Monday, 11 May 2015

Stand Down Thanet Stand Up To UKIP

Thanet’s  self-appointed UKIP opposition, the Stand Uppers, have made the astonishing  claim that it was they who “inflicted a magnificent defeat on Farage”. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I thought it was 2,812 Tory voters who “inflicted a magnificent defeat on Farage” not the Stand Uppers. Indeed I would argue that the Stand Uppers were partly responsible for inflicting “a magnificent defeat on Labour”. Their vociferous, persistently negative, anti-Farage focused campaigning is said, by many, to have alienated lots of electors and actually served to increase right of centre voting in Thanet, rather than reducing it.  Add to this Will Scobie’s “I’m from here” election slogan with its anti-immigrant, anti-from anywhere but Thanet, undertones;  Labour’s lacklustre national electioneering; its farcical tablets of stone;  and the grotesque  record of  Labour controlled Thanet  Council, then it’s clear to see why Labour’s share of the South Thanet Parliamentary vote plummeted  from 31% in 2010 election to 24%  this time around. And it’s not hard to understand  why UKIP secured a massive majority at Thanet Council.  To be brutally frank the Stand Uppers achieved nothing other than  “magnificent self-defeat”.

With a record like this, I would have packed up my trestle table and quietly gone home. But no! Not the Stand Uppers! Believing their own baseless propaganda to the truth the erstwhile Farage slayers now want to Stand Up To UKIP Thanet Councillors and presumably “inflict a magnificent defeat” on a council administration democratically elected, less than a week ago, by over 40% of those who voted.  Honestly this childish nonsense makes me feel like puking. Watching UKIP councillors “like a hawk and when they put a foot out place – step on it” is utter bollox!  This is the job of the Council’s Monitoring Officer; the  District Auditor, the Scrutiny Committee, the Standards Board; the democratically elected Labour and Conservative opposition groups; the Department of Communities and Local Government and

If you aim to challenge a UKIP council you do it by developing roots in the community and campaigning on issues like poverty, low pay; benefits sanctions; the shortage of social housing; poor education and health provision; which affect tens-of-thousands of people in Thanet.  You should also be campaigning about the threat to Thanet’s environment posed by Labour’s Local Plan; the  Parkway station;  the Airport CPO;  the threat to equality and human rights posed, not just by UKIP, but by Labour and the Tories as well and of course the desperate need for regeneration; job creation; and  proportional representation the absence of which  got us into this mess in the first place.

Playing the role of Thanet Council’s  self-appointed moral guardian just because  it’s a UKIP council is hardly likely to achieve anything, especially bearing mind that a UKIP council will be determined to prove  that it is  better managed; better behaved;  more open and transparent than its Labour-controlled predecessor. A task which to be honest will not be too difficult to achieve.

Most people know, but the Labour Party and its hangers-on on the left have forgotten, there is no shortcut to gaining electoral support, other than long and patient campaigning and practical support in the community. So Stand Down Stand Up say I.

 
 

 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Ramsgate: Labour Electoral Shenanigans?

On 1 May, Labour Councillor, Peter Campbell, posted on the Facebook page “We Love Ramsgate” about the controversial O’Regan proposals to locate a concrete block manufacturing facility at the port. He said  “I can inform all those who love Ramsgate that the potential O'Regan application has failed to meet TDC's stringent requirements and therefore any future application will be denied. This information has been confirmed by TDC leader Iris Johnson. Cllr Peter Campbell”   When I asked him for clarification he posted the following “My proof is a mail I have received from Iris Johnson who tells me of the outcome of TDC's diligence, which convinced TDC and the CE not to progress with this Application”.

These seemingly innocuous postings by Councillor Campbell’s on the We Love Ramsgate Facebook page have caused me some concern. For those of you who don’t know, the pronouncements of politicians and council officers during a local government election period are tightly regulated by what are called “purdah rules”. These rules aim to ensure that that the Council’s governing  political party, in this case  the Labour Party,  do not abuse their privileged access to council decision making  processes, publicity, or officer time etc. to gain an unfair   political advantage over their opponents . In other words Purdah rules try to control the advantages of incumbency allowing for a fairer election.


