Friday, 26 July 2013

PLEASURAMA THE WALLS COME TUMBLING DOWN

 

I copy  below the text of a letter sent from Kent County Council Highways Department to Cardy Construction Limited ordering them to remove the "Great Wall of Ramsgate" from the Public Highway and make good any damage caused to the highway by the " Wall".

I assume that this means that the existing wall must be moved backwards by a couple of metres and re-erected within the boundaries of the Pleasurama site. The paintings which used to be on the wall are, I understand, being restored so hopefully they can be mounted on the new wall when it is set up.

I understand from KCC that this action has been taken because the builders were in breach of licence i.e. no development work taking place and because there had been complaints from the public about the wall obstructing  the public highway 

Speculation is mounting in town that this might be the first act of the long overdue beginning of the end of the Pleasurama saga, but I'm not holding my breath. After all I am not an estate agent!



Cardy Construction Limited
Maynard Road
Wincheap Estate
Canterbury
Kent

Dear Sirs,


Hoarding on the Highway : Royal Sands Development, Marina Esplanade,

Ramsgate, Kent

 

Kent County Council, Highways & Transportation (KCC H&T) are aware that the hoarding for your site has been in place for some considerable time without activity taking place and therefore no longer appears to be necessary to occupy Highway land.

By its very nature, hoarding poses some obstruction to the public highway and for that reason should not be in place for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

It is an offence under Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (the Act) to obstruct the highway without lawful authority or excuse and you are hereby given notice to removethe hoarding within 30 days of the date of this letter. It may be necessary at this point to inspect the Highway to confirm that there is no damage to the Highway that has been enclosed. If you are aware that there is any such damage, you must contact us immediately so that damage can be assessed and if necessary remedial works completed by an approved KCC H&T contractor (at your expense) within the hoarding,
before it is taken down.

Section 169 of the Highways Act 1980 provides for the Highways authority to issue a

licence in writing for you to place a hoarding at this location which has been the case up until the present. This licence will not be extended beyond the 30 days stated above.

Please be aware that Kent County Council is under a duty to protect the rights of public to the use and enjoyment of the public highway and may consider further legal action should you fail to comply with the request to remove the hoarding.

If you have any reason why the hoarding needs to remain in place beyond the 30 days, please contact us within 10 working days using the contact details above.

Yours faithfully

Emma Proudfoot


Roadworks Coordinator

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Thanet "FerryGate" What's in a Name

For 4 months Thanet Council has had us believe that it was Transeuropa Ferries (TEF) Ltd which owed the Council £3.3million. Not so!  Following my on-going  requests for information   the Council has been forced to admit  that it struck a fee waiver deal with 4 companies not one. These companies are

Transeuropa Ferries NV
Forsythia Maritime Co Limited
Odyssy Maritime Company Limited
Dianthus Maritime Co Limited

I will shortly have access to all the invoices and payments related to these companies for the period 2006 - 13 and will publish summaries.

So why have senior Council officers been trying to create the impression that a single company owed the Council £3.3, when in actual fact 4 companies owe the Council £3.3 million between them. What was the purpose of the deception? The other interesting point is that with the exception of Transeuropa Ferries NV, the other 3 companies are registered in Cyprus. I am not certain if  any of these companies are in liquidation or not.

More to come in due course.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

THANET COUNCIL's SOILED UNDERWEAR

Thanet Council's unlawful efforts to deny my rights under Section 15.1 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 have collapsed in humiliating disarray.  Fortress Thanet’s Legal Adviser, Harvey Patterson, has now over-ruled   the Council’s Financial Services Manager and written to me conceding that I do have the right to inspect and copy documents relating to Transeuropa Debt scandal.

I suspect that this sudden change of heart was due to the underwear-soiling prospect of the Council’s top bosses being dragged before a judge for denying people their legal rights.

