Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Circus Time

As your soar-away, 80p Thanet Gazette couldn't be asked to turn -up to tonight's 'Extraordinary' Meeting of the Council, called by Cllrs Driver, King and UKIP members, I thought I should add a few words before bed.

It was all about the TransEuropa debt or at least it should have been but let's be frank and admit it was all about Cllr Ian Driver having another shout. We've had animal rights, we've had institutional homophobia and tonight it was the turn of some vague conspiracy, not quite up to Dan Brown's fictional thriller standards, but an entertaining monologue, none the less.

Having dragged Members back to the Chamber in August at significant expense to the local taxpayer, two motions, bought by Councillor's Driver and King were on offer.

The first, 'That any debt to Thanet District Council or its subsidiaries, which exceeds £250,000, must be reported to a meeting of the Full Council along with a debt recovery plan at the earliest opportunity..."

The second, 'That all the documents, background papers and email related to TransEuropa's debt to Thanet District Council be made available for inspection by Councillors, within 10 working days of this decision being agreed by Council.'

Let's deal #2 first. This has already been the subject of lengthy correspondence between Cllr Driver and the Council's Legal Officer, Harvey Patterson. This is taking on a life of its own as Cllr Driver continues to insist that there is a conspiracy of silence on the details of the agreement. In contrast, everyone else, having debated the matter to death at the last Council meeting, appears to have moved on.

Here is the email on this subject from Mr Patterson to all Councillors: "The Account and Audit regulations give all Members (and the public) the right to inspect and copy prime documents that are used in the formulation of the statement of accounts, and I am writing to remind you that the inspection period runs until 9 August 2013. If you would like to make an appointment to view any of the books of accounts, deeds, contract bills, vouchers and receipts relevant to the 2012/13 accounts please contact Sarah Martin for an appointment."

In regard to motion #1 on reporting any debt in excess of £250,00, Cllrs Driver, Wiltshire and King, appear not to have read their most recent Cabinet papers, quickly pointed out by Cllr iris Johnston, as Thanet Council has already reduced the debt reporting threshold even lower, to £150,000 rather than £250,000.

Councillors were then faced with the farcical situation of UKIP and the supporting independents, trying to vote the threshold back up to £250,000; clearly without realising what they were asking for. Remarkably, both Labour and the Conservatives joined together, for the first time perhaps in recent local political history to defeat the motion, although Council Leader, Clive Hart, quipped that perhaps we should have supported the independents; if only to see the looks on their faces when it was explained what they had voted for.

So there we have it it. More shouting from Cllr Driver, who was asked by the chair not to shout, as we have a new chamber microphone system. No crude descriptions of orifices and organs tonight, which is, I suppose a result and the meeting over and done with by 8pm, with absolutely nothing achieved for the people of Thanet. For fellow students of history, the parallels with the politics of the early Roman Republic are only too visible.

As for the Thanet Gazette, reporter Thomas Brown 'tweeted' that 'People were tired of talk on this' and that makes at least two of us tonight I suspect

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although Driver is a loudmouth, he nonetheless has a point. If I were CEO and CFO of an organisation and allowed an obviously failing company to carry on racking up debts to the tune of £3.4m, I would expect to be sacked. Only in Thanet would the shareholders and board members shrug their shoulders and 'move on'. It's an utter disgrace, and heads must roll for it.

Anonymous said...

Why couldn't anyone ask the Gazette to turn up? Who at TDC is responsible for the invites?

Simon Moores said...

The paper doesn't need inviting. Normally its part and parcel of being a local news and reporting source.

Simon Moores said...

8.26 clearly has not grasped the bigger picture. That was keeping the port moving with consequential benefit to the local economy. There's even a case, rather like Ryan Air or Easyjet for arguing in favour of subsidising the operator simply to generate commercial traffic

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt that Cllr. Driver reads this blog, so here is a direct message to him; It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all possible doubt. Only bullies bellow, I am pleased to note that the Chair would not be cowed. Who voted for this buffoon ! Pretty sure he steps closer to losing his ward with every tantrum he has in Council meetings.

Anonymous said...

Simon please stop trying to defend the indefensible. It is a nonsense and you know it to try an justify the Council's actions in letting the debt spiral to £3.4M. I appreciate your party loyalty, but there comes a time when the public expect action and conservative opposition. Not acquiescence because your leader was to blame for the first £1.7M to rack up.

Steve h from ramsgate said...

Hi Simon, I've not moved on from this and neither has anybody I have spoken to as the minds that led us to this sad situation are still in charge and have not explained in detail how a few people could have made such a decision.

This raises the concern it could happen again unbeknownst to the public who are bankrolling such ideals.

We have moved from debt with one company to 4 companies, which again was imformation not offered by the council.

Strong opposition should be raising these points again and again until all the answers are provided. Unfortunately, as confirmed by your allegiance of convenience last night, labour and conservative, you are all in this together.

Simon Moores said...

A couple of points spring immediately to mind.

The first being that if the plug had been pulled, say in 90 days, after the TransEuropa debt had gone into default - longer even perhaps - the ferry service from Ramsgate would have ceased and all the ancillary jobs and local economic benefits would have gone. Would Ramsgate and the Council been better off? Would the £3.4 million in berthing fees over the next two years have appeared from somewhere else?

Secondly, You might think of TransEuropa as a collective noun with several companies involved. This was not a secret. In fact, as the parent company started to struggle, financial support was being sought from other companies to provide ferries in order to keep the service going.

