Sunday, June 30, 2013


Toddling around Ramsgate this afternoon, I was chuffed to see that these long-abandoned premises at the end of Harbour Street have been almost instantaneously transformed into a Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe, just like the one they have in The Smoke (Margate)!!

Mr Simms is exactly the kind of emporium we need here in the Millionaires' Playground, what with its 500-penny chews and £14.65 bars of chocolate. That should topple the towers of Haribo and other chewy crap from the counters of the local Costcutters!

Down on the Croisette, things were buzzing. Amusement arcades and ice cream parlours were packed, even the Maritime Museum was open. And everywhere tourists were being dive bombed by flying poodles, keen to snatch the cornets out of their hands. If I hadn't pinched m'self, I'd have thought I was in a thriving seaside town!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Time Flies When You're Plastered

Lorks! Has it really been over a week since I contributed to this drivel? Hmmm. I really shouldn't have downed that third bottle of Sambuca with Cilla last weekend.

Meanwhile all the news that's fit to print has, er, been printed in today's Isle of Thanet Gazunder. The air show at RAF London Kent Manston Margate Tracey Emin Maggie Thatcher Schipol International Airport was a shambles apparently, with vehicles backed up all the way to the M62. I'm indebted to one of my readers for sending me this pic of the catering van exploding due to the sheer number of four stone Shergar burgers being fried to feed the hordes of hungry Thanetians that attended.

Meanwhile Ferrygate rumbles on. One of my spies reports: 'I had the pleasure of talking to a council officer today. I mentioned TransEuropa Ferries and he said that all the staff had been instructed not to discuss this issue with the public.' Makes sense, I suppose. If I'd dropped a £3.4m bollock, I wouldn't want people talking about it either.

And finally, some good news here in the Millionaires' Playground, where our waterworks seem to have been rejuvenated! Not only is our lovely, Niagara-style Madeira Walk waterfall working again for the first time in living memory, but so is the Festival of Britain fountain up by the Granville Theatre and Cinem! There's even a rumour that the Winterstoke fountain might be in the process of being restored! Hurrah!!

PS: If you want a glimpse of what the inside of Pfizer's canteen looks like, I'd heartily recommend a trip to the flicks to catch World War Z, starring our very own Brad Pitt (who, as we all know, was born in Cliftonville, as was the lovely Tom Hanks). If, however, you're hoping to see zombies rampaging through the streets of Thanet, as reported in today's Gazunder, you'll be sadly disappointed since most of the film was shot in Glasgow and Malta, with just the 'exciting' denouement featuring the Pfizer site. That said, I'm sure if you take a walk down Boredstares high street on a Saturday night, you'll get a feel for what might have been.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ten Things You Didn't Know About TransEuropa

Only in your super, soaraway Gazunder! We profile the defunct ferry firm that cost Thanet's taxpayers a whopping £3.4m!!!!

1. The 'Trans' in TransEuropa is short for 'transvestite', as the company was founded in 1948 by Lichtenstein-based cross-dresser Maurie 'Mary' Mosenberg.

2. TransEuropa's first regular shipping assignment was ferrying proboscis monkeys from Zeebrugge to Harwich for Billy Smart's Circus.

3. In 1967 the company developed a nuclear powered hovercraft, although this project was dropped after failing to get certification from the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

4. In its heyday, TransEuropa's ferries used the entire oil output of Nigeria every year.

5. During each crossing between Ramsgate and Ostend, hungry truck drivers used to consume on average 4,953 burgers, and a staggering 6,832 sausages!

6. More loo roll was used on the company's ships each year than during the entire 2012 London Olympics.

7. The oddest cargo ever carried was a refrigerated container of wigs for BBC celebrities.

8. Every ferry in the TransEuropa fleet had a secret compartment for the owner's Bentley.

9. On one of TransEuropa's ferries, nicknamed The Golden Behind, there was a toilet made out of 18 carat gold in the captain's cabin.

10. Laid end-to-end, 3.4m pound coins would stretch all the way from Ramsgate to Margate, a distance of nearly five miles!

That's enough ferry facts - Ed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Separated At Birth?

Reader Samantha writes:

Has anyone else noticed the striking similarity between Thanet Council's website banner, advertising their consultation on the latest Local Plan, and the popular board game Monopoly? Have Messrs Hasbro, the owners of Monopoly, been told?

