The feuds and bickering that gave birth to council
FEW people now involved in local government were around for the birth pangs of Dover District Council, with its bitter rows culminating in the sacking of the chief executive.
It was in 1974, after several years of preparation, that Dover District Council was created out of five town and rural councils in Dover, Deal, Sandwich, the Dover rural area and Eastry urban district.
It proved a stormy first year with controversy over a number of issues including where to accommodate the staff of the new authority, who were split up in 15 offices scattered across the district. This obviously resulted in inefficiencies.
One suggestion that was almost implemented was to put the council staff under one roof in the 12-storey office block of Burlington House that still stands empty in Dover's Townwall Street.
The idea was opposed by councillors representing Deal and Sandwich who did not want to lose the economic benefits of council staff in their towns.
The controversy was not helped by Deal Conservatives clashing with their political comrades in Dover while the representatives of the villages were opposed to both camps. Labour, in the minority, added to the furore when it could, especially after the Tory majority decided (by 24 votes to 21) to sell council houses to sitting tenants.
Another row was over on whose authority it had been decided to buy Bushy Ruff House, the Alkham Valley home for years of Mrs Constance Jorgensen, and its surrounding 26 acres for about £90,000. The 40-year-old chief executive Ian Paterson was in the frame.
This came at a time when the council had approved major rate increases, from 25 per cent to 50 per cent, in the first year of its existence. Many among the district's 104,000 population were not happy.
Meanwhile, there was a legal battle between Dover District Council and Sandwich Town Council over the ownership of the town's Guildhall, extended the previous year and paid for with money collected from the toll bridge and hastily spent before the new authority took over.
All this high spending resulted in the formation in 1975 of a number of ratepayers' groups and they had more to complain about when Dover District Council lost a High Court case over 2.3 acres of land at Channel View Road at the Western Heights. The 16-day hearing cost Dover district ratepayers an estimated £70,000.
It's safe to say there was no great love lost between the ruling Conservative administration and its chief executive Ian Paterson. The leader of the Conservative group on the council was Deal antique dealer Alfred Greenway-Stanley.
Real trouble arose in the run-up to the council elections in 1976 when Mr Paterson, the election returning officer as well as being chief executive, ruled that Mr Greenway-Stanley's nomination paper was invalid because he disputed that there should be a hyphen included in his surname.
As a result of that ruling, the Tory leader could not stand for re-election and his place as leader was taken by the fiery right-winger Ray Norley of Dover who, himself, was later involved in a lengthy court action.
Anyway, Mr Greenway-Stanley was furious with Mr Paterson and made a successful application to the High Court for the returning officer's decision to be set aside. One judge even said Mr Paterson had made a whole series of errors.
All this added to the petty bickering and jealousy involving inter-town rivalry and suspicion between the rural and urban communities. It just could not continue.
In January 1977, I was able to reveal exclusively in the Dover Express that preliminary moves were being made by leading Tories to sack Mr Paterson, the chief executive. But not all Tories were backing their leadership's action to sack Mr Paterson.
But, in August, district councillors decided in a majority vote by to dismiss Mr Paterson, resulting in his going to an industrial tribunal alleging unfair dismissal.
When Dover District Council was first formed, the chairman was Albert Cavell of Deal who handed over the following year to Peter Bean of Dover and who, in his turn, handed over to retired Castlemount school teacher George Aslett of River.
But drama in the council chamber was not yet over. In 1978, during the noisy annual meeting of the council, held in public at Dover Town Hall, Mr Greenway-Stanley was elected council chairman.
His election was not popular with all councillors and, when one member went slightly overboard in a verbal attack on the new chairman, a woman in the public gallery stood up and flung her handbag at the critic.
There was further controversy in 1978 when the same Mr Greenway-Stanley figured in a dispute over £2,000 alleged to be owed to his council as a result of work carried out by the council on tenanted property he owned in Deal under the provisions of a housing act, following a fire two years earlier.
Mr Greenway-Stanley refused to pay and in December the council decided to take legal action against its chairman on this issue in the High Court. But, just in time, Mr Greenway-Stanley's tenant died and, realising he could now sell the property with vacant possession, he paid up and the legal action was dropped.
But at the same time Mr Greenway-Stanley stressed that he believed the council was wrong in carrying out the repairs.
As the Dover Express's local-authority reporter during these dramatic times, I felt I was walking on eggshells. There were plenty of stories but there were regular threats of libel actions, of being reported to the Press Council and I even received a subpoena to appear in court as his witness although, I remember, the accused councillor failed to provide me with court conduct money.