Westgate councillor quits over claims of ‘spiralling staff costs’

Graham Rickett has resigned

Former councillor Graham Rickett has quit Westgate Town Council in disgust claiming tax payers’ money was being squandered on ever-increasing running costs.

In his resignation letter to the clerk, Mr Rickett says he had “high hopes” for the council which formed two years ago after residents voted to break from Margate Charter Trustees.

He said: “We were going to get the football pitches back, we were going to put signage up advertising the shops, put the war memorial place and acquire the skate park – none of which have happened. I hope that the council will follow up on these items, as I feel over two years is too long.”

In 2015/16 council running costs used 92% of the public purse including £27,464 on staff costs.

The precept for Westgate’s 6,600 residents for 2017/18 has risen 41% to £98,040 but the council plans to introduce even more staff members which will eat into the budget.

Mr Rickett explained: “With the advent of three new employees this figure (precept) will undoubtedly rise and I certainly do not wish to be saddled with helping to raise it again next year.”

The new jobs would be for two extra street cleaners which he argues should already be provided by Thanet District Council. The other role is to support the town clerk.

Town council response

Town council chairman Tom King issued a statement in response to the resignation. Speaking on behalf of the town council he said: “In his letter of resignation Graham Rickett claimed that delays in getting things done was the main reason for his resignation from Westgate-on-Sea Town Council, and he also claimed that too high a percentage of the council’s income is spent on administration.

“Until January of this year, the position of town clerk was filled either by people learning on the job, or by interim clerks. During the time following the council’s creation just two years ago, the necessary formalities and procedures for setting up a council had to be put in place, and this obviously took some months.

“However, the specific actions he mentions (“getting the football pitches back, put signage up advertising the shops, war memorial put in place, we were going to acquire the skate park”) have mostly been achieved, thanks notably to the actions of the town clerk whose support to the council is necessary to achieve all these objectives. Moreover, they could not be achieved without reaching agreements with Thanet District Council and Kent County Council whose responses on some of these issues have taken some time.

“Mr Rickett claims that “only eight percent” of the council’s budget goes back to the people of Westgate-on-Sea. Reclaiming the Lymington Road recreation ground from Thanet District Council has cost nothing in direct expense but has taken administrative time and is of major benefit to the people of Westgate-on-Sea, as is the rehabilitation of the shelters on the seafront, better street cleaning, and so on.

“We believe the council gives good value for money in relation to the precept, and at the recent town meeting many residents congratulated the council on helping the town move forward.”

A vacancy for Mr Rickett’s position is open until Friday, July 14. To apply call 01843 834252.

Report by Jodie Nesling