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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Margate’s Dreamland Becomes Margate’s Nightmare

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has warned that “ less than impressive”   financial planning  and project management is likely to mean that Thanet Council’s flagship Dreamland pleasure park project will not be open for business by the April 2015 target.

Speaking after a  briefing meeting for TDC  Councillors  on Tuesday 15 April. Driver said “Dreamland  is set to open in less than a year, but operators for the rides, stalls and  cafes are yet to be selected, as are the contractors who will  manage day to day park maintenance. This is a process which will  take many months and could easily be delayed even longer. Tenders for the repair and refurbishment  of the Scenic Railway and other rides have not been evaluated or  allocated to contractors  and there is uncertainty about  how many rides will be in place and operational on opening day”.
Driver also expressed his doubts about whether the remaining £12million project budget will be sufficient to cover the costs of  opening the park. “There is very little flexibility in the budget” he said. “officers were very evasive and unconvincing about contingency planning. There appears to be no  Plan B to deal with cost overruns such as  a higher than planned compensation payment for the compulsory purchase of the park,  or higher than anticipated costs for the repair of  the scenic railway and other rides. There are also serious doubts about whether the £2million already invested in emergency repairs to the Dreamland Cinema will ever be recovered from the owners”.

"Although I am 110% behind the Dreamland project and hope it will be a runaway success, I am a  realist and have  an awful feeling that the project is beginning to  flounder because of less than impressive  budget and project  planning preparations. I‘m not the only Councillor to feel this way. A number of other councillors expressed concerns similar to mine during  the meeting and several more confided to me afterwards  that they doubt the project will be completed on time and on budget.  If  these doubts are proved to be right  then the only  option would be for the Council to borrow several  £million more  which will have to be paid for by the taxpayer.
A number of Councillors at the meeting also expressed worries about whether the Dreamland Trust, which will manage the  park when open,  is capable of  effectively  running a  complex theme park. One councillor complained that the Trust was raising public expectations too high and making unfounded claims about what will be in the park when it opens. Another complained about abusive remarks against the Council made by  Dreamland Trust volunteers and it was also suggested that a commercial company would be a more effective manager of the theme park  than a not for profit charity.

In a separate development, Driver has submitted a formal complaint about being denied the opportunity to copy financial information presented at the councillor Dreamland  briefing. “After the meeting had ended I asked a senior  officer to roll back the presentation slides so that I could take notes on the Dreamland  financial information. The officer refused saying that she did not trust me to keep the data confidential. I was amazed by this unprofessional and prejudicial response. At no point before or during the meeting were councillors advised that the information being presented was confidential. In fact most of it has already been published.  Also the taxpaying public have a right to know how much the Council is paying towards  Dreamland. This is yet another example of the North Korean style culture of secrecy and cover up which is a sad feature of Thanet Council and  which I determined to expose and end”.

10 comments:

  1. Come on Ian. Who was the officer who refused you access? Was it SM's bully girl by any chance? We all know this is doomed to fail but not until Hart and Johnstone have been re-elected.

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  2. Which officer refused to provide our councillors with financial information? They seem to have forgotten who they work for: sack her.

    You're right that Dreamland won't open by 2015: how much money has been spent an which officials are in charge of overseeing it? How have the Dreamland Trust ended up with the site and operations? They seem amateurish and as you say nothing has been done.

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  3. Please continue to ask questions about how this money is being spent, what rides have been bought at what cost and from whom; what concessions have already been awarded, which are being put out to tender; what salaries and fees are being paid and to whom. An awful lot of money is involved and taxpayers have a right to know where it is going.

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    1. I agree as would many people who really knew what was going on!

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    2. You're wrong on the 1972 Act Ian: FOI replaces that. It's the stale argument The Duffers use to try and keep info secret.Gross misconduct sounds right for a council official refusing any councillor information. Sack her.

      Is there a bit more detail on the £5m spent so far and likely future costs? TDC must have this: again FOI.

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  4. And 16:30, don't forget to add £3.4 million on Traneuropa, and the compensation to the live animal exporter.
    When will everyone wake up to the fact that District Councils should be dull places that deal with waste collection and street cleaning, not speculative posing as entrepreneurs whereby the taxpayer keeps picking up the bill for their incompetence. Everyone said what a scandal “casino banking” is mixed up with High Street banking, well what about “casino councils”!

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  5. That is certainly an important issue, alongside how the funding for creating the attraction is being used. As always in such projects, those involved will receive their salary/payment, regardless of whether it succeeds. I don't say this in a critical way, but, with millions of pounds in the kitty, taxpayers should be told where this is being spent and who is benefitting.

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  6. Dreamland Trust seem to have fallen off the council's agenda, as the recent press release suggests that TDC is looking for someone to operate the park when built. They also say they have a professional project management team in place - so who are they and what is their track record?

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    1. And what are the current team doing to earn their salaries?

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  7. Why have the councillors simply not asked for FOI of all costs and salaries to be issued each month on the website? The senior salaries are now issued why n ot all the costs of the council(s)? I won't vote for anyone who refuses to disclose how our tax is spent. Would you?

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