As I write my regular piece at the start of this week, the details of changes to the Cabinet are emerging, with Sajid Javid taking over as Home Secretary and James Brokenshire replacing him at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. I consider both to be well versed and to be friends of South Thanet constituency, so I look forward to building on those relationships, particularly as we progress the Local Plan.
In Parliament I took part in the final stages of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, having been involved at all stages of its passage through the House of Commons, through Second Reading and its Committee stages. Despite its somewhat dry title, the Bill will ensure that people considering their pensions options are fully advised and less likely to fall for scams, allows for greater regulation of claims management companies – i.e. the PPI/no win no fee accident claim type firms, allows for debt respite and free advice for those facing financial difficulties and gives the Secretary of State powers to prevent cold-calling and unsolicited marketing. I think we will all feel the benefit of the new legislation.
Locally, I held a further Ramsgate Regeneration Alliance meeting and was pleased to welcome Cllr Bob Bayford, the Council Leader and Cllr Rosanna Taylor-Smith, Cabinet Member for Operational Services, to the meeting. It was really pleasing to hear of a new focus on littering, cleaner streets, beaches and public toilets. I’ve always said that public loos are often the first thing visitors see and the last thing they remember. Great to have a positive dialogue with decision makers at Thanet District Council once more.
I had a tour of the public amenities run by Your Leisure on an outsourced basis for TDC. I requested a meeting following complaints that the cost of the annual swim pass at Ramsgate for the retired had been increased substantially. There has been significant investment in the facilities they run, and I was hugely impressed with the breadth of choice now on offer, but as we all know, what should be a flagship regional venue in the Margate Winter Gardens needs an ambitious plan to enhance its future.
I pay a tribute to Cllr Jenny Matterface of Beacon Ward for organising, at short notice, a public meeting to discuss Stagecoach bus services in Broadstairs and the environs, particularly a consultation that will open in May regarding Kent County Council’s ongoing subsidy for the popular no 56 bus route. The meeting attracted close to 300 local residents. There is nothing to be alarmed at, but the successful continuation of this service means that as many residents as possible need to take part in the consultation, details of which will be released shortly. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak to the meeting with my thoughts as to how to ensure the consultation’s conclusions return with the answer of ‘no change here’.
Finally – whilst there was limited and insufficient coverage of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, I felt enormously proud that we play a key role in this unique international club covering a third of the world’s population, with shared values of democracy, systems of law, and the English language as the lingua franca of choice. Surely a unique association that can be of mutual benefit post-Brexit?