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”.
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“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”.
Sarah Martin’s email to Ian DriverThank 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 Rightshttp://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 documentshttp://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.