General Election: East Thanet candidate for Liberal Democrats, Jai Singh, shares view on local issues

Lib Dem candidate Jai Singh

On Thursday (July 4) the country will go to the polls for the General Election.

In the 2019 General Election, before the boundary changes that have come into force this year, Conservative Craig Mackinlay took the South Thanet seat with more than 56% of the vote.

Mr Mackinlay announced he would not stand in the forthcoming General Election due to the continued medical appointments and procedures that he continues to face after having had his arms up to the elbows and legs up to the knees amputated due to an extreme case of septic shock.

Boundary changes mean the seats for Thanet comprise of East Thanet and the Herne Bay and Sandwich constituency.

In East Thanet there are eight candidates vying to become the area’s next MP.

We have asked the candidates to answer some questions on issues that matter to Thanet.

Here Jai Singh, Liberal Democrat candidate for East Thanet, answers questions about local issues.

Housing development- particularly on farmland – and the housing numbers dictated for the Local Plan are a concern for many residents.

What is your view on this? Can government reduce housing need figures, because of them being based on 2014 ONS stats, which do not seem to reflect the 2024 situation and need?

I am totally opposed to the use of farmland for housing. We have a national food strategy in our manifesto, and building on farmland is inconsistent with that.

Brownfield sites must be used first, and there is also infilling: some local firms concentrate on these and are delivering many decent quality homes. There is scope to remove planning restrictions e.g. insistence on off-road parking.

We need more, smaller, homes for local people. The Local Plan in July 2020 required approximately 17,000 homes to be built by 2031.

The objectively assessed housing need for each district (underpinned by the 2014 ONS projections) is a starting point for the Local Plan process. Whilst there is a strong presumption from Government that Local Planning Authorities will seek to meet this need in full, they can seek to put forward the case that constraints such as landscape designations, flood risk and/or infrastructure capacity act to limit their ability to do so.

Thanet holds such constraints. Also, I believe that the peninsula nature of the district (and the need to maintain the distinctive character of its constituent settlements) are important considerations, as is the supply of sufficient employment opportunities for a growing population.

Thanet Council must be firm in negotiating to reduce numbers and can be helped by a meticulous MP who takes the initiative in Westminster. This is one of the issues I identified within the first days after being appointed as a candidate.

Alongside this, Thanet needs more social housing: how would you tackle this?

TDC is buying 350 homes from developers. I believe some London boroughs are buying properties to move “their” people into these homes. These will overwhelmingly be people who are economically inactive, and there will be repercussions for local services and budgets.

We must look at how more social homes can be funded. Should the council be a guarantor for tenancies for people with financial and/or health issues and poor credit history? Thanet people must have first options.

Minster Marshes – There is a campaign against the National Grid plans for a converter station as part of the Sea Link project. What are your views on this?

It would certainly damage the environment. There must be a better plan. I would work with the MP for Herne Bay and Sandwich in trying to get a different plan adopted.

This can only go forward if a Development Consent Order is issued. A decision by the Secretary of State is expected, at the earliest, in 2025. This is in the hands of the incoming government. It is another reason we do not want Labour MPs in Kent. What would the Labour candidate do, with her close contacts with a Labour cabinet, particularly, Ed Miliband, the shadow Secretary for Climate Change and Net Zero?

Southern Water sewage releases in our sea – how would you tackle this?

A programme to stop this will be costly and take years (while they continue to pollute). I would, immediately, work with Southern Water to hold their feet to the fire. A major worry is how they would finance the work. Sucking out dividends to pay, often foreign, owners, which leaves the company with huge debts that must be financed by consumers, has become the hallmark of highly leveraged acquisitions in utilities (and potentially other sectors). This issue needs to be addressed by our leaders in Parliament to attack the core of the problem.

Furthermore, Liberal Democrats have already taken the lead on sewage, by calling it out earlier than other parties.

