Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thanet Council Independent Review Cover Up?

In early March, Thanet Council was visited by 4 Local Government Association Inspectors to conduct a Peer Review. The Peer Review is a critically important process which provides an independent assessment of how good (or bad) your local Council is. It’s the only way for residents to find out if their Council is good, average or appalling when compared with others.   Clearly  a lot is riding on the outcome of the Peer Review  for both senior council officers,  political bosses and most importantly, of course, for  the people who pay for and who are  served by Thanet Council.

The Review Inspectors are extremely knowledgeable. Some are senior Council managers with  years of hands on experience. Others are serving, or ex, councillors with track records of leading councils across the Country. Their job is to evaluate  how the Councils they review are   performing  in relation to setting priorities for the local area, financial planning, political and managerial leadership, governance and decision making and organisational capacity. At the end of the process a report is produced by the Inspectors which says how well, or otherwise, the Council is doing and what it might need to do to become better.  Councils  are expected to publish their Review reports so that residents can see for themselves how well their Town Hall is doing.
In Thanet’s case the Inspectors looked at reams of TDC  documentation before their visit in March, in what is called a “desktop audit”.  This was followed by a 3 day visit to Thanet where the Inspectors interviewed Council staff and councillors and sat in on a number of meetings. I had a one hour interview with 2  Inspectors which I must say was very thorough and quite challenging. It was clear to me that the Inspectors were the real deal. They  were not in Margate on a tick-box exercise or  jolly bureaucrats outing. They were here to do a proper job of work.

After their visit the Inspectors produced a  draft report which was sent to  the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader  almost three weeks ago. Since then silence!
I have asked to see a copy of the draft report. My request was denied.  0n 24th April there is a Full Council meeting. Yet despite the fact that the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader will have   been sitting on the draft Peer Review report for almost one month when the Council meets, this critically important document has  not been included on the agenda of that meeting. The 56 democratically  elected Thanet District  Councillors have a right to see the draft report. There is no legal reason why this report can be hidden or withheld from them.

Of course the Chief Executive and  Leader will rightly claim that they are checking the content of the draft report. But surely that can’t take a month or longer. This is an independent report and Thanet Council  bosses or political leaders  cannot veto or change the views arrived at by the Inspectors, otherwise the whole purpose of the review would be an utter nonsense.  The only thing the Council can do is to put right any factual inaccuracies and correct a few spelling mistakes and typos. This is a process which should only take a couple of days, especially bearing in mind  the critical importance of the review. But here we are  approaching a month after the draft was received by TDC and its still  locked away in the Council’s safe? Why?
I can only assume that the report is locked away  because it contains bad news. In fact rumours are already circulating that the report includes some very bad news indeed, especially regarding the managerial and political leadership of Thanet Council.  It’s mere speculation on my part but issues like secrecy, cover-up, maladministration, bullying, rock-bottom morale, will probably feature large in this report. In light of ongoing problems regarding TransEuropa Ferries, Dreamland, East Kent Opportunities, Planning investigations,  and Skateparks, the last thing the Chief Executive and Council Leader want is a report slamming the organisation they are responsible for running. So, in typical Thanet Council style,  why not watch your backsides and save your well paid jobs by hiding the report until the things gets a little better.

Shame on Thanet Council and its secretive, unaccountable bosses. I publically challenge you to publish the draft report of the Peer Review in it is full unedited version right now. For once be open honest and truthful. The people who pay your wages and allowances have a democratic right to know if you are providing value for money or not.


  1. Ian. Did members of the public have the opportunity of participating?

  2. In a meeting I attended an inspector shared how surprised he was at the unusually high number of corporate ambitions compared to other LGAs. He seemed concerned about this. I wonder if this has been highlighted in the report?

  3. We have a freedom of Information request about this very thing. This report is important and needs to be seen.

  4. Well said Ian: the Council and public should see the report. Is it available from the LGA if TDC attempt the secrecy trick?

    Worrying though they were relying on TDC documents: those are a mix of laughable and lies.ow did the public participate?

    Have the EKO documents/costs been revealed?

    A regular FOI on the Council agenda would be useful to prise out the information.

  5. It's very simple. If the councillors of Thanet wanted this report made public they have the power to make it happen. If the report isn't being made public it is because it is being suppressed by the councillors of Thanet. An emergency motion needs to be put forward placing this item on the agenda for the next Council meeting. The name of the person who blocks it should be made public. If it isn't blocked a motion needs to be put forward for it to be published. The names of all councillors who vote against this motion should be published. The voters of Thanet are entitled to know who is involved in this cover-up.

  6. What is the good of the Local Govt Association on the one hand looking at reams of TDC produced documentation and listening to TDC employed staff, when on the other they do not invite input from the public they are supposed to serve?
    Let’s face it we know full well how selective TDC can be when it comes to providing documentation under the FOI Act, so you can bet the reams of documentation were well vetted before they were handed over.

  7. Wouldn't wait for an election to pass first would they. About the only thing that they would pass at, test wise.

  8. It appears the report has now been published and and even reported on by the BBC.

    As it also appears that you have not come out of the report particularly well Mr Driver. Will you now be considering your past behaviour, and modifying it in future so that you can start to make a contribution to TDC, rather than servicing your own particular issues and agenda?

    Your comments would be most illuminating.