Councillor’s Report Autumn 2020

Welcome to my latest report. I hope everyone is managing ok through these very challenging times. It really does feel like one step forward and two steps backwards most of the time! It seems to me that local politicians have never been more needed, and yet at the same time it’s a difficult period to be a politician. I spend my time trying to represent people, supporting individuals and groups, scrutinising Kent County Council Policy and trying to keep building our movement. The stakes are becoming increasingly high, as we’ve seen at close quarters in Ramsgate. With our scandalous unchecked child poverty, homelessness, and the dreadful decisions that have been imposed upon us, like Manston. 

I hope this report will give you a flavour of what’s being going on over recent months and provide insight into my councillor role and responsibilities. It’s been an extremely busy and challenging time for me both politically and personally. There’s a great deal to report on. 

Two things to note, there has been a great deal of ‘media’ attention, which is great for the Party. Not a week has gone by where there hasn’t been a radio, or TV interview or a report in the local news. So visibility is high. This is good, because I’m pleased to report I am one of two candidates for next years KCC elections. 

There’s no doubt that Labour can retain the current seat in Ramsgate, but more importantly we are poised to win both seats. This is vital if Labour are going to win the next General Election. I’m feeling energised and optimistic about securing a Labour Government! I’ll be coming to you for your help and support. 


Judicial review

We all remain seriously concerned about the removal of our Stroke service from QEQM to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. We are still waiting to hear if our community applicant Marion Keppel will be allowed an appeal.

I am in regular touch with the legal team, and have requested this be dealt with quickly. The court have confirmed that Arnold LJ will be invited to set aside his Order and our application for permission to appeal will be considered shortly. I will keep you informed. 

Manston Airport and Judicial review

I have written to brief the Labour Shadow transport team about the nonsense that is the Manston Air freight proposal. I’m hoping to hear back from Jim McManon MP and am urging a statement on the national position on this significant issue. 

I challenged the Governments decision at July’s full county council meeting, particularly on the grounds that this will prevent KCC from meeting its own Carbon targets. But also because it will not provide the jobs that we do badly need. 

Seeing Red Story Banner

You can more on this in my ‘Seeing Red’ Column for the Isle of Thanet news here.

I also provided comment about Manston Airport and Brexit lorry parks in this Kent Online article.


There has been so much going with health. Sitting as I do, on the Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), it’s been at the very top of my agenda. It is apparent that East Kent is an absolutely failing trust. I’ve made my position very clear.

  • Susan Acott must go. We need a fresh Chief Executive to drive forward the much needed improvements in a sustainable way.
  • The criminal charges that have now been bought against East Kent in respect of baby deaths are very sadly the tip of a very nasty iceberg. I have called for a public inquiry.
  • Many people feel let down by our NHS, this is because of systemic failings, understaffing, cuts to bursaries, running down services. Labour must continue to raise awareness and aspirations. We must be at the front of this debate.
  • I’ve spoken with a few trade unions about support for a refreshed and refocused NHS campaign in South Thanet. We’ve run two in recent years, ‘stop crushing our NHS’, where we delivered 6000 signatures to the Government. Also ‘hands off’ which enabled the Judicial Review. A new initiative is required. ‘Helping hands for Health’ more on this exciting idea soon.

Baby deaths in East Kent

It really is time for a public inquiry into what’s going wrong with maternity services at QEQM. The Government need to make good on their promise to improve the NHS and to increase the number of midwives. The Secretary of State, along with Thanet’s local MPs, need to be made to understand that we will not tolerate this second rate service where mothers and babies suffer needlessly.

Signage at QEQM Hospital Margate

This crisis has been making headlines for months. Below are links to some of the articles where I have voiced the Labour Party perspective.

Letter to Nadine Dorries

I wrote to Nadine Dorries, Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety to outline my concerns. I’m afraid her response wasn’t very illuminating and isn’t even worth wasting your time with here.

Dear Nadine Dorries,

I am the County Councillor for Ramsgate in East Kent. Our Maternity Services are currently being reviewed by Dr. Bill Kirkup. So far we have as many as 40 incidents of death and damage to babies. This includes the wholly avoidable death of baby Harry Richford and baby Archie Batten. I’m afraid this is just the tip of a rather nasty Iceberg.

