Thursday, 26 November 2015

Freedom Of Information Under Attack

I’m a big fan of the Freedom of Information Act. I use it a lot and believe it’s an indispensable part of a modern democratic society. It holds to account politicians and civil servants who are taking decisions on our behalf and it helps to combat the secrecy and dodgy dealing which plague our public institutions. In fact, I would love a Freedom of Information regime which is much more robust and extensive than we have now, because in these troubled and uncertain times we desperately need our decision makers to be fully accountable and their actions transparent.  

Perhaps the greatest success of the Freedom of Information Act was in 2010 when journalists used it to uncover the MPs’ expenses scandal. Literally hundreds of these less-than honourable members were discovered to be maxing out their expenses and allowances to top up their already generous salaries and pensions. Thankfully once exposed their reputations were deservedly trashed. Many of these grasping carpet baggers were removed from the Lords or Commons and some, but we might argue not enough, were imprisoned for taking a ride too far on the Westminster gravy-train.

But it’s not just the actions of the high and mighty at Westminster which can be scrutinised through Freedom of Information rules.  Here in Thanet it’s been a very useful tool to find out what our local politicians and decision makers have been doing behind our backs. Had it not been for Freedom of Information I would have been unable to uncover the TransEuropa Ferries scandal. We would never have known how senior Councillors secretly agreed to defer TransEuropa’s port fees for more than 2 years. We would never have known about the appalling mismanagement of this highly risky deal which eventually resulted in TransEuropa going bust in 2013 owing the Council £3.4 million in unpaid fees. Nor would I have been able to expose the £2.3 million compensation paid out by the Council to the live animal exporters for unlawfully suspending the trade in 2013, or to reveal the gross mismanagement by senior local politicians of the Ramsgate Pleasurama project. All this could have remained unknown to voters in Thanet without the Freedom of Information Act, although it was done in their name. I believe it is quite possible that Freedom of Information rules will have a role to play in exposing yet more high level incompetence relating to the Dreamland Project and potential criminal negligence linked to the emerging health and safety white finger scandal.

But despite, or perhaps because of, its democratic importance, the Freedom of Information Act is now under serious threat. The current Government has set up a Commission to review the Act which, rather than seeking to strengthen its effectiveness, appears to be determined to weaken it. Amongst other things the Commission is canvassing opinion on whether to charge fees for making FOI requests and  appeals, whether to exempt the internal  briefings and discussions of public bodies from the Act altogether, and whether to allow public bodies to impose much lower cost thresholds for rejecting FOI requests. Commentators also claim that the Commission’s membership includes several individuals known to be strongly opposed in principle to the Act. Open government campaign groups have warned that the Commission is very likely to produce a report which will emasculate our legal rights to know what our national, regional and local politicians and civil servants are doing in our name.

Accountability and transparency are the cornerstones of democracy. Without strong laws such as the Freedom of Information Act our politicians and their advisers will be free to lie, cheat, mislead and deceive us with impunity, with the accompanying danger that corruption, incompetence, secrecy and cover-up will thrive. This is very worrying for Thanet where our Council has gained a reputation for incompetence, secrecy, and dodgy dealing. This is why it’s essential to have powers like the Freedom of Information Act so that citizens are able to scrutinise TDCs ’s actions and ensure that decisions taken by elected representatives and public servants are transparent and open. 


