Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Thanet Council's unlawful efforts to deny my rights under Section 15.1 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 have collapsed in humiliating disarray.  Fortress Thanet’s Legal Adviser, Harvey Patterson, has now over-ruled   the Council’s Financial Services Manager and written to me conceding that I do have the right to inspect and copy documents relating to Transeuropa Debt scandal.

I suspect that this sudden change of heart was due to the underwear-soiling prospect of the Council’s top bosses being dragged before a judge for denying people their legal rights.

However, the  questions which come into my mind are how could the Council's second most senior finance officer, who is line managed by Chief Executive Sue McGonigal, make such a fundamental legal and procedural  mistake? This person has managed many annual audit processes over the years surely she must know what the rules are in relation to the inspection and copying of documents?

Also how much has this farce costed. The Financial Services Manager obviously spent time considering my request and probably took advice from colleagues. Thanet Council's legal officer has also spent time checking his law books and seeking advice. Furthermore,  how many other people have been told by the Council's Financial Services Manager that they can't copy the accounts related documents they have inspected. All of these people will now have to be contacted and told that the Council has infringed their legal rights.

I reckon that in their unseemly haste to cover up key Transeuropa documents and keep the truth from being revealed, top Council bosses have wasted  several £1,000s of  public money in a misconceived and unlawful exercise to deny people their legal rights. This bill is set grow even further  when I appeal  to the Information Commissioner next week to have all of  the secret  Transeuropa documents disclosed.

Here is the e-mail exchange between Harvey P and myself.

 Dear Mr Patterson
Thank you for your e-mail. I am pleased that the Council has changed its mind about my copying documents.
I am not pleased that you are still resisting my efforts to see, copy and publish key documents related to the Transeuropa debt scandal. I will be raising my discontent with the Auditor and, when the FOI internal review period comes to an end next week, I will  of course by complaining to the Information Commissioner. If Commissioner rules in my favour I will copy and publish all the documents related to secret deal with TEF which has cost this hard-pushed Council £3.3 million it can scarcely afford to loose.
I am aware of one other person who Sarah Martin has told will not be able to copy documents related to the inspection of the Council's accounts. I assume that this person will now be written to and advised that he can copy the documents as well. 
Please tell me how many people have asked to inspect the Council accounts and related documents since the accounts were opened for inspection on 15th July. How many of these people have been told that they are not allowed to copy documents? 
On the assumption that Ms Martin has applied her unlawful copying ban on everyone inspecting the accounts then it is incumbent upon the council to contact all these people to apologise for infringing their legal rights and to offer the opportunity for them to come back and copy the documents they were interested in, even if this means extending the inspection period.
I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
 Yours sincerely
  Councillor Ian Driver  

Dear Councillor Driver

Thank you  for copying me  in on you e-mails  of  yesterday's date concerning the above matter.

I have reviewed what you say  and considered both the Audit Commission  Act 1998  and the Accounts & Audit (England) Regulations 2011.

Regulation 9 of the 2011 Regulations provides that the relevant body (the Council) must makes its accounts available for public inspection (my emphasis) for 20 working days before the date appointed by the Auditor under Regulation 21 (being the date on or after which electors can question the auditor about the accounts or make objections  to them).  There  is no right  to make copies  of any part of the accounts on the face of the 2011 Regulations, which  is why  Sarah  Martin reached the conclusion that she did.

However,  as you point out, this is  addressed in Section 15 (1) (b) of the Audit Commission Act 1998 which provides that  the accounts  and any supporting books, deeds, contracts  bills  and vouchers and receipts that are subject  to a right  of inspection, may also be copied. Accordingly, when you are able to exercise your right to inspect the accounts  (given  your inablity to make the appointment  fixed for 26 July 2013  the Council will  provide you with two alternative dates),  I am pleased to  confirm  that  facilities willl be made available for you to make copies of any of the relevant documentation should you wish to do so.

Turning to  the debt deferral  arrangement  withg Transeuropa NV  which you assert is a document you are entitled to inspect ,  I regret that I must disagree with you as it is manifestly not  a ' book , deed ,  bill,  voucher or receipt'  nor is it  a 'contract' in that  the decision by the Council  to re-schedule the  debt  was a matter of concesssion, not a matter of contractual obligation nor  is this view  altered by the fact that reference is made to this arrangement  in the preamble to the accounts, as this cannot  transform the document  into  a  book, deed, contract, bill, voucher or receipt.

Moreover,  going back to first principles, the right to inspect  books deeds, contracts  bills etc that relate to an item in the accounts is conferred  on electors  to enable them to have  sufficient information to be able  to question the auditor about  the accounts  or to challenge an item in the accounts. Consequently, even if the debt deferral  arrangement was  a 'contract',  you would still not be entitled to inspect and make copies of it because,  following the decision of full Council on 11 July 2013 to re-state and deal  with the  Transeuropa debt in the 2012/13 accounts, is is clear  that the debt deferral arrangement no longer has any relevance to the treatment of the debt in the 2012/13 accounts.

In conclusion, I trust that you will now  accept that the Council has no intention of  denying  you the inspection and copying rights conferred by the 1998 Act and the 2011 Regulations. In addition, if you are not satisfied with my explanation concerning the debt deferral arrangement, you are at liberty to refer this to the auditor.