I believe we need a public inquiry to establish what is going wrong in our Maternity services. There can be nothing more regrettable than the death of a new born infant, where that death is avoidable.

What steps will you take to remedy this lamentable situation? Will you pay due regard to the HRA Article 2, the right to life.?How will you meet this statutory obligation?

Kind regards

Cllr Karen Constantine.

I was mentioned in the Health Service Journal, in an article penned by Alison Moore:

Reconfiguration in East Kent delayed, again!

I’m extremely concerned about the prospects of further loss of vital health services in Thanet, especially A&E. today I’m writing to NHS leaders asking for reassurance.

Leaders in the south east are hopeful they will secure funding for a delayed £400m acute reconfiguration from the comprehensive spending review this autumn.

Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group told HSJ it anticipated funding for the reconfiguration of emergency and specialist services in East Kent would be confirmed in the chancellor’s funding settlement later this year.

The CCG added in a statement: “A further iteration [of the reconfiguration plans] will be considered as part of the national November spending review to identify the necessary capital funding. A formal consultation is anticipated to take place in 2021.”

The reconfiguration will need close to £400m in public money, but it was not included in the government’s flagship hospital building plans laid out by prime minister Boris Johnson last year.

The two options for the reconfiguration are a main emergency and specialist hospital in Ashford, with a second A&E in Thanet; or for a new-build hospital in Canterbury with a A&E which would cover the whole area. The Canterbury option would include the shell of a new hospital donated by a developer in return for getting planning permission elsewhere in the city.

The pre-consultation business case was submitted to NHS England and Improvement earlier this month – nearly three years after the two options for the reconfiguration were unveiled.

The long delay has drawn criticism from Kent county councillor Karen Constantine, who sits on the health overview and scrutiny committee. She said: “I am dismayed to hear that the proposed reconfiguration is delayed even further. This means that services for patients remain in a state of flux and that staff are not sure where they will work or where their work bases will be in future. This uncertainty inevitably impacts on recruitment and retention of key staff which is a huge problem for the trust.”

The two options for the reconfiguration were first unveiled in late 2017 with an expectation that public consultation would follow in 2018. But new requirements from NHS England and Improvement that pre-consultation business cases needed to have been approved with a funding source identified before consultation could begin has held the process up.

In February 2019, the four clinical commissioning groups in East Kent issued a timeline showing submission to NHS E/I in November 2019. This timetable then slipped but in February this year county councillors were told a final draft would be ready in March.

Last year Mr Johnson announced funding for six new hospitals and big refurbishment projects, and small amounts of money for other building schemes to be developed. Despite the timeline for the schemes running until 2030, East Kent was not among the list.

Tragic deaths at Grovesnor Court.

There are no easy or simple answers to our care homes crisis but it’s absolutely down to the government to reassess the safety in our care home system, and to fund it properly.

I have contacted each care home in my division to offer help and support. I am often contacted by those with friends and family in the homes.

I provided comment for this story in Kent Online.

Covid: Deaths, tests and the second wave

Covid deaths in East Kent Hospitals have been extremely high. We need the Accountable Officer to exert more pressure to ensure infection control is ‘under control’. I was pleased to force a small practical measure to be put into place, the installation of a Perspex screen at A&E at QEQM.

As you’d expect, I have been contacted by the media throughout the crisis for comment. Here are links to some of the pieces:

Councillors Pay Rise.

Councillor pay rise news clip illustration

Councillors at KCC awarded themselves (another) pay rise. I took the immediate decision to decline this. I felt deeply uncomfortable about it.

Likewise I have very recently spoken against councillors having ‘an end of term’ payment if they fail to secure a seat in 2021. It appears many Tories are worried about losing their seats.

We do need a proper look at Councillors allowances, our focus should be on encouraging greater diversity.

Media coverage on this topic:

Food bank support.

One benefit of being a County Councillor is the members allowance. This is a limited fund I have at my disposal to support community initiatives. I was pleased to be able to support local food banks to the tune of £8k at the beginning of the pandemic.

With demand rising during the crisis, the funding was much needed:

Craig’s sculpture cemetery

I was oddly surprised at Craig Mackinlay’s rather bizarre attempt to put Ramsgate in the tourist map. However, his idea of housing all the socially unacceptable statues was completely wrong.

