On June 28th Ramesh Parshar the Council’s Head of Financial and Procurement service e-mailed me a spreadsheet detailing all of the income and expenditure for the Port of Ramsgate in the financial year 2017-18. The data was provided to me under the terms of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 which requires a council, during its annual external audit, to allow interested parties to “a) inspect the accounting records for the financial year to which the audit relates and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other documents relating to those records, and b)make copies of all or any part of those records or documents”.
The information provided to me showed that in the financial year 2017-18 total expenditure at the Port of Ramsgate was £2,879,360.88 and total income was £1,101,605,37, which means that the Port lost £1,868,755.51. Until now this has been the figure I have used in all my postings about Ramsgate Port’s appalling financial performance.
But it now appears that this appalling financial performance was more appalling than anyone imagined – three quarters of a million pounds more appalling to be precise. According to the Council’s accounts for 2017-18 which were approved by the Governance Audit Committee in July, losses at the Port of Ramsgate in 2017-18 were actually £2,637,000 not £1,868,755 as I had previously reported.
That’s an increase in losses of £768,245 which you, through your council tax are paying for. Worse still the size of loss in 2017-18 is greater than in in 2016-17. In 2016-17 Port losses were recorded in the audited accounts as being £2,249,000. In 2017-18 the losses are reported as being £2,637,000. This means that annual losses in 2017-18 increased by £388,000 or 17% on the previous year.
In terms of the losses racked up by the Port of Ramsgate over the past 8 years my previously reported figure of £19,500,000 was therefore wrong and the actual figure is £20,268,245! Here is a revised chart showing the losses made by the Port over the previous 8 years. These figures have all been extracted from the Council’s externally audited and officially approved accounts.
I have asked the Council to provide me with an explanation about why the figures it provided to me on June 28th about the Port’s finances were so wrong and what were the reasons for the three quarters of million pounds discrepancy. I’m not holding my breath. TDC is after all one of the most secretive local councils in the known universe.
Clearly, all the promises made by senior council officers and politicians about turning around the fortunes of the Port of Ramsgate are nothing but bollox pure and simple. The situation is actually deteriorating rather than improving which raises some very important questions about the capabilities of those tasked with managing it - officers and politicians. The recent public meeting called by the Ramsgate Action Group answered this question by overwhelmingly passing a vote of no confidence in those same politicians and officers.
I am sure the people of Ramsgate and Thanet wish to know how much longer they will be forced to prop up, through their council tax payments, a port which by any standard is insolvent. Over the past 8 years keeping open the failed Port of Ramsgate has cost the equivalent £143 for every man woman and child in Thanet. How much more will they have to pay for this expensive, mismanaged port? Surely its time for an independent, external investigation into what is probably one the biggest financial scandals in recent local government history?