Councillors were issued with a briefing note about the Purdah rules on 10 April. Amongst other things the note said that councillors are prohibited from using council resources for political purposes, or “attempting to use their position to confer on any person as advantage or disadvantage”. The rules go on to say  that although normal council business (service delivery and decision making) will continue during the election period  these process should not be manipulated by anyone for party political or candidate purposes. To avoid this happening the rules say that items of business that are politically controversial, such as the O’Regan proposals, should be dealt with after the election.

As most people in Ramsgate know, the O’Regan proposals are very controversial. A public meeting held in January was attended by at least 300 people. A petition is circulating which has attracted over 1,500 signatures and there has been lots of comment in the newspapers and social media about this matter. By announcing that the Council has conducted a due diligence process and decided to reject the O’Regan proposals Councillor Campbell, appears to me, to have broken Purdah rules. First any decision about a controversial issues such as this should have been announced by a senior council officer who would be seen as being politically neutral. Instead the announcement was made be a well-known Ramsgate Labour Councillor which must surely confer a political advantage to Labour’s election candidates. Second Councillor Campbell says he learned of this decision from an e-mail from the Labour Leader of the Council. Iris Johnston. If this is true why didn’t Iris Johnston notify all councillors about the decision? I have double checked my e-mails and have received nothing from her. This suggests to me the possibility that Iris Johnston may have used “inside information” acquired in her role as council leader to tip off her Labour colleagues who could then spread the good news and gain electoral credit. I hasten to add that this is speculation on my part which could only be stood up by an investigation. Finally, if the Council has carried out some form of due diligence on a controversial matter close to an election then surely it has broken its own purdah rules which advise that sensitive decisions are left until after the election. Conversely, if the due diligence was conducted a while ago, why wasn’t the result communicated to all councillors at the time? Either way, if Councillor Campbell’s statement is true then someone somewhere has a lot of explaining to do.

But this is not the first time during this election we have
Ramsgate Green Party Candidates Support an Open  and Honest Council.
witnessed Ramsgate Labour Party engaging in what appear to be less than honest vote influencing shenanigans . Just last week I posted an article on my blog about the Ramsgate  Labour election leaflet which claimed that a £3million payment, to be made by builders Cardy,  for the purchase of the seafront Pleasurama site  will be ploughed back into Ramsgate. The publication of the alleged sale price figure is likely to have been a serious breach of confidentiality by the Ramsgate Labour Party. An investigation is now under way and the Ramsgate Labour Party has been ordered to stop distributing the controversial leaflet. I only hope and trust we do not  now see a  “last minute” leaflet proclaiming, in breach of the Purdah rules, that  it was the Council’s Labour  Leadership which gave O’Regan the bums rush from the port of Ramsgate. Either way one thing is for certain the Labour Party in Ramsgate  have a lot of questions to answer about what some people might believe to be their abuse of   power during an election period. This  situation has the whiff of an uncleansed public convenience about it.
 
If you want honesty, openness and transparency in public life Vote Green. We have zero tolerance of political corruption, secrecy and party political electoral manipulation. We ain to clean up Thanet Council's dysfunctional and toxic culture.

Here is an e-mail I have sent to the Council Monitoring Officer about the alleged Purdah rules breaches


Dear Mr Boyle

On 1st May Councillor Campbell made the following statments on the We Love Ramsgate facebook page

