My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Council’s Xmas Party Cancelled By Stay-Away Protest?

I’m hearing rumours from various sources that Thanet Council’s annual staff Xmas Party has been cancelled. I've been told that  only a handful of the £17 tickets for the Winter Gardens shindig were sold so the event has been pulled.

The Council Xmas Party has always been  a popular event allowing staff to  get together socially and enjoy themselves. And so they should – they have worked hard all year and in most cases for insufficient reward. However, rumours have it that this year things are different. I’m hearing that  low morale, overwork, a swathe of redundancies, the allegedly unfair suspension of a dozen or so traffic wardens, uncertainty and worries about the future, and concerns about a claimed  increase in workplace bullying  has motivated what some people have described to me as an Xmas party stay-away protest against the way the Council is being managed.

I’m a well-known critic of the blunderingly incompetent Thanet Council, but one thing I want to make clear is that my criticisms are directed at TDCs political and officer leadership.  The overwhelming majority of Council staff are hardworking people who care deeply about Thanet and want to make a difference. 
If its true that the staff Xmas party has indeed been cancelled and if its true that there has been some sort of unofficial boycott  of the event, then  surely its time to have change in leadership at TDC and a root and branch review of how the organisation is run.

In my opinion, the best place to start would be for the Council to commission an external organisation to carry out a survey of its staff allowing them to express their honest opinions about how the council is managed anonymously and without fear of repercussion. 

A number of annonymous comments have been posted about this article from persons purporting to be work for Thanet Council. I cannot say for certain whether these people are indeed memebrs of Thanet staff, nor can i publish the comments in full as they name names and may provoke  legal action  if i was to publish them. 
The comments I  have received  do however support the rumours I have been hearing and which  I have reported in this article. 
Please feel free to post comments  expressing  your views about how people are feeling and the alleged bullying and overwork etc at TDC,  or call me if you like. I will treat all communications in the strictest confidence and will try to put together an article which is reflective of your views and opinion but which will not get anyone into trouble - apart from those who should be in trouble.  
The recent Harvey Weinstien, Kevin Spacey  and MP/ politcal party whilstleblowing shows the power of  people speaking out, even anonymously  

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Council’s “Brown Friday” DogS**t Discount Deal. Save 92% Per Dump!

Old Price £1000 Per Pooh
We’ve all heard of Black Friday when high street and online retailers heavily discount their goods to attract more customers. Well not be  outdone,  blunderingly incompetent Thanet Council  has joined the discounters with its own take on Black Friday, but with a twist. Instead of discounting important things such as council tax,  council rents, or parking fees,  town hall bosses have decided to discount dog sh*t. Yes you heard it right. In what is becoming known as  Brown Friday, TDC appears to have reduced the cost of  dogsh*tting by an extraordinary 92%.

New Brown Friday Price  £80 Per Pooh. Grab A Bargain
Signs affixed to the districts lamposts used to advertise the cost of dogs**tting at a eyewatering £1000 per dump. New signs which have been put up across Thanet over the past few days  state that dogsh*tting now costs just £80 per dump.  That’s a massive saving of £920 per dump.  Or put another way buy one dump and get 9 for free!  

In its typical blunderingly incompetent style Thanet Council is confusing the issue by failing  to take down the notices advertising  the old  price per sh*t. In Broadstairs this morning I spotted a lamp post which was sporting both the old and the new dumping rates which is bound to confuse pooing pooch owners. However, consumer protection laws include very strict rules about how discount schemes and sales are advertised. I think I might contact Kent County Council Trading Standards about the confusion,  or better still the  BBC’s consumer affairs programme  Watchdog about the perplexing dogsh*t discount deal.

Operational Services Boss Mr Waite
In the meantime I would advise everyone to take advantage of Thanet Council’s incredible Brown Friday dogsh*t discount deal of 9 dumps for the price of one, before the  head TDCs Operational Services, Mr Gavin Waite, realises the blunder and with a scrooge-like  bahhumbug puts an end to  the Council's discounted doggy defication bonanza.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Thanet Council Incompetent Shambles. Time for Special Measures?

Its not often I agree with North Thanet  MP, Sir Roger Gale, but he was spot on when he recently described Thanet Council as blunderingly incompetent. It’s not just Sir Roger who is waking up to the fact that TDC is, in my opinion, incompetent and not fit for purpose.
Even the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, was recently forced to send a letter to Thanet Council, bollocking the political and officer leadership of the council for failing to produce a critically important local plan when 327 other councils across England seemed to have had no problem producing such plans in a timely fashion. If a failure on this scale isn’t major league incompetence, then I’d like to know what is. 
But it gets worse, TDCs own officers and advisers are now openly admitting that the Council is  incompetent and a shambles, albeit using more diplomatic language than Sir Roger and I. And these criticisms are there for all to see in the reports to be discussed at TDCs Governance and Audit Committee (G&A on Wednesday evening. 
Let's begin with Council’s risk register which will be examined by G&A members tomorrow. This is a register which identifies issues likely to cause major problems for TDC in the forthcoming months. There are now six areas of activity which fall within the red high-risk area including: limited resources, health and safety, political stewardship, the local plan, homelessness and Ramsgate Harbour flap gates. This is a worsening of the council’s risk position compared to the previous report in September.

