Political opinion with MP Craig Mackinlay (Conservative)
As the festive period ends, the recycling and general rubbish is bagged ready for the first New Year collection and the usual question arises – which is the twelfth night for the decorations to be boxed and stashed away or should we just do it now and have done? The Christmas lights neatly coiled in the hope that they won’t be the cats cradle of mess requiring a good half an hour (again) of unknotting in early December this year. We make resolutions not to be kept and think carefully about joining #DryJanuary. The great start to the year of fireworks over Ramsgate harbour was sadly cancelled due to the foul windy and wet weather which was a great shame but shows how erratic UK weather can be, from icy blast to wet and gloomy over just a few days. We then think of the year just gone, and what a year it was but lots of it best put out with the rubbish. I cannot say it was a great one.
We lost the only Monarch that many of us have ever known; the passing and reflection of the great life of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a most significant international event and one of great sadness even though, as years passed, the likelihood was always increasing. But we welcome a new King with the Coronation in just a few months’ time. Ukraine became the focus of a foul and illegal invasion by Russia, with the pain continuing as the war lapses into stalemate but with true misery and death continuing across the nation as energy supplies are disrupted and missile strikes continue. The cost of living crisis fuelled predominantly by energy prices hit both householders and general taxpayers’ pockets through price support mechanisms. It feels a little less sharp than it did a couple of months ago, but is still very much with us. Then we had political turbulence as if more were needed with three Prime Ministers and strike activity causing upset and misery to all of us.
The strikes across the public and quasi-public sector (I put Rail and Royal Mail in this category given their prior nationalised status) makes us consider what is the ‘right’ pay for a job? What was the true value of the ICU nurse who looked after my mother to the end with care way beyond duty? To our family obviously priceless but that isn’t an affordable value. What of the train driver? The standard pay for a Southeastern driver, without overtime which is generally available, is £57,030; senior signallers £48,000. For teachers, currently considering strike action, the lowest starting pay is £28,000 but they have an 8.9% pay offer on the table. Senior headteachers can earn way in excess of £100,000 and the highest paid CEOs of the largest Academy Trusts typically around the £250k mark.
It is difficult in non-profit industries, i.e. where there is no obvious cash transaction to see, to determine the right level of pay. Obviously easier in a private business as the market more readily decides as does the profitability of the underlying enterprise and in the private sector the adage more generally applies that if you don’t like the pay and conditions in a job then find another one. We all appreciate that times are hard, but would inflation busting pay rises make times easier? There may be the initial satisfaction of doing well compared to everyone else, but in public sector jobs it simply means higher taxes, more borrowing and higher interest rates and in the private sector prices hiked that will then embed in higher inflation, leading to calls for higher salaries and so the cycle goes on into a wage-price spiral.
So what will I be striving for in 2023? A proper solution to the cross-channel fiasco is high on my list. We cannot have 47,000 chaotic entries into the country by such a route repeated in 2023. I’m pleased to see that Border Force will be working on the ground in northern France with French officials, and also that Albanian claimants will be fast-tracked back to their safe home country. Added legislation will be needed to close down the loopholes so widely exploited by those taking advantage of this lucrative and evil trade.
We need something dynamic in our approach to the NHS and social care. There is no shortage of money going into the NHS, it has close to £750m more per week now than in 2010 and an overall budget for NHS England of £158.6Bn for 2023/24, one of the highest per head spending in the world. The conundrum is how its outcomes and speed of delivery has worsened in the face of record funding? I could opine on this dilemma in an article all of its own. Perhaps I will put pen to paper on my analysis of the problems and with it sensible solutions.
Then there is energy policy – we cannot enter the 2023/24 winter in such a poor state of preparedness. Then obviously the economy where I find myself at odds with the current high tax strategy. That one will run and run.
Thanet District Council goes into 2023 in good shape with a reformed Senior Management Team so congratulations to the Council Leader Ash Ashbee for the drive and determination to make this happen. I also look forward to the fruits of the £21m Levelling Up funding starting to take shape.
Have a great start to 2023. I look forward to seeing many you over the months ahead.