Friday, 30 August 2013

Ramsgate Pleasurama Begining of the End?

I attended a meeting of the Pleasurama Working Group meeting last night. We spent a lot of time talking about a committee report  which led to  changes to  the  Pleasurama development agreement in 2009 and which included  due diligence documents about  project developers SFP Ventures Ltd.

Some people at the meeting, myself included, felt that  the  due-diligence process was flawed. In fact I would go so far as to say that the due diligence conducted into SFP by the Council was a pathetic joke. Some documents were out of date, some made unsubstantiated  claims about investments  others were, shall we say, of extremely dubious origin. I will publish some of these documents in due course for your merriment.

After asking several questions about the documents it appeared to me that these "dodgy docs"  had been accepted by senior officers and Cabinet & Council members at face value. There appears to have been no effort to verify the documents; no effort  to seek further clarification from SFP Ventures about the claims they were making and no effort to seek information about the  origins of some of the more doubtful documents.

Had there been a proper, more robust, due diligence process and had SFP Ventures been subjected to
much tougher scrutiny then I am sure that  this company  would have been sacked as the developer in 2009. But, and I am  speculating here, it may be that certain powerful  people didn't want a robust examination of  SFP and its dodgy docs, because they may have had a more than a passing civic interest in the success of this development - nudge and wink know what I mean! This might also be why the decision of councillors from both the Labour and Tory parties, to accept the 2009 report without question and retain (against officer advice)  SFP as the project developers  was, so I am reliably informed, a whipped decision in which councillors were forced and pressured to vote for SFP.

Incompetence, corruption, political shenanigans  or  a combination of all of this   - either way the result was that a major opportunity to get rid of failing developer SFP Ventures was missed in 2009 and  the people of Ramsgate have been forced to endure 4 totally unnecessary years of having their seafront blighted by the Pleasurama bombsite disaster, when something much better and something that local people really wanted could have been built and have been operating by now!

But that was then and this is now. Instead of looking back at the pig-in-the-poke which was forced on Ramsgate - how do we move on?

 Well its quite simple! Section 19.1 (3) of the development agreement deed of variation sates that "The Developer shall procure that practical completion of the whole development works takes place by no later than 28th February 2014". Well its pretty clear to me that even if SFP recruited 500 builders  and started work on site  tomorrow there is no way that they would meet this deadline! In my opinion SFP Ventures UK Ltd is  in breach of its development agreement with the Council and the Council should now initiate default proceedings against SFP with a view to taking back the site!

Would it be that simple! But thankfully the working group did decide to take immediate steps to secure legal advice, including advice on termination of the agreement under section  19.1 (3) of the development deed of variation. It might be a costly exercise and it might take a while, but I am convinced that the Council has an extremely strong case which will enable it  to prise this site from the avaricious grip  of  Mr Shaun Partick Keegan's SFP Ventures and his estate agent mouthpiece  Mr Terrence Painter.  I will keep you up to date about the further twists and turns of this saga, of which I am sure there will be many.

Finally,  I've said it before and I'll say it again had it not been for the hard work of local people signing petitions, attending meetings, lobbying councillors then none of  these positive developments would  have happened. Less than a year ago the Council's ruling Labour Group including every single Ramsgate Labour Councillor voted against my motion on Pleasurama, and shamefully used the Chairman's casting vote to stifle debate of this subject. In July  this year, at a packed public meeting at Chatham House School,  Labour Cabinet Member and  Ramsgate Councillor Allan Poole laughed at and insulted many of the local people who expressed concerns about Pleasurama.  I would venture to suggest that the sudden conversion of many Labour politicians into anti-Pleasurama warriors is more about a 2015 election than any deeply held conviction that the blight on seafront is wrong and indefensible. but hey ho I would say that wouldn't I.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Farage Fracks Himself in Foot

UKIP Leader, Nigel Farage, has been described by  Kent Green Party as “dangerously ignorant” following his comments about fracking made whilst visiting Dover and Deal. According to reports Farage described fracking as a “God given opportunity” and “gift horse” (1) for the people of Kent.