The reason for having a risk register is to enable an organisation to identify problems and take steps to reduce the possibility of bad things happening. But here in Thanet it appears that those who lead the Council are struggling to bring risks under control and in so doing place the council in increasing danger of serious incidents casing havoc and potential huge financial losses.
Take health and safety. Less than a year ago TDC was in the dock at Canterbury County Court for breaking health and safety laws and allowing almost 20 of its staff to contract the debilitating industrial injury Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). The judge criticised the Council for having a culture of institutional neglect of health and safety and TDC was fined £250,000. 
Yet here we are twelve months later and TDCs management of health and safety appears not to have improved and is classified by its own officers as being high risk – meaning that other, avoidable, safety related incidents are likely to happen. This is totally unacceptable and demonstrates the truth of Sir Roger’s description of the Council as blunderingly incompetent. 
Then we have staffing. In the past few months about 30 people have been made redundant from the Council. Several experienced staff have also resigned and left for pastures new, and 11 staff have been suspended amidst rumours of unfair treatment and bullying. 
This large turnover of staff has been cited by TDC’s own internal auditors as a major issue which impacts upon the Council’s ability to mange risk and deliver quality services. This is what the internal auditor’s report to the G&A Committee says – 

“It has previously been reported that a common theme at Thanet District Council in recent years has been the lack of continuity of management, which has a detrimental impact upon the implementation of audit recommendations as well as upon the organisation’s control and risk management environment. So often, at the time of follow-up the auditor finds that the Manager who originally agreed to the recommendations is no longer in the Council’s employ and that they are now dealing with a replacement (often an interim). This has certainly been the case with this follow-up as none of the officers who agreed the recommendations at the time of the initial audit are now employed by the Council. Members of Governance and Audit Committee should be aware of this risk as it impacts upon the risk management and internal control framework of the organisation”

Finally we have finance - another red high risk. This time  for TDC it's the  turn of the Council's external auditor, Grant Thornton to warn the G&A Committee about the continuing low level of financial reserves and the slow rate of their replenishment. The external auditor also points out in his report that TDC still faces an unresolved compensation claim from the former Dreamland owners for the misapplication of the compulsory purchase order used to acquire the site. This compensation claim could, according to the external auditor, “end up being a significant sum” which, bearing in mind the dangerously run down  reserves,  could be disastrous for the Council. 
So not only are Sir Roger Gale and Sajid Javid highly critical of the way in which TDC conducts its business, but so are members of council staff , including its own internal auditors, and also TDC's external auditor. In my book this is sufficient evidence to conclude that the organisation is an incompetent shambles. 
Surely it's time for the Government to place Thanet Council in special measures and send in its own team to radically overhaul the way the council is managed and remove those responsible for oversseing what many people believe to be one of the most badly run councils in the country.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Margate Dreamland: Offshore £34m Takeover. £3m Administrators Fees. Property Spending Spree.

Documents published on the Companies House website have revealed that Margate’s iconic, but troubled, Dreamland Amusement Park and its operating company Sands Heritage Limited (SHL) were kept afloat, during 18 months of administration, by loans from a tax dodging, offshore hedge fund – Arrowgrass Masterfund Limited.
In the final report prior to SHL’s release from administration, insolvency practitioners Duff and Phelps state that Arrowgrass ploughed an astonishing £34.5 million into paying off SHL’s bank loans and creditors; improving and developing the amusement park site; purchasing new rides; and buying and developing several properties near to the Dreamland site. It would also appear that Arrowgrass has paid a contribution towards the costs of the administration fees which Duff and Phelps have said amount to an eye-watering £2.97million. 
In exchange for this large investment Arrowgrass now own 100% of SHL’s shares putting them firmly in charge of Dreamland Amusement Park and its future development. A new director was recently appointed to SHL’s board - Aidan de Brunner – who is also a director of Arrowgrass Capital Services UK Limited, Arrowgrass Capital Partners II LLP, and Arrowgrass Capital Partners LLP. Clearly Arrowgrass are adopting a firm, hands-on management, approach towards their latest acquisition. 
And acquisition seems to the name of Arrowgrass’ game. In my previous post and video about Dreamland I said that I believed that the tax-dodging hedge fund planned to make a tax-efficient fortune by establishing a monopolistic stranglehold on Margate’s seafront and dominating the towns leisure and hospitality industry. 
I cited, as one of the possible targets for an Arrowgrass takeover, the Arlington House site which is adjacent to Dreamland. Well lo and behold, data released today by the Land Registry reveals the purchase of 8 flats on the same day (23 November 2017) in Arlington House by a mysterious offshore Guernsey registered company AG Margate Propco4 Limited. 

Arrowgrass is not averse to using the abbreviation AG for its associate companies such as AG Capital Funding Limited. On this basis I feel confident that AG Margate Propco 4 is likely to be linked to the new Dreamland owners. Bearing in mind the number 4, I wonder if AG Margate Propco 1,2 and 3 exist and if so what Margate real estate they may be looking to purchase? As for the 8 Arlington flats no price paid data is currently available but assuming each flat was bough for £50,000 that’s a cool £400,000.
For most people buying 8 flats in Arlington House would be enough, but not so Arrowgrass. Their appetite for buying up chunks of Margate seems to be insatiable. On 20 October 2017 another Arrowgrass linked company, Brede Estates Limited, bought the former Woolworths store on Margate High Street for £1.98 million. The directors of Brede Estates are Nick Connington and John Adams, both former SHL directors, and the sole company shareholder is Nick Neill – the Chief Investment Officer and boss of Arrowgrass. So less that a month Arrowgrass related companies have spent almost £2.5 million buying up Margate property.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again whilst Arrowgrass is undoubtedly investing heavily in Margate and although this investment will create new jobs and business opportunities, the massive amount of tax which Arrowgrass will avoid by its offshore status, will cause much more damage to our economy and public services than the provision of seasonal, low paid jobs could ever offset.