Sunday, 27 December 2015

Dreamland Relief, Reviews & Rip-Offs

I’m delighted that the Dreamland operators  have reached a voluntary agreement with their  creditors to repay a   reported £3 million worth of debts over the next 5 years. Although I have my doubts about the sustainability of this agreement I sincerely hope that it will succeed because  Dreamland is central to the regeneration of Margate and Thanet as whole. However, because the situation is financially fragile and there are lots of unknowns, I urge Thanet Council to  begin the urgent task of developing a Plan B for Dreamland just in case the voluntary agreement goes belly up. The last thing we want is for the park to be closed and left to rot and be vandalised as it was before. TDC should now be actively sounding out other potential management organisation who would be willing to  step in at short notice to run the park should Sands Heritage go under. The Council should also be seeking legal advice on protecting its interests should there by an insolvency situation and it should also be identifying and setting aside contingency funding to pay for its Plan B.

 Looking to protect the future of the this most important publically owned assets is of course  number one priority . But  I do feel that there is also an urgent need for there to be an enquiry into what went wrong and why TDCs flagship project almost went bust less than six months after it opened, placing in jeopardy at least £6million in council taxpayers  money,  not to mention the tens-of-£millions of lottery funding on top of that. For once, I am in agreement with North Thanet MP, Roger Gale, who has rightly said that the problems faced by Dreamland’s operator were largely caused by the incompetence and maladministration of senior managers and politicians at TDC. Having been on the  council at the time key decisions were made about Dreamland I concur with Roger Gale’s view about the culpability of TDC in the Dreamlands nightmare. I would go further and say that any alleged  incompetence in managing the Dreamland project   goes to the highest levels at TDC and that any enquiry should therefore be independent as it would not be right for top bosses to investigate themselves. Hopefully if an enquiry identifies and mismanagement there might well be much needed realignments in the offices quarters of the  good ship TDC.

But enquiries and contingency planning aside I would also like inform my readers that I am hearing extraordinary and quite alarming rumours about the procurement, repair and restoration of rides for Dreamland. If what I am hearing is true then it appears that the procurement, repair and restoration of rides is being managed by an extremely small number of companies – much smaller than the number of finger on one hand so I believe. It might be the case that this small number of companies may have secured their privileged position without having to compete and demonstrate how they would secure value for money. The rumours also allege that the various  trade associations  representing fair ground operators, who also facilitate and advise on the procurement, repair and  restoration  were not involved or consulted about  finding  supplier(s) of these services for Dreamland. Naturally this lack  of consultation and the placing of ride related contracts in the hands of a tiny group has led to speculation about value for money. Rumours  I have heard suggest that the Council (and possibly Sands Heritage) may have been paying 3,4 or even 5 times over the odds for the procurement, repair and restoration of some rides. Had the Council collaborated more openly with the various trade associations, who  are industry experts of many years standing, then its likely that any ride related  price inflation at Dreamland might not have been so steep. I sincerely hope that more information about this worrying development might come my way



Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Ramsgate Pleasurama: Lies, Deceit & Overspends

 In March 2015 Thanet Council announced that it had reached an agreement with building company Cardy to construct 107 flats and a   60 bedroom hotel on the Ramsgate Pleasurama site.  Cardy’s had recently taken over this prestigious £30million building project from failed developers SFP Ventures Ltd who had allowed the site to become a derelict eyesore blighting Ramsgate’s seafront for over a decade. The Council’s heralded the  agreement  with Cardy by publishing   a picture of the  then  Labour Council  Leader, Iris Johnston signing  the development  agreement  with Cardy  boss Mike Stannard.
In a press-release issued by TDC the then Labour Cabinet member Rik Everitt is reported as saying “I am delighted that we have been able to reach agreement with Cardy and bring this long-running saga to an end. This is a sensible solution for all parties, but most importantly of all this will bring about the regeneration of Ramsgate seafront and the town more generally …. Now at last we can move forward”.  Thanet Labour Party went even further proclaiming  in an election leaflet delivered to thousands of  homes in Ramsgate  that “Thanet Council’s Labour leadership has signed the deal with new partners Cardy to resume work on the Royal Sands … Labour has pledged that the £3million upfront cash boost will be ploughed straight back into Ramsgate”.

