I’d call the last couple of weeks somewhat frenzied; a huge number of media appearances and comments on national issues including the fallout from my highlighting of serious shortcomings of Amazon, the global retailer with £25Bn turnover in the UK alone.
Working with Royal Mail I have highlighted the scandal that is their facilitation for sale through their marketplace feature of counterfeit postage stamps of extremely high quality, sourced in China. When consumers unwittingly use these stamps, purchased in good faith, the recipient of the mail finds a £2.50 surcharge levied. I don’t know about you but I had placed my trust, misguidedly, that shopping with Amazon would be as safe as shopping with a high street retailer.
Whilst Amazon claim they are closing down these dodgy marketplace sellers as they are recognised and that it’s ‘nothing to do with them’, I’m now working with the Serious Fraud Office as it is my interpretation that by facilitating the transfer of cash between consumer and the fraudster they are clearly part of the chain under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. Why don’t they simply stop selling stamps would be my answer?
I’ve also been on the media explaining my disquiet about changes to the landlord-tenant contract proposed by the Renters (Reform) Bill recently presented to Parliament. Whilst sounding entirely innocuous and positive for tenants and I obviously support that, my experience is that s21 no-fault evictions on a whim are rarely used. Why would a rational Landlord (of which I’ll state clearly that I am one) evict a tenant merely because the abstract right to do so exists? The answer is they don’t.
The reasons s21 has been used is as an alternative to court-led s8 evictions for non-payment of rent or anti-social behaviour. Evictions for these reasons and for the property to be taken back by the Landlord for sale will be made more explicit in this Bill so nothing changes there. My query is whether this Bill is attempting to solve a mischief that simply doesn’t really exist?
My fear is that there will be a huge number of s21 evictions prior to the Bill becoming law as Landlords use the last chance saloon as they increasingly feel that the increasing number of rules and regulations loaded onto them is now too much. I’m not sure local authorities are ready for the housing demands upon homelessness claims that will be coming their way.
I’ve visited a large number of successful local businesses and enterprises over the past couple of weeks. David Bailey Furniture Systems on the Pysons Road industrial estate is one such local treasure manufacturing high specification desks, units, shelving for the NHS across the country.
I was pleased to formally open the new ‘Optic Centre’ at Instro Precision’s site at Discovery park, Sandwich. Instro manufactures new generation night vision goggles for the Ministry of Defence and for export. This complements their long-standing manufacture for military and civilian use of other optical and tripod equipment. A great local company.
I had a regular meeting with directors of Stagecoach South East at the Westwood Cross depot. We discussed bus provision across East Kent and the challenges faced, not least because of a permanent downwards shift of customers on the back of the Covid period. Working from home and online shopping has reduced regular bus travel by a demonstrable margin. We discussed the success of the recently extended ‘Get around for £2’ initiative supported by the government. It will remain in place until Autumn 2024.
Labour’s proposal to levy VAT on private school fees, which I can only assume would also apply to our successful language schools across Broadstairs and Ramsgate as well as after school tuition and possibly sports training has rightly concerned the independent schools across the patch. I visited St Faith’s in Ash, an outstanding independent school. The bursar of St Lawrence College joined for a mini-conference.
Many families, exercising a choice struggle to get school fees together, often meaning working extra hours, certainly forgoing other spending and sometimes with some financial support from grandparents. By levying a further 20% VAT the likelihood is that the cost would be too great, children would be withdrawn and placed into state education. So the much trumpeted VAT forecast to be raised simply won’t be and historic schools could end up closing. Many might say that’s great, fee-paying schools should not exist because of equality and political dogma. I call it choice just as we don’t all drive the same car, go on the same priced holiday or shop in the same shops. It is a grotesque move in my view.
Let’s hope for the good weather that’s promised. Enjoy.