Monday, 23 November 2015

Thanet Council Live Animal Export Damages £3.5 Million & Rising

Former Green Party Councillor and South Thanet Parliamentary candidate, Ian Driver, claims that Thanet District Council (TDC) may have paid out a further £800,000 in legal fees and damages to live animal export companies following its 6 week suspension of the trade from the port of Ramsgate in 2012 following the death of 47 sheep. This brings total damages and legal costs paid out to date to a staggering £3.5 million.   Following legal action by the exporters, the High Court ruled in 2012 that TDCs suspension of live animal exports was, despite the death of the sheep, an unlawful breach of EU free-trade regulations and ordered the council to lift its suspension and pay damages to the companies concerned.  Earlier this year, using Annual Audit rules which allow the public to inspect the council’s accounts, Driver  forced TDC to reveal that it had already paid £2.3 million in damages to Dutch firm Barco de Vapor and Lydden based animal transporter, Trevor  Head (1)  and that it had also spent  £400,000 on legal costs.Following a freedom of information request from Driver in October, TDC confirmed that it had received a new claim for damages for its unlawful suspension of live animal exports from Ramsgate port, but refused to provide Driver with details about this claim or to tell him who had submitted it. After monitoring TDCs monthly spending data which is published on the Council’s website (2) Driver identified 7 payments totalling £9,320, made between May and October 2015, to barrister Philip Woolfe of Monkton Chambers, Gays Inn, London. Woolfe, described on his Chamber’s website  as a specialist in commercial and EU law, represented TDC at the High Court in 2012 when the council  was ruled to have acted unlawfully in suspending the live exports  trade from Ramsgate (3). Said Driver, “I can see no reason why, other than his knowledge of live animal exports and EU law, TDC would wish to employ Mr Woolfe”.

Within the spending data files, which by law must show all payments over £250, Driver also identified sums of £168,050 paid on 28 May 2015 plus £471,540 and £147,460 paid on 21 October 2015. Totalling £787,050 the recipients of these payments are unknown and were marked in the files as “Redacted Commercial Confidentiality (4)”. The files stated that the payments were made for legally related purposes including the provision of future settlements. Some of the costs were allocated to TDCs operational services department which includes the Port of Ramsgate (5). Said Driver, “I strongly suspect these payments were made to the live animal exporters. Previously acknowledged payments of £2.3 million made on 31 March 2015 were recorded in the spending data files in exactly the same way as these latest payments”.

Driver’s suspicions about the payments are supported by a Budget Monitoring Report due to be discussed by a meeting of TDCs Cabinet tomorrow (24th November) which says that “to date settlement payments made (to the live exporters ID) total circa £3m (excluding legal costs ID)  with further on-going negotiations (6)”. This suggest that the £3.5million identified by Driver is not the final settlement figure and may even exceed £4million. Because the payments were made to compensate for an unlawful act they are not covered by TDCs insurance policies and must therefore be paid for by the council tax payer. This works out at £53 per household.
Driver who has campaigned against live animal exports from the Port of Ramsgate for over 4 years said “although I totally despise the cruel and barbaric trade which operates from Ramsgate and will continue to oppose it, it was perfectly clear from the outset that anything other than the shortest possible suspension would get the council into extremely serious legal trouble. It’s my opinion that the then Labour leadership of the Council acted in a recklessly negligent way by indefinitely extending the suspension. This foolish and incompetent action has cost the tax payers of Thanet dearly”.

He went to say “that some of the Ramsgate live exporters were found guilty of animal welfare abuse which led to  the deaths of the 47 sheep at Dover Magistrates Court in early 2014. Yet here they are now getting a share of the £3.5 million damages payments. These payment are in my view blood money!  I’m now beginning to have serious doubts about remaining in the EU after this fiasco”



  1. E-mail from TDC to Ian Driver.
  2. See
  3. See  and

  1. Extracts from TDC monthly spending reports for May and October 2015

Corporate Resources and S151
Balance Sheet
Provisions- Future Settlement
Legal Services
Corporate Resources and S151
Balance Sheet
Provisions-Future Settlement
Legal Services
Operational Services
Other Transfer Payments
Legal Services

  1. See 4 above
  2. See Cabinet Meeting 24 November Item 7 paragraph 2.3 here


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Thanet Council White Finger Scandal: Silence Speaks Volumes

