On 18th April The Society held a Hustings at RTYC in connection with the upcoming local elections due to take on 2nd May.
The event was well attended with over 60 local residents and 8 prospective candidates including Labour, Conservative, UKIP, The Green Party, and Thanet Independents in addition to 3 Independent candidates. Each candidate was allowed 3 minutes to set out the main points in their manifesto and this was followed by an informative and sometimes lively debate about what local residents felt should be done to make Ramsgate a better place to live, work and visit.
The question and answer session ran well over time indicating the many concerns residents have about what needs to be done. Over a dozen issues were raised from the floor but if I had to summarise the discussion I would say that there were 2 big issues. The first is that the cutbacks in central government grant to local authorities, which have been going on since 2010, have cut to the bone and are now threatening the viability of basic local authority services. The overall view was that these should be halted as soon as possible and adequate funding be made available for local authorities to provide the necessary services that local residents have a right to expect.
The second issue was that the overwhelming majority of residents felt that Thanet District Council was dysfunctional as a local authority both at Senior Officer and at Member level. The situation with the losses at the Port were just one example of many that were mentioned, including a lack of any interest in effective community engagement, the lack of effective street cleaning, the general poor state of the public realm and a general lack of transparency and accountability. A number of remedies were discussed including a comprehensive review of the TDC Constitution and of its Governance arrangements and the need for elected members to take back control from the senior officer team and for the political parties to work together in a spirit of cooperation to oversee and implement the production of a new TDC Corporate Plan after the May 2019 elections.
We are especially grateful to Mike Ashley who chaired the meeting with skill and good humour and achieved a good balance between public participation and the desire of the candidates to get their messages across. I think the fact that the Ramsgate Society, like all civic societies, is strictly non party political, provided the right forum for this discussion which showed that local residents cared deeply about the future of Ramsgate and wanted TDC to perform much better going forward.