Just coming out of November and Santa is already making an appearance at the various Christmas Fairs across the constituency – he’s a busy man.
The Budget of last week was not quite as generous as Santa, but there was plenty to be cheerful about. The ‘rabbit out of the hat’, although not entirely unexpected, was the Stamp Duty relief for first time buyers of exemption from charge of the first £300,000 of value. The average first purchase type of property in Thanet is realistically nearer to £200,000 so the relief in real cash terms is worth £1,500. This was a Budget to get housebuilding into a higher gear, vital if we are to match demand with real affordable homes in the right places. I was also pleased to see that there are to be no duty increases across wine, beer and spirits save for high strength artificially strong ciders. Fuel duty was also frozen – there had been fears that diesel drivers would be penalised at the pumps, so I’m pleased that this did not arise. In addition, there was an increase to the tax-free personal allowance, and an increase to the National Living Wage from April 2018. Put together, this represents a real increase in take home pay for the lowest paid of over £3,000 since 2010. This is great news. Also increases to parts of education spending, the NHS and preparations for Brexit.
All in all a fairly benign Budget that I was pleased with.
I’ve long been interested in the drugs debate, and have always been steadfastly against any form of downgrading and liberalisation. In my mind, the effects on society of abandoning a higher proportion of the population to wasted lives, economic inactivity, mental and physical health problems is a sufficient counter to often heard calls for legalisation. I presented a 90 minute debate in Parliament last week titled “The human and financial cost of drug addiction”. I had become alarmed at the rise of an artificial heroin substitute called Fentanyl now sweeping the USA. The US has experienced a 21% increase in drug deaths from 2015 to 2016, with this new killer at its core. A staggering 64,000 drugs deaths were recorded in the USA last year (vs 2,600 in the UK). I also looked at the effects of cannabis legalisation in Colorado from 2012. The effect has been a rise in cannabis usage and traffic deaths where cannabis intoxication was found to have been a factor. Kent roads are seeing a rise in drug related accidents and deaths too over recent years, so this is a real issue that I wanted to highlight. I’m never one to avoid contentious debate topics.
I continue with my work on the Brexit select committee. One local Brexit dividend will be new freedoms for our local fishing fleet so am working as hard as I can to ensure we have a new domestic fishing policy that breathes new life into this proud local industry.
Lots coming out of Thanet District Council. Talk once more of a three ship ferry service from Ramsgate to Ostend for ‘early in the new year’ but sadly we’ve been here before, I frankly don’t believe it. Crisis in the parking department has been reported to me, and huge disquiet about the local plan that will go to Councillors in January. It is my view that ‘no plan is better than a bad plan’. What is being presented is a bad one and I hope that Councillors across the political spectrum will vote it down. I’m happy to take the case to the Secretary of State that whilst the future of Manston remains undecided, a Thanet with Manston and aviation is a vastly different place from a Thanet with Manston as a bulk housing development. Delay is best – we need to get this right.