At tonight’s packed public meeting to discuss the O’Regan Group plans for the Port of Ramsgate I spotted 2 familiar faces who had turned up to represent the developer; Mr Doug Brown a former planning manager with Thanet Council and Mr Brian White the former Director of Regeneration and Planning at Thanet Council and Mr Brown’s ex-boss.
I am sure they are doing a great job for O’Regan and providing excellent value for money. I am equally sure what they are doing is perfectly legal and above board. But I do believe that there is something unethical about former senior public servants moving into to the private sector and then using their public sector knowledge, expertise and contacts to negotiate with their former employer on behalf of their new bosses – the so called revolving door. It simply doesn't feel right to me.
Nor does it feel right to House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, or the Committee for Standards in Public Life or the highly regarded anti-corruption charity Transparency International all of whom have recently published reports which highlight the dangers of the so-called “revolving door” which they argue can sometimes give rise to corruption, preferential treatment and unfair advantage in business dealing. Not that I am suggesting that this is the case here.
But seeing Mr White and Brown did get me to thinking and I suddenly remembered that as Director of Regeneration Mr White had more than passing interest in the future of the port of Ramsgate. In fact Mr White was one of main architects of the ill-fated and top secret TransEuropa debt-deferral agreement which resulted in council tax payers having to stump up £3.4 million to cover the unpaid fees when the ferry company went bust 2 years ago. It was the same Mr White who was involved in the Pleasurama development which continues to blight the seafront more than 12 years after SFP Ventures was appointed as the developer.
Mr White has now teamed up with the O’Regan Group to use his undoubted knowledge, skills and experience, and his remarkable track record of successfully managing developments and business on Ramsgate seafront, to bring us something we desperately need to kick start our leisure and tourist economy – a large waste wood and concrete block manufacturing facility. Located right next to the Royal Harbour; adjacent to a site of special scientific interest and a European special conversation area; within a stones throw of residential areas and cafes and bars.Likely to be noisy, smelly and dusty and use massive amounts of fresh water in an area described by experts as being water stressed – this development is just what we need!
Despite the unanimous opposition of the 250 or so people who turned up to the O'Regan consultation meeting, Mr White appeared to suggest that his client will continue to push on with its plans to develop a potentially polluting facility at the port of Ramsgate which if it gets the go ahead will almost certainly impact negatively on the revived tourist economy in Ramsgate.But who am I to make comment on this issue because Mr White has demonstrated through his actions over the years that he is man who truly loves Ramsgate seafront and who would do nothing to harm its interests.
By the way, before anyone gets the bright idea of serving another injunction on me the Council was ordered by the Information Commissioner to release these confidential TransEuropa Ferry papers to me last year. This is the ill-fated deal which cost you £3.4 million and which was kept secret from you for more than 2 years by council bosses and the Conservative and Labour Party Leaders. This was a shameful and expensive scandal which demonstrates Thanet Council's continuing culture of secrecy and mis-management
If you want honest and open government in Thanet vote Green in 2015