I’ve  been commenting recently (see my other  blog posts)  about  the unfolding “white finger” scandal at Thanet District Council. It seems likely that there has been a prolonged and serious  neglect of health and safety regulations in certain council departments, which I believe could  possibly include the falsification of safety records. As a consequence of these alleged failings, up to 20 staff are understood to have contracted white finger, an industrial injury caused by prolonged over-exposure to vibrating equipment. This is a particularly nasty injury which damages  the nerves and blood vessels in the hand and lower arm. It  can lead to  loss of feeling,   inability to grip and lift, and is the cause of considerable pain. White finger  can be a life-changing injury which  ends careers. However, through good management and careful monitoring this is an industrial injury which is entirely  avoidable.  

In 2005 the Government published the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations which set out a legal framework which employers must follow to avoid and eliminate this nasty workplace injury. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also published lots of advice to employers about how to prevent this type of  injury. But it would appear that managers at Thanet Council may have ignored the regulations and advice and possibly tried to cover  up their tracks with misleading information. This might be why the HSE have launched a major enquiry into the cases of white finger at Thanet Council to find out what went wrong and why.

When the problem first came to light at the end of 2014 and early 2015 TDC also announced that it would launch its own  enquiry into what many believe to have been  criminal neglect of the health and safety of  large number of council workers. At a meeting of Thanet Council’s UKIP controlled Cabinet on 22 October, it was reported that this  enquiry, carried out by an independent expert, has been completed. Having an interest in this matter I tried to get hold of a copy of the report by submitting a Freedom of Information request. Yesterday I got a reply to my request and surprise, surprise in keeping with its culture of secrecy, TDC rejected my request.The reasons TDC  gave for refusing my request were based upon the following sections of the Freedom of Information Act: Section 31(1)(c) (administration of justice); Section 36(2) (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs); Section 41 (information provided in confidence). TDC also informed me that their decision not to release the report were because it is “subject to a non-disclosure agreement” and that “disclosure could also prejudice the outcome of any ongoing investigations and proceedings and individuals potentially affected by the outcome of those investigations and proceedings”.
In laypersons terms this council-speak gobbledegook means that there is a very  serious investigation still going on into the alleged breaches of safety regulations (the HSE investigation I presume ) and that the release of this report could undermine it. It also means that there is a string possibility of a  criminal prosecution of TDC  and/or individual council officers  for neglecting the health and safety of council staff and breaching safety  laws and regulations. Last but least the mention of confidentiality and non-disclosure can only mean that council staff have come forward and provided evidence about what might be the reckless neglect of duties by those who should have known better.

For once I am inclined to agree with TDC  that this report should, for the time being, remain secret until due process is completed. However, once due process is completed TDC’s report and the HSE’s report should be published so that people are able to make their own judgement about what many believe to have been institutional incompetence, neglect and falsification which has ruined the lives of a large group of council staff.  Senior officers and political bosses at TDC should not try to cover-up the truth about what happened  once the legal processes are over.
I only hope that the non-disclosure agreement is not an agreement with any of those managers who might have been in any way responsible for the allowing this terrible situation to have  happened. If the investigations reveal any personal culpability  then those responsible should be named and shamed and, if they broke the law,  prosecuted. There must be no secret deals which might let people evade responsibility for ruining other peoples lives.  

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

15,600 New Homes: Thanet UKIP Supress Report

True to it’s undemocratic and secretive nature  Thanet District Council is trying its best to supress  a report recommending  that house building targets for  the district are massively ramped up from 12,000  to 15, 600 – a staggering  30% increase! The report was discussed by councillors on the Local Plan Cross-Party Working Group  on 25 September and provoked a major outcry in the local press and on social media.People in Birchington, Westgate, and parts of Ramsgate were already seriously pissed off about the prospect of having 12,000 new homes built, mainly on  greenfield sites, in their locality and were beginning to campaign to prevent this happening. How are they going to feel when intolerable overdevelopment is made even worse by adding an extra 3,600 homes into the mix- furious would be an understatement I think!