Well 9 months later, Cardy has still not begun work on the Pleasurama site and not a penny of the promised “£3million upfront cash boost” has been invested in Ramsgate. In fact it now looks as though nothing will happen on the Pleasurama site until well into spring of 2016 when contractors Steadline Ltd re-start the now suspended repairs and painting of the cliff face.  This means that the earliest Cardy will be able to begin building the long overdue Pleasurama development will be the summer of 2016. So much for Rik Everitt’s misleading promise that “now at last we can move forward”! In fact it now appears that that all of the self-congratulatory propaganda about how TDC and its then Labour leadership had rescued the Pleasurama Project from disaster was actually a cynical  exercise in the  wilful mis-representation of the facts.

Why do I say this? Because just this week I received an e-mail for Tim Howes, Thanet Council’s Director of Corporate Governance  who in answer to my  question – “please tell me if and when the Pleasurama development agreement was signed by Cardy” replied “the Pleasurama agreement has not yet been completed therefore the council does not hold a signed copy of the agreement”. This statement can only mean one thing - the picture of Labour Council Leader Iris Johnston allegedly signing the development agreement with Mike Stannard of Cardy; the statement made by Labour Cabinet Member Rik Everitt that an agreement had been reached with Cardy; the Labour election leaflet claiming that a deal had been signed with Cardy were are all untruthful works of fiction aimed at misleading the people of Ramsgate.  Shame on the Labour Party for abusing the trust of local people in such a deceitful and manipulative way in order to get votes!

The fact that the agreement with Cardy “has not yet been completed” and signed raises many interesting questions. Has Labour’s claimed “up front £3million cash boost” for the sale of the site actually been paid to the Council yet? Will  Cardy downwardly revise their £3million offer to a much lower sum?  Will Cardy demand that the site be handed over for free or will Cardy walk away from the deal. Without a signed agreement any of these options is possible. But  whatever the final  sale price might be, the cost of the repairs to the cliff face and the legal fees associated with TDCs  negotiations with Cardy will all be deducted from that figure. Which brings my nicely to the subject of  Steadman Ltd the cliff face repair contractor.  As I previously reported the value of the cliff face repair and painting contract was, according to TDC, £314, 950. I have been advised that payments to date total   £367,293  which is £52,343, or 16% over the contracted price. TDC has said that work will recommence on the cliff face repair and painting contract in the spring of 2016 which according a press release on its website “is estimated to only take a few weeks”. I reckon that this work will cost at least an £150,000. This will bring the total cost of repairing and painting the cliff face to £517,293 a staggering £202,343 or 64% more than the original contract price. How can a variance of this astronomic magnitude be explained and justified? Allowing for legal costs of at least £50,000 this means that a total of £567,293 must be deducted from the reported £3million selling price of the Pleasurama site leaving an upfront cash boost of just £2.4 million for Ramsgate – so much for Labour’s misleading and deceitful election promises of “ploughing straight back into Ramsgate” £3million. It was never going to happen and these hypocritical excuses for politicians always knew that.

As a campaigner for open and honest government in Thanet I am sickened by the way in which TDC and its then Labour leadership appear to have published misleading information about the agreement with Cardy. This information was published during the May 2015 local and general election campaign, presumably to secure  support for the Labour Party.  Many people would argue that politicians who knowingly engage in deception, mis-representation, manipulation and  telling un-truths to the public  are not fit to hold public office.  I would agree with that.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Ramasgate's Pleasurama Disasterama

It’s over a decade since plans to build 107 flats and a 60 bedroom hotel on the former Pleasurama site were approved by Thanet Council. Apart from the construction of some foundations, which have probably been damaged beyond repair by 5 years of exposure to the elements, and the investment of a least £2million of tax payer’s money into cliff face repairs, nothing much has happened in this time. Even Cardy’s takeover of the project from failed developer SFP Ventures seems to have been a false dawn, with the recent cliff face repair shenanigans leading to yet further delays in building work beginning. Surely the questions must now be asked will construction work ever begin on site and will the project ever be completed? I think not and here’s why.

