Reflecting on the last 12 months and looking forward to the year ahead...

As we approach the New Year, this is a fitting time to reflect on the last 12 months, and look forward to the challenges and opportunities we face in the coming year ahead.

While Brexit has taken up much of government’s time, no one can seriously question the exhaustive efforts of those – from the Prime Minister down – who have been engaged in this process. That’s why it’s so frustrating that much of that effort has been misplaced, not least because essential parts of the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement and non-binding Political Declaration are wholly unacceptable. For the UK to pay £39bn to continue to be subject to great swathes of EU law without being able to influence them and without any binding promises of a trade deal is ridiculous. Canada paid nothing to the EU for its CETA deal and nor should we. We’re the fifth largest economy and should not be afraid of being like most of the rest of the world working on World Trade Organisation rules.

‘Despite Brexit’, as the adage goes, the government has much good news to tell: unemployment at a record low; real wage growth the highest in a decade; and 1.9m more children now in good or outstanding schools. Great achievements that are improving the lives of families in Thanet and across our country.  The economy is in a good place.

Locally, I’m calling upon the NHS in Kent and Medway to look again at the proposal to improve stroke services in the county given that it’s a practical impossibility for Thanet residents to travel to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford within an hour. The only satisfactory outcome is a 4 centre option which upgrades QEQM to include a hyper acute stroke unit for Thanet. Dental provision in areas of the constituency remains a pressing issue for many. While the temporary reprieve I secured for New Street Dental Practice in Sandwich is welcome, my fight to reverse the lack of NHS dentistry locally continues. Like so many areas around the country, Thanet has suffered the loss of a number of bank premises in recent years so I was pleased to be able to officially open two Post Offices, one at Newington, the other in Broadstairs High Street. These new services have been warmly welcomed by residents.

Looking ahead, my main short-to-medium term aims for Ramsgate are to ensure that the town receives its fair share of government regeneration funding, combined with private, heritage-led regeneration. I am working hard to find a long term solution to Ramsgate Port that will create jobs, investment and tourism. Broadstairs is also a special place at the heart of the Thanet Riviera, and I intend to do all that I can to ensure that it remains so. Indeed, my constituency office and most Surgery appointments with constituents are held in Broadstairs. I have also seen a lot of private investment-led improvements in Cliftonville over the years, and I intend to focus on keeping those improvements rolling in, just as publicly-funded regeneration in Margate has delivered such a positive impact on the whole area.

So there’s lots to do. Do enjoy what’s left of 2018 and I’ll see you in 2019 for what will be a significant year.