All across our community will have been shocked and saddened by the appalling crash in Leopold Street, Ramsgate leaving two members of a family dead and others injured whilst simply enjoying a holiday. I will say little more about the driver except to say that serious charges have been brought as the emergency services, who responded rapidly, complete their investigations. Our thoughts are now with the young daughter who remains in a serious condition in a London Hospital, having lost her mother and grandfather.
The second heatwave has meant local tills have been ringing up record takings. This does bring into focus the added obligations not experienced by many other Kent authorities in looking after the number of visitors. Some visitors leave behind far more than their footprints with vast amounts of rubbish simply left behind on our beaches for us to clear up and the need for additional community officers, parking management and provision of toilet facilities. I have been pushing various Secretaries of State over the past few years for a fairer settlement for coastal communities to account for this un-budgeted burden. I will not stop in this endeavour.
The immediate issue facing a new Prime Minister will be the cost of living crisis, notably the likely annual price of domestic energy which could hit £4,000 per household, a tripling of long term prices in just a year. There is no obvious silver bullet but plenty of suggestions. All require ‘the government’ to do more which means taxpayers (the government has no cash), either now or in the future paying out for whatever scheme prevails. We are in the realms of philosophical argument as to how we manage society and how much more ‘government’ is desirable? What is obvious is that support will be needed as these price rises are beyond the realms of people making small adjustments to their lives to absorb the costs.
Do we tax more and recirculate money back as one-off ‘grants’? This always sounds incoherent as it can be validly argued that it is surely better to allow people to keep more of their own money in the first place. Who is worthy and needy? The cash poor, yet asset rich pensioner, who by historical happenstance is in a large and valuable home, perhaps alone? The non-working family on benefits – one could argue that with a buoyant jobs market perhaps taking work might be a positive step than simply paying out more in state benefits? What about families receiving a healthy salary but because of mortgage obligations and other inflationary increases will find it difficult to match income to outgoings? It would be the most administratively simple to give a universal fillup to offset the rising price of energy for all but is it fair or affordable to support the multi-millionaire (who will be paying a huge amount of tax) in the same way as a low income family? Might it be better to use government (taxpayer) cash to insulate homes better? How about demanding though the National Planning Policy Framework that all new homes be hugely energy and water efficient? I’d agree with that. These are the conundrums.
Those on the left leaning side of politics see this as an opportunity to reset how a capitalist society works with nationalisation, price controls, more nanny state or more tax upon the energy companies. Bolder socialists even suggest that supermarkets be nationalised: I’ve been to Cuba, there is little to buy.
In an international marketplace for energy I struggle to see how nationalisation adding to the sloth of state control, or controlling prices with the taxpayer making up the difference between the real and centrally controlled fixed price can assist. We need more energy, not less but I won’t stray into my objections to Net Zero at any cost and by a certain date which no-one can really explain (why not 2035, 2060 or 2100)? Allowing governments to control prices has all been tried before and indeed we’ve been in an energy cost and supply experiment for the past 25 years: it always fails.
Capital and investment will always follow a profitable enterprise; our pension funds similarly need good dividend flows. If we make profit a dirty word across industries we want more more of, we’d soon find shortages, outdated and dirtier production methods and a government appointed elite who run things. One only need look at the pinnacle of old East German car engineering – the two-stroke Trabant that you’d wait five years to receive compared to the capitalist creation of a Mercedes being made just over the border in the West. The UK tried similar state control and we ended up with a Morris Marina.
We baulk at the price of many things. How can an Apple iPhone cost £700? Surely with state control and an appropriate government committee of prices we can demand it be less, ‘essential’ as it has now become. It would mean we’d never see an even more brilliant iPhone 15.
Lots to report and comment upon once the new Prime Minister (I’m supporting Liz Truss) is announced on September 5.