Green Party spokesperson, Councillor Ian Driver said “Evidence is mounting that shale and coal bed methane gas extraction methods are extremely damaging. They deplete and pollute ground water supplies, increase greenhouse gas levels, cause earth tremors and destroy natural habitats”.
“In Kent 75% of our water comes from underground aquifers already under stress because of years of over extraction and pollution (2). Yet the latest applications to Kent County Council for exploratory drilling for shale and coal bed methane gas are located right on top of the East Kent Stour aquifer which supplies water for half-a-million people in the Ashford, Canterbury  Dover, Deal, and Thanet areas”(3).

“For Farage to describe a threat to the water security of one third of Kent’s population as a God-given gift-horse, suggests that he is a dangerously ignorant person who is out of touch with growing public concerns”.

 “Kent Green Party is opposed to fracking. Instead of depending on fossil fuels, we propose major investments in developing new renewable energy sources” (4).

"We will work closely with campaign groups across Kent to stop damaging gas extraction.  This will include taking peaceful direct action like Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, who was recently arrested at the Balcombe anti-fracking protest".


FURTHER INFORMATION: Ian Driver, County Press Officer, Kent Green Party: Tel: 07866 588766.

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at

(2)   The State of Water in Kent, Environment Agency 2012 and  East Kent Stour Groundwater Body Report, Environment Agency 2008
(3)   The applications have been made by Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd for exploratory drilling at Tilmanstone, Shepherdswell and Guston
(4)   Green Party Energy Policy

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Kent Green Party Codemns Syria Attack

The Chair of the  Kent Green Party, Stuart  Jeffery, said today that a military response to the Syrian crisis would “make a terrible situation much worse”.

“Although the Green Party totally deplores the actions of the Azad regime a military response by the UK and US will not put an end the bloody civil war, but will certainly lead to the deaths of many hundreds of  innocent people. An attack on Syria is also highly likely to provoke the Azad regime into taking yet more desperate measures to defend itself resulting  in further civilian causalities”.

“The threat of military action has already led to a major escalation in the number of refugees leaving Syria  which is placing severe economic strains upon  the neighbouring  countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. The flight of over 2 million people from Syria has all the hallmarks of  developing into a humanitarian crisis and may well be the cause of further political upheaval in this incredibly sensitive part of the world”.
“The Green Party urges the Government to exercise great caution(1). Instead of taking precipitate military action the  United Nations Inspectors, currently investigating the appalling chemical weapons attack,  should be allowed time to complete their work and the UN  must be given the opportunity to debate their  findings. Acting without a proper evaluation of the facts, as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan,  can lead to long-term and massively expensive entanglements which often make a terrible situation even worse”.


(1)   During tomorrow’s (29th August)  Parliamentary debate Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas,  will be urging the Government to exercise great caution in deciding what action it will take to deal with the Syrian crisis
(2)   Members of the Green Party will be supporting the emergency protest against a military strike on Syria outside 10 Downing Street between 5-7pm tonight.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

East Kent Fracking Update

Welsh based company Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd  has Department of Energy and Climate Change licences to explore the area which used to be the East Kent coalfield for shale gas and coal bed methane gas. They are working in partnership with Eden Energy (UK) Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Eden Energy Australia. They seem to think there is quite a lot of gas to be had in East Kent

Coastal Oil and Gas already have planning permission from Kent County Council  to drill test boreholes at a site near Woodnesborough. They have now submitted planning applications to Kent County Council for 3 more test bore holes at Shepherdswell, Tilmanstone and Guston. The applications have yet to be verified by  planning officers which might take another 2-3 weeks.

Once verified  the applications, along with details of the precise locations of the boreholes,  will be published on the Kent County Council planning website. Following verification people living near the sites and the local parish councils will be consulted by KCC. The consultation takes about 2 months following which the applications will be decided  by Kent County Council Planning Applications Committee. So if things go smoothly KCC might make decisions about the  3 test boreholes by Xmas 2013.

