Opinion: Ramsgate Town Council clerk Richard Styles – How to keep calm and carry on

Richard Styles

It has been a funny old week; I was supposed to be on leave when the PM abruptly changed tack and inaugurated a ‘lock down’. Every time I go on leave something seems to happen, I don’t know why, but this situation is the most far reaching I have ever experienced so date.

The good news is that Ramsgate Town Council is still functioning, the phones and emails will be answered, it’s just you won’t get a face to face meeting for obvious reasons.

Some of you may be feeling anxious and be unsure of what is the right thing to do, my suggestion is to follow the official advice. The Government is saying; stay at home and avoid going out except in certain cases, such as essential shopping. The obvious conclusion of this advice is if you are at home and are not out and about, you will avoid catching the virus. It may be that a vaccine or an effective therapy may be available sooner rather than later, let’s hope so. Let’s face it, some of you must have enough supplies to last out for months by now, so stop in, put on a box set on the telly and make the best of the situation. There is nothing to be done but to wait it out.

Here is another top tip: Leave some food and toilet rolls for others; the food retailers say there is enough all round, so give the panic economy a rest and allow the food shops to restock.

We have not run out of trees and therefore enough toilet paper will be available for all. Keeping so much in the house is both a fire risk and unnecessary.

The Council is ready to assist community schemes to help vulnerable persons and those in need. You will have seen that we have made Radford House available as a distribution centre for food and other essentials. It does have a battery of fridges that can be used to store chilled food stuffs. We have vehicles and drivers who can collect larger donations of food and we have had kind offers of assistance from companies who have yet more vehicles available. Everyone at RTC is determined to do what they can in the difficult circumstances that are facing our community and we want everyone to know it. I want to thank all the staff at RTC for working so well together in adversity; but special mention should go to Chris, Maxine and Tyler for building up our logistics effort in such a short space of time.

I have participated in two telephone conferences with other local councils and have pledged our support. Thanet District Council is co-ordinating the community support effort and pledges of help should be made via an email to:

[email protected].

All the allotments owned or run by Ramsgate Town Council will remain open for now, but the social areas and toilets are closed and only allotment tenants may enter the allotments.

No family groups, no barbecues, or gatherings of any sort will be allowed, and if we hear or see these rules being flouted, the allotments will be closed for the duration. Please use the following guidance in order to stay safe:

  • stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily
  • you should only go outside alone or with members of your own household
  • Always keep at least 2 metres apart from anyone outside your household
  • gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned and the police will enforce this
  • if you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air
  • take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors

Allotments are public green spaces and so the rules apply.

There are silver linings to this black cloud:

Perhaps regular handwashing will be embedded in the nation psyche, saving thousands of lives lost in the past due to food poisoning etc.

It may be all the ceaseless travelling we do may reduce, saving the planet, and in a curious way we may return to the norms of previous centuries, where the home is where you did your work.

There is now time to do all those things that you meant to get around to, but never have. Reading for pleasure may increase and we can all learn new things if we wish.

I hope that all those closed museums and libraries can set up online activities which give access to their collections without having to physically visit their premises.

Virtual gallery

To start the ball rolling I am going to ask everyone to send in a painting, drawing or photograph on a subject set each week. All entries will be entered in a virtual gallery on the Ramsgate Town Council website and I will ask some local artists to judge the entries and to award a picture of the week to the best entry. Send your entry to [email protected]

For those who don’t want to paint/draw or photograph, why not write a short story and get it published on our website, with the best entry being recognised publicly.

There are no prizes, just recognition, but you never know, your talent may be recognised by the arts world and in any case what have you to lose but a bit of time?

This week: the subject for the picture is ‘The view from my room’ and the short story is 400 words on the subject of ‘My hopes for the future’.

Good luck and I look forward to seeing your entries.

Donations of food

Finally, I have heard rumours of some supermarkets destroying out of date food, I can’t believe that it is true, but if there are any retailers or restaurants dumping stock about to go out of date, let me know and we will collect it for onward distribution to those who cannot ‘panic buy’.

