The Review Inspectors are extremely knowledgeable. Some are senior Council managers with years of hands on experience. Others are serving, or ex, councillors with track records of leading councils across the Country. Their job is to evaluate how the Councils they review are performing in relation to setting priorities for the local area, financial planning, political and managerial leadership, governance and decision making and organisational capacity. At the end of the process a report is produced by the Inspectors which says how well, or otherwise, the Council is doing and what it might need to do to become better. Councils are expected to publish their Review reports so that residents can see for themselves how well their Town Hall is doing.In Thanet’s case the Inspectors looked at reams of TDC documentation before their visit in March, in what is called a “desktop audit”. This was followed by a 3 day visit to Thanet where the Inspectors interviewed Council staff and councillors and sat in on a number of meetings. I had a one hour interview with 2 Inspectors which I must say was very thorough and quite challenging. It was clear to me that the Inspectors were the real deal. They were not in Margate on a tick-box exercise or jolly bureaucrats outing. They were here to do a proper job of work.
After their visit the Inspectors produced a draft report which was sent to the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader almost three weeks ago. Since then silence!I have asked to see a copy of the draft report. My request was denied. 0n 24th April there is a Full Council meeting. Yet despite the fact that the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader will have been sitting on the draft Peer Review report for almost one month when the Council meets, this critically important document has not been included on the agenda of that meeting. The 56 democratically elected Thanet District Councillors have a right to see the draft report. There is no legal reason why this report can be hidden or withheld from them.
Of course the Chief Executive and Leader will rightly claim that they are checking the content of the draft report. But surely that can’t take a month or longer. This is an independent report and Thanet Council bosses or political leaders cannot veto or change the views arrived at by the Inspectors, otherwise the whole purpose of the review would be an utter nonsense. The only thing the Council can do is to put right any factual inaccuracies and correct a few spelling mistakes and typos. This is a process which should only take a couple of days, especially bearing in mind the critical importance of the review. But here we are approaching a month after the draft was received by TDC and its still locked away in the Council’s safe? Why?I can only assume that the report is locked away because it contains bad news. In fact rumours are already circulating that the report includes some very bad news indeed, especially regarding the managerial and political leadership of Thanet Council. It’s mere speculation on my part but issues like secrecy, cover-up, maladministration, bullying, rock-bottom morale, will probably feature large in this report. In light of ongoing problems regarding TransEuropa Ferries, Dreamland, East Kent Opportunities, Planning investigations, and Skateparks, the last thing the Chief Executive and Council Leader want is a report slamming the organisation they are responsible for running. So, in typical Thanet Council style, why not watch your backsides and save your well paid jobs by hiding the report until the things gets a little better.
Shame on Thanet Council and its secretive, unaccountable bosses. I publically challenge you to publish the draft report of the Peer Review in it is full unedited version right now. For once be open honest and truthful. The people who pay your wages and allowances have a democratic right to know if you are providing value for money or not.