My understanding is that Coastal Oil and Gas are mainly interested in finding  Coal Bed Methane gas which is easier and cheaper to extract than shale gas. There are many ways to extract Coal Bed Methane Gas some involve fracking, some do  not. But one thing which the extraction of Coal Bed Methane Gas has in common with fracking is the serious risk of polluting water supplies and this is  precisely why the people of Thanet should be  extremely concerned. 

Because all 4 test drilling sites are located on top what is known as the  East Kent Stour Aquifer which is where rainwater seeps into the chalk like a massive sponge. This water is then extracted by Southern Water (of Thanet  beach pollution fame) and  a lot of it is then piped into Thanet for domestic use.  I have been in touch with the Environment Agency to ask how much water from the East Kent Stour Aquifer is piped into Thanet and will publish more on this when I get the answers. In the meantime its safe to say that if full blow gas extraction, or even fracking, takes place in the East Kent coalfield people living  in Thanet will run the risk of having to drink, cook and wash with   poisoned water.

There are also many other risks associated with extraction  of Coal Bed Methane Gas. Like fracking, huge quantities of water are used, or removed, to free the gas from  the coal seams. This water often becomes polluted as part of the extraction process and must be treated before it can be safely used. Coal Bed Methane Gas also  escapes into the atmosphere during extraction, increasing the greenhouse effect,  and last but least the old mine workings from where the gas is likely to be extracted are likely to collapse causing major subsidence problems.  Here is a link to a webpage which explains more about the extraction the  Coal Bed Methane Gas

So there you have it. We are at the beginning of a process which is very  likely to result in some incredibly dangerous and polluting activities, which may even include fracking,  taking place right on Thanet's doorstep.

The Thanet Green Party will be campaigning against this danger and we intend to hold a public meeting later in the year when developments have become much clearer. If you want to be kept up to date or become involved in our campaign please contact me on

There is also a facebook group set up by people from Sandwich and Deal

Monday, 26 August 2013

Ramsgate Isa Shanty Town

I read last week about how Ramsgate is the fourth most deprived seaside town in England and to prove the point it has its own Shanty Town which I visited last night. I must say I was well impressed. Set in some old arches just beyond the Pleasurama site , Shanty Town is one of the most unique nite spots I've visited in long while. The knazi's are bit primitive and buying a drink involves tokens, and it was hot, very hot, but the place was heaving with a great atmosphere and of course the music - lots of heavy dub which I haven't heard for a long time .
A club like this is well overdue in Thanet and I a am sure it will go from strength to strength to strength. It just shows what creativity and energy there is in Thanet. If the powers that be can tap into and encourage this energy Thanet could soon become a rival to Brighton. Shanty Town is I hope the shape of many things to come. People with drive and imagination doing it for themselves and in the process helping to regenerate the island.
Good on you Shanty Town I will be going again and again and again 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

In Defence of the RSPCA

I usually write all my own stuff on this blog (and it shows). But for a change I reproduce below an article by Dr Brian May (member of Queen) about the RSPCA. It sums all my feelings about the sustained attack on this charity. My involvement with the anti-live animal exports campaign at Ramsgate and now Dover has brought me into contact with RSPCA. A more dedicated and determined group of staff and volunteers would be hard to find anywhere. Hats of to the RSPCA and thanks Dr May for standing up against the critrics and bullies.

