Remembrance, the Ageless Thanet 50+ Festival, Diwali and Brexit

Events of Remembrance to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War dominated both locally and in Westminster over the past week. St. Margaret’s Church, effectively the Church for Parliament serving both the House of Commons and the Lords, standing in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, held a service for Parliamentarians in exactly the same way as that led by David Lloyd George, the WW1 Prime Minister upon the Armistice in 1918. Locally, the Act of Remembrance was observed with record numbers attending services and memorials across Thanet. This year I laid a wreath at Broadstairs and attended other events across the constituency. The Proms in the Park at the Memorial Recreation Ground, organised by Bradstow School was a unique opportunity to visit exhibits, including a recreation of life in the trenches. World War 1 was in most people’s minds this year but we similarly remembered all those who fought for our freedoms across all wars.

Other local events included a stall at the Ageless Thanet 2018 Festival at St. George’s School, Broadstairs. Over a thousand people attended to find out more about what is on offer to the older generation across the Isle. Over 50s qualify (including myself) to be a part of what Ageless Thanet can offer. The wealth of activities to encourage healthier living and to prevent isolation were key. It was clear that we have far more on offer to older generations than elsewhere in Kent, something to celebrate. I had the opportunity to discuss a huge range of issues with residents in the form of a stand-up surgery covering national policy gripes and groans and more local issues of concern. Did you know there is an ‘App’ for smartphones to connect with Ageless Thanet’s activities and businesses offering discounts?

I had never attended a Diwali celebration before, so was pleased to attend the event, a Hindu annual festival at Newington Community Centre. A colourful and enjoyable evening with great food, entertainment and dancing – I did take part so look out for that tucked away on Facebook somewhere!

I finish with Brexit. The resignation of Jo Johnson, Boris’s brother as a Transport Minister is hugely significant. Jo Johnson supported remain at the referendum, indeed we shared a platform on opposite sides of the argument at a ‘hustings’ in the City of London during the referendum campaign. He sees the current deal proposed by the Prime Minister as the worst of all worlds – the UK becoming a perpetual rule taker from the EU with no say, and with no way out and that it simply won’t do as it does not pass the Brexit ‘sniff test’ with voters. I agree entirely and will not support the deal in its current form.

Craig supports Ageless Thanet 50+ Festival 2018

 Craig with one of his caseworkers, Samantha Wheatley.

Craig with one of his caseworkers, Samantha Wheatley.

South Thanet’s Craig Mackinlay MP supported the annual Ageless Thanet 50+ Festival to provide advice to people over the age of 50 wanting to find out what services, activities and opportunities are available to them across Thanet.

The festival was held on Sunday 4 November at St George’s School in Broadstairs and led by Social Enterprise Kent CIC.

Admission was free and attendees had the opportunity to try new things such as Tai Chi, Japanese drumming, singing, samba, belly dancing and healthy cooking to name just a few.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“I was very pleased to support this year’s Ageless Thanet 50+ Festival by offering advice to the huge number of people who visited and intend to live on the Isle in later life. 

“Thanet really is a great place to grow older as this annual event clearly shows.”

Axing of business rates on public toilets “very welcome", says South Thanet MP

Craig Mackinlay MP has welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement in the budget of mandatory business rates relief on public toilets whether publicly or privately owned.

Craig has been lobbying ministers on this issue on behalf of the local authorities in his South Thanet constituency that have complained to him about the costs of business rates on their public toilets.

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Welcoming the announcement, Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“I have always been opposed to the notion that public conveniences should be liable to business rates and had lobbied the former Chancellor to get Clause 9 of the Local Government Finance Bill 2016-17 onto the statute book, so was delighted that it made its way that far.

“Because of the General Election last year, however, the Bill did not make further progress and so this perverse situation continued.

“In the case of conveniences in Wingham in my constituency, business rates cost the council in excess of £2,000 per year to support a non-revenue earning public service.

“So this week’s announcement will be very welcome not just to Wingham Parish Council and Dover District Council, but by local authorities up-and-down our country.”

Craig secures assurance on glucose monitoring system prescription from East Kent NHS CCGs

After lobbying local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Craig Mackinlay MP has welcomed their recent decision to allow the FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system to be prescribed on the NHS to sufferers of type 1 diabetes. This decision was made following a recent review and evidence of the benefits the glucose monitoring system can have to coping with the disease.

The list of CCGs that will be following this new policy include: NHS Thanet CCG, NHS Canterbury and Coastal CCG, NHS Ashford CCG and NHS South Kent Coast CCG. It is expected that prescriptions for the glucose monitoring system to patients with type 1 diabetes will start later in the New Year.