However, the  questions which come into my mind are how could the Council's second most senior finance officer, who is line managed by Chief Executive Sue McGonigal, make such a fundamental legal and procedural  mistake? This person has managed many annual audit processes over the years surely she must know what the rules are in relation to the inspection and copying of documents?


Also how much has this farce costed. The Financial Services Manager obviously spent time considering my request and probably took advice from colleagues. Thanet Council's legal officer has also spent time checking his law books and seeking advice. Furthermore,  how many other people have been told by the Council's Financial Services Manager that they can't copy the accounts related documents they have inspected. All of these people will now have to be contacted and told that the Council has infringed their legal rights.


NICE GUY HARVEY??
I reckon that in their unseemly haste to cover up key Transeuropa documents and keep the truth from being revealed, top Council bosses have wasted  several £1,000s of  public money in a misconceived and unlawful exercise to deny people their legal rights. This bill is set grow even further  when I appeal  to the Information Commissioner next week to have all of  the secret  Transeuropa documents disclosed.

Here is the e-mail exchange between Harvey P and myself.

 Dear Mr Patterson
Thank you for your e-mail. I am pleased that the Council has changed its mind about my copying documents.
 
I am not pleased that you are still resisting my efforts to see, copy and publish key documents related to the Transeuropa debt scandal. I will be raising my discontent with the Auditor and, when the FOI internal review period comes to an end next week, I will  of course by complaining to the Information Commissioner. If Commissioner rules in my favour I will copy and publish all the documents related to secret deal with TEF which has cost this hard-pushed Council £3.3 million it can scarcely afford to loose.
 
I am aware of one other person who Sarah Martin has told will not be able to copy documents related to the inspection of the Council's accounts. I assume that this person will now be written to and advised that he can copy the documents as well. 
 
Please tell me how many people have asked to inspect the Council accounts and related documents since the accounts were opened for inspection on 15th July. How many of these people have been told that they are not allowed to copy documents? 
 
On the assumption that Ms Martin has applied her unlawful copying ban on everyone inspecting the accounts then it is incumbent upon the council to contact all these people to apologise for infringing their legal rights and to offer the opportunity for them to come back and copy the documents they were interested in, even if this means extending the inspection period.
 
I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
 
 Yours sincerely
  Councillor Ian Driver  



Dear Councillor Driver

Thank you  for copying me  in on you e-mails  of  yesterday's date concerning the above matter.

I have reviewed what you say  and considered both the Audit Commission  Act 1998  and the Accounts & Audit (England) Regulations 2011.

Regulation 9 of the 2011 Regulations provides that the relevant body (the Council) must makes its accounts available for public inspection (my emphasis) for 20 working days before the date appointed by the Auditor under Regulation 21 (being the date on or after which electors can question the auditor about the accounts or make objections  to them).  There  is no right  to make copies  of any part of the accounts on the face of the 2011 Regulations, which  is why  Sarah  Martin reached the conclusion that she did.

However,  as you point out, this is  addressed in Section 15 (1) (b) of the Audit Commission Act 1998 which provides that  the accounts  and any supporting books, deeds, contracts  bills  and vouchers and receipts that are subject  to a right  of inspection, may also be copied. Accordingly, when you are able to exercise your right to inspect the accounts  (given  your inablity to make the appointment  fixed for 26 July 2013  the Council will  provide you with two alternative dates),  I am pleased to  confirm  that  facilities willl be made available for you to make copies of any of the relevant documentation should you wish to do so.

Turning to  the debt deferral  arrangement  withg Transeuropa NV  which you assert is a document you are entitled to inspect ,  I regret that I must disagree with you as it is manifestly not  a ' book , deed ,  bill,  voucher or receipt'  nor is it  a 'contract' in that  the decision by the Council  to re-schedule the  debt  was a matter of concesssion, not a matter of contractual obligation nor  is this view  altered by the fact that reference is made to this arrangement  in the preamble to the accounts, as this cannot  transform the document  into  a  book, deed, contract, bill, voucher or receipt.