Yours sincerely
Harvey Patterson
Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager
Thanet District Council
Tel: 01843 577005


  1. There are some very good launderers locally.

  2. Well done Ian!
    Please keep going for the people of Ramsgate.

  3. And how much do you think you've cost by continually grandstanding for your own purposes ??

    1. very little indeed compared to the £3.3 million debt owed to the Council by TEF, which was secretly cobbled together by a tiny handful of senior council officers and political bosses of the Tory and Labour parties and which will have to be paid for by Thanet Council tax-payers. The actual figure is £4,000pa in allowances. I hardly think trying to expose the truth of a secret £3.3 million gone wrong when virtually all 56 Thanet councillors are slavishly following their party whips and closing ranks to cover up the truth is grandstanding. But hey ho it takes all sorts

  4. I have to liken the incident to a tug of war. Lots of time training, loads of energy used up, considerable time stood in the same place going nowhere fast. Then when there is a winning team, how far has it got them - a body length perhaps. Time to put all the effort at one end of the rope, pull together and pull The Isle of Thanet towards being a decent place like it used to be.

  5. Please keep up the questions on behalf of all of Thanet and also acting as opposition in default of Bayford and the useless Tory group.

  6. Well done on the result so far. For your information I have asked (Once again) Clive Hart to yield jurisdiction to Full Council concerning a past Standards procedure. On the basis they cannot sit in judgment of themselves. With a view to remedy and to the question of TDC making a crime complaint of conspiracy to pervert justice. Unfortunately in 1967 the Statute Law displaced Misprision of Felony at Common Law or I would have made crime complaints at Common Law against every TDC individual who had knowledge and failed to report to police.

    Power to your elbow though.

  7. It is highly unlikely if tested in Court that the Council would succeed in a futile claim that the "debt deferral arrangement" was not a contract or deed or voucher as it caused the Council to act or to not act in this case to the detriment of £3million.
    To say it is irrelevant to the 2012/2013 accounts is clearly wrong because that document if it actually exists, and to be sure it cannot be worth the paper it is written on, is, if the Council is to be believed, the reason there is a £3million cost to provide for the bad debt in the 2012/13 accounts. So what more reason should you need to be allowed to see it? After all you may want to challenge the auditor as to why it is a £3m charge now and was not in the two prior years.
    When the above quoted statute was drafted stating a whole list of document types can be inspected, it is clear what the intention was, and they would not list "debt deferral arrangements" along with an infinite number of other unlikely documents.
    The reason you are not being allowed to see it, if it exists, is because it will cause major embarrassment to those involved, especially those telling you why you cannot see it.

  8. If TDC believe that the "debt deferral arrangement" was not a contract then it raises the question of why a non binding agreement was made rather than a contract for such huge sums of money?

  9. 18:17 is right, if it was non-binding it may as well have not existed, and assuming that it existed and was binding there was obviously no security obtained for the debt, but the document should be shown.

  10. The Council is wrong to deny visual inspection and copying of the documents for the following reason. The Audit Commission Act 1998 provides for the auditor to audit the accounts to be satisfied that they have been prepared in accordance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003, that they comply with all other statutory provisions applicable to the accounts, that proper practices have been observed in their compilation, and most relevant to the Transeuropa £3.4million debt that the body whose accounts are being audited has made proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources. This is the “value for money” aspect of the audit.

    The right to inspect and copy under section 15(1) of the Audit Act 1998 is conferred on persons interested, which is a wider group than just local government electors, and was enacted to enable those with a real and close interest in a council's activity to scrutinize its accounts in the audit process, for example to consider whether sums paid under a contract are properly due; whether payments made by the Council are lawful; and whether in incurring any liability for expenditure the Council under audit has made proper arrangements for securing value for money.
    This latter “proper arrangements for securing value for money” is relevant to the Transeuropa Debt and the “Debt Deferral Arrangement” and any other documents that lead to the £3million charge in the accounts. Ipso facto all the documents related to it should be disclosed, and they are breaking the law if they do not.

  11. Driver wrote to one of the Funder's on Royal Sands and told them they should not fund the development, and then also wrote to one of the Hotel groups, and told them not to come to Ramsgate...

    Both letter were sent as if Driver was acting with TDC Authority..

    And we wonder why Ramsgate seafront is in the state it is.....

    Driver is a driving everyone away

    1. Think you need to check your facts. SFP does not have any funders so who could I write to? Several people wrote to the hotel groups one of the groups said it had never been approached by the developers. Not the first time they have made things up to look good. The advertising standards authority took the developers to task for misleading advertising. Thanks Allan

  12. What a pointless waste of time and money. The money lost would have been lost either way. It's a bit like worrying whether a burning house will burn to the ground before the fire brigade damage the carpets with water, then 2nd guessing the fireman about how they used the water.

  13. Not more pub logic.

  14. Well done Ian: keep going. Mere silly legal wriggling form Harvey now. Ask for copies of the minutes and emails on the decision. And the contract/document under FOI.

    And because you are a councillor - do none of the other councillors receive this sort of financial information routinely?

    I dread to think where the Manston costs and fines are hidden.

    How appalling to have the civil servants hiding this material from you.

    Sack them and reinvoice the wasted costs as deductions of salary and pension.

  15. 01:41 As you have no understanding of the issues in this case you are bound to see it as a "waste of time and money".

  16. Following requests for information made in good faith by an elected member of the Council, is it not Gross Misconduct for any Officer of the Council let alone its Principal Solicitor to knowingly and continually make false statements or knowingly provide false or misleading information to that elected member?

  17. If so see Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (ENGLAND) Regulations 2001 - Regulation 7 - Investigation of alleged misconduct.