There is however a much bigger picture involved here than a local council working hard to deliver against a strategy of economic development and regeneration. Let's examine a few hard facts, mostly from council and Office of National Statistics sources, about the challenges we face about our island. An ageing population and twenty years of demographic change; accelerated by this Government's recently revealed 'Dispersal' and 'Inward migration' policy to seaside towns such as Margate, Hastings and Dover, has dramatically changed the face of the place where I grew-up:
- Thanet has a disproportionately large population of elderly residents and the lowest life expectancy in Kent. The health of people in Thanet is the worst in the South-east.
- Those residents over the age of 50 (which includes me) now account for 40.8% of the population, the highest proportion of 50+ adults in the country. This figure will continue to increase as time goes by and presents tough financial challenges to the statutory agencies at a time when central Government budgets are in unprecedented crisis.
- Adults over 65 and 85 are once again higher than the national picture and annual incomes are lower. This has significant implications in regard to sustaining the local economy of our towns where disposable income is involved.
- Thanet is characterized by household incomes significantly below the national and regional average but demand for new housing continues to increase and in particular those with disabled access. Meanwhile, Government is reducing its support for disabled facilities grants for the many homes that require it locally, leaving Thanet to find the funding and a £2.3 million backlog in applications.
- There are over 4,000 people on the housing register and 35% of all homes in Thanet fail to meet the decent homes standard
- Thanet has the highest levels of domestic abuse in Kent.
- Unemployment is more than twice that of the South-east as a whole but qualifications are below the average.
- Thanet experiences the highest levels of criminal damage in Kent.
- The demographic mix in Thanet is changing rapidly with significant increases in ethnic groups.
Recently, I wrote that my own back-of-an-envelope calculation from a recent presentation suggested that every man, woman and child on the island has been subsidized by Government, in terms of services to the sum of £7,000 each. I also reminded people that collected council tax only pays 40% of what we need to deliver all our local services and that the balance of 60% comes from Government. This is about to be slashed, leaving the close to £6 million gap over five years, reported in Your Thanet last week.
This last decade of Labour government policies has proved disasterous for the island and yesterday's papers revealed what may have been going on behind the scenes in regard to Labour's efforts to win new seats through the simple expedient of making them poorer and more diverse. From looking at the published league of local deprivation, Thanet North sticks out like a sore thumb. It should be Labour but it's not, a tiny island of blue surrounded by a sea of red. But you draw your own conclusions; don't take my word for it.
So, Thanet Bloggers and local papers and local film producers who are so quick to criticize, tell me where the money comes from to deliver on all your grand plans, if efforts to rebuild and regenerate our local economy are frustrated? We need to give local people jobs, homes, opportunities and a future and these can't be found by turning back the clock or even under this Government, which seems so cynically intent on perpetuating and growing our benefits dependent culture, keeping us poor by sending us its poor and homeless in large numbers and against our wishes.