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.

A potentially turbulent week ahead...

My regular column generally attempts to cover two things: to reflect on events, usually political, with a report on local community activities that have caught my attention and to give my interpretation of what lies just around the corner. An attempt to give you, from the heart of Westminster, news before it happens. As I write this piece on Monday morning, that rule does not hold true for the potentially turbulent week ahead. And so it is probably best for you to write the news, to delete as appropriate once we reach the end of the week as you read this.

I am of course, trying to give some foresight into how the week will unfold on Brexit votes in Parliament. So, for you to amend: the Parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration was passed/went down by close to 200 votes/was amended and passed/amended and still fell by just under 100 votes/an opposition amendment was passed and the outcome was that the PM went to Brussels to try to amend the backstop/faced a vote of no confidence in the government proposed by the opposition which led to xxxxxxx. You write the rest as the variety of outcomes are as complex as a game of chess, or more labyrinthine than a storyline of the TV series “House of Cards”. At least I tried.

Small Business Saturday has become an important annual event in the national calendar. I’m not sure if it is an Americanism that has crept in, being held on the Saturday after the ‘Black Friday’ sales. It serves to support and celebrate the local businesses, usually owned by local people that form the backbone of our economy with turnover, employment and profits staying local. I was pleased to have the Rt. Hon Mel Stride MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury with us for a business forum at the Pavilion by the Sea, Broadstairs. As the Minister responsible for HM Revenue and Customs, and the Minister who presents the Finance Bill following the Budget, he was on hand to discuss all things tax and to hear many great ideas from the business audience, particularly on VAT registration thresholds.

This being my last column before Christmas, time to look forward to the festive season, which for many is in full swing. I have written some of my cards, am yet to buy any presents, and am yet to put up any decorations. Thankfully that is not true of many boat and business owners in and around Ramsgate Royal Harbour. We have once more a fantastic display which is pulling in the crowds from far and wide. Well done all; this annual effort is truly fantastic and improves every year. For me, I know that the festive season has truly begun following the annual Thanet Male Voice Choir Christmas concert at Holy Trinity Church, Broadstairs supported by the children from Upton Junior School. This year’s charity – SERV (also known as Kent Bloodrunners) provide essential volunteer high speed transport of blood supplies around the county. A great choice.

I wish you a very happy Christmas.

Craig welcomes Modern Industrial Strategy support for Discovery Park

Local MP, Craig Mackinlay, has welcomed a £6.5 million investment for the Kent and Medway EDGE Hub, a teaching and research centre with satellite facilities at the Discovery Park in Sandwich in his South Thanet constituency, as well as Canterbury Christ Church’s Medway Campus and other parts of Kent.

The Modern Industrial Strategy, through the biggest transformation to technical education in a generation, ensures that people can boost their skills to take on the challenges and jobs of the future. Last year, there were 31,080 apprenticeship starts in the South East of England, giving more young people to develop their skills while contributing to a business.  

In the year since the Modern Industrial Strategy was launched, £45 billion has been committed to support local infrastructure, research and development and businesses to back high-skilled jobs in communities across the country.  

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Commenting, Craig Mackinlay MP said: 

“I’m delighted that, as part of our Modern Industrial Strategy, my South Thanet constituency will benefit from a £6.5 million investment for the Kent and Medway EDGE Hub, which has a facility at the Discovery Park in Sandwich.

“This investment will have a very positive impact, and help to ensure that we continue to generate good jobs and higher wages in the future.”