Thanet Green Party press release: "Thanet's democratic deficit"

24 August 2019

A "democratic deficit"?

Thanet Green Party is increasingly concerned by an apparent "democratic deficit" in Thanet at District Council level - a situation where a public body "falls short of fulfilling the principles of democracy in their practices or operation".

When voters went to the polls in May, they thought they were electing Councillors who would represent them, make decisions in their interests and act as a conduit for their views.

Yet recent events suggest Councillors cannot exercise functions they were elected to carry out because the Council’s governance and decision-making processes are not fit for purpose.

Our concerns

The Green Party’s concerns include:

  • allegations on social media that TDC regularly intercepts emails between residents and Councillors. Two emails from Green Group Leader Trevor Roper to Monitoring Officer Tim Howes asking for assurance that this is not the case have gone unanswered
  • the recent suspension of Section 151 officer Tim Willis, the senior officer responsible for ensuring good governance, on grounds not disclosed to members
  • the Leader’s claim that he could not disclose any information on Sands Heritage Ltd’s future plans for the Dreamland complex to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on grounds of commercial sensitivity - making it impossible for O&S members to offer informed advice on the proposed sale
  • the lack of minutes/ records of a series of recent decisions, including apparently the port working group’s support for spending over £1m at very short notice on pontoons for Ramsgate Port
  • this week’s summary decision by the Chair of the Council, without consultation, to cancel the September full Council meeting a week before the deadline for questions, despite being aware of items that Councillors and members of the public wished to raise. 

Councillor Mike Garner's comments

Cllr Mike Garner, who represents the Green group on TDC’s Governance and Audit Committee, commented:

"We are new Councillors trying to do what we were elected to do, but we are being frustrated at every turn. Thanet residents are not receiving the service they have a right to expect, but there seem to be no mechanisms to question this within a culture that has become increasingly defensive and secretive. We believe the Council meeting should be reinstated and members of the public, as well as Councillors, be given the opportunity to question Council leaders on recent decisions." 

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