If you have a working freezer that is not being used, we may be able to use it. Contact the Council through the website with your offer. Do not bring it to the depot, leaving unwanted old freezers on someone’s doorstep is fly tipping.

If you have donations of food, they can be left at the depot again by appointment. Tinned goods or unopened ready meals etc are the sort of thing that will be most useful. Please do not donate cooked food or scraps, they are best consumed at home.

I can’t offer you stirring phrases of hope or exhortations to volunteer, because I don’t know what’s going on, any more than you do. What I can say is that working together as a community will save more lives and restore more hope, than retreating to a panic-stricken redoubt where I’m alright Jack and Jill rule the roost.

10 Comments

  1. On the issue of retailers dumping stock, local garden centres are unable to sell their new annuals and perennials. They are seeking help from the government. But in the meantime and with full regard to social distancing wouldn’t our gardening community groups cherish the “waste” and plant in local public places. Cllr Wing, Maxine Morgan, Clara Gibson, Margarita Moscoso, Chris Barton and others could logistically organise planting without risk to lives. This, of course, assumes that local garden Centres co-operate. They could even be given a sponsorship plaque!

    • Good ideas but how much more are we going to ask this team to do? They are the people bringing truckloads of food into Thanet from Fareshare in ashford, storing it when necessary in the old fire station but mostly getting it straight out to projects and food banks all over Thanet. Then repeating the exercise again and again. They are running a big food distribution system .

  2. Maybe remember how much we need to work as a community and look after others next time you whack a 21% increase on your Ramsgate Town Council Tax precept. People are struggling and that clearly doesn’t help.

  3. Consider why we need to pay more Council Tax. The Government have stopped paying for councils to be run. We had , 10 years or so ago a precept of over £6 million to run the council, pay for services Police, Fire services,and libraries, This has been stopped by Central Government and we are now to manage without this money for services to residents.What would you do? cut back on road sweeping, grass cutting Libraries etc.
    This would put a lot of people out of work. It would appear it was the lesser of two evils.

    • You will of course be aware that the central government grant is being phased out for all councils to be replaced with councils being allowed to keep a big proportion of the business rates collected? So the argument that I see quite often about all our money has been stopped is misleading to the point of being disingenuous. One income stream is being stopped to be replaced by a different one.

      I also understand from looking at TDCs budget books that they had an unexpected windfall from business rates retention last year that they weren’t expecting so that needs adding in too.

      My original point was purely about RTC precept but you opened it up into a political point about whole Council income – hence my wider reply.

      My original point still stands. A 21% inflation busting precept increase from Ramsgate Town Council (not the first time this has happened) is not helping the most impoverished members of our community who are struggling anyway. But now I know that cash is being used to resource children’s drawing competitions I may of course have a different view of the benefit to the taxpayer.

  4. Keep calm and carry on? When everyone is effectively being locked indoors,and many,many people have no job and so income currently? Absurd.What is there to carry on with? Great to see the council threatening EVERYONE with a complete closure/ban on going to their allotments if we don’t toe the line.I thought this is 2020,NOT 1984…

  5. Dr Frances Jones

    I guess you arent a real doctor or you would be pleased that social distancing is to be observed on RTC allotments. That there are to be no bonfires or BBQs to help keep the air clean. Allotments are public open spaces and these rules that RTC are applying are from centre government.
    25% of comments on this thread are to moan about how RTC and the government want us to behave in a pandemic, yet its seems all allotments holders are worried about its having to obey government guidelines in a pandemic on an allotment ! Perhaps for the safety of thanet all allotments should be closed asap. If allotment holders are so anti following government advice. This pandemic is killing 1000’s and we need to stat in , if that is to much for allotment holders to do than close them. I fail to see what’s wrong with the plot holder going down to dig a few spuds. Why would need you family there, or have a BBQ, or not want to stay 2 meters away from other plot holders ? Just do as have been asked to help fight this killer.

  6. There is no harm whatsoever In a person going to the their allotment for an hour per day and if that person has a child/ children as long as they keep to their own plot and just do watering or planting. It’s no different than going in your garden if you have one and not talking over the garden wall. Exercise gardening bike riding dog walking has a central part of mental health well-being.

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