My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Monday, 30 January 2017

Chief Executive Must Stand Down From Dreamland Investigation

Thanet Council’s Chief Executive, Madeline Homer, should, apart from giving evidence as a witness, be removed from any other involvement in the council’s investigation into the £20 million Dreamland scandal.

The decision to set up a working party to investigate the council’s role in the troubled Dreamland affair was taken by TDCs Overview & Scrutiny Panel on 13 December 2016 following the publication of a highly critical report produced by the East Kent Internal Audit Partnership.  Some of the councillors present at the meeting have told me  that Chief Executive Homer was “strongly opposed” to setting up an investigation into Dreamland.
These claims appear to be supported by the minutes of the meeting which report Chief Executive Homer as saying “what is it that Members wanted to review which has not been covered by the report before the panel” and warning that “a scrutiny review would have resource implications for the organisation”. Despite her apparent scepticism, Homer has nevertheless become the working group’s lead officer.
Working groups and investigatory panels sometimes have to deal with less than enthusiastic, or hostile,  officers supporting their work. However I’m not suggesting that Chief Executive Homer falls into either category and I’m certain, like any other officer attached to this investigation, she  will adhere to TDCs Officer Code of Conduct when carrying out  her duties. I’m also confident that  councillors on the working group will firmly assert their authority in securing the information they need to conduct a thorough investigation. I will also do my bit and let working group members know about the issues which appear to be have been left out of  East Kent Internal Audit’s report into Dreamland.
But it’s not alleged lack of enthusiasm that’s caused me to call for Chief Executive Homer to be removed from her lead officer role on the Dreamland working group, but what I believe to be a significant conflict of interest which may give rise to, or create the impression of, bias and lack of objectivity which may possibly hamper the working group.  I make this claim because Chief Executive  Homer is responsible for overseeing TDCs management of the Dreamland project and has been directly involved in taking many of the key Dreamland decisions which will be investigated by the working group. This is supported by numerous Freedom of Information request submitted to the council about Dreamland which identify Homer as TDCs central figure in relation to Dreamland.
Accepting her central role, then  many of the  criticisms and concerns expressed in the East Kent Internal Audit investigation into Dreamland, and criticisms and allegations made elsewhere,  are likely to relate to Homer’s actions, decisions and stewardship of this £20million project. It would therefore be highly inappropriate of her to play any role whatsoever (apart from the role of witness) in managing, guiding, advising and supporting a working group which is extremely likely to be investigating her actions.  To do so would be breach the fundamental common law principle that no one should judge their own case and would create the damaging public  perception that the investigation might not be wholly impartial and might even be a cover up.

TDC’s Officer Code of Conduct requires Chief Executive Homer and all other TDC staff to provide appropriate advice to other employees and members with impartiality”. TDCs Protocol on Member/ Officer Relations says that “officers have a contractual and legal duty to be impartial” and that they “must not allow their professional judgment and advice to be influenced by their personal view”. The Protocol also says that “officers appearing before the Overview and Scrutiny Panel may often be those who have advised the Cabinet or another part of the council on the matter under investigation. In these circumstances an officer may have a conflict of interest. Both members and officers need to consider the severity of the conflict”.  All of these requirements suggest to me that although Chief Executive Homer is a diligent, hardworking officer, Thanet Council must nevertheless review her  role as the lead officer of the Dreamland Working Group and, in my opinion, remove her from  this role, in order to eliminate any suspicion or accusations of a cover-up.
TDCs Constitution also gives Chief Executive Homer responsibility for “establishing a framework for management direction, style and standards”; for ensuring the maintenance “of a climate in which mutual trust and respect (between officers and councillors) can thrive” and  for adjudicating in the resolution of the conflicts of interests of both officers and elected councillors. Not that I am suggesting anything untoward on the part of Chief Executive Homer, but surely by placing oneself  in position which some people perceive to be conflicted (even if this is not the case) trust in her capability to set standards, develop trust and respect and make decisions about other people’s conflicts of interest could be severely damaged.
This post is not accusatory or critical of Thanet Council’s Chief Executive. It’s all about ensuring that the forthcoming investigation into the £20million Dreamland scandal is managed in an open, honest and non-biased way and is seen by the public to be above board. I believe that to allow  TDCs Chief Executive Homer to be involved in any way in the management of this process is a big mistake and, for the reasons I have explained,  highly inappropriate.
She must be therefore be asked to stand aside and the person doing the asking has got to be  the Leader of the Council, Chris Wells.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Local Plan - UKIP’s Manifesto Deceit