"I can inform all those who love Ramsgate that the potential O'Regan application has failed to meet TDC's stringent requirements and therefore any future application will be denied. This information has been confirmed by TDC leader Iris Johnson.
Cllr Peter Campbell" and "Ian, I have in previous posts referred to a potential application, this is the case. The details of that application were announced by the O'Regan Group at a local public meeting I called, at Chatham House School, in order to let the residents know of this potential horrendous industrial process. My proof is a mail I have received from Iris Johnson who tells me of the outcome of TDC's diligence, which convinced TDC and the CE not to progress with this Application."This statement appears to me be contrary to the written advice about  purdah which you provided to councillors a while ago. In particular  it would appear that Councillor Campbell is seeking to secure an advantage for himself or other labour candidates by making an announcement about an extremely controversial matter just days before the election.
If what councillor Campbell says is true then why  has the leader of the council failed to notify all councillors, irrespective of  party, of this important development  relating to a very controversial issue. By not alerting all councillors then the leader/ councillor Campbell  has used her/ his  position to confer advantage to Labour Councillors and candidates.
Further if Councillor Campbell's statements are  true why has the Chief Executive failed to inform councillors of the  due diligence process she has allegedly carried out in relation into the O'Regan proposal. Also  the guidance you issued on Purdah stated that the council should avoid taking decisions on controversial issues such as the O'Regan proposal which has prompted a major public outcry and much media/ social media  speculation . Could you confirm whether or not Councillor Campbell's statement that a due diligence has indeed be carried out by Council officers; when this process was carried out; and why councillors have not been advised  about the process and its outcome. Finally, I am reliably informed that the Labour Party are planning to produce a last minute election leaflet about the O'Regan proposal. If this is true the it would be a clear breach of Purdah rules as information obtained from the Council Leader or Chief Executive which has not been provided to other non-labour  councillors will be used to secure an advantage for Labour councillors / candidates. 

In my opinion what is happening here is a clear and improper abuse power for  Labour's electoral advantage. I attach copies of JPEG files which cover the conversations related to this issue on the We Love Thanet  facebook page.

Yours sincerely Ian Driver


 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Replace KCC with Unitary Council.

The Green Party is calling for the abolition of Kent County Council and its replacement by  six unitary councils based on the following groupings

  • Thanet and  Dover (population 245,500)
  • Canterbury and Swale (population 287,000)
  • Shepway and Ashford (population 226,000)
  • Maidstone Tonbridge and  Malling (population 289,000)
  • Dartford and Gravesham (population 199,000)
  • Sevenoaks, and Tunbridge Wells (population 230,000)

Existing Medway unitary council with a population 264,000 will remain unchanged. The new unitary authorities  would provide education, social care, highways, planning, housing, refuse collection and many other services to populations of between 200,000 – 300,000 people.

Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South Thanet, Ian Driver “the existing county council is too large and unwieldy. It lacks any real connection and accountability to the people it serves. Local government should, by definition, be based as close to its electors as possible, rather than being inaccessible to most of Kent’s residents.  Smaller unitary councils will bring together areas  of  Kent which are already closely  connected and share many common issues. They will also bring together residents, staff and politicians with an expert understanding of the areas covered by the new councils. This would place them in a stronger  position to develop  more effective policies and strategies than the current Maidstone based system”.
In  East Kent many of the District Councils are already working closely together. They have  successfully  shared Housing, Human Resources, IT,  Revenues, Benefits and  Audit services for several years, so why not include KCC services as well?
The new unitary councils should be elected by proportional representation so that smaller parties and independent candidates can  be represented giving a more balanced and inclusive approach to decision making. The new councils should be managed by committee systems to prevent power being concentrated into the hands of a tiny handful of cabinet members and they should be underpinned and supported by a strong system of parish and town councils which will ensure community accountability”.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Thanet Council Moonlighting & Property

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am stickler for probity and honesty in public life. Some would say too much of a stickler.  I have written several pieces about the less than transparent shenanigans of council politicians which have led to resignations, investigations and some red faces. So I was very intrigued to read the blogpost of my Green Party colleague Ed Targett, http://greentargett.com/2015/04/21/conflict-for-councils-property-boss/
 
Ed who  is standing as PPC for North Thanet and a TDC council candidate in Margate Central, wrote a most interesting post  about the Head of Regeneration and Property Services who is also a Director of a company called Proprisk.

