Seeing Red with County Councillor Karen Constantine: Parkway, child poverty and filthy seas

Cllr Karen Constantine

Right across the country we are seeing examples of the real every day need for staffed railway stations. The travelling public are rightly concerned about the axe falling on those services we need. It seems that vital services of all kinds are being chopped.

Many residents have contacted me about newly opened Thanet Parkway. Sadly and predictably it’s all too quickly become a magnet for anti-social behaviour. I’m concerned that residents are having to put up with racing cars late at night, as well as strangers loitering at the back of their properties, due to the fact that the station is so lacking in footpaths people are trampling their own! There’s also light pollution to contend with. All of a sudden these residents have lost their once calm homes and gardens.

Southeastern Railway has responded to some concerns by putting private security in place – which seems to be around the clock. Parkway now has a nice new and prominent security ‘hut,’ which has a toilet of course – given that there isn’t one on the station. It’s anticipated this will stop cars using the car park as a racing track. In addition, a security chain will be used to block cars from 8.30 pm until 4am. However the security guard will be on hand if any passenger needs help getting cars in or out of the car park.

Of course, I welcome these measures by Southeastern. Anything that improves the customer experience and improves safety is a bonus.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with Parkway. There’s no footpath or cycle-path to the station and the ticket machine for platform 2 has no canopy – so you’re going to get soaked when it rains. The single pathway to Cliffsend has a combined pedestrian and bikeway. That’s hopeless… and cheap. Despite the phenomenal bill this station looks and feels very ‘budget.’

I can’t help thinking how much better this station could have been if it had been planned and built with, say, someone on hand to assist the public, someone who knows the station, someone who is employed to be there to help passengers when they need it. A staffed ticket office would have been ideal. In fact Parkway, the spanking new station is proof, if any more was needed, that railway stations really do require staff!

I note with interest that other stations up and down the country tackle anti-social behaviour by offering a peppercorn rent for either a cafe concession on the station, or a mobile coffee van. This, transport bosses know, is a worthwhile investment as it helps to curb antisocial behaviour. Nice amenities create a sense of place. I hope someone takes this on board – forgive the pun!

Come on Southeastern you can do better than this – surely? Bite the bullet and put staff permanently on this station. Eventually you’ll have to, so why not do it sooner? And oh, while you’re making improvements let’s have a cafe and canopy over that exposed ticket machine.

Child poverty

Child poverty is continuing to grow as the Buttle Trust’s latest survey reveals, https://buttleuk.org/state-of-child-poverty-2023/  They describes the experience of poor kids as ‘degrading and unsustainable… Hungry children have resorted to stealing food as more than 120,000 young people are now living in extreme poverty in the UK…

The situation has worsened since last year, with levels of destitution among children and young people rising significantly… ‘

Destitution. I never thought I’d ever see so many children impacted by poverty to that extent. At least it answers the question that local MP Craig Mackinlay put to me on BBC’s Sunday politics show when I challenged him over the growing figures for South Thanet,

‘Yes there’s poverty,’ he acknowledged, ‘but is there destitution?’

Well yes Craig, the answer has been published. It’s unequivocal. The question is what will the Government do about it. The Buttle trust is demanding that they:

  • Lift the two-child Universal Credit limit
  • Introduce an Essentials Guarantee
  • Appoint a dedicated Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People

We know that poverty blights lives, our children need all the support we can provide.

Frankly this is the least any decent Government could do. Children are the future and we should invest in them.

Southern Water – time for renationalisation? 

Hands up if you went for a dip in the sea recently? I’ve got to be honest, all the reports of sewerage dumping really puts me off. This is also a hot topic amongst residents, many of whom also contact me about road and pathways rendered unusable due to flooding during inclement weather.

The water industry is clearly broken, it’s simply not fit for purpose. The costs of the repairs and new infrastructure, I fear, will inevitably find the way onto our water bills. Fining super rich companies seems to make no difference. The costs are priced into our bills.