Board game

Bored game

Ha! Well, Samantha, I'm sure The Duffers have paid something in the region of £3.4m out of our community chest for the rights to rip that off! If not, they'll probably end up going to jail, and that'll be the end of all the free parking round here!! (Geddit??!!??!?!?!!!!!!!????!?!?)

And while we're on the subject of lookalikes, another reader has emailed me to ask me whether anyone has noticed the similarity between Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who has just given Tesco permission to build a 19,000,000 square foot supermarket on Margate seafront, and the Sontarans, the stocky, warlike aliens from Doctor Who? Hmmm, let's see...



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ferrygate - The Cover-Up Continues

Regular contributor Steve has sent me a copy of this reply to his Freedom of Information request for more details about the £3.4m TransEuropa scandal. It's from Thanet Council's Director of Operations Mark Seed.

Not that there's anything you could consider 'information' in it!

Thank you for your communication received on 20th May 2013 in which you requested information about the council's dealings with Transeuropa Ferries.

The information you request relates to meetings and other communications with Transeuropa since March 2011and this information would be directly relevant  to legal action taken by the council to recover the outstanding debt. Premature release of information relevant to a potential legal action could be significantly prejudicial to a legal case taken by the council.

It is almost certain that this information would be released into the public domain and lead directly to the prejudice to any potential case.

The council is owed over £3 million and any prejudice to legal action it may take would be significantly prejudicial to its commercial interests. The application of a public interest test in relation to this under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act relating to commercial interests has been applied to this situation and it is considered that the balance of public interest lies on the side of not releasing the information you have requested as the wider public interest lies in retaining the confidentiality of this information at this stage. This will remain the case until the issue with regard to the legal action to recover the Transeuropa debt is resolved.

However, I would wish to clarify a misunderstanding in your request as this seems to be based on an assumption that sums were being paid to Transeuropa, which was not the case. The council is owed money by the company and this sum remains payable. Given the position of the company the council is going to have to seek this sum from any assets owned by the company through legal action.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ferrygate - One In The Eye For Thanet Council

I see my old chum Lord Gnome of the popular satirical magazine Private Eye has seen fit to publish my latest jottings about the ongoing £3.4m Ferrygate scandal today! In case you're too mean or stupid to trot along to the newsagents and buy a copy, here's what I wrote:


Taxpayers are furious with Thanet council after discovering that it secretly sank millions into a failing ferry company - money that is now swimming with the fishes.

Thanet owns and runs the port of Ramsgate, home till recently of a tatty shipping line called TransEuropa Ferries. In spring 2011, TransEuropa, which employed Slovenian staff and carried mostly Eastern European lorries on ageing, Cypriot-registered ships between Ramsgate and Ostend, went to the council and confessed that it was skint, blaming the rise in fuel prices. TransEuropa had a proposition. If the council would let it off paying its bills it wouldn't go bust, saving the jobs of ten port staff - and only costing the taxpayer £120,000 a month! Thanet's chief exec Sue McGonigal agreed on condition the deal remained secret.

Last month the waters finally closed over TransEuropa. It emerged that under the clandestine deal Thanet had sunk £3.4m into the failing firm - almost a fifth of the council’s annual budget. Only McGonigal, a few senior council officers and the council leader appear to have been in on the secret. No specific mention was made in Thanet’s 2011/12 accounts, nor was provision made for potential losses. No mention of it was made at any public meeting of the council. Moreover, this enormous public subsidy to a foreign shipping company wasn’t even secured: all the Council had was a vague promise of jam tomorrow. The truth only emerged when TransEuropa’s other creditors forced the company into bankruptcy.

Now deprived Thanet is having to introduce deep cuts to make up for the shortfall, including slashing £1m from the housing budget. An application to TransEuropa’s Belgian administrator in the hope of retrieving some money is unlikely to amount to much, as the firm’s last two rustbuckets - its only assets - ended up in Ostend, and both are so old and knackered that they’re probably only worth their scrap value.

Despite calls for her resignation, the £114,000 chief exec has refused to go. The fact that the secret subsidy was instigated with a nod from Tory council leader Bob Bayford, and subsequently endorsed by Labour's Clive Hart when his party took control late in 2011, has worked to McGonigal's advantage, with both parties forced to argue that propping up TransEuropa was the only ‘sensible’ thing to do.

All this comes just weeks after Thanet’s former Tory leader, Eye favourite Sandy ‘Shagpile’ Ezekiel, was jailed for 18 months at Maidstone Crown Court for misconduct in a public office, following dodgy property deals. What a place!