This issue made national headlines earlier this year with calls across the country to end what is being known as a prescription ‘postcode lottery’, where glucose monitoring systems may or may not be available on your local NHS depending on where you live.

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Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“I’m delighted that our local East Kent CCGs have decided to end the postcode lottery and provide the FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system on the NHS, which has even been highlighted in the national media.

“No one should underestimate the impact that type 1 diabetes can have on your daily quality of life, which is something that we all take for granted.

“If not monitored properly, it can sometimes result in blindness or require amputation if complications arise.

“Thanet in particular has been shown to have a higher rate of diabetes than the rest of the UK and, although this is not immediate, it is a significant step in the right direction.”

Craig wins commemorative coin to mark the UK’s exit from the EU

Craig Mackinlay MP’s campaign for a commemorative coin to mark the UK leaving the European Union received the support of Government today after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, agreed to a special Brexit 50p coin in the Budget.

After putting the idea to ministers back in April, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, agreed with the South Thanet MP that “there could be an argument for one to commemorate the next chapter in our national story.”

Mr Jenrick passed Craig’s recommendation onto the Secretary of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee on the Design of Coins, Medals, Seals and Decorations (RMAC), Dr Kevin Clancy, who advises the Chancellor on such matters.

The Royal Mint will produce the coin, which will be available in Spring 2019.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

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“The 50p coin has long been the coin of choice to mark important dates in our history.

“Such coins were produced on our accession to the European Economic Community, the UK's Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the completion of the Single European Market, and even one for the 100th Anniversary of Beatrix Potter.

“The truly vast number of previous commemorative 50p coins cover many landmark events, some quite surprising, and so a coin that marks the UK’s exit from the EU is very appropriate.

“I am grateful to the Exchequer Secretary, Mr Jenrick, for the keen interest he has taken in this matter and to the Chancellor for giving the idea final approval.”

Economic forecasts, business rates and post office re-openings

Parliamentary business has been fairly light over the past two weeks, but that will change this week with the Budget debate. As ever seems to be the case, much has been trailed in advance. Tax receipts are £13Bn higher than forecast at this time last year. This tells us a couple of things; the economy is in good shape, reflected in low unemployment figures and wage growth, rising exports and Brexit resilience far higher than the doomsayers would have you believe. Secondly that forecasts are rarely to be trusted. If you were to ask a dozen economists for a forecast, you’d get 13 different answers with none of them proving correct. The lesson here is not to believe the constant stream of negativity that we’re fed on an almost daily basis.

I look forward to fuel duty being frozen for the 9th year, infrastructure spending particularly on roads, new money for mental health support in schools, help by way of business rate reductions to smaller businesses and additional funding for the Universal Credit system. At the heart of UC is to make work pay in all circumstances, I am hoping that some of the rougher edges of the system, notably the withdrawal rate, can be amended. Currently an additional £1 of earnings can lead to a loss of 63p of UC as well as a tax and National Insurance charge. This is too high and can be a disincentive to work, particularly if travel fares and additional child costs are taken into account.

It was a pleasure to open two new Post Office counters, one in Newington Road, Ramsgate and one in Broadstairs, replacing services that had been lost. With traditional banks closing branches across the country, Post Office services become ever more important for banking transactions as well as providing more traditional postal services.

With the capital cost of solar panels reducing significantly, electricity so produced by this source is finally in reach of more traditional methods of energy production such as coal and gas. There has been a perversity in the business rates system in that businesses doing the right thing and investing in solar panels to produce electricity for their own use, often on the roof of their warehouse for instance, suffered a business rate revaluation (upwards) reflecting the enhanced value of their premises. However, such businesses feeding the electricity produced into the national grid do not. Confused – so was I, so I raised this with the Energy Minister in Parliament who gave an assurance that this differing treatment would be addressed.

MPs have the opportunity of proposing a ‘Guest Beer’ to be sold in the House of Commons. I was therefore pleased that I could invite Mike Beaumont from the Four Candles, Broadstairs to Strangers Bar to enjoy his locally brewed ‘East Kent Bitter’ which is the guest ale to be enjoyed on a cross party basis over the next couple of weeks.

I hope to see many of you at the Ageless Thanet Festival to be held at St. George’s School, Broadstairs between 10am and 3pm this coming Sunday 4th November. I will be on hand with my caseworkers to offer an on the spot MP surgery. Somewhat worrying with it being for the over 50s that I now qualify to attend!