I’d like to float an idea. If the consumer is going to be forced to meet the costs of ensuring a safe and sewerage free water supply, shouldn’t that be done with the aim of restoring public ownership? Why should the hard-pressed public stuff anymore money into the already deep pockets of shareholders?

I also agree with my Union, the GMB, it’s time for an urgent public inquiry.  The water industry has been completely mismanaged. Decisive action is needed.

65 Comments

  1. Karen is of course quite right about both the shambles that is Southern Water and the farce of Thanet’s White Elephant Station. Greatly increased accountable public ownership is a no-brainer!

  2. Nice to see you adopting Green Party policy Karen with the suggestion of renationalising the water industry. It’s a shame the national Labour Party aren’t supporting it though so it will never happen if Labour win power.

  3. Sewage was discharged into the sea 30 years ago here before privatisation. Why didn’t the water company sort it out then? 🤷

    • No need to point out inconvenient facts about oursewage systems when under public ownership, the outfall pipes in Joss bay and the ramsgate undercliff were very visible examples.

  4. There was also poverty when the Labour government was in power. I wonder if Labour regained power at the next general election, would they de privatise all the companies the Tory government made available for privatisation, especially in the ‘Thacher’ era ( why didnt Blair and Brown do it ) and at what cost to the tax payer, in way of compensation or purchasing the shares back. Now, that is a question that no one has addressed yet….

  5. The irony of this water quality debate in conjunction with a re-nationalisation agenda is not lost on me.
    Thirty odd years ago Friends of the Earth appeared on T.V.S. news performing the “C-Rap”, when the Kingsgate outfall pipe was “opened”.

    Nobody the, or now, questions where the overflow used to go back in the halcyon days of the British seaside holiday. When the pipes were hundreds of yards shorter.😂😂😂😂

  6. A bit of a trivial whine when it comes to the lack of a canopy over the ticket machine , can we expect a push for rain protection over the isles many parking ticket machines too? As for the bit about footpaths, is it really expected that land will be either bought or compulsory purchased at great expense to cater for a few occasional users?

      • Yes, but that has a direct conmection to the existing and extensive road network. As and when the area around the station becomes covered in houses there will no doubt be provision for pedestrians to reach the station. Before that time a footpath is pretty pointless.

  7. When was the last time you went for a swim from one of Ramsgate’s beaches?
    Yes, there are completely unjustified discharges of sewage into the seas round our coast. And dreadful though this is, it does not mean that all of the time or most of the time bathing is not safe. Loads of people go sea bathing. There has been no outbreak of dreadful illness from visitors or residents as a consequence.
    It is a poor show that the Labour government-in-
    waiting has no plans to renationalize major infrastructure such as water.
    And don’t faff about with toilets, staff, canopies and so on at Thanet Parkway. Just close it.

    • Why would a station with just a single track need a toilet, people are going to be turning up to board a train or alight from one that has toilet facilities. They won’t be getting off and waiting for considerable periods for a connecting train. Provide toilets and they’ll get vandalised and abused, plus need cleaning which on an unattended station means a travelling cleaning team equipped for the task.
      Not as if the station is going to be used by hordes of revellers emerging from pubs and clubs, bladders full of cheap drink.

  8. It’s almost as if Labour WANT this station to fail. Whether needed or not, it’s here now. Make the most of it!

  9. The Conservatives have been very successful in ruining the U.K. in so many ways they literally have Broken Britain. Privatisation real name should be called what it actually is theft from the taxpayer, the useless Thatcher government stole taxpayer owned utilities firms / properties and sold them off to their city friends knowing full well it would be the taxpayers who would produce a lucrative revenue to the shareholders. The U.K. is at the bottom of the cancer survival rate in Western Europe because the Conservatives hate the NHS because it doesn’t have shareholders creaming off any profits except of course the private companies who are leeches that the useless governments have snickering got into the NHS to cherry pick the bits of the services give them the biggest buck. Having said all that what really sickens me is unbelievably there are those in our community who actually vote conservative. Shame on them, it is the members of the Conservative Party who have voted the terrible people as leaders of their beloved!!! Party except the current prime minister who is an imposter no one voted for him.

