"Seaside town spends £39,000 on council job... running beach trips for locals
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
All its residents live within a few miles of sandy beaches.
But that hasn’t stopped Thanet District Council splashing out £39,000 a year on a manager to take children on trips... to the seaside.
For 30 months Suzie Hooper’s sole job will be to head off on ‘rockpool safaris’ and ‘father and son’ outings with children from Ramsgate and Margate.
The salary – £14,000 above the national average – is being paid out of a £98,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which is repeatedly under fire for its choice of funding projects.
Margate beach and promenade: But spending the £100,000 grant on trips to the seaside for children who live nearby has been criticised
The scheme was planned after a council survey revealed several youngsters living in the area, which boasts 20 miles of sandy beaches, had never been to the sea.
But the project has come under fire from local residents who have branded it 'disgusting' and a 'waste of money'.
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Semi-retired construction worker Ron Greene, 50, who is the chairman of the Arlington House Residents' Association in Margate, described the funding as a 'joke'.
He said: 'It's disgusting that this amount of money is being spent on trips to the beach when we are seeing huge cutbacks on vital services, such as those for the elderly.
'It's a complete and utter waste of money to pay someone to take kids to the beach - that should be something their parents or guardians should do.
Summer fun: Events scheduled for this summer include 'rockpooling safaris' and 'father and son' outings
'There is nowhere in Thanet where you are more than four miles from a beach so it's ridiculous to say local kids aren't able to go.
'Three of my friends have just been laid off by Thanet District Council to save money so what they are doing seems unbelievable.
'These are top notch people they have sacked and instead someone is getting paid £39,000 a year to take kids to the beach. It's a joke.'
Retired engineer Keith Chadband, 70, chairman of the Cliftonville Residents' Association in the town, added: 'This seems to be a very strange idea and I certainly think there are a lot better ways the money could be used to benefit the local area.
'There are lots of communal areas in Margate that have suffered vandalism but it's almost impossible for us to raise money or get grants to repair them.
'The children always go down to the beach by themselves because it's quite safe and only about 50 yards away from town.
'It's disgusting that this amount of money is being spent on trips to the beach when we are seeing huge cutbacks on vital services, such as those for the elderly.
'It's a complete and utter waste of money to pay someone to take kids to the beach - that should be something their parents or guardians should do'
- Residents' Association chairman Ron Greene
'I can't understand what they are going to do with the money because lots of groups like primary schools and clubs already take kids to the beach for free.'
The Footprints in the Sand scheme is run by the council's Thanet Coast Project and was set up to hold children and family events.
Events scheduled for this summer include 'rockpooling safaris' and 'father and son' events on beaches in Ramsgate and Margate.
The £98,000 lottery grant will be used to pay project officer Suzie Hooper to organise community events for the next two and a half years.
The money will not be spent on equipment or to pay other staff members.
A spokesman for Thanet District Council revealed the project was launched after project workers discovered some children had never been to the seaside.
She said: 'Essentially the grant is paying the wages for a person to deliver events for the next two and a half years.
'It is specifically aimed at people who don't go to the beach. Sadly we've had groups go out to schools and ask how many have been to the beach and there are some that don't.
'It is very disappointing because the beach is on their doorstep. You would think people would go an explore what is on their doorstep.'
Project officer Ms Hooper added: 'Over the next couple of years, I'll be aiming to get people more interested and aware of what's available for them on their coastline.
'We want to make people proud of what we have here and get more involved with the wide range of activities along the shoreline.'
A spokesman for the Taxpayers' Alliance criticised the project as a 'waste of money'.
He said: 'At a time when there are such huge pressures on public finances, local residents will be bemused to see this money being spend on this project.
'Children in the Thanet area are living with the beach on their doorstep anyway, it's a waste of money.'
The Big Lottery Fund grant is being administered by Natural England as part of its Access to Nature programme."