Not that I am suggesting anything improper. To the best of my knowledge the Head of Regeneration and Property Services is a highly professional officer with an expertise in the property field. However, it would be fair comment to say that it is most unusual for a council officer to also be a company Director. Especially when  Thanet Council’s Officer Code of Conduct says that “Employees above Local Grade 6 shall normally be expected to devote their whole time service to the work of the Authority and shall not engage in any other additional employment without the express consent of the Authority”. As an elected councillor representing Ramsgate residents I personally expect senior officers on good salaries to serve only one master - TDC. I don't except them to the follow the example of  many of our Tory and Labour MPs who have  their pockets stuffed with cash from moonlighting as consultants, directors, columnists and after dinner speakers.
Also the fact that the officer concerned is the Director of a company which conducts its business in a similar area to  her paid post with Council raises potential questions of conflict of interest. Not that I am suggesting for a moment that there are such conflicts in this case. However, I believe that in the interests of openness and transparency the Council needs to explain what steps it has taken to ensure that all  possible risks  and conflicts associated with being the Council’s most senior property manager, whilst at the same time being a Director of a property related company , are being properly managed. This is why I have written to the Council’s Monitoring Officer.

 
Dear Mr Boyle
It has come to my attention that the Head of Regeneration and Property Services is a director of Proprisk Ltd. Company Number 08645044. Website link http://proprisk.co.uk/index.shtml  I believe that the company was set up roughly at the time that the Head of Regeneration and Property Services became employed by the Council.

The Council’s Officer Code of Conduct requires that

·        Employees' off-duty hours are their personal concern, but they should not subordinate their employment relationship with the Authority to their private interests or put themselves in a position where there is a conflict of interests

·        The Authority will not normally prevent an employee from undertaking additional employment or other commitments, but any such employment must demonstrably not conflict with, or in any way weaken public confidence in, the conduction of the Authority's business.

 
·        Employees above Local Grade 6 shall normally be expected to devote their whole time service to the work of the Authority and shall not engage in any other additional employment without the express consent of the Authority

 

·        Employees must give notice in writing of any financial or non-financial interests which are clear and substantial and which could bring about a conflict with the Authority's interests. Any change must be similarly notified

 
For the sake of clarity, pleased by advised that I am not suggesting that the Head of Regeneration and Property Services has contravened any Council policy nor am I suggesting that the Head of Regeneration and Property Services has in any way acted improperly. Indeed I believe  her to be a professional member of the officer team. However, in accordance with the Council’s policy of openness and transparency I would like to raise the following questions with you:
 

·        Did the Head of Regeneration and Property Services declare her position as Director of Proprisk to the Council? If so when? If not what action will be taken?

 
·        Has the Council evaluated the potential risks and conflict arising from the Head of Regeneration and Property Services also being the Director of a property related company? Please provide further details.
 

·        Has the Head of Regeneration and Property Services ever notified the Council of any conflicts of interest between her employment at TDC and her Directorship at Proprisk?

 
·        The Head of Regeneration and Property Services is employed on a salary scale above Grade 6. Does her position as Director of Proprisk place her in contravention of the requirement not to engage in other employment,  or has the Council given its express consent to allow the Head of Regeneration and Property Services to have what amounts to 2 jobs?

 

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely  Cllr Ian Driver

Monday, 27 April 2015

Thanet Stand Up To UKIP Labour Cheerleaders


I have marched against UKIP. I have attended several anti-UKIP demonstrations.  I have spoken out publically against UKIP on many occasions and I vehemently oppose most of UKIPs policy. I will continue to strongly oppose UKIP. But I have not joined and do not support the organisation Stand Up to UKIP, or at least its manifestation here in Thanet. Because Stand Up to UKIP , in my view, is an adjunct of the Thanet Labour Party which, in association with a group of revolutionary socialists, is trying its level best to use the UKIP demon to scare left of centre people into voting only for Labour at the general and council elections. Some of its members are happy to bully, pressure and intimidate those of us political progressives who will not fall into line with the vote Labour mantra. I myself was subject to such treatment at the hands of certain Stand Up to UKIP members in Thanet and several of my colleagues have been treated in the same way. I understand that members of Thanet Reality Party, also vehemently anti-UKIP,  may have had similar treatment meted out because they don’t chose to support Labour.