  10. Well Karen is a good one to argue against poverty.
    We have a company wanting to invest £500m in Thanet with thousands of jobs. But she’s one of those trying to stop it.
    Get people back into to work and they won’t be in poverty !
    No one else is going to invest in Thanet on that scale.
    Local Labour are a joke and I’d love to hear their solution to the local jobless.

    • Oh dear. I don’t often respond to this column, but this is an exception. Please Carole go ahead and provide the evidence of this company willing to invest £500M. When will people realise that the Manston Air Cargo hub is an unrealistic dream and that they are being duped into accepting dregs. Both Thanet MPs should be working on an alternative that will generate real economic growth.

      • Ms Constantine.
        All the while we are members of N.A.T.O. Manston will have an airstrip. It has a contingency role for the bloc. Washington will not let it be otherwise. You are of course aware that River Oak is a U.S. company? This is no accident.
        If it’s not going to be a freight hub it will just go to waste. People have been trying unsuccessfully to close Manston as an airport facility since the Liberals ran the Tories close in the 1928 Parliamentary election. What was it Einstein said was the definition of madness?
        Let the airport fulfill its destiny. It has only one. If necessary, turn it into an aviation museum. Find a Concorde. Wake up!

        • Manston is now an ex-airport, apart from a few private flights. Riveroak was a U.S.housing development firm- has it stopped being one? There was a lot of information about it some years ago, and may still be, as far as I know.

        • “People have been trying unsuccessfully to close Manston as an airport…”
          And now it’s managed it all by itself!

        • RSP is a UK company, registered at Compnies House.
          Who its backers are is a mystery, because they’re based in the secretive BVI tax haven.

      • The pro manston brigade blindly believe anything pro that is said.

        They never answer any questions to prove their points.

        Most people know manston is a non starter and is slowing investment in thanet by other companies.
        There is a huge housing development going on right under the flight path. You wouldnt build they if the airport was due to open

      • Who was the local MP involved with an election expenses scandal? He avoided prison, but one of his campaign workers took the rap instead.

        • Odd isnt it how this MP was allowed to carry on when his campaign was proven to have broken the rules.

          It should have been made null n void

    • RSP are not going to invest anything in Manston.
      If the DCO is successful, then RSP will invite investment from “a carefully selected list” of investment companies and banks. This was made quite clear in RSP’s own submission to the Planning Inspectorate.
      Someone worked out what the loan repayments on £500M over 20 years would be at 5%. It’s a staggeringly large amount of money .. approaching £3M a month.
      Go figure.

    • That’s democracy for you.
      We collectively elect representatives and they spend the money raised through taxation. You can’t pick and choose, other than to pick and choose our representatives.
      At the recent local elections, we chose the very same representatives who had voted for the £10K. And voted out the ones who objected.
      Public opinion does not seem to be on your side.

  11. Yes,the poor will always be with us, but the gap between haves and have nots has grown since 1979.labour did pour money into the NHS and Sure start, but not enough was done to level up in the former industrial areas and Labour suffered for it.
    The Tory promises have fallen flat,not because of local resistance but because the Tories became distracted by tax cutting for the few,instead of ensuring that there was sufficient cake all round.
    Productivity,training.infrastructure and R&D investment remains poor,and if we are to get this promised Brexit boost,there will have to be a bit of austerity within the learjet owning classes for a change.
    Tax will have to be taxing for them for a while, instead of being a discretionary option.
    For those desperate to justify the £44m spent on Thanet Parkway,I think you need to get a bit of perspective.This project,is a grade A made in Maidstone cock upon matter how you dice an slice it.
    As for Southern water claiming that water boards of 30 years ago did not do enough is beyond parody.
    The long suffering public have paid billions to put this right,yet here we are in 2023 not 1963,seeing daily failings in the infrastructure.
    Water,the railways,energy transmission and broadband infrastructure requires some form of public ownership,probably by a not for profit later of corporations.They may not perform any better than the hapless,hopeless Southern Water,but they will be accountable.
    From now on failure should not be in the form of fines,but in the form of stocks and stock options,that will really make these recalcitrant corporations respond in the only way that they understand.