UKIPs 2016 Local Manifesto says that the party “believes in putting local people first and putting local communities back in control of what happens in your local area”. It goes on to say “we are giving people and communities what they deserve, more power for local people and local communities and more say in what happens in your street, village, town and city”. And finally “UKIP believes in real local decision making”. As someone who is committed to local democracy and giving people more power and influence over decisions which affect their lives, I can’t fault any of this. In fact its music to my ears.
But here in Thanet, home to the only UKIP controlled council in the UK, the party’s manifesto promises to empower local people are utterly meaningless. In fact here in Thanet our  UKIP controlled council  is acting  against its own manifesto promises by cynically subverting and reducing opportunities for local people to influence and shape important decisions which will affect our lives. And this is why.
On 20th January TDC opened  a public consultation on the Thanet Local Plan which runs for 8 weeks until 17 March. On 24th January TDC and KCC opened a joint public consultation on Thanet Parkway Station which runs for just less than 8 weeks until 19th March. These consultations are critically important for everyone in Thanet. They will shape the future of the district for many years to come. I believe that we should be given sufficient time to find out what’s being proposed, think about and discuss the proposals with family and friends and  feed back informed comments to TDC and KCC about the plans.
But there’s one heck of a lot of finding out to be done. The two consultations include loads of documents which, added together, come to  a massive  1,400 pages!  Most people have busy lives with work and family commitments and there’s also the school half-term holidays, when many of us will be looking after kids, cutting across the consultation period.  I think it’s totally unreasonable, unfair and undemocratic,  to expect your average Thanet resident to have to plough through all this information and make comments in just 8 weeks. Also TDC and KCC should not have been so stupid as to run 2 extremely important consultations at the same time.
To have genuinely given Thanet people “more say in what happens in your street, village and  town” and to have put Thanet’s “local communities back in control of what happens in your local area”, I believe that UKIP run Thanet Council should have held these 2 major consultation exercises separately and that each consultation,  because of its complex and technical nature, should have been 12 weeks long.  And it’s not just me saying that. In January 2016 the Government’s Cabinet Office published consultation guidance which many councils and public bodies across the country follow. Amongst other things the guidance says 

·       Consultations should last for a proportionate amount of time taking into account the nature and impact of the proposal. Consulting for too long will necessarily delay policy development. Consulting too quickly will not give enough time for consideration and will reduce the quality of responses 

·       Consultations should take account of the groups being consulted  When the consultation spans all or part of a holiday period, consider how this may affect consultation and take appropriate mitigating action. 

So not only is UKIP led Thanet Council tearing up its own manifesto commitments to allow more  public engagement and involvement,  but it is also ignoring consultation best practice set out by the Government. But why?
Well I think the answer is clear. The Local Plan includes some hugely controversial proposals on Manston Airport and proposals for extensive housebuilding, much of it on green field sites. The Thanet Parkway station proposals mean that Cliffsend is almost certain to be absorbed into Ramsgate as many of the surrounding open spaces are sold off to developers anxious to  make a quick buck building  commuter homes neat to a new high speed link to London.
Parcelling up these 2 controversial consultations into one and pushing them through an extremely short public consultation process  is deliberately designed to subvert public scrutiny of the proposals and weaken and undermine legitimate opposition. Not only are UKIP tearing up their own manifesto pledges and not only are they ignoring Government advice, but they are  acting in a fundamentally undemocratic way by deliberately denying local people a  proper say in shaping the policies which will effect Thanet for a generation.

The blame for this skulduggery rests firmly on the shoulders on Thanet’s UKIP Council Leader, Chris Wells.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Super Council = Super Referendum


Proposals to merge Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Shepway councils into an East Kent Super Council in just 2 years is likely to lead to  one of the most fundamental changes in the how this part of Kent has been governed in over a century.
If it goes ahead the merger  will create the largest district council in the UK. It will be responsible for providing service to a population of over 600,000, which is three times the population of  an average London Borough. The decision to go ahead with this merger will have massive implications for the future of our children, our grand children and their  children. So it important we make the right decision.
I’ve not had the chance to properly read and  evaluate the merger  plans. I hope to do so over the next few days.  I will then blog about my views. However, my initial take on the plans are that they are top down  and designed to suit the needs and interests of East Kent's political establishment and the council officer elite. I’m also very worried by the lack of any proper and robust public consultation process. Its almost as if Kent’s power elite don’t trust the people and intend to force this huge merger on us whether we like it or not.
Whatever my views on the merger might be – pro or anti – I believe that a  democratic/ political change as large,  important ad fundamental as this should not take place without a referendum of the people  being held in  Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Shepway.
If anyone is interested in joining me to set up a non-party political campaign group to fight for a Super Referendum for a Super Council across East Kent please  contact me on ianddriver@yhaoo.co.uk

This is important!

Labour's Dreamland Shameland Cover Up.

