Friday 30 October 2015

Has the fat lady begun singing

In short this is unlikely to be the end of the ongoing Manston saga simply because TDC cannot say NO MORE.

Last night 29th October 2015 the UKIP Cabinet voted 5-1 to reject Riveroak's bid to become an indemnity party. What they didn't vote for was an end to the CPO of Manston Airport.

Today the war of words continue. Konnor Collins ( a Ukipper who defected ) threw down the gauntlet to Chris Wells.
Not sure this is very bright however its his future. Councillors should behave with a lot more decorum IMO.
The Thanet Gazette reports the following today

THE spokesman for the Manston airport site owners, Ray Mallon, says Sir Roger Gale is to blame for Thanet council's failed attempts to compulsorily purchase the airfield.
Mr Mallon launched an attack on the veteran North Thanet MP after the council last night rejected US hedge fund RiverOak for the second time as a partner with which to reopen the airport.
Conservative Sir Roger has long championed the American firm as a suitable financial backer to fund a Compusory Purchase Order (CPO) of the site for the local authority.
Mr Mallon said: "There are three elements to the CPO process. First of all, the council needed a financial partner, secondly they have got to advance the process and thirdly they have got to win it.
"Thanet District Council was not able to jump the first hurdle, it failed miserably.
"So who do I blame? I do not blame Thanet District Council. I do not blame the officers of Thanet District Council.
"I blame the Member of Parliament, Sir Roger Gale. This is down to him- he is to blame for this folly.
"To begin with, he got into bed with RiverOak without realising what substance they had. On top of that, he has acted as their advocate.
"He did not question them publically, but did more than question others.
"He attacked and smeared all and sundry who dared to disagree with him. He attacked the current Thanet council leader [Chris Wells, Ukip] as well as the previous leader [Iris Johnston, Labour].
"On December 3, he used the words 'political cowardice' to describe the leadership of the council.
"I would submit it was more cowardly for Roger Gale to hide behind Parliamentary privilege [at a Transport Select Committee hearing] and call Ann Gloag a liar."

Also today Bob Bayford said he would like to lead a "coalition of goodwill" political speak meaning I'm gonna have a vote of no confidence then ignore officer advice and stitch everyone up like we did over Pleasurama in 2009
The supporter pages are full of recriminations and advice

Well will the Vote succeed currently the numbers are as follows
UKIP 27 (however Vince Munday will be resigning and another election will be held)
Tories 19
Diggers 5
Labour 4
Independant 1

Assuming both labour and Indie abstain then it will be 26 to 24.

Time will tell as to how together the UKIP party is but really does Bob want the poisoned chalice that is Manston?

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Riveroak - Why not

The report into the suitability of Riveroak to be an indemnity party to facilitate the CPO process has been published today and it doesn't pull any punches over the way Riveroak has managed the whole process.
The history of this whole sordid process goes back to Riveroak being rejected by the Labour administration in December 2014 and little has changed since despite UKIP saying they would get the planes flying again.

3.1 The objective of seeking an indemnity partner is to ensure that if the Council
determines to pursue a CPO a viable airport comes into sustainable long term
operation as quickly as is reasonably possible without any residual cost to the Council.
3.2 A majority interest in the site was acquired by new owners in September 2014. The new owners state they intend to bring forward regeneration proposals for the site. The new owners have a business record that includes the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone.
3.3 The new ownership of the site and any proposals put forward would make it much
more challenging to demonstrate an overwhelming case for compulsory purchase.
This compares to the situation before September 2014 when the then outright owner
had announced no specific proposals following the airport closure. Given the now
increased challenge of securing a CPO, it is essential that the Council establishes
thoroughly on objective grounds the financial status of any prospective partner. The
assessment must have due regard to the potential scale of the project, and the need
to demonstrate that resources are available to complete it.
3.4 Any viable indemnity partner needs to demonstrate the resources to acquire by private treaty well before the stage of seeking a CPO.
3.5 There are numerous local authority examples of stalled developments or developments where the partner proves not to have the financial capacity to complete the agreement. This experience in other local authorities emphasises the need to ensure a prospective indemnity partner has the resources in place to acquire the site and complete the development. Once the land transfers to the indemnity
partner any redress for delay or non completion could prove difficult to pursue. The main purpose of the CPO is for the authority to achieve a viable development, so the status of the indemnity partner to deliver the development in its entirety is highly relevant.
 Of more relevance is this :"The Council does not have the resources to proceed with any CPO and the subsequent development in the event the indemnity partner could not raise investment resources."
All the above are excerpts from the decision to reject RO the 1st time around, so what is different this way round?
"The main material change since the December 2014 Cabinet decision is the provision of an escrow account which will guarantee the funding of the CPO process. This is welcomed and means that the CPO process can be run at no cost to the authority as a whole process rather than the step approach as originally proposed"