  12. Spot on as usual with our problems in Thanet, Karen, in sharp contrast to our hopeless MP Craig Mackinlay, who seems more interested in Hungary than his own constituency!

  13. Parkway station will be the second biggest white elephant after the multiple time failed airfield. Good work MPs, Cllrs, KCC, and Government, continue with the incompetence and striving but struggling to reach mediocrity.

  14. A family of 4, living in margate ,kids of 8 and 9, No disabilities will receive a fraction under £500 a week for doing nothing, plus the vatious extras this triggers, free school meals, prescriptions , dental and eye tests etc. that does include child bemefit that every family would receive.
    Way off a kings ransom but how much is society expected to pay to support those who either cannot or will not do for themselves.
    The surest way to create more poor people is to pay them to do nothing, increase the payments and more will choose to do nothing, it’s a finely balanced scale at any point.
    If such a family gets this for doing nothing , what is a reasonable amount that anyone who works all week should expect to have before they pay any tax? Would it be too much for a working family in the same position to be guaranteed at least half as much again for actually working and supporting themselves? So 750 a week and no tax? Then why should anyone doing the same job earn less purely because of their situation in regards of partner and offspring?
    The problem with the system is that it rewards not working to much, nearly 70% of social housing is occupied by workless households, which rather suggests that social housing encourages worklessness necause of the lower rents. There most certainly needs to be a safety net , but how big should it be?

    • I don’t know how anyone can not believe in the truth- climate change is actually happening, how can people be sceptical about it?

      • Most people accept that there’s a degree of climate change , but the extent to which it is down to co2 and fossil fuels is open to debate. For example we’ve heard lots about wild fires in recent weeks in europe. Lots of talk of it being down to climate change but not a lot of airtime in respect of

        The old growth forests have been replaced by densely planted plantations of eucalyptus and connifers
        Even 50 years ago there was a much more agricultural lifestyle with the land being better managed and constantly grazed.
        Due to this change a great deal of dry and fine vegetation builds up which burns fast and hot.
        More people live in the area.
        Very few fires occur naturally in the natural environment and most are the result of lightning strikes. How many of these fires would never have occured if not for the carelessly discarded cigarette or glass bottle/jar, the result of bonfires/ barbecues, or even deliberate setting of fires?
        If man wasn’t involved in starting the fire how many would there be?

        None of the above has anything to do with fossil fuels or C02.

        All perfectly reasonable counter arguments to the rather loose assertion that they are because of global warming. But we’ll never see a proper reasoned debate between experts on either side of such viewpoints , largely because the “it’s because of climate change” brigade have no logical argument and instead shout out accusations of the other side being in denial.

        • Good grief.
          You ask “If man wasn’t involved in starting the fire how many would there be?”
          You also said “most are the result of lightning strikes”
          With logic like that, there’s no hope.
          Try this:
          Fact no1: fossil fuels are made mostly of carbon and hydrogen.
          Fact no2: when you burn such fuels, CO2 and H2O are produced.
          Fact no3: both these are greenhouse gasses.
          Fact no4: since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution humans hav been burning increasingly large amounts of fossil fuels.
          Conclusion: the rapid rise in global temperature since the mid 18th Century is linked to the profligate use of fossil fuels by humans.
          There really is no credible doubt about that.

    • Maybe if there was now at least as much social housing as there was before Thatcher’s government brought in the right to buy, far less than 70% of it would be lived in by “workless households”. (Is that the correct percentage?) We also need more industries in Britain, so that we would not be so dependent on goods made in, for example, China.

