I believe that Thanet Council taxpayers may have been needlessly forced, to foot a massive £6million bill, which could have been paid for by TDC’s insurance policies!The £6million was spent by TDC in 2014 and 2015 on paying out legal fees and compensation payments related to a 2013 High Court Hearing at which TDC was found guilty of breaching EU Free Trade rules. The breach occurred in 2012 when, despite having legal advice warning it not to, TDC placed an unlawful ban on the export of live farm animals from the council owned port of Ramsgate, following the deaths of 47 sheep. At the December 2013 court hearing Mr Justice Birrs ruled - “The ban was an unjustifiable breach of Art 35 of the TFEU. It was a disproportionate decision reached in haste without separate legal advice and breached a fundamental element of the rules governing free trade in the EU. In my judgment the council is liable to pay damages to the claimants”
Just before Xmas I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to TDC asking if the council had in place an insurance policy, at the time of the High Court case ,and subsequently, “which provided financial cover to pay for any legal costs and/ or compensation payments which may have to be paid for any unlawful or negligent actions by its offices and/ or elected members”. TDC replied to me yesterday conforming that it did have in place such a policy.
TDC also confirmed to me that it had submitted a claim against this insurance policy “to cover legal costs and/ or compensation payments related to the High Court case in 2013 when the council was judged to be liable to pay damages/ compensation to those associated with live animal exports trade from the Port of Ramsgate”.TCD further confirmed to me that their claim “related to the High Court case” was not accepted by their insurer and that “no payments” were received by the council from their insurer. When I asked TDC to explain the reason why the insurance claim was rejected “e.g claim submitted late, claim out of scope of policy cover etc”. TDC replied that it could “confirm that Thanet District Council holds this information", but that “This information is exempt under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore being withheld”.
So we have situation where TDC, like all other councils in the UK, appears to have been fully and properly insured against the possibility of any legal and compensation claims made against it; that it made a claim against its insurance to cover the legal and compensation costs resulting the High Court live animal exports case, but that this claim was rejected by TDCs insurers and that TDC will not explain the reasons why its insurance claim was rejectedThe payment of legal and compensation costs resulting from the 2013 case is close to £6million and there may still be outstanding claims to settle. That’s the equivalent of £43 for every man, woman and child living in Thanet. The payment of these costs during 2014 and 2015 led directly to large cuts in council services, the reduction in TDCs emergency financial reserves, and increases in Council taxes. Yet Thanet Council refuses to explain to its taxpayers why these crippling payments were not covered by what should have been comprehensive insurance cover. According to Thanet Council’s Constitution -
“The Cabinet is responsible for ensuring that proper insurance exists, where appropriate, to mitigate any risks identified” and “The Section 151 Officer is responsible for preparing the Council’s risk management policy statement, for promoting it throughout the Council and for advising the Cabinet on proper insurance cover where appropriate”
Clearly the Council’s most senior politicians and paid officials have a direct responsibility for managing matters relating to insurance. I therefore publically call out Council Leader Chris Wells and Section 151 Officer Tim Wills to explain to the public why the Council’s insurers refused to cover the costs of the live exports compensation claim which was submitted by TDC. Is it because the insurance claim might have been submitted to the insurers too late and outside of the insures notification period? Or is there another reason.
The people of Thanet have paid a very high price to cover the costs of the High Court ruling. They have a right to know if they are footing this expensive bill due to an error, mistake or oversight by TDC. But instead of open and honest with the people it serves, like most other council are, TDC in keeping with its culture of secrecy, has decided to withhold the truth. If Thanet Council genuinely believes in democratic accountability and transparency Wells and Wills must fess up and tell the truth about what appears likely to have been a monumentally expensive fuck-up