County Councillor Karen Constantine: Seeing Red – Water, waste collection and the right to strike

Cllr Karen Constantine

Huge congratulations to all my Labour brothers and sisters who re-gained or won seats on Thanet District Council. I believe they will make a real, positive difference to the lives of people across the Isle in the coming years. But, as with many other things in life I can tell you from first hand experience, ‘It ain’t easy!’

To those people who think being a councillor is a doddle – think again. It’s often complex and demanding work, especially at a time when far too many people are struggling with poor housing, the cost of living crisis, battling to see their GP, or to access other NHS services, striving to sort out education or social care, or who are just floundering under the weight of a complex and costly life.

As the Conservative government continue to be tin eared, cutting budgets and hobbling vital services, our local councillors are brave for putting themselves on the line. For choosing to walk the walk as well as talking the talk. Moaning and criticising on social media is easy! Those that think otherwise can always try putting in the hard yards to get themselves elected and have a go themselves.

So well done to those recently elected, thanks to those that voted, to all those that also stood for public office, and commiserations to those who lost.

Talking of voters – isn’t it crazy that you now have to show up at a polling station with an acceptable form of photo ID? Even more maddening to hear out of touch MP and Tory grandee Jacob Rees Mogg, former Business Secretary lamenting their policy had backfired on the them, dampening their own vote. Mogg said, “We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they, by and large, voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.” Oh dear! You couldn’t make it up, could you? The Tories have been caught out gerrymandering. It just makes me more determined to see a decent Labour Government elected as soon as possible.

Apart from blatant voter suppression, just look at the truly appalling record of the Conservatives, who after 13 long years have dragged our Country down. 13 years of miss-truths, half-baked pledges, victim blaming, and outright lies and mismanagement. The only growth we experience is poverty, food banks, and ever increasing food and energy bills!

Now, to detract from their failures and to confer unprecedented powers on Government ministers, the Tories have launched a full scale attack on workers rights. This Government wants to axe the right to strike! Via the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. It’s worth noting unlike other workers around the world, we don’t actually enjoy a ‘right to strike,’ rather we have a right not to be dismissed for strike action. Thatcherite wannabe Kemi Badenoch  MP the current Secretary for Business and Trade will have the authority to set the “minimum service levels” (MSLs). Professor Keith Ewing and Lord John Hendy employment law experts have said, “It is obvious that by reserving the sole authority to ministers to set the MSLs, they can be set at such a high level that any strike will be rendered largely ineffectual.” This is also known as having your legs cut from underneath you! Labour leader Keir Starmer has given an unqualified pledge to repeal an eventual Act in the first 100 days of a Labour government.

Meanwhile water companies across the Country are gas lighting us all into to paying more of our hard earned cash to bail them out. They want us to contribute an additional £50bn on top of our existing bills to update neglected Victorian water infrastructure. The truth is we’ve already paid for these improvements, but instead of the water companies acting in the interests of us all and investing in vital and obvious upgrades, cutting sewerage spills, upgrading treatment plants and building new storage facilities, our cash has instead, been funnelled into the bank accounts of shareholders. In last decade alone £14.7bn worth of dividends has been skimmed off our bills into bank accounts of ‘shareholders.’

Over at Kent County Council plans are afoot to cut household waste and refuse centres – the tips we all use. This means a significant cut in opening hours and far less access. I strongly suspect this will lead to more fly tipping and foreshadow’s yet more cuts and closure. This is a prime example of financial mismanagement by the Kent Tories. There was no hint of a crisis in waste in April’s budget. Instead of looking to the future and investing in the recycling, repairs cafes and swop shops that are proving popular in other parts of the Country KCC is again axing services. It’s cut after cut after cut!

Meanwhile at TDC our bin men are planning industrial action. Apparently the new (ish) boss CEO Ian Carmichael has tried to impose a unsuitable and wholly non-negotiationed pay deal on GMB refuse workers. Full time officer for my own union the GMB, Frank Macklin has, I know, tried hard to get TDC to the negotiating table for talks with no success. Let’s hope the new administration grip and resolve this issue swiftly. It’s high time the tail stopped wagging the dog.

From water to waste removal, to the right to strike, we are all being shaken down, degraded, ripped off. Our Country is breaking – wherever you look – we can do better than this. We must. I sense enormous change at the next General Election. Bring it on!

“Of course there’s poverty, but is there destitution?” – Karen Constantine, Labour


    • Karen is right, the country is descending into 3rd World status! She didn’t mention KCC Social Services, stretched to the point of breaking, or Care Workers lack of due to Brexit! Johnson promised to Fix the Care system so that elderly people wouldn’t have to sell their homes to pay for going into Care, that was another one of his lies!

