Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The letters page in 'Your Thanet' this week, once again illustrates how European employment laws and local planning become mixed together in indignant criticism of Thanet District Council.
Thanet Earth is a fine example of this. The initial planning application was passed with the best possible intentions by councillors. Why? First and most important of all was the prospect of badly needed jobs, some 500, or more anticipated when the greenhouses reach full capacity. Second and less important was placing Thanet on the map. It has a microclimate which makes it attractive in a country which needs to grow more food and new businesses and new jobs invariably go hand in hand.
I read today that two thirds of all new British jobs in the last year went to workers from abroad. Whether that's accurate or not I don't know but in Thanet, an area of high deprivation and unemployment, encouraging business and employment is a priority on all sides of the political divide. However, local people have both to apply and compete for work with others from the European Union and there's absolutely nothing that can be done to ring-fence jobs. What we do hear from employers in Thanet as much as councils anywhere else, is that because of our benefits system, local people aren't prepared to take the low-paid, physically tiring and often repetitive contract work that goes with working on the land but Eastern Europeans will.
So what's the answer? We can't close the border and in fairness, if the council didn't try and encourage employers to come to the island, the criticism would be even harsher. Intel and Microsoft aren't likely to set up factories here because they can get better tax-breaks and a cheaper, more skilled and educated workforce elsewhere, so don't be too harsh on your local councillors when they approve planning applications on the back of potential jobs, because they often see a much bigger picture and like me, want the very best opportunities for the people of Thanet.
Margate, News Thanet, "Thanet Earth". Manston