However this is about choosing an indemnity partner not about running a CPO process a fact that Riveroak fail to understand. TDC have to ensure everything is in place prior to starting a CPO not start it and hope everything is in place 

However the purpose of the Council using its CPO powers is not to run a CPO process, but to ensure that a viable airport comes into sustainable long term operation as quickly as is reasonably possible without any residual cost to the Council. In order to do that, both the land acquisition and airport development, will need to be funded.
The only evidence to support other funding are two non binding, conditional and redacted letters of support and a similar letter of support from an American company

There is uncertainty about how any shortfall in funding will be met and indeed the offer of a bond at any stage of the CPO process now appears to have been withdrawn by RiverOak.
Officer conclusions 
 There remains the lack of evidence that financial resources are in place or proposed to be in place to acquire the land prior to the confirmation of the CPO despite the fact that the Council is obliged to attempt to purchase the land by negotiation in parallel with the CPO process.

There is insufficient evidence currently available for the Cabinet to be satisfied that a proposed CPO is likely to be successful which would justify its entering into an indemnity agreement. There is good reason to consider the principle of the CPO alongside the decision to enter an indemnity agreement.
Finally the officers and legal advisers stated:

Given the above, your legal advisors and officers are not satisfied at this moment in time that the information or assurances provided to date by RiverOak justify the Council deciding to make a CPO or as part of that process to support the appointment of RiverOak as the Council’s indemnity partner in advance of deciding whether to make a CPO

Well it seems this has provoked the Pro Facebook sites into a frenzy and I will post some of the more lurid comments here. Needless to say they do themselves no favours with the tone of the remarks.


Sunday 25 October 2015

The legal advice

As it gets closer to the 29th October the propaganda war has intensified with Riveroak leaking their solicitors Wragge's advice out into the public domain with the view to pushing their supporters into making a major effort to seek to influence the Councillors at TDC. 
It must be recognised that TDC have been here before when Iris Johnston and her colleagues came to the same conclusion over Riveroak that Chris Wells and his colleagues must come to. The advice that they used to come to this conclusion was given and is reproduced below and is actually the same as Wragges have given Riveroak. The only difference is in its interpretation. The advice is reproduced below. I have added my comments between the pictures however their are two fundamental issues.

Firstly "The overarching public interest test is whether there is a compelling case in the public interest" There are many on the pro side who believe that the public interest is served by making planes fly again from Manston. However for many different reasons that is fundamentally flawed.
Jobs: Riveroaks 5 year plan only envisages 139 jobs
Environmental: It has long been known that planes, especially 747's, are polluting and at only 800ft over Ramsgate noisy as well.
Profitability: In the last 20 years it has never made a profit.

Secondly "Before proceeding to any CPO the Council should seek further information on their plans for the site from the new owners" There is no evidence that TDC has ever discussed with Mssrs Cartner & Musgrave what they intend to do with the site. This is mainly due to their perception that they are only currently deciding whether Riveroak will make a suitable indemnity partner.

Personally this whole can of worms should have been nipped in the bud had politics not got in the way of reality as it would have been unlikely had TDC examined the current owner's plans and realised that a CPO was a waste of time and money. All Wragge's advice show is Riveroak think a CPO is a goer forgetting they have to prove to TDC they are suitable indemnity partners something the advice fails to do.

Advice given to TDC December 2014
1.      The Council cannot be expected to take a leap of faith. It must consider its ability to meet the tests set out in statute (section 226 TCPA 1990) and the Circular 06/04 on the evidence available to it in order to justify proceeding with a CPO (and to assess whether to do is worthwhile in light of the likelihood of it being confirmed by the Secretary of State if necessary).