We would set legally binding targets to prevent sewage dumping into bathing waters and highly-sensitive nature sites by 2030. We would also implement a new blue flag status for rivers and a sewage tax on the profits of water companies. We would ask bosses to suspend their bonuses till the sewage issues are cleaned up.

Uniquely, we would replace OFWAT with a tough new regulator – The Clean Water Authority, with the power to prevent sewage dumps.

Additionally, we are calling for extra funding for the Environmental Agency and Natural England, planting 60 million trees a year and establishing 3 new national parks, to improve our environment.

Cost of living – Thanet families are struggling to make ends meet, businesses also struggle as a result and there are a large number of empty shops in our towns. How will you help the economy to recover and how will you help our families and businesses?

The development of some high-wage companies is key to raising incomes. I will play what part I can in attracting these companies to our industrial estates and where appropriate, to our high streets. Indeed, our plan is to get the appropriate level of investment into the Winter Gardens to create local  jobs. We need a plan to evaluate all options for Ramsgate Port and Marina (not just as a port, but to look at all entertainment and leisure options at the same time), then have a strategic review to produce a final decision.

We must see what Brett is discussing with Thanet District Council. It is not clear what the additional £20 million levelling-up money is to be used for.

Our support of engaging with Manston and the businesses in industrial estates is to ensure higher wage employment for Thanet residents. For the pubs and small businesses in our Isle, we support abolishing business rates, which could lead to higher wages and ease the post-Covid economic pressure that our pub owners are suffering.

We will bring the 9.4% Thanet youth unemployment rate down, quickly, if we are elected.

The money saved from directly operating the Port and Marina (£2 million + a year) can be reinvested in improving local services (e.g. rubbish collection).

Having said that, some town centre shop units can never return to retail. I would support developing these for homes, or social enterprises which create employment while dealing with the critical needs of our citizens.

NHS – Thanet has a severe shortage of dentists and there are not enough GPs: getting an appointment is problematic.

There are hundreds of unemployed GPs resident in Britain. There are also hundreds of GPs and dentists in the country who are not allowed to practise. The funding, allocation and certification processes must be improved, and soon. Our policy is to start training an additional 8,000 doctors as part of our fully funded manifesto. We must also make it possible for doctors to work part-time and post-retirement.

Lib Democrats have called for increasing the number of dentists’ training places, removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpastes, and reform and increased funding for the NHS dental contract.

We need another Urgent Treatment Centre, in Ramsgate. This would reduce waiting times in A&E at QEQM (which sometimes can last for 24 hours!).

There is also desperate need for improved mental health services, both adult and child. What are your views on this?

As with other policies, we would like to attack the root of the problem and have a fully costed program to tackle mental health early. We want to improve early access to mental health services by:

  • Opening walk-in hubs for children and young people in every community.
  • Offering regular mental health check-ups at key points in people’s lives when they are most vulnerable to mental ill-health.
  • Putting a resolute, qualified mental health professional in every school, as set out in chapter 8.
  • Ending out-of-area mental health placements by increasing capacity and coordination between services, so that no one is treated far from home.
  • Extending young people’s mental health services up to the age of twenty-five to end the drop-off experienced by young people transitioning to adult services.
  • Increasing access to clinically effective talking therapies.
  • Taking an evidence-led approach to preventing and treating eating disorders and challenging damaging stigma about weight.
  • Making prescriptions for people with chronic mental health conditions free on the NHS, as part of our commitment to review the entire schedule of exemptions for prescription charges.
  • Transforming perinatal mental health support for those who are pregnant, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Tackling stigma through continued support for public education including Time to Talk.
  • Cutting suicide rates with a focus on community suicide prevention services and improving prevention training for frontline NHS staff.
  • Recognising the relationship between mental health and debt and providing better signposting between talking therapies and debt advice.
  • Ending inappropriate and costly inpatient placements for people with learning disabilities and autism.
  • Modernising the Mental Health Act to strengthen people’s rights, give them more choice and control over their treatment and prevent inappropriate detentions.
  • Creating a statutory, independent Mental Health Commissioner to represent patients, their families, and carers.
  • Widening the current safety investigation into mental health hospitals to look at the whole patient experience, including ward design and treatment options.

