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 will take the precaution of  stick ng a copy of the Pleasurama Development agreement down my keks to ease the pain

But serioulsy 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. Ian

    The Pleasurama Officers Report of 2009 you are flagging up, (which we would like to see), and which recommended that councillors discontinue their contract with developers SFP. A couple of queries really:-

    I have heard it mentioned that perhaps officers did not give councillors a good enough reason to go with their advice. Or, that officers were not candid enough about the consequences of not following their advice given the existence of the 2003 Auditors Report?

    At the very least we should see this officers report alongside the minutes of the meeting going against their advice. It would also be useful to know where the decision to start the Great Wall of Ramsgate sits alongside all this?

    I know some or all of this information is out there somewhere, it would be easier though if it was all in one place and easy to see?

  2. Ian, you don't have to worry about the threats from Captain Darling. You haven't published anything that is confidential because it is already in the public domain. Any attempt to gain an injunction would be laughed out of Court and you would be awarded costs. Pure bluff. You have got to live with the fact that you have upset Iris and she has set the dogs on you. Personally I wouldn't attend the meeting but request any admonishment to be in writing. If you do go, take at least one witness and make sure someone is minuting what is said.

    1. Very good advice! Wasting public money to stop councillors from getting to the truth of any issue, especially where the Local Government Ombudsman would undoubtedly find much cause for concern, is risible. It's about time this current debacle was given the national news story profile it deserves.

  3. Perhaps you should mention that it's all been in the public domain for over a week anyway (and perhaps you should've just linked to it!)...

  4. Please don't tell us that's you in the photo Ian...

  5. there is a resemblance Peter but I assure it is not me honest

  6. I could come and film the interview...

  7. Who decided that councillors would not receive council documents? And why have councillors not cancelled this absurd policy.

  8. Ian, you need to understand that the council doesnt care if a councillor insults people living with HIV-AIDS and shows no remorse; Council doesnt care if a councillor that has been found guilty and drink driving remains a member of the Licencing Board; Council doesnt seem to care when things on the beach get sandy. Buy council does care when you publish papers that were already in the public domain to start with.