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Monday, 23 November 2015

Thanet Council Live Animal Export Damages £3.5 Million & Rising

Former Green Party Councillor and South Thanet Parliamentary candidate, Ian Driver, claims that Thanet District Council (TDC) may have paid out a further £800,000 in legal fees and damages to live animal export companies following its 6 week suspension of the trade from the port of Ramsgate in 2012 following the death of 47 sheep. This brings total damages and legal costs paid out to date to a staggering £3.5 million.   Following legal action by the exporters, the High Court ruled in 2012 that TDCs suspension of live animal exports was, despite the death of the sheep, an unlawful breach of EU free-trade regulations and ordered the council to lift its suspension and pay damages to the companies concerned.  Earlier this year, using Annual Audit rules which allow the public to inspect the council’s accounts, Driver  forced TDC to reveal that it had already paid £2.3 million in damages to Dutch firm Barco de Vapor and Lydden based animal transporter, Trevor  Head (1)  and that it had also spent  £400,000 on legal costs.Following a freedom of information request from Driver in October, TDC confirmed that it had received a new claim for damages for its unlawful suspension of live animal exports from Ramsgate port, but refused to provide Driver with details about this claim or to tell him who had submitted it. After monitoring TDCs monthly spending data which is published on the Council’s website (2) Driver identified 7 payments totalling £9,320, made between May and October 2015, to barrister Philip Woolfe of Monkton Chambers, Gays Inn, London. Woolfe, described on his Chamber’s website  as a specialist in commercial and EU law, represented TDC at the High Court in 2012 when the council  was ruled to have acted unlawfully in suspending the live exports  trade from Ramsgate (3). Said Driver, “I can see no reason why, other than his knowledge of live animal exports and EU law, TDC would wish to employ Mr Woolfe”.

Within the spending data files, which by law must show all payments over £250, Driver also identified sums of £168,050 paid on 28 May 2015 plus £471,540 and £147,460 paid on 21 October 2015. Totalling £787,050 the recipients of these payments are unknown and were marked in the files as “Redacted Commercial Confidentiality (4)”. The files stated that the payments were made for legally related purposes including the provision of future settlements. Some of the costs were allocated to TDCs operational services department which includes the Port of Ramsgate (5). Said Driver, “I strongly suspect these payments were made to the live animal exporters. Previously acknowledged payments of £2.3 million made on 31 March 2015 were recorded in the spending data files in exactly the same way as these latest payments”.

Driver’s suspicions about the payments are supported by a Budget Monitoring Report due to be discussed by a meeting of TDCs Cabinet tomorrow (24th November) which says that “to date settlement payments made (to the live exporters ID) total circa £3m (excluding legal costs ID)  with further on-going negotiations (6)”. This suggest that the £3.5million identified by Driver is not the final settlement figure and may even exceed £4million. Because the payments were made to compensate for an unlawful act they are not covered by TDCs insurance policies and must therefore be paid for by the council tax payer. This works out at £53 per household.
 
Driver who has campaigned against live animal exports from the Port of Ramsgate for over 4 years said “although I totally despise the cruel and barbaric trade which operates from Ramsgate and will continue to oppose it, it was perfectly clear from the outset that anything other than the shortest possible suspension would get the council into extremely serious legal trouble. It’s my opinion that the then Labour leadership of the Council acted in a recklessly negligent way by indefinitely extending the suspension. This foolish and incompetent action has cost the tax payers of Thanet dearly”.

He went to say “that some of the Ramsgate live exporters were found guilty of animal welfare abuse which led to  the deaths of the 47 sheep at Dover Magistrates Court in early 2014. Yet here they are now getting a share of the £3.5 million damages payments. These payment are in my view blood money!  I’m now beginning to have serious doubts about remaining in the EU after this fiasco”

 

Ends.

 
  1. E-mail from TDC to Ian Driver.
  2. See https://www.thanet.gov.uk/your-services/what-we-spend-and-how/money-paid-to-suppliers/2015-council-spend/
  3. See http://www.monckton.com/barrister/philip-woolfe/  and http://www.monckton.com/barco-de-vapor-ors-v-thanet-district-council/

  1. Extracts from TDC monthly spending reports for May and October 2015

 
28/05/2015
168050.6
REDACTED COMMERCIAL CONFIDENTIALITY
Corporate Resources and S151
Balance Sheet
Provisions- Future Settlement
Legal Services
21/10/2015
471540
REDACTED COMMERCIAL CONFIDENTIALITY
Corporate Resources and S151
Balance Sheet
Provisions-Future Settlement
Legal Services
21/10/2015
147460
REDACTED COMMERCIAL CONFIDENTIALITY
Operational Services
Revenue
Other Transfer Payments
Legal Services

 
  1. See 4 above
  2. See Cabinet Meeting 24 November Item 7 paragraph 2.3 here http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/documents/b11495/Supplementary%20Agenda%2024th-Nov-2015%2019.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=9

 

7 comments:

  1. Who is the Tdc lawyer who failed on this? Why were these ridiculous compensation costs not appealed. Typical Tdc failure where we pay twice plus police costs.

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  2. Ukip seem to be allowing tdc to continue its secrecy. They are lead by the nose by the officials. Wells and Shonk should know better after years at Kcc

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  3. So did the Labour admin take legal advice in 2012? if they did and they though they had a case to ban live exports under the law then the advice was not worth the paper it was written on. TDC should ask for there money back for the advice given. Makes you think there is no point in the council asking for legal advice on anything.

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  4. Both sides agreed to end the ban yet Tdc didnt invlude the costs to be ended?

    And if it was £1.5m why are tdc paying £3m or more?

    Closing the port after the sheep deaths is perfectly reasonable anyway hence the rspca trying to prosecute!

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  5. What has happened with the tdc and rtc Munday election? Did anyone actually vote for RTC?

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  6. With the end of Manston cpo and ukip not in control what are all the councillors doing now? It all seems a bit flat for £30m tax a year

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  7. How many tdc staff work at the port and marina

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