First it’s likely that there might be issues about the stability of the cliff face. As I have already mentioned at least £2million of public money has been spent in the last 5 years repairing and painting the cliff face. The latest efforts appear to have hit snags which have led to over-running of the repair contract and the decision to delay work until next spring. I don’t believe that this delay is, as Thanet Council would have us believe, simply because bad weather prevented the application of the final coat of paint. I think there is something a lot more serious going on. Ramsgate bookseller, Michael Child, has blogged extensively about the Pleasurama cliff face here is a link to his latest thoughts on this matter.
Michael has a number of concerns about the stability of the cliff face and the lack of foundations for the facing. He makes the extremely important point that the proposed flats will be built within 4-5 metres of the cliff face and asks how it will be physically possible to repair and maintain the cliff face with such a narrow gap to operate and work within. He also asks whether mortgage lenders and insurance companies would fund the purchase and cover insurance costs of buildings which are built extremely close to a cliff face which has previously collapsed and may possibly have stability problems.

The other issue is, of course, the risk of flooding. The Pleasurama development is to be built on a site which is designated by the Environment Agency as a high risk flood zone. But because planning was secured 10 years ago there was no requirement for a flood risk assessment to be carried out on the development plans. Was new planning permission to be applied for on this site then a flood risk assessment would have to be obtained and its findings taken account before the plans could be approved. It should also be borne in mind that the flood risk analysis of the site dates back to 2009 and that in the 6 years which has elapsed since this analysis, climate change experts have upwardly reviewed their forecasts for temperature changes, sea level rises and extreme weather incidents. In fact just this week climate change experts and politicians from around the world have been meeting in Paris to discuss the growing danger of melting ice caps and rising sea levels. From what I can gather (although I’m no expert), sea levels will continue to rise and extreme weather incidents increase over the next few decades making it much more likely that the Pleasurama site will be flooded, which again raises the question of whether  mortgage lenders and insurance companies will wish to fund the purchase and cover damage to flats built on this site.

Last but not least is the most important question of all – would anyone wish to buy one of the 107 flats planned for the site?  Had Thanet District Council, on instructions from its then  Labour leadership,  not served a High Court Injunction on me (and the Thanet Gazette)  12 months ago  I would  have been able to publish  a very detailed independent  report on this matter which might (or might not)  have shed some light  on this critically important question. However not wanting  to risk a large fine or having to spend Xmas in prison,  I will make no further reference to this report except to say it is a highly professional document which makes extremely interesting reading .  But in any case, events have now overtaken the injuncted report and probably made its contents redundant because an answer about the potential saleability of the Pleasurama flats lies not in my locked  filing cabinet, but just half a mile down the road from the development site at Marina Esplanade. This is the location of the mini-Pleasurama-style seafront development, Beach Retreat, with 7 flats on the market for about £425,000 each. The development has been complete for over a year now and according to my research on the Land Registry website none of the flats appear to have been sold.  So the question must be asked if 7 already completed, high spec, seafront flats have failed to sell in 12 months,  what’s the prospect of 107 nearby flats of a similar price range and specification selling?  Bearing in mind  what £450,000 could buy you elsewhere in Ramsgate and taking account of the issues about  the cliff face and the  flood risk, I personally believe that that there will not be many takers for these flats. Spending somewhere in the region of  £15 million building 107 flats which nobody wants to buy is probably a gamble too far  for even the most experienced property developer. My guess is that Cardy is now becoming  anxious about Pleasurama becoming a financial Disasterama for them. Unless of course they have (S)ecret (F)unding (P)roviders supporting them in this ill-starred  Venture - perhaps assisted by a Swiss based financial institution owned by a former Sunday Times rich list member?