I was at the founding meeting of Thanet  Stand Up  to UKIP last. The meeting was well attended and included people from across the progressive political spectrum. But even at its first meeting it was evident that Labour was positioning itself to dominate the organisation. Labour’s South Thanet  PPC, Will Scobie,  was there and had a lot to say,  as were other  Labour councillors including Jenny Matteface, John Worrow, Michelle Fenner and serval newly selected  Labour council candidates including Kate Hamlyn and Karen Constantine . During the course of the meeting several  people argued that the Green Party should not be running candidates as it would split the left of centre vote and assist a UKIP victory. This incessant refrain has continued to be developed, reaching a foul mouthed hysterical crescendo at a recent public meeting in Ramsgate.

Now I have no problem with the way people vote.  We live in a democracy and its up to you how to vote. But I will not be bullied or intimidated into silence by a bizarre united front of right-wing austerity-lite Labour and so-called revolutionaries. Labour has an appalling track record in power at Thanet Council. It is utterly incompetent, secretive and in the words of an external peer review– dysfunctional and toxic.

As an elected councillor seeking another term I have a duty to the public to speak out about Labour’s disgraceful record in office and to campaign for change rather than becoming a cheerleader for a party with which I fundamentally disagree. A party which  through its policy of austerity  is making life much more difficult for the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled, the unemployed, the badly housed and who, sad to say, appears to be  trying to out-UKIP UKIP in its anti-immigration stance.

I have the greatest admiration and respect for many supporters of Stand Up to UKIP in Thanet. Some of them are my friends. But from where I am standing Stand Up to UKIP  appears to me to be nothing but a cynical effort to exploit fear of  the UKIP demon  in order to distract attention from Labour’s  appalling record in Thanet; silence its critics and cling on to votes it does not deserve. It could have so different. It could have been a genuine coalition of likeminded people but that potential was strangled at birth by Labour manipulation.

Despite my criticism of Thanet Stand Up to UKIP, it’s not for me to tell you how to use your vote. The only thing I would say is please, please vote on the basis of your conscience and genuine beliefs. Otherwise what’s the point in voting at all?

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Labour's Pleasurama Election Hypocrisy

Labour's false promises
In an election leaflet delivered to thousands of Ramsgate homes Thanet  Labour Party has cynically tried by 'buy' votes. In a headline story it promises that three million pounds will be raised from the sale of the Pleasurama site to developers Cardy, and will be “ploughed straight back into Ramsgate”.  Like many promises made by Thanet Labour this is rather less than the whole truth.
Last Thursday I met with senior council officers and was told that major repairs to the cliff face at the Pleasurama site, which must be carried out before building work begins, will cost up to £600,000. These works are the responsibility of the Council  and are likely to be funded from the money  received by the Council from Cardy. I was also told that the Council’s legal fees for the sale of the site will be around £100,000 and will be also be paid out of the proceeds of the sale.   So the Labour Party’s claimed three million pounds receipt to the Council may actually be reduced to 2.3million immediately. A big difference from the £3million claimed by Labour. And what guarantee is there  that the money would actually be spent in Ramsgate if Labour are returned to power on May 7? On the strength of their past record very little!  

Because Labour in Thanet have never let the truth get in the way of a good story. For example, in the run up to the last election they said they would protect our green fields, only to agree a local plan which allowed massive development on farmland. They also opposed Thanet Parkway station, but in office they have supported the building of a station with a huge car park on farmland just outside rural Cliffsend. So
when they now talk about ploughing £3million into Ramsgate  why should anyone believe them? And on this point it’s rumoured that the £3million sale price reported by the Labour Party is a lot less than an independent valuation of the site estimated  the council should get.