Questions must be asked such as how was the 15,600 figure arrived at? Who is going to pay for the extra roads, schools, health centres and additional drainage and sewage systems needed to support this many houses?  Where will the jobs come from to the support the new residents?  What impact will all these new homes and the cars parked in the driveways  have upon our environment?  To try to answer these questions I used the Freedom of  Information Act (FOI) to request a copy of the report. I got an answer to my request today politely telling me to fuck off and mind my own business.

Now I’m somebody who has submitted a few FOI requests in my time, especially to Thanet Council who are so fucking secretive they won’t let you have the steam of their shit. But today’s response to my FOI was, in my opinion,  one of the most appallingly  ignorant, utterly incompetent and potentially untruthful replies I have ever received from this piss-poor excuse for a democratic organisation. Had this reply been from a work experience student I may have been less angry, but my arrogant three paragraph fob-off was written by a senior  officer earning at least £50,000 a year who is paid to know what he is talking about. I can only assume from this totally unacceptable reply to my FOI  that  its Thanet Council policy to feed the public any old bollox they can think up,  to stop the public getting hold of the secret housing report.

Well I have now appealed against the decision to withhold the report and keep it secret. Although its long and boring I have decided to publish my appeal in full so people  can see for themselves what  sort of incompetent crap is dished out to the public to prevent them from securing information they have a legal right to see. There is an overwhelming public interest for  people to  able to see a report which recommends increasing the already unacceptable  figure of 12,000 new homes to a unsustainable and even more unacceptable 15,600 homes.I clearly recall during the May elections UKIP and Nigel Farage campaigning against the 12,000 new homes just as they did about saving Manston Airport. Despite losing councillors UKIP still run TDC so the question must be asked if they are genuinely opposed to massive overdevelopment in Thanet why didn’t they order this report to be published in September? Makes you wonder just how seriously the take their promises to voters.
Dear Thanet Council
Please provide me with a copy of the Draft Housing Needs report which was mentiones in the announcement on the Council's website entitled "Update on the Local Plan". The statement says that the draft report was discussed by the  Local Plan cross-party working group last Friday (25 September). Projected housing need  for Thanet is a subject of great public interest and speculation and it is therefore beholden upon the council to release the latest information on this matter, even though this information may be a draft report. Yours sincerely Ian Driver

Dear Mr Driver.
Thank you for your communication received on 03/10/2015, where you requested information about the Strategic Housing Market Assessment report.  I can confirm that Thanet District Council holds the information you are seeking. Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act exempts this information. This is because the information is intended for publication at a future date.  The Council recognises that publication of the report would aid wider public understanding of issues in the LP process, and is intending to publish the report in due course. However, the report is still in draft form and may be subject to amendment.  Use of material within the report might therefore be misleading.  Furthermore, Members have not yet considered the report. Having considered the public interest, the Council's decision is therefore to withhold the information at this time.

 Dear Thanet Council
I wish to request an internal review of the decision not to allow me to have a copy of the draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment report.My reasons are that Section 22  of the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to this document. This is because the Council states that the  report is in draft format and is not  therefore in a position to  know precisely what information will published in future and what will not.

Paragraph 63  of Decision Notice FS50121803  says that  "although at the time of the request it was clear that the Home Office intended to publish  some but not all of the information within the scope of the request, it was unable to specify which information it wished to apply section 22 to and the Commissioner is not satisfied that the exemption is engaged".