In October 2016 the Thanet Council Labour Group (Councillors Iris Johnston, Michelle Fenner, Jenny Matteface, Karen Constantine and Peter Campbell) wrote to the  Thanet Gazette and Thanet Extra calling for TDCs Overview and Scrutiny Panel to set up a working group to investigate the council’s management of the Margate Dreamland project which has cost the public purse at least £20million to date - £10 million of which has come from the  council taxpayers of Thanet.
The Labour Group said in their letter that an investigation into Dreamland would promote “good governance” “accountability” and “transparency” and goodness knows it’s desperately needed. TDCs stewardship of the Dreamland project is a catalogue of mismanagement, incompetence, secrecy, deception and a massive waste of public money the likes of which is seldom encountered in a small seaside council. And those people responsible, officers and councillors, should be held to account for any wrongdoings and misdemeanours.
When the letters were published, I questioned whether Thanet Labour Group was being totally honest and genuine in its desire to get to the truth about Dreamland.  After all they were running the council and overseeing the Dreamland project when  many of the difficulties and problems were occurring, so why on earth would they want to be exposed as a bunch of incompetents, or something worse. I expressed my concerns at the time in a post on this blog. Here’s the link. -


I stand by that post and my strongly expressed opinion that any internal investigation into Dreamland is likely to be a dodgy  cover-up which will protect the arses of certain senior politicians and officers. In fact my belief that there may be a cover-up is stronger than ever before now that the membership of the Dreamland Working Party has been announced.
As mentioned in my post on this subject a couple of days ago, the Labour representative on the working group is Councillor Iris Johnston. It is normal practice for such an appointment to be made by the Party Leader – in this case Labour Councillor Jenny Matteface - and approved by members of the party group – councillors Constantine, Campbell, and Fenner.
Surely when approving this appointment Matteface, Fenner, Constantine and Campbell were all well aware that Iris Johnston, when Leader of TDC, had direct responsibility  for overseeing the Dreamland development and  was responsible,  in association with Chief Executive Madeline Homer, for approving all the important decisions relating to this project. It must have been perfectly clear to Matteface, Fenner, Constantine and Campbell that in light of Johnston’s previous involvement in the Dreamland project, that to approve her appointment on the Dreamland Working Group was to place her in a position where she would be investigating and judging  herself  and her actions, which in anybody’s book is massive and unacceptable conflict of interest.  
One of the key principles of common law is that no-one should be a judge in his/ her  own cause. This is a rule which is extremely important to public bodies. A good example of this is the setting up the independent Police Complaints Commission as a result of many high profile cases, such as the Hillsborough tragedy, where police forces tasked with investigating themselves routinely lied, deceived, misled and manipulated, in order to literally get away with murder in some cases. 
This same rule applies to local councils and is set out in a 2006 document produced by Tony Blair’s Labour Government which said “it is a fundamental principle of accountability that a councillor cannot scrutinise her or his own decisions”.  The Nolan Principles of Public Life which supposedly govern the behaviour of councillors also strongly caution against politicians investigating and judging themselves,  especially the principles of selflessness, objectivity, accountability, openness and honesty. These are issues which every councillor is familiarised with as part of their induction training when first elected and also form part of ongoing councillor training.
I am utterly astounded that knowing Cllr Johnston’s political history with Dreamland,   being aware of the rules and advice about conflict of interest and self-investigation, and having publically declared in letters to the press that they wanted to be transparent and accountable about Dreamland, Matteface, Constantine, Fenner and Campbell agreed Johnston’s appointment to the Dreamland Working Group. Even though Johnston may be a upstanding citizen of the highest repute,  this appointment sends out all the wrong message about the integrity and probity of the Dreamland Working Group and will undoubtedly lead many people to suppose, myself included, that  the  Working Group is a charade  aimed at protecting arses of senior people.
What disappoints me most is that this appalling decision runs totally counter to Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s, promise to introduce an era of new politics in the UK based on openness, transparency and honesty. Clearly his party comrades Johnston, Matteface, Campbell, Fenner and Constantine didn’t  listen to their leader and appear to have no appreciation of the underlying  principles and values of local politics which brings  into question their fitness to be councillors.
The honourable thing for the Thanet Labour Group to do, if indeed they have any honour, is to kick Johnston off the Dreamland Working Group  PDQ
As you can guess I am quite angry about what’s happening in relation to Dreamland. I’ve been sniffing around political scandal in Thanet for several years now and this is the one issue  which gives off the biggest stench. I think it would be fair to say that if investigated properly and honestly Dreamland will become one of the biggest local council scandals in the UK for many years. It should rightly and properly end the careers of certain people at TDC.
I will be coming back to this subject quite often over the next few weeks and months and it’s not just dodgy Labour who will be on my mind. The question is yet to be asked about why Council Leader Chris Wells has allowed his Chief Executive, Madeline Homer, to be lead officer of the Dreamland Working Group when she has had a longstanding  and direct managerial role in this project. But I’ll come to back to this soon.  

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Work To Start On Ramsgate Pleasurama Site In Spring?