2.      The Council need to be satisfied in promoting the CPO that it is able to meet the tests of Circular 06/2004 on the likelihood of the project going ahead.  The Secretary of State will not confirm a CPO unless he is satisfied that there is a real likelihood of the project going ahead.   If the Council take the decision to pursue a CPO, members would want to have assurance that a partner would take this forward. The Secretary of State will need to be satisfied that the scheme is likely to go ahead based on a realistic assessment.  (Advice is given in Circular 06/04 paras 16 – 23, and Appendix A paragraph 16). 

3.      It may be that a scheme is not intended to be independently financially viable. Or it may be that the viability is uncertain. If so, it is necessary to consider where financial contributions will come from, and whether the Council itself would underwrite any shortfall. Evidence as to this will have to be produced in due course. In many cases, say for town centre redevelopment, it is not uncommon for the scheme to be promoted in partnership with a substantial and financially sound developer (e.g. a large supermarket chain) which will have entered into an indemnity agreement with the local authority. If so, then evidence must be available (subject to confidentiality considerations) to show that there is a real prospect of the scheme going ahead based upon assessments of scheme viability. In many cases, the S151 officer will be expected to certify (e.g. in a witness statement) that he was satisfied that the project was viable and/or that the local authority (or some other funding source) would meet any funding shortfall if the partner investment was not forthcoming, or provide evidence that the viability of the scheme had been independently assessed and the necessary agreements to deliver the scheme are in place. In the latter circumstances, evidence in relation to this may well be provided by the development partner. The key question in considering these financial issues is whether the Council will be able to show that there is a real prospect that the scheme will proceed, and to do so will provide as much information as possible as to the resource implications of proceeding (see in particular paragraphs 20 and 21 Circ. 06/04 and Appendix A para 16(iii). As noted above, the Council must be in a position to form a view on these matters in resolving whether to make a CPO.

4.      If the Council is unable at the outset to be satisfied that the key resource and financial tests are not fulfilled at the start, it would be very difficult to move forward unless they have a high degree of confidence that these matters will be addressed shortly.  This also begs the question as to why should the Council progress before receiving the necessary assurances? 

5.      The new ownership of the site since previous legal advice will be a major factor when the Council is deciding to make the CPO and when the Secretary of State is deciding whether or not to confirm a CPO. The overarching public interest test is whether there is a compelling case in the public interest. As the Circular advises (17), an authority should be sure that the purposes for which it is making the CPO sufficiently justify interfering with the human rights of those with an interest in the land affected.

6.      It should be emphasized that any decision to make a CPO requires proper consideration of a likely interference with the owners’ human rights. Before proceeding to any CPO the Council should seek further information on their plans for the site from the new owners. The Council must be in a position to assess the degree of interference with the landowner’s human rights, and also, if appropriate, to consider the benefits of their alternative proposals for the site to strike the public interest balance.

7.      In seeking to justify any CPO the Council would have to show that the benefits of what it proposed would be so extensive that (notwithstanding the merits of the new owners’ proposals) the public interest v human rights balance would still be in favour of the CPO.

8.      It should be remembered that a CPO is a last resort. Counsel does not agree with the implication (if this is the implication) within James Maurici QC’s advice to RiverOak that the Council should not seek to negotiate with the owners of the land with a view to determining whether a negotiated sale is possible.   Counsel would not advise against attempting to negotiate. Indeed, in order to strike the balancing exercise properly (and safely) it is in the Council’s interest to understand the new owner’s position, and their intentions for the land.

9.      The approach taken to determine whether the prospective indemnity partner is suitable before embarking on any CPO appears reasonable.


