Manston was to be barred from importing beans unless it was properly registered. Manston applied for registration and was refused. A few days later, it was accepted. What happened in those few days? Nobody wants to say.
Last year, Thanet was shocked to the core to learn that Manston might not be allowed to continue importing Kenyan beans at any hour of the day or night it damn well pleases. Nothing to do with limitations on their disgustingly anti-social night flights, of course – this was all due to the mighty European Commission trying to protect us from revolting poisons in our greens.
If you believed half the self-important hype that Manston spouts about its commercial significance, you might have expected the economy of east Kent to have completely collapsed by now. It hasn’t. It may be a bit wobbly, but that’s not down to beans – it’s broader than that. No, the major effect of this ban would have been that Manston would have lost some, or even all, of its business with its largest remaining customer, Cargolux.
Understandably keen to beat the 1st January 2013 deadline, Manston applied to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to be registered as a Designated Port of Entry (DPE), the status that would allow it to continue importing the mission-critical beans. On 20th December, the FSA refused their application, as Manston failed to meet the standards laid down in Article 4 of the regulations, which relates to the “Minimum requirements for designated points of entry“.
And then the odd stuff starts.
All the necessary bean-balancing and toxin-testing that is required by
the FSA isn’t done by FSA people, or even Manston staff, but by Council
employees – probably Environmental Health Officers (EHOs).
You’ll remember that Christmas fell rather awkwardly (or rather well, perhaps) last year, resulting in an unusually large amount of limbo time. Nonetheless, between 20th December and the end of the year, TDC managed to sprinkle enough fairy dust over this problem to make it go away.
Somehow, TDC managed to rearrange the workload for its already over-stretched EHOs, AND cut through swathes of Government and FSA red tape, and PHEW! at the eleventh hour saved Manston’s bacon. And beans.
You would have thought that this level and quality of support for local business is something that TDC would be shouting about – ideally, they would be offering the same shoulder-to-shoulder commitment to more local businesses.
But they seem to be surprisingly modest about how much time and effort it took to solve the problem of Manston being unfit to import beans. Or what the ongoing costs might be. Or what the impact on the other services provided by the EHOs might be. Or whether Thanet’s EHOs will in future be on 24 hour standy (and rates?) in readiness for a “delayed arrival” which, as we know, can arrive at any time day or night.