My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Thanet Council Bosses Spend £100,000 to Fight Themselves. You Pay

Thanet Council Leader, Clive Hart, is a member of the management board of East Kent Opportunities (EKO) a limited liability partnership which is 50:50 owned by Thanet Council and Kent County Council. So is Thanet Council Chief Executive, Sue McGonigal.

 
In May 2013 EKO applied to Thanet Council  for permission to build 550 houses on land adjacent to the New Haine Road at Westwood Cross. Although Hart’s colleague Labour councillors strongly opposed the planning application saying that “We simply cannot understand how council officers were ever directed to make proposals which go so blatantly against TDC's own established policies” and complaining that “in a time of austerity and cut-backs, officers have been allowed to carry out a substantial and extremely costly amount of work (preparing a planning application) that may well not meet the requirements of the full council”, Hart nevertheless threw his weight behind preparing and submitting a massively expensive application which had little chance of success.
In October 2013 Thanet Council’s Planning Committee unanimously rejected EKOs application with several Labour Councillors making devastating attacks on the plans.  Within days of the rejection, the EKO board held a telephone conference at which Hart and McGonigal agreed to seek expensive advice from a Queens Counsel  about how to appeal against the decision of a Council of which one was the political leader and the other the head of paid service. If ever there was a conflict interest this was it. But neither of them chose to declare their conflicts. Even though Thanet Council’s Constitution requires the Leader to “promote the highest standards of probity” and the Chief  Executive to “follow every lawful expressed policy of the Authority”.

Ten days later the EKO Board, including Hart and McGonigal,  met in Maidstone  to consider the advice from their QC. The minutes of the meeting, which I managed to obtain via a Freedom of Information request say that the board  resolved unanimously to:- Progress an appeal following the refusal by the LPA to grant planning permission”. Once again although Hart and McGongigal were in effect agreeing to appeal against their own Council they failed to declare or act on their blatant conflcts of interest.

The preparation of the appeal took many weeks work and comprises of several large cardboard boxes full of documents. I understand that planning consultants and the QC were paid to put together the appeal and that it cost a fortune. I received a copy of the official notification of appeal from the Planning Inspectorate 2 weeks ago. The appeal will take the form of a public enquiry held over a week and the enquiry will report its findings  to the Secretary of State Eric Pickles who will make a decision about whether permission to bulid the 550 houses is granted or not.
The total cost of the planning appeal, including the costs of Thanet Council’s defence of its position, will, by my  estimation,  be close to £100,000. The major source of TDCs and EKOs income is council tax. So that means  you will be forced to pay the costs of  a company owned by Thanet Council, to go to war with Thanet Council. And who decided that it was sensible for Thanet Council to fight Thanet Council at massive public expense? Why of course the Leader and Chief Executive of Thanet Council Clive Hart and Sue McGonigal. Are they sorry. I don’t think so. Are they angry? Massively. It has been reported to me that a Labour Party worker, who may have connections with Thanet,  was allegedly   spreading malicious, totally unfounded, rumours about me in the tea rooms of the EU Strasborg Parliament building. A Council officer has been instructed, at public expense,  to contact the Green Party to complain about me.  I am reliably informed that the Chief Executive may have  held a meeting at which she allegedly sought  advice about how legal action can be taken against me  to prevent me from commenting on the jaw-dropping incompetence and maladministration  which all too often features in the activities of Thanet Council and its  political and officer leadership – no doubt this advice will be secured at public expense.

Co-incidentally I attended a meeting yesterday to talk about the legalisation of cannabis and opening a cannabis café in Thanet. Well no matter how much cannabis you might choose to smoke, it would be impossible to alter your mind to such a degree that you could make this nonsense up. It really is time for a change. Roll on 2015.
 
 FOOTNOTE. In the course of looking into the EKO fiasco  I uncovered what I believe might  be extremely serious abuses of the planning process. I have formally reported these abuses to the Council's Monitoring Officer and the Police. I will not comment on these issues until any investigations are completed

9 comments:

  1. You appear to have uncovered something very fishy.

    But, what I don't understand is, what motive would Hart and McGonigal have for this? The company is part owned by TDC and KCC, so what would be the motivation underlying the moves as you describe them? There wouldn't appear to be any personal gain for them. Do you think that they're just too drunk on the idea of power, or is there something deeper?

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  2. Its very simple, EKO has been and still is a multi million pound drain on TDC. And unlike when EKO was established, TDC is in dire financial trouble. So if TDC can make a return on EKO by building houses at least TDC will be able to balance its books by 2015 otherwise TDC will go under and Hart and co will be blamed for this.

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    1. That makes a lot of sense, and the risk of political disaster does explain Hart's involvement in what looks like a very underhanded move. It also explains McGonigal's involvement - the responsible finance officer really doesn't want to be seen as being responsible for bringing the council to its knees.

      So, we have two people who are worried about their personal careers using Council money to try and dig themselves out of a pit that they are largely responsible for creating in the first place. Despicable, but slightly better than just being drunk on power.

      I think you're right.

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    2. Just to point out that it was the previous administration that together with KCC formed the EKO for puroses of land and property speculation and the subsequent huge spend of over £5 millions on the spine road.

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    3. Let's see all the costs and invoices involved this EKO quango. Latchford was involved in it for a while and it seemed a nifty way to shovel expenses and staff costs between the two councils and claim secrecy. Not that dissimilar to Top Temps.

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  3. Ian - you say roll on 2015, but without a new way in politics it is not going to any different. Quick action is needed to put right the lousy system that has been in place for far too long.

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    1. It is like couch grass or mares tail mate. There is no quick solution. It requires constant digging out of every bit at every depth or it will re-assert itself.

      Labour had a landslide in TDC 95 what difference did they make ? Sadly if the weed has roots forty years deep you have to dig forty years deep to kill it.

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  4. The problem is the executive, I repeat the problem is the executive.

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  5. Could this be the reason that Clive Hart and his cronies in the cabinet reacted so strongly when they thought that they were being criticised for being 'corrupt' by the Standards Committee Report? As I recall, that report mentioned only perceptions, while all the Councillors at the meeting yelled that they were not corrupt.

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