Sunday 18 October 2015

Groupthink and the rise of the thug

"The term “groupthink,” defined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972, refers to how cohesive groups of people make and justify faulty decisions. People affected by groupthink usually feel pressured to conform to the views expressed by an influential group leader. They hesitate to voice concerns for fear of being shamed or ostracized, and, in the absence of dissent, they assume all other group members approve of the decisions being made. Alternatives to the group’s actions are either dismissed or never considered at all. Outsiders who raise objections are often regarded as enemies and dehumanized.
Groupthinking most often arises in homogeneous, insulated groups that possess no clear guidelines for decision making."
Janis’s research uncovered eight symptoms that indicate groupthinking:
1. Illusion of Invulnerability – The group believes failure is impossible.
2. Collective Rationalization – Group members invent reasons to ignore warnings and refuse to objectively evaluate their stance on an issue.
3. Inherent Morality – The group assumes all its actions are ethical and beneficial.
4. Stereotyping – The group creates negative views of opposing groups to avoid rationally addressing objections to its activities.
5. Direct Pressure to Conform – Members are discouraged from dissenting.
6. Self-Censorship – Members willingly refrain from expressing doubts or objections.
7. Illusion of Unanimity – Because dissent is never voiced, members assume everyone in the group agrees with the decisions made.
8. Mind Guards – Some members voluntarily act to shield the group from dissent or criticism.
 Cllr Wells told "Kent on Sunday" I think what's happening is we're seeing inexperienced councillors coming under serious pressure from a very nasty campaign group and being really frightened.

 Well Chris you are stating the obvious here and its been happening since the campaign stalled back in September 2014 when negotiations with Riveroak stalled.

 Accusations of bribery and corruption abound. Attempts to force people to resign are seen as the way forward. If we cannot get the councillors to toe the line then attack member of staff with email campaigns intended to frighten them away. see below
Lets look at what really happened. Manston was run by various firms including Wiggins and Infertil over many years and all failed to make a profit no matter whether it were passenger or freight services. Their losses were considerable however that is ignored.
In 2012 Infertil put the airport up for sale and asked Price Waterhouse Cooper to market it. In 22 months no one came forward, that's NO ONE, NIL, NOTHING. Why did NO ONE in the aviation industry come forward. another fact ignored by the pro campaign.
In November 2014 when the negotiations had stalled under Labour KCC's leader Paul Carter made a statement at County Hall. The Pro Campaigners have made it their life's work to vilify the man when all he has done is point out the obvious. Now the same vitriol has be aimed at Chris Wells leader of UKIP at Thanet Council. Putting aside the politics and looking at why the whole process has ground to a halt the common denominator seems to be the reluctance of Riveroak to disclose their financial affairs and provide TDC with the information they need exactly the situation Iris Johnson found themselves in 2014.

David Green (in Iris Johnson's cabinet)
Way back in pre history, when I was involved in the Manston issue, I asked Riveroak 3 questions to determine whether I could support them as a indemnity partner.
1. If we (TDC) signed up, would they disclose the source of their funding.
2. Would they allow TDC to withdraw from the CPO process at any point without penalty to TDC
3 Would they accept a covenant on the land when TDC handed it to them that restricted its use to aviation related use only.
Their answer to each was NO!

I guess Chris Wells has reached a similar position.

So what do the pro supporter's do?
3. Inherent Morality – The group assumes all its actions are ethical and beneficial.
Anything against the groupthink has to be destroyed and of course anything goes including memes like this
Outsiders who raise objections are often regarded as enemies and dehumanized
4. Stereotyping – The group creates negative views of opposing groups to avoid rationally addressing objections to its activities.

So all groups or individuals who state the bleeding obvious like it's all over are attacked and vilified and of course anything they post is treated just like the Word of God.
So as this campaign nears its end where do the supporters go after its all over? Some will pledge their loyalty to the dying end, however as in most campaigns the vast majority will simply get on with their lives with the thought they have done their best but they were beaten by the monied classes. None of them will admit the truth that the bullies didn't succeed and the rest allowed them to get away with the bullying because they hadn't the courage to tell them to stop bullying.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Riveroak - Who are they

Well it seems that many people are asking who is this company that wants to take over Manston Airfield and the answer is, sadly, difficult to answer. As Cllr Wells says the reality and the emotion is difficult to separate.
Firstly what do they do?
"RiverOak Investment Corp. has a reputation for identifying under-utilised assets & creating new value from them on behalf of our client investors.
For more than two decades we have built both our investment business and our reputation on being able to find, research and invest in the types of assets that typically achieve above-average risk-adjusted returns." link to here
In simpler terms they identify distressed real estate, add value, then sell on at a profit or rent.