Moreover,  going back to first principles, the right to inspect  books deeds, contracts  bills etc that relate to an item in the accounts is conferred  on electors  to enable them to have  sufficient information to be able  to question the auditor about  the accounts  or to challenge an item in the accounts. Consequently, even if the debt deferral  arrangement was  a 'contract',  you would still not be entitled to inspect and make copies of it because,  following the decision of full Council on 11 July 2013 to re-state and deal  with the  Transeuropa debt in the 2012/13 accounts, is is clear  that the debt deferral arrangement no longer has any relevance to the treatment of the debt in the 2012/13 accounts.

In conclusion, I trust that you will now  accept that the Council has no intention of  denying  you the inspection and copying rights conferred by the 1998 Act and the 2011 Regulations. In addition, if you are not satisfied with my explanation concerning the debt deferral arrangement, you are at liberty to refer this to the auditor.

Yours sincerely
Harvey Patterson
Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager
Thanet District Council
Tel: 01843 577005
 

THANET COUNCIL GANGSTER-SYLE LAWBREAKERS AND RULE BENDERS


Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has accused Thanet District Council of behaving like “gangster style law breakers and rule benders”  in order to cover up a secret deal with Transeuropa Ferries (TEF) which has cost the council £3.3 million in unpaid bills which is unlikely to be recovered following TEFs liquidation in April.
Said Driver “over the past 8 weeks I have made 4 requests to see key documents about the secret deal with TEF. On each occasion my request has been rejected. My latest request under the Audit Commission Act 1998 to inspect the Council’s accounts and  documents related to the secret TEF debt deal has turned into a farce”.

RESEVOIR COUNCIL BAD BOYS

“I  asked  to inspect and copy a large number of documents which will help me to establish the truth behind this secret £3.3million debt deal. However Sarah Martin, the Council’s Financial Services Manager, has told me that I will not be allowed to copy these documents”.
“Sarah Martin’s decision is unlawful. Section 15.1 of the Audit Commission Act allows anyone  inspecting the Council’s Accounts to take copies of any or all of the documents inspected. Furthermore the Audit Commission publication Council Accounts a Guide to your Rights (April 2012)  also makes it clear that I can copy the documents I have asked to inspect”.

“Most amazing of all advice published on Thanet Council’s website  says I have right to copy the documents I will inspecting yet Sarah Martin is now saying that even though the Council’s own guidance says I can take copies of the documents she won’t let me. This is unbelievable!”.
I can only assume that this “gangster style”  conspiracy of  lawbreaking and rule bending is deliberately aimed at frustrating my efforts to get to the truth behind the secret £3.3. million debt deal with TEF which will ultimately be paid for by Thanet Council tax-payers”.

In August Driver will be appealing to the Information Commissioner against the Council’s decision to withhold key TEF debt deal documents from him. If the Commissioner rules in Driver’s  favour he has promised to  publish the documents and “let the public of Thanet decide whether top  council officers and Labour and Conservative political bosses did the right thing by secretly allowing TEF to run up a debt of f £3.3 million which we will all have to pay for”.

 Ends
For more information contact Ian Driver on 07866588766

Sarah Martin’s email to Ian Driver
Thank you for your e-mail and your attached request to inspect a number of the council's records relating to the Transeuropa debt.I am conscious that the Account and Audit Regulations give you the right to inspect, but not the right to make copies. I have therefore considered your request and have commented below on the information I can let you see in accordance with the regulations, but must stress that you will not be allowed to take copies of any of the documents provided for your inspection.

Section 15 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 E+W

(1)At each audit under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, any persons interested may— (a)inspect the accounts to be audited and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to them, and (b)make copies of all or any part of the accounts and those other documents

The Audit Commission Council Accounts A Guide to Your Rights
http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/about-us/contact-us/querying-council-accounts/council-accounts-a-guide-to-your-rights/
The law says you may inspect the accounts to be audited and all ‘books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts’ relating to them for that financial year. It also allows you to make copies of all, or any part, of the accounts and those other documents
Nobody should try to stop you from inspecting and copying documents, but you must also always act reasonably.

