As we approach the festive season, the Mackinlay household is far from ready. The tree remains in the box from last year, not a card written, the batteries for the mini lights used around the windows probably corroded in. Our three and a half year old now has the Christmas and Santa bug so we’d better step up fast. There’s always next weekend.
As well as conducting my regular MP’s surgeries, I’ve had numerous visits to local businesses, new and existing. Most remain buoyant about the future but some, in what I’d call the discretionary spend sector, have worries. The tail of the Covid period still stalks the economy and the huge amount of support expenditure across the period has led to inflationary pressures, exacerbated further by the energy crisis on the back of Putin’s war in Ukraine, requiring more government support of borrowed money to be paid for by future taxpayers. Either problem on their own may have been manageable, but the two, back-to-back, has created a cost-of-living crisis.
There are wage increase demands across the public and quasi-public sector. The most visible ones from health and transport workers. On the one hand who can blame them – the country seemed able to shake the magic money tree across Covid, times are tough, so why not continue? But the reality is if such huge wage increases are won, any short-term advantage of salaries rising higher than inflation would be short-lived as the true downside of a wage-price spiral embeds itself. The value of the new increased salary eroded as everything from taxes to prices go up to compensate with the same demands being made in the following year. This cycle was seen in the 1970s, did not end well, and had no winners.
I know it’s easy for me to say that we all need to pull together and shake off this period, but the country probably won’t and these difficult times will simply continue. I’m sure I’m not alone in making a political link.
I’m getting a lot of media requests. The past couple of weeks have been no exception across issues as diverse as the channel migrant situation which simply must be solved, energy policy upon which I’m becoming something of a go to authority on windfarms, nuclear and the dash to Net Zero. The other is an issue which does affect all of us in Kent is the Mayor of London’s decision, despite overwhelming opposition, to extend the ULEZ charge for older vehicles right out to the edge of the London boroughs and Kent border. Taxation without representation comes to mind.
The out of hours worker from Kent with no public transport alternative available will find themselves paying an extra £12.50 a day just to work in the new chargeable zone. There would be plenty of other unfair examples, perhaps the older couple with an older car that they rarely use being surcharged for taking the infinitely greener and cheaper decision of running an old asset longer rather than buying new. Here in Kent we have no say over who is London Mayor but will have to pay his new tax. The scheme is sold on the back of Net Zero and clean air but the reality through scientific studies shows that these schemes bring scant improvements little better than rounding errors. The driving force behind it is new money to prop up a failing Transport for London, plain and simple, dressed up in another example of costly ‘greenwash’.
I’ve always recognised that Taxis are an important part of public transport provision, particularly to get home safely late at night, but also important for door to door convenience when getting to medical appointments or shopping. We have a shortage of taxis in Thanet despite no shortage of potential drivers looking for a new career.
I hosted a meeting between local taxi operators and Thanet District Council officers to try to bridge the gap, reduce the bureaucratic system in place and get both sides talking and working for a solution.
We talk of a number of ‘sleeps’ before Christmas, there’s one more of my articles before the big day. Have an enjoyable period.