What we actually need is an economic recovery plan for Ramsgate. I wrote to our local MP twice. 360 residents co-signed those letters. I even made a video just for him but no response. He is terrified of me!

Kent Online covered my open letter on the subject in this article: Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay blasted for ‘absurd’ sculpture cemetery plans in open letter by Kent County councillor

More on Seaborne

Even without ‘Failing Grayling’ at the helm, Seaborne Freight’s plans are well and truly sunk. Kent Online called me for comment on the wannabe ferry company’s demise: Seaborne Freight, which was offered millions by Chris Grayling at Department for Transport despite having no ships, has gone into liquidation


Harbour Street, Ramsgate is pedestrianised between 9.00 – 6.00 although you’d never know it from the number of cars and lorries that ignore this and drive up.

I’ve been trying to assist Ramsgate Town Council’s efforts to secure a simple permission from KCC for the past three years. All we want is a simple gate! This would be like the gate’s found in Canterbury, Herne Bay, Folkestone, Deal etc. It would be located at the entrance to Harbour Street to create pedestrian safety.

So, I’ve asked local residents to write to KCC leader Roger Gough, if you have a minute you could too! More than 200 people have contacted him apparently.

Email Roger:


Pleasurama construction site in Ramsgate

I imagine that, like me, you are pleased to see work has started on the seafront development in Ramsgate. This local press article covered my positive comment and my letter to the developer, Blueberry Homes:

Kent County Council losses

We are expected to make saving of up to £120m. Residents are being consulted about what services they would like to see cut, and whether or not they can stomach another council tax increase.

This comes shortly after councillors awarded themselves a pay rise – which this press story notes I declined:

Thanet Parkway

I’ve spent thousands of hours door knocking. No one ever said to me “Thanet needs a 7th railway station”!

Opinion is divided, but this money could be, and should be, with Covid in mind, better directed. The ‘commute’ has changed. My key concern is that this investment will be all that Ramsgate gets and it isn’t the prime economic lever we actually need.

Care homes

Care homes are under immense pressure again. Instead of clear unambiguous guidance, based on local national, and international evidence, we see matters left to care home managers. Don’t be surprised when the blame is also placed on their shoulders. Meanwhile staff, residents and relatives do their best to support and care for our societies most vulnerable people.

It’s really time for a properly funded social care sector for elder care.

Child refugees.

I don’t mind telling you I was moved to tears of sorrow and anger when I heard this plan on BBC Radio Kent. To further deprive these already most needy, most vulnerable children of their basic human rights saddens me.

I wrote to Roger Gough and Sue Chandler immediately. Of course, I just got some platitudes when I raised this in the (virtual) chamber. I spoke about my recent visits to refugee camps in Kurdistan and Greece, where the conditions are extremely hard. The Tories were not moved.

Dear Sue and Roger,

I am shocked and disappointed to hear about the fact that Child migrants, arriving on our Kent Shores cannot be accommodated and will now be left with the border force.

I do appreciate that housing and looking after these children is a challenge. But it is simply not right to avoid our responsibilities to them and to subject them to treatment that is harmful. I believe we are as a County Council in clear breach of their human rights and the international Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A scheme to ‘disperse’ these very needy and vulnerable young people should have been devised, agreed and be ‘implementable‘.

We should not play political games and use these children as bargaining chips with the Government.

Their lives, health, safety, security, well-being and future life chances are as valuable as any other child anywhere in the Country.

I feel shamed by this crass decision.

Can you please immediately reverse it?

Kind regards
Cllr Karen Constantine.

Recession and the jobs crisis.

I was pleased to speak on Radio Kent about the Chancellors Rishi Sunak’s latest Job Support Scheme. 1 in 8 workers are still on Furlough, 750,000 workers have been made unemployed and the U.K. is in the deepest recession in the G7.

By creating such a short term plan Sunak has consigned many jobs (and workers) to the scrapheap, industry leaders are saying we can expect a further million job losses in the next few months and the spectre of mass unemployment ala Thatcher and Howe looms over us all.

As we lurch from one short term plan to another short term plan and U turn after U turn other EU Countries have robust plans in place to support their workers until 2021.