Clearly my request is identical to the circumstances described in the decision notice. Thanet Council has expressed to me it’s  clear intention to publish the report in the future, but because the report is in a draft form which your officer says  "may be subject to amendment" the Council is unable to specify which information it wishes to apply the Section 22 exemption to. Your use of this exemption is therefore wrong. Furthermore your officer  claims that because the report is in a draft format its release “might therefore be misleading”. He then appears to associate the release of misleading information as being harmful to the public interest  and a reson not to let me have a copyu of the document. Can I refer to you to paras 43 of the ICO Guidance of the Public Interest Test

This paragraph states that -  It may be argued that the information would be misleading, perhaps because it consists of notes reflecting only part of a discussion or because it may be inaccurate or out of date. FOIA provides a right to information that public authorities hold; it does not require that information to be complete, accurate or up to date”. Clearly your officers’  reason for withholding the report on the basis that it is misleading is invalid.

 Your officer  then goes on to suggest that because councillors have not yet met to discuss the report it would not be in the public interest to release it. Your officer is wrong on 2 counts. Firstly councillors have met to discuss the report. A press release issued by the council sates that “the draft report was discussed by the Local Plan cross-party working group last Friday (25 September)”. Your officer is an extremely senior planning manager. It’s inconceivable that he  was not aware of this meeting. Indeed, I heard that he was actually in attendance at that meeting. By claiming that councillors had not met your officer is therefore likely to have been untruthful  to me. Perhaps you can arrange for this matter to be looked into. Secondly  Freedom of Information rules do not exempt a document from being made public simply because councillors have not met to discuss it. Indeed all committee documents are legally required to be published before councillors meet to discuss them.

 Finally your officer  claims to have “considered the public interest” in arriving at his decision. Apart from me having demonstrated that all of the arguments  he has used   to justify public interest non-release are  invalid and spurious,  he has provided absolutely no  evidence that he has carried out an objective  balancing test of all the  arguments  for  and against publication of the report as is required by the Information Commissioner. I suspect that your office never conducted this exercise, which if true is a serious issue. Perhaps you could look into this matter and let me know the outcome.

 I must say that I am extremely disappointed about the way in which my  FOI request has been handled. I would have expected a very senior officer such as this person to have an understanding of FOI regulations. I would also have expected someone to have double checked his response to make sure that it was in compliance with the rules and of an acceptable standard. I am also concerned about the possibility that your officer may have misled  me about the meeting of the councillors and having conducted a full and proper public interest test. I will taking this issues forward as a fromal complaint.

Frankly, I believe that the because the subject of house building in Thanet is so controversial, there is a determination at the Council to avoid releasing the draft report and to keep it under wraps away from public scrutiny and debate. As the Council’s Monitoring Officer, and the person who deals with FOI reviews, I am sure that you would not countenance such undemocratic shenanigans and will deal with my review as quickly as possible. I look forward to hearing from you. Ian Driver

Monday, 9 November 2015

Thanet Council: Rewarding Failure?

Former Green Party councillor and South Thanet Parliamentary Candidate, Ian Driver, has questioned whether TDC Chief Executive Madeline Homer’s £150,000 per year salary represents value for money. Homer’s salary is made up of basic pay of £114,000 plus a cash allowance of £3,500 and an employer pension contribution of £13,000. As the Council’s Returning Officer, Homer also receives extra payments for supervising local, general and European elections. Driver estimated that for managing  this May’s parliamentary and council elections she is likely to have been paid  in the region of £20,000 plus extra contributions towards her pension bringing  her total salary for 2015-16 to over £150,000  or £2,885 per week (1) .

Said Driver “TDCs Chief Executive’s weekly pay is an eye-watering 6 times higher than Thanet’s average weekly wage of £450(2). I don’t think a pay differential as great as this, especially in a deprived area like Thanet where thousands of families are struggling hard to get by,  is justifiable.  I’m pleased to hear that Chancellor George Osbourne has said that he will shortly be issuing guidance to curb excessive

Town Hall  pay packets like this(3)”.

