My thoughts on Ramsgate, Manston, church bells and trade

Ramsgate regeneration always occupies a significant proportion of my time, arguably more than it should given extensive similar issues in Cliftonville. I am not ‘the Council’ nor want to be, but too often I am drawn into issues when Thanet District Council simply fails to do the basics like street cleaning and rubbish collection.

My first Ramsgate Regeneration meeting of 2018 on 12th January had no hard and fast agenda, but was an opportunity for the regular attendees from across the community to highlight areas of concern and to fix strategy for the year ahead. We had a lively debate across issues of parking, litter, the port, Pleasurama (aka Golden Sands) and the dereliction of various properties in and around Ramsgate Town Centre. Lots for me and my office to pick up, again due to failures of TDC to do the basics.

The Local Plan rejection by Councillors of last Thursday 18th dominates local news and discussions, and so it should. I salute those Councillors who voted to reject the flawed plan that would have re-designated the Manston site as ‘mixed-use’. Despite a last minute compromise suggested that would have set-aside this aspect of the plan, I agree with Councillors that this was too little, and too late. I have been saying for as long as anybody will listen that Thanet with Manston for aviation is a wholly different Thanet from one without. The timings of the Local Plan and with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government pushing for completed Local Plans across the country adds to complications. It is now for myself and Sir Roger Gale to get the ear of the Secretary of State and to argue the case for the uniqueness of Thanet’s situation. Ideally, we need a Local Plan of two halves – a short-term plan for the next few years, and then a longer plan thereafter once the Manston issue is finally decided and settled. Politics is about the art of the possible.

In the southern part of the Constituency I’ve been fighting for Dover District Council to come to its senses regarding a noise abatement order issued against the 13th Century St. Peter’s Church which will force its clock chimes that have rung since 1779 to become silent by the end of February following a noise complaint by a single resident. This is in the realms of lunacy which adds to residents’ feeling, quite rightly, that the world has gone simply mad.

I attended a truly enlightening breakfast meeting at the Department for International Trade last week, chaired by the Secretary of State, Dr Liam Fox. We are not hearing enough of the excellent news coming out of that department. A substantial increase in UK exports, more inward investment to the UK in 2017 than any year on record, full manufacturing order books, successful trade delegations around the globe that are showcasing Global Britain and with it new orders and jobs. It is upon this background that I believe that a new Royal Yacht is important in a post-Brexit Britain – as a moveable showcase for the country that would return any capital cost within its first months in operation. Annoying to the Labour Party and those who support a Republic  I know – simply an added bonus to the concept in my view.

Finally a big congratulations to newly married local Councillors Paul and Carol Messenger. I was pleased to attend their reception held at the Pegwell Bay Hotel at the weekend. We wish them every happiness.

Craig signs Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment

CM at Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Committment signing Jan18.jpg

This week, Craig Mackinlay MP signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.

Saturday 27 January will mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘The power of words’.

After signing the Book of Commitment, Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people in South Thanet and across the country to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust. As the Holocaust moves from living history, to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors. I would encourage my constituents to show their support for such an important day.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

“The Holocaust did not start in the gas chambers but with hate filled words. Our mission is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance. We are very grateful to Craig Mackinlay MP for signing the Book of Commitment, signalling a continued commitment to remembering the victims of the Holocaust as well as challenging antisemitism, prejudice and bigotry in all its forms.”

Craig highlights world’s largest unmet disability

South Thanet’s Craig Mackinlay MP has put his support behind Clearly – a campaign to bring clear vision as quickly as possible to the 2.5 billion people worldwide denied it.

At an event held in parliament this week, Clearly demonstrated the simplicity of the solution to uncorrected poor vision by inviting MPs and peers to take a simple vision check using a smart phone app, powered by Peek Vision, and put on a pair of glasses.

The Clearly campaign has had support from celebrities such as Annie Lennox, Lenny Henry, James Corden, Brenda Blethyn and Niall Horan from One Direction. They have called on Commonwealth leaders to put poor vision on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

CM at Clearly parliamentary event Jan18.jpg

““Shockingly, a third of the world’s population, 2.5 billion people, suffer from poor vision, which is the world’s largest unmet disability.

“Nine out of 10 of these people just need a simple pair of glasses – a solution that has been around for centuries and can be produced for as little as £1.

“The ability to get a simple sight test and buy glasses is often taken for granted in the UK but it is something that so many around the world are unable to do.

“I’m joining the Clearly campaign and calling on the Government and Commonwealth countries to put ‘vision for everyone’ on the agenda of their Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.”

James Chen, founder of Clearly said:

“I am delighted that Craig Mackinlay MP has joined our campaign to help the whole world see clearly.

“This is an issue that has largely been forgotten but the solution has been on the end of our noses for centuries.

“Getting this issue on the Commonwealth agenda is a critical step to ensuring that those without clear vision are able to participate fully in life and fulfil their true potential.”

The New Year: Visas, Yachts and Paper

Starting back at Westminster this week after the festive break I should be feeling refreshed and ready for 2018. I’m not sure I am. Constituency and national Parliamentary work continued throughout and I was also hit by the winter illnesses floating around. I’m not sure the road to recovery was helped by the freezing conditions which accompanied the Blessing of the Seas service in Margate at the weekend. A fantastic and colourful event, rich in the traditions of the Greek Orthodox church which celebrates the baptism of Christ known as the Epiphany. This is a festival which predates the historical celebration of Christmas by some centuries. Over the years, snow has been a regular feature on Margate’s main beach for the event, but this year, wind driven sand was the main culprit. This is my fourth year of attendance, and marks, for me, the final divide between the Christmas and new year season and the year ahead.