Thanet Council’s Guidance on copying documents
http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/performance/financial_services.aspx

From 15 July 2013 to 9 August 2013 between 9.00 am and 4.30 pm each weekday any person may inspect the accounts of the Council for the year ended 31 March 2013 and certain related documents (comprising books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts) at the address given below.  They may also make copies of the accounts and documents.

Friday, 19 July 2013

PLEASURAMA WORKING GROUP MEETS

 

The Pleasurama Working Group got off to a good start last night. Members of the group agreed to look at the due diligence processes carried out by the Council into site developers SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd. They will also be looking carefully at the existing development agreement with SFP and  almost certainly taking independent legal advice about how the Council can best manage current and future non-performance by SFP. The group will also be considering alternative uses for the site should the happy day ever come when, or if,  the Council decides to boot SFP  off the site for breach of agreement!

The group agreed that it will be inviting local organisations  such as the Friends of Ramsgate Seafront (FORS)  to give evidence about the development. Members of the group also agreed a long list of background documents they wished to see before they meet again in August.

My impression is that the group means business and will give serious thought to how this decade long disaster can be resolved. In my opinion the only resolution is sacking SFP as the developers and having a  proper consultation with the people of Ramsgate  about what they would like to see on this  stretch of prime seafront land. Perhaps a community focused space that will benefit local people and visitors alike?

PEOPLE POWER -  KEEP UP THE PRESSURE
Finally, the fact that this group was set up at all is a tribute to the people of Ramsgate who through organisations like FORS, and through tireless lobbying, campaigning, signing petitions and attending meetings, have forced their councillors to act.
But don't forget that all of the Labour  councillors on the working group are the same councillors who less than year ago voted  to prevent Thanet Council from debating Pleasurama at all. The only difference now is that they are frightened of losing their seats in 2015 and want to be seen to doing something in response to the public outcry against Pleasurama. So although the meeting was a great start to what is likely to be a long job, it's important for Ramsgate people to keep the pressure on these councillors, otherwise they are likely to revert to type.

I will produce a regular commentary on meetings of the working group so  that you are kept in the picture

Thursday, 18 July 2013

FERRYGATE YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW

Every year electors are allowed, by law,  to inspect Thanet Council's  draft accounts and the associated books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to these accounts before the auditor signs them off. The period of inspection is between 15 July and 9th August. To inspect the accounts you must make an appointment with the Council's Finance Manager. Her e-mail is Sarah.Martin@thanet.gov.uk. You can view the draft accounts here http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/performance/financial_services/statement_of_accounts.aspx

In this years accounts you will see that a debt provision of £3.3million has been included to cover the money owed to Thanet Council by the Transeuropa Ferries following a secret deal with the company to defer fee payments for almost 3 years. I have asked Ms Martin for permission to inspect and copy the associated books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to this debt. My request to see these documents has already been refused 3 times so far. Will the Council change its mind?

After inspecting the Council's draft accounts you can then raise any questions and concerns with District Auditor Mr Andy Mack who will approve the accounts. Mr Macks's e-mail is  andy.l.mack@uk.gt.com. I have an appointment booked with Mr Mack on 8 August to express my concerns about the Transeuropa situation.

