I will always support Thanet District Council in trying to do the right thing. Indeed with my experience of local government as a former councillor on a larger authority in Kent, and as the former Chairman of its Audit Committee, dry as that sounds, this has given me experience of the problems faced by councils in balancing their budgets, and the complex issues of reserve and capital accounting. It is therefore worrying that TDC now has few reserves, particularly a general reserve now at just £2m. Any unforeseen shocks, like the fine by the Health and Safety executive of £250,000 just last week, and uncertainty as to how the future of Dreamland and the potential liability for the Compulsory Purchase Order of the land due to previous owners will pan out means that the Council is under extreme financial pressure.
Manston continues to rear its head. There are numerous reports that communication between potential investors and TDC are frosty if not glacial. There seems to me a clear attempt by the council, UKIP run, and elected on a promise to save Manston for aviation use, to re-designate the land for mixed use aka ‘housing’. I hope and indeed expect Councillors to reject this slow creep as part of the consideration of the emerging Local Plan. The so called evidence against aviation being provided by a report (the Avia report) which has been poorly written and takes no account of the needs of the South East, the potential aviation market, nor the inherent delays running into years in expansion at Heathrow.
Unfortunately, my Private Member’s Bill second reading to stop live animal exports through Ramsgate had insufficient time to progress, but is back on the order paper for this Friday 25th November. In presenting Bills on a Friday, the true oddities of Parliament are laid bare; the Bill prior to mine was artfully (annoyingly) talked out, using up all of the day’s Parliamentary time. My most sincere thanks for the letters, emails and social media messages of support. This is an issue that I have got my teeth into and I will not stop.
Last week was the annual ‘Parliament Week’ which is very much aimed at younger voters to get involved and understand the democratic process and the role of MPs and how Parliament works. I have made a particular effort in getting local schools up to the Palace of Westminster which now boasts a new state of the art education centre. As part of Parliament week I visited local schools for Q&A sessions and was impressed with the quality of questions which ranged from gun control in the US, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea to whether welfare and benefits should be expanded at the extent of our armed services. Fascinating, considered questions which were tough to answer!