A resident expelled from the Margate Town Deal People’s Panel says he believes he was removed because he raised the issue of the £4million allocation earmarked for Dreamland.
The people’s panel was formed in October 2020, during the first part of the Margate Town Deal which gained £22.2 million in government funding for projects in the town,.
The panel is now made up of some 50 people who represent the Margate community as the deal progresses to its next phase, which includes developing Business Cases for the selected projects.
The Panel’s role is to help the Board understand public opinions and put forward their ideas to ensure the Town Investment Plan Board decisions reflect Margate.
Margate is set to receive up to £22.2million after Thanet District Council – working with the Town Deal Board– submitted its Town Investment Plan to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in December 2020. The fund aims to support urban regeneration, skills development and improved connectivity.
However, Peter Blem says his time on the panel was cut short after he questioned whether Dreamland would still be eligible for £4 million after it emerged that Dreamland’s parent company Margate Estates has marketed an offer for acquisition of the entire estate assets, including the Dreamland car park purchased from TDC, parcels of land surrounding the site inclusive of the plot secured for a new 124-bed hotel, and the option to purchase Arlington House, multi-storey and land.
Mr Blem said during the most recent People’s Panel meeting he was nominated by a group to ask about the Dreamland allocation.
He said: “I asked the following question, with the consent and shared concern of the breakout group I was part of -: ‘Given that Dreamland was put up for sale in mid-June i.e. after the project allocations were decided in May, which projects has the £4m been reallocated to?” This was evidently sufficiently troubling to the meeting hosts and Chair who is the CEO of Dreamland, to arrange my removal.
“This was our first meeting, of which all have been via Zoom, since the allocation of the £22m was announced, with £4m going to Dreamland, and Dreamland then being put up for asset acquisition! “Despite those crucial recent events never being discussed by the Panel, all that we were allowed to discuss were “the qualities the new Chair of the MTD Board (not our Panel) should have”. We had only just been told that David Smith was leaving as Chair. Many of us were impressed by him in his brief contact with us in a previous meeting, so were mystified and concerned as to why he was leaving.
“We were not allowed to discuss his departure, and instead focused on the assigned task. The Panel’s dominant quality desired was “Integrity”, confirming our shared concerns. There is no Q&A or Any Other Business in these meetings, so my breakout group nominated me to ask the question, at what we knew was our last opportunity of the meeting.
“I have also been asking Margate Town Deal by email, outside our meetings, for financial transparency to be in place before the £22m arrives. I have shared the questions and responses with others I trust, so that I could be sure my enquiries were reasonable and appropriate.”
Following the meeting Mr Blem received an email to say he had been removed from the panel for ‘disruptive’ behaviour because he “put a question across that was not relevant to the session being hosted, and prevented other views from being heard.”
A spokesperson for Thanet District Council said: “Everyone who signs up as a member of the Margate Town Deal People’s Panel commits to a Terms of Engagement when they join.
“Within the document it is made clear that if a panel member breaches those terms, it could result in their removal from the Panel. Breaching the Terms of Engagement would warrant a Panel member being removed, however any such action would not be taken lightly.”
Mr Blem says he refutes any allegation of breaching the rules and is waiting to be supplied with links to the meeting recordings from Margate Town Deal, so he and others can review his behaviour on the Panel.
He added: “I now consider my interest in financial transparency and community engagement even more important than it was. I believe that as a resident and member of the public, I served the community’s interest diligently throughout my time on the Panel.”
Terms of Engagement: https://www.thanet.gov.uk/campaigns/margate-town-deal/?tab=2