Seeing Red with County Councillor Karen Constantine: The cost of living crisis

Cllr Karen Constantine

How on earth are Thanet’s already hard-pressed families going to manage during the winter fuel and cost of living crisis?

Like many people, I imagine, I’m worrying about rising household costs, particularly rising fuel bills. I’m already planning how I can cut costs -which are now estimated to be £4,266 per year – as well as how I can better insulate my draughty old house and heat myself rather than the whole room in an effort to manage fuel costs.

Like most people, I’ve noticed a big increase in my food bill, and am making choices to reduce my costs. I’m also trying to minimise food waste as much as possible.

Every little helps they say!

As a County Councillor, a number of parents have contacted me, who are struggling right now, to feed and clothe their families. It’s been sometime since I myself had to buy school uniforms – but they are so expensive!

Because this is such a serious situation, and every prediction is that it’s going to get worse, I’ve decided to write to KCC leader Roger Gough, to see what action KCC is going to take to better look after Kent residents, particularly those already at the sharp end! We have some time to prepare, but many are worrying, struggling and suffering right now.

We need to do whatever we can to protect our most vulnerable residents, usually children, elders and those people with disabilities. I want to see warm public spaces opened up, perhaps schools and libraries. I think we need more wardens for the elderly, (we only have two to cover Thanet.) I’d also like to see a ‘moratorium’ on expensive school uniform so parents can spend their cash on fuel and food. Whilst sending their children to school in basic uniform.

Here’s what I’ve sent to KCC County Council leader, Roger Gough.

Dear Roger,

What plans are in hand, or what assessments are being made, to avoid the poorest in Kent, falling further into poverty and greater hardship and discomfort. I’m sure you, like myself, are anxious to prevent further hardship which could impact health.

A recent reports states that:

*Thirty-five million people in 13.5m households are under threat of fuel poverty in October – that’s an unprecedented 49.6% of the U.K.

*If nothing is done before another fuel price rise hits in January, the fuel poor could rise to 39m people in 15m households – 54% of the country.

*For the average family, one quarter of all costs after rent or mortgage are spent on fuel. But for poorer families it is 37% – and could rise beyond 50% of their income after October.

*We are now being alerted to an even steeper increase than anticipated. The latest prediction, based on Ofgem’s new methodology, is an 81% price cap rise in Oct (taking typical bill to £3,582/yr) and a further 19% in Jan (so £4,266/yr.) Eye watering and wallet defying as I’m sure you’ll agree?

We have as you know, many poor families and poorer pensioners in Thanet compared to the rest of Kent. Indeed, the Centre for Progressive Policy research states that coastal communities, like ours, are the areas likely to suffer most during the cost of living crisis. Their research shows that Thanet has more than 1 in 5 residents currently struggling with food bills, 1 in 10 struggling with fuel costs, and a growing child poverty rate of 34%.

Can you therefore outline for me,

*How are these families expected to budget as fuel and food costs rise?

*What additional provision can and should KCC make?

*For instance are there plans for easily accessible warm spaces to be made available?

*Can schools remain open during evening and weekends so our children can both study and relax in warmth? (Or other spaces?)

*Can we encourage schools to relax uniform policy, recognising that family budgets are stretched to the maximum?

*Will their be further funds from KCC or via KCC to help to supplement meagre, already stretched fuel and food budgets?

*Will KCC employ or otherwise secure additional wardens to ensure no older and vulnerable pensioners are left without support during this crisis.

I think time is of the essence. As we are enjoying warm weather at the moment it may seem inappropriate to raise the topic of cold homes. But with Thanet household budgets already stretched to maximum, there’s not a moment to be lost in planning now how to keep our residents warm, fed and safe. Ultimately lives will depend on it.

Kind regards,

Cllr Karen Constantine.


  1. Constantine you won’t be struggling as you are an getting an obscene amount from KCC in expenses , so you are coming out with a load of bull…t

    • Certainly getting more income than the state pension gives to UK pensioners.

      Nobody in political circles gives two hoots about struggling families. Just research the entitlements, expenses and salary for back bench MPs. Absolutely shocking.

      • Kentish. Cllrs and MPs very different. 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.

        • Tory ‘n Labour!

          Two cheeks of the same backside.

          Neither are interested in looking after the rights of the country’s indigenous populace.

    • Bert. Fact check please. I take £15k, per annum, having refused to take the members allowance award that KCC Cllrs awarded themselves, and I claim minimal travel expenses. Perhaps a couple of hundred a year. It’s all in the public domain. I reckon I earn every penny!

      • Hi Cllr Constantine
        Off topic but do you reckon I write to Roger about the distressful community hygiene issues facing TDC’s high rise blocks ? The housing officers appear bent on turning a blind eye.

        • My experience is that TDC housing will evade , mislead and ignore anything they don’t feel like dealing with ( effectively anything that takes a bit of effort and will cost ) , flag it up on social media and news sites like IoTN. Get the message out there.

