Thanet council budget decision postponed following talks with Secretary of State Chris Grayling

Ramsgate Port Photo John Horton

Thanet council has postponed a decision on whether to ditch £500,000 funding to keep Ramsgate port in readiness for a ferry operation and axe a further £130,000, totalling £630,000 (or £730,000 in a full year) from its 2019/20 budget.

A report to Cabinet members at a meeting last month said Thanet council would be “at significant risk of overspending the proposed budget,” unless the action was taken.

The authority needs savings of £1.8 million in order to balance the books. Councillors have been told the biggest expense is at Ramsgate Port.

But the budget report was withdrawn tonight (February 7) following discussions between Thanet council leader Bob Bayford and Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.

Council leader Bob Bayford said that although an ‘uncomfortable decision’ may have to be made to close sections of the port and make cost savings an approach from the Department for Transport would now delay that until a date on or before March 11.

He added that the importance of Ramsgate in Post-Brexit resilience plans had been recognised and the DfT was keen to “keep the option of Ramsgate alive.”

The budget decision will now be on hold until discussion between Seaborne Freight, Thanet council, Ostend and the DfT has concluded.

Independent Councillors leader Stuart Piper called the decision “disappointing” saying that members were not being allowed to carry out their duty due to government interference.

Labour’s Karen Constantine added: “The goings on at our council amazes me. The budget tonight has been cancelled -at Chris Grayling’s request. This last minute intervention to keep the fiction going demonstrates the confusion that UK Government is in. Being Brexit ready is no more real that those old fashioned candy cigarettes. This is a shambles and falls far short of the well run council that residents expect.”

Following the meeting Cllr Bayford said: “It is an open secret that there have been ongoing negotiations between the council, DfT, Seaborne Freight and other potential operators and the Port of Ostend.

“Obviously the hoped for outcome was that there would be a ferry service meaning the port would be operational and that would be good for Thanet. Negotiations have taken longer than expected.

“In my conversation with the Secretary of State (Chris Grayling, pictured above) this afternoon he indicated that he considered Ramsgate Port important for Brexit resilience. On that basis I took the decision that we should give ourselves a bit longer before final agreement on the budget.

“I certainly hope when the budget comes back it will be with the ongoing operation of the Port of Ramsgate.”

Ferry service proposal

Seaborne Freight

A Ramsgate/Ostend ferry service has been proposed by start-up company Seaborne Freight but, despite prolonged negotiations over a two-year period, a deal is yet to be signed for either port.

Seaborne has come under increasing scrutiny following the announcement that it had been granted a £13.8 million contract with the government to provide additional ferry capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit – despite having no vessels or track experience as yet.

Seaborne say operations will start in late March – to coincide with the UK withdrawal from the European Union – initially with two ships and 200 staff but commentators in Ostend and in Parliament have cast doubt on whether this is possible.

A service had been mooted to start in March last year but the date came -and went – with no sign of progress.

Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, says there will be no taxpayer cash for Seaborne Freight unless they deliver the service by the March 29 date.

Port debts

Ramsgate Port has racked up a £20million deficit since 2010. Losses include £5 million in live export compensation paid after the High Court overruled a live export ban from the port put in place by the then-Labour led council and £3.4million for bankrupt TransEuropa Ferries unpaid fees and charges.

18 Comments

  1. Bayford has broken his own rules. He’s threatened councillors with legal action if they don’t vote for a balanced budget and now he’s punted that decision, without any hard cash from Grayling (another no-hoper). We’re led by donkeys and meanwhile our services go to hell for lack of funds.

  2. I think Grayling is coming down to Ramsgate next week to visit the boating pool to check the size of the pedlos.
    If they (pedlos) are big enough Grayling will tell seaborne where they can hire some boats.

  3. TDC needs savings of £1.8M to balance the books?
    Easy. Don’t send £2M to KCC for the pointless Parkway Station.
    Not only will the books be balanced, but we’ll be £200,000 in credit!

  4. yet again interference from Government, make Grayling pay the bill then perhaps we would not have our bus services being cut, along with this port fiasco and redecoration of offices and unwanted train station council are doing well just think of all these savings could be made

  5. I doubt if the meeting was of the calibre of Einstein meeting Erwin Schrodinger to discuss where the missing cat might be found. I suspect it was more like Big ears meeting Roger Rabbit to complain about the price of carrots.
    Mind you, Seaborne freight have all the characteristics of Schrodinger’s cat in that it appears and disappears according to how you measure it.
    This is so comical as to be beyond parody.

  6. Schrodinger’s cat didn’t appear or disappear. The point is, the cat is neither alive nor dead until someone opens the box to look.
    Obviously you bunked off quantum physics lessons at school!

  7. Suggest that if the government wants Ramsgate to be a back up port if needed for Brexit then they should stump up the cash. Thanet can’t afford it.

  8. What a fiasco! This Tory council, and government are not fit for purpose! A non existent Ferry service to where exactly? No one appears to know anything about it in Ostend, Zeebruge et al, so why are we paying to have the harbour dredged? The only ferry operating from there is the disgraceful live animal export former Russian tank transporter, and that can only carry 5 trucks at a time, in the right sea conditions! What with a new railway station being planned as well, which no one will use, at great tax payers cost, and all our public services disappearing into thin air, Thanet is a laughing stock! You couldn’t make it up, could you!

  9. Do you mind George and Andrew this is a serious matter and all you two can talk about is a pussy. I got locked out last week so I ask my cat peanut to pass the key through the letter box to me so I could get in.
    He said “Me-ow”

  10. OK then! when do we open the box to see if Seaborne Freight is dead or alive? The real joke is on us, as there will be be a parade of voters next May, who will vote the present incumbents at Cecil Street back into office, come what may.
    Being Kent, at my school quantum physics or even Newtonian physics were barely taught at all, because all they required of Iron Children was to be able to read and write at the most basic level.
    The mystery of all this, is that sentient beings can solemnly go into the polling station and vote for misguided policies such as this.It defies logic or all understanding.Is it because the alternatives are even worse, or do they really believe that we can go on like this?

  11. Perhaps the government will stump up the £730,000 , they should do.
    Also is it possible that with Ostend not ready, there are plans to use dunkirk , i,d imagine theres space to use the linkspan there between DFS sailings , Ramsgate to Dunkirk , it was a sucessfull route for Sally Line !

  12. Yes Barry we won’t see seaborne now, not because they had no ships or their terms and conditions were copied off the back of a takeaway menu or they had no office. No they have been sunk because their Irish backers have found out that the whole thing stinks.

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