County Councillor Karen Constantine: Seeing Red – Turning to Christmas and food bank demand

Cllr Karen Constantine

My thoughts have turned to Christmas. This will be the first Christmas ever in the Constantine household that we celebrate as parents without any children at home! I can honestly say I never thought this day would come. Although I will miss my children, I will enjoy a gently paced day without the additional pressures of cooking and shopping to feed a small army!

I’m not a grinch, but I’m not sending many cards either – instead I’ll be visiting and donating to as many of Ramsgate Advent doors as possible. Indeed, I wonder if Ramsgate is unique in this fantastic nightly event in the run up to Christmas? Along with the excellent lighting display’s on the boats in the harbour, Ramsgate yet again  demonstrates its fantastic community spirit.

To all those involved – a huge thank you for making the festive season so special! Credit must also go to the army of volunteers who work hard to keep our streets clean. The keen green fingered amongst us who keep our parks and public spaces planted and smart. Those that add a lick of paint to our shelters. Those that support our food banks and the Salvation Army. So many Ramsgate residents put themselves out to strive for a better environment for us all.

Thank you – It really does make such a positive difference.

Saturday 3rd of December was ‘small business Saturday,’ and I was fortunate enough to visit some of the many fantastic, independent businesses that we have in Ramsgate. I am always blown away by the extremely high quality of their products, customer service and experiences such as glass fusing, pottery and painting classes etc. These delightful shops wouldn’t be out of place on any London Street or indeed any chic European shopping area. So many of the window displays and interiors are truly gorgeous. I’m urging people to join me and to ‘shop local’ wherever possible, not only because it supports our local businesses, because also because the range and quality of items on offer is absolutely staggering. Use it or lose it – as they say!

But now to other concerning matters. This week I heard from a local food bank that from the moment they opened the doors, they could see that they simply couldn’t meet demand. It’s very worrying to see surging need for food banks right across Thanet. Worrying, and a sad indictment of a Government that is both failing to support people in need, and failing to recognise and deal effectively with the cost of living crisis.

Food and fuel poverty are growing at an alarming rate. According to the most recent data produced by the National Census Thanet is one of the most deprived areas in the Country. It’s certainly the poorest area in Kent. In some of our wards child poverty has risen to an incredible 52%. This is frankly shaming in the 5th/6th richest country on the planet. Our politicians need to take urgent action.

Instead of action and compassion I was furious with our local MP, when I challenged him over the rising tide of poverty on TV recently, he replied:

‘Yes there’s poverty – but is there destitution?’

I could barely believe my ears! He later went on to claim that a single parent with three children was taking home £1800 in Universal Credit payments and £1500 in wages, saying that’s ‘£3,300 free of tax. Only a fraction less than I earn a month.’

Really? I’d love to hear from anyone on UC earning this much. I’m asking Craig to verify this remarkable claim to demonstrate that he isn’t as out of touch as he appears.

Our local MP’s salary is £81,932.04 and he also takes a £2K per month, as payment from his accounting company for 20 hours work per month. Plus regular small earnings and of course, his expenses, including his heating bills are covered, as is his food, also heavily taxpayer subsidised! According to the   Register of Interests for Craig Mackinlay – MPs and Lords – UK Parliament  His annual income is at least £94K. ‘Mythical’ single parent’s income is £39K and allegedly tax free? A fraction less than his own? I don’t think so. (And I’m not a chartered accountant.)

I’m not against people doing well. But at a time when nurses have been offered a miserly 3%, and they, along with many other workers are working hard and long hours, simply to sink deeper into the red each month, and can’t afford to heat and eat, I think a reality check is in order. Remember inflation sky-rocketed before workers sought pay increases!

So please, look out for ‘Advent Doors 2022’ on Facebook, and join in to support our local charities. Give what you can to our food banks – sad to say they need it. Please also shop local, not only because our towns shops are vital and provide us with such great choice, but also because money spent in local businesses stays in the local economy.

Ramsgate really is Ramsgreat, especially at Christmas!


  1. Thank you Karen, I didn’t know our chocolate tea pot MP for South Thanet had aa second job, besides the one he is supposed to have as an MP! Its time MP’s were banned from holding down two or more jobs, and concentrate on the one they were elected to do, as an MP!

  2. The difference between poverty and destitution is poverty means you can be hungry and not enough money for fuel to keep warm fore than a few hours a day. Destitution is like the Irish Famine where they had no food and some ate grass. There was no wood or peat to keep warm by. Does our MP expect us to do nothing for people who are only poverty stricken and not till they are destitute will the government act ?

  3. Demonstrating par excellence the green-eyed “Politics of Jealousy”. Self appointed advocate for “The Poor”.
    Reminds me of the Robin Hood scene in the film “Time Bandits”.

  4. A great interview, Karen – Mackinlay is obviously oblivious to the poverty caused by this government. The comments above from people who are clearly comfortably off show their complete lack of understanding that others lack many of of the basic needs for a reasonable standard of living in this still rich country and they must be helped to withstand the callousness of our central government. The ultra-rich could pay for all of this with a relatively modest increase in their excessive income!

  5. To much bias on these comments however I do think that people who do not really need food bank supplies are taking unnecessary advantage of the scheme

    • Total rubbish,having set up the our shop in Margate and knowing staff who run the dozen food banks in thanet there is desperate people here. Why don’t you volunteer and see for yourself

  6. Meanwhile in the real world… it has been reported by the BBC today that the biggest rise in High Street businesses is Tattooists and Fast Food shops, hardly a priority if people are really struggling to eat or stay warm.

  7. What’s that got to do with the price of eggs PC?
    The BBC report is about the rate of change in the high street.
    It’s probably out of date already.
    To use a food bank you must obtain a referral,so no,the scallywags can’t access food or other items.
    The only green eyed jealousy I have seen is the moaning of well off OAP’s bleating about the old pension versus the later Osborne version, forgetting entirely that they received pensions earlier than those who had to wait.Before you ask,I am an OAP,but I carried on working paying tax and adding to the economy.I will eventually stop because even robots need downtime.
    We all know that the various Thanet towns are much diminished from their heydays.westwood X is urban sprawl and is itself in decline.
    Online is dominant but how far it will dominate is an open question.Online cannot deliver activities or events that draw crowds.The BBC is suggesting that cash retailing is in terminal decline but whether activity based retailing will take up all the vacant high space is a moot point.

    • George Nokes Well I suppose as you described yourself in a post a couple of months ago as an ‘iron child’ ( for the uninitiated according Mr Nokes those banished to a secondary school at the age of 11) you will eventually rust up and be useless to anybody! I suggest some WD40.

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