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Four Thanet Ukip backbench councillors say they have lost faith in council leader Chris Wells in Manston row

By Paul Francis

The Ukip leader of Thanet District Council Chris Wells is facing accusations from members of his own party that he has become a serious liability and should consider his position.

It is a further twist in the political saga over Manston airport and is likely to be seen as more evidence that the Ukip controlling group at Thanet is becoming increasingly divided.

Ukip's Cllr Chris Wells, leader of Thanet District Council

Ukip's Cllr Chris Wells, leader of Thanet District Council

Cllr Wells dismissed one of his cabinet members two days ago, Cllr Helen Smith, saying she had struggled to separate her new responsibilities on Thanet council from her campaigning interests regarding Manston Airport.

She is one of four signatories to a lengthy statement published today criticising the leader and the lack of progress on a proposed compulsory purchase order (CPO) of Manston.

Cllr Helen Smith

Cllr Helen Smith

The others are Cllr Beverley Martin, Cllr Ash Ashbee and Cllr Konnor Collins, both Ramsgate town councillors.

The three say they have lost faith in him as leader.

The first meeting of the UK's first Ukip-controlled council

The first meeting of the UK's first Ukip-controlled council

The row stems from a meeting held last week by Ramsgate Town Council, at which the American company RiverOak was invited to outline its business case for the airport.

Thanet council advised its cabinet members not to attend the meeting.

In the statement, the four councillors say: “It must be obvious by now that we have lost faith in the current leadership.

Manston Airport

Manston Airport

"For all we know Cllr Wells may have the best of intentions, but we sincerely believe that the current high-handed leadership style and apparent unwillingness to delegate have become a serious liability, not just for the party but for the future wellbeing of Thanet as a whole.” 

"We cannot simply sit back and watch one individual’s idiosyncrasies ride roughshod over the hopes and dreams of the majority...” -statement from backbench councillors

It continues: “We take no pleasure in reaching such a conclusion, but feel we cannot simply sit back and watch one individual’s idiosyncrasies ride roughshod over the hopes and dreams of the majority.”

The statement says they have “become increasingly alarmed at what we see as the dictatorial and often unpredictable behaviour of the current Thanet council leadership".

It outlines claims that events concerning the council’s discussions about the Manston CPO have taken place “against a backdrop of increasing fear and suspicion within the local party.”

The statement says they are not considering quitting the party.

“To be absolutely clear, we are not attacking or deserting Ukip, far from it.

"We are merely standing our ground against the entrenched methodology of the old guard in the way we believe the people of Thanet would expect us to.”

Campaigners have become increasingly frustrated at what they regard as delays in the plan for a CPO for Manston.

But Cllr Wells has insisted the council needs to satisfy itself the potential investors in RiverOak are financially secure. 

A statement issued on behalf of the entire Ukip cabinet said:

"The Ukip element of Thanet District Council remains individually and collectively committed to undertaking a CPO on Manston airport alongside an approved indemnity partner. We have already secured a £1.5m in a UK bank account, something the previous administration failed to do, and await further confirmation for further, necessary, assurances."

It added: "Four colleagues now risk undermining the successes through their lack of understanding of local government procedures and their understandable but misplaced impatience." 

It has emerged the council has not been able to check the two companies lined up as funding partners because RiverOak has redacted their names from documentation submitted to the council.

 

 




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