Here is a copy of the e-mail I have sent to Sarah Martin asking to see the Transeuropa documents. Please feel free to use this e-mail to see if the Council will let see the Transeuropa papers and let me know how you get on


 Dear Ms Martin
Inspection of Thanet Council Accounts 2012-13
I understand that the Council’s accounts for 2012-13 and the associated books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to these accounts are open to public inspection between 15 July and 9th August.
The Council’s Chief Executive has advised me and the Council’s Draft Statement of Accounts 2012/13 show that these accounts include a provision for a £3.3 million debt owed to the Council by Transeuropa Ferries and/ or associated companies involved in the operation of the Ramsgate - Ostend ferry service which ended in April 2013.
Under the terms of the The Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011 and the Audit Commission Act 1998 I am writing to ask that I be allowed to inspect and copy some, or all,  of the “books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating”  to this debt and the explanation of it in the draft accounts.
In particular I would like to see
1.     A copy of any signed agreements,  contracts or documents  between Thanet District Council, Transeuropa Ferries, and/ or any associated companies involved in the operation of  the Ramsgate - Ostend ferry service which show : a) what tariffs and discounts would be applied and billed for their freight and passenger services, b) which Companies would be billed, c) what the payment terms would be (in days), d) the “agreement with Transeuropa in March 2011” per the draft accounts, e) what was agreed “to defer fees” per the draft accounts, f) the agreed “payment plan” per the draft accounts, and g) “the promise of funding from an Italian investor” per the draft accounts.
2.     Evidence of any Cabinet level approvals for the agreements, contracts or documents described in 1. above.
3.     Copies of any documents related to the agreements, contracts or documents described in 1 above including a) any contract reviews  b) any risk assessments,  c) any credit checks, d) the Council’s Income/Debt Management Protocol, and e) the written approval to depart from the Protocol.
4.     Copies of any other agreement or contract or heads of terms between Thanet District Council and potential investors in Transeuropa Ferries regarding the payment of debts owed to Thanet Council by Transeupropa Ferries and/ or associated companies.
5.     Bearing in mind the overall Transeuropa debt and payment history you previously  sent me, an explanation as to why no bad debt provision relating thereto was included in the Council’s 2010-11 or the 2011-12 accounts and copies of any correspondence or documents exchanged between the Council’s external auditors agreeing to the non-inclusion of this debt in previous years accounts, which has resulted in the £3 million charge in the 2012-13 accounts
6.     Copies of all invoices raised by the Council in relation to the operation of  the Ramsgate - Ostend ferry service for the months of March 2011, March 2012 and March 2013.
7.    Copies of all the Transeuropa accounts in the Council’s Sales Ledger as at 31 March 2013 that in aggregate total to the £3.3million quoted in the draft Statement of Accounts, i.e. including Transeuropa Shipping Lines doo, Transeuropa Ferries NV, Odyssy Maritime Co Ltd, Forsythia Maritime Co Ltd, Dianthus Maritime Co Ltd and any other relevant companies.
8.     Details of any arrears in Business Rates owed to the Council by Transeuropa Ferries and/ or associated companies involved in the operation of  the Ramsgate to Ostend ferry service.
Please advise me when would be convenient to inspect and copy these documents.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely
Councillor Ian Driver

 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

FORELAND SCHOOL SIGN UPDATE

SCOPE have been incredibly helpful. They fully understand why a parent of children attending a school for learning and physically disabled students  might feel upset about the continued display of sign which uses  terminology which is  now used purely  to insult, demean and abuse people with disabilities.  SCOPE have told me that they  are very happy for the offensive sign to be removed from the wall. I would like to thank SCOPE for their understanding and sympathy and for adopting an uncompromising position on respect, dignity and human rights for disabled people. We need more organisations like SCOPE who learn from  their history and challenge old fashioned prejudice and bigotry.

Thanet "FerryGate" Vote Paves Way for Corruption

My motion calling for an independent investigation into the Transeuropa "FerryGate" scandal was, as I expected, soundly defeated at the Council meeting last week. To their great shame, every Labour and Conservative councillor at the meeting voted against discussing my motion. The result was 46 against, 5 in favour and 1 abstention.  Both Labour and Conservative party leaders said during the debate on Transeuropa Ferries  that the Council had done the "right thing" in agreeing the  secret deal which has now cost Thanet Council and its taxpayers £3.4million.

