|picture by Michael Child|
Surely, when planning a major job like the repair and painting of a large cliff face you programme the work to allow for circumstances that might delay its completion. In project planning parlance I believe this is called allowing scope for flex. Indeed the Council appears to have done just that. According to its contract register the work was to take place between 27 July and 16 October 2014. That’s 12 weeks to carry out “crack repairs and coating” of the cliff face which seems to me to be more than sufficient time to do the job. I can’t recall any prolonged period of severe weather, except perhaps a few days in August, which would, has the Council claims, have delayed this work to the extent that they would need to suspend operations until next spring. So perhaps the delay is for reasons other than bad weather.Also, suspending the completion of the work until the spring of 2016 will incur massive additional costs to the council. According to TDCs contract register Steadline Limited who won the tender to “repair the cracks and coat” the cliff face were to be paid £341,950. To date TDC has paid Steadline £217,180 for work carried in July, August and September Assuming that the Council pays invoices monthly in arrears then another payment of about £100,000 remains due for the work carried out in October which should more or less cover the agreed contract sum of £341,950. In the spring of 2016 TDC will then have to pay for the massive scaffolding wall to be re-erected and in its own words “a few weeks” work to paint the last coat and that’s presuming that the first coat has survived the winter. This will add at least £100,000 to the original bill of £314,950. So it’s extremely likely that the final cliff face repair bill will be in the region of £415,000 a massive 32% increase on the original contract price.
Now when I was councillor we were told that the cost of the cliff face repair works would be funded by the proceeds of the sale of the Pleasurama site. Unfortunately a High Court Injunction secured against me by Thanet Council, and which is still in force, prevents me from telling you what the value of the site was estimated to be. However it has been widely reported in the media and elsewhere that TDC will receive somewhere in the region of £3million for the sale of the land. It was agreed by the previous Labour administration that this money would be invested in projects in Ramsgate such as project Motorhouse etc- a decision I fully support as it would help to put right the unfair imbalance in council spending on Margate as opposed to Ramsgate. However, assuming that at least £400,000 for the cliff repair work has to be deducted from the £3million sale price then only £2.6million remains to be spent on Ramsgate which is a tiny amount compared to the £millions invested in Margate.
However, I now firmly believe that its extremely unlikely that the people of Ramsgate will ever see a penny of the £2.6million raised by selling off a massive chunk of their seafront. Writing in his column in the Thanet Gazette two weeks ago Council Leader Chris Wells took the most unusual, but in my opinion honest and transparent, step of announcing that TDC faced massive debts of £14million. These debts were largely the result of the of the incompetence and poor decision making of the previous Labour Party council administration including a multi-million overspend on the Dreamland project, multi-million compensation for their illegal banning of live animal exports, an unpaid £2.7million bill million for constructing the New Haine Road and potential multimillion compensation claims and fines for a major health and safety scandal which will become public soon. My suspicion is that every last penny of the £2.6million raised from the sale of the Ramsgate Pleausurama site will be used for paying off the debts of Thanet Council rather than benefiting the people of Ramsgate.
Yet during the May election campaign it was the Labour Party who promised the people of Ramsgate that the money from the sale of the Pleasurama site would be reinvested into Ramsgate for the benefit of Ramsgate residents. They produced thousands of leaflets saying so. But all along they knew damn well that the issues I have mentioned above would have made this totally impossible. In my opinion Thanet Labour Party deceived and misled the voter of Ramsgate into believing that they would benefit from a Pleasurama cash windfall when all along Labour council bosses knew that massive debts had to be paid. This is cynical and hypocritical electoral politics at its worst and the Labour Party should apologise to the people of Ramsgate.
My final words on Pleasurama for now are that I do not believe that TDC has yet received the reported £3million for the sale of the land. I believe that this payment will be made upon completion on the repairs to the cliff face. Discounting TDCs excuses about poor weather disrupting the cliff face repair schedule I think that the work was disrupted for other more serious reasons which I assume might be related to the stability of the cliff face. In fact it’s my opinion that the delay to the cliff face repairs might be a warning sign that the deal with Pleasurama developers Cardy might be likely to collapse altogether. I will be writing more about this soon.