      • It’s a bit below 70% , you can build lots of social housing but it’ll only get filled with those on benefits as under the needs based allocation system those capable of paying their own way in life are very unlikely to get into social housing. And once in state subsidised housing there is little incentive for the tenants to want to earn more as their costs are lower.
        Council housing in the 50’s and 60’s was pretty much the reverse and tenancies only usually granted to those with decent incomes and a record of paying their bills. One of the ideas behind right to buy was to enable these tenants to be able to purchase the home they’d rented for years and so have greater pride and sense of community where they lived. But when the allocation basis changed , it turned many council estates into areas of decline as those long standing working tenants decided they didn’t like the the way their areas were changing and they moved out. The areas having become less desirable the right to buy homes were not popular with owner occupiers and so were largely bought by buy to let investors. The policy of placing too many of those that don’t work in one area wasn’t too successful in social terms. So now to try and reverse the trend we have affordable housing commitments in new developments to give a better mix to areas. But owner occupiers necame clued up to this and started asking where in developmemts the affordable provision was and avoided being close to it, so the next plan was to bring in part rent part buy , to blur the boundaries and again improve the socio economic mix in an area, this to date seems to have been a better idea, but early days yet , especially in terms of the financial side for those entering such agreements.

  15. Imagine renting out a furnished house for 5 years and the tenants sell all the furnishings to the local junk shop, that in-effect is exactly what the Thatcher government done to the taxpayers belongings. As for Manston Airport of course it will reopen the Labour councillors who oppose it are a disgrace. I am a Labour party voter…….at the moment.

    • You might well be right about Manston. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including that commissioned by the SoS himself, he might grant the DCO.
      But where will all the trade come from to pay the £3,000,000 a month loan repayments? And the 1000’s of employees- what will their monthly wage bill be?
      York Aviation, in looking at RSP’s application, pointed out that in order to meet all these running costs, landing charges would be so high that no carrier would be able to afford to use the place.

    • So labour selling off the nations gold reserves at bargain basement prices or selling off the nations expertise in the nuclear power industry was a good idea?

  16. The family of 4 as part of the undeserving poor might accrue £500 in benefits, though your calculations might be a bit over generous, but once you take rent and energy costs out there will not be a lot left.
    We are back to the situation that Seebohm Rowntree found in York at the turn of the 20th century.
    As for climate change,I think the Pink Checksfield better hope that Birchington is not put to the torch next year,like the poor souls in Canada,Greece, Rhodes, Spain,Portugal, Turkey and much of the Med and the Balkans.
    If there is a god he may be wrathful enough to punish us for allowing TDC,Southern water and Highways England to exist.He may also feel that because we have so little charity towards our fellow man and woman,we deserve condign punishment.
    Perhaps it is necessary to show the fortunate,self righteous and self entitled,non believers who do not care about improving our stewardship of this planet,that actions,and expediency have consequences.

    • Well i did round the figure up from 497, this was calculated via entitledto.co.uk and based on the minimum a non working family would receive and included two children of an age at which they could still share a room.and so only be entitled to the 2 bedroom rate of lha rather than the e bed rate. As i said it’s not a kings ransom, but hardly pocket change either especially if you place a monetary value on the other extras the benefits trigger.

  17. Sparky – Lush. You are factually mistaken. We were given a donation of Lush products and we were explicitly told we could sell them to raise money for the Labour Party. I organised a sale. Two days later I was contacted by the person who made the donation and was told that she had made a mistake. That she couldn’t donate these goods (given to her charity). I immediately donated all the money raised to local charity. I was guided by my Party official to issue an apology which said I apologised for not knowing the rules about such donations. For fullness, the police were not involved, I was not subject to Standards process at either council I was a member of. At that time I was also a serving magistrate and I continued to serve.

  18. You’re obviously not familiar with the phrase, “Plausible deniability”.
    It was created by the same firm which invented the phrase, “Conspiracy theory”.🤣

  19. Until I started reading the comments on this site, i thought it was just children and teenagers who used emoticons.

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