This vote sends out a very worrying message - that a majority of elected  Thanet Councillors are quite happy for  a tiny group of senior Council officers and political bosses to gamble recklessly with £millions of taxpayers money. This was a vote against  accountability and transparency which, in my opinion, makes it much easier and much more likely for  mis-management, rule-bending and corruption to thrive at Thanet Council.

However its not over yet. I will shortly be appealing to the Information Commissioner against Thanet Council's decision to prevent me seeing the Transeuropa paper work. As part of the Councils annual accounts sign off process I will also be asking to see all the financial documents related to the Transeuropa debt deal. If and when I have this information I will be publishing it on this site and you can then judge for yourself just how open and democratic your Council really is.

The Green Party stands firmly for open and democratic government where decisions are not made in secret by a tiny handful of political bosses. I will continue to fight against Thanet Council's culture of secrecy and  will expose and challenge it at every opportunity.



Friday, 12 July 2013

A DAY AT THE KENT COUNTY SHOW

Summers here and what better way to spend a Friday than at the annual Kent County Show. Had to get up early though 4am to pick up  my travel companions in Margate and then to a secret location just off the M20 to meet the rest of the crew. Then a convoy to a layby. Park up the cars. Jump into the back of van. Dropped off on the hard shoulder near the Showground entrance and hey presto an instant protest! Security and Police were surprised but fine. We are protesting peacefully about live animal exports and
 
raising awareness about the cruel and barbaric side of agriculture which is hidden from view. A friendly reception from festival goers good TV and Radio coverage. A camp has been set up and people will be staying all weekend.  Not I. I have family stuff .
 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

RAMSGATE PLEASURAMA WORKING GROUP YOUR IDEAS WANTED





Here is the agenda for the first meeting of the Pleasurama Working Group which will take place 7pm 18th July at the Council Offices Margate
1
Election of Chairman
2
Apologies for Absence
3
Declarations of Interest
4
Establishing the Pleasurama Site Development Review TFG Work Programme for 2013/14
 
The most important item will be item 4 the work programme. My  suggestions for the work programme include

Discussion about the co-option of local people and or knowledgeable / expert people on to the working group

Discussion about  the working group having oversight / input into any ongoing negotiations with the developers and any due diligence processes arsing from these negotiations.

Discussion about sales of the existing leases to a third party  by the current developer.

Securing independent legal advice on termination of development agreement with SFP Ventures  UK Ltd and the recovery of the leases. This will involve several different options.

Securing  advice on the cost to the Council of termination of agreement and lease recovery.

Discussion of issues relating to the stability of the cliff face and  flood risk

Discussion  of alternative uses of Pleasurama site including planning for a major public consultation exercise.

Discussion of the Pleasurama site in the context of   a wider seafront development strategy including the Victoria Pavilion, the Motor Museum,  and the future of the Port of Ramsgate

Reporting back findings and  ideas of the working group to the people of Ramsgate for their input at public meetings etc, before any final decisions are made.

Please let me have any suggestions you might have for the work programme and I will add them to my list for next week's meeting

THANET "FERRYGATE" SCANDAL CALL FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION


At the Council meeting on Thursday 11 July I will be moving a motion which calls upon  Thanet District Council (TDC)  to set up  an independent investigation into how TDC struck a deal with the  now insolvent,  Transeuropa Ferries (TEF) which allowed the company to run up “eye-watering” debts of £3.4 million over a  5 year period. The motion is being supported by Councillors Tom King and Bob Grove.

