I’m disgusted by Thanet Council’s efforts to confuse and mislead the public over the massive losses racked up by the Port of Ramsgate. On 29th December I published an article on this blogsite about the £7.6 million losses made by Ramsgate Port over the past 5 years. I also sent out a press release to the local media about this which was run as a major story in last week’s Thanet Gazette (Port has made losses of £7.6million in last five years – Gazette 13/01/20). In response to the Gazette’s enquiries, Thanet Council (TDC) disagreed with my claim about the £7.6 million saying that the losses were actually £2.6million over 5 years.
When researching my article and press release, I used as my source material Thanet Council’s official Annual Statements of Accounts for the five year period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2016. Each set of annual accounts for the years in question is published on TDCs website. Before being published each set of accounts are thoroughly checked by an external auditor who spends several weeks examining the council’s financial records for the year in question. The cost of each audit of the annual accounts is almost £100,000.
The preface to the published accounts says that they “give a true and fair view of the financial position of TDC and of its income and expenditure”; that the accounts are “free from material error”; that they “are a faithful representation” of the council’s financial position, and “have been prudently prepared”. This surely means that these documents are the most authoritative and reliable sources of information about TDCs financial performance for the year concerned.
So the question must be asked – if the published accounts for the past 5 years show a loss at Ramsgate Port of £7.6million, why is TDC now telling the Gazette this loss was actually £2.6 million? Is it possible that this huge £5million discrepancy is because TDC’s official accounts for the past 5 years were inaccurate and were not, as the council claims - true; fair; faithful; free from error; and prudentially prepared?
Or is because TDC is terrified that the £7.6 million loss at the port (the equivalent of £54 for every man, woman and child in Thanet) will discredit its 2014 Maritime Plan and undermine its efforts to industrialise the port? If this is true then clearly it’s in TDC’s interested to embark on a damage limitation exercise by deploying the techniques of creative accountancy to manipulate, distort and alter its own officially published and externally audited figures to make the losses at the port look less bad than they really are.
But whatever the truth might be the fact is that the losses made by Ramsgate Port over the past 5 years, (whether £7.6 million or £2.6million) are massive and are unacceptably high, especially for a cash-strapped council like TDC. These losses demonstrate beyond doubt that, just like Manston Airport, Ramsgate Port, as currently operated, is economically unsustainable. This is why it’s essential to have a major public consultation about the port’s future which will consider alternative uses such as its transformation into a leisure hub as supported by myself, MP Craig MacKinlay and rapidly growing numbers of Ramsgate residents.
In the meantime, TDCs cynical efforts to use financial smoke and mirrors to confuse and disorientate the public about the serious financial problems at Ramsgate port, instead of being open and honest, will only serve to increase the already widespread lack of public confidence and trust in TDC and its elected politicians