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Seeing Red: If you think it is bad now…

Seeing Red is my regular column in The Isle of Thanet News. This opinion piece was first published on 29 June 2023.

You think it’s bad now? It can get a whole lot worse. Perhaps it’s because I’m recovering from Covid (horrible virus!) and maybe because I’m scrolling through Facebook, but honestly U.K. PLC has such an air of doom and gloom.

Maybe it’s the fragile and needy elderly whose families have contacted me incredulous that their loved one has been discharged from hospital without any care in place. Yes, that happens far too frequently. There is no easy fix. Families struggle to provide care themselves whilst managing ever complex and stretched ‘support’ services.

And whilst I don’t strictly deal with housing as a Kent County Councillor, where’s there is an interface with health (and when doesn’t health depend on a decent living conditions?) I wade in. No-one in Thanet needs me to explain that housing need long ago outstripped supply. I could honestly weep when I hear of peoples struggles. The forthcoming mortgage rise is going to hit renters in the private sector like a tidal wave.

Water bills have gone up and up since privatisation. We are in fact the only country in Europe, possibly the world, that has sold off our water for other countries and shareholders to make vast profits from. They’ve been taking around £2B per year. And the top bosses have been rewarding themselves huge wages and bonuses.

When I called a public meeting last year with the then Chief Executive of Southern Water Ian McCauley, he was quite clear when he said, based on his experience of working in water companies around the world, he thought water in the U.K. was too cheap! And if we wanted infrastructure improvements (and clean seas) we’d better be prepared to pay! At least he told us straight.

Apparently we can look forward to a 40% increase in our bills?

And as Thames Water starts to sink, I wait with bated breath to see the current Tory leaders (and I use the word extremely loosely) cough up the cash to save it. Money that they have been denying they have. I bet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak isn’t extolling them to ‘hold their nerve!’

But will this be the same drill as with the post Covid railway bailout I wonder? That public funded ‘scam’ where we put our tax money into a rescue plan, and pay extortionate rail fares, and eye watering bonuses are still paid out. Even though the failure of privatisation is 100% proven.

And sticking with railways… £39M has now been spent on Thanet’s favourite spanking new white elephant, Ramsgate Parkway. Opening soon, with a little free car parking for a while. Of course you’ll have to drive there, as there’s no public transport. (Don’t mention the additional preventable carbon emissions.) Parkway will not staffed, and there’ll be absolutely no help on hand for anybody in any kind of need. Ditto if you arrive home late at night… Departures from Ramsgate Town station will now also take slightly longer to get to central London. What else could we could have done with all that money if only we’d been able to creatively divert funds and actually match them to real need…

It’s ironic isn’t it that total population of Thanet is deemed insufficient to support a vital HASU, but somehow needs 8 railways stations to facilitate journeys to London, echoing working practices that have at long last been replaced with hybrid and home working! Post Covid, all bets are off as to how the new 9 – 5 will settle down. But it won’t be five days a week up and down to London!

Last but far from least. Britain has lost its leadership on climate action and yet more political failure means progress has stalled. The Climate Change Committee have heavily criticised the U.K’s lack of progress on climate change. Still – there are people who imagine that an air cargo hub (not airport) is still on the cards and the answer to Thanet’s economic decline. It isn’t. We are missing climate targets on almost every front. This is one reason local campaigners are raising money, to fight through the the courts to stop this madness. Heroic action in my opinion. But this legitimate use of the Judicial Review process has been criticised by our absent Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay who describes it a decision “not liked by disgruntled few..” Little doubt at the next General Election he will realise his error.

Meanwhile if you have a few pounds please donate