Last week I wrote about how Labour councillor Rick Everitt and his partner, councillor Corina Huxley, failed, on 17 occasions, to follow the rules set by the Localism Act 2011 and Thanet Council’s code of councillor conduct, by participating in discussions and decision making related to Thanet Parkway Station. A matter in which they both have significant pecuniary interests.
If this wasn’t bad enough, I can now reveal, thanks to Freedom Information, that during his time as leader of TDC, (October 2019 – June 2021) Everitt was involved in a secretive, behind the scenes , lobbying campaign which sought to secure funding and support for the construction of Parkway station.
Although the Council has withheld many documents from me concerning this matter, I have been able to piece together that in his time as council leader Everitt attended at least 13 private meetings about the Parkway Station development.
One of those was a meeting of the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP) held on 9 July 2020.
The KMEP is a little known, but extremely powerful, organisation consisting of business and council leaders from across the Kent and Medway area.
One of its jobs is to approve applications for Government funding for major local authority infrastructure projects. The meeting on the 9th July discussed, amongst other things, a funding application to support the construction of Thanet Parkway Station. The minutes of the meeting record that:-
Cllr Rick Everitt said Thanet Parkway Railway Station is fundamental to the regeneration of Thanet and will open up
strategic opportunities for Dover and Thanet. The Development Consent Order for Manston Airport has been granted by the Secretary of State, and Thanet Parkway will support the Airport. The scheme is deliverable and Get Building Fund can be spent in the timeframe. It aligns to the Government’s ambition to improve physical connectivity. Thanet DC …number one priority is Thanet Parkway”
The minutes of the meeting do not record Everitt as having declared his pecuniary interest in Parkway station, even though three other people at the meeting declared interests in other funding bids which were to be discussed.
I have also been able to establish that Everitt sent at least 14
letters to Government ministers, MPs, senior civil servants and Kent council leaders seeking support for an application for Government funding for Parkway Station. In none of these letters did Everitt declare an interest in the matter he was lobbying for.
I can therefore report with certainty that whilst he was council leader Everitt participated, on 27 separate occasions , in meetings and communications relating to Thanet Parkway station, even though he knew that he was likely to benefit personally from construction of the station through the uplift in the value of his nearby home, which I have estimated to be £115,000.
Had the council provided me with all the documents I requested, then I feel confident that they would have revealed that Everitt’s involvement in the promotion of Parkway station was much more extensive than I have reported here.
Please be aware that during his time as council leader, Everitt had personal responsibility for strategic planning and the local plan. This portfolio clearly included personal responsibility for the Parkway station project, one of the largest strategic infrastructure developments carried out in Thanet in many years.
Paragraph 31(6) and 31 (8) of the Localism Act 2011 requires that when a single councillor is responsible for dealing with a matter in which he/she has a pecuniary interest then:-
“The member must not take any steps, or any further steps, in relation to the matter (except for the purpose of enabling the matter to be dealt with otherwise than by the member).”
As the councillor with personal responsibility for Parkway station, rather than heeding the law, and passing responsibility for managing this matter to another councillor, Everitt did the opposite; attending 13 private meetings and writing 14 lobbying letter/ emails relating to Parkway.
Councillor Everitt’s involvement in the support and promotion of Parkway station, along with that of his partner councillor Huxley is, in my opinion, beginning to look decidedly dishonest and dodgy. Not something you would expect from a very senior politican, especially a Labour politician whose party expects him "to uphold the highest standards of probity".
I have asked councillor Everitt for his comments on the matters I have raised in his article. He did not reply.