In a response to a Freedom of Information request from former Thanet Councillor, Ian Driver, Kent County Council Highways (KCCH), have indicated that work is likely to begin work on the controversial, 107 flat and 60 bedroom hotel, Pleasurama site which has blighted Ramsgate seafront for almost 20 years, in the spring 2017.
Driver contacted KCCH earlier this year to enquire about the hoarding surrounding the Pleasurama site, which occupies a large section of Ramsgate’s seafront promenade. He had requested that because the development site had lain derelict for at least 6 years, that the hoarding be removed from the promenade and moved back to the perimeter of the development site.

KCCH replied to Driver today (26/01/2017) saying that  “the new site owner, Ramsgate Development Company Ltd (RDCL), applied for and was granted the transfer of the remainder of the existing hoarding licence into their name” and that “we have been assured by the new owner that, subject to some final approvals (expected by early March), they will be position to commence development during Spring 2017. KCCH will monitor and review the situation accordingly and enforcement to remove the hoarding is a potential option at a later stage”.
Said Driver “I am very sceptical of RDCL’s assurances about beginning work on site. The previous site developers, SFP Ventures, who had close links to the new site owners and developers RDCL  said, on several occasions, that they would be commencing work on site, but never did. If I was a betting man I wouldn’t  punt a penny on work beginning this spring, next spent or any other springs”


  • StreetworksEast@kent.gov.uk
  •  Today at 10:44

    Wednesday, 25 January 2017

    94% Increase in Rough Sleepers. Shameful & Unacceptable

    I issued  this press release today (25/01/2017). I will be writing a lot more about Thanet's housing crisis over the next few weeks. I strongly believe that everyone has a right to a home and that homelessness and rough sleeping are both unacceptable and avoidable in these modern times.  

    Former Thanet Councillor, Ian Driver says he is “appalled and saddened” by the massive rise in the number of  rough sleepers  in Thanet.

    According to Government figures published today (25 January) 33 people were identified as sleeping rough in Thanet during  2016,  an increase of 94% on 2015 when 17 rough sleepers  were recorded sleeping rough  in the district.

    This is the highest increase in rough sleeping numbers in all of Kent. It is almost 3 times greater than the next highest local government area, Gravesham,  which saw the number of rough sleepers increase by 6 between 2015-16. In Tonbridge and Malling the increase was 4 and in Ashford and Canterbury 3. The other 7 Kent council areas saw either a zero increase or a drop in the number of rough sleepers.

    Said Driver “the unacceptably high rate of rough sleeping in Thanet is a consequence of high unemployment, low wages and lack of support services for vulnerable people. It is also a direct result of successive Labour and Conservative governments failing to invest in building new and affordable rented social housing. Thanet, in particular, has a shamefully low rate of social rented housing when compared with the other 11 district councils in Kent”.
    He added “Thanet’s Draft Local Plan which was opened to public consultation last week totally fails to address the desperate shortage of social rented housing in the district, concentrating  on expanding the home ownership sector instead. If Thanet Council is serious about tackling the rapidly growing homelessness  and rough sleeping crisis in the district then the Local Plan should be revised to include a significantly larger number of social rented homes being built over the next 15 years”.  

    Table extracted from   https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2016


    Local Authority

    2010

    2011

    2012

    2013

    2014

    2015

    2016

     

    increase/ decrease   over  2015/16 

    Number of Households 2016 ('000s)2

    2016 Rough Sleeping Rate (per 1,000 households)

    Ashford

     2

     7

     4

     1

     5

     5

     8

     

     3

                   52

    0.15

    Canterbury

     3

     22

     20

     22

     38

     47

     50

     

     3

                   65

    0.77

    Dartford

     0

     15

     16

     12

     19

     10

     9

     

    - 1

                   43

    0.21

    Dover

     8

     14

     5

     5

     4

     9

     9

     

     0

                   50

    0.18

    Gravesham

     1

     8

     10

     8

     3

     6

     12

     

     6

                   43

    0.28

    Maidstone

     27

     19

     19

     14

     25

     38

     35

     

    - 3

                   68

    0.51

    Medway

     7

     12

     17

     6

     2

     14

     14

     

     0

                 114

    0.12

    Sevenoaks

     0

     1

     2

     2

     0

     6

     2

     

    - 4

                   49

    0.04

    Shepway

     9

     12

     5

     4

     4

     13

     9

     

    - 4

                   50

    0.18

    Swale

     0

     2

     6

     5

     2

     6

     6

     

     0

                   60

    0.10

    Thanet

     1

     9

     8

     14

     15

     17

     33

     

     16

                   63

    0.52

    Tonbridge  Malling

     1

     4

     3

     4

     7

     0

     4

     

     4

                   51

    0.08

    Tunbridge Wells

     9

     13

     10

     12

     15

     15

     15

     

                -  

    49.00

     0.3