Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Pleasurama Deal: Seen But Not Heard

Since its signing over a month ago I have been trying my best to see the Pleasurama agreement between Thanet District Council and Cardy. I wanted to know how much money the Council was going to get from Cardy for the site; when the freehold would be transferred from the Council to Cardy; how much money Cardy was going to pay towards the repair and the maintenance the cliff face, what action the Council could take if Cardy  did not complete the project and many other things as well. As a local councillor I wanted to be able to report back to Ramsgate residents about these matters because it’s in the public interest for them to know if the Council has secured best value for the disposal of the land, especially bearing in mind the decade long  shenanigans with SFP Ventures, which effectively blighted Ramsgate’s seafront for over a decade.   When I first asked to see the agreement I was told it was confidential and that even though I was  a democratically elected councillor for the Ramsgate area who had been campaigning about Pleasurama for 3 years, I could not inspect the document. I persisted with request, because more and more people were asking me what was included in the agreement and how much money had the Council made from the deal. I threatened to take the Council to the Information Commissioner to get a ruling on making the document public, but this will take at least 6 months if not longer. But my persistence has paid off; at least partially.  Last week I received an e-mail from the Council which repeated that the agreement was confidential. Here is the confidentiality clause in the agreement
Requests for Information
Where a valid request for information under any of the Rules
has been received by the Council, the Council will adhere to the requirements of, and consider the availability of the exemptions under the Rules in disclosing information relating to this Agreement and the other parties and will not disclose any commercially sensitive information… This approach requires the Council to consider all of the grounds and to look at the public interest test. Appropriate redacting could be undertaken but this would need to be checked with Cardy’s first.
The e-mail went on to say

“as a Councillor we may be able to allow access for you to view the document but not to disclose any of the contents to the public. If you are prepared to agree to abide by the code of conduct in that regard and sign such an undertaking then the agreement may be viewed and if you would wish to agree to this I will happily meet with you to agree a date and time for this”.

So what was strictly confidential a couple of weeks ago is now available to be seen but its content not heard about by others. I have spent some time thinking about this offer. As many of you know I detest secrecy in public life and believe that residents  have a right to know what decisions are made in their in name. So perhaps I should not take up the offer.  But at the same time I am desperate to know what’s in the agreement so that I might be able to work out if the deal with Cardy is good value for the Council. I can then be ready to  tell people what is the agreement when and  if the document is ever made public. On balance having knowledge of the deal will be helpful, particularly if Green Councillors are elected to Thanet District and Ramsgate Town councils in three weeks time. One thing is for certain though if Green councillors are elected to the council we will be pushing for a  root and branch review of TDCs secrecy rules and will arguing for  a lot more information to be made available to the public. Thanet Council has a long-standing culture of secrecy in order to cover up the  mismanagement and  skulduggery of its Labour and Conservative  political bosses. Just look at the secret £3.4million TransEuropa Debt hidden from the people by the Conservative and then the Labour leadership of the Council.  Thanet Greens are committed to openness, transparency and accountability in public life. We want to open the filing cabinets and put an end to anymore dirty little secrets.

1 comment:

  1. No council information is secret or required to be secret. The public interest is first

    With the election here which councillor wants to keep it secret? We should have pledges from each councillor on transparency