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Thanet District Council watchdog members quit after highlighting suspicion of 'secrecy and corruption'

Four members of a Kent council's standards watchdog have quit in a row over a report in which they claimed councillors were seen by the public as secretive and corrupt.

A report into Thanet council had

concluded standards of behaviour were so bad it had "the appearance of a dysfunctional organisation"

that adversely affected the way services are delivered.

It was written by the four independent members of the council's standards committee, whose role is to ensure councillors abide by a code of conduct.

Thanet District Council offices
Thanet District Council offices

But a meeting last night to discuss the report's findings and a series of recommendations ended with all four - including the chairman Robin Hills - quitting after it was heavily criticised by councillors who rejected its conclusions.

Council leader Cllr Clive Hart (Lab) said the report had damaged the image of the council and unfairly tarnished the reputation of all members.

He denounced it as "ambiguous and riddled with halve truths and innuendo".

He said: "Unfortunately, the ambiguous, broad stroke manner of this report has tarnished every member of this council good or bad and has consequently done no service whatsoever to this council.

Former Thanet District Council leader Cllr Clive Hart is not seeking re-election in May 2015 elections
Former Thanet District Council leader Cllr Clive Hart is not seeking re-election in May 2015 elections

"Nowhere in this report is there any reference to the vast majority of hard working councillors who literally give thousands of hours service to local residents year after year.

"Neither is there any reference whatsoever to the thousands of hours councillors spend on working harmoniously together, cross party, for the benefit of our district."

Cllr Bob Grove, an independent member of the standards committee, said he did not support the findings.

"It pointed the finger at everybody," he said. "A lot of us work very hard and it was totally unfair."

The four-page report had been damning in its criticism of the perception of the council by the public.

It said: "There is a local suspicion of secrecy, corruption and distance between the council as it is perceived in the offices in Cecil Square, the reality of people?'s lives and the needs of the district.

"The council has the appearance of a dysfunctional organisation whose behaviour and internal squabbles adversely affect the delivery of services, capital projects etc to the residents of the local district."

It concluded behaviour was so poor that it fell short of the council's stated aim of having high standards of conduct and was in urgent need of rehabilitation.

The report comes in the wake of a series of high-profile issues for the council, including the conviction of its former leader Sandy Ezekiel in March for misconduct in public office.

More recently, it has been in the headlines over the way it handled a secret deal with the ferry company Transeuropa, which has gone into administration and owes the council more than £3m.

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