Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ramsgate Live Exports Blamed for Manston Airport Retreat?

It might seem odd to link the campaign to end live animal exports from the Port of Ramsgate with the campaign to serve a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on Manston Airport. But the more I think about it the more likely I believe it to be that these two entirely separate matters will soon become intimately linked. Because, no matter how much they deny it, Thanet’s  political establishment have got themselves into an embarrassing  mess  over Manston Airport and desperately need a  scapegoat to take  the blame for their dodgy dealing. I believe this scapegoat will be the Ramsgate  anti-live  animals export campaign and the recent announcement that the exporters have been paid £2.3 million in compensation.

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.  

1 comment:

  1. It isn't only the £5.7 million they have squandered on the two issues you have described. Waiting in the wings is the Dreamland compensation, which I am told is likely to exceed £10 million. There is a real problem here with accountability. The councillors involved in making these decisions are gone, but so are the officers. Nobody can be held to account for these staggering losses. It's high time the government reversed legislation preventing councillors from being surcharged for making reckless decisions involving the public finances. For officers who are involved in reckless behaviour prison sentences would be appropriate.