Confidentiality when it suits them
But it’s not just the misleading promises which concern me. It’s that certain Labour  councillors appear  to have abused their power and may have deliberately broken confidentiality in order to produce the leaflet's headline story about the Cardy cash.  Details of the Pleasurama  sale price are included in a legal agreement between the Council and  Cardy which was signed in March. The agreement contains a confidentiality clause which prohibits the revelation of its contents including the sale price. After several weeks of trying I was eventually allowed to inspect the document a few days ago. Before I could see the document I was warned by the Council’s Monitoring Officer that under no circumstances must I reveal its contents. I was also required to sign a confidentiality agreement.I can only conclude that Labour councillor(s) have  also seen the document and decided to  breach the confidentiality agreement themselves in order to produce the headline story in the leaflet.

Now it may seem strange that someone like me who has a reputation for leaking secret documents is complaining when someone else does the same thing. But there is big a difference.  I have only ever revealed confidential information when I thought it was in the public interest to do so. In this case Labour are revealing confidential information  purely out of cynical  political self-interest and in the hope of gaining votes in Ramsgate.
Jaw dropping hypocrisy
But it gets worse. When I tried to reveal confidential information about Pleasurama last year the Council took out a High Court Injunction to prevent me publishing certain documents. I must now pay the Council’s legal costs of £19,600. The decision to obtain the injunction was, I have been reliably informed, approved by members of the Council’s Labour Cabinet. Some of these cabinet members are likely to be  the same people who facilitated the publication of the confidential information about the Pleasurama  sale price in the Labour election  leaflet. Furthermore, several Labour Councillors also complained to the Council’s Standards Board about my efforts to reveal Pleasurama secrets last year. I now face an investigation into my actions. These complainants are likely to be  the same Labour councillors who facilitated the publication of the confidential information about the Pleasurama  sale price in the Labour election  leaflet. Finally since the injunction a number of Labour Councillors have verbally abused me for serving  the public interest by trying to reveal information about Pleasurama which should never have been confidential. Once again some of these councillors are likely to be among those who facilitated the publication of the confidential information about the Pleasurama sale price in the Labour election leaflet.

I have said it once and will say it again, the publication of the election leaflet story about the Pleasurama sale price was misleading and cynical electioneering. But worst of all the breach of confidentiality which was behind this story was an exercise in jaw dropping hypocrisy by The Labour Party. Less than a year ago the Thanet Labour Party was quick to condemn, attack and personally abuse me for trying to release secret documents in the public interest but, with an election in the air, they find it perfectly acceptable to breach confidentiality themselves, not in the  interest of the public they are supposed to serve, but  purely in the interest of the Labour Party .

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Ramsgate "Ghost Port": £3.4Million, Whistleblower, O'Regans

Green Party Councillor and PPC for Thanet South, Ian Driver, has slammed Thanet Council’s  Labour leadership  for spending over £3.4 million of taxpayers’ money propping up  Ramsgate’s “ghost port”  following the 2013 collapse of TransEuropa Ferries. Figures obtained by Driver show that during the financial year 2013-14 the Council spent £1.4 million keeping the port open. Although not yet audited, Driver has been advised port running costs for the 2014-15 financial year will be at least £1million.The Council’s budget for the current financial year (2015-16) does not identify any major cost reductions at the port, suggesting  that running costs will continue to be around the £1million mark.

This means that during the 3 year period 2013-16 TDC will have spent at least £3.4 million keeping  open a port which has seen a massive decline in traffic and fee income. In fact
the only traffic of significance  at the port, since TransEuropa’s demise, has been occasional deliveries of sand and aggregate to the Brett’s concrete site and  berthings of the controversial live animal exports ship, Joline. Surely TDC’s Labour leaders should have been using the time since TransEuropa’s  demise to explore the massive economic and job creation potential of transforming the port into a leisure focused facility. They didn’t. Preferring instead to pump £millions of your money into a port with no customers and no future.