Interestingly the Thanet Gazette reported just last week that the exchange of contracts between Cardry and TDC relating to the transfer of the Pleasurama freehold has not been completed yet. Presumably this means that the Council has not yet received the widely reported £3million for the sale of the land from Cardy?  Perhaps the   delay in the exchange of contracts, the delay in payment for the freehold of the site and the delay in finishing the repairs to the cliff face may all somehow be linked.  In fact some people might argue that these delays will provide a convenient opportunity for TDC and Cardy to negotiate and agree a way out of what looks like a very difficult situation.  In the same way that Margate’s Dreamland is also trying to extract itself from the brown stuff with its creditors.

Although I normally like to wish all my reader’s season’s greetings and a happy and prosperous New Year I somehow think 2016 might well become  a Nightmare for Dreamland, a Disasterama for Pleasurama,  and SNAFU for TDC.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Ramsgate Pleasurama: Doubts About Cash Windfall

picture by Michael Child
Thanet Council (TDC) announced this week that works to the Pleasurama/ Royal Sands cliff face have been suspended until the New Year.  The official explanation on TDCs website is that the  “weather has delayed the final paint finish” and that “due to weather conditions expected this winter a decision has been made to delay this work until the early  spring”.  When the works recommence the Council estimate that it  will “take a few weeks” to complete the job  and then Cardy can commence work building the long delayed 107 flats and 30 bedroom hotel.

Surely, when planning a major job like the repair and painting of a large cliff face you programme the work to allow for circumstances that might delay its  completion. In project planning parlance I believe this is called allowing scope for flex. Indeed the Council appears to have done just  that. According to its contract register the work was to take place between 27 July and 16 October 2014. That’s 12 weeks  to carry out “crack repairs and coating” of the cliff face which seems to me to be  more than sufficient time to do the job. I can’t recall any prolonged period of severe weather, except perhaps a few days in August, which would, has the Council claims, have delayed this work to the extent that they would need to suspend operations until next spring. So perhaps the delay is for reasons other than bad weather.
Also, suspending  the completion of the work until the spring of 2016 will incur massive additional costs to the council. According to TDCs contract register Steadline Limited who won the tender to “repair the cracks and coat” the cliff face were to be paid £341,950. To date TDC has paid Steadline £217,180 for work carried  in July, August and September Assuming that the Council pays invoices monthly in  arrears then another payment of about £100,000  remains due for the work carried out in October which should more or less cover the agreed contract sum of £341,950. In the spring of 2016 TDC will then have to pay for the massive scaffolding wall to be re-erected and in its own words “a few weeks” work to paint the last coat and that’s  presuming that the first coat has survived the winter. This will add at least £100,000 to the original bill of £314,950. So it’s extremely likely that the final cliff face repair bill will be in the region of £415,000 a massive 32% increase on the original contract price.
Now when I was councillor we were told that the cost of the cliff face repair works would be funded by the proceeds of the sale of the  Pleasurama site. Unfortunately a High Court Injunction secured against me by Thanet Council, and which is still in force, prevents me from telling you what the value of the site was estimated to be. However it has been  widely reported in the media and elsewhere that TDC will receive somewhere in the region of £3million for the sale of the land. It was agreed by the previous Labour administration that this money would be invested in projects in Ramsgate such as project Motorhouse etc- a decision I fully support as it would help to put right the unfair imbalance  in council spending on Margate as opposed to Ramsgate. However, assuming that at least £400,000  for the cliff repair work  has to be deducted from the £3million sale price then only £2.6million remains to be spent on Ramsgate which is a tiny amount compared to the £millions invested in Margate.
However,  I now firmly believe that its extremely unlikely that the people of Ramsgate will ever  see a penny of the  £2.6million raised by selling off a massive chunk of their seafront. Writing in his column in the Thanet Gazette two weeks ago Council Leader Chris Wells took the most unusual, but in my opinion honest and transparent, step of announcing that TDC faced massive debts of £14million. These debts were largely the result of the of the incompetence and poor decision making of the previous  Labour Party council  administration including a multi-million overspend on the Dreamland project, multi-million compensation for their illegal banning of live animal exports, an unpaid £2.7million  bill million for constructing  the New Haine Road and  potential multimillion compensation  claims and fines for a major health and safety scandal which will become public soon. My suspicion is that every last penny of the £2.6million raised from the sale of the Ramsgate Pleausurama site will be used for paying off the debts of Thanet Council rather than benefiting the people of Ramsgate.