He added “I’m also very concerned that lavish salaries continue to be paid to senior council bosses at a time when TDC is performing so badly. Recently published deprivation and poverty  figures, for example,  saw  Thanet’s position becoming considerably worse than it was five years ago. It’s also  likely that TDC will have to pay out  £millions more than was planned  towards the compulsory purchase of  the Dreamland site. There's also additional damages of at least £1 million to be paid to the live animal export companies following the councils unlawful suspension of the trade, and compensation and fines totalling several £millions which are likely to result  from an on-going and extremely  serious investigation by the   Health and Safety Executive into the council's alleged breach of safety laws. Yet according to the Council accounts 7 officers, in addition to the Chief Executive,  are earning more than £70,000 (4) per year. Many  people might call this rewarding failure. If I was still on the council I would most certainly be raising  questions about  what I believe to be excessive pay and poor value for money. I would strongly urge the people of Thanet to make their views about excessive Town Hall pay known to the power that be  through the budget consultation process which can be accessed via TDCs  website".
Figures revealed by the Taxpayers Alliance today show that 3,493 senior council staff from across the country earn more than £100,000 per year (5) This article is not intended to create the impression that all staff at TDC receive excessive or lavish rewards. They do not. Most staff work very hard for wages which are not especially good. 

 1.     Chief Executive’s total payment calculated from data in the Thanet Council’s annual accounts here
See table  setting out the remuneration disclosures for Senior Officers whose salary is less than £150,000 but equal to or more than £50,000 per year for 2014-15 plus footnotes to that table
2.     See Earnings in Kent 2014
3.     See 
4.     See 1 above
5.     See 3 above

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Save Manston Fuels Thanets Political Revolution?

Yesterday evening I attended a public meeting in Ramsgate called by Grahame Birchall about shaking up the way Thanet Council operates. Although we have our differences, I have a lot of respect for Grahame especially his commitment, which I totally share, to having an honest and accountable local council in Thanet. Grahame and I had a public debate about this issue during the general election campaign when we were both Parliamentary Candidates for South Thanet. I remember that there was a small audience of about 15- 20 people at that meeting, but this time it was different, there were about 40 people there. So why the sudden growth of interest in such a boring, sleep-inducing subject?   

Well the answer was clear, many supporters of the Save Manston Airport campaign came  to the meeting, because they felt they had been deceived, let down and abused by Thanet’s  Labour, Conservative and  UKIP political administrations, who pimped themselves out for votes with promises about saving the airport, but when in power failed to  deliver. Now I’m well known for not supporting the airport CPO so it was rather odd being close up and personal with large group of people  who might normally have given me a hard time, but on this occasion it was amazing to discover that we were in full agreement. Because just like many  SMAers I also  believe Thanet Council and its political leadership, whether Labour, UKIP, or Conservative, routinely deceive the community about their  plans and policies, operate in secrecy like a North Korean style communist state, and are  totally unaccountable  to voters for their actions.

And it’s not just me and a group of SMAers holed up in hotel in Ramsgate on wet Tuesday night saying that the political leadership of Thanet Council has a long history of being a pile of dirty pants. In November 2013 members of Thanet Council’s own Independent Standards Board produced a report which accused the political leadership of being out of touch, secretive not trusted and the subject of jokes and ribald comments on public transport. How did the political leadership of the day respond to this damning report? Well Clive Hart (who’s he?) Iris Johnston, and Michelle Fenner (sadly and unbelievably both still serving councillors) launched an incredibly bullying and abusive verbal attack on the brave and honest members of the Standards Committee and voted their report down. The poor Standards Board members who were only trying to do their best for good governance in Thanet resigned en-mass and legged it out of the Cecil Square Bunker to avoid being summarily executed for disloyalty to the great council leader Kim-Il-Clive
Less than 4 months later, in March 2014,   the Council was visited by the town hall equivalent of OFSTED, the Local Government Association (LGA),  for an inspection, or in their fancy parlance an Independent  Peer Review. Despite their diplomatic language the LGA concluded that the political leadership of Thanet Council was utter bollox. So shocked were the LGA by what they discovered  that even these most sober of inspectors were forced to conclude that those responsible for leading the council were dysfunctional toxic tossers who in some instances were homophobic too! So shitty was Thanet Council judged to be that the LGA insisted on setting up an Improvement Board to sort out this fucked-up excuse for a democratic institution and those shameless wankers who purport to be elected political leaders. Obviously this is proving to be a bigger job than the LGA ever imagined because more than a year later the LGA’s Improvement Board is still hard at work meeting in  secret and not publishing its reports and minutes. Surely the tax payers and voters of Thanet have a right to know how this so-called Improvement Board is improving things?

