Opinion – Seeing Red: Labour’s enormous challenge for Thanet

Cllr Karen Constantine

The Labour Party succeeded in taking back control of Thanet District Council on October 10. Whilst we obviously welcome this, we are keenly aware of the enormous challenge on our hands to start to deal with the complicated issues and challenges in Thanet that concern so many, and sadly blight lives. We are up for that challenge. We know, for instance, in some wards child poverty is running at historically high rates. In Newington 51% of children live below the breadline. This must be reversed.

Thanet is caught between a rock and a hard place. A very hard place. It’s the poor relative to the rest of largely wealthy Kent. Our County Council do not choose to use their phenomenal £1.1b budget to assist us, nor to help boost our local economic outlook. For instance, there was no financial assistance forthcoming to save Montague House, a privately run home for the elderly in Eastcliff.

This means vulnerable and aged residents will have to be moved. Local jobs may be lost. Nor are Thanet contracts offered to local companies to help create local jobs. The recent Margate Turner prize has seen lucrative contracts and much needed work being awarded to companies outside Thanet. Labour favour a community wealth building approach where we create wealth in our own local economy that more directly benefits residents.

Nationally we know the picture for many people is bleak. 14 million people are living in poverty. The United Nations rapporteur on Poverty, Philip Alston stated in his report “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and callous approach”. UK food banks have warned that its users are “on the brink of starvation” as demands for their services soars and supplies run low.

Combine this with falling life expectancy and shockingly, rising infant mortality, not to mention central government cuts to public spending, which mean we have seen 60p cut from every pound of funding to local authorities. Labour have a huge task and I believe we must return a Labour Government at the next election in order to reverse these trends and to implement a transformational manifesto which will restore hope and decent standards of living and that will create jobs aligned to the climate emergency.

During the eventful TDC full council meeting on 10th October. I spoke out about some of the issues that are prevalent across Thanet. Overflowing bins, the housing shortage, East Kent housing safety problems, rough sleepers, the very many families struggling to make ends meet, and the need to value and support our council staff. I tried to point out that much of what we are struggling with has been bought about by austerity. I fully believe that austerity has caused great hardship and pain and was a political choice not a necessity.

As politicians we need to recognise that dealing with the inevitable crushing impact of poverty, seeking the means to support residents in keeping the basics together is a big ask. I’m heartbroken at seeing so many struggling. From dealing with the nightmare of trying to find and keep a decent home, to fighting for PIP, for our disabled residents whose need for this ‘welfare’ payment, the struggle and pain is blatantly obvious.

At the same time, there’s no doubt in my mind, that there is a huge appetite from the public for politicians of all colours to understand the need to work together, collaboratively, imaginatively and purposefully to tackle Thanet’s myriad issues.

I’ve had conversations with many of my fellow councillors who all have compassion and a sense of decency and we are determined to pull our weight together.

But, we must not minimise what has happened with the introduction of Universal Credit, the lack of strategic investment to boost our local economy, the devastating impact of removing the disability living allowance, the introduction of the bedroom tax, the rise of zero hour contracts, coupled with a moribund local labour market.

Recently I was at the local tribunal court in Margate to represent a family who have been massively disadvantaged by moving onto Universal Credit, which has ensured they have been suffering and living in poverty for the past 12 months – unnecessarily. I have met so many families struggling and getting into housing debt, sometimes ending up homeless. I’ve met mothers who being unable to cope with the demands of the ‘system’ have placed their children into foster care. Absolutely unbelievable in this, the fifth richest nation. (And please no judgements). We are seeing more and more people to driven to desperation. The despondency is palpable.

The Conservative record is frankly appalling, 700 Youth centres closed, along with 1000 Sure Start Centres, 100 NHS walk-in centres and 500 libraries across the country. At the same time we have seen 2000 food banks opened and 1.4 milliion families using them to survive. All these changes have led to an increase in homelessness, hunger and even suicide. We’ve seen that tragedy hit hard locally.

So the challenge now must be to work together, to thrash out a plan for that protects our most vulnerable, that boosts our local economy, that delivers improved services to Thanet residents and that balances the budget.

We need all hands on deck! No game playing, hard work and utter determination to get this job done.

My commitment is 100% You elected me and I will payback your trust and confidence. But to make this work we need to recognise the remit of Thanet DC only covers so much and that there is reliance on County Council and Central Government to provide infrastructure and funding for roads, education and health etc. All vital elements of a thriving society.

