A Thanet Jobs Fair, Ramsgate regeneration, listed properties and stroke services

Lots of constituency events dominated my early October diary, some hugely successful, some frustrating and some truly enjoyable.

I hosted, with Sir Roger Gale and local JobCentres another Jobs, Skills and Apprenticeship Fair. This time in the ‘Hall by the Sea’ within Dreamland. It was well received by the 1,000 attendees. We gathered a huge number of local and Kent based employers. Many of these employers had jobs and apprenticeship opportunities on offer now but many are struggling to find candidates for the opportunities available which always seems curious when Thanet perpetually lags behind employment rates in comparison to South East norms. I know that jobs are out there, many are on our doorstep. If help is needed, my office is always available to signpost constituents in the right direction.

I held my regular Ramsgate Regeneration Alliance (RRA) meeting. We enjoyed the expansive update from Vattenfall about their forthcoming application to extend their offshore wind farm under a Development Consent Order. Some additional new jobs will be created in Ramsgate as a result of any successful application. The application means extensive local consultation that you can be a part of. The frustrating element of the RRA meeting was that we have ground-hog day agenda items that are seemingly insoluble and appear each time for discussion. Ramsgate commercial port is one of these, but Golden Sands/Pleasurama similarly remains as one of those significant pieces of the Ramsgate jigsaw that remains unsolved. We had a lively discussion about public conveniences, and rightly so. A recent blockage at the height of the season and ‘out of order’ status was caused by somebody attempting to flush a sizeable nappy, so many inconveniences are caused by irresponsible behaviour. A similar couldn’t care less attitude is at the root of litter problems throughout the Isle. Litter doesn’t make itself. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the many volunteers and groups who regularly litter pick areas to complement the council’s own work.

A visit to the Shell Grotto in Margate was long overdue and truly fascinating.

I held another Listed Property owners forum in Sandwich, with the invite extended to all South Thanet listed property owners. A great day of advice available from professionals, and it gave me an opportunity to hold a four hour surgery with residents. Frustrations remain with the planning system making listed property works expensive due to application fees, pettifogging rules and then any works, often bespoke, costing more than ‘off the shelf’ solutions available to those in newer properties not caught by listing or conservation zone restrictions.

Finally, I have been working extensively on the issue of stroke services across Kent, with the preferred proposal for East Kent being a Hyper Acute Unit (HASU) in Ashford, not at the QEQM. I had the opportunity of speaking at a recent public rally held outside the hospital. My advice to campaigners is that we stick to the subject of stroke services and not allow the debate to descend into a political rant which is a sure way of ensuring that nobody listens.

The end of the article – and no mention of Brexit. There, I’ve gone and done it!

Craig wins reprieve for patients of New Street Dental Practice in Sandwich

Craig Mackinlay MP has been assured by NHS England that the dental service in New Street, Sandwich, will not come to an end in March 2019 and will continue until such time as a permanent solution is found.

The South Thanet MP today received the assurance after pressing the Director of Commissioning Operations at NHS England South, Felicity Cox, on the matter last month.

The dental needs assessment has now been completed and NHS England have identified a number of areas across Kent, Surrey and Sussex where they are planning to procure new practices or increases to existing ones, including Thanet. NHS England will undertake a wider consultation in the next few weeks and put forward proposals to the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for discussion. Following this they will look to more widely engage with local communities to ensure they are able to provide feedback on the proposals before commencing procurement.

Previously, Craig raised the closure of Church Hill Dental Surgery in Ramsgate at Prime Minister’s Questions days before the five year contract between NHS England (South East) and Kent Community NHS Foundation Trust ended on 31 March this year. The practice served 8,000 patients, but no replacement was put in place.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

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“The feedback I am receiving from my constituents suggests that NHS England’s efforts to address the inadequate dental provision in Ramsgate in particular, and South Thanet more generally, are falling far below the expectations local people need, want and deserve.

“Until today, and specifically in respect of the contract for the New Street Dental Practice in Sandwich which was due to expire in March 2019, we had received no information as to the steps that have been taken to ensure the contract is either renewed, or, failing that, that adequate alternative provision is put in place.

 “Therefore, this temporary reprieve for the service in Sandwich is welcome, but our fight to reverse the lack of NHS dentistry locally continues.”

Craig attends opening of £160m Biomass Plant in Discovery Park, Sandwich

Craig Mackinlay MP has attended the opening of a new £160m Biomass Plant in Discovery Park near Sandwich in Kent, one of Europe’s leading Science and Technology hubs.

