As ever a mixed couple of weeks dividing my time between Parliament and the constituency. I was particularly pleased to host Sandwich Women’s Institute for a visit to the Palace of Westminster and to have a lengthy discussion about my role, national and local issues. Also I hosted constituent visits to Prime Minister’s Questions; the tickets are limited as it is always the most popular event of the weekly agenda but I’m always pleased to facilitate where I can.
In Parliament I had the opportunity of raising a couple of nationally significant issues. The first on best value procurement of goods and services by the public sector. A report I undertook with the Taxpayers Alliance found an up to 6 fold difference between amounts paid for the simple item of a ream of photocopier paper by different public bodies. What other procurement horrors lurk out there? This is our taxpayer money and it must be spent well. The second was the more esoteric issue of Inheritance Tax. It is time for a wider debate about capital taxes in general. Capital Gains Tax has been subject to huge changes over the years. Inheritance Tax rules have remained far more static except for the introduction of the Residence Nil Rate Band which can, if complex rules are met, allow an individual to leave £500,000 free of IHT to descendants, and a couple £1m. I argued in Parliament for simplification. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has recognised my interest in all things tax, given my qualifications and experience and has invited me to his inner circle of contributors to the national tax debate.
It is within the constituency that I have been most encouraged with a number of visits to various local institutions and businesses. The Scholars Programme available to Secondary schools introduces University style experiences into the classroom. I discussed the outcome with students at the Charles Dickens School – all were hugely positive about their achievements. My visit to Ramsgate JobCentre gave me the opportunity to discuss the roll out of Universal Credit with staff and claimants. We only hear of when systems fail; I came away impressed with the implementation and how its overall aim of encouraging work is achieving good results.
My visit to the Hornby Centre left me with a smile on my face all day. The size and scope of what is planned by a new philanthropic investor who collects what can only be described as the biggest boys toys in the world left me astounded. Over the next few weeks we will have, on our doorstep, the start of one of the most significant locomotive museums in the world as part of his collection is installed within some of the warehousing that was once at the heart of the Hornby company’s operations.
It gave me great pleasure to present my national award nomination to QEQM’s Alcohol and Substance Misuse Team. This is part of the NHS 70 years celebrations. We have a statistically higher problem with drugs and alcohol in Thanet than the national norm and I salute the nursing team for their work dealing with the resulting health issues and the intrinsic social work that comes with it in trying to turn around broken lives. NHS staff deserve recognition for the outstanding work that they do that is often way beyond the simple contractual requirements of a job. Well done.