    • Hey, if you don’t like what she’s doing, go vote for the other side! for myself, I think what she said amounts to fair and reasonable questions.

  2. Where is Starmer….. Labour policy is as thin as the border force defences.
    I heard he is in A&E having splinters removed from his posterior…

    • Busy banning/firing Labour ministers from joining Union picket lines-because he is a Tory & a socialist of the champagne variety.

  3. Thousands of local people are in dire straits and this Tory nincompoop just abuses one of the few politicians trying to do something about it. The level of councillors allowances are fixed by the Conservative junta up in Maidstone. Our two Labour members in Thanet usually vote against any increase but the “snouts in the trough” Tories always vote themselves the maximum increase. Please get your facts straight “Tory Bert” before you sound off!

  4. Mmmmmmm…
    People really should learn to live within their means. Nothing wrong with drinking water or eating beans.

  5. I’m sixty one.
    I grew up in an ostensibly middle class environment. My father was a Ship’s Master and my mother had been an hospital matron.
    During the winters – that were significantly colder than today’s – most winter mornings we awoke to find frost on the inside of the windows.Quilts were not common. Central heating rare and, double glazing almost non-existent.
    Children walked to and from school.Housing costs and utility bills are up a significantly larger proportion of income than they do today. Most families did not own a car. Holidays were taken in the U.K. Children rarely if ever got to make a phone call.
    What’s the current problem Karen?🙄

    • Harry, are you sincere in your belief that we should roll back the decades? And that Thanet’s children and elderly should be worse off, poorer, hungrier, colder and die earlier than other people in wealthier parts of Kent?

      • Looks like we are anyway-the threat of blackouts this winter, mass strikes, sky high inflation. All we need now is dead bodies piling up on the streets & we are back to the good old days of the 1970’s.

        • Can’t say I noticed any “dead bodies piling up in the streets” in the 1970s. But then I was only in my 20s and young adults tend not to notice that sort of thing…

      • Constantine you are still looking after the traverllers down the port of Ramsgate ,how much have they cost the tax payers of Thanet,they have been down the port for over 15 months now ,I expect they won’t have to worry about their water and fuel bills as we will be paying

        • No doubt the level of overall support they receive would be very welcome by council tax payers who are struggling .

      • No Karen.
        Just a list of historical facts.
        Unfortunately, in the contemporary world of Intersectionalism “feelings” have become more important than facts. Fuelled by a continuous deification of the Self. Encouraged by soap operas and (Sur)reality TV.
        Still. The viewers of such drivel get to vote and, they vote for the likes of you!
        We get the government we deserve. Take a look in the metaphorical mirror and ask how we got to where we are.

        • Well Harry I am a bit older than you,I actually served at sea, not just talked about it.
          Yes, all those things were true, but we do not have to live like that.Man has gone to the moon and space probes have reached the far corners of our solar system.We don’t string people up any more.Gay people are not arrested in toilets anymore.Paedophiles can no longer operate with impunity as they did back 50/60 years ago. In short Harry we have moved on, except when it comes to poverty and fairness.
          No one is asking to ‘featherbed’ the poor. All that is being asked for is an economy that works for all.A decent secure house, a bit of security when in work and in old age, and an income that enables a person to live a reasonable,but necessarily luxurious life style.Is that too much to ask?
          As for the misogynists who rant whenever Karen speaks,why not consider taking up another hobby, because no one wants to hear your unpleasant drivel.Make your point, but try to support it with some evidence in future.

          • George.
            Thanks for that.
            Nowhere have I advocated “going back” with regard to anything. Nor have I indicated any mysoginist (I don’t mind a bit of name calling. I suspect that you too were raised to believe that, “Sticks & stones will break my bones but, words will never hurt me.”) viewpoint. As for “evidence”? Where’s yours?
            However, I am somewhat peeved by the Media and politicians’ “unprecedented” use of superlatives when, rather than having everything, individuals for once are having to be discriminating (yet another word which meaning has been adulterated since our younger days) in their thinking. As most people used to have to be.
            As the late JFK once said: “Ask not what my country can do for me. Ask what I can do for my country!”
            Advocacy is one thing. Institutionalised whining on behalf of others quite another. Angela Rayner can already see the end of the gravy train.

    • Agreed.

      All this nonsense about a third of children living in poverty.

      You and I were lucky to have heating in one room of the house. We had whatever food was cooked by our mothers – no takeaways or home deliveries. We drank water or tea – not gallons of coke. We had one rented TV in the house – not a TV in every room.

      We have less fear of rising fuel prices and rising food costs – we cut our cloth according to our means. The threat of power cuts hold even less fear as we know how to light a candle.

      However, we have to feel sorry for all those who have been spoiled and mollycoddled and bought up in the nanny state and have no skills or experience to cope with the slightest adversity.

