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Thanet: Calls for Dreamland boss to step down from Margate Town Deal board over ‘conflict of interest’

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Original article from Kent Live

A Margate councillor has called for the boss of Dreamland to step down from the Margate Town Deal board over what he calls an "obvious" conflict of interest.

Cllr Barry Lewis, the county councillor representing Margate, says Dreamland chief executive Eddie Kemsley should not have a place on the board.

The Margate Town Deal board was founded to administer the £22.2 million Towns Fund awarded to the town by the ministry for housing, communities and local government.

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The aim of the funding project is to improve infrastructure, connectivity, and drive long-term economic and productivity growth in some of the UK's more neglected towns.

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Numerous projects and suggestions for how best to use the funding were submitted to the board, and one project which succeeded was a £4 million funding pot allocated to Dreamland, a private company.

Cllr Lewis said: "I'm calling on Eddie Kemsley to resign from the Margate Town Deal as she is the chief executive of Dreamland.

"Dreamland has been given £4 million of taxpayers' money and she should resign because there is an obvious pecuniary conflict of interest, and transparency is needed in this case.

Dreamland in Margate

"Even though she might have acted within the strict rules, it opens up the question of why someone should be involved in transferring taxpayers' money to a private company, which she is chief executive of."

Eddie Kemsley is a member of the Town Deal board, and also chair of the People’s Panel – a non-decision making group of representative Margate residents whose purpose is supposed to be a ‘critical friend’ and ensure that the evidence collected informs the Board and helps it make decisions that reflect the community of Margate.

As chair of the People’s Panel, the council says it is Eddie’s role to feedback to the board from the meetings and help chair the sessions which are currently run through an external consultant.

KentLive contacted Dreamland to offer Eddie Kemsley a chance to respond directly, but they directed any requests for comment to Thanet District Council.

A spokesman for the council said there is no reason why projects put forward by organisations linked with board members cannot be taken forward, as long as conflicts of interest are declared and managed in a "transparent way".

Thanet. Dreamland opening date announcement and ticket sales spectacular. Dreamalnd CEO Eddie Kemsley

She added: “Other Town Deals across England have awarded funds to projects supported by board members. For example, Blackpool & Fylde College is part of the Blackpool Town Deal board and will receive funding as a result of their Town Investment Plan.

"NewRiver Retail Ltd also sits on the Bournemouth Town Deal board, and is one of the major land owners of the area that will benefit from the Town Deal masterplan project.

'We value Eddie's commitment, experience and contribution'

“The ministry of housing, communities and local government, in their guidance and requirements for setting up the Town Deal Board, included the need for private sector representatives, land owners and investors.

"Eddie has many years’ experience of working in both public and private sector organisations and her interests have been declared in an open and transparent way.

"We value Eddie’s commitment, experience and contribution to the Margate Town Deal board.”

A spokesman for the ministry of housing, communities and local government, which created the Town Deal fund, said all board members must sign a code of conduct based on the seven Nolan Principals.

They said: “The Towns Fund will help level up the country by creating jobs and building stronger, more resilient local economies where it is most needed.

“We have currently committed over £1.3 billion under the Towns Fund, offering Town Deals to 53 places across England – including Margate’s £22.2 million Town Deal, announced at Budget on March 3.

“Our Towns Fund further guidance sets out our expectation regarding governance standards.”

They added there should be clear processes for managing conflicts of interest and guidance on the declaration of pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests and exemptions.

Original Article