clamped and removed to be stored in a local holding area.

Vehicles not claimed within 14 days are destroyed in a crusher.

PC Simon Drew, said: "I am amazed that it's not just old bangers that stand to be crushed. We have seized all sorts of cars including a BMW and a new Vectra."

Shepway Council's Environment and Transport Secretary Cllr George Bunting said: "This is helping to remove unsightly abandoned cars from our streets and countryside and also targeting those who fail to tax their cars. The majority of car owners who do tax their vehicles must get increasingly angered by others who flout the law at their expense."


It's not changed....12 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 12, 2003 - 03:20 PM

Re: Folkestone's decline... 9 February 2003

I remember reading this BBC article when it was first published........a scarily acurate piece of writing and it describes a situation which really hasn't changed at all.

In a previous letter to this site, I wrote that the longer this lack of investment in Folkestone persists, the harder it will be to get people back into the town centre.

I know there are plans to redevelop areas of the town but until these plans turn into reality they remain just pipe dreams. The date of the original article emphasises how difficult it might be to see any real progress.



Eurotunnel give migrating Guillemots a lift home....11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 11, 2003 - 02:45 PM

Eurotunnel is helping the RSPCA repatriate about 300 guillemots caught up in the oil spill from the wreck of the sunken Tricolor off the Belgian coast.

The RSPCA believes many of the birds originated from the UK and were returning home following their seasonal migration when they were caught in the oil slick.

The birds are returning home through the Channel Tunnel by Eurotunnel shuttle in a fleet of RSPCA transit vans on Monday afternoon.

They will stop on the Folkestone terminal when they will be taken to a Eurotunnel building for rehydration.

The birds were pre-washed in Belgium. This is emergency work only, as washing a bird properly takes 30 or 40 minutes per bird, an almost impossible task with the numbers affected here. Once in the UK, the birds will be taken to a wildlife hospital in Norfolk for further treatment.


Red Hot Lovers should buy smoke alarms for their loved ones...11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 11, 2003 - 06:37 AM

Kent Fire Brigade suggest a novel way of showing you care on Valentines Day.

"Forget boxes of chocolates", they say, " On Valentine’s Day – the way to show your loved ones you really care is to make sure they stay safe during a fire.

"For about the same cost as a box of luxury chocolates, you can give a present that will last ten years and potentially save someone’s life."

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Bill Welsh said: “Eleven people have died in fires in Kent since last April and, out of those, eight didn’t have working smoke alarms.

“It’s a fact that smoke alarms do save lives - giving valuable warning if there is a fire - a smoke alarm really could be a gift of life.�

As part of efforts to increase smoke alarm ownership across Kent , the Brigade has ten smoke alarms to give away.

The prizes will go to the first ten people to telephone the Community Fire Safety helpline on 01622 698360 during the morning of 14 February and explain why their loved one should have a free smoke alarm.


New asylum rules could cost Kent £4m....11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 11, 2003 - 06:17 AM

A proposed change in the way unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Kent are supported could result in a £4million bill for the County Council.

KCC currently supports 2100 unaccompanied minors, children under 18 who have arrived to claim asylum without parents or guardians, the highest number of any county in the country.

The costs of providing support and accommodation have, in the past, been reclaimed from the Home Office but this arrangement is set to change under proposed new rules, a meeting of KCC’s Cabinet heard today.

From April, the County Council will no longer be able to reclaim these costs for young people aged 16 and 17 who are given Exceptional or Indefinite Leave to Remain. Instead KCC will be given 8 weeks to place the youngsters on benefits and move them into privately rented accommodation, if the changes go ahead.

Kent County Council’s Leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: “Kent has 2100 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers and we have repeatedly told the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) that there is a problem with moving these young people on.

“We are already still supporting 180 young people who have turned 18 and should have been transferred to NASS. The new rules, if implemented, would add another 500 onto that figure.�

Sir Sandy added: “We estimate that to support these young people would cost the County Council in excess of £4million for this coming year. The alternative would be to evict large numbers of young people, leaving them destitute and homeless.

“Frankly NASS is in chaos and the sudden change in grant reclaim rules would simply add further confusion.�

Kent County Council is seeking an urgent meeting with the Home Office to discuss the proposed changes.


Public meeting call, over Community Centre...11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:41 PM

It is a concern that this long awaited community hall should now be traded off before we have used it yet and one part turned into a church.

The village should be asked formally to approve this in a public meeting and the Hawkinge Parish Council is answerable to the residents.

This is all our village and we should be given the chance to have our say.

Only in a public meeting can we be heard by the Hawkinge Parish Council.

Set a Date Now?

Comment in the withheld


Let all villagers benefit equally....11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:30 PM

Your poll on the church in the village hall had a good response, mainly against the idea but with some saying 'what does it matter?

' It matters because it is public funds paying for the hall from which it may be assumed that all users should have equal use at equal cost.

The Parish Council want the Church because they have messed up the budget and need a lump sum from the church who will then pay a 'peppercorn' rent.

Running costs of the hall are going to be high (particularly heating), so will be costs to users unless it is subsidised by tax payers.

I welcome the church, if that's what they want BUT on an identical use in contract to every other user.