An appallingly violent act is unfolding in front of our eyes.
It is nothing less than a vicious, calculated attempt to discredit the RSPCA and destroy its powers to prevent cruelty to animals.
This vile attack is being mounted by the Countryside Alliance, elements of the National Farmers' Union, elements of the Press and media and elements of the very Government of this country.elements of the Press and media and elements of the very Government of this country.
It must not be allowed to succeed.
 What we are witnessing is a last desperate attempt by the old privileged set in Britain, to hang on to its perceived right to trample over people, property, pets, wild animals and basically anything that gets in the way of their selfish desires.
This is a pivotal moment.
The RSPCA was founded in 1824 with the express purpose of defending animals against abuse – against unnecessary pain and death. The RSPCA is one of the finest altruistic organisations this country has ever seen. It has tirelessly pursued that goal for 180 years, rescuing animals from all kinds of terrible fates, recently fighting amongst other things against the cruel export of live farm animals to Europe, the random massacre of badgers in a futile attempt to eradicate a farming disease, and the pursuit of fox hunters who have been routinely flouting the law against the pursuit and killing of foxes using packs of dogs.
All of these activities sit within the RSPCA's charitable objecives. The RSPCA's charter not only allows it to prosecute these abuses, but actually obliges it to do so. Until recently it had been infiltrated by supporters of cruel sports, and had stopped short of pursuing the cruelty of the hunts, but under the strong leadership of Gavin Grant, the RSPCA has recently for the first time taken long overdue direct action to prosecute illegal acts of fox hunting. The result has been a backlash – a frantic attempt to vilify the RSPCA in the eyes of the public.
Imagine, for a moment, that the NSPCC succeeded in a prosecution against a team of child abusers. Imagine if elements of the Press, in reporting the prosecution, neglected to report that justice had been done, but instead accused the NSPCC of recklessly spending its money, letting down its supporters, breaking its charter, and being politically motivated in its behaviour. Imagine if a bunch of child abusers then banded together to spread vile propaganda against the NSPCC, its officers, and the very children that were abused. This terrible scenario is exactly what the RSPCA is being subjected to, the only difference being that the creatures involved are non-human. The analogy between the RSPCA and the NSPCC is far from random. Both organisations were the result of action by William Wilberforce, the NSPCC being born actually within the offices of the RSPCA in 1884; both organisations operate with the clear intention of stamping out cruelty absolutely. It is widely accepted by criminal enforcement agencies that cruelty to animals is closely correlated with psychopathic behaviour and cruelty to children, and the two organisations have maintained their links over the years.
How could we stand by and let the pro-cruelty section of the community get away with it ? The people vilifying the RSPCA and anyone who speaks up for them are small in number, but rich, powerful, well connected, and utterly ruthless. Their aim is to bring back the despicable blood sports of fox-hunting, hare coursing, and stag hunting, which were outlawed by the Hunting Act of 2004. The fact that this Government is within an ace of starting a massacre of badgers might appear to be unrelated. But the fact is that the only way such carnage can be justified is if the value of a badger is set at zero. If they get away with this badger cull, then the value of every wild mammal is also set at zero, so, under the dishonest pretext of 'vermin control', they will be able to get away with bringing back all these appallingly cruel pursuits. There is no reason to suppose that it would stop there.
This is the crossroads.
Britain at this point either allows Cameron's government to propel us back into the Dark Ages of barbarism, or we all stand up and cry "No!" No return to the despicable pursuits of the privileged few in the name of tradition, or hidden under the entirely bogus claim of 'control'.
People of the UK, if you value your personal freedoms, and your right to be able to stand up against an anachronistic clique of ruthless toffs and bullies what we must demand is zero tolerance of cruelty towards any sentient creature.
These attacks on the RSPCA will continue to appear – desperate attempts to thwart the prosecution of animal abusers, with the ultimate aim of making it acceptable for wild animals to be culled, hunted for sport, and regarded as vermin. At this crucial time we must give the RSPCA our full support.

Friday, 23 August 2013

£200K No Deterrent for Polluting Thanet's Beaches

So Southern Water has been fined £200,000 for polluting Thanet’s beaches in 2011. Investigations are still on-going into the pollution incident in 2012 when all of Thanet’s beaches were closed for over a week. There might be another prosecution and fine for this spillage as well.

