A new panel has been created to monitor the progress of projects being carried out in Thanet after the award of £26.1 million from the government’s Levelling Up fund.
A list of more than 100 successful bids were released as part of the Autumn Spending Review last year and these included bids for Ramsgate and Margate.
Funding amounts were £6,306,078 for the Margate Digital project and £19,840,000 for Ramsgate Future.
Plans for a ‘Green Port’ projected to create 800 jobs, a Green Hub training centre for apprenticeships and training, hospitality and fishing fleet proposals and community kitchens are outlined in the £19.8million Ramsgate Future scheme.
The Ramsgate project also includes a training hotel and restaurant at the Smack Boy’s building at Ramsgate harbour, a brasserie and a fishing facility for the local fleet to store and sell catch from; a new town square on the current pier yard car park, a refurbished clock tower building and two community sites in Newington and Ramsgate with training kitchens, community teaching.
The bid for Margate is for the Margate Digital project; a specialist industry-focused centre at the former Marks & Spencer building.
Thanet District Council, in partnership with the EKC Group and The Margate School, aims to create 2,000 sq m of cutting-edge, industry-relevant training space which will focus on digital technology.
The shared space will link with local businesses, and TDC says increased footfall will enhance the town centre, making it more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses.
The panel, made up of council leader Cllr Ash Ashbee, deputy leader Reece Pugh, South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, the council’s chief executive and a representative from Ramsgate Town Council, will review progress made in the projects.
At a meeting of Ramsgate Town Council on February 2 it was resolved that RTC Chair, Cllr Anne-Marie Nixey, would be the panel representative; and if she’s unavailable to attend a meeting, various councillors have agreed to acts as substitutes.
However, Thanet’s Labour group have expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of Ramsgate councillors, Ramsgate residents and community groups on the panel.
Labour leader Cllr Rick Everitt, who represents Ramsgate’s Newington ward, said: “It is absolutely right that the leader, the portfolio holder and the MP are on the group and that the town council is invited, but it is quite absurd and obviously politically partisan that not one of 17 district councillors from four different parties who represent the town will be there too.
“It is entirely Cllr Ashbee’s call, and I think it’s very sad that after a long period since 2019 when we have been able to work collaboratively and cross-party for the good of Thanet, she is now acting in such a narrowly partisan way.
“There is not a single Ramsgate councillor in her cabinet and while I am not questioning her commitment to the whole of Thanet, regardless of representing a ward on the other side of the isle, she refused to accept that Ramsgate councillors would add any value to the discussion. In addition, Ramsgate councillors are surely better placed than she is to receive feedback from Ramsgate residents since they work with them all the time.”
Thanet Green Party councillor Tricia Austin said: “We are delighted to see this significant new funding coming into Thanet and congratulate those involved. We welcome Cllr Ashbee’s establishment of a Scrutiny Panel with significant TDC elected member representation which will take an overview of the schemes and help check that funds are properly spent.
“The involvement of a Ramsgate Town Council representative is welcome news, but we’re surprised that community representatives or TDC ward councillors from Ramsgate and Margate, where the work will be taking place, are not invited. We do not see this decision as politically motivated but are disappointed that the panel won’t be able to draw on the full range of knowledge of the two towns and their needs that exists in the community and that could have helped inform their work.”
However, district and Town councillor Stuart Piper (Thanet Independents) says the panel has no decision making powers and nothing will be gained by suggesting Ramsgate will be ‘duped.’
He added: “Ramsgate Town Council, of which I am a member, has been invited to sit on this panel as a matter of courtesy. It is beholden on us therefore to accept the invitation and observe proceedings commenting in the scrutiny role where necessary.
“This panel will have no decision making powers at all. The money must be spent on the projects that have already been agreed. Because the Government will oversee, via our MP, the correct use of these funds, we have nothing to fear. We should all be celebrating the award, sponsored and signed off by our MP, and rejoicing in this opportunity.
“This is not a pot of money that we can now decide how to spend. Those decisions have already been made, that is why we have the money. Nothing can be gained by suggesting Ramsgate will in any way be sidelined, duped, ripped off or suffer in any other way through lack of representation. Shame on those who would suggest otherwise.
Thanet council says it will be carrying out more engagement events with the public to follow on from drop-ins and other events held last year.
A Thanet council statement says: “A new Levelling Up Programme Scrutiny Panel has been created to support the delivery of the Ramsgate Levelling Up fund projects.
“Unlike the Margate Town Deal, there is no statutory requirement for a panel to be established for the Ramsgate Levelling Up Programme. It was created, at the request of the council leader, to provide an extra level of scrutiny.
“The panel includes the local MP, the council leader, the chief executive of Thanet District Council and a representative from Ramsgate Town Council. The role of the panel will be to monitor and review delivery of the projects to ensure that momentum is maintained and positive progress is made and report back to all interested parties.
“The council is also working with key stakeholders in the development of the delivery plans for the projects within the Levelling Up Fund, and will be planning further broader engagement sessions with the community.”