Brexit was the biggest story of the year both nationally and locally. In Thanet 64% of the 72,000 people who voted, voted to leave the EU. I was one of those voting to leave the EU because of the fundamentally undemocratic nature EU, it’s appalling treatment of Greece and the live animal export issue. Thankfully many other socialists joined me in voting no and we were not intimidated by hysterical nonsense that a vote for Brexit was racist.Dreamland Disaster. The failed amusement park operator, Sands Heritage Limited (SHL) was forced into administration in May 2016 owing an eye-watering £14million to its creditors. I later revealed that an offshore, Cayman Island registered, tax avoiding, hedge fund, Arrowgrass MasterFund, had invested £2.6milion in the park and secured its investment by placing legal charges on SHL’s leasehold of the amusement park. I also discovered that the owners of SHL had longstanding business and employment links with a boss at Arrowgrass. I publically called out the directors of SHL, on 3 occasions last year, to declare whether had investments in Arrowgrass and whether they might profit from collapse of SHL? They declined to comment.
Ramsgate Pleasurama. 2016 was the year that building work was supposed to begin on the 107 luxury flats and the 70 bedroom hotel at the seafront Pleasurama site, but it didn’t. Instead the site developer, Michael Stannard and his Cardy building group went bust owing an astonishing £20million to its creditors. Just days before Cardy went into administration, Stannard purchased the freehold of the Pleasurama site from Thanet Council for just over £3million. The transaction appears to have been funded by the financier behind the previous failed Pleasurama developer, SFP Ventures, Colin Hill, via the offshore, Panamanian registered Mintal Inc. There is no indication that the new site owners have any intention of beginning the building works so the blight on Ramsgate’s seafront continues.
Brett Aggregates. In October 2016 news broke that Brett Aggregates were planning to expand their activities at Ramsgate Port to include an aggregate washing and crushing plant. Two packed public meetings were held in November and December to discuss the issue and launch a campaign to oppose the expansion. Following a deluge of letters of objection to English Nature about the environmental impact of Brett’s proposal, the company was forced to temporarily withdraw its expansion request. I also discovered that Brett’s existing concrete batching plant at the port has been operating contrary to Thanet Council’s planning policies for almost six years.Live Animal Exports. 2016 saw this barbaric and cruel trade beginning its fifth year of operation from Ramsgate Port. Hopefully Brexit will eventually put an end to the trade. However at least 20 shipments, involving 200,000 animals took place in 2016 with no sign of the trade diminishing. Thankfully the protests against the trade have become much larger and lots of new people, especially young people, have now become involved. In August 2016 I had the honour of representing the Ramsgate ban live exports campaigners as a speaker at a central London rally against the international long-distance transportation of animals for slaughter . I also revealed in May 2106 that Thanet Council had paid out an astronomic £5.1million in damages to the live animal exporters, for unlawfully imposing a 30 day ban on this trade 2012. This ban was not, despite the lies and deceit, of Labour, Tory, and UKIP politicians the result of pressure from anti-live exports campaigners but because of the incompetence of Thanet Council bosses including its political leaders.
White Finger. I posted several articles about a massive neglect of health and safety by Thanet Council over a 10 year period, which led to approximately 20 members of staff developing the debilitating industrial injury Hand, Arm, Vibration syndrome or white finger as its commonly known. In November 2016 Canterbury Crown Court confirmed my allegations agreeing that there had been a systemic failure of health and safety management at TDC over a long period of time resulting in serious injury to staff. The council was found guilty of health and safety at work offences and fined £250,000. I hope that staff who have been injured by Thanet Council’s criminal neglect secure decent compensation packages and that their heath improves. This was totally avoidable and shameful example of neglect by Thanet Council at some its bosses who, I believe, should have been held personally liable.
My Predictions for 2017Dreamland will be taken over by the offshore tax-dodging,
hedge fund Arrowgrass Masterfund. Thanet Council will be forced to pay the former owners of Dreamland several £million compensation for the badly executed compulsory purchase of the site. New evidence will emerge about the circumstances surrounding the selection of Sands Heritage as the Dreamland Park operator. I will be applying to the National Audit Office for a independent investigation into the Dreamland which if approved might lead to the resignation of council bosses.
Pleasurama. The site will be taken over by Panamanian registered Mintal Inc. Mintal will enter into negotiations with TDC about selling the land back to the council for a massive markup on the £3million purchase price. I predict that a deal will be done but not in 2017. In the meantime Ramsgate’s seafront will continue to be blighted by the Pleasurama eyesore. Brett Aggregates will submit new proposals for the expansion of their activities at Ramsgate Port. There will be a long protracted campaign to oppose Brett’s plans which I believe will be successful and lead to Brett’s leaving the port. Live Exports will sadly continue throughout 2017 attracting much larger demonstrations and provoking new and extensive direct actions to highlight this appalling cruelty of this trade.Thanet Local Plan will dominate January and February 2017 as the draft plan is subject to public consultation. The main areas of contention will be the former Manston Airport site, the number and location of new houses identified in the plan and the pressure to build on agricultural and green field sites. Thanet Parkway Station plans are also due to be consulted on in February 2017. The Parkway proposal is extremely controversial. I exposed a massive overspend last year and there are also some huge environmental issues about building Parkway, especially for the good people of Cliffsend who are likely to be absorbed into Ramsgate if the station is built.
East Kent Super Council. The business case for setting up a new council which will takeover from TDC, Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Ashford councils will be published early this year. A major public consultation about the super council will then take place. Apart from the Thanet Local Plan, this will be the most important issue of 2017 with over 750,000 people having a say on how they are governed. I predict lots of lively debates and huge media coverage. The cynic in me warns that the result of the consultation will be a stich up by East Kent’s political establishment to protect their self-interests. I think I will be writing a lot about the super council. Kent County Council elections will be taking place in May 2017. Will UKIP retain its stranglehold over Thanet KCC seats and perhaps gain more seats elsewhere in the county? How will the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems fare in the KCC elections? This is going to be a very interesting election and I will be writing a lot about it. I’m also giving serious thought about whether I stand in this election. If I do stand it will be in the Ramsgate division as an independent candidate. I’ll let you know once I have made my mind up.
Poverty & Inequality. Throughout 2016 I focused on writing and campaigning about Dreamland, Pleasurama, Live Exports and Brett’s plans for Ramsgate Port and I will continue to work on these issues until they are resolved. But as a lifelong socialist I also have a passion and commitment for justice and fairness and feel that society has an obligation to use some of its wealth to help and protect those who are struggling to get by. Sadly, here in Thanet there is a disproportionally large number of people who are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet and I will be focusing my attention on this in 2017. I’ll be looking at issues such as low income and poverty, the poor quality of public services for the vulnerable and deprived including social care, social housing, education. I will also be looking at ways to regenerate Thanet and to create more wealth and opportunity to provide decent jobs and opportunities for those who have been excluded and left behind.