I launched three national discussions over the recess. The first was a policy paper on borders and immigration post-Brexit. Our EU partners are proposing a US style ESTA pre-application system for visa free travel across the EU. My paper examined this and makes a similar proposal, with a similar fee in response which would raise significant sums, add to border security and get Britain ready for post-Brexit realities.

My second initiative was making the case for a new Royal Yacht Britannia to showcase our country as a floating embassy and trade platform as we become able to project ‘Global Britain’ once more. The previous Royal Yacht Britannia was pivotal in unlocking trade to Britain’s advantage, and had the unique ability to humble foreign Presidents and potentates when invited aboard. It was an immensely powerful diplomatic tool that should never have been mothballed without replacement in 1997. The usual suspects, doubtless with tones of Republicanism, were quick to suggest that the £120m would be better spent on other national priorities. Just to put this into context, £120m represents a little under an hour and a half of government expenditure and represents under one thousandth of what is spent annually on the NHS. But I am aware of these sensitivities and my suggestion is for a new bespoke nationally lottery to augment the pledges by the best of British businesses to put the funding together.

My third launch of the recess season was the publication of detailed research following Freedom of Information requests across all local authorities, Health trusts, Universities and other public bodies subject to FOI transparency. My question was a simple one “What do you spend on a ream of standard 80gsm copier paper?” The results were startling with a range of prices paid from £4.65 (Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust) to just 75p by Runnymede Borough Council. You and I can find similar online and for about £2.00. With the permanent calls for more spending, the purpose of the exercise was to highlight that there is still fat to trim within the spending habits of public sector bodies, and if procurement horrors exist for the purchase of something so routine as copier paper, what else is lurking out there?

In closing, I enter 2018 with great enthusiasm as we progress Brexit towards the conclusion. I am hugely positive as about the state of the economy and regeneration opportunities throughout the Isle. Happy New Year. Happy New Year.

Craig Mackinlay MP and the Taxpayers’ Alliance join forces to highlight excessive paper costs incurred by public sector

Some public sector organisations are paying up to seven times more for paper than necessary according to figures provided to freedom of information requests by South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, and the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The highest price paid by a local authority per ream of 80 grams per square meter (GSM) paper was £4.39 by Stratford-on-Avon Council. Runnymede Borough Council, on the other hand, were able to purchase some of its paper for just 75p per ream .

The highest price paid by an NHS trust was £4.65 by Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust. The lowest price paid was £1.40 by Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust.

Similarly, in respect of higher education, the University of Manchester bought reams of paper for £4.40, while Oxford Brookes University found a supplier who charged them just £1.57 per ream.

All figures are from 2016.

Whilst the amount of paper used by public sector bodies, after adjusting for their size, varies greatly, there appears to be little correlation between the amount of paper purchased and the prices being paid suggesting many organisations are not exploiting potential purchasing economies of scale.

Both Mr Mackinlay and the TaxPayers’ Alliance are calling on the public sector to consider whether they can do more to spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently in the light of these figures.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“I think hard-pressed taxpayers will be more than a little concerned to learn that many public sector bodies are not getting value for money from suppliers when purchasing simple, everyday items such as paper. I chose standard 80 gsm paper for this study as it is an item we can all relate to. A simple internet search reveals availability for just one ream to the public at around £2.00. What other basic items are public bodies paying through the nose for?

“These figures come after several years of spending restraint and at a time when all quarters of the public sector continue to lobby the Chancellor for more money often claiming that there are no more savings to be made.

“This clearly isn’t true in all instances. 

“I call on the public sector to look at these figures and consider whether they can spend hard-pressed taxpayers’ money more wisely in the future, not just in the purchase of paper, but in respect of all costs and expenses they incur.”

John O'Connell, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said:

"It is vanishingly rare to see bureaucrats strive for value for money when purchasing the most basic of stationary items.

“Paying less for paper is not a case of cutting corners, but exercising common sense when using taxpayers' money on office essentials. Money saved here could be spent on essential services or left in the pockets of taxpayers."

A copy of the Public Sector Paper Procurement findings is here.

Craig thanks postmen and women in Sandwich Delivery Office as they deliver a first class Christmas

Craig Mackinlay MP has visited the Sandwich Delivery Office to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post and to pass on season’s greetings to its hardworking staff.

Craig was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Michael Moore, and was introduced to the postmen and women, who are pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail in Sandwich over the Christmas period.

The Festive Season is Royal Mail’s busiest period, as millions of people shop online for gifts and send Christmas cards and parcels.

CM at the Royal Mail's Sandwich Delivery Office Dec17.jpg

Craig Mackinlay MP said:

“At no other time is the hard work and dedication of postmen and women clearer than during the festive period. There is a huge amount of effort and dedication that goes into delivering a first class Christmas.

“It was great to meet the team here at Sandwich and thank them for the extraordinary lengths they go to ensure Christmas cards and presents are delivered to loved ones on time, and for all they do year-round.”

Michael Moore, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager, said:

“Our postmen and women are working extremely hard to deliver Christmas cards, letters and parcels to people in Sandwich. We are grateful that Craig visited the office to see our operation and to support the team.

“We’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings and to please also use the postcode as this helps us greatly in the job that we do at this busy time.”