On Thursday 20th July we had the opportunity to attend TDC’s Oversight and Scrutiny Panel meeting, where a diverse group of cross-party councillors grilled senior Officers and Cabinet members regarding the ongoing projects and schemes that are shaping the landscape of our district. A part of the meeting focused on the Ramsgate Levelling Up Fund and the Margate Town Deal, two ambitious endeavours that have garnered significant attention and investment from central government. However, as the night unfolded, concerns were raised about the adequacy of the time allotted for questioning and the need for greater scrutiny of these substantial projects.
During the meeting, it was revealed that a mere 60 minutes were allocated for discussing both the Ramsgate Levelling Up Fund and the Margate Town Deal. Out of this time, approximately 30 minutes were dedicated to a presentation by the Director of Regeneration (from 1:48:40 in the embedded video below). This presentation showcased new slides for Ramsgate and some rather dated ones for Margate. Consequently, this left the councillors with less than 30 minutes to address their queries and concerns to an officer overseeing a staggering £54million of government funding and dozens of intricate projects.
The apparent lack of time for questioning raised a pressing question among attendees: Could 30 minutes of inquiry be sufficient to oversee projects of this magnitude and complexity? The Theatre Royal’s discussion provided a stark example of the limitations faced by the councillors. Despite being a crucial project, the questions raised were limited and the answers provided were vague, leaving much to be desired in terms of comprehensive understanding.
These projects are undeniably worthy of more rigorous scrutiny. Basic questions, such as how the funding is being utilised, the likelihood of success, interest from potential operators, and any budgetary concerns, deserve thorough exploration. After all, the Director of Regeneration oversees a budget that surpasses TDC’s entire annual budget, making it all the more imperative to subject her decisions to comprehensive examination by our elected representatives.
The glaring imbalance between the enormity of these projects and the time allocated for questioning has sparked an urgent call for enhanced accountability. With millions of pounds in government funding at stake, and the potential to reshape our district significantly, it is vital that these projects receive the scrutiny they deserve.