So now you will probably appreciate  why Grahame Birchall, 40 odd SMAers and yours truly were in agreement that instead of LGA-style tinkering around the edges, Thanet Council needs some radical surgery to cut out the festering pustule which is the root cause of most of the incompetence, lies, deceit, bullying and secrecy which passes itself off as democracy in Thanet. And that festering pustule is the Cabinet system of running Thanet Council. I have written extensively about the Cabinet system before and here’s a link to one of my more restrained non-sweary articles about this evil system.

This totally undemocratic Cabinet system was forced on councils by the Labour Party in their Local Government Act 2000, which is utterly astonishing considering the hypocritical bullshit Labour spouts about transparency and accountability of local government. Their poor man’s version of a Soviet-style Politbureau places incredible financial and policy making power into the hands of a tiny cabal of 5 people at Thanet who are beholden to the patronage of a Party Leader who  appoints this cabinet cabal from councillors from within his/ her political party. Those appointees are bribed by the extra £8000 in allowance they get for being in the Cabinet. It’s hardly surprising that these people quickly become the Leader’s nodding donkeys and agree with everything he/she says in order to retain their lucrative positions.  Also the officers who serve the Cabinet of donkeys have to be careful what they say for fear of being driven out their jobs if they disagree with their political bosses.

With little disagreement and critical challenge, the donkeys and their leader then  proceed to make ill-informed, unbalanced and biased party political decisions about issues such as Manston Airport, Tans-Europa Ferries, Pleasurama  or Dreamland to name but a few. And if that wasn’t bad enough the Council’s scrutiny panel which is supposed to hold the Cabinet to account also operates  along party lines with members of the ruling party cow-towing to and supporting their Cabinet rather than independently challenging and questioning the wisdom of the decisions taken by their comrades. In short we have politically corrupt decision making process operating in Thanet and in hundreds of other councils across the country, thanks to the Labour Party who forced this anti-democratic system onto out town halls.

Thankfully the Coalition Government and my old Keighlian chum Sir Eric Pickles the former Secretary of State for Local Government changed the law to put the kybosh on Labour’s politically corrupt   system of running councils. It’s now possible for the people to force local referendums to get rid of rotten systems such the local authority cabinets. My previous post linked above explains how this can be done. Grahame is now proposing to launch campaign to organise a  referendum   to get rid of the Cabinet system in Thanet whilst I agree with him about the need to get rid of the Cabinet, I don’t agree with the system he is suggesting as a  replacement  – a directly elected all powerful mayor supported by an appointed  executive committee. In my book this is simply replacing one small power hungry and unaccountable power elite with another.  And this being the case then the deceit, lies, false promises and political corruption associated with the current system will most surely  continue over into the new.  

I will write more about the alternative, more democratic and accountable system  I prefer soon. In the meantime it appears to me that members of the  Save Manston Campaign are now beginning to wake up to the fact that its not enough to simply take politicians, including me,  at their word. There needs to been in place  a system of governance which forces these politicians to be  more accountable and truthful to the people and to actually deliver on their promises. I hope to be working with SMAers and many other people from across the broad spectrum of community politics  in Thanet to  bring this change about. Whatever your views might be on the airport, banning live animal exports from the port of Ramsgate or building houses, we desperately need more honest and accountable government here!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Manston Airport: Politicians F**k Up Thanet's Recovery

I’m becoming more and more frustrated and angry at having to write  bad news stories about Thanet. Virtually every week I’m posting articles about the grinding  poverty and deprivation faced by many people  in Thanet,  or the fucked-up third rate  health,  education, council and housing services most people in the area have to depend on. But there’s no need for any of this. Thanet is a beautiful place in a beautiful county, with excellent transport links to London which, economically and socially, should be doing one hell of a lot better than it is right now.

