Sunday, 2 June 2013


2 months ago Thanet Council Leader Clive Hart wrote an article for the local paper about the imprisonment of disgraced former councillor Sandy Ezekiel. The article assured the people of Thanet that under Clive Hart's leadership the council would be “committed to the highest possible standards of propriety and accountability and will take its responsibility for protecting public money very seriously”.
With the emergence of the “Ferrygate” scandal it now appears that Hart’s definition of “protecting public money” meant recklessly allowing a failing ferry company, Transeurpoa, to rack up debts to the Council of £3.4 million which are extremely unlikely to ever be recovered.  It also appears that Hart’s definition of “the highest standards of propriety and accountability” was to have kept the  astronomic Transeuropa debt mountain secret from the people of Thanet and secret from virtually all elected councillors.
If this wasn’t bad enough Hart and  his predecessor Bob Bayford, who originally agreed the “Ferrygate” arrangement, and senior council officers may have  overlooked important parts of  Thanet Council’s Constitution.

According to Constitutional rules governing the management of the Council’s budget, any decision which might be “contrary to or not wholly in accordance with the budget” must be decided upon by a meeting of the full Council. 

In my opinion a decision to allow failing company Transeuropa Ferries to build up a debt to the Council of  £3.4 million over a 3 year period could be nothing other  than a decision “contrary to or not wholly in accordance with the budget.” Yet this decision has never been agreed by or reported to a meeting of the full Council in the three year period that the deal has been in place.
This is an incredibly serious situation. The people of Thanet and most of their elected councillors have in my opinion been misled about a serious and very large risk to public finances. Rules which are supposed to safeguard the Council’s budget, protect it from improper decision making  and promote open democratic governance seem to have been broken by very senior people.

I publically call on the Council’s Chief Executive, the Leader of the Council and the previous leader of the Council to do the honourable thing and resign as they are, or were, ultimately responsible for the sound management of Thanet Council's budget at the time of these events.
I also call on the Council to commission a full public enquiry into the “Ferrygate” affair. This enquiry must be independent because the main protagonists in this financial disaster are extremely senior politicians and officers who should not be allowed to investigate themselves.

This is the most serious case of local authority mismanagement I have ever seen. It should not be covered up. Those who are found to be responsible for this appalling mess should not be allowed to continue to manage the public purse.

One final question, will what amounted to be a public sector subsidy for Transeuropa be found to be in breach of EU competition rules. If so will an already weakened Thanet Council be forced to pay a fine? I am going to try to find out.

If you know anything about the Ferrygate  scandal, or any other financial wrongdoings at Cecil Square  please feel free to contact me. I guarantee anonymity



  1. What a load of hot air!

  2. Ezekiel went inside for misconduct in public office. That offence applies not only to doing something wrong but failing to do something when you should. To have supported a failing company way beyond the time when their debts became so obviously unsustainable and without any legal authority - to have 'cooked the books' to hide the astronomical debt - to have agreed two annual budgets without disclosing the debt, is surely misconduct. It would be interesting to know what have been the actual costs of supporting the ferry company since they first went into arrears. We have had instances before where the Council have supported causes for which they had no authority and the District Auditor has said so.

  3. I have reported the matter to the District Auditor and when the Council accounts are published later this year I will be challenging them and encouraging my fellow citizens to do likewise

  4. One wonders if the income from TEF was contained within the budget, if not - as I suspect is the case - then the point made about the loss to the council is moot. And lets be clear here, whether the company had been wound up when the payment of bills were delayed for the 1st time 3 years ago, or allowed to trade until this year, accruing the current debt, the loss to the council would have been the same.

  5. Ian, We appreciate there are a huge number of skeleton's in TDC's cupboard which need exorcising, but you need to think about identifying just two or three major issues and leaving the rest until your chosen subjects are resolved and you are proved right. Your detractors are publicly throwing allegations at you because they are all compromised in their secret deals and too many of them need you besmirched. The Public couldn't possibly be expected to appreciate all the detail and the full picture. What the public do know, is the TDC's doesn't represent them and that many of the Councillors and Officers are operating way above their pay scale for their own benefit. You are not the only one to realise this.

  6. Keep throwing mud Driver. We need councillors who won't shut up and accept a cover-up. I can't get away with not paying my Council tax by whingeing that I can't afford it, so a company should not be able to use that excuse. If the bank wouldn't lend them the money to pay their bills, public money shouldn't have been diverted for this purpose. It's what's called a high risk loan. We need councillors who will demand accountability and will demand that those who have failed fall on their swords. Having high standards isn't just a matter of talking about it. It's a matter of demonstrating that you have those high standards by removing those who fail to maintain those high standards quickly and decisively. It is simply not going to be acceptable to the public that this kind of money can be wasted, that the decision to do it can be taken in secret and that those involved don't pay with their jobs. You go after them and challenge the herd to explain why they are not joining you in demanding accountability.

  7. Ihave to disagree with 08:12, although the £3.4 million would be the same over the last 2 years the council has spent in the region of £1 million in dredging the port, £300,000 on keeping a tug at the port it has employed 12 permanent staff, 20 + security staff 2 cleaning staff for 2 years whilst not earning any income from Trans Europa. It has spent in the region of £1million on maintenace, levelling out car parks etc. So in total the loss to TDC has been £3.4 million plus and additional £3 million at a conservative guess, making a total of £6.4 million . Thanks to the councils 151 officer taking a rash and probably illegal decision.I think that the elected members and council officers who were party to the decision should be held liable for the money lost to the local taxpayer.

  8. Thank you Anon 20.27 this is very helpful information. If you have more please post. This is exactly why we need a public enquiry

  9. Had the controlling Labour Group taken the decision to terminate the agreement of the previous, outgoing Tory group then the redundancies would have occurred in 2011. The loss of revenue would have been approximately the same. The dredging of the Ramsgate port is a necessity to maintain the potential commercial viability of the port. This work will need to be continued and Thanet Council will have to continue to find the money unless it is being suggested that Thanet Council should close down Ramsgate as a port on a permanent basis. The decision was not taken by the Chief Executive but was taken in consultation with the controlling Labour group once the situation was made known to them. The decision was clearly taken in order to find a longer term solution and to support the financial viability of the harbour and it was hoped, the company. On this occasion the decision while easing the situation for a period of two years did not provide the desired outcome. You fail to clarify what decision you would have arrived at had he been in control of the Labour group. It should not be forgotten that you were a member of the Labour group at that time. There has been no "swindling" going on, merely a council trying to find a solution to a difficult situation during a period of acute economic difficulty. You would like people to think that there has been a cover up so that he can make personal political mileage from the situation. I challenge you to articulate what would have been your decision as things stood in 2011. Hindsight is a wonderful gift but is absolutely useless in the current economic reality, other than to provide a smokescreen for naked political ambition and a personal political bandwagon.

  10. I would have followed the Council's constitution and called as meeting of the Council and asked all 56 councillors to discuss and vote on a way forward rather than keep the deal a secret for 3 years. I think they call this democracy