Political Opinion Cllr Karen Constantine: Seeing Red – Salaries and Net Zero Watch

Cllr Karen Constantine

They say a week is a long time in politics, regardless of who you might support politically, the past few weeks have been tumultuous, worrying and perplexing. It’s been a challenge to keep up with all the wriggling and wrangling in Westminster.

The last few days have also seen a cohort of eager, freshly elected politicians of all colours being voted onto a variety of councils up and down the UK. I imagine for them, like the vast majority of people already elected to public service, the values of honesty, transparency and truthfulness in politics matter. As does accountability. The seven Nolan principles of conduct in public life, of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership. Matter, and matter a great deal. Holders of elected public office should act solely in terms of representing their constituents and achieving the best outcomes.

It’s often said that all politicians are on the gravy train. But, consider that most TDC councillors have an allowance – not a wage – of just under £5000. KCC Councillors receive a handsome £17,000 (I take £15k) a lot of councillors are actually doing an enormous amount of work for that allowance. Residents can vote them out, and do so, if they feel their Councillors aren’t putting the required effort in.

By contrast our MPs earn more, much more. You might argue that they have more responsibility and more to do. That ought to be true. Consider South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, he takes his annual salary of £81,932.04 plus £24,000 a year from his business Beak Kemmenoe, Chartered Accountants and Chartered Tax Advisers, and has around £160,000 to run and staff his office and as reimbursement for his own expenses.

With that kind of financial reward I’d expect my local MP, any MP, to be working extremely hard, diligently and making a positive impact.

At a recent public meeting with Southern Water, which I and other community activists like Save Our Seas Ramsgate had relentlessly pressured for, we had the pleasure of being told by Southern Water’s handsomely paid Chief Executive Ian McAulay that improvements to prevent sewerage spills in our seas will be made.

His annual salary for 20-21 was £420,000 plus a £517,000 bonus. It was fantastic to hear about these planned improvements but disheartening to hear him say they would eventually be reflected in our Southern Water bills and that he thought water in the UK is ‘cheap’.

This is especially galling, taking into consideration the eye watering profits privatised utility companies have made. Since these monopolies were privatised in 1989 free of debt and given a “green dowry” of £1bn, more than £6.5bn has been given to shareholders. That money could have, and should have, fixed the problems of antiquated Victorian infrastructure, instead it has lined some very deep pockets. Water is big – and profitable – business.

I objected to our local MP acting as the chair of this public meeting. Although to be fair, he was quite a good chair – but then it’s not a particularly difficult role.

Many of us felt he should have been available to answer questions and to be properly accountable to his constituents. Of course, questions were put to him, but as chair he wasn’t able to fully answer them. That wasn’t my only objection. The venue was out of the way and residents needed to register on-line with Craig’s office and submit questions in advance. But not only that, on 25th of February more than 200 residents co-signed with me, a letter to him, disappointingly he has failed to respond. At all. This isn’t the first time. Hardly open or accountable behaviour.

Our joint letter was about the need for a windfall tax on energy companies and questioned his membership of the Net Zero Scrutiny group and our concerns that it is attacking all means to decarbonise and that they are long-standing climate change deniers.

It turns out that this little known group is also chaired by Craig Mackinlay and that whilst Net Zero Watch states it won’t take funding from fossil fuel investors – it does take millions of pounds of ‘dark money’ funded by US oil. This group would like to see fracking across the UK, including here in Kent – a process that uses a staggering amount of water. Southern Water would stand to profit, and they’d also like to reopen coal power plants. Net Zero Watch has also repeatedly claimed that “the cost of living crisis is the result of net-zero policies.’ That’s a very remarkably convenient assertion, most of us know that Brexit has had a phenomenally negative impact and is costing us £1m every single hour. Not forgetting of course our local MP’s founding role in UKIP championing Brexit.

I think it’s time Craig Mackinlay was clear about his relationship with Southern Water, about any financial relationship or payments and benefits accrued due to his involvement in the Net Zero Scrutiny group, and I’d like a prompt response on behalf of the 200 residents that wrote to him in February.

I think it’s time overdue for Craig to deliver value for money.

The full open democracy report. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/global-warming-policy-foundation-net-zero-watch-koch-brothers/?utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_source=Twitter&fbclid=IwAR28_YTEOxiRriuwEP8sQ-gqNdFbJh5exJeGgLQx66bJ3msOAZ0UOA7RV2A#Echobox=1651739289-3


  1. Could Cllr Constantine, give a figure for the overall cost to the uk as a result of the drive to net zero? All very well saying brexit costs a million an hour. A quick google suggests each household pays about £150 a year in green energy levies with around 24 million homes this by itself covers 150 days at a million an hour. Then we have the levies on industry, the huge increases in energy costs as a result of our decision to pursue net zero and subsequent world events.
    I’d be pretty certain that the quest for net zero has also had a “phenomally negative impact” on the nations finances.