Yet during the May election campaign  it was the Labour Party who promised the people of Ramsgate that the money from the sale of the Pleasurama site would be reinvested into Ramsgate for the benefit of Ramsgate residents. They produced thousands of leaflets saying so. But all along they knew damn well that the issues I have mentioned above would have made this totally  impossible. In my opinion Thanet Labour Party  deceived and misled the voter of Ramsgate into believing that they would benefit from a Pleasurama cash windfall when all along Labour  council bosses knew that  massive debts had to be paid. This is cynical and hypocritical electoral politics at its worst and the Labour Party should apologise to the people of Ramsgate.
My final words on Pleasurama for now are that  I do not believe that TDC has yet received the reported £3million for the sale of the land. I believe that this payment will  be made upon completion on the repairs to the cliff face. Discounting TDCs excuses about  poor weather disrupting the cliff face repair schedule I think that the work was disrupted for  other more serious reasons which I assume might be related to the stability of the cliff face. In fact it’s my opinion that the delay to the cliff face repairs might be a warning sign that the deal with Pleasurama developers Cardy might be likely to collapse altogether. I will be writing more about this soon.  

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dreamland's Nightmare Not A Dream

Just 6 months after opening to the public news that the operators of Margate’s  Dreamland Heritage Amusement Park are applying for a Company Voluntary Administration (CVA) agreement to manage debts of £3million is very worrying. This development  has potentially disastrous implications for Thanet’s already fragile economy and raises extremely serious questions about how this project was led and managed by TDC senior officers and the Labour Party administration who were running the council and  responsible for the supervision  of this project almost up to its opening.

The re-opening of Dreamland was TDC’s flagship project. It was heralded as a once in a generation  game-changer for Margate and Thanet . Whilst I was a TDC councillor, Labour Leaders Clive Hart and Iris Johnston made speech after speech about how the re-opening of Dreamland was critical to the regeneration of the district and how it would promote  major investment in the area, create hundreds of new jobs and  attract thousands of extra visitors. But even then there were warning signs that all was not as it should be.

First, plans to allow the not-for profit  Dreamland Charitable Trust to operate  the amusement park were shelved in favour of bringing in a commercial operator instead.  This change, it was argued, was necessary to comply with forthcoming EU competition regulations. It was also said that commercial operators would have much more business experience and commercial savvy than well intentioned amateurs from a charitable trust, and that this experience and savvy would almost certainly generate more profit and investment than a non-commercial operator like the Dreamland Trust could ever do.

But despite their confidence in the commercial sector,  TDCs Initial  efforts to find  a business savvy operator were  a complete disaster. My understanding is that after advertising the opportunity far and wide, including overseas, at great expense only 2 or 3 completed expressions of interests were submitted to TDC.  The council therefore decided to  have another go at advertising the business opportunity. This time, to make the proposition more attractive, the Council re-wrote its operating agreement making it much  more lucrative for wannabe amusement  park managers. The operating lease  for the park was massively extended to what was rumoured to be close on a 100 years. Something almost unprecedented in local government leasing arrangements, apart perhaps from  the Wetherspoons mega-pub deal for the Ramsgate Victoria  Pavilion which is alleged to be close to the century figure.   The annual rent for the park was  also said to be extremely low; so low  that I heard it described  by other councillors  as a peppercorn or give-away lease.  Today we heard on BBC Radio Kent that TDC had also offered a  seven year no-rent deal to Dreamland’s operators which could be extended indefinitely if sufficient profit was not being made.

