Councillors protest over Thanet council top officer actions

The protest in support of Cllr Karen Constantine

Around 15 people, including councillors, attended a protest outside Thanet council’s offices in Margate yesterday (August 27) following the reporting to the Standards committee of Labour councillor Karen Constantine by council chief executive Madeline Homer.

Cllr Constantine was joined by councillors including Green Party member Cllr Becky Wing, former council leader Iris Johnston and members of Ramsgate Action Group.

The lobby also received endorsements from councillors who couldn’t attend.

Suspension and councillor statement

The report against Cllr Constantine was made after she spoke to The Isle of Thanet News about employment law and the need for councillors to be able to have an overview of staffing matters and a policy that promotes impartiality and clarity.

The comment came following the shock suspension of Thanet council’s deputy chief executive and s151 officer Tim Willis.

The reason for his suspension has not been confirmed by Thanet council. Mr Willis has been with the authority since 2015.

But the suspension has been heavily criticised.

Cllr Constantine was ordered to retract her statement but has refused. She said she “would not be bullied” and has since sought legal advice.

Emails and complaints

RAG members also claim the council’s monitoring officer has been intercepting emails from the group to councillors.

The protest was also to highlight grievance complaints that The Isle of Thanet News understands are under investigation.

Cllr Constantine said: “As a trade unionist and councillor, I cannot countenance the idea that any TDC staff might be the subject of bullying, harassment or victimisation or accept the assertion that such matters are none of my business as an elected member.

“So, it is astonishing that I have been threatened by the Chief Executive for simply asking a question about whether TDC has the appropriate procedures for dealing with such matters.  But I will not be bullied out of my principles or stopped from defending the legitimate and legal rights of any staff who may find themselves in this situation.”

Ex-council leader, Iris Johnston added: “Councillors don’t only have a duty of care to voters, they have a duty of care to TDC staff which is why I was so determined to be here to show my support for Karen and the stand she has taken.”

Councillor Becky Wing said: “Speaking for every Green councillor in Thanet, I can assure you we were elected on a platform of openness and transparency at TDC.  This is anything but. Threatening councillors or staff cannot be allowed and councillors must be able to hold the management team must to account.”

Steve Coombes, chair of Ramsgate Action Group, added: “I also have been the subject of attempts to stop me asking questions. The outrageous suspension of Tim Willis, an S151 officer of proven diligence and integrity, is a matter of paramount urgency.  ”

“If no other means can be found, TDC should immediately be put into “Special Measures.”

Second protest

A second protest is also due to be held outside the council offices on September 5 at 6pm, just prior to a full council meeting.

This has been organised by resident Alan Chapman to highlight concerns over top officers at the authority and over issues such as asset disposals, emergency spending on Ramsgate Port and toilet closures.


  1. Thanks to Karen, Iris, Becky and Steve who protested against this injustice! I would have been there but had a prior appointment. Feel there should have been more councillors present – this should be important to them.

  2. Should the Chief Executive step down until this is all sorted? Does the party in power at TDC not want to be involved with it at all!? – or may they want Robert Jenrick the minister in the cabinet responsible for local government to look into this shamblea?

    • Unfortunately Cllr Constantine took the correct action questioning officers direction. I don’t care for Labour’swomen only selection for KCC and potential future parliamentary selection which how this labour cllr was elected.. but cllrs and cabinate members are their to scrutinise Thanet council in all accounts. That why voters put those cllrs in that position to give good service for TDC Residents and future developments without favour… employment law works both ways employer and employee.. so we’ll done. Councils are accountable.

  3. Oh dear ! Oh dear ! Oh dear !

    TDC was heavily criticised a few years ago (even by its own peers) for its toxicity – and that was only amongst its warring politicians.

    The disease has clearly spread even further and continues to eat away into Officer-to-Officer relations as well as Member-to-Officer relations.

    It is such a shame that so much time, money and effort is being wasted on this petty back-biting and squabbling rather than getting on with the job for which they are elected or paid. It is supposed to be Local Government – not Local Kindergarten.

    Nobody in Thanet voted for The Monster Raving Loony Party and nobody in Thanet wants the lunatics to be running the asylum – but it turns out that we have got both . . .

  4. Do the leader of the governing party of Thanet District Council and the Rev Piper feel unable to say anything? Are they both uncomfortable about what a proper investigation might reveal how their parties or previous parties contributed to the sources of this affair?
    Do our MPs sit on their hands and say nothing as they await in hope that they will be elevated to the peerage by the new Prime Minister?

  5. I was there to make a stand against bullying as TDC’s working environment is toxic. I know someone who worked for them; they made her life utter hell, so much so they gave her a stroke! Diabolical!

  6. If bullying is a serious issue, our councillors should insist that bullies whoever they are in the hierarchy should be sacked after an official warning. If this is not included in the terms and conditions of employment of council staff, our councillors after debate, should insist that it is now included in the terms and conditions.
    Of course councillors should not bully either

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