Thursday, 21 February 2013

Gagging Orders

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.


  1. So, what this press release appears to be saying is that "the interests of the council" trump democracy and the public interest. It would be interesting to know what the legal precedent is for this. Where the national press is concerned the only thing which trumps the public interest is national security. Presumably, at Monday's meeting, Mr. Driver will be able to establish exactly what the council's interests are in respect of the Pleasurama development and why those interests are best served by a lack of transparency.

    1. The page published was just part of an old document already available, as Michael has explained elsewhere, in the public domain in readable form rather than a scan copy of a crumpled original. Cllr Driver was doing nothing for the public interest, but simply trying to divert attention ftom his own misconduct in encouraging criminal behaviour.

    2. Councillors being their own worst enemy. Who created this policy where elected representatives are somehow subject to unelected civil servants? Call a council meeting and cancel it and sack the civil servants involved.

    3. Councillors are elected lay people, frequently with little knowledge, if any, of law relating to local government when they start. They are always only part time so need staff to run all the councils departments. The role of the senior officers is to keep the council within the bounds of law, to aid and advise and to point out the legal implications of proposed actions.

      Yes, councillors do have the final say but would be ill advised normally to ignore the guidance given and, no, the council could not function without the officers so, as ever with 21:21, his utterances come from the wrong orifice.

  2. If this document was already available elsewhere in the public domain, why is the council making such a fuss about publishing it? And, in my opinion,transparency in respect of the Royal Sands development is most certainly in the public interest. I understand that there are vested interests at work here. There are those whose financial interests might be damaged by Driver's campaign; there are those whose political interests may be damaged by his campaign; there are those who seek to occupy the limelight on blogs and don't like it when someone steals attention away from themselves. Which one are you, Tom?

    1. I am the one who thinks Driver is unfit for office, end of!

  3. Interesting, Anon 11:25 AM, that whilst you frequently attack others for being old or pensioners or accuse them of nothing better to do than sit around blogging, perhaps you can tell us what job it is you do that allows you also to blog at 11:25 in the morning, or was it your coffee break? Falls about laughing hysterically at catching the poor old codger out yet again.


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