I guess it might be fair to say therefore that such was the lack of interest from credible commercial operators  in managing the   Dreamland Amusement Park  that TDC had,  in an act of utter desperation, been forced to offer to unload the troublesome asset for up to 100 years rent free to anyone willing to  take it off their hands!  And so it was, because my sources tell me that the second time expressions of interest to operate the park were invited, on the much better lease terms, there was only one applicant – Sands Heritage. Which brings me to my next points - business planning and due diligence.

Surely the overwhelming lack of interest in applying to manage Dreamland should have rang alarm bells at TDC.?  The piss-poor response, especially from experienced amusement  park operators from the UK  and abroad, could only have meant one thing. That  these business  savvy organisations recognised that, even allowing for the  alleged 100 year rent free giveaway,  TDC’s  business plan for Dreamland totally failed to  generate sufficient profit to take the risk of running it!  But instead of going back to the drawing board and revising  the business  plan for the park, senior TDC managers and Labour’s   political bosses ignored this extremely  serious warning sign and  pushed on with the  project.  Possibly motivated by pride, arrogance, fear of the political and career costs of failure,  or the simple  desire to cover their arses, this wasted opportunity  meant that  TDC had no choice but to jump into bed with Sands Heritage – an arrangement I am sure that both parties are now beginning to bitterly regret.  

Shortly after the deal was done I recall attending a top-secret Councillors briefing meeting on Dreamland. At this meeting several Conservative councillors, and myself, expressed our  concerns about the difficulty is securing a park operator and the decision to appoint Sands Heritage. Whilst Labour councillors remained silent and uncritically nodding  like donkeys to everything Iris Johnston said,  we  asked what previous experience did Sands Heritage and it’s team have of running successful amusement parks?  What checks were being made into the financial standing of Sands Heritage and its directors?  Does Sands Heritage have access to sufficient capital to cover operating problems such as unexpected reductions in income? Will the park be ready to open on time (then said to be  April) and will all the rides be operational?  

Many of these questions received insultingly non-committal replies from some of the senior officers present at the meeting.  All of the questions about TDCs due diligence checks  of  Sands Heritage went totally unanswered. The then Labour Council Leader Iris Johnston, backed up by senior officers, dismissively said that these questions would not be answered because they were commercially  confidential. Surely any reasonable person would have expected  that the questions of democratically elected  Thanet Councillors about one of the most prestigious and high profile projects ever carried out by TDC, should have been fully  and properly answered by officers or political leaders. They were not.  Had they been answered, then it might well be that Dreamland would not  be in the catastrophic mess it finds itself in  today.

But the problems with Dreamland  didn’t end there. At the secret councillors briefing meeting we were told that the legal agreement with Sands Heritage to operate the park, would be signed in a matter days. It was not. In fact it is my understanding the agreement was not signed until several months later. Indeed, Sands Heritage actually took possession of the Dreamland site, so I have been informed, without a signed legal agreement being in place – a very risky thing for the council to have done.  I tried to find out, on several occasions,  why the signing of the legal agreement had been delayed. Every time I asked I was stonewalled and politely told where to go.  I now assume that this lengthy delay in signing the agreement was probably because Sands Heritage knew it had TDC by the bollox and wanted to screw every last concession it could out of the council before singing on the dotted line. Perhaps this is when the 7 year rent free period extendable  indefinitely if profit wasn’t good was agreed. Mind you with no other takers for Dreamland in sight, with TDC and its Labour bosses dirtying their underwear in fear of fucking-up its flagship deal wouldn’t you have tried to shaft Thanet Council? – after all business is business.

Legal agreements aside, on selecting Sands Heritage as the Dreamland operator TDC then declared that the park would open in April 2015 with all the rides in place. As everyone knows the opening was delayed by 8 weeks until mid-June 2015 and even then work to the park was not complete and the scenic railway was not ready to operate until 25 October – 16 weeks later. It is now reported that  TDC has been forced to pay the Dreamland operator, Sands Heritage,  about £1million in compensation for failing to provide them with an amusement park fit for purpose and for the loss income that might have been made had the main attraction – the scenic railway – been working from the opening day.

