Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ferrygate - Sweeping It Under The Carpet

Fittingly for a local authority that was until comparatively recently led by a bent carpet salesman, Thanet's councillors have now successfully swept the scandal of TDC's £3.3m secret subsidy to a foreign ferry firm under the very carpets that the aforementioned bent carpet salesman no doubt sold them in the first place.

Both the Oversight and Scrutiny Panel on Tuesday night, and an extraordinary council meeting yesterday, effectively voted to approve Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officer Sue McGonigal's clandestine, multi-million pound cover-up, a commercial bollock-dropping on such a monumental scale that, if she had been working anywhere else, she would have been immediately escorted out the door with only her Miss Piggy rubber and a few paper clips as compensation.

What isn't surprising is that the right wing bears-of-very-little-brain seem to think this is the best outcome, even though you'd expect the idea of their council tax being used to prop up a bunch of Slovenian matelots to be anathema to them. You'd think they'd be arguing that McGonigal has acted like a small town version of Gordon Brown, pumping good money after bad, gifting £3.3m of public funds in unsecured loans, and causing an extended period of austerity to be brought in by, er, the Labour administration. (I think that's the point at which that particular hypothetical Tory argument breaks down.)

It's slightly more surprising that the left wingers seem compliant with this extraordinary state of affairs, but then I'm maybe crediting them with more brain cells than they actually possess. Only the independents appear to have properly got to grips with this fiasco, and understood its full implications.

What seems utterly ludicrous is that the two main Thanet bloggers who have experience of running businesses themselves seem to think there's nothing wrong with a debtor being allowed to rack up such a huge sum in unpaid bills. 'It's money we would never have had in the first place,' goes the argument. But then, if it was only 'funny money', why is £1m being slashed from the housing budget? Why didn't McGonigal use her business and commercial acumen to pull the plug before it all got so completely out of control? Well, the answer to that last one is that she evidently has none.

I dunno. For an island that's not short of whelk stalls, there seem to be very few people knocking about who would be qualified to run one.


Anonymous said...

The question is how much money can be saved at the port now that it is no longer a daily service port?.
When you have the answer to this question you will know just how much TDC have paid out on substidising this service over the last 2 years.

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments ECR: appalling collusion by the Tories and Labour to continue to wallow in their incompetence.

And we're paying their allowances and McGonigal's salary and the debts.

And now the lack of an economy to offset this failure.

Anonymous said...

Spot on MOK. How much has it cost Thanet to dredge the route and run the harbour in support of a commercial enterprise that was essentially trading at a loss.

Diplomatic Intermediary who can supply aircraft services

Debt collecting skills on the history somewhere ?

One TDC cllr, who would never fall for the blag of a bogus MI6 bogus papal knight (Paypal knight though see his site)may already know this alleged convicted firearms felon (USA).

Back when Sir Adrian and his brother "Doctor" Roberts hired rooms at Stoke Royal Infirmary to offer training for Emergency Medical tech qualifications.

What Thanet needs is the papal knight flown in to Belgium by an intrepid local aviator.

"Go get our money Adie"

"Righto Biggles old chap. Does this mean you have given up on getting your Stoke EMT course fees back by the way ?"

Anonymous said...

Keep taking the medication 5:52!

Anonymous said...

There's good news and bad news. The good news is that TDC has approved an emergency "economic action plan". The bad news is that the "action" plan consists of holding (yet another) consultation with key stakeholders. When will someone rid me of these clowns?

Ian Driver said...

last nights cabinet decision to deal with the TEF debt which has now officially grown to£3.4 million was probably unconstitutional. Will be taking this up with powers that be. In fact many of the decisions which led to this debt being racked up were probably unconstitutional. That's why I am calling for an independent public enquiry because in my opinion senior politician from both parties and senior council officers may have flouted Council rules. This is extremely serious and should be investigated

RazeTDC said...

Lets say we wanted to remove TDC officers and councillors associated with this. What are our options, besides waiting for the next election?

Mayoral elections? Petitions to force one?

They have so far successfully swept this under the shagpile by colluding on this grotty little episode. I think with the collective minds across Thanet who find this whole thing abhorrent should be able to make things very uncomfortable with Mcgonigal, bayford and hart.

Evybody up for it?

Anonymous said...

Well over here in Cliftonville everything is being cut except the grass. I pay £3000 per annum council tax for no services from TDC. How can a council not even cut the grass for over 2 months. This is a scandle. The whole area is covered with tape covered cut of lamp posts, cut down trees with no replacements in sight and 3ft grass. If they can't even run basic services how date they try to run anything bigger

Anonymous said...

Raze TDC: a couple of options:

* council tax strike
* councillor boycott in shops/delisting for elections etc
* public petition for removal of officials/election etc etc
* Police inquiry

Torching the police station and council offices probably isn't required.

Interesting it's now £3.4M and more to follow no doubt. And BA training flights possibly at Manston.

Also a Pleasurama developers meeting with Hart/Poole last week - who are they? And why can it not be cancelled and turfed for the Summer?