Lastly, We live in a representative democracy and not an anarchy, which Cllr Ian Driver has carried with him in each and every leftist party, fringe group and role which finally dropped him on our doorstep, with his back finally to the sea and only Belgium remaining as a home for his next political circus.

It is remarkable, if not unique, to see Labour and Coservative groups here in Thanet voting together and for that, we must thank, not Cllr John Worrow, who I'm told has left for Australia but Ian Driver!

Anonymous said...

It's simple really. Let a ferry company operate for free thus securing trade at the port. Tell it to go away and there is no trade. I don't see other operators queuing up to use the port. Who would argue if an airline were to operate from Manston at a reduced rate. The fact is we never had this money, it's not as if it was lent to them
, we never had it to start with. As a matter of interest, how much council tax is outstanding as of today?

Anonymous said...

Simon, your first point. This was not a decision for the chief exec and a couple of others to make.

Why and how this unilateral decision was made and why those that made it are still standing by it, and why we have no definitive answer on whether it could happen again are reasons to pursue this matter.

Simon Moores said...

We have a political system run on the Cabinet model of representative democracy.

Two very different Cabinet's arrived at the same conclusion in regard to both the management of the debt and the commercial confidentiality that surrounded it.

In both cases, both Parties and the officers of the Council were pursuing the public interest in seeking to achieve a resolution to a problem that might keep the ferry service operating from Ramsgate, ancillary jobs and the local economy secure and the public interest represented.

Simon Moores said...

Rather more than the cumulative ferry debt, I fear, as collecting council tax has always been a struggle here in Thanet

Anonymous said...

If you are saying the only way to attract an operator to use the Port is by allowing them to use it for free, then you obviously have little confidence in Thanet being able to attract a responsible operator. Are you able to explain or better still quantify the economic benefits that the area reaped from the continued operation after the ferry company defaulted, against the loss of income into the area by the non-payment of dues?

Simon Moores said...

I could and this has been described by the Chief Executive at the earlier full Council meeting. I suggest you look for the report or the video

Anonymous said...

. To risk and be owed £3.4 million of taxpayers money ( with no hope of repayment) by a company of this providence over a long-term period is hardly prudent husbanding of residents' resources. Yet none will take responsibility. Where was Plan B ? To allow the perpetrators of this wholly unsavoury incident to continue as though nothing has happened is staggering.Nothing less than the planned enquiry at national level will suffice.



Simon Moores said...

And you would never have seen £3.4 million either way but the port remained open and jobs continued while all sides on both sides of the Channel attempted to find a way of saving the TransEuropa route between Ramsgate and Ostende!

Anonymous said...

Hello Simon,

What is the definition of a DOS ATTACK and it's legal penalties.

Is there a council/political version of a DOS ATTACK, and what are the penalties for a councillor behind repeated DOS ATTACK's?

Simon Moores said...

A Denial of Service (DOS) Attack or Distributed Denial of Service Attack,(DDOS) involves millions of requests being directed at a Server in a deliberate effort to overload it.

It's a criminal offense but I can't think of any local Councillor. other than me, who might be able to conjure up the resources to achieve such a thing.

Anonymous said...

If someone was to repeatedly request extroadinary meetings, to overload a district council.

Would that not be a political equivalent to a DOS ATTACK?

Anonymous said...

Good luck to the independents - standing head and shoulders above this rag bag of a council

Simon Moores said...

Looks like we have attracted an intellectual 1.31

Denial of Service sadly doesn't extend to the Alice in Wonderland world of TDC

Anonymous said...

Oh well, to quote Eric Idle.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Anonymous said...

Many of TDC's cllrs deny US a service!

Simon Moores said...

Possibly because you live in Thanet and not the US?

Anonymous said...

Australia?

Anonymous said...

Based on a long memory of TDC was not Mr Driver a very servile clerk in Democratic Services many moons ago. His current performance may stem from a belief in revenge on TDC for some past experience. He has nowhere to go now. - he and his "independent" friends are going not going to hold TDC to ransom for the next 18 months I hope. Clive hart and Bob Bayford should get together and sort this impasse out in the next few days and commission Driver, Worrow to the outcast area of the Council where their influence is negative.
They do not represent the electorate who cast their votes for their current positions and as they will not stand for re-election
in the current council they should be marginalised as the seem to be in the Council for their own rhetoric. I am surprised at Tom King Bob Crowe - and the UKIP renegades being taken in by Driver's Drivel

Barry James said...

"Would the £3.4 million in berthing fees over the next two years have appeared from somewhere else?" No and hindsight has proven that they didnt exist either. Did anyone do any "due diligence" on the proposed bailout from Italy? and the answer to that was a NO!! as well. Why didnt anyone from the Cabinet ask who, what when and how much when the bailout was proposed?

Simon Moores said...

Sorry, where did you get the impression that due diligence was required?

Anonymous said...

You are right Simon, TDC does not have to perform any due diligence on existing firms, only new agreements.

It will be interesting to know the due diligence on dianthus maritime as they hardly paid a bill from coming onboard as a customer in 2010.

And of course, only a council and councillors as arrogant as ours could dismiss the very sensible notion of checking out whether a buyout of a failing customer with growing debts has any credibility.

Barry James said...

someone owed me a chunk of money I think I would like to assess whether they were telling me the truth. How about you?

Anonymous said...

And amendment of existing agreements. Due diligence.