Peter Hogben


Is it legal for the Community Centre to become a church?....11 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:15 PM

Has anybody checked the legality of the new Hawkinge Community Centre becoming a church?

It has been suggested that the way the building has been funded precludes it from being used as a place of worship.

Personally I have no real gripes about the meeting rooms being used by any particular groups (within reason, perhaps not Al Quaeda or the BNP) but surely this constitutes a change of use.

I have been to several public meetings about this particular project but until I saw a story on this website about Hawkinge Baptist Church moving to this site I had no idea that the Parish Council were making such decisions.

Surely the villagers ought to consulted or is this just a money making scheme for the Parish Council? What other deals will be revealed in the future? I'm sure that the Parish Council will attempt to reassure us that they only have our best interests at heart - they will probably suggest that they are just trying to secure a regular usage for the building but could they be honest enough to tell us how much this deal is worth and how the price of a lease compares to the price of a new church?

Is this good value for money? Will this deal have any impact on the other uses for the building i.e. the use of a bar with an alcohol licence for social events etc?

I would like to think that the Parish Council have already sought legal advice on this issue as any breach of terms might preclude us from seeking further funding in the future.

Nigel Best


Church in the Community open letter from Peter Hogben...10 February 2003

Contributed by localrags on Feb 10, 2003 - 07:10 PM

Dear Cllr Smith

You will recall that I wrote to you raising questions as to the legality and logicality of the Parish Council's (P.C.) decision to grant exclusive rights to a potential user of the new village hall. I requested detail of the district coundl's involvement in this decision, (also copied to you a letter to the chairman of the P.C. informing him of my official complaint to the P.C.

I would like to explain my reasoning for concern which I would request each member of the P.C. be made aware of preferably by copy of this letter.

I have found it very difficult to obtain information about this issue and totally accept that if any point I make is incorrect I will be pleased to be corrected. I found information about the granting of a lease via the Hawkinge Gazette web pages. I could not find reference to the P.C's decision (resolution) in the official listing of minutes published on the P.Cs. own web site.

On this site a letter from a Mr Johns was published which claimed to be on behalf ot the P.C. It attempted to explain reasoning behind the purpose of the building emphasising that the hall was a community facility This was dated, I believe, 8 May 2002. I am unable to find any amendment to the letter whereby commercial contracts would be allowed for and provided by and entered into by the P.C. to allow favourable use to any minority group of potential users of the hall under a long term lease for whatever reason.

On 3 Feb 03, I requested of a parish councillor the reason for the decision to grant preferential terms to one potential hall user. I was told "It is simply for the money" further asked if it had been considered that the new user may expect the minimal noise during services which would limit somewhat other use of the hall during church use and was told the hall is soundproof.

I consider the granting of exclusive use to one user by a long term contract unnecessary as use could be given on the same basis as to any other user. If a church considers a community hall is suitable for religious services taking place so be it but it should be on the same basis of use in contract as for any other user accepting that one part of the hall could have an aspect of exclusivity given to it due to the nature of its function and tie need to decorate in a specific manner. Other halls within Shepway are used on similar basis without long term leases.

If this is the case a serious deficiency in budgeting methods and monitoring is exposed. Further, it would appear that vast sums have been paid to architects and other professional bodies which raises the question as to why was this if a budget shortfall was predicted. Residents may have expected competitive tendering by all professionals involved to be on a basis of one fee for the whole project the total of which should have been known at the onset and included at contract signing stage to ensure budgeting control by the P.C. There is no acceptable reason for budget overrun if that is the case

My reasons for my complaint are as follows.

1 The village hall is paid for by public funds raised by various means. It is all public funds. Shepway District Council have overall control of the total. The funds should be used on a basis of equal value for every member of the residency area to which the hall is to be made available.

2 If a standard lease is to be provided by the P.C. it will contain a requirement that the landlord (P.C.) ensure terms to the effect of 'peaceful enjoyment' being granted to the tenant. A church may reasonably expect a minimum of noise whilst it uses the hall and this will lead to conflict at some stage if activity of any other user makes noise. (The building, I am now assured, cannot be made soundproof in any of its areas.)

3 If a contract (lease) is made between the P.C. and a lease holder it is doubtful that it would be acceptable that any member of the P.C. may serve on any management committee or trustee group connected to the hall as various conflict of interest issues could arise. That will diminish some control by future Parish Councils

4 Other potential users of the hall will be charged an economic amount for use which within the years ahead will have to be set on an, at least, break even basis, whilst the proposed lease holders are to be charged a 'peppercorn' rent. A Parish Council is not mandated to make such unfair arrangements to the financial detriment of the majority of users for generations ahead however much money is placed "up front as values of such amounts change. Future Parish Councils will be placed in an intolerable position.

5 The matter has become topical in the village with comment to the detriment of the proposal. A poll conducted by the web based Hawkinge Gazette shows a considerable vote against the hall being used as a church.

I believe the decision to grant the proposed lease is based on purely a money gaining method to balance the budget at the expense of all logic for the present and very much for the future. I suspect that a minimum number of councillors have led the council to this position and that it requires considerable more thought and discussion by all council members concerned on all aspects of the issue following a request for advice from Shepway District Council's solicitor.

Yours sincerely