But what does this matter to Southern Water, Not much I venture. Last year Southern Water made £331million profits. That’s almost £1million per day! So a fine of £200,000 is hardly a deterrent.
Out of the 23 water companies operating in England and Wales, OFWAT, the water industry regulator, has rated Southern Water the worst company for serious pollution incidents. Southern Water is also the worst water company in the country for discharging  more sewage into our waterways and sea than is allowed for in their permits with the Environment Agency.
Last year when I was part of the Council Scrutiny Investigation into Southern Water I was contacted by several company employees who told me all about new staff rostering  and call out arrangements and  large cuts in  wages and pensions which had wreaked havoc with routine maintenance and emergency cover and destroyed the  morale of staff working in a dirty and often dangerous job 24/7.  They also told me about how some spillage and pollution incidents were covered up and not reported by bosses. In fact one of the reasons for imposing the £200,000 on Southern Water appears to have been its reluctance to fes-up  when it dumped raw sewage in the sea.
Well I don’t know about you, but I think Southern Water has a responsibility to spend a big wedge of its £331 million super-profits on investing in new infra-structure and decent conditions for its staff, in order to stop pollution incidents such as those in Thanet which have damaged the reputation of our beaches and caused serious economic loss to local business. This will become even more important when the new European Bathing Water Quality directives are introduced in 2015 which have even tougher standards than now.

The Green Party believes that our water services are so important to the health of the nation that they should not be managed by private companies who are motivated by profit, but should be brought back under public ownership.

Kent Green Party Warns of Fracking Frenzy

Kent Green Party warns of a possible “fracking frenzy” in the county following confirmation that the British Geological Survey is “conducting a review of the shale oil and shale gas resource potential of the Weald area on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change”(1) and that Kent County Council is processing  3 planning applications for exploratory drilling in the east of the county(2) ”.
Party spokesperson, Ian Driver, said: “The planning applications for exploratory drilling and the British Geological Survey review of gas and oil resources in the Weald are very worrying developments. If significant gas reserves are located then companies such as Midmar Energy, IGas and Cuadrilla, who already hold Department of Energy and Climate Change exploration licences, will descend upon some of the most beautiful parts of  Kent  to begin a fracking frenzy.

“Apart from destroying picturesque landscape, growing evidence demonstrates that fracking pollutes water supplies, causes earthquakes and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”.
“Kent Green Party opposes fracking. We will work closely with campaign groups across the county to try to stop this dangerous method of gas extraction. Green Party members are already part of the Balcombe anti-fracking protest, where Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, was recently arrested whilst  protesting peacefully.”

“The Green Party calls for a moratorium on shale gas extraction until a full and definitive environmental impact assessment has been carried out. Instead of depending on fossil fuels, we propose major investments in developing new renewable energy sources such as tidal and wave power, concentrated solar power, bio-energy carbon capture and storage, electric transport, energy storage and dynamic demand technologies and the overall reduction in energy consumption through improved energy efficiencies(3).

FURTHER INFORMATION: Ian Driver, County Press Officer, Kent Green Party: Tel: 07866 588766.

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at


(1)Text of e-mail from BGS

Dear Councillor Driver,
BGS is currently conducting a geological review of the shale oil and shale gas resource potential of the Weald area on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. We are not conducting any CBM investigations in that area. Work has only just started, and will take many months yet. DECC will publish the report when it is finished, probably some time next year. I understand that Thanet is beyond the area of study. 
Phil Richards Manager, Hydrocarbons,British Geological Survey,Murchison House,West Mains Rd,Edinburgh, EH9 3LA

(2) Minutes of Kent County Council Planning Meeting The Head of Planning Applications Group also informed the Committee of the receipt of three (so far not validated) planning applications for exploratory boreholes in East Kent.  To curtail any rumours to the contrary, she stressed that these were not applications for fracking and agreed to inform all Members of the Committee once the validation was complete and the consultation period had begun.

(3) Green Party Energy Policy 


Monday, 19 August 2013

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas Arrested at Fracking Site

"Kent Green Party condemns the arrest today (19th) of Caroline Lucas, Green
MP, and her son at Balcombe, West Sussex, during the continuing protest against drilling and possible hydraulic fracking in this area