So why are things so crap for so many people? Well, I believe  that one of the reasons is that  the unresolved future of Manston Airport has become  a major blockage to  the regeneration of Thanet. Or more precisely,  the way in which the Labour Party, UKIP and the Tories, have manged the Manston Airport  issue is blighting the  regeneration of the district. To be brutally  frank these self-serving so-called politicians have, through their cynical manipulation of the  Manston Airport saga,  seriously fucked up opportunities for  thousands of  local people to have a better life, and they should be ashamed of what they have done.

The subject of Manston Airport has dominated Thanet for over 2 years. In this time The Labour Party, the Tories and UKIP have all tried to exploit this issue for their political advantage.  I have previously exposed how the parties tried to hijack  the Save Manston campaign with hypocritical  promises of a CPO, when they were  (and still are) supporting strategic regeneration plans based on a future without an airport. I explained how, despite their promises, Thanet’s political establishment  knew damn well that there were no compelling legal grounds to successfully secure a CPO. And now with  the recent collapse of the RiverOak deal you would have thought that Labour, UKIP and the  Tories would have stopped playing games, been honest with local  people and said that it’s game over for Manston Airport.

But no. Instead of telling the truth  the manipulative bunch of wankers who  pass themselves off as Thanet’s political leaders  are continuing their campaign of lies and deceit about Manston. Soon after the collapse  of the RiverOak deal a new Save Manston political coalition headed by the Tories, and perhaps soon to be supported by the Labour Party and the Democratic Independent Group,  was  announced. To avoid being politically outflanked by their rivals  UKIP have declared that there are other speculators lurking in the shadows and that it might still possible to save Manston. So scared are Thanet’s politicians of being exposed for their initial deceit and dishonesty over the  airport that, like naughty children, they are trying to disguise one lie with another in the hope that their  cynical abuse of  public trust remains undiscovered.

And what’s the result of this politically inspired  dishonesty about the  Manston Airport situation?  Simple the future of the site is now extremely uncertain with the threat of a potential  CPO hanging over it  possibly for several more  years to come.  Ask yourself the question who the fuck would want to invest money  in setting up a business on the former airport site when you may have to relocate, losing lots of money,  a couple of years down the line? Nobody in their right mind would want to take this risk. So my conclusion is that the Labour Party, UKIP and the Tories,  by playing cynical political games with Manston Airport in order to get votes,   have ended up blighting  a site with major economic regeneration potential. By doing so  Labour, UKIP and the Tories are directly   responsible for the growth of poverty and deprivation in Thanet.
Because make no mistake the 865 acre former-airport site is absolutely critical to the regeneration of Thanet. Had Labour, UKIP and the Tories been honest and truthful about the airport from the beginning  then  the CPO fiasco would have been dealt with months ago and we would now be  seeing new investment in business, leisure and residential use at the site and benefiting from  desperately needed jobs and training opportunities for local people. Instead the issue of the CPO has been deliberately played out and extended purely because  of the  self-interest of Thanet morally corrupt political establishment. And even after the recent RiverOak debacle  there's still  no end in sight to this pathetic political game playing.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Thanet’s  political establishment have, through their deceitful manipulation of the Manston Airport situation,  seriously  fucked -up the regeneration of the district  and cheated many residents out of a better future. This is why I am forced to write  so many bad new articles. 

Not that I am an expert in these matters, but if  I was Stone Hill Park I would be taking legal advice about suing Thanet Council for an abuse of process which is  improperly impacting upon their plans for site which they legally own.