Southern Water has been criticised for the way in which a long-awaited public meeting over pollution incidents is being handled.
Ramsgate’s Labour county councillor Karen Constantine has accused the water firm of making access to tomorrow’s (April 21) meeting “overly difficult” and claims members of the public have to submit any questions they may have in advance.
She also says South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has been made chair and believes this will make it harder for people to challenge him.
The meeting is being held at Royal Harbour Academy in Marlowe Way from 6.30pm to 8pm on Thursday (April 21).
Southern Water CEO Ian McAuley, Thanet council leader Cllr Ash Ashbee and Cllr Constantine will be among panel members.
The aim is to discuss Southern Water’s improvement plans in light of wastewater releases that shut a large number of the isle’s beaches in June and October last year.
Cllr Constantine, as part of the SOS Ramsgate group, has been asking for a meeting since October following combined sewer releases and failures at Southern Water pumping stations which led to warnings to stay out of the water.
A previous meeting was due to be held in January but cancelled due to Covid issues.
Now Cllr Constantine has criticised the way in which tomorrow’s meeting is being handled. One of her main concerns is that the public gathering will have Mr Mackinlay as chair.
“I was flabbergasted to find Southern Water had given control of the public meeting to Craig Mackinlay and his office,” she said.
“It’s been left up to the Conservatives to manage the meeting and to assess in advance what questions will and won’t be put to the panel.
“I believe Southern Water is playing politics with this most serious public issue.
“It has taken me many months of effort to get them to agree to this meeting and I’m not at all happy at how it’s being handled.”
She says access to the meeting has been made overly difficult by requiring residents to register online via Eventbrite.
“More concerning still, questions for the panel must also be submitted in advance,” she added, stating it is “far from impartial”.
“Nor will the public easily be able to scrutinise or challenge our local MP as he is chairing the meeting, rather than being a panellist.”
She says she has also had to sign up to a “surprisingly stringent code of conduct”.
“I gather residents who are signing up for the event are also being told what behaviour will be expected,” she said. “This is extremely heavy handed and overly controlling behaviour.
“Southern Water should be totally transparent, even-handed and genuinely committed to public involvement.
“This meeting falls short, and unless Southern Water steps up for genuine robust, impartial public engagement this meeting is the antithesis of openness.”
Southern Water has been asked for a response.
To attend the meeting people must register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/public-meeting-with-southern-water-registration-318753559477