19 August 2013

 Commenting on her arrest at Balcombe today, Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
“Along with everyone else who took action today, I’m trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come.
“The evidence is clear that fracking and undermines efforts to tackle the climate crisis and poses potential risks to the local environment.
“People today, myself included, took peaceful non-violent direct action only after exhausting every other means of protest available to us.     I’m in the privileged position of being able to put questions to the Government directly and arrange debates in Parliament, but still ministers have refused to listen.
“Despite the opposition to fracking being abundantly clear, the Government has completely ignored the views of those they are supposed to represent.  When the democratic deficit is so enormous, people are left with very little option but to take peaceful, non-violent direct action.”
The Green Party has been hugely vocal in its opposition to fracking and Green MEP Keith Taylor and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, have also visited Balcomberecently to express support for the protestors. 
Today London assembly member Jenny Jones also visited the site today to add her voice to those concerned over the lack of Government commitment to tackling climate change. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Kent Green Party Councillors Call for Boycott of Winter Olympics

Kent Green Party Councillors, Martin Whybrow and Ian Driver, added their voices to growing demands for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi (1), following the Russian government’s introduction of draconian anti-LGBT legislation earlier this year.

In a joint letter to Prime Minster David Cameron, they said Team GB’s participation in the Games “would lend credibility to a European country which has introduced an extremely dangerous piece of legislation, threatening the human rights of millions of its citizens”.

Said KCC Councillor Martin Whybrow: “Last summer Kent hosted 36 Olympic and 8 Paralympic training camps and thousands of people from the county volunteered as Game Makers.  These experiences mean that, as a community, Kent people understand more than most the unique inclusive spirit that makes the modern Olympic movement – a spirit which has no place for the bigotry demonstrated by the Russian government.”

Councillor Ian Driver added: “In 2011 I had the privilege of moving a motion which committed Thanet Council to the support of equal marriage. Thanks to David Cameron’s championing of this change, equal marriage is now lawful. For the government he leads to allow Team GB to compete in a country which has legalised the persecution of its LGBT citizens seems to me to be incompatible with our strong commitment as a nation to inclusivity and tolerance.”


(1)   Other supporters of the boycott include celebrity Stephen Fry, Human Rights Activist Peter Tatchell, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas
Text of letter to David Cameron MP, the Prime Minster

Dear Prime Minster
We are writing to you to express our deep concern about the Russian government’s recent introduction of draconian legislation which allows for the persecution of its LGBT citizens.

As the leader of a country which recently legalised equal marriage, and as one of the main supporters of the campaign for its introduction, we ask you to use your influence to persuade the Russian government to think again about this reactionary legislation.
We believe one of the most effective ways to do this is for our country to join the growing international campaign to boycott the 2014 Winter Games being held at Sochi in Russia.

Team GB’s participation would lend credibility to a European country which has introduced an extremely dangerous piece of legislation, threatening the human rights of millions of its citizens. Our long national tradition of respect, tolerance and inclusivity, as evidenced by our legalisation on equal marriage, is incompatible with participation in the Sochi Games.
If our country were to take a strong moral stand and join the boycott, the Russian government would quickly realise that it is on the wrong side of history.

Yours sincerely
Councillor Martin Whybrow, The Green Party, The Members’ Room, Sessions House,
County Hall, Maidstone Kent ME14 1XQ

Councillor Ian Driver, The Green Party, c/o Thanet District Council, PO Box 9, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent, CT9 1XZ

Friday, 16 August 2013

Kent Greens Call For Public Ownership of Railways

Following another round of inflation-busting fare rises the Kent Green Party is calling for the public ownership of our railways. Party spokesperson, Councillor Ian Driver,  said “Fares will be increasing  by an average of 4.3% in the new year and on some routes even more,  that’s much greater than the pay rises received by most  working people in Kent.”

“Figures show  that whilst the average wage has increased by 15% since January 2008, rail fares have increased by an eye-watering 40% over the same period(1). A lot of this money is being siphoned off as profits and shareholder dividends by greedy privatised train operators,  instead of being re-invested into improving our railway system and keeping down fare rises.This why our railways are amongst the most expensive in Europe”. “The Green Party believes that the costly  and wasteful structure of our rail industry which was caused by its 1993 privatisation,  should be replaced by a joined-up, more cost-efficient publically owned organisation(2)”.
“The TUC and many of its affiliated unions support the call for public ownership of our railways and a recent report by  think tank  Transport for Quality of Life, demonstrates that a publically owned railway would, allowing for investment and improvements,  be cheaper to run and cost less to use than the dysfunctional, expensive and unreliable  service we have today (3)”.