Much of the port’s running cost is made up of staff wages which, including national insurance, pensions and other employment related spending, amounts to almost £400,000 per year.  Despite the catastrophic fall off of trade and income at the port there have been no reductions in staffing levels since the collapse of TransEuropa Ferries in 2013. Said Driver “the Council was right to keep a full complement of staff in the months immediately following TransEuropa’s collapse, just in case a new ferry operator came forward. But when it became clear, six months or so after TransEuropa’s failure,  that ferries would not return to Ramsgate, TDC’s Labour leadership should have ordered the re-deployment of all non-essential  staff to permanent jobs elsewhere at the council instead wasting millions of pounds of public money  propping up what is essentially a ghost port”.

Driver’s views are supported by an ex-Ramsgate Harbour employee who, before he left his job, e-mailed operational services Director  Mark Seed complaining about the Council’s continued financial support for the port when “there is no port in practice only on paper”  and asking why “when you yourself spoke about waste and saving monies …. the council is still paying vast sums of money for a service which is no longer being carried out”.The former employee highlighted the fact that 5 port workers continued to be paid shift allowances (20% of their basic salary) even though they had not worked shifts since the collapse of TransEuropa two years earlier. He went on to say “this is not only morally wrong, but financially wrong and could even be deemed as corrupt”. Despite copying his e-mail to the Director of Corporate Resources Paul Cook and the Chief Executive, the former employee never received a reply to his complaint.

Said Driver “I am utterly astounded that when a member of staff raised legitimate concerns about huge amounts of tax-payers money being spent on a  port without traffic and shifts not being worked, senior managers appear to have ignored him”. He went on to say “TDC’s Labour leadership have in my view improperly used £3.4million of taxpayers’ money to keep open a failed service. This is probably why the five separate meetings with O’Regan’s took place last year to discuss the possibility of locating their waste wood and concrete block manufacturing facility at the port. These discussions, which had Labour Cabinet level approval, were a desperate effort to generate a new income source at the failing port, no matter how unsuitable or unpopular with local residents were”.
 
“The failure of the port, the waste of public money,  and efforts to sneak inappropriate and potentially dangerous uses onto the site underline the urgent need begin a review of the Port and launch a major public consultation about its future. I have been arguing for a long time that the port area should be transformed into a leisure facility and modern marina, which would increase tourism, kick start the local economy and create hundreds of jobs and business opportunities for Ramsgate residents. We desperately need a Plan B”.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Green Cllr Driver Says Regenerate Thanet Regeneration Board

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has slammed the Council’s Labour Leadership for “letting down the district’s 3,000 unemployed people by failing to take regeneration and job creation seriously”. The allegation follows revelations that TDC’s Regeneration Board, which changed its name to ‘Invest in Thanet’ in September 2014, has met just four times in 2 years (1).

Set up by the Council as a partnership between the public and private sectors and supported by TDC staff and money, the organisation aims to encourage investment, training and employment in the district.  However, its meetings are held in private and none of its 3 specialist working groups, on the Green Economy, Employment and Skills, and Heritage which were set up more than 2 years ago have produced reports. Despite promises to do so, no community organisations have been appointed to the Board either.

According to Driver “half of the 17 Regeneration Board members do not live in Thanet. Even the KCC representative on the Board, Councillor Mark Dance, is not one of Thanet's eight County Councillors but lives in and represents Whitstable.  How can a Regeneration Board made up of 50% non-residents be qualified to make decisions about what’s best for Thanet’s economy?” Driver also pointed out that Board member, Frank Martin, is the Chief Executive of Hornby which has announced that it will be moving its remaining jobs and operations out of Thanet in May.

Said Driver “Thanet Regeneration Board/ Invest in Thanet has been an unmitigated disaster. Its lack of meetings; its non-local makeup; its secrecy, its failure to include the
Thanet Green Party Council Candidates New Brooms Sweeping Clean
community sector or to deliver on its work plan demonstrate that its creators, TDC’s  Labour Cabinet, aren’t serious about regeneration and don’t appear to be serious about tackling the district’s unacceptably high levels of unemployment”.

