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Seeing Red: Manston excess food pile – what a waste

Seeing Red is my regular column in The Isle of Thanet News. This opinion piece was first published on 5 June 2023.

I was shocked to find out that an appalling amount of food is being wasted at the Manston immigration holding facility. Apparently staff are working hard to offload a huge quantity of excess food and stock is being offered to a variety of projects in Thanet.

These are items that have been bought in bulk, stored and are now close to their ‘best before’ date. The items that I saw, stacked floor to ceiling in vast quantities, were high sugar drinks, cheap pot noodle style snacks, and packs and packs of cheap sugar rich long-life croissants. I’m led to believe that there are two hangers full of provisions and that more food is being ordered all the time!

It’s not only an issue of efficient stock holding and waste management. Given the track record of the Tories, I now want to know exactly what food and how much food is being ordered and stored? What are the values of those contracts? And exactly how are those contracts being fulfilled? Put simply how much is the taxpayer forking out for a cheap pot noodle and who’s making a fat profit?

Wasted food supplies from the Manston immigration holding facility

I hear Mitie has won a contract at Manston worth £50M, their website boasts that their Care & Custody services, ‘deliver a range of critical public services to vulnerable adults within the immigration, justice and care sectors. We believe public services should drive positive outcomes for citizens, as well as best value.’ Surely, they can’t think cheap food, largely devoid of nutritional value and this last minute offloading of stock is good value? For £50M the very least I’d expect is effective stock management and high quality, nutritious fresh food.

We all know how expensive food has become during this on-going cost of living crisis. Surely, we should be entitled to expect genuine value for money? And I know I’m a little old fashioned in this respect, but transparency is also vital.

Sadly, this is typical of our Tory Government and another example of them not being competent to run a service, and then blaming a voiceless group for their own failures. I’m sure we’ve all seen through this tired Tory blame game. Who is making these decisions? Who is monitoring the impact? I’ve written to the Home Office for clarification.

This has become all the more important because the recent history of the immigration holding facility at Manston has been, shall we say, checkered and of course, what goes on there is largely a mystery. Very few people can gain access. You won’t be surprised to read that I believe that’s wrong. Especially as of May 21st the hours allowed to hold people increased from 24 to 96, under the ‘Short-term Holding Facility (STHF) Rules 2018 (“the STHF Rules”)’ by means of a negative Statutory Instrument (which) came into force on 5 January 2023.

The rules create a new type of short-term holding facility, known as a residential holding room, in which individuals may be detained for up to 96 hours, extendable in exceptional circumstances if authorised by the Secretary of State.’ (My emphasis.)

This is a significant change. And the letter I received from the Home Office makes it clear that detention times could be expected to increase.

When Manston first opened as a immigration holding facility many members of the public contacted me to ask how they could reach out and support these refugees on our doorstep. Demonstrating an open, caring, inclusive mind-set that many people are rightly proud of. We never received a cogent reply. I think now is the right time to build bridges between our communities, and for decent people to be able to show their humanity, care and concern, whether that’s by reaching out as a friendly voice on the end of the phone, via befriending visits, or by donations of clothes and toiletries. I’ve asked again and I’m awaiting a response. As an absolute minimum I’d like access as their councillor.

Of course, it would be simpler and cheaper to implement a process that allows people to claim asylum without crossing the Channel. This would undercut the people smugglers and mitigate the risk to life. We’re paying a huge amount of money for a failing system.

Sticking with Manston, the Judicial Review is being heard on the 5th and 6th July, here’s the link if you’d like to donate Support Judicial Review of SECOND Manston Airport DCO. Speaking of which, I wish I had a pound (to add to my donation to this good cause) for every social media post where someone claims ‘If it isn’t an airport we’ll end up with housing!” So, for the last time, we aren’t being offered a choice. It isn’t either an airport (er… automated air cargo hub) or housing. The fact is central Government set the housing target and Thanet District Council has to provide the land. It’s the same everywhere. I’m against the air cargo hub principally because of the proven, hugely deleterious impact on our health, and also because it’s become such a political smokescreen, behind which, both our MP’s hide their continuing failure to boost our economy. It’s always Jam tomorrow with the Conservatives isn’t it?

How marvellous then, in this era of industrial scale gas lighting and deliberate, misinformation to hear former Tory chairman Lord Patten issue a damning warning about the current Conservative Party. Talking about the U.K. economy and the impact of Brexit, he says ‘Our GDP per capita now is less than not only France, Germany and the Netherlands, it’s lower than Ireland, it’s lower for heaven’s sake than Lithuania. The poorest 20% in Britain are poorer than the poorest 20% in Poland.’ We are a lot poorer now!

Which brings me to my final point which is about our young people, the teens, yes them. Some people love to hate ‘em! But what are we doing to them and for them? And more to the point what should we be doing?

We are undoubtedly living through the most challenging times for decades, certainly in my lifetime (I’m sixty.) I’ve never known such a worrying, tense or complex time. The news is endlessly depressing; Our ‘media’ is on all day and every day; the climate emergency; the perils of AI; A failing global economy; War; Cost of living crisis; Housing shortage; the list goes on and on.

It feels as if our country is being dismantled around us, as one wag said, ‘If this country was car – it would be up on bricks.’ I feel baffled and blindsided about what is the best way forward, often uncertain about my own life choices, both big and small – I know many friends feel similarly. Life has become extraordinarily complex. I’d ask that we all stop for a minute and think how that must feel for our younger citizens?




Little wonder this has been termed the age of anxiety or VUCA –

‘Volatility: the rate at which change occurs in economy, polity or the world in general.

Uncertainty: the inability to predict the future.

Complexity: the myriad factors that are interconnected and impact us.

Ambiguity: confusion as to how to interpret global events and day to day occurrences.’

It’s no surprise that adolescence mental health is becoming such a concern. All the time despite the efforts of parents, teachers and professionals I see examples of unmet mental health needs. Sometimes I just observe our young people and they don’t always seem happy. There seems to be both higher expectations and more roadblocks for them to navigate, a complexity that hasn’t previously existed.

This is why the NYA – National Youth Agency – is carrying out a national census to influence decisions about funding at a national level, and they say it will also help to show areas where there is need identified. I hope youth workers and other interested parties across Thanet state the case for our corner of Kent. Here’s the link National Youth Sector Census – NYA The National Youth Work Census will be important because it helps us to show that there is a need for youth service’s.

I can’t help feeling that young people are getting a raw deal… and that we should be investing a lot more in them.