And while we're on the subject of Private Eye, I see the latest edition of Thanet Watch, the self-styled 'Private Eye of Thanet', has published a transcript of my recent UKIP film (starring A. Hitler) without so much as a credit! Which is why I've just toddled around all the local newsagents replacing as many copies of Thanet Watch as I can find with the real Private Eye.

The weirdest thing, though, is that they've redacted all my spicy lingo apart from the phrase 'bell end'.

Dornier Of An Old Era

Holy wordplay! I really must sack my headline writers!

Anyoldhoo, I'm indebted to regular reader Phil for this snap of that German bomber which just been salvaged from the Goodwin Sands and brought in to our lovely port here at the Millionaires' Playground!

Not exactly a minter, but it's only had the one owner (A. Hitler) and will make a good project for someone. To be honest, I suspect it's in better condition than some of those knackered old cargo jets flying over my roof into RAF London Kent Manston Margate Tracey Emin Maggie Thatcher Schipol International Airport!!!!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

History Lesson

With the news that Thanet Duffer Central has offered the 'developers' of the Pleasurama Eyesore aka Royal Sands aka Titanic Towers more time to cough up the sponds to avoid further 'scrutiny' (ooh, they must be really scared!), I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane and see if history can teach us a lesson here.

So settle down, and please do pay attention at the back. Poole - stop playing with McGonigal's calculator. Yes, it does spell 'boobs' if you hold it upside down, put it down. Thank you.

Now, it all starts back in 1986 with Thanet Council leasing the site to the late Jimmy Godden. Yes Poole, you're right, that is nearly 30 years ago. Well done.

Jimmy didn't much like running amusement parks, but he did like burning them down, collecting on the insurance, then applying for planning permission to build luxury seafront apartments. In 1994, Jimmy and his chums at Thanet Council cooked up a scheme to redevelop Pleasurama which would retain the listed building at the heart of the site. It was agreed that a mixed retail and leisure development would be completed by 31st December 2000, and the council would be paid £500,000.

Then in 1998, before work on the development could start, what happened? No McGonigal, the council didn't receive lots of money and live happily ever after. Bayford? Hart? Any clues? No? I'll tell you then. The site burnt down, and despite the fact that the council could have insisted the insurance money was spent on the new development, they allowed Jimmy to trouser the lot. He then trundled off in his Rolls-Royce to burn some other seafront heritage sites down, leaving Pleasurama to rot.

The council's Chief Executive at the time argued that no further dealings should be had with Mr Godden, and what happened to him? Yes, McGonigal, you're right! He received lots of money, retired early and lived happily ever after!

By 2001, Ramsgate's residents were so unhappy with what was happening to their lovely seafront, and the incompetence of their council, that they called in the District Auditor. Does anyone know what the District Auditor does? No Bayford, he doesn't check bus passes. He's a scary man with a big stick who goes around asking lots of very awkward questions. In 2002 he produced his report, here it is. It concludes that the biggest single impact of what had transpired was 'the lost opportunity to-date of developing a key area of the district for the overall benefit of local residents', and that 'a considerable amount of (council) staff resources were expended on this scheme (615 hours) for very little tangible output'.

What's more, he chastised (it means 'told off', Hart) the council for lacking project management skills, carrying out negotiations with the developer in secret, failure to approach alternative developers, failure to get a proper valuation for the site, failure by council employees to provide proper reports to councillors, and failure to take proper minutes of meetings and keep proper records of costs incurred.

Now, Poole, Hart, Bayford, McGonigal - what do we learn from this? Poole? What's that, you say? Keep secretly negotiating for ten years with one 'developer' you know nothing about, and offer to change the pathetically sketchy agreement you have with them to suit the requirements of their 'bankers'? Stupid boy! Go and stand in the corner!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Ferrygate Fixed!

Cripes! I see that green machine Councillor Ian 'Pile' Driver has fixed it for me to have my ferry fiasco fixed!

A bit of background. I popped a complaint on the excellent FixMyStreet website yesterday, moaning about the £3.4m of council tax the Duffers have poured down the TransEuropa plughole. I wasn't really expecting a response, as the site is more concerned with barkers' nests, abandoned jalopies and street lights that are on the fritz.

But only 24 hours later, the Right Honourable Member for Northwood Ward has marked it as 'job done'! Hurrah! If only everything in life was that simple!