Where are they
Suite 703, 1 Atlantic Street, downtown Connecticut. (note not the whole building just a suite of rooms)
What assets do they have.
"One of RiverOak’s active funds (there are only three of them) is RiverOak Realty Fund III. It looks as if this RRFIII invested in three assets. One was liquidated in 2013 with no profit coming back to RiverOak. One is a limited service business hotel. The third is a development that was going to be a block of flats. RiverOak ran into construction problems and the lender demanded its money back. Judgement has been awarded to the lender and it looks as if RiverOak will lose the money that it put into this investment. Total money made in management fees by RiverOak for 2013? $90,000 – less than £60,000. Total RiverOak director money in this fund? £59,000.
Let’s look at another fund, RiverOak Realty Fund IV. One asset, an office block, was taken back by the lender via a “deed in lieu of foreclosure.” The other assets are a block of flats and various blocks of student housing. RiverOak’s management fee for 2013? £275,000. Total RiverOak director money in this fund? Zero.
And the third fund? That’s MKRO I. The deadline for investing in this fund was extended. Normally this happens when you go to the market to attract investors and you don’t get knocked over in the rush. The fund’s two assets in 2013 were a 25% share in a portfolio of flats spread over four blocks and a 60% share in an additional, separate, block of flats. Total RiverOak director money in this fund? Zero.
So, RiverOak invests in flats, student housing, a bit of house building, and the odd hotel or office block. In the three current funds, RiverOak’s directors appear to have just £59,000 of their own money invested. They can’t play with the rest of the money invested in the funds – it’s not theirs. Management fees earned by RiverOak look pretty small and a couple of investments have gone belly up" link to here
But Beau Webber says they have a AAA+ rating, higher than a lot of Countries including it seems the United Kingdom?
Now this is where it gets interesting so bear with me. In financial circles companies that deal in financial matters are judged on a number of areas such as Financial strength and these rating are given out by Standard & Poors, and Moodys however it seems that in Riveroaks case their rating is given out by the Better Business Bureau (who?)
To quote "Another of these little-known facts about the BBB: “We are not a consumer watchdog.” While the BBB offers consumers many services—lists of popular scams to watch out for and such—the organization’s mission isn’t to have your back. From top to bottom, the BBB is funded by the annual dues paid by businesses it anoints with “accreditation,” which allows the companies to put those iconic BBB stamps of approval on their storefronts and websites. This fact raises obvious questions about an inherent conflict of interest: The organization’s customers are businesses, not taxpayers or consumers. How can the BBB serve as an honest broker between businesses and consumers when it is fully funded by one of these parties? Many argue that it cannot — that there’s a natural incentive to paint its paying clients in the best possible light."
You can read the rest of the article here
 So it seems Beau is conflating an A+ rating for a paid for endorsement (and a real estate one at that) for a financial rating which there isn't one at all.

So is Riveroak a suitable partner for TDC? Seems Farage thinks Chris Wells is doing things by the book

Now I understand some in the pro camp question my motives around Manston so to clarify some of the questions raised.
1. No I didn't skip out of Ramsgate in a hurry in fact it took me 5-6 months to sell my properties and buy in Southampton
2 No I didn't accept £29K from the Labour party to infiltrate a local group to stop them protesting, in fact I campaigned for 2 years to have the developers (SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd) removed from the lead role over Pleasurama. (read the blog here) Ask yourself would I put my neck and reputation on the line if I didn't care about Ramsgate?
3 Do I want Manston as an airport? Of course I do but not as a Cargo Hub with 40 landings and takeoffs a day with no benefit to Ramsgate and not run by Riveroak, who seem to be less than honest with their propaganda, in fact, they are similar to SFP Ventures, and I suspect, are Land Bankers. I cannot see how they intend to make a profit from aviation.
4. As I have moved to Southampton where we have a successful airport I can see planes everyday with little disturbance due to the type of planes being used to fly passengers

Sunday 11 October 2015

Manston - the end perhaps?

