My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Dont Trust the Dreamland Trust

It might have played an important role in helping  to save Margate’s Dreamland, but that was then and this is now. Last Tuesday’s  poorly advertised and badly  attended (less than 50 people by my estimation) open meeting of the Dreamland Trust at Margate Winter Gardens,  showed just how out of touch,  complacent and irrelevant this once highly regarded organisation has become.
The new chair of the Trust, Bernie Morgan,  tried hard to create the impression of a dynamic leader with new ideas but in truth she appeared to lack vision, had no new ideas and seemed perfectly  content to be overseeing an organisation which, to put it politely,  is a shambolic mess. Its public facing website is hopelessly out of date. Trustees who resigned long ago are still shown as being members of the board. Her predecessor, Nick Laister, who ceased to be the Chair of the Trust three months ago is still listed on the website as occupying that post. Basic  information about the Trust like its aims and objectives, minutes of board meetings, policy documents, activities and performance reports and its accounts have not been published on the Trust website. Worse still an expensive publically funded survey about Dreamland and the work of the Trust was advertised on its Facebook page 2 days before the closing date and not at all on its website. The new Chair has had 3 months to put these important organisational problems right, but has clearly failed to do so.
It’s often said in management circles that an organisation which does not have an up to date public face and which demonstrates  an arrogant disregard of  accountability by failing to publish its governance and performance documents, is an organisation which is dysfunctional and unfit for purpose.  This is a view with which an overwhelming majority at last Tuesday’s meeting appeared to agree with including several  former Trust staff who lead a barrage of criticism of the Trust including calls for the resignation of the directors.
The main focus of the criticism was the Trust’s lilly-livered failure to stand up to, and speak out against,  the massive incompetence of Thanet District Council and Sands Heritage in their management of the £22million publically funded Dreamland amusement park. The Trust was condemned for remaining silent about the premature opening of Dreamland in June 2015, before the iconic scenic railway was operational and for its continuing silence over Sands Heritage inability to get the scenic up and running for almost 16 weeks following its  latest problems.  Concern was also expressed about the Trust’s lack of comment  over the selection of Sands Heritage as the theme park operator despite it privately having serious concerns about the appointment process. Some speakers were surprised that the Trust failed to make any public statement about the collapse of Sands Heritage into administration and for failing to put forward alternative plans to run the theme park. Several speakers suggested that the Trust was no longer for fit purpose and that it needed to fundamentally review its role to include a stronger element of public scrutiny of Dreamland and holding the council and park operator to account.
Personally I thought the audience, whilst clearly angry, let the Trust off the hook lightly. Its new chair and directors were clearly disinterested in the points which were raised, condescendingly batting away questions as being none of their concern or outside  their paygrade. To me this approach signified that the Trust is  out of touch with the community and its ideas and aspirations for Dreamland, especially the need for the management and development of  this publically funded £22million project to be held to account and for the people of Thanet to know that that its money has been well spent.

On a positive note, the new chair said that she will be recruiting  new directors for the Trust. I’d go one step further and say to the chair, that on the basis of their  recent performance she should sack all the existing directors and replace them as well. Either way, every effort should be made to ensure that all  new directors should be passionate about Dreamland , in touch with community thinking, and determined to hold Thanet Council and  Dreamland’s operator to account on behalf of the public.  It was good to see that the anger and frustration of the audience was  sufficiently powerful to force concessions from an otherwise arrogantly dismissive top table, who promised more our fear than good-will,  to hold another Trust open meeting in 5-6 months time. At this meeting they promised they would present  new proposals about how the Trust would operate. I sincerely hope that these proposals will include a powerful element of public scrutiny of the management of Dreamland and its  increased public accountability. Anything less would confirm my view that the Dreamland Trust and its directors are  unfit for purpose  and should be got rid of.

One final observation about the meeting. Only one of Thanet's 56 elected councillors, Mick Tomlinson, was interested enough in the work  of the organisation to make the effort to turn up to the meeting. And Councillor Tomlinson is no friend of the Trust,  having made some strong criticisms of it at briefing meetings when I was also councillor. I guess this lack of political support at Tuesday's meeting underlines how irrelevant the powers that be regard
the Trust and why they were excluded from the decision making for so long without so much a murmur a public protest. The new Chair and new directors have certainly got a big job of work on their hands.

Here's my video of the meeting

12 comments:

  1. I watched the video and agree with you Ian. Also where is £90k Rob Kenyon and his Community role

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  2. Out of date website? That's terrible.

    You're still a Thanet Green councillor then?

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    1. An out of date website is unimportant otherwise how can we easily check their plans and activities? Why haven't TDC taken on this basic task given their expensive salaries and pensions?

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  3. I don't really understand what role the Dreamland Trust has anymore... the big problem with Dreamland, as a whole, seems to have been too many people with fancy job titles and generous pay packages, but not enough people with real, solid experience of making this sort of leisure destination actually work.

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    1. Yes 09:37 too many artsy-fartsy people and what happened to Wayne Hemingway? The Trust is meant to supervise TDC and Sands etc in running the park or replace them

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  4. Gravel Tsunami Brett meeting this Thursday 7pm Oddfellows Hall Rasmgate - end the Brett gravel works, Pleasurama and Jack's Slipways cafe

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  5. Why is Mick Tomlinson turning up? he and TDC are part of the problem

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  6. UKIP have done nothing either

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  7. Has the Dreamland bods said when the site will be fully open and working? That seems so basic?

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  8. Why is Wells so secretive on what TDC paid Sands in fines and the Godden court case - it's our tax money. If he can't be open he should resign

    manston hilarious again with UKIP http://www.kentonline.co.uk/thanet/news/ukip-leadership-contender-pledges-fresh-114674/

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  9. What may be interest is Dreamland have taken out another loan from Arrowgrass t of taking the Dreamland site over and this time for £1M. I suspect that Arrowgrass are putting themselves in the position of taking over the lease and redeveloping the site

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  10. In my view the Dreamland trust is pointless. I has no powers . Sands Heritage is a private company that is not publicly listed and it is in administration which means the administrators are running it. The Trust has no influence over Sands Heritage neither does TDC have any influence over it

    What may be of some interest is another Sands Company Sand Hotel Margate has not filed its accounts which are overdue. It has as far as I am aware no connection with Dreamland. It msy be they are just not very efficient with keeping up with their paper work or it could possibly mean they have financial problems

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