The Labour Group said in their letter that an investigation into Dreamland would promote “good governance” “accountability” and “transparency” and goodness knows it’s desperately needed. TDCs stewardship of the Dreamland project is a catalogue of mismanagement, incompetence, secrecy, deception and a massive waste of public money the likes of which is seldom encountered in a small seaside council. And those people responsible, officers and councillors, should be held to account for any wrongdoings and misdemeanours.
When the letters were published, I questioned whether Thanet Labour Group was being totally honest and genuine in its desire to get to the truth about Dreamland. After all they were running the council and overseeing the Dreamland project when many of the difficulties and problems were occurring, so why on earth would they want to be exposed as a bunch of incompetents, or something worse. I expressed my concerns at the time in a post on this blog. Here’s the link. -
I stand by that post and my strongly expressed opinion that any internal investigation into Dreamland is likely to be a dodgy cover-up which will protect the arses of certain senior politicians and officers. In fact my belief that there may be a cover-up is stronger than ever before now that the membership of the Dreamland Working Party has been announced.
As mentioned in my post on this subject a couple of days ago, the Labour representative on the working group is Councillor Iris Johnston. It is normal practice for such an appointment to be made by the Party Leader – in this case Labour Councillor Jenny Matteface - and approved by members of the party group – councillors Constantine, Campbell, and Fenner.
Surely when approving this appointment Matteface, Fenner, Constantine and Campbell were all well aware that Iris Johnston, when Leader of TDC, had direct responsibility for overseeing the Dreamland development and was responsible, in association with Chief Executive Madeline Homer, for approving all the important decisions relating to this project. It must have been perfectly clear to Matteface, Fenner, Constantine and Campbell that in light of Johnston’s previous involvement in the Dreamland project, that to approve her appointment on the Dreamland Working Group was to place her in a position where she would be investigating and judging herself and her actions, which in anybody’s book is massive and unacceptable conflict of interest.
One of the key principles of common law is that no-one should be a judge in his/ her own cause. This is a rule which is extremely important to public bodies. A good example of this is the setting up the independent Police Complaints Commission as a result of many high profile cases, such as the Hillsborough tragedy, where police forces tasked with investigating themselves routinely lied, deceived, misled and manipulated, in order to literally get away with murder in some cases.
This same rule applies to local councils and is set out in a 2006 document produced by Tony Blair’s Labour Government which said “it is a fundamental principle of accountability that a councillor cannot scrutinise her or his own decisions”. The Nolan Principles of Public Life which supposedly govern the behaviour of councillors also strongly caution against politicians investigating and judging themselves, especially the principles of selflessness, objectivity, accountability, openness and honesty. These are issues which every councillor is familiarised with as part of their induction training when first elected and also form part of ongoing councillor training.
I am utterly astounded that knowing Cllr Johnston’s political history with Dreamland, being aware of the rules and advice about conflict of interest and self-investigation, and having publically declared in letters to the press that they wanted to be transparent and accountable about Dreamland, Matteface, Constantine, Fenner and Campbell agreed Johnston’s appointment to the Dreamland Working Group. Even though Johnston may be a upstanding citizen of the highest repute, this appointment sends out all the wrong message about the integrity and probity of the Dreamland Working Group and will undoubtedly lead many people to suppose, myself included, that the Working Group is a charade aimed at protecting arses of senior people.
What disappoints me most is that this appalling decision runs totally counter to Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s, promise to introduce an era of new politics in the UK based on openness, transparency and honesty. Clearly his party comrades Johnston, Matteface, Campbell, Fenner and Constantine didn’t listen to their leader and appear to have no appreciation of the underlying principles and values of local politics which brings into question their fitness to be councillors.
The honourable thing for the Thanet Labour Group to do, if indeed they have any honour, is to kick Johnston off the Dreamland Working Group PDQ
As you can guess I am quite angry about what’s happening in relation to Dreamland. I’ve been sniffing around political scandal in Thanet for several years now and this is the one issue which gives off the biggest stench. I think it would be fair to say that if investigated properly and honestly Dreamland will become one of the biggest local council scandals in the UK for many years. It should rightly and properly end the careers of certain people at TDC.
I will be coming back to this subject quite often over the next few weeks and months and it’s not just dodgy Labour who will be on my mind. The question is yet to be asked about why Council Leader Chris Wells has allowed his Chief Executive, Madeline Homer, to be lead officer of the Dreamland Working Group when she has had a longstanding and direct managerial role in this project. But I’ll come to back to this soon.