Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Batten down the hatches and keep schtum seems to the be the order of the day at  Fortress Fanet's Cecil Square HQ.  As I write,  senior officers are fighting  an anally protective rear-guard action to avoid the truth about FerryGate leaking out.

So what's the story and where's it heading?

First,  a small group of very senior council officers and senior Cabinet politicians from the Conservative and Labour Parties decided in 2010 and again in 2012  that it would be a good idea to let Transeuropa Ferries (TEF) use Ramsgate Port for free as way to keep the failing ferry operator afloat and protect jobs. So far so good. Personally I would have supported this plan for a reasonable period.

But the wheels came off when  that same cabal of officers and politicians decided to keep their arrangement with TEF  secret from the 50 odd elected councillors who are not in the Cabinet; from the Council's finance watchdog the Governance and Audit Committee; from the Council's executive decision police, the Overview and Scrutiny Panel and, last but not least,  from the Council Taxpayers of Thanet who have a reasonable expectation that their elected representatives and well paid public officials would  manage the Council's affairs in a transparent fashion.  

 Meanwhile unbeknown to virtually every living person in Thanet,  TEFs debt to the Council was racking up at the astounding rate of  £100,000 every month, reaching a  sphincter-dilating  £3.4 million when TEF finally entered Davy Jones locker in April.

So why was this debt allowed to grow like Topsy? What
checks were conducted by the Council into the financial stability of TEF and whether or not their 3 year investment gamble was beginning to work? What checks were made and what expert advice taken on the highly competitive cross-channel ferry business and whether or not a £3.4 million punt with taxpayers money was risky? What checks were conducted into the background and financial stability of the mysterious Italian investors who were interested in buying TEF and paying off its debts to the Council. When the debt got to the £500,000 - £1million mark why didn't senior officers report it to the Full Council and ask for guidance?  The list of questions about what the Council did or should have  done to protect its investment and safeguard taxpayers money is endless, but no one involved in this sordid  episode is prepared to answer.

I have asked the Council's Chief Executive and Legal Officer to see all the documents and papers relating to this disaster. But my request has been turned down on the grounds that I might reveal confidential information to the public. Damn right I will! This matter is so serious that in my opinion all the documents relating to it should be available for anyone to see.

So where does this go next? Well I will be challenging the Council's refusal to let me see the documents related to TEF with the Information Commissioner. If I win I will publish all the documents. I will complaining to the Local Government Onbdusman about what I believe to be serious maladministration in the management of the TEF scandal. I have already
complained to the European Commission about possible breaches of the EU Laws by senior council officers and councillors. I will be contacting the District Auditor to object to Thanet Council's accounts when they are published later this summer and asking for enquiry. I will of course be trying to get as
much media attention as possible focused on this appalling scandal. But most importantly of all there must be a independent public enquiry into this sorry state affairs. An internal enquiry won't suffice because this scandal involves some of the most powerful people at Thanet Council and it wouldn't be right for them to investigate themselves!

Last but not least I call anyone who has access to any documents relating to the TEF issue, or any inside information about what went on to pass on that information to me. I guarantee you the strictest confidence.  This is a very serious matter and the truth must come out.


  1. Ian, Why shouldn't officers investigate themselves? They have always done it that way, which is we are in the god almighty mess we are now.

  2. McGonigal must be feeling very proud of herself.

  3. Why were the two Independent group leaders, Tom King and John Worrow not told about this.
    Why was the Council's finance watchdog kept in the dark?

    Was the Chief Executive, Sue Mc Gonigal not duty bound to tell them?

  4. Patterson trying to keep the lid on things - again. Ian have you seen the original agreement yet?

    1. Apart from a 3 page statement which the Chief Exec was forced to provide to the District Auditor and which I published on here I have no documents at all. I have been told because it is likely that I will make documents public they won't let me see them. So come on whistle-blowers step up to the mark

  5. Call the Police in Ian.

  6. Ian - Can you also look at this another way also and try and find out when the money being used to cover the debt was ever reported to councillors previously and what plans there were to use it bearing in mind we are talking millions of pounds? If councillors didn't know the money was there and available for good projects until the ferry debacle came along that would be vey worrying too for taxpayers (possibly as worrying as hardly any of them seemingly knowing the council was owed £3 million!). Was it being kept tucked away so that it could be magically produced for the ferry debt that hardly anyone seemed to know about? If there were plans for the money what is not going to happen as a result.

    The council press release released around 29 April 2013 on the crematorium said that the project was delivered under budget by £150,000, which will be re-invested to increase customer parking and other improvements to the crematorium facilities. Is this the money now going to the ferry? If so are the parking etc works now being shelved? Also if it's the same money surely there must have been strong thoughts by the end of April 2013 that it would be needed for the ferry and therefore why release the press release saying the money was going to be used for works?

    Also when did the benefits money get discovered and were councillors told it was available?

    The report on the ferry seems to give little information on the consequences of using the various bits of money cobbled together for the ferry.

  7. Why is it, that everytime a request to view docs' under the FOI, that a port cullis is dropped preventing access, with the excuse that it is deemed sensitive or confidential. How are taxpayers going to break down this, all too familiar rhetoric we get from this pack of incompetent council officers.

  8. I think Eric Pickles should intervene and order an inquiry into TDC. We need to be assured that there has been no wrongdoing. The fact that elected councillors are being refused permission to view documents could be an indication that people are trying to cover up for incompetence. However, it could also indicate that people are trying to cover up corruption. Nobody knows because our elected representative isn't being allowed to see the documents.

  9. Leader Hart should be making a public statement about this and explaining exactly what has gone on and disclosing whatever documents Cllrs want see. Hart should start by disclosing the agreement between TDC and Trans Europa to dispel the ugly rumour that there isn't one.