  6. Karen,
    Thank you for all you try to do to get those less well off a better deal, one that will be really needed this winter and beyond. I am disappointed at the insults and unjustified criticism thrown at you, but unfortunately I expect no less from some quarters of modern society. But I’m even more disappointed at what the current government plan to do about this crisis – nothing, except keep their head in the sand and make their rich mates richer. Amazing to think that people actually voted for this…. Keep up the good work, Karen, the country needs more like you in power.

  7. I agree with John I remember all those things and will folk give up the following to save money
    Subscription TV ?
    Mobile phones?
    I could go on but you get my point

    • Very true, but it seems that in this day and age people are able to expect and be allowed to spend as they wish on whatever they want and then be able to complain about not having enough money for the basics. Of course supporting such choices and lifestyles by our leaders on bakes in this sense of entitlement.

  8. Thatcherism is alive and kicking from some on here.

    I could moan about my 80 year old parents who got lucky. Retired at 55, a great pay out on their endowment, good pvt pension.

    I have followed the same path but my generation cant retired at 55 as the bankers have screwed my pension. I owned 10k on my endowment.

    I worked hard paid into a pvt pension from the age of 17 still do some 35 years now.

    I now have to pay pvt rent because the ex got the house etc.

    It’s not about how we lived in the 70’s it’s how we live today. I am not one of the lazy sids and nor are my kids but we are all struggling with Bill’s through no fault of our own.

    I look back at my live and wish I had never worked, had lots of kids with different partners, got a council house etc.
    But I chose to work and provide for my family only for Thatcher to allow the money men to screw us hard working working classes over. They screwed my pension, my taxes bailed the banks out.

    So stop thing it’s just the lazy people of our society that needs help.

    Lots of people are in trouble thanks to the Tories.

    I followed government guidelines on covid19 while the Tories were holding parties.

    Again the vast majority agree with the Tories hence thanet being a Tory stronghold.

    I would like to go back to the 70’s for one thing. The sence of community and belonging. Something that is sadly missing today.

    • PS

      I dont feel like I belong in thanet nowadays. Lots of flash cars, expensive houses and high private rent. Arty things everywhere that get loads of our taxes.

      At the same time foodbanks needs are in creasing.

      This isnt the place I grew up in where nearly everyone was equal. Yes you had the PSG kids at grammar school but were only a little but better of than us. Now the gap is huge.

      How much longer before people want the kids to leave school at 14 and start cleaning chimmeys ?

      • Children go to grammar school because of their academic abilities, not because of the quality of their clothing.
        I went to grammar school. My dad was a postman, and my mum worked in a canteen.

        • Yep, grammar schools were the greatest aid to social mobility we ever had. But it became seemingly inappropriate to foster and encourage the abilities of the brightest with no regard to background another area where envy and political ideology did nothing more than level down.

  9. Most of the children at the grammar school I went to were from working-class families like mine, because most people in its catchment area were working-class.

    • I was talking as how as a kid of 11 or 12 we thought they were posh lol.
      I didnt want to go to Chatham house because they didnt play football only rugby !.

      That’s how much thought I put into it 😉

  10. I suppose whilst all the people sat in the queues at Dover and the airports they thought about how to manage the cost of living

  11. Kent Community Foundation have very recently published a Needs Analysis which shows how Thanet compares with the other districts – I recommend a sober read. The Levelling Up All Party Parliamentary Group has expressed concerns over widening inequalities and Thanet is ‘High Risk’. Insolvencies are mounting in small enterprises – incl bars and restaurants – and the outlook is no more cheerful for construction (will we ever see ‘10% affordables’ let alone 30% as per alleged Local Plan objective ?) – see Begbies Traynor report (the leading insolvency firm.) But at least the staycation prospects for the next decade are looking more cheerful !

    • Is there any data on the numbers placed here by other authorities and government agencies? Cliftonville was blighted by the numbers of childrens homes , yet paedophiles were also placed in the area (Roger Gale raised the issue in 2011 ish) during selective licensing the MTF made representations in attempts to prevent newly released criminals being housed in the area, no figures were given as to the success of these representations.
      There is also a baked in resistance by many of the “poor” to work, Thanet eart was trumpeted as being a source of low skill work that would enable significant numbers households back to the world of work. Turned out that locals preferred a life on benefits and Thanet Earth instead attracted legions of migrant labour.
      I’ve been a cliftonville landlord for over 20 years and lived there for a good while. What i’ve witnessed in that time would seen as impossible many. Too many of lifes least desirable have been placed there, they have no interest in work, preferring to milk the system to the max.
      Fortunately the areas arty vibe is bringing in different people ( call it gentrification or social cleansing as you will) with luck these early changes will take root and flourish, rebalancing the mix of people in the area. Though unfortunately the effects on the less afluemt but decent original resodents is not so positive. Margate central is blighted by Paramount and the emergency housing it provides to the council, they wouldn’t use cliftonville because of selective licensing and so concentrated too many horrible people in one area.
      Then you have substance abuse and all its attendant supply and use problems.

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