Youth services: There has been a loss of funding for some youth services (such as Pie Factory and The Pavilion in Thanet). What are your views on provision of youth services and how this should be done?

This is tied into our dedicated strategy towards additional mental health funding and health. We would invest in youth centres, targeted at young people at risk of being drawn into crime. We believe in real-life teen interaction to counter the negative impact of excessive social media usage. We would invest in Youth Centres as effective Mental Health Hubs and activities.

I am a strong believer that sport and physical activity is a great way to promote mental health and keep vulnerable youth off the streets, and this will also have a positive impact on local crime.

With the savings we make from not operating the Port, Marina, and Winter Gardens, we will re-invest in these youth community centres as a priority.

Manston Airport – the DCO is now confirmed, and there will be no further legal appeals. What is your view of the airport/cargo hub scheme and what involvement, if any, will you have with the scheme going forward?

Labour and the Greens have opposed the regeneration of the airport for years (they gave £10,000 of Council Tax to the legal appeals), and still refuse to say that they support it. They are now saying that it is up to the owners to complete the project. In fact, national and local governments are involved with the implementation of the Development Consent Order, so we can expect further attempts by Labour to undermine it. I engaged on the details with the airport operational managers within days of being appointed (as a prospective MP should), to understand how our twin objectives of Employment and Environment would be met with the re-opening of Manston (which is privately owned).

I have and would take a close interest in this crucially important project for Thanet and the rest of the SE. I have some experience of funding airports, and contacts in aviation. My interest would be to use my experience to ensure that the scheme is adequately funded and delivers a 21st century airport that uplifts the economy in Thanet. Our residents are hurting from the cost-of-living crisis.

Asylum – what are your policies on asylum and small boat crossings?

We will smash these gangs’ business model by ramping up enforcement and taking power from their hands.

We will break the “industrialisation” of criminal gangs by investing in a dedicated processing centre which isolates the activities of the criminal gangs and aim to process all cases within 3 months, including speeding up returns for those without a right to stay.

We will provide safe and legal routes for the persecuted refugees, given our membership of the UNHCR. We, the British, are a humane society at the core and we should never forget that in our rhetoric or actions , particularly towards the persecuted and severely displaced and then ensure, with our investment in enforcement and tracking, that undocumented immigrants do not abuse our benefits system.

Our focus will be to have a flexible merit-based work visa system that collaborates with employers in each sector to address their specific needs and address UK’s shortage of skills in key sectors that will drive the economy forward.

For example, we have long called for a Carer’s Minimum Wage, increasing the Carer’s Allowance, and increasing the Carer’s wage by £2 an hour, so that it is easier to recruit British workers to fill vacancies in our care sector, rather than rely on expensive immigration.

We will aim to scrap the Rwanda scheme, which has wasted £290 million of taxpayer’s money, unless a better case is made by the current Conservative government (or the internal or external consultants advising them on this issue).

The Reform and Conservative parties that proposed Brexit did not deliver on immigration. In 2014, we returned over 48,000 non-EU migrants to the EU. Today, we have lost the flexibility to do that, as the concept of shared solidarity and burden sharing under the Dublin Agreement does not apply.

Perhaps both the Reform and Conservative parties can answer whether this loss of flexibility was explained to us when they said they would control the borders?

22 Comments

        • Mr Lewis – and the previous years of Labour government was BETTER? No government of any colour, both local and National, are worth a jolt after elections. All the claptrap spoken is worthless.

