So let me explain why I think this is the case. Its only 4 months ago since UKIP, the Tories, and Labour were falling over themselves to win over the votes of Manston Airport campaigners with outlandish promises about how they would save the airfield. But these were never genuine promises. From the outset Thanet’s political establishment never intended to save the airport. During the elections campaigners and councillors from UKIP, the Tories and Labour made it clear to me that they didn’t believe there was sufficient legal justification to successfully secure CPO on the airport. Others said to me that even that even with an external partner the financial risk to the Council in securing a CPO was far too high. So having deceitfully misled the voters in May, Thanet’s politicians now need to extract themselves from a promise they never intended keep. And what better than to find someone else to blame.
And so they have. On the very last day of the public inspection period of its 2014-15 accounts, Thanet Council has announced that it has made an eye-watering payment of £2.3 million compensation to the companies responsible for the barbaric export of live farm animals from the port of Ramsgate. This payment was made on the order of the High Court following TDCs temporary ban on live exports in 2013 after 47 sheep had to be destroyed at the port. The ban was judged to have been illegal and this is why the compensation had to be paid.
The cost of this massive compensation bill will be paid for out of the Council reserves. These reserves are already depleted following Thanet’s loss of £3.4 million in its secret fee deferral agreement with TransEuropa Ferries 2 years ago. I’m certain that when it comes to the crunch about the CPO, the Council will use its depleted reserves and the £2.3million live exports compensation as the reason why it would be extremely risky to pursue the CPO. In fact Council Leader Chris Wells, in his column in the Thanet Gazette this week, is already making ominous references to the live exports compensation issue so as to prepare in people’s minds fa target for a full blown blame game in a few weeks time.
But take my word for it, the live animal exports compensation issue is not the reason why TDC might pull out of the CPO. What Chris Wells neglected to say is that there are much more significant financial risks in the 2015-16 council budget which might cause the council to decline the gamble of an Airport CPO. First the Council is subject a major investigation by the Health and Safety Executive about a group of a dozen or more employees who have contracted the industrial disease – vibration white finger. Quite clearly there had been a longstanding failure of health and safety at the Council for this awful situation to have arisen. An insider tells me that this situation is so serious that the Council will be prosecuted and punished with a very large fine and that there will be many claims for compensation from staff – all of which will amount several £millions. Second the cost of the Dreamland CPO has not yet been finalised and the former owners of the site are still contesting compensation. Rumour has it that another couple of £million will have to be found in this financial year to cover this cost as well.
So my message is don’t be taken be in by the Council. The hypocritical blame-apportionment game they will soon be playing to get out of the Manston CPO, is nothing whatsoever to do with anti-live animal export campaigners, but the product of false promises, lies and a deceit made to the voters and years of financial mismanagement on TransEuropa Ferries, the health and safety of council staff and a bodged CPO on Dreamland.