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'We might never get back £3.3m' from collapsed Transeuropa, Thanet District Council leader Clive Hart warns

By Paul Francis

Cllr Clive Hart, leader of Thanet District Council

Cllr Clive Hart, leader of Thanet District Council

The leader of Thanet council has admitted he is not hopeful the £3.3million owed by the collapsed ferry company Transeuropa will be recovered.

Cllr Clive Hart said the council was doing what it could, but he was not optimistic about recouping the money.

He also admitted he was unaware whether or not the council had yet taken any legal steps to try and get the cash back.

The council made a secret arrangement with Transeuropa in March 2011, in which the ferry operator was allowed to defer berthing fees at the port of Ramsgate.

The arrangement was agreed to give the company a lifeline while it sought new backers and investment.

But the company went into administration in May, leaving the council £3.3m out of pocket.

It is thought to have little in the way of assets.

Cllr Hart said: "I cannot say I am too hopeful. It is an on-going situation and we are doing what we can to recover the money. We are in the pool [of debtors] with everyone else. We have instructed officers to get the very best outcome."

A TransEuropa ferry berthed in the Port of Ramsgate

A TransEuropa ferry berthed in the Port of Ramsgate

It recently emerged that the debt was spread across four different companies, but the council has refused to say what the status of those companies is and if they are solvent.

Meanwhile, the council has agreed that in future, any debts over £150,000 will have to be reported publicly to councillors.

Cllr Hart denied the move was a case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted but acknowledged it was "a case of learning lessons".

 

Green councillor Ian Driver, who has been a leading critic of the council's dealings with Transeuropa, said: "If the Labour cabinet was genuinely concerned about financial openness and transparency why didn't they introduce this new financial rule when they took control from the Tories in 2012 and inherited the huge Transeuropa debt which was then £1.7 million?"

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