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Improvement board planned for conflict-hit district

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Thanet DC is due this week to set up an improvement board led by the LGA to guide its recovery.

The move will be debated by councillors following a peer review earlier this year which found multiple problems including “toxic” behaviours among councillors with “antagonism, hostility, homophobia, discourtesy, barracking [and] bullying”.

Improvement boards have been set up by the LGA to help a handful of councils, including Wirral MBC and Corby BC. They are a part of the LGA’s sector-led improvement programme.

The Thanet improvement board would have a list of 49 action points to implement from the peer review.

In addition to various reputational issues, these include dealing with “confusion about political roles and a lack of clarity about the boundaries between political and managerial responsibilities”. They also include ensuring strong and consistent senior officer and political engagement across local and sub-regional partnerships, and addressing deficiencies in corporate IT and telecommunications.

If approved, the board would be chaired by a senior manager from another council and include senior Thanet councillors and officers and three councillors from elsewhere.

Thanet has been rocked by controversy involving allegations about the conduct of chief executive Sue McGonigal in a planning dispute.

The council is also considering acquiring Manston airport in what would be one of the largest compulsory purchases by a local authority.

Manston was a fighter aircraft base in both world wars but its remote location meant it never thrived as a civilian airport.

Bus magnate Ann Gloag, a founder of Stagecoach, bought it for £1 last year but this spring announced its closure.

The council believes Ms Gloag may seek to develop the site for housing. A motion from leader Iris Johnstone (Lab) proposes: “All available options…be explored, including a detailed examination of the legal and financial implications of a compulsory purchase order before a final decision is reached.”



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