Thursday, 21 February 2013
Yesterday I published on this blogsite one page of a 4 year old confidential Thanet Council report about the Ramsgate Pleasurama Development. The page I published contained no sensitive information. I also tweeted that I was going to make the confidential report publically available. I expected a response, but perhaps not as rapidly and as strong as I got.
Frist I received this e-mail from the Council Chief Executive Sue McGonigal
Dear Cllr Driver,
I have asked that a meeting be arranged to discuss the issuing of papers to you, as a result of your recent breach in respect of the publication of pink papers. I will not be in a position to provide you with any of the requested documents until after this meeting. Should you require any clarification of my ability to refuse these documents to you in your role as Chairman of OSP, please contact Harvey who will be able to help.
As instructed I contacted the Council’s solicitor Mr Patterson. Mr Patterson informed me that Officers are legally required to protect the interests of Thanet Council. If officers believe that an elected Councillor is likely to disclose information which might damage the interest of Thanet Council they can
· Refuse to let a councillor have copies of confidential information, even though that Councillor might have a constitutional right to see this information and even though a councillor has been elected by the people to see this information.
· Take an High Court Injunction out and seek costs against a Councillor who publishes or allows to be published information deemed to be confidential
· Remove me, as Chairman of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel, from the Pleasurama Due Diligence Process because Council officer might believe that I may leak information which might damage the interests of the Council.
I have been summoned to the Headteachers study on Monday morning to talk about this matter.
Like most people I cannot afford to be involved in a High Court hearing and I don’t have the time to defend myself, so it looks as though I have no choice but to retreat with my tail between my legs.But I would like to make the following points.
· A major public campaign backed by 100s of Ramsgate residents are very very concerned about Pleausurama. I believe that it is therefore in the public interest to make all documents related to this development public. After all this is public land at stake
· The page of the document I published is almost 4 years old. Had I published the entire document the information it contained was so old and outdated that it could no longer be described as sensitive.
I find it very strange that during a week when the NHS has been taken to task by the Government, for gagging whistle blowers, Thanet Council is trying gag its own elected Councillors for trying to circulate information which is in the public interest.
It’s also very strange that when a former Leader of Thanet Council is on trial for misconduct in public office, Thanet Council wants to try to silence a Councillor who wishes to make the Council more transparent and accountable.
Is it any wonder most people in Thanet have an extremely low opinion of Thanet Council and its councillors.