Labour now being in control of TDC is a stepping stone. The change we need can only be achieved with a Labour government at Westminster.

26 Comments

  1. I hope we have a election soon and put back conservatives as labour are a party of decisions that border on insanity

    • How anyone who either earns less than £100,000 pa, or has £100M in an off shore account, or both, votes Tory is beyond me. It is boggling to think that this most deprived bit of the UK returns not one but two tory mps.

    • What planet do you live on Keith Payne? Why are you content to see people living in deprived circumstances?

  2. Is it insane to want decent housing, end poverty and a return to people enjoying their lives, what is insane is a system that is rigged against 99 percent of the population so the billionaires can screw the rest of us.

    • Barry, once again you are demonstrating why you aren’t fit for government with your phrase ‘a system which is rigged against 99% of the population etc.’
      As I have pointed out before, the majority of tax is paid by the top 5% of earners.
      Does your hatred of billionaires extend to people like Bill Gates whose philanthropy is helping the third world rid itself of diseases?
      Anyway, if the current Labour leadership were to gain power, people with wealth and aspirations will leave the country leaving more tax to be paid by the less well off.
      A trillion pound spending spree will bankrupt the economy, putting up interest rates, causing people to lose their houses and jobs as businesses won’t be able to employ them. That will happen in part because Labour is planning to increase corporation tax.
      Of course you don’t mention these things as you prefer your sound bite phrases.

      • You’ve explained your point rather well.
        “The majority of tax is paid by the top 5% earners”.
        So, the wealthy and thus powerful and influential, make sure that tax regimes and financial controls are skewed to favour them.
        According to a recent article in the “Sun” newspaper, 50% of adults don’t pay tax – because they don’t earn enough money to pay tax. (https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/9667319/half-adults-dont-pay-income-tax/)
        The top rate of tax under Thatcher dropped from 83% to 60% (ie the very rich got a tax boost of 23%) whilst the base rate dropped by a mere 3%.
        Your argument about “if the current Labour leadership were to gain power, people with wealth and aspirations will leave the country leaving more tax to be paid by the less well off” is alarming. If prosecuted to its logical conclusion, then the very poorest should actually pay wealthy people to stay here.
        Too late.
        For decades manufacturers have been outsourcing production to China and Banglasesh to make even bigger profits.
        As for a “trillion pound spending spree” .. how much do you think Boris’ ambitious Queen’s Speech plans will cost us?

        • They don’t pay tax because the personal allowance has been raised to £12000. That was done by a Conservative government and personal allowances were raised when Lib Dems were in coalition.

          • No one on Minimum wage should pay tax! I know someone who takes home just £7.02 an hour on minimum wage, after tax, how can anyone be expected to live a full life on that, no wonder there are people begging, its more lucrative!

  3. Yes agree with all that but can you first sort out the shambolic TDC management team and get some P45s dished out ?

  4. Labour, you are having a laugh, they are the biggest joke, the sooner they are booted out the better, one day of them in any sort of control is one day too long, and as for Labour at Westminster, which is it to be,Corbyn, Watson, and is it in or out?? Or shall we just shake them all about and do the Oki Coki!!

    • I would like to see a proper socialist government in power, one which works on behalf of ordinary people not on behalf of rich landowners and business men/women. One which does not try to control the media and keep the general public in ignorance. One which spends money on education and health services, not because it must but because it wants to, because it knows that’s what is needed by the majority of the population.

    • Its amazing what years of indoctrination by the Daily Mail, Express, and the Sun can do isn’t it? My guess is “Woody” you have never read the Labour Party manifesto, so for your benefit here it is, and incidentally I am not a member of any political party!

      1) Build one million council houses. 2) Train 10,000 more police, which is a realistic figure. 3) Create smaller Primary schools. 4) Create a Social Care service. 5) Get GP appointments when you need one. 6) Re-nationalise trains/post office/electricity/gas after their franchises expire. 7) Provide free 30 hours of child care. 8) End Zero hour contracts. 9) Abolish University fees. 10) Provide Free school meals. 11) End Hospital parking fees. 12) Abolish Bedroom Tax. Price cap gas & electricity at no more than £1,000 per year. 13) Increase the Minimum Wage to £10.00 an hour. 14) Free Prescriptions. 15) Increase GP numbers. 16) Scrap Tuition Fees. 17) Reverse Legal Aid cuts.