In contrast, Driver and the Thanet Green Party place regeneration and job creation at the top of its priority list. Its recently published manifesto for the forthcoming Council elections talks about harnessing Thanet’s massive potential for economic growth and job creation through the development of tourism, the green economy, and collaboration with the owners of Discovery Park and the Manston Airport site.

Driver also says that, if elected, he will argue for the replacement of  the failed Regeneration Board/ Invest in Thanet with a new more dynamic organisation which will be open and transparent and made up of local employers, educators, community groups and cross-party councillors who have strong  knowledge and experience of Thanet’s economy. The group will access expert professional regeneration advice as required, but the emphasis will be to develop ideas and plans for economic growth and job creation from the bottom up, rather than having them  imposed from the top down by out of touch politicians and bureaucrats who don’t know what’s happening on the ground in Thanet.

In the last two weeks alone, research by Thanet Green Party members have identified two new potential sources of large-scale regeneration funding for the district. A properly co-ordinated regeneration plan would help us access such funds to bring much-needed job opportunities to Thanet.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Dreamland Still No Legal Agreement

I am becoming increasingly alarmed about developments at Dreamland. Almost 8 weeks ago I attended a Councillors briefing meeting about the amusement park.  At this meeting we were told by a senior council officer that a legal agreement would be signed with the park operator, Sands Heritage, within 2-3 days.
Almost 2 months later no legal agreement has been signed. We now have the bizarre situation whereby an organisation which has no legal agreement with the council, has been selling tickets for the opening of the amusement park  on 19 June and recruiting staff to work in the park. This doesn't seem quite right to me.
Sands Heritage was chosen  to be the Dreamland Operator in October 2014 after a false start to the selection process earlier in the year. My sources tell me that Sands was selected  from a tiny handful of no more than one or maybe two applicants, which suggests to me that sphincters were beginning to become twitchy  about whether this flagship project would ever be realized.  Not that I am suggesting that this was the case with Dreamland, but when projects go awry there is often the temptation to choose the best of bad bunch to get back on track. But speculation aside, it does genuinely worry me that almost 8 months after selecting Sands Heritage as the Dreamland operator the legal agreement has still not been signed!
I want to know what the hold ups are. Is there a problem with
the due diligence of Sands Heritage? Are there finance problems? Is the Heritage Lottery Fund unhappy with the arrangements? Are there problems in having the Park ready and all the rides and amusements in place on time?  Is Sands playing hard ball with the Council and trying to get a better deal? There are literally hundreds of issues, or combinations of issues,  which might explain why, less than a month before the park opens Sands Heritage has still not signed the operator agreement with Thanet Council.
I have tried my best to find out why but in typical Thanet Council fashion I have been fobbed off with insufficient answers (see below). One thing is for sure if  Thanet Greens have Councillors elected to  TDC on 7th May they will be demanding a full explanation about what’s  been going on  at Dreamland.  Having said that I want to repeat that whatever thee issues might be, I'm 100% behind the Dreamland project. I believe that the restored amusement park could play a powerful role in  regenerating Thanet and creating much needed jobs. But the operation of the park and the legal agreement which covers this must be as open and transparent as possible.  Otherwise we are likely to repeat the mistakes of  Ramsgate Pleasurama or TransEuropa Ferries.

17/04/2015 Dear Cllr Driver,
We are continuing to work with our legal team to finalise the lease for Dreamland.  We will update you when this has been completed.
21/03/15Dear Cllr Driver, Further to your email, I confirm this is a complex project and our Solicitors need to ensure that they get the best terms possible for the council and this has involved lengthy negotiations. With a site of this size it does take time and unfortunately, although we are all working hard to get it completed as soon as possible, it is more important that the lease is right and ensures the very best  outcome for the Council. It is taking longer than we hoped, but both Sands Heritage and Thanet District Council are committed to completing negotiations and delivering an exciting project for Margate.
14/03/15 Dear Cllr Driver, Thank you for this, the agreement have not been signed, as the legal agreements are not finished.  Unfortunately it will take a bit longer than we had planned.