Saturday, 8 December 2012
Ian Driver calls for resignation of Thanet Council Chairman
Independent Thanet District Councillor and Chairman of the Council’s powerful Overview& Scrutiny Panel, Ian Driver, has called for the immediate resignation of Council Chairman Doug Clarke for his “appallingly partisan and unconstitutional abuse of power.”
The demand for Clarke’s resignation follows a meeting of Thanet Council on 6th December when, as Chairman, he used his casting ballot to break the 27 – 27 vote deadlock to allow the approval of a major development agreement to take place secretly behind closed doors.
The £36million development at Ramsgate Royal Sands involves the construction of 107 luxury apartments and a 70 bed luxury hotel. The development is being managed by SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd.
SFP became the project developer 10 years ago and in that time precious little development work has taken place, apart from the pouring of foundations.
During this time members of the public and some Councillors have expressed their concerns about SFPs ability to complete the project.
SFP appears to have no track record as construction project developers. They are owned by an offshore parent company which pays no UK tax and is managed by unknown directors. They have on-going problems raising finance and even though the Council changed the development agreement in 2009 to make things easier for SFP, the company still appears to be struggling.
The company is now asking for further concessions including the sale of the freehold of the land to them for what Councillor Driver believes to be “a bargain basement price of £3.3million”.
A final decision on the sale of the freehold is now, following the use of the Chairman’s casting vote, likely to take place secretly behind closed doors.
Said Driver, SFPs management of the Royal Sands Development has been a 10 year nightmare, despite all their promises that the project would create jobs and help to regenerate Ramsgate’s economy all we have got is a “beachfront bombsite”
“There is a very strong public and political interest in sorting out this decade old problem and this should be done openly and democratically and involve as many councillors as possible. Not secretly and behind closed doors by a small unaccountable cabal”
Driver said “By using his casting vote to support a secretive deal with SFP, I believe Chairman Clarke has ignored his responsibilities under the Council’s Constitution and abused his powers.
“Article 5 paragraph 5.01.3 of TDCs Constitution requires that the Chairman of the Council must “ensure that the Council meeting is a forum for the debate of matters of concern to the local community and the place at which members who are not on the Cabinet or hold Committee Chairs are able to hold the Cabinet and Committee Chairmen to account.”
By voting to discuss and approve the revised SFP development agreement in secret, Councillor Clarke has, in my view, clearly broken this rule and should now resign. If he refuses to do the honourable thing I will move a motion of no confidence in him and will report his partisan and un-constitutional behaviour to the Standards Committee.
I have written to Cllr Clarke advising him of my views