      WHATS NOT TO LIKE?

      All the above has been properly costed, and will be paid by increasing tax rates to 45% for those earning more than £80,000 a year, and 50% for those earning over £123,000 pa. Corporation tax would be increased to 26%. The reason why all the right wing largely foreign owned media hate Labour, and slag off Jeremy Corbyn, is because they won’t be able to salt their money away in off shore tax havens like they do now without paying the same rate of tax ordinary people pay! Britain in in the top ten countries that allow people to do this, that’s why the ruling class are scared of Labour, and Jeremy Corbyn!

  5. Both Labour and Conservatives have seen to the ruination of the beautiful area known as THANET.
    Now
    Labour holds the seat, they should co-alise with the T.I.’s (who got them in) a lot more. T.I. we’re ignored by Bayford & Co, and let down several times by un-fulfilled “promises”. However, Bayford & Co. are now history, and I look forward to a pleasant inter-action the T,I.’s, Labour, and Green Councillors to do their absolute best at sorting things out for the people of THANET. PLEASE!

    • Robster well put indeed and I also welcome what councillor Constantine says on the whole. It is about time both of the so called big two listen to the rest of us who are fed up with their tit for tat waring and putting themselves first (MPs in the main) instead of thinking and doing what is right for the people who elected them in now the rest of the parties will put thanet ahead of themselves. Yes Labour has the leader that is fine but you have to remember if it’s not right for your area there is no gaurentees it will be passed. All opposition parties worked together to get this result for Thanet now we all have to agree everything that is agreed in council Chambers is for the better of all of Thanet which ever town or village we live in. Their will be things some of us don’t like but if it is right for the majority then so be it. Their are and always will be certain things that will only be for a certain town or village but they must not be agreed to the detriment of another town or village. I believe we have a chance for thanet to put itself on the map as the council who put its people first.

    • The Robster and Big Chris have both hit the nail on the head.

      We need to see the Council Chamber being a little less like the school playground with all the name-calling and finger pointing with the Red gang versus the Blue gang.

      Councillors need to start acting like responsible citizens in positions of privilege and power to make changes and improvements for the betterment of Thanet and its residents. That is the job for which they were elected.

      We can only hope that the tin pot politicians read these comments and take heed.

  6. Ending the ridiculous outsourcing of our housing stock to a contractor in Folkestone is a good start. Any Tory want to defend this set-up ……. thought not! We can both save money and get a better service for our tenants and leaseholders – and dare I say it, start building lots of new council homes as well.

  7. Why is it “Obvious” that we are happy that Labour are now in control of TDC?
    I’m certainly NOT happy!

    • The “we” obviously applied to members of the Labour Group and it would be a bit odd if they weren’t happy. Presumably Anne Swithinbank you were happy with the unswept roads, alleys never cleared, lack of any community safety work, poor housing management, strange planning decisions and a total failure to make Thanet safe and clean.

  8. Finger pointing is point scoring saying I am better than you which is very childish.
    Officers are the ones giving advice and making wrong decisions about money laundering companies like arrowgrass… My arse!
    Spank those colluding pair
    Labour Party shame on you for
    Port debt
    Animal rights debt
    Ramsgate seafront decision
    Shame on you no better running a piss up in a house of ill repute with lives at risk… EAST KENT HOUSING
    Labour friends of Israel
    Conservative friends of Israel
    Liberal Democrats friends of Israel
    Israel 🇮🇱 is your party and where money goes so yes… Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iran and Iraq.. Is the bigger picture.
    Ruined by Labour this town will regret putting you in leadership… It ain’t over here yet.
    You said you were going on that BBC programme would I lie to you… Truth is you are all the same…
    A tory who lied about Ramsgate seafront so did Labour… Liars all of you.

  9. Before the last local elections I went to a hustings meeting to hear what candidates from all the political parties had to say. It seemed to be agreed by the majority there that night that cross-party cooperation was the way forward in local politics, especially in Thanet. What a pity most of the “old” councillors weren’t there and are still objecting to good ideas on principle because they are from either the red, blue, or any other political party. May I suggest that the cross-party Committee system gets adopted very soon at TDC, for a start.

  10. You give space to Craig Mackinlay. Surely you should now give space to the other candidates now selected for the Sooth Thanet constituency? Please invite Rebecca Gordon -Nisbet and Becky Wing now to use as much space as you allowed to Mr Mackinlay

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