Today has, hopefully, seen a turning point in the whole Manston debacle. The 30 days of silence has now finally come to an end with an exchange of views very publically aired on Riveroak's website. link here

The question is "Can Riveroak really negotiate a deal with UKIP's TDC and Cllr Wells by engaging in what is in effect a propaganda war?" The answer is "No"

Whatever the rights and wrongs of UKIP's manifesto promise to reopen the airport they weren't voted in by the electorate on that one promise as clearly shown by the previous KCC elections where 7 out of 8 councillors were from UKIP and that was with the airport still open and operational.

What is clear for those that have an open mind is Riveroak as business partners is unworkable and for those still questioning why take a look at the negative campaign they have been running.
1. They are a US based Limited Liability Corporation
2. They are registered in Delaware (same as a tax haven elsewhere)
3. They have zero experience in running an airport business
4. Their business model is "Buy a distressed asset, add value, and then sell on quickly"
5. They are fronted by Tony Freudmann, who fronted Wiggens when that went wrong
6. The same Freudmann who gets struck of the roll of Solicitors for misappropriation.

My last post on Manston was about the concerns raised over whether a freight hub would damage Ramsgate's renaissance. go here to read

It looks now that this is unlikely to happen and even the pro supporters are starting to believe it is over. It is appearing that attention will have to turn to ensuring that Cartner & Musgrave's plans are fully explored by TDC and KCC and these must include the appropriate infrastructure works necessary to bring about jobs and apprentices to make Ramsgate a vibrant economy and to rebalance the disparity in funding that exists between the different parts of Thanet.

While I am awaiting the statement from TDC I will post some of the more interesting comments from pro supporters while they take in what is happening.

Seems regime change is in the offing:
Now these people Konnor Collins and Beverley Martin used to be UKIP Councillors.
Well Richard I think it's called "saving your arse" from TDC being made bankrupt and being put into special measures. And Brendan she gives advice to the Councillors and they would do well to listen. If you think the advice is wrong then attend the next Council meeting and meet with her, its on the 15th october 2015.
This sounds remarkably like threatening behaviour problem is its all talk seeing as a rally gets only 40 people. I doubt Chris Wells would be that worried about these keyboard warriors even as nasty as they are.
Finally someone who dares to question Riveroaks bona fides. Some in the opposite camp have been saying this for a long long time

Sunday 4 October 2015


The one thing about the Save Manston campaign that is almost a trademark is the people that say one thing and then do the opposite. Take this exchange on the 8th August 2015.

You certainly supported me Chris. Look at the level of support?

With friends (?) like that who needs enemies.

 BTW Mr. Dan Light the original poster of the last is a committee member of the SMA, so when he posts this crap he forgets he is dragging the campaign into the gutter. Do we really think you can divorce your puerile utterances from the laudable aims of the original campaign and before you get uppity remember I have never bad mouthed you up until you started acting like a playground bully.

One of Loudhailers' main whinges is the alleged grief they get from others, has it never dawned on them that the start of the ill feeling has always been the way their campaign has been conducted and they use the fact that people do not like being bullied and when they fight back do not be surprised. There is a saying "If you cannot take it don't dish it out." And while the subject is being aired just because you shout loudly doesn't mean you have a great deal of support.

Take today for instance, it nears the end of the 30 days of silence and Keith Churcher self-styled leader of the Save Manston Campaign shouts in his own way that a demonstration is needed to show support by waving flags and being together. Seriously Keith?
Seriously Toy
Well you got your answer Nick Toy you do look silly! what a non-event! A lovely sunny non-working day, what are your excuses for such a dismal turnout 0.44% of your supporters. If that's your idea of a great event you need to resign oh yeah you do it for love.
 Well SMA have 9000+ members so you would have expected a massive level of support, seems shouting loudly doesn't cut it nor does bullying people work, and neither does posting crap on Loudhailer that you think funny.

While we are talking about those that support Manston your arch enemy based in the USA is Paul Abela, a person various people on Hailer have accused me of being. Personally I think you ought to look again especially as Cheesewright has accused me of being Abela. So explain this conversation?
So when Abela defends Cheesewright are you really saying I am defending Cheesewright and if you look deeper they have a lot in common. They are both redneck, expat trolls, are we sure they aren't both the same person, are we really so naive.