    • Can we please LOOK AHEAD, councillor – LOOK FORWARD
      I was not a member of the Party during the coalition and indeed, there is going to be NO coalition now. So this comment is just NOT relevant ; However, the content of my answers may well be relevant to East Thanet’s future. We need to engage with all stakeholders based on content and ideas if we are to move forward in this Island ?

      • Your leader ed Davey WAS in the tory/liberal coalition that started austerity which brought misery to thousands of families in Thanet.

  1. Could Jai Singh share his evidence that

    a) London boroughs are buying up houses here for what he refers to as ‘their people'(as opposed to ‘other people or just ‘people’ and

    b) That those people housed here will be ‘economically inactive’ and a drain on social services? That’s a damning label to attach to those desperate for a home in which to care for their family.

    Seems to me he has assumed those priced out of London’s housing market aren’t looking for work and therefore, will be a hindrance to Thanet’s economy.

    I would welcome reviewing his evidence, if he has any, that is.

  2. Reading in between the lines, to the way he has answered the questions put to him. He is a wannabe tory, he could well switch allegiance if elected. His terminology birders on decisive, tory like, unclear, tory like, condescending, tory like,and from a crib sheet, tory like. He’s a waiting tory in a lib dem disguise.

    • Steve (if that is your real name) – The policies are thought through in an integrated way (something which on-line is destroying having to deal with diversionary comments like yours, instead of the issues we face) – We have focused on Growth (tories dont own that patch exclusively) and would not be raising issues like dividend cuts, bonus cuts to water companies, stopping national grid, environmental issues and national food policy in an integrated way and questioning Rwanda and immigration policy if this was Tory like – Therefore , You are completely Wrong and I wonder who you may really be representing to try and be divisive without facts, instead of us FOCUSING ON THE INTEGRATED AGENDA to a set a good Questions from IOTN. I am the Liberal Democrat Candidate to change and uplift Thanet and have addressed the issues comprehensively. Period. Divisive Party Politics perpetuated by Bots like yourself (if I may say so) also hinders growth in addition to poor local and government policies which needs a MP with the correct business experience and comprehensive manifesto including care, social care and health which we have at http://www.thanetlibdems.uk

      • I’m curious about a fiscal policy that relies on growth to succeed.
        Is the policy predicated on infinite growth?
        If not, how wil our economic health be when growth stops?

      • i do use my name, not a bot, i prefer to have my politics conducted seriously, by leaders which have a defined plan which stands a chance of working, not lets hope for growth to pay for services. while i am on it, i also prefer a potential leader of a party not to be a clown, you never know what he will be doing as a gimmick next. it’s all for headline grabbing to hide a lack of knowledge in regard of what to do if by a miracle, you found yourselves as a close opposition or in power. your party showed no backbone when you were in power with the tories less than a decade ago, i know things change, however it is worth noting your leader, has said nothing which would inspire a vote from me. just because you do not like what is written by anyone, does not make it right or wrong, just different from your opinion. you have just shown you lack of class.

  3. They all say what they think you wanna hear – and then they will all do nothing, same old bullcrap every time a general election comes up.
    Tory austerity cuts & Brexit has damaged this county beyond repair for the next 10 years+

  4. Has anyone seen Mr Singh’s – election video ?
    Well worth a view , it’s hilarious . A wooden promulgation at best , eventually realises he’s in and discussing Thanet.
    Yes my name is David, Jai

  5. He looks more like a tory and sounds more like a tory, a vote for Mr Singh,is a vote fore someone that will probably switch to the Conservative Party if he is elected, after waiting a respectful period of time of course.

  6. My vote has already bin royal mail for a local candidate who lives in their constituency , who pays council tax to tdc,shops locally. up for a f2f chat whenever, has the gift of the gob, pays business rates and more.
    Jai, my lovely. Tbh your election address is east finchley london and we are in east thanet.
    I will be happy to buy you a map and your bus fare back to east finchley. PS i lived in EF Oh its so lovely thou Its not east thanet (insert happy smile here) Good luck bro.

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