It also transpires that some of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant money  spent restoring the scenic railway had been ring-fenced for spending on other rides and works at the park and that TDC has now got find another £1 million from it’s reserves to make good its incompetent  misunderstanding of the HLF grant  terms and conditions. And last but not least, I believe that compensation to the former owners of the Dreamland site, following its Compulsory Purchase by the council in 2013, has  not yet been finally settled. The delays, cock-ups and almost-but-not-quite-liquidation of the Dreamland operator will, in my opinion, give the former owners of the park a strong argument in court that the original CPO and the plans upon which it was based  have been demonstrated to have been unsound. Such an argument might be enough to convince a judge to award multi-£million compensation to the former owners. I also reckon that, although Sands Heritage has already been paid close on £1 million compensation by Thanet Council, they may yet have to pay the struggling operator even more as the consequences  of TDCs  incompetence becomes clearer.  Who will pay – you and I of course.

So where does this leave us? Well Sands Heritage must reach an agreement to pay back £2.9million to its creditors over the  next 5 years. Will they  be able to do it? Personally I don’t think so? Why? The next 6 months will be an extremely quiet time for Dreamland  and there will be precious little income coming in to pay the day to costs of the park, let alone the money they owe to their creditors. Also the size of the park, the number of rides and the underlying concept of a heritage amusement park are, I believe,  insufficient to generate the  visitor numbers required to make the park sustainable and allow it to clear its debt. This is probably why  none the of big amusement park operators in the UK or abroad applied to become Dreamland  operators. They spotted the massive risks and pitfalls  and stayed well clear of this financially toxic white knuckle ride.

What does this teach us?   Well this is the latest  in a series of major cock-ups at Thanet Council which have cost  tax payers £millions. We had the secret  TransEuropa ferries fee deferral deal which cost taxpayers £3.4 million. We have the Live Animal Exports compensation payments which have so far cost taxpayers £3.5 million with more to come. We have ongoing and serious problems with the Ramsgate Pleasurama Project which will use up a major chunk of the sale price agreed with site developers Cardy’s and may lead to further delays in building work beginning – if it ever does. We have an ongoing multi-£million health and safety claim which is likely to end up in the courts. And now we have  the distinct  possibility of Dreamland, which has cost taxpayer at least £6million,  becoming insolvent.  Having served as a Thanet Councillor for 4 years and having seen how it operates – up close and more personal than I would I have liked -   it is my opinion that the organisation is led by some incredibly  incompetent  senior  officers. Thankfully many of them have gone but others remain. I also believe that the Labour Party’s leadership of the Council between 2011-15 has been utterly appalling. One way or another it was the council’s Labour Leadership  which allowed the events I described above to have happened. They have direct responsibility for this terrible mess.   And finally the secrecy, lies and bullying which are firmly entrenched in TDCs culture also allowed the serial criminality and incompetence to flourish. In my opinion Thanet Council should be shut down. It should be replaced by a new more democratic organisation with a higher calibre of  managers and politicians. Its impossible to continue to make excuse after excuse to justify the existence of  this shamefully inadequate excuse for a local authority.

Although this post has been a bit of a rant I would like to say that, amazing as it sounds,  I have always been a supporter of the Dreamland project. My only criticism is that it has been managed incredibly badly. It could have been a much larger more inspirational project, perhaps linking in the with the restoration of the Cliftonville Lido and the building of a state of the art 21 century skate park to replace Little Oasis community skate park trashed on the orders Labour Party political bosses. A bigger more imaginative project led more capable people could have succeeded  in attracting the investment, jobs and visitors that Hart and Johnston  claimed they were bringing about.  I also want to make it cleat that my criticisms of senior council mangers do not mean that all council managers and council staff are incompetent. The overwhelming majority of staff are highly  capable dedicated and hard working and if we were ever to  meet in the pub I am sure that we would quickly agree who the remaining incompetent wankers and shouty bullies are.

As to a way forward well Thanet Council its officers and politicians, of which thankfully I am now not one, need to begin working on a plan B for Dreamland should Sands Heritage go under.   See my other posts about Dreamland on this blog here one of them there are several more