Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Thanet District Council and the balance of power



After reading some of the comment on yesterdays press release http://thanetpress.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/statement-from-cllr-ian-driver-current.html I realised that some blog readers are even more confused about the issue of Cllr Driver and his call for the resignation of the Chairman of the council.

At the moment we have 56 councillors and an almost equal balance of power if it was balanced this would be half on each side i.e. 28 all on vote.

We have 26 Labour Councillors.

We have 3 Thanet independent group, TIG councillors, who usually vote with Labour.

This normally means that 29 councillors vote Labour.

We have 23 Conservative Councillors.

We have 2 Independent Councillors (Gregory and Ezekiel)

We have 2 Independent group councillors.

These three groups pretty much always vote Conservative.

This normally means that 27 councillors vote Conservative.

As you can see this means that if Cllr Driver – as happened the other day – votes with the Conservative group instead of the Labour group we have a dead heat, 28 votes for and 28 votes against.

The chairman of the council who has already voted – in this case as part of the Labour group then gets the opportunity to cast a deciding vote i.e. vote again.

I guess now it understandable what Cllr Driver is unhappy about here, it is one thing voting as a member of a political group and perfectly reasonable to vote with that group, the problem arises when the chairman votes again as chairman.

Cllr Driver has now written to the district auditor about this, here is the email:

“Sent: Mon, 17 Dec 2012 21:05
Subject: Pleasurama Letter to District Auditor



Dear ****** 

Thank you for your e-mail.

You may be aware that at the last meeting of Thanet Council on 6 December the Chairman Cllr Clark used his casting vote to prevent the proposed new development agreement with SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd from being discussed and voted on at a meeting of full Council. Instead, any decision will be made by a single cabinet member with officer advice.



I wrote to the Thanet Gazette about this issue and my letter was published on Friday last. I have since issued a statement about this. I attach copies of both documents



I am very concerned that in spite of strong public and political interest the Council's ruling Labour Group and members of my own Thanet Independent Group appear to be determined to have this extremely important issue decided upon in a secret meeting with a single Councillor decision maker.



When the Audit Commission reported on its investigation into the management of the Royal Sands/ Pleasurama project in 2005, one of the major areas of concern was that the disposal process should be as accountable and transparent as possible in order to demonstrate to the public that value for money was being achieved by the Council.



I am sorry to say that to approve a new development agreement with SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd in the way in which it now appears the decision will be made, runs contrary to Audit Commission Advice. Furthermore, the fact that this decision was made on the casting vote of the Council Chairman raises worries in my mind.



I assume that the relevant officers of the Council advised the Chairman of the sensitivity of the decision including the views of the Audit Commission.

I hope that it may be possible, in the light of the many concerns surrounding the governance of this matter, for the decision in relation to the approval of the proposed new Royal Sands development agreement to be reconsidered.

Yours sincerely



Councillor Ian Driver

Chairman of the OSP



Now my take on what Cllr Driver is doing, is that he is doing what pretty much everyone I speak to locally says they want their councillors to do, i.e. attempting to represent the wishes of the majority of local people.


This then raises the issue of TIG, especially the question of why the other two members of the group don’t appear to acting as independents, but seem to be pretty much exclusively supporting the Labour group.

I don’t think it can be because they hope to be re-elected, as if they hope to be elected as independents, then they would need to act independently, perhaps they are hoping to be selected as Labour candidates in the next local elections, however this would seem unlikely.    
 
Sorry I digress, an interesting thought here is in the case of a vote of no confidence in the chair, does the chair get to vote and if so how many times?


I will carry on with this post as I get time today.

11 comments:

  1. Strangely TDC have suddenly published c.6 years of accounts on their website including the latest Audit Commission report. Silence on Pleasurama, Manston fines etc etc.

    We seem to be funding civil servants and councillors to make appalling if not corrupt decisions and then cover them up or at best fund payoffs when found out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon that is quite strange, TDC’s accounts, draft accounts and audit commission reports have been appearing on their website consistently as they have been produced on their website for the last few years and I have read them every year from there.

      Perhaps you may wish to concede that you have only just discovered them.

      Incidentally if you find an irregularity in the draft accounts, assuming you are a local voter, you can raise this with the district auditor during the period when they are open.

      Delete
    2. The point being all the accounts have suddenly appeared not just an individual set.

      From your reading of them where are the Manston fines? Or the 0% salary actual costs?

      You're being optimistic in assuming that TDC or the AC raise irregularities - they're just ignored as with most FOI eg EKO invoices aren't they?

      You're beginning to sound like a TDC apologist rather than a taxpayer/voter to one of the UK's worst councils.

      Delete
    3. 8.56 for the last few years the daft accounts have appeared on the council’s website, I have take aspects of them up with the district auditor, this has been followed by the accounts appearing and me discussing aspects of them with officers, councillors, the auditor and publishing numerous blog posts about aspects of them.

      You seem to be suggesting that I now take issue with the council for not publishing online documents that I have been reading and discussing with them for years, I don’t see any justification in doing something that would be patently absurd.

      I think the difficulty here relates to crying wolf, of course if you wish to go down the road of taking the council to issue for not publishing documents that they have, that is your affair.

      But you see the problem is that starting your comment by saying something that is just wrong, and that everyone who has looked at the online versions of the council’s accounts over the years knows is wrong, casts doubts over everything else you say.

      Perhaps you are trying to undermine all of the justified criticism of the council here, perhaps you are trying to cause difficulties for me by publishing misinformation, whatever your motives are I would prefer if you took them elsewhere, perhaps you should start your own blog.

      Delete
    4. Your post barely makes sense. To summarise you're saying most of the TDC accounts are daft? But the accounts are not wrong?

      You seem to be bouncing around. What are your concerns over the accounts if any?

      And what potential difficulties or supposed misinformation are you worried about?

      My point was simply that is was strange for 6 years worth of accounts to suddenly appear in the latest TDC updates. And of course the Manston fines, 0% salary details etc have long been missing.

      Delete
  2. This Pleasurama issue shows the importance of having a OSP that is not chaired by the ruling party.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Independent councillors acting independently how quaint an idea, have you got any examples of this working here in Thanet?

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  4. Was it a sworn magistrate who gave the casting vote ? Just a scrutiny thought ...........


    Oath of allegiance


    “I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.”

    Top
    Judicial oath
    “I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second in the office of ________ , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous 4:23PM

      Sorry, I must be a little dense today because I fail to grasp your point. I should be grateful if you could clarify.

      Delete
    2. John I think anon is suggesting that the Chairman of the Council (who is also a magistrate), has taken an magistrate oath of office to act in a in a fair and unbaised manner. I don't know if such an oath applies when he is not carrying out magistrate duties? However Anon was right to this interesting fact.

      Delete

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