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at

Average Earnings (January)
Rail fares (January)

(1)Figures provided by the Trades Union Congress
(2) see Green Party Transport Policy
(3) Transport for Quality of Life Rebuilding Rail June 2012


Tonight was the first meeting of the Transeuropa Working Group. I turned up to express my reservations about this so-called exercise in "scrutiny" and to tender  my resignation from its membership. I wasn't alone  Councillor Zita Wiltshire  felt the same way as me and resigned as well.

In my opinion this group is flawed and will fail to get to the truth of what went on. How can a committee with a large majority of Labour and Conservative Party Councillors conduct a fair and objective investigation into the actions of their party leaders.(Bob Bayford and Clive Hart) who kept this outrageous  £3. 3 million gamble with public money  a secret for almost three year. Impossible! 

The members of this working group are hardly objective, independent and open minded. They are exactly the same people who recently voted against my proposal for  an independent  public enquiry into the Transeuropa Debt scandal. They are the same people who voted against my motion to make all of the secret documents related  to Transeuropa freely available to all councillors. Many of  them also depend upon the patronage of their party leaders for the positions and additional allowances they enjoy so they are hardly likely to rock the boat

Furthermore how can a working group which is serviced and supported by a number of senior officers who were deeply involved with managing  the Transeuropa debt scandal, and who may, or may not,  have acted improperly, be confident of receiving  truly impartial advice and assistance. To imagine otherwise is deny human nature.

My prediction is that this fatally flawed working group will probably "discover"  some minor procedural naughtiness and might slap a few wrists for the sake of window dressing. The real issues - the secrecy, the lack of openness and transparency and  the possibility that rules and regulations were ignored, bent or broken will not be addressed.

I don't want to lend credibility to a cover-up. The answer is a independent public enquiry.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

"CoffeeGate" Scandal Rocks Thanet Council

Shock horror! Following complaints about thirsty  members of the public helping themselves to cups of coffee at Council meetings, the coffee machine was moved on the special orders of the Chief Executive to another location where the greedy council taxpayers could not lay their hands on it.
Only problem was the Chief Executive forgot to tell the thirsty Councillors where the machine had been stashed. Well,  following an emergency meeting of Council called at great public expense, and  investigations by the District Auditor and the Information Commissioner , the Chief Executive was ordered to reveal the location of the machine. here is the secret e-mail which reveals the X which mark the spot

Dear Members,
To reduce uncertainty regarding where the Coffee machine will be located prior to committee meetings held in the Council Chamber, the Coffee Machine, will now be located in the Members Room on the second floor of the Council Offices prior to those meetings.
Kind Regards
This email and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for the addressee and may also be privileged or exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not the addressee, or have received this email in error, please notify the sender immediately, delete it from your system and do not copy, disclose or otherwise act upon any part of this email or its attachments.

Any views expressed in this email are those of the individual sender, except where the sender specifies and with authority, states them to be the views of Thanet District Council
So there you have it a Council which secretly gambled with £3.3 million of your money is now denying you a free cuppa on the rates! Perhaps there is a method to this madness and in several millennia stopping you thirsty lot from having free coffee will pay off the TransEuropa Debt? Happy days.


Today I emailed the Information Commissioner with a complaint and supporting documentation regarding Thanet Council's refusal to let me see any of the papers related to the Transeuropa "FerryGate Debt scandal. I sincerely hope that he will order the Council to let me see all the documents. If he does I will send copies of the documents  to the press and publish them myself. This secret gamble with £3.3 million of public money is a major scandal which must be exposed. I hope that the release of documents and perhaps  an investigation by the District Auditor might expose this travesty of democracy leading to some namings, shamings and resignings

Dear Information Commissioner
On June 3 2013 I wrote to the Chief Executive of Thanet District Council requesting to see all of the documents in the possession of the  Council relating to its payment deferral and repayment agreements with Transeuropa Ferries and all paperwork related to the £3.3million owed to the Council by Transeuropa Ferries.  Following the submission of an FIO request and an internal review the Council refused to let me see these documents (see attached documents).
However, under the terms of Section 15.1(a) of the Audit Commission Act 1998, the Council did let me see on 29 July 2013  a very  limited range of  the documents I had  requested. These were documents mainly related to the financial year 2012-13 including invoices and payment records and extracts from the Ramsgate Port Terms and Conditions and Charges.

