Resident expelled from Margate Town Deal People’s Panel after ‘Dreamland allocation question’

Margate Photo Frank Leppard

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 

Margate Town Deal projects chosen for funding from £22.2 million pot

Sale of Dreamland owning company means entire assets – park estate, hotel plot, car park, land – and option on Arlington on market

32 Comments

  1. No shocker, Kemsley awarding herself 4 million with the help of her art clique buddies & woe betide anybody on that panel who has the guts to ask a question about it. TDC backing the luvvies up of course-they have put all their eggs in the arts & wokeness basket.

    • Indeed.

      I am sure somebody once said something about, ”Power corrupts – and absolute power corrupts absolutely” . . .

    • With the council its a case of your face fits ,I asked for a bollard to be put on the pavement as my neighbour parks across my drive way , I was told they cant afford it, then I was told we don’t have bollards in St Peters ( I counted well over 200) then I was told if I have a bollard a blind person may bump into it , My reply was should we not get rid of lamp posts , bins, Railings, Cars ,bus time table post ,and stop putting bins out on bin day . I never got a reply .

  2. Sounds typical of how many things are for a better expression railroaded through in Thanet and anyone who dares to ask pertinent questions is told to keep quiet or removed as in this case. I am afraid transparency is not a word I recognise as far as local government and other public bodies are concerned in this part of Kent. As far as Dreamland is concerned enough of public money has already been wasted on it!

  3. I was not put on the Margate town board even though i am an elected county councillor for Margate. I would have been asking the same question as the expelled panelist .

    • Barry
      Agree you should be. The peoples panel is a joke as illustrated by Peters removal for asking a valid question. However this question should have been raised by our Councillors and Roger Gale. If they think this is OK then TDC needs to be taken into special measures. This would be a disaster in most circumstances but with this Deal Board, the current Officers at TDC and I am afraid many of our councillors it may be the only way forward.

  4. Thanet Council is a disgrace to the people it serves. They should be transparent and open to any questioning where suspected corruption is happening. To have the CEO of a private company (Dreamland) on board the Margate Town Deal, least of all with control of where the public funding will be used is very wrong and undiplomatic to the people to say the least. Furthermore, to be directing a high percentage (£4 million +) of these funds to their own business must surely be corruption. It is standard practise that any persons involved in handling public funds cannot draw on those funds to fund their own company. Is this even legal? Surely the Government Standards Committee should be looking into this. A full investigation into how this MTD has been set up and the money distributed must now take place with transparency having top priority. Dodgy deals must be made a thing of the past, the local monitoring officer held to account.

  5. No suprise really, just more of the same people lining their own pockets.
    Have to say the writing was on the wall when Labour’s moderate county councillor for Margate, Barry Lewis was excluded from the panel in favour of unelected bureaucrats.

  6. And the First Nolan Principle used to be TRANSPARENCY – TDC claimed an exemption when surreptitiously applying for the Accelerated Payment (£750K) omitting to consult the Town Deal Board treating them as necessary cosmetic cyphers. Or so it would seem.
    Plus ca change ?

  7. there needs to be a proper enquirey into all of this councils ” dealings” particulaly in ramsgate , and around the harbour.the next big one will be manston airport , everyone will want a slice of it. including those who have already become very rich through thier scheming .

  8. I guess I’ve experienced at no cost to me, the silencing that far more seriously has ruined the lives of many TDC staff. We all know where the rot begins and ends. How much longer can it remain in place and what will it cost us all to replace them. We need people that care about Thanet, rather than the ride they can take us all for, at Dreamland or not.

  9. TDC have been corrupt for many many years and untill they are investigated and local people start to boycott these underhanded and money grabbing councilors by stop paying bills and protesting. Standing up for an open council with real people who care for Thanet and not there own pockets.
    Barry Lewis stands for what he believes in and good on him the rest all hide away. People power can work if we stick together

  10. Well not really surprising. The financial Black Hole that is Dreamland will never be properly filled and TDC along with certain Margate ‘Faces’ seem keener of standing in the way of progress than actually supporting anything positive. The Old Cottage Pub saga comes to mind. Public Money is just that, PUBLIC. It should be wholly transparent and a beneficiary should not be chairing such a group in the first place as it is a conflict of interest. The question was more than fair and needs to be answered.

  11. It should be remembered the money should have been spent on the dane valley and cliftonville west wards. As dreamland is NOT in either ward,’money should have NOT been allocated to dreamland in the first place. I would have pointed this out at the very first meeting but unfortunately i was excluded by the thanet establishment.

    • So were are the Councillors for these wards. Why are they silent. This whole sorry mess, and I mean the TDC and councillors need removing and start again.

  12. Well done TDC I applaud you for his removal we need real people with a positive outlook and congratulate you TDC for stamping out yet again another torn in Thanet’s side.

    • What on earth are you talking about? Not surprising in Thanet where anyone who stands against these people is shut down or removed.

  13. To me ,this feels old fashioned, irrelevant and remote. Is there a chance I could find myself in the future working in a Margate planned by a group of people who have no relevant vision of the future and who are just trying to perpetuate the status quo? I was excited and impressed by the start of this process. The work done to create a process by which we could all bring our experience, our hopes and our expertise to this were promising. I remember a meeting that could not have been more vibrant and inclusive.

    I spend a lot of my time listening to people in Margate describing their lives today, the challenges, their strategies for coping and their aspirations to make things better for their children. I believe this process is letting them down.

    There has been little expertise shown in how to support people in developing a vision for the future and then translating that into a relevant business plan.

    All good projects benefit from questioning and challenges.

  14. The handling of the Margate Town Deal has been questionable from the start. The meaningless public consultations too late in the day, the chosen bids with little concern for including some smaller ones which could be meaningful to the community, the clear lack of freedom of speech here and avoidance of any real scrutiny, and the questionable inclusion of Dreamland funding, without looking at previous funding its been given etc. This won’t go away and the local community will continue its scrutiny of the whole thing.

    • ‘Questionable’ is a very generous word to describe it. Disgraceful might be more apt. From the promotion of on-trend projects of no relevance or interest to the general public, to the involvement of the CEO of Dreamland when the company is in line for a £4 million grant. This needs more than just scrutiny from the community, it needs a root and branch investigation.

  15. The Chair of this group should be totally impartial and NOT have any opportunity for personal financial gain.

  16. It a group of Shorditch-by-the-sea DFL’s who think they know what is best for Thanet, why are there no long term members of Thanet on this panel, or elected member of Thanet District Council. Born residents who know what is needed.

  17. theres a certain well known gentleman from chatham that choses for his own gain to call ramsgate ” home ” , he is hell bent on very expensive flats down at ramsgate harbour , i suppose they have bled chatham dock yard dry so ramsgate looks a good bet before hes off again.

  18. Nearly 75 percent of Thanet council tax goes to KCC which in turn is supporting turner gallery, how much could the majority of low paid Thanet residents save by allowing this gallery to be self supporting, or are they afraid it couldn’t be self supporting and would rather it carried on being a burden on Thanet residents, many of whom are living on very low wages and paying very high rents and gain nothing from this vanity project

  19. Nobody on MTDB should be awarded
    funding for their projects. Besides the chairman other members on that board have been awarded considerable sums for their own projects.
    The Oval Bandstand springs to mind.

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