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The Biomass Plant will use locally sourced wood fuel to generate sustainable heat and power for Discovery Park and up to 50,000 households. This will significantly reduce energy costs, the local area’s carbon footprint and add to the UK’s energy security by providing a constant base-load of energy provision. South Thanet is at the forefront of new renewable energy technology with its unique mix of offshore wind, solar and biogas with no other UK constituency with this mix of energy generation. The development has also provided a boost to the local economy, with 400 full time jobs during the construction phase and plans for 30 permanent jobs established at the site for the plant’s lifetime of 20 years.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“I cannot stress enough how important and beneficial this Biomass Plant will be, not just for my South Thanet constituency, but for the whole of East Kent, thanks to the investment. 

“As well as meeting Discovery Park’s needs, the Plant will be able to produce power for tens of thousands of homes and deliver CO2 savings of approximately 100,000 tonnes every year. This is in addition to the jobs and economic benefits it will provide to Kent.

“Sandwich is a very welcome home for the Plant.”

Brexit, a new £160m biomass power station, cyber security and this Friday's Jobs Fair

With Party conference season in full flow, I write this on the first formal day of the Conservative Party conference. Doubtless the agenda will be dominated by Brexit, which to many, including myself as a long-standing supporter of it, seems to be a never ending saga of twists and turns when most people, no matter what their referendum preference are simply saying to me ‘just get on with it’. I support a SuperCanada arrangement of free trade, zero tariffs, mutual recognition of perfectly good standards across food, goods and services. Add to this sensible co-operation on security and data then this truly satisfies the mantra of ‘free trade and friendship’ which most people would see as the sensible outcome. After the shameful spectacle of the Salzburg summit, the EU have shown themselves once more as elitist, remote from the electorate, behaving like an aloof oligarchy of old. The treatment of our PM was shameful and insults us all as a nation.

The Labour conference was muddled on Brexit despite their 2017 manifesto commitment, with vague offers of a further referendum and offers of loads more ‘free stuff’ with no plan as to how to pay for it. The experience of Venezuela should be a signpost as to the failure of Socialism. Capitalism is not perfect but the global experience of it is its unique ability to have raised a billion people out of poverty in less than a generation.

There is much to be cheerful about locally. I had the great privilege of being part of the opening of the new £160m biomass power station at the Discovery Park site. It has been under construction, quietly and without fuss for two years and creates 30 permanent local jobs. Funded by Danish pension funds (therein is a lesson as to how other countries commit pension investments into long-term, stable cash flow returns) the project is technologically simple – burning sustainable coppiced wood from across the South East, some 240,000 tons of it per year that would otherwise be little used, allowing new growth in farmed woodlands. This adds to the unique renewable energy technology in South Thanet alongside our offshore wind, solar farms and biogas generation. I’m not always the biggest fan of renewables, primarily due to unit cost, reliability and taxpayer subsidy in a global market, but energy security is important, and this new plant offers that in a sustainable way.

I attended the Thanet and East Kent Chamber of commerce business breakfast. This is a hugely successful business group offering support to existing businesses and encouragement to new across East Kent. The presentation was on Cyber security both business and personal. Lots of free information and support out there on how to keep personal and business data safe. This is a growth area for crime across banking, intellectual property and sheer devilment by the hackers. Keep safe.

This Friday (5th) I am hosting, with DWP, another Jobs Fair. This time in the ‘Hall by the Sea’ in Dreamland. We have a huge number of local and national employers on hand to guide and help. Thanet has a higher than the South East average rate of unemployment; this is another initiative to try to put that right. All are welcome to attend between 10.30am and 4pm.

Craig calls on local community groups to apply for the Aviva Community Fund

Craig Mackinlay MP is encouraging all community groups in South Thanet to apply for funding via the Aviva Community Fund, which launched last week.

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The Aviva Community Fund awards funding of up to £25,000 for local community projects across a range of categories such as skills for life, health & wellbeing and community support. Last year Aviva had almost 600 winners, and this year they have even more awards up for grabs.

Applications can be made until 12 noon on 9 October via this link, with winners announced early next year.

You can find more information about how to apply on Aviva’s website, via this link: https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/voting/campaign/getinvolved

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“Last year there were 3 winners of the Aviva Community Fund in Thanet alone, and so I am delighted to once again urge all community groups and charities in South Thanet to apply. It is an excellent initiative, with funding of up to £25,000 available for a variety of community projects, and so even one successful application could have a real impact on the lives of people in the local area.”

