Friday, 15 February 2013

Paul Turner-Mitchell's Margate Portas Pilot FOI Request to Thanet District Council

Below is the original FOI Request made by Paul Turner-Mitchell to Thanet District Council on January 7th 2012. 

The FOI was the subject of two articles in the Independent newspaper yesterday and today, was covered on BBC Newsnight as well as last night's BBC South East Today and BBC Radio Kent's breakfast show. The topic being Thanet District Council's none reply to the FOI request.

Thanet District Council's response finally published their response yesterday afternoon. When I learned the figures and content I was dumbfounded. However, it contains a degree of creative embellishment that is out of the remit of FOIs and certainly out of the jurisdiction of Thanet Council. They take it upon themselves to issue more of a press release than factual response and enter into discussion about the make up and history of the Margate Portas Pilot bid team, who are and independent community group. 

I was a member of Margate's bid team and as Chair of Margate Independent Traders was not contacted by Thanet District Council prior to the release of this information. 

Thanet District Council have delayed replying to my own FOI requests and I've had to log a complaint with the Information Commissioner. This is a lengthy, time consuming process. It's unlikely that I will get a resolution before the Optomen TV show goes out in March. Thanet Council have instead released information to a journalist under duress.

If they had done so, I could have corrected their creative invention on the composition of the original bid team and how it certainly was not formed of two groups. Margate Independent Traders organise public meetings throughout the year that are free for anyone to come to. We invite guest speakers and it is a social event. We then have a mailing list that sends out information relevant to independent businesses across the Margate, Cliftonville and Westbrook area. The group had come together to fulfill the need for more access for small businesses to information. We've done all the work we have over the last 2 years with no funds. 

The Town Team as it stood in August 2012 did not fail to see eye to eye or work together. The Margate Town Team Committee was undermined in by conflicting loyalties and informal meetings arranged with TDC and Mary Portas without the knowledge of the Margate Town Team committee. Thanet Council are well aware of the events surrounding a day of filming on August 20th. To date,  there have been no meetings of the newly reformed  Margate Town Team accessible to the public. The promise of a public AGM at 6 months was quashed. And as we see from yesterday's FOI release, only £111.47 of the available spend of £100,000 has been spent.

Thanet District Council have acted outside of their remit to publish information in this manner. It is serving to prop up Margate Town team as it now stands, which is in the control of people who did not raise issues within the many minuted meetings. The real losers in this mess are the residents and traders of Margate High Street who have been treated with disdain and disregard.
From: Paul Turner-Mitchell [mailto:XXXX@XXXX]
Sent: 07 January 2013 12:07
To: ''
Subject: Freedom of Information Request

On 26th May 2012, Margate was named as one of The 12 new Portas Pilots’ to enable the town team bring their high street back to life. In order to achieve this, a share of £1.2 million was awarded to put their winning plans into action.

This money was paid through s31 unringfenced revenue grant, paid directly to the local authority.  Each partnership needed to identify an Accountable Body (local authority) to receive the grant, if they were not, themselves, a local authority.  It was expected that local authorities in receipt of grant to work constructively with their communities, through their Town Team, in using funding.

The following request is, therefore, made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000:-

·         The exact amount of government funding applied for and received for the Portas Pilot initiative
·         The exact amount of that funding that has physically been spent as a 31st December 2012
·         Please provide a breakdown and summary of how that funding has been physically spent including date of payment, amount of payment and what exactly the payment was for.
·         Please provide details and evidence as to how the Local Authority is benchmarking the success of the Pilot.
·         Please provide details of the criteria and terms of reference for the monitoring and benchmarking as to the success of the Pilot.
·         Has the success or otherwise of the Pilot been assessed by the Local Authority to date? If so, please provide a copy of the relevant report and/or summary.

Thank you.

Paul Turner-Mitchell

"FOI response to Mr Turner-Mitchell

The Margate Independent Traders together with the Margate Town Partnership submitted a bid to the Ports Pilot Town Team scheme. The bid was successful and Thanet District Council agreed to act as the accountable body.  The initial bid, and subsequent award of funds, was for £100,000.

Following a difficult time for the two groups who submitted the bid to form a cohesive management committee, this has now been established and meeting consistently for several months.  This has delayed the development of detailed project proposals and subsequent spend of project monies.  In addition, the in-kind support to the team has been far greater than originally expected.

By 31st December 2012 the Team had made the following payments;

18-Dec-12    Stationery                                                                    £21.47
19-Dec-13    T Painter for Land Registry searches                         £90.00

Given the early stage of implementation of the project it is too early to assess the success of the Pilot scheme.

However, one of the projects that has been sponsored by the Pilot has been a 'Pop-up shop' on the High Street.  This was part of the implementation plan for the Team but so far has been entirely funded by in kind support and revenue from renting space in this shop (consequently it has not required any of the Portas Pilot funding to support it).  The Pop-up shop has supported over 14 individuals to experience high street trading and test their business ideas, 12 of these are still trading.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, P O Box 9 Cecil Street, Margate Kent CT9 1XZ, or send an email to

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF"


  1. What a shambles of a council!

  2. Yes a shambles and a disgrace: P45s are required

  3. I wonder what Painter wanted all those searches for. Was it only for the benefit of a Portas Scheme that we have never been told about, or was it for some other purpose connected with his estate agency business. Perhaps the necessity for gaining records of who owns what, when nothing appears to have happened and doors are kept tightly shut, should be explained.

    1. Yes, you're right, 12:35, it should all be explained, preferably in words of one syllable for us dim wits, so we know what's going on. You're right about Painter and the searchers for I bet you can buy a lot for £90 as it is a very old film now. DVDs like that only cost about a £1.