As I review my diary in order to write my regular piece, it is always remarkable how much ground has been covered over each two week cycle. It started with a discussion on local media about pub closures and the high tax in its various forms applying to the licensed trade. These include high alcohol duty rates, high rents and prices levied by the pub chains, business rates on larger premises, the annual escalator of the minimum wage, and added wage costs in the form of pension auto-enrolment. This is all combined with stiff competition of cheap alcohol from retailers and, I think an overlooked factor – the vast amount of entertainment available to us at home through our TV and the internet. Working lives are radically different from just a generation ago – it was commonplace to have a lunchtime drink with colleagues; pub night out, mid-week was the norm. Both now more unlikely, if not positively frowned upon these days. Lower taxes, which would need to be made up from higher taxes elsewhere might help, but I broadly feel that the world has simply changed.
I attended a truly interesting Kent Investors Network event which brings together ‘business angels’ with early start-up entrepreneurs. The UK is not short of capital, and, for those lucky enough to have funds, traditional investment returns are low. We are rapidly entering an era of crowd-funding away from the traditional banking framework. I’d like to see more connectivity of investors with entrepreneurs in East Kent, so watch this space.
The big news items of the past couple of weeks have been marking the year to Brexit and the increasing number of reports of acceptance of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. I find it hugely disturbing that this pernicious form of racism is being disregarded, if not condoned by a national Party with a once proud past. We can have a view and robust discussion about the politics and policies of Israel, doubtless Israelis have a robust view of UK politics, but when this becomes a racial hatred we enter truly dangerous ground that history bears witness to.
On Brexit, the terms of the ‘implementation period’ are now broadly agreed. I am unhappy that the norms of international law will not apply to our fishing rights from Brexit day of 30th March next year and I have called for direct financial support to our under 10m fleet to ensure that we have a viable industry from 1st January 2021. I am willing to suffer various negative aspects of the implementation period to gain the ultimate prize of normal self-government, albeit 21 months later than I’d have liked.
Health issues in East Kent are very much in the news. The issue of stroke services are emotive, but the views and evidence of health professionals should always be considered. As much as I’d like ‘everything, everywhere’, modern specialised medicine changes that. The announcement of a new medical school for Kent is to be hugely welcomed as is the investment into health ‘super-centres’ working alongside the existing network of local GPs. On all issues, I do like to concentrate on facts and evidence; what is being shown is a demonstrable commitment to positive future healthcare by a government that listens to its local MPs.