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Thanet council setting up independent working group to examine loss-making Ramsgate Port

By Caitlin Webb, local democracy reporter

A council is to set up an independent working group to discuss future plans to save its loss-making port.

Yet the leader of Thanet District Council has tried to discredit campaigners calling for the independent review of the Ramsgate Port, saying a "significant number" were not from Kent.

Cllr Bob Bayford (Con) questioned the "mandate" of a petition signed by 1,273 people calling for the examination of the port's operation.

Port of Ramsgate (5871786)
Port of Ramsgate (5871786)

He added if he were "charitable" and assumed these people were from Ramsgate they would only represent 3% of the population.

Yet he accepted a review would be carried out "in deference to those people" showing concerns.

Simon Coombs, from the Ramsgate Action Group (RAG), set up the petition "out of frustration" as the port is losing money.

The group say they have "no confidence" in the council's management of the port and are calling for an independent review.

At the full council meeting on Thursday night, Cllr Bayford said: "A very cursorary glance at the petition shows me that a significant number were people not living in Ramsgate.

"Let's be charitable and assume they live in Thanet, that means the mandate is less than 1% of the residents.

Cllr Bob Bayford
Cllr Bob Bayford

"What did interest me was the fact that it does appear there is concern about the running of our port in Dover, Maidstone, Herne Bay, Deal, Canterbury, Whitstable, Tonbridge, Dartford, Hemel Hempstead, Reigate etc.

"In deference to those people, we will actually hold our committee meetings and we will consider the future of the port."

Mr Coombs said: "Five years of this nonsense and an accumulated deficit of over £21m, in the meantime the council is cutting services by more than £1m per year.

"RAG believes councillors have a duty to their voters to put a stop to this.

"We need an open, transparent, rational and independent review of the port where all the options are put on the table.

"Where all the advantages and disadvantages are laid out in plain English, in clear numbers for all to see."

"We have an asset that is losing money, an asset people can see isn't doing what it should be doing..." - Cllr Karen Constantine

Labour councillor Karen Constantine (Lab) spoke out against Cllr Bayford's comments saying he was "wrong" to question these members of the public.

She said: "I think it's unfortunate how we talk about members of the public, that spend their time bringing matters to our attention.

"I think it's wrong what Cllr Bayford said because the points that have been raised are very live.

"I can tell you that from living there and being a county councillor.

"We have an asset that is losing money, an asset people can see isn't doing what it should be doing.

"People are scratching their heads wondering what the heck their local council and councillors are up to.

"I think we need to have an urgent look at the port as this has been going on for so long.

"I think we are all out of our depth."

Her colleague Cllr Iris Johnston (Lab) also added the ports brings a lot of tourists who are affected by its future.

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