The emergency economic action plan is empty farce.

Who'd invest in Thanet with these Duffers, Corruption Boys and Lazy Police?

Anonymous said...

This is the video of Worrow criticising TDC/Gregory as homophobes: good for him and just listen to the silence:

There's also a video of Driver asking for FerryGate resignations. Is the £3.4M 20% of the whole TDC budget: £15M?

Anonymous said...

I think it is outrageous that Clive Hart used security men to have an elected councillor removed from the council chambers, when that councillor was querying a black hole of £3.4 million in the finances, racked up at least in part, on Clive Hart's watch. To cap it all Clive then had the temerity to challenge Driver in the Gazette, saying "What would you have done differently?" Of course, being the Gazette, they didn't bother to get or publish the obvious reply:

"I would have ensured that all councillors were aware of what we were doing and were aware of the risk, should the company fail to repay the debt. I would have ensured that this was discussed in the open at a council meeting so that any member of the public could see and hear what was being done and could discuss it with their councillor if they had any reservations about the council's course of action. Finally, I would have ensured that the council's accounts did not make any assumption that this money would be recovered and would have adjusted the council's spending committments accordingly."

That's what I would have done Clive and it illustrates that there was another course of action available to you if you had chosen to take it. You did not take the alternative course of action and, in deciding to lock everyone else out of the loop you ensured that you took sole responsibility for this decision. As you are solely responsible for losing £3.4 million of taxpayers' money I suggest you resign in disgrace but not before sacking the officers who advised you that this was an acceptable course of action.

That's what I think anyway.

P.S. I'm not Ian Driver, but I'm guessing what he might say in response. I may even have understated his opinion a tad.

Ian Driver said...

Hi Anon Thanet Councils Constitution says that one of principles of decision making is a presumption in favour of openness

Anonymous said...

How many other secret meetings and deals have been done that none but the elite know anything about. Democracy!! No chance.

Bill said...

How is it possible that such a sum of money being owed to the council passed through the annual accounts without a comment being raised. Is it not gross negligence on the part of the 151 officer?

Anonymous said...

I know several people who have, in recent years, tried to pursue accounts for the harbour. Their reason for doing this was that they suspected the harbour might be losing money and that the taxpayer might end up footing the bill. They were obstructed every step of the way and were never able to find out about this debt despite asking all of the right questions. What we all need to be asking is how a council can hide a debt by pretending that this debt is attributable to a company that is seprate from thre counil. We can all now see that this is rubbish. The debt has to be paid by the taxpayer and so, it should have been apparent in the council's accounts. Otherwise the council's accounts are not a true and accurate representation of the financial position. How many other secret debts has the council run up by failing to collect taxes that are owed? I think we should be entitled to know.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the above: FOI requests for TDC and RTC contracts/invoices etc are simply ignored and the accounts signed off - which is fraud of course.

Sponsorship Request said...

Had the controlling Labour Group taken the decision to terminate the agreement of the previous, outgoing Tory group then the redundancies would have occurred in 2011. The loss of revenue would have been approximately the same. The dredging of the Ramsgate port is a necessity to maintain the potential commercial viability of the port. This work will need to be continued and Thanet Council will have to continue to find the money unless it is being suggested that Thanet Council should close down Ramsgate as a port on a permanent basis. The decision was not taken by the Chief Executive but was taken in consultation with the controlling Labour group once the situation was made known to them. The decision was clearly taken in order to find a longer term solution and to support the financial viability of the harbour and it was hoped, the company. On this occasion the decision while easing the situation for a period of two years did not provide the desired outcome. Councillor Driver fails to clarify what decision he would have arrived at had he been in control of the Labour group. It should not be forgotten that he was a member of the Labour group at that time. There has been no "swindling" going on, merely a council trying to find a solution to a difficult situation during a period of acute economic difficulty. Councillor Driver would like people to think that there has been a cover up so that he can make personal political mileage from the situation. I challenge Councillor Driver to articulate what would have been his decision as things stood in 2011. Hindsight is a wonderful gift but is absolutely useless in the current economic reality, other than to provide a smokescreen for naked political ambition and a personal political bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

If this wasn't a cover-up, why did nobody apart from a few senior council officials and senior councillors know about it? Why was no mention or provision made for these bad debts in the 2011 or 2012 accounts? Why didn't the senior officers in charge put a cap on the amount of our money they were prepared to gamble? Where was the accountability Labour promised us? I could go on...

By the way, I am not Ian Driver, just a horrified Labour voter and taxpayer

Anonymous said...

re 11.01am Ultimate stewardship of the public finances at TDC was the responsibility of McGonigal in her statutory position before during and after this saga. None of this should have been done in secret or allowed by her to continue. The accounts and budgets were also her responsibility. The 2011 and 2012 accounts appear to have not provided for or disclosed the Transeuropa debt situation she was fully aware of and the Council's budgets also appear meaningless if, when it is convenient to save her skin, she can find £3 million like a rabbit out of a hat.