My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Thanet Council Open, Transparent, Backside Watchers

It's perfectly reasonable for an elected councillor to ask to see documents related  to  the  secret deal with Transeuropa Ferries which  has cost Thanet taxpayers £3.3. million. It's perfectly reasonable for an elected councillor to ask the Council why it did not seek security on the £3.3 million debt and what action it proposes to take to recover taxpayers money.

Unfortunately the Council's Regulatory Manager does not see it that way and continues to refuse my requests to see the key documents relating to this scandal. Would I be wrong to speculate that the Council's  refusal to open the filing cabinet  might possibly be something to do with corporate and political backside watching? Is it  conceivable that the Council do not want to reveal information which might show how political bosses  from the Tory and Labour groups and senior council officers  might have grossly mismanaged their relationship the Transeuropa Ferries leading to the accumulation of a massive secret debt?  Would it be wrong to fantasise that the reason the Council does not wish to talk about debt recovery plans is because it has no plans and knows it is unable to get back of penny of the £3.3 million it has secretly gambled?  Is it remotely possible that if the documents about Transeuropa Ferries were  to be released, they could seriously embarrass some very important people and perhaps prematurely end some careers?

Of course not!  This is clearly  groundless speculation on my part, which cannot possibly  be true.  Everybody knows that Thanet Council is a professionally run organisation, with political leaders and senior officers working tirelessly  on behalf of local people to kick start Thanet's economy, secure inward investment and create jobs. Just look at Dreamland  and the Turner. Consider the jewel in Ramsgate's crown Pleasurama and the plans to open the port to another Transeuropa-style ferry company. This evidence clearly demonstrates that our political leaders and senior officers are not, as some people believe,  incompetent fools unfit to run Legoland.
But there again when I receive e-mails such as the one below I sometimes wonder about  all sorts of scenarios and possibilities. But who knows my complaint to the Information Commissioner might  soon be dealt with and the Regulatory Services Manager could be forced as John Lennon said to "Gimme Some Truth". The we shall see.

Dear Councillor Driver

I refer to your  e-mail of 6 September 2013  where you requested information about the steps being taken by the Council to  recover the Transeuropa debt and the nature of the  debt deferral  arrangements between the Council  and Transeuropa Ferries.  You also wrote  to the Chief Executive  on 10 September  concerning the recent auction of the Gardenia  where you raised  similar issues and so she has asked me to reply  to you on her behalf .

It is clear that you have made both these requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 . Consequently , in formulating a response I will take into account that any information disclosed  to  you  would, necessarily, enter the public domain.  In addition ,  much  of what you request, particularly in your e-mail  to  the Chief Executive,  is a  not actually  a request for information but a request explanation.  There is no right to an explanation so none will be forthcoming.

Formal Response -  Debt Recovery Steps

The  Council confirms that  it holds relevant information but declines to disclose that information to you

Relevant Exemption -  Section 43 Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Disclosure  would harm the  commercial interests of the  Council and therefore the public  interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure. -    Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act 200- Some of the information is protected  by  legal privilege and  therefore the public  interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure

Formal Response -  Nature of Debt Deferral Agreement

The  Council confirms that  it holds relevant information but declines to disclose that information to you
Relevant Exemption -  Section 43 Freedom of Information Act 2000 -  Disclosure  would harm  the  commercial interests of the  Council and therefore the public  interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
You have the right to request an internal review of my decision or complain to the Information  Commissioner. However, the  Commissioner will expect you to exercise your right to an internal review  before accepting a complaint  from  you.
Yours sincerelyHarvey Patterson
Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager
Thanet District Council


  1. So elected councillors do not have a right to hear an explanation of what officers have done? My God!

  2. Mr Patterson is covering up for his personal failure in his role, and that of McGonigal in her role, nothing else. What an appalling state Local Government in Britain is in when the public cannot force publication of documents which would support or not the stories of the Thanet Council executives. Anyone would think we were dealing with the Mafia in Italy, or is that who TDC were dealing with?

  3. The problem is, all the main players are in on it. it is ineptitude protecting ineptitude. But the voices are growing louder. Change. We want change. Hang your head in shame if you enter that building knowing that you are not doing your best for the people of Thanet. They should be forced to walk past unhappy members of the public every day.

    They should all resign if they had any decency left in them.

    If any of the councillors feel that their "hobby" is now having a bad effect then they should step aside and let professionals deal with it. And sack half of the Senior Managers. Some of them get away with anything!

  4. Mr Driver, Will you please decline vox pop interviews and stay away from TV cameras. Your booming voice and strange Northern accent are alien to Thanet. You do NOT represent me so please don't rattle on as if you do.

  5. Our council officers and some councillors seem to have lost sight of the stark reality that they are servants of the people and not running their own private empire where their word is the law.

  6. Whilst agreeing your sentiments Stargazer the issues, Harvey is failing to answer me about, are about duties imposed by law to report to other authority. In Ian's pursuit of the TEF answers this involves a duty to have reported to EU for unfair competition monitoring. In the issues I pursue this involves statutory duties to report to police in the Terrorism Act 2000. With regard to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 Harvey has answered that he feels it imposes no duty on the council to report crime. His logic appears to be that because he has no duty to report crime he had no duty to examine TDC records to see if they reveal crime.

    Fair enough I don't agree Harvey. Harvey's interpretation of the 1998 Act seems to be TDC has to think about crime ALL of the time, chat to other authority about crime SOME of the time and do nothing about crime ANY of the time.

    So I progressed to the Terrorism Act 2000 which is quite clear in the duties to report that it imposes on bodies like TDC.

    Would Harvey conduct the records search under the Terrorism Act which does carry a statutory duty for him to report knowledge and crime ?

    Harvey must have lost his computer or something because he hasn't answered !


  7. I don't think this is particularly new. Officers have been dismissive of the elected councillors for many years. However, it isn't the officers' fault, They have been allowed to do this by the councillors themselves who have failed to take control of the council despite several changes of officers. The elected councillors are refusing to support Driver not because it is the right thing to do but because it is politically expedient for them to prevent him from finding out what has gone on. The officers know this and so they know that they can be as obstructive as they like. Sadly, stark reality is that TDC is its own little empire and individuals like Driver are just an irritation to those who run it.

    1. The cult of silence at TDC goes back at least as far as the conviction of Cyril Hoser for dollar and document forgery. It extends from there, via his known associates, to the Police Fraud inquiries at TDC early 90s; to the question of whether police knew about the mail intercept running at TDC pre 95; to whether Fraud squad was informed of the mail intercept and suspected links of its organizer to a nazi cartoonist, after the 95 local elections; whether the discovery of Sericol massive 30 year aquifer contamination 93 arose from investigations of thefts of solvent from the company (use in back street drugs factories): the grant aid of a Thanet manufacturer at a time MPs were calling on MOD and DTI to call for Special Branch inquiries into that Thanet manufacturer; a hatemail campaign against a lady Labour cllr; a libel action 1998 between Thanet tories and what was said in evidence; failures to enforce planning law at a local gun range; failures to report the range to police under statute duties to report Terrorism Act; failures to report knowledge re a grant aided manufacturer Terrorism Act;

      Duties to report were respected by Cllr Sebastian, Cllr Coppock and Richard Samuel.

      So they reported their parts of the jigsaw. But the rest (cllrs and officers) seem to indulge the fallacy that if you do and say nothing you cannot commit an offence. Sometimes having knowledge or suspicion and doing nothing about it can get you life imprisonment.