Having received a UKIP press release from Chris Wells, the leader of the council, vial a Facebook message I feel duty bound to say something about this one here.
So first a bit of background about, what is DIG or should that be what DIG is?
Here in Thanet we have the first and only district council with more UKIP councillors than any other flavour, indeed to begin with we had a UKIP majority and we still have a UKIP council leader. Why? Well disagree if you want on this one but I think it’s down to the level of dissatisfaction in the previous political administration of our district council.
This peaked about three years ago when the council leader was sent to prison for misconduct, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-21632631 rightly or wrongly our local councillors are perceived collectively as not being good for Thanet.
I am not sure if this is a fair assessment, certainly many of the councillors appear to be well meaning and have the area’s best interests at heart, but as I say people’s perception is that the council wasn’t and isn’t a good one.
Before the last election there were a lot of voters who seemed to want to do anything to keep both Labour and the Conservatives out. The alternative in terms of voting was perceived locally as UKIP and this perception extended beyond how people voted to the people who stood for election.
Apart from Ramsgate’s Trevor Shonk there didn’t seem to be much in the way of a history of supporting UKIP among those who stood as UKIP councillors, but as there was a very good chance of getting elected UKIP managed to attract 56 candidates for 56 seats and romped home with a majority.
One local campaign that was strong at the time was The Save Manston Airport one and it appears that some of the councillors who stood as UKIP were actually primarily part of this campaign and would have stood for any party provided it supported their aims.
Since then the various groups supporting the saving of the airport seem to have spilt between those who only want the airport saved by the American company RiverOak who want to build an airfreight hub there and those who want to save the airport and don’t mind which company saves it as long as it continues as an aviation site.
The council has to perform certain checks before they can go into financial partnership with a company and RiverOak didn’t check the boxes for this, the result of this was that the UKIP administration decided to drop RiverOak and look for another partner to finance a cpo for the airport.
This left the UKIP councillors who were only prepared to go with RiverOak, something the council rules prevented the council from doing, the council can’t – isn’t allowed to act outside the constrains set upon it – they can’t for instance decide to use a street cleaning service that doesn’t tick the boxes that have to be ticked to comply with the council’s money laundering rules.
In practice this means that the officers never set up an agenda where councillors can vote for something they are no allowed to vote for, although of course theoretically councillors could propose a motion to do this, in practice I don’t think it would get very far.
Anyway after the council went down the road of seeking another cpo partner some of the UKIP councillors split with UKIP and formed Thanet Democratic Independent Group DIG, with the group leader being Councillor Konnor Collins.
Now Councillor Konnor Collins claimed to have had a prominent military career and to be the second most decorated ex soldier in the British Army, on paper the second bravest soldier ever. In his election bumph it said he had been Sgt Major in The Parachute Regiment.
Now it turns out that no one can find any record of this The Parachute Regiment have never heard of him, his decorations don’t appear in The Gazette and he won’t answer questions from the local press.
So now we have various possibilities:- One being that Councillor Konnor Collins was telling the truth and there has been some dreadful mixup. Another being that Councillor Konnor Collins is a con man. Another being that Councillor Konnor Collins has some sort of mental disability.
This raises all sorts of questions
If he got elected under false pretences, should he have to stand down?
Do councillors have to stand down because the have mental disabilities?
Does this impact on the credibility of Save Manston Airport?
Has Councillor Konnor Collins committed a criminal offence?
To name but a few, anyway here is what the council leader sent me.
UKIP Press Release
The MOD's statement to the Isle of Thanet Gazette that they can find no record of Konnor Collins ever having served with the Paras has confirmed what many have suspected for some weeks. Konnor Collins is a con man. Even that understates the awful nature of what he has done. Konnor Collins, in lying about his military service, has stolen the virtue and bravery of those who have actually won the medals he falsely claims.
Collins was unmasked by his own bluster, using medals he has not earned on an application to the court for damages against three fellow members of the Council. He sent it for publication in the newspaper before the defendants knew of his accusations. And from that single act of reckless bravado, the extent of his lying and cheating has gradually been revealed.
Collins claims disability on the back of a non existent army career. He may be disabled, but he ain't no military veteran.
Partner of many years, Helen Smith, was elected alongside him, their appeal being based on these disgraceful lies. Named, shamed, and beneath contempt for any who have served in the armed forces, both should immediately resign as councillors, having clearly brought their elected office into disrepute.
Behind them stands close friend and PA, Dr R John Pritchard, who claims academic excellence, research and legal experience, and has known since before the election that Collins military record was not provable. Pritchard could have stopped Collins being elected; and as Vice Chair of Save Manston Airport, could have saved SMA the embarrassment of publicly backing conman Collins.
54 councillors do their best for the isle. Clearly these two, and their trusted PA, have been in it for all the wrong reasons. All three should slink away in their shame, and trouble us no more.
Chris Wells. Leader UKIP Group South Thanet. 07825203043
Press release, 28 January 2016