The deal with TEF was deliberately kept secret from all but a handful of top councillors from the Tory and Labour parties  and very senior council officers. The massive debt was only made public when  TEF went into receivership in April. It is extremely unlikely that the Council will ever recover any of the money owed by TEF. In the meantime  the be-leagured Council is  raiding  its reserves and under-spends to make good the massive hole in its 2013-13 budget.
This is the  worst example of local government financial
mismanagement I have ever encountered, especially the fact that the deal was kept secret for almost 3 years. I have tried to get the bottom of the scandal by requesting to examine the documents held by the Council on this deal but my requests have all been turned down.This is why I have called for an independent investigation so that the truth of this scandalous affair can be made public and that any wrongdoings can be exposed and those people behind any wrongdoings named, shamed and hopefully disciplined or forced to resign.
 
Unfortunately I am not hopeful that my motion will be agreed. The Council will say that it is trying to set up an internal investigation through its scrutiny panel  and that there is no need for an independent investigation. This is nonsense! The so-called "FerryGate" scandal involves some of the most senior officers and politicians at Thanet Council and it would be impossible to have a fair and proper  internal investigation that will get to the truth because of the seniority of those involved and the power and influence they wield. A proper investigation can only be an independent investigation.
 
But no matter how convincing the arguments for an independent investigation might be, at the end of the day councillors will put party loyalty first and the public interest a very poor second. I predict that because the Leaders of both the Tory and Labour groups were both responsible for approving  this ill-conceived top-secret  deal they will whip their councillors to block my  motion in a crude gangster style effort to shamefully supress the truth.
 
I sincerely hope that I am wrong. I call upon councillors from all parties to vote for honest and open government, to  take account of the  strong public feelings on this matter, and support my motion for an independent investigation
 
The meeting to discuss my motion will be taking place on 11th July 7pm at Thanet Council offices Cecil Square. Please come along to hear the debate and see democracy at work

The motion to the Council reads
"This Council agrees to establish an enquiry into how Transeuropa Ferries (TEF) was allowed to run up a debt estimated to be  £3.4 million to Thanet District Council.
This enquiry will review the legal, constitutional, accounting and ethical issues relating to the management of this debt. It will report back on any inappropriate actions and make recommendations on how best to manage similar situations in the future.
 
Because the decision to extend credit and allow  TEF to run up debt was made at the highest  managerial and political level, this enquiry must be conducted by a suitably qualified person who is totally independent of the Council.

The results of this enquiry must be made public”.    

 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

FORELAND SCHOOL SPASTIC SHAME CONTINUES

The  Headteacher of the Foreland School at Broadstairs has told me in no uncertain terms that the offensive Spastic sign which prominently adorns the main entrance to his school will not be removed and that he "will entertain no further complaint about this matter".  He points out that "no other parent or visitor has ever complained about it (the sign). Presumably to alleviate my  concerns he then says "the sign will not be moving to the new  school when we move, hopefully in 2 years from now, and that it (the sign) would fade into history at that time".


Well I must confess to being gob-smacked by the Headteacher's  incredible insensitivity and arrogance towards a very serious issue. The fact that no-one has ever complained before doesn't mean there isn't anything wrong. More often than not people don't complain because they are afraid to do so, maybe as I am beginning to find out there might be reprisals,  or perhaps because they feel that nothing will happen. His arrogant assumption that he will  entertain no further complaints about the sign reminds me of Pride Coming  Before a Fall. Because like it or not the Headteacher of the Foreland School is accountable to other organisations and he will have to answer to them for his actions.

Lets begin with the Commission for Equality and Human Rights . This organisation is responsible for policing the Equalities Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty which forms part of the Act. The Public Sector Duty requires that Foreland School should
  
Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not

It could be argued that the prominent display of a sign which uses terminology which is universally  accepted to be demeaning, insulting and abusive towards disabled people,  in a school used exclusively disabled students runs  contrary to the spirit of Public Sector Duty. This is something I looking into.

I also think that the Leader of Kent County Council and KCCs Cabinet Member for  Education may well have something say about this  unacceptable situation which  threatens to bring  the Foreland school into disrepute.

I have been in touch with SCOPE to seek their guidance and will be contacting disability campaign groups to seek their support.