  1. Let’s see a newly appointed Labour council, attitude to their workforce,ie the bin men ,who are going to go on strike, I am not going to debate the rights not wrongs of that,if the Tories still had control for TDC,bet, Labour would be saying ,pay them what they ask for ,but as the boot is on the other foot,it’s interesting,if they don’t give what they ask for ,are the Labour leader’s ,prepared for streets overflowing with rubbish,for weeks on end,as ,the previous post (see see)has stated,they are the same ,just different coloured scarves,

  2. Well, said Karen! The Tories have and are ruining this country. We need a labour government or we are all stuffed!

  3. Congratulations Labour.Perhaps you already have my street booked in for a street sweep and litter pick.I have been doing it for the last 11 years, so if I could be included in the Annual budget it would be very much appreciated.Welcome to Britains dirtiest borough.

  4. Won’t add to the attacks on the Tory Government – it’s called “shooting fish in a barrel” – but Karen does make the point about public service. The democratic freedoms that past generations fought and died for should be cherished and not dismissed by idiotic statements about all being the same. There are serious and deep ideological differences between us and our opponents, and the right to choose between them is an important freedom. The very fact that working people, women, 18 year olds and other groups can vote was because of the battles of the levellers,the chartists, the Fenians,the suffragettes and the trades unions. Nelson Mandela did 27 years in prison so the majority of South Africans could elect their Government – so please take the trouble to use and cherish your ballots.

  5. History lesson – just over 200 years ago only rich white male protestant property owners could vote. The Reform Act of 1832 widened the franchise to all property owners, allowing many working men to vote for the first time. Daniel O’Connell and his campaign led to Catholic Emancipation, in 1857 atheists finally got the right to be MPs and the suffragettes took 50 years to get all women the vote, not finally achieved until 1928. 18 year olds never got the vote until 1969. It’s been a long road.

    • Correct me if I am wrong Keith, but I think not all women got the vote in 1929, that came about in 1945 when Labour were elected to government, and changed the rules. I haven’t checked this, but I believe my mother was able to vote in the 1945 election but not before then!

  6. Anyone who works for a living and is not reliant on rents, dividends or interest payments.Those whose income falls into the latter category are termed rentiers, because they rent out land or capital.
    I don’t agree with Karen calling out poor old Colin.He is a worker, if a high falutin one.Colin would be acting under orders from the previous TDC cabinet.
    I do agree, that they ought to settle down and strike a deal instead of stopping work.Maybe something on account and something extra next year.
    As for the usual rag bag of misogynists and reactionaries, the public have spoken.Away with you and all your false gods.

  7. Come on then sort out the, feral gangs of young children, the bin strike, the water companies. In truth I am petrified as one of a shrinking minority of tax payers exactly how Red Karen and labour is going to get the money to pay for all this. They are going to save me from the other side. It’s the conservatives fault NO neither are to be trusted. Our independent councillors will change sides as before. I am disenfranchised there’s no one who supports the working tax paying individual.

  8. Karen I see your property is for sale. Are you staying put in Ramsgate or moving permanently to Olvera in Spain?

  9. I applaud Karen’s sentiments but I have to point out that the Labour party have refused to support striking workers and refused to promise to repeal the various anti-worker, anti-strike and anti-protest legislation enacted by this woefully piss-poor Conservative government. Labour now seem somewhat to the right of Margaret Thatcher, and are destined to win the next election not on their own merits and policies (whatever they are), but because the current admistration is so abysmally crap.

  10. Apologies Karen it’s next door for sale. Still all these swish properties look the same.

  11. So the likes of union leaders , train drivers, doctors, certain other NHS staff, teachers are classed as poor workers even though they get paid £60000 or more, perhaps Starmer should stop shouting how his job is to support the working classes, and concentrate on his efforts on those who actually work hard for a lot less and cannot go on strike for their own greed.

  12. So the likes of union leaders , train drivers, doctors, certain other NHS staff, teachers are classed as poor workers even though they get paid £60000 or more, perhaps Starmer should stop shouting how his job is to support the working classes, and concentrate on his efforts on those who actually work hard for a lot less and cannot go on strike for their own greed.

  13. Right vs left an illusion of power. Divide and rule is a very old game. Labour supported the undemocratic draconian lockdowns which have wreaked economic, health and educational havoc, so they certainly haven’t got the well-being of the public at their heart. Notice the few MPs who spoke out, and the great many cowards who didn’t.

    • Lock downstairs were indeed draconian. But, until vaccines had been approved and rolled out, there was no defence for us against a highly infectious and lethal virus.
      Once the vaccine began to be rolled out, and a significant number of people had been vaccinated, lockdowns were first eased and then abolished.

  14. Maybe most MPs were sensible enough to understand that lockdowns were the right thing to do.

    • Most did but others just carried on partying or visiting castles to test their eyes – Lockdowns (Lock downstairs) are what stopped it killing 1000’s more – the vaccines never worked and still don’t but they gave everyone faith like any placebo.

      • The evidence is overwhelming that covid vaccinations do work. They help the human body prepare itself for an attack by coronations. Consequently people getting infected usually display either mild or no symptoms.

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