When I inspected these documents the Council was forced to admit  that what they had previously described to me as agreements with, and debt owed to the Council by,  Transeuropa Ferries,  did in  fact include agreements with, and debt owed to the Council by Transeuropa Ferries and three other linked and associated companies - Dianthus Maritime Co, Forsythia Maritime Co, and Odyssy Maritime Co.
I therefore assume that because the Council had misled me by only referring to one company  in relation to the agreements and debt, when in fact there were four, means that, if my appeal to you is upheld,  I can see all the documents related Dianthus Maritime Co, Forsythia Maritime Co, and Odyssy Maritime Co as well.

Although I have now seen a small number of the documents I asked for in my e-mails of  3 and 7 June 2013 the vast majority of documents have not been released to me. As my e-mail to the Council’s Chief Executive of 3 June sates, I still wish to see  all the documents related to the debt deferral and repayment agreement this would include copies of the debt deferral and repayment agreements themselves, e-mails, notes of meetings, reports, risk assessments reviews and external advice and opinion on all matters related to these agreements, their monitoring and the recovery of debt owed by the companies involved.
The Council claims that the release of such documents “could be significantly prejudicial to a legal case taken by the council” to recover debt owed by the companies and on this basis has refused to release the documents to me. I fail to see how this reasoning can be true.  

Transeuropa Ferries and its associated/ linked  companies were party to the debt deferral and repayment agreements with Thanet Council. They must therefore surely have their own copies of these agreements and copies of any e-mails, letters, notes of meetings or legal advice relating to these agreements. The court (s)  to which the Council is making its submission to recover the £3.3 million debt, must likewise  surely  have copies of most of these  documents as evidence of the legitimacy of the Council’s claim. There is therefore insufficient to reason to withhold these documents from me.
My request to see documents relating to the monitoring of these agreements, the management and recovery of   debt, e.g. invoices, letters, e-mails,  reports and statements of claim etc., would also be in the possession of  Transeuropa  Ferries and its associated/ linked companies. These documents will also have  been lodged with the court (s)   to which the Council is making its submission to recover the debt. The release of these documents to me could not therefore  prejudice any legal action the Council might be taking to recover the debt.

Other incidental documents such as internal  risk assessments and reviews of the agreements and debt re-payment management;  reports and briefing  documents presented to  the Council’s elected decision makers;  notes of meetings with elected decision makers; notes of meeting between council officers and or external advisers; any notes, reports, letters or mails related to l legal or constitutional advice on the debt deferral and repayment agreements and debt recovery action, will have no major bearing upon e Council’s debt recovery actions in the court (s) and could not therefore prejudice this process.
My strong suspicion is that the Council is using the defence of prejudice to avoid releasing the information to me purely because the  documents, or lack of them,  are likely  to be extremely embarrassing to the council officers and senior elected politicians who sanctioned these agreements.  Particularly because the payment deferral and repayment agreements were kept secret from the vast majority of councillors and the public for almost 3 years,  and the £3.3million debt only became known about when the companies involved ceased trading and went into liquidation in April 2013. These actions are contrary to the principles of openness and transparency in local government.

Finally there is growing public concern about this secret agreement.  The local press  has carried  several stories and published many letters about what many believe to be a scandal. Local TV and radio  and internet blogsites  have also taken an interest in this  matter. I therefore believe that irrespective of the Council’s defence of prejudice,  there is an overwhelming public interest justification to order the Council to let me see and have copies  of  the documents.