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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Ramsgate "Ghost Port": £3.4Million, Whistleblower, O'Regans

Green Party Councillor and PPC for Thanet South, Ian Driver, has slammed Thanet Council’s  Labour leadership  for spending over £3.4 million of taxpayers’ money propping up  Ramsgate’s “ghost port”  following the 2013 collapse of TransEuropa Ferries. Figures obtained by Driver show that during the financial year 2013-14 the Council spent £1.4 million keeping the port open. Although not yet audited, Driver has been advised port running costs for the 2014-15 financial year will be at least £1million.The Council’s budget for the current financial year (2015-16) does not identify any major cost reductions at the port, suggesting  that running costs will continue to be around the £1million mark.

This means that during the 3 year period 2013-16 TDC will have spent at least £3.4 million keeping  open a port which has seen a massive decline in traffic and fee income. In fact
the only traffic of significance  at the port, since TransEuropa’s demise, has been occasional deliveries of sand and aggregate to the Brett’s concrete site and  berthings of the controversial live animal exports ship, Joline. Surely TDC’s Labour leaders should have been using the time since TransEuropa’s  demise to explore the massive economic and job creation potential of transforming the port into a leisure focused facility. They didn’t. Preferring instead to pump £millions of your money into a port with no customers and no future.

Much of the port’s running cost is made up of staff wages which, including national insurance, pensions and other employment related spending, amounts to almost £400,000 per year.  Despite the catastrophic fall off of trade and income at the port there have been no reductions in staffing levels since the collapse of TransEuropa Ferries in 2013. Said Driver “the Council was right to keep a full complement of staff in the months immediately following TransEuropa’s collapse, just in case a new ferry operator came forward. But when it became clear, six months or so after TransEuropa’s failure,  that ferries would not return to Ramsgate, TDC’s Labour leadership should have ordered the re-deployment of all non-essential  staff to permanent jobs elsewhere at the council instead wasting millions of pounds of public money  propping up what is essentially a ghost port”.

Driver’s views are supported by an ex-Ramsgate Harbour employee who, before he left his job, e-mailed operational services Director  Mark Seed complaining about the Council’s continued financial support for the port when “there is no port in practice only on paper”  and asking why “when you yourself spoke about waste and saving monies …. the council is still paying vast sums of money for a service which is no longer being carried out”.The former employee highlighted the fact that 5 port workers continued to be paid shift allowances (20% of their basic salary) even though they had not worked shifts since the collapse of TransEuropa two years earlier. He went on to say “this is not only morally wrong, but financially wrong and could even be deemed as corrupt”. Despite copying his e-mail to the Director of Corporate Resources Paul Cook and the Chief Executive, the former employee never received a reply to his complaint.

Said Driver “I am utterly astounded that when a member of staff raised legitimate concerns about huge amounts of tax-payers money being spent on a  port without traffic and shifts not being worked, senior managers appear to have ignored him”. He went on to say “TDC’s Labour leadership have in my view improperly used £3.4million of taxpayers’ money to keep open a failed service. This is probably why the five separate meetings with O’Regan’s took place last year to discuss the possibility of locating their waste wood and concrete block manufacturing facility at the port. These discussions, which had Labour Cabinet level approval, were a desperate effort to generate a new income source at the failing port, no matter how unsuitable or unpopular with local residents were”.
 
“The failure of the port, the waste of public money,  and efforts to sneak inappropriate and potentially dangerous uses onto the site underline the urgent need begin a review of the Port and launch a major public consultation about its future. I have been arguing for a long time that the port area should be transformed into a leisure facility and modern marina, which would increase tourism, kick start the local economy and create hundreds of jobs and business opportunities for Ramsgate residents. We desperately need a Plan B”.

4 comments:

  1. Everitt must follow Hart and Harrison and go after the mismanagement of the Port and Pleasurama. We seem to be funding expensive public sector workers

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  2. £3.4M plus the secret £4M transeuropa loss? Are any of Ramsgate Labour standing again? They are very expensive...

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  3. When Everitt's claim the port was profitable was challenged in the press he defended his claim. Looking at the above he has deliberately misled the electorate.

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  4. Having lived in Ramsgate since 1983 it saddens me so much to see TDC ruin our towns with their total lack of effort and vision to get the Port back up and running I remember working at the port when it had thriving Ferry service and all those new cars on the terminal for delivery to the car dealers and a great feeling of community in the area now look!! TDC are one of the most negligent councils in UK for sure something needs to be done

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