    • No, the huge energy price increases are due to the rise in the market price of fossil fuels. The cheapest electricity is onshore wind. Offshore wind and solar come next and nuclear is last.
      However because the way the market is set up, we cannot opt for wind electricity even if we sign up for a green tariff, so we all pay more for not going green earlier. It will actually save us money and deliver energy security to move away from gas and oil, and to insulate our housing stock.
      The old trope of green tariffs causing higher energy prices is shown to be false thanks to the war in Ukraine.
      I notice LC does not mention the charges for cleaning up old nuclear sites like Dungeness.
      What I don’t understand is the lengths that correspondents like LC, go to justify the unjustifiable.Are they really so tin eared to the growing evidence on global warming or are they just shutting out inconvenient truths?
      By the way it will cost between £35 and £40Bn to insulate every house in the UK, which sounds a lot, until you find out that each new giant nuclear power plant will cost at least £30bn and we need at least 6 on current plans.

      • Good day, personally i don’t buy into the man made global warming theory. Without doubt there is climate change just as there has been for millenia and forever will be. Equally it will always be beyond our control.
        The problem with energy is the amount modern life consumes not the source that provides it. That said fossil fuels are finite and a slow move away from them is never going to be a bad thing , but the wholesale headlong rush is a mistake. We have ittle energy security because we’ve railed against the fossil fuel industry and so investment has been cut back, comically we now want the oil and gas industry to make huge investments.
        Insulation of our homes would be a no brainer , but to insulate older stock properly is both time consuming , expensive and requires a diligent and skilled workforce . We currently can’t build enough new homes properly with the xisting construction industry let alone embark on wholesale insulation programmmes.
        The prposed sustainability codes for new builds intended for introduction in 2014 (iirc) were abandoned because of the pressures from the building industry and politicians caved , as they knew there were more votes in extra homes than fewer better ones. In general householders don’t want to spend untold thousands improving a home ( with the attendant disruption) in order to save a few hundred pounds a year. This attitude may change. However lifestyles would make an immediate and low cost saving if people could be bothered to change. As it has always been and always will , the energy you don’t need is the best energy you can buy ( as its cost free at all levels). I’m currently renovating an old building and the cost of the insulation and associated works are substantial, as a landlord the majority of my properties all have an epc of C , but the efforts to achieve this will likely be wasted when the new SAP is introduced, despite the homes being as energy efficient as they were before the change. Improving the levels to those required to make heatpumps a viable option ( though impractical for small blocks of terraced flats) would in the absence of grant funding increase rents by around £200 a month and mean pretty much back to brick renovation , upgrading of power supplies , rewiring, new radiators and pipework and alternative hot water provision. With the redecoration , new flooring etc etc, the cost from old tenant moving out to new in, are going to be 30-40 k, disruption to other flats in the building means that a whole block would need to be done at a time , where do tenants go and where does the funding come from?
        Renewables may theoretically be cheap, but this ignores the intermittent nature of their supply and the need for back up, in the UK this is largely gas powered and so expensive, this back up needs to included in the cost of renewables.
        The costs involved in shutting nuclear plants and storing the waste just make it a more honest calculation, the fossil industry has been able to dump its waste into the atmosphere, the renewables sector has its embodied carbon and environmental damamge likewise ignored and will eventually have its own decommissioning costs to reckon with.
        We get the wittering on articles bemoaning the proposals to build homes on farmland but not a peep about the acreage being overed in solar panels. People likewise complain about lack of recycling but care not a jot about where the waste goes and what happens to it.
        However my original question was , how does the cost to the economy of our energy policy compare to the articles claimed 1 million an hour cost of brexit?

    • LC, a much more important question is how much will it cost NOT to go Net Zero. The World Bank estimates that the cost of exceeding the Paris 1.5C target is several times higher than the cost of climate policies. To name just a few massive costs: sea defences, loss of land (and homes, shops, factories) due to flooding, reduction in food production, poorer health, mass migration… I could go on and on.

      • Nothing, because the UK by itself is not going to make a jot of difference to the global position.

  2. nice work if you can get it , and to think its working class people that put them there , they must laugh all the way to the swiss bank that people are so gullible.

  3. Kathy in the interests of balance would you please ask Mr Mackinlay to respond to this article. Thank you.

    • It’s a column. Craig also has a column and I make sure they both go out on the same day and at the same time.

    • That would mean Craig facing some scrutiny and he doesn’t do that. He has no interest in explaining himself to plebs like you…. Or me…

  4. The business targets for the water companies were set by parliament and enforced by Ofwat. Clean beaches was voted against by MP’s. It is Ofwat which would be in a position to continually monitor and enforce any rules set by parliament. It is what they are there for.

  5. Hopefully both boris and keir are not in their current jobs, well by end of june this year.

    Got a substantial bet On, ££

    Happy days

  6. I hope you win your bet. The problem is, who is the most positive alternative and his/her team!

  7. I said on these pages ages ago that I was certain Craig had a financial interest in southern water! He only pays attention when it’s going to help his own gains.

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