Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Today I have a submitted a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman about Thanet Council's appalling mismanagement of the TransEuropa Ferrygate  scandal.

I reproduce below extracts from my submission. I would encourage as many people as possible to complain. Please feel free to use some of my words. The Ombudsman website is

Please explain briefly what your complaint is about, including dates of any incidents and names of any officers or staff of the body complained about, if known. Please also explain why you are not happy with the response from the body concerned

Background. In 2011, Thanet District Council (TDC) agreed with Transeuropa Ferries Ltd (TEF) a deferred payment arrangement for the use the facilities of the TDC owned Port of Ramsgate. This agreement led to TEF running up a debt to TDC of an estimated  £3.4million over a 2 year period. Knowledge of this agreement was deliberately restricted to a small group of senior Council Officers and elected politicians.

Complaint.  By keeping the agreement with TEF secret TDC acted in contravention of its   Constitutional rules and in so doing prevented  meetings of the Full Council, the Governance and Audit Panel and the Overview and Scrutiny Panel from discussing, reviewing and/ or approving or disapproving the agreement with TEF (I will provide separate & detailed evidence of the particular constitutional rules which I believe to have been broken).

That TDC  failed to seek the advice of the European Commission as to whether its agreement with TEF contravened EU State Aid regulations (I will provide separate evidence of which EU State Aid regulations I believe to have been broken).

That in relation to its agreement with TEF, TDC  has failed to follow it’s  own Financial Procedure Rules (I will provide separate and detailed evidence of the Financial Procedure Rules which I believe to have been broken).

That TDC, in contravention of accounting best practice and the requirement for local councils to be open and transparent about their financial affairs,  failed to explicitly include reference to TEFs debt in its 2011-12 accounts. This failure deprived local people of the opportunity to raise questions with the Council and/ or District Auditor about TDCs agreement with TEF  and the  large and growing debt it had given to rise to by the end of that financial year.

That TDC, in contravention of budget management best practice and the requirement for local councils to be open and transparent about their financial affairs ,  failed to notify its elected  Councillors of TEFs  large and growing with the Council when they met to set and monitor the budget during the financial years 2011 – 12  and 2012 - 13

 Please explain briefly what impact the problems you’ve described above have had on you. For example, has the body concerned failed to provide you with a service or a benefit you are entitled to? Was there a delay before you got the service or benefit? Have you suffered a financial loss? Have you been put to a lot of trouble or inconvenience?

 In April 2013 TEF went into liquidation owing TDC an estimated £3.4 million (the final figure may be greater). This debt is being covered by using some of TDCs reserves and underspends. This reduction in reserves will inevitably lead to increases Council Tax and increased  fees and charges to the public in order to replenish the depleted TDC reserves to the appropriate level.

These increases will, in my opinion, have an adverse financial impact upon me as a TDC taxpayer  and purchaser of TDC services and many thousands of other local taxpayers. These increases will be brought about as a result on serious  maladministration and could have been avoided had TDCs agreement with TEF be open to debate and scrutiny by all 56 elected councillors and the public. 

Although I am an elected TDC Councillor and would not normally be allowed to submit a complaint to the Ombudsman about the Council I am a member of, I understand that I do I have right to complain if I am personally affected by the maladministration of the Council, which as explained above, I believe I am.
What do you think the body should do to put things right?

The Council should review its Constitutional rules to ensure that large and significant debts of over £250,000 to the Council cannot be allowed to accumulate in secret, without all elected councillors being notified of such debts.



  1. The sickness of Thanet puppet councillors with business men pulling the strings and no cooperation with the residents, always carrying out their own agenda they dislike you not for what you do wrong but for what you do right carry on letting the world know what is going on down here.

  2. Ian, You make no mention of the Council paying all the costs of running a ferry port with no ferry income for three years.

  3. Should there not also be a complaint to the auditors concerning the accounting? If the auditor doesn't 'fess up to making mistakes is there not a professional body who could be approached?

    1. I will be complaining to the District Auditor about the Councils 2012-13 accounts in July when they are published an open for inspection by the public. I am also hoping that Ombudsman will make comment on what has happened. The only real way to get to the bottom of this mess will be to have an independent public enquiry which I doubt Councillors from the Labour and Tory parties will support because their leaderships are implicated in the secret deal with TEF

  4. The reason we need an independent inquiry is that we don't yet know if this is the whole sorry mess or whether there is further scandal to emerge. With council officers refusing to hand over documents we can't know that we've got the bottom of it. Incidentally, the excuse that revealing documents might prejudice legal action is a load of cobblers. The Transeuropa debacle isn't going to be heard in front of a jury. It's going to be decided by judges or, more likely, settled out of court and you anyone who went into court claiming they couldn't get a fair trial because the judge had been influenced would get their ears boxed.

  5. What's your view on a potential OSP T&F Group looking into the TEF debt, given your comments about a cover up by Labour and Conservative Cllrs? Do you still believe such a group could be independent enough to do what you've asked for it to do in the last OSP meeting?

    1. Hi James I am happy for Overview and Scrutiny to investigate but in my opinion there needs to be an independent and public enquiry. The people who agreed the deal with TEF are the most senior officers and councillors of the Council who, in my opinion, have broken and subverted constitutional rules. Its hardly likely that an internal OSP enquiry will name and shame and these people whereas a independent public enquiry could well do this.