The bottom line is this - we have a  Headteacher of a  special needs school who is charged with supporting and developing  the educational emotional and social needs of vulnerable disabled children,  who thinks that it's perfectly acceptable to have a prominent notice in his school which uses language which demeans and insults his disabled students. This cannot be morally right! In fact its downright distasteful and improper. I think that this Headteacher simply doesn't get it. Perhaps he might be better employed working for the Government's disability benefit assessors  ATOS.





Poole The Fool. Alan Poole - Deputy Leader Of Thanet District Council

It's rare event when  a politician treats his/ her voters with utter contempt but last night Allan Poole, deputy Leader of Thanet District Council did just that!  Members of the 200 strong audience took great exception to him grinning and laughing at speakers who were asking awkward questions about the Ramsgate Pleasurama project. Several people accused him of showing a lack of respect towards  people. Here is a sound clip of  one exchange between Councillor Poole and a member of the audience. It seems to me that Councillor Poole is actively seeking retirement from local politics as his performance last night probably cost him a lot of votes.  I felt sorry for Councillors Peter Campbell and David Green who had to step in time after time to cover for their accident-prone Deputy Leader's awful performance. Thanks for recording this clip Duncan. I am sure Christine and Norman of Thanet Watch may well have captured examples of Councillor Poole's welcoming and inclusive approach on video. I look forward to seeing it.


Monday, 8 July 2013

RAMSGATE PLEASURAMA ANGRY PUBLIC MEETING

The meeting was packed. I reckon more than 200 people turned up to hear what local politicians and  spokesman for the developers,  estate agent Terence Painter, had to say about the future of this failing project  which has blighted our seafront for over a decade. It was clear that the vast majority of the audience were opposed to the development  and would like to see something else instead. One speaker asked for a show of hands and at least 95% of the audience indicated that they wanted the council to end its agreement with project developers  SFP Ventures UK Ltd and remove them from the site. Speaker after speaker condemned the developers for turning our seafront into bombsite which was deterring visitors, putting other organisations off investing in Ramsgate, and taking away public amenity for young people.
Most people were unimpressed by and angry with  their local councillors who could only repeat the mantra "we don't like it but there is nothing we can do about it". Cabinet member Allan Poole stated, to a chorus of boos and hisses of disapproval,  that in his opinion helping the developers complete the project was the best thing the Council  could do. He created further anger by allegedly smirking and laughing at many of the speakers who disagreed with him. Many people expressed the view that if SFP Ventures has been unable to raise funds to complete the project in the past 7 years, then it is unlikely that they will be able to raise the money in the future.  many people speculated about who was actually behind SFP ventures and what their motivation might be. I  fully support the sentiments and anger of the majority of  people at the meeting.  Council officers and elected councillors
have in my opinion badly mis-managed this decade long disaster. £millions have been wasted in lost opportunity costs and the potential for  new inward investment, jobs and increased tourism have been squandered by allowing SFP Ventures to remain the project developers  who have sat back and done nothing.
I hope the Scrutiny working group  which meets for the first time on 18 July, and which I am a member of,  will begin the job of getting rid of SFP  
once and for all and working with the community to develop ideas for new uses for this important seafront site. I will be  arguing that  external, expert  legal advice is taken on ending the Council's agreement with SFP. I will also be arguing that meetings of the Scrutiny working group take place in public in Ramsgate and that local people are properly consulted on the working groups recommendations before they are sent off to Cabinet or the full Council for approval.
One final comment on last nights  public meeting and the setting up of the scrutiny working group. These  only happened because local people had signed petitions, lobbied their councillors, and expressed their anger about the way SFP Ventures and  the Council have turned our seafront into a festering slum. Keep the pressure up because People Power is the only thing which will ensure that this scandal is put right. Shame there wasn't enough time to talk about Victoria Pavilion and Transeuropa Ferries 2 more cases of Council incompetence which I will continue to raise on these pages and elsewhere.