Looking ahead to the Autumn Budget and a proposal to reform Capital Gains Tax on the sale of unused second homes

As we approach the Autumn Budget, MPs have the opportunity to advance their ideas on tax and spending to the Chancellor. The spending part is always easy. We all have projects and injustices that we’d like to see solved with more dollops of money. The money does not come out of thin air, the government has no money – only taxpayers’ money that it has taken through the myriad taxes that we all face.

The problem is that despite having the highest level of tax take as a percentage of the economy since the 1950s and for the first time ever, government tax receipts exceeding £600 Bn, we are still spending more than that to the tune of £35 Bn last year. Some spending relates to long overdue capital infrastructure projects, and it is to be welcomed that day to day revenue expenditure is now broadly in balance. Contrast that with the spending black hole we inherited in 2010 when the previous Labour government was borrowing 1 in every 4 pounds to finance expenditure. This was fantasy economics and was simply piling on debt for future generations to pay and had to stop. My Conservative government has added to the national debt for sure, but has reduced the annual overhang from a staggering £150 Bn in 2010 to the £35 Bn of today.

So the basis for MPs representations to the Chancellor must be revenue neutral, or positive to the Treasury. That makes it a tough ask. There is much debate about the fairness of the Business rating system, which penalises traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses allowing a perceived unfairness in favour of virtual businesses like Amazon, Google and other online giants. Should we tax them more and tax traditional businesses less or would this stifle success? A true moral maze question, but we all have our own ability to steer our personal spending back to the High Street and away from the convenience of the internet.

A key tax change I have advanced is a Capital Gains Tax relief for those selling unused holiday home properties, often held by older people who come from out of area. It sounds generous on paper to those who are fortunate enough to hold such assets, but the reality is that too many smaller properties, ideal first-time buyer sized, and often in tourist locations where there are housing pressures, are simply bound up, unused and unlikely to ever be freed up until the death of the owner because of the penal nature of the tax system. Freeing up such units could liberate hundreds of thousands of properties onto the market, and save green spaces earmarked for development in the process.

I’ve had numerous media appearances over the past few weeks on a diverse range of issues covering the rising fear of county lines/drug and gang violence in Kent, lots of Brexit issues as I advance my opposition to the Chequers proposals in favour of a wide-ranging Canada style free trade agreement, women and Burqas following Boris Johnson’s high octane article in August on the issue. I also managed to get coverage for a local resident of Broadstairs who has faced 9 years of sheer hell from both Southern Water and her insurance company – Ageas following a water leak of 9 years ago.

I do hope that jobseekers will take the opportunity to visit my Thanet Jobs fair, organised in conjunction with the DWP locally at the “Hall by the Sea”, Dreamland on Friday 5th October from 10 am to 4pm, and that listed property owners take advantage of the Listed Property Owners forum at the Guildhall, Sandwich on Saturday 13th October. With 1,500 listed properties across South Thanet this is an opportunity to get advice from specialists. Email me for any further details that you need at craig.mackinlay.mp@parliament.uk.

Latest figures show more people in South Thanet are saving for their retirement

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, has welcomed new figures showing that, due to changes to workplace pensions, 7000 more people in the South Thanet constituency, and over 9 million people nationally, are now saving for their retirement. 

Auto-enrolment in workplace pensions was introduced so that more workers can save for retirement and have greater financial security and independence in their retirement.

Figures released last week show that the number of workplace pension schemes has reached a record high of 41.1 million in 2017, up nearly 50 per cent in the last six years.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

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“By introducing automatic enrolment, we’re transforming the way people save for retirement.

“Our careful management of the economy – as well as important changes to help people save more for their retirement – means more families can plan for the long-term with the security of a pension.

“For a whole generation, workplace pension saving is now the new normal, but there’s more to do to help more people than ever before build an enjoyable and secure retirement.”

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, said:

“Today’s figures show just how extraordinarily successful automatic enrolment has been in revolutionising pensions saving in this country, and has no sign of stopping.

“With almost 10 million more people saving in a pension through auto-enrolment, statistics are showing the total membership of workplace pension schemes is now at a record high of 41.1 million in 2017, up nearly 50 per cent in the last six years.

“Not only are millions more people moving into work, but they are putting money aside for their futures as a result of our reforms, showing we are returning to a society of savers where individuals are in control of their own money.”