Anger is growing in Margate over comments made by the retail guru Mary Portas at a meeting to discuss the seaside town’s rejuvenation.
Margate’s been picked as one of 12 towns to take place in a Portas Pilot scheme, which means they’ll get £100,000 of government money and advice from retail experts to revitalise the high street.
In the first visit to the town Ms Portas explained that she was making a “warts and all” television documentary for Channel 4.
She said it wasn’t her intention to ‘trip people up’ and the idea was to follow the journey. But she ended her speech by spelling out the situation by declaring “You either let the cameras in with me, or I go back on the train and some other town gets it and I would be very upset about that.”
Margate is one of four towns in the country to be selected for television coverage, however the £100,000 grant cannot be withheld. The money comes from central government, so the town would still get the cash.
But some residents are concerned that Margate won’t be portrayed in a good light.
It was a stroke of comic genius to put the self-important Mayor of Harare Muchadeyi Masunda on the stage …Masunda’s shameless hawking of the housebuilding opportunities in the Zimbabwean capital, backed up with the assertion that, because he is also the Chairman of almost every local construction and materials company that would stand to benefit from a housing boom, he is ideally placed to facilitate the entry of foreign investment into the city’s housing market.
To him goes the most insincere statement of the two days, that ‘we don’t have slums in Harare, thank God’. Indeed they don’t, but only because in 2005 (well before Masunda’s term) President Mugabe instigated the infamous Operation Murambatsvina, which oversaw the comprehensive demolition of every informal structure in the city.
And that is not awarded lightly, given Masunda’s other tilt for the prize with the gem that Harare did not deserve its position as the Economist Intelligence Unit’s world’s least liveable city because ‘four or five former ambassadors have decided to retire in Harare,’ living ‘a very comfortable life — the mansions that they occupy have a tennis court, a swimming pool — these are almost obligatory.’ Clearly a tilt for the investor crowd, not a jot of awareness of the lives of ordinary Africans.
WESTLIFE STAR Shane Filan’s property debts have forced him into bankruptcy in Britain.
Ulster Bank recently took control of Shafin Developments, the property business he owned with his brother, Finbarr, which owed it €5.5 million, while Bank of Ireland was also pursuing him for property-related debts.
It emerged yesterday that Kingston-upon-Thames County Court in London declared Mr Filan bankrupt at a hearing earlier this week.
The ruling means his assets are transferred to an official appointed by the court and used to settle his debts, while he is allowed an income to support himself and any dependants. His name has also been published on Britain’s insolvency register which gives details of all individual bankruptcy rulings.
The register describes Mr Filan as a singer and gives his address as Cobham, Surrey. He, wife Gillian Walsh and their three children, moved to Britain some time ago.
Mr Filan will be discharged on June 11th next year. At that point, all debts due to his creditors, including his Irish creditors, will be considered cleared.
He will not be able to borrow money or act as a company director until he is discharged.
Westlife will break up once its farewell world tour ends later this month. Just weeks ago, Mr Filan agreed a solo record deal with entertainment giant Universal….
Mr Filan issued a statement yesterday confirming the ruling and saying he had exhausted all other means of dealing with his financial difficulties. He said it was the most responsible course of action to take in light of his property-related debts.
“Together with a team of financial and legal experts I have spent months exploring all possible alternatives to bankruptcy but to no avail,” he said. “I have worked long and hard to try to reduce my debts and I am devastated that it came to this conclusion.”
It has been known for some time Mr Filan was in financial difficulties.
Shafin Developments borrowed money from Ulster Bank in 2006, at the height of the property boom, to fund developments in the northwest, where he is from. Its assets include four residential properties, a partly-developed site at Dromahair, Co Leitrim and an interest in a site at Carraroe, Co Sligo.
Mr Filan is the latest in a line of Irish people who have declared bankruptcy in the UK because of its easier insolvency laws.
Here is the 90 unit (60 built) site in Dromahair Co Leitrim. Unlike many Ghost Estates in Ireland it is not in the middle of nowhere, it is on the edge of a village, the rouble is its scale, it increases the village in population by 20% if completed, and lack of accompanying local employment growth. Many many such developments and you have the Irish property bubble.
Sue Cameron Telegraph
The role of the private sector in running our public services and even advising ministers has caused a row in the Cabinet. There are suggestions it is also causing rifts among Lord O’Donnell’s successors (his job was split) – Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, and Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service. The debate matters to all of us. Potentially it affects our daily dealings with officialdom and the quality of government policy.
The heated arguments have been triggered by the long-awaited Civil Service reform plan that was unveiled to the Cabinet this week by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, and Sir Bob. The plan includes proposals for further Civil Service cuts and the outsourcing of some policy-making to management consultants, academics and think tanks. Radical stuff you may think, and so it seems to many in Whitehall – but not radical enough for some, notably Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, hence the spat in Cabinet. Apparently Mr Gove hankers after the slash-and-burn approach favoured by Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s controversial former policy guru. Mr Hilton has now retreated to California but he seems to have left a legacy of grief.
Behind the scenes there are reports – unconfirmed – that the politicians’ wrangling reflects similar dissension between Sir Bob and Sir Jeremy. Sir Bob, according to one insider, has been saying that Sir Jeremy is manipulative, too Sir Humphrey-like and “won’t look at the knitting”. Meanwhile, Sir Jeremy has been suggesting that Sir Bob has a lot to learn about Whitehall and that he is “doing his best at a new level”. This is seen by some as an argument between those who have management experience and those who do not. Sir Jeremy is a brilliant mandarin but he has never run a department. Mr Gove is a gutsy minister, but his previous career was as a scribbler on The Times. Sir Bob used to run Sheffield, and Mr Maude came to government with considerable business experience. Sir Jeremy, who publicly paid tribute to “my friend Steve Hilton”, is apparently keen to experiment, and is even said to distance himself a little from the rest of the Civil Service as “a way of getting ministers’ confidence”. Sir Bob dismissed Mr Hilton’s calls for 90 per cent Civil Service cuts as “nonsense”….
Even outsourcing policy-making will be harder than it looks. Senior figures in Whitehall point out that it is not just a matter of a few wizard ideas. There is all the business of providing data, consulting people and drawing up legislation. And who would assess such policy proposals when they were presented? The Civil Service.
One thing the Government hopes to do is improve Whitehall’s management of major public sector projects. Nobody would disagree with the aim. At the IfG, Lord O’Donnell was asked by Bernard Jenkin, Tory chairman of the Commons public administration select committee, about the billions wasted on public sector projects, with nobody resigning or taking the blame and ministers and civil servants sheltering behind each other. Lord O’Donnell said there was a “straightforward” way to cope with this. The reason major projects went off track was because ministers wanted changes. If civil servants were to appear before MPs and take responsibility for major projects, he said, then they would need more power so that they could prevent constant changes in specifications. This would require “bold moves” by government. Giving officials power not just to say no, minister, but to stop their political masters doing what they wanted might be a step too far even for the most radical ministers.