We must give our police the resources and manpower that they need to keep our streets safe

Dear Editor,

Last week the Gazette reported that violent crime on Teesside has risen more than 70% compared to nine years ago and by 12% compared to last year.  The same report stated that over the same period, almost 500 Cleveland Police posts have been lost – a fall from 1,721 in 2009 to 1,274 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary has insisted that savage police cuts have not had a significant impact on the rise of violent crime.  By continuing to claim that police forces across the UK have the resources and the manpower required to tackle the increasing violence on our streets, the government is literally attempting (and failing) to defend the indefensible.

Preventing and reversing such a significant rise in violent crime would be a tough task for any police force at the best of times, even with the full backing of our political leaders. I am afraid that I must admit to having deep concerns regarding whether it is even fair to expect an already overstretched, underfunded Cleveland Police force to be capable of tackling this issue – especially while Cabinet Ministers continue to bury their heads in the sand and attempt to pretend that the issue simply doesn’t even exist.

The Home Secretary and this Conservative government must abandon their pathetic attempt at spin, be honest with the British public and give our police the resources and manpower that they need to keep our streets safe.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The decision to send a passport contract overseas, to the detriment of local jobs, is another illustration of why we are right to leave

Dear Editor,

I trust that the irony of the decision to award the contract for new British blue passports to a foreign company has not passed the public by.

The reason that Gemalto, a Franco-Dutch company, has been nominated over a local British company is because the UK is still (at least until Brexit) required to follow EU competition rules.

Achieving best value is always to be desired, but we should be free to choose to which company we hand taxpayers’ cash in the particular circumstances of the work involved. Sometimes the value of creating or protecting local jobs will outweigh a marginal cost saving.

The passports are currently manufactured by a firm in my constituency and so this decision is particularly painful.

Unlike many Brexiteers, the colour of our passports doesn’t really bother me. What does concern me is what they symbolise: regaining our freedom from EU rules and regulations; our ability to once again make our own choices.

The decision to send this contract overseas, to the detriment of local jobs, is another illustration of why we are right to leave.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The UK has failed for decades to build enough houses to meet demand

Dear Editor,

The UK has failed for decades to build enough houses to meet demand. In the last Budget, the Chancellor announced sufficient funding to deal with the issue – but what I fail to see from this government is a coherent plan to achieve it. Left-wingers do (correctly) speak about the need to protect the greenbelt; right-wingers (also correctly) point out that mass immigration further increases demand for housing. Both sides decry the failure to ensure that first-time buyers can get onto the property ladder.

I want to hear more about actual solutions. For years we’ve seen the private market, and social housing. But what if we were to introduce a hybrid between the two? What if government were to finance – using the existing money announced by the Chancellor – the setting up of a new Housing Corporation to build cheap, modern, modular, starter eco-homes – and to sell those houses to young people and other first-time buyers at cost price? When a young person comes to sell, years down the line, they could have a guaranteed sale back to the Housing Corporation (providing it’s kept in good condition, at an appropriate proportional profit) to be used to help someone else?

We could sell literally millions of people new, cheaper modern starter homes – and after the initial cost outlay to the government, it would be a self-financing project. Perhaps government won’t like this solution, for some reason. If not, they should be equally imaginative and think of something better!
It’s sadly this lack of vision, a lack of leadership, that currently infects modern politics. Successive dull Labour and Conservative governments have shown little imagination, little appetite for finding creative solutions to modern problems.
Regards,
Jonathan Arnott MEP

How can any Councillor look their constituents in the eye and defend Council policies which prioritise investing in a hotel company over providing frontline services for residents

Dear Editor,

Last year I was very vocal in my opposition to plans from Stockton-on-Tees Council to invest in a Hilton hotel.   At a time when local residents were been faced with simultaneous Council Tax rises and cuts to key services I felt the the mere idea of investing in a luxury hotel was absurd.  However, in the end the Council ignored all of those who opposed this plan and invested in Hilton anyway.

Imagine my surprise last week when I learned that the Council which was more than happy to invest huge amounts of money in a hotel had decided to raise Council Tax by 6% – the highest rise of any Teesside council.

When many people are struggling to simply make ends meet and evermore people are relying on foodbanks to feed their families, how can any local Councillor look their constituents in the eye and defend Council policies which prioritise investing in a billion dollar hotel company over providing frontline services for local residents?

Council Tax appears to be on the rise all across the North East, but I am sure that your readers will agree that this decision by Stockton-on-Tees Council was particularly egregious.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The narrative surrounding hospital services in Hartlepool must change

Dear Editor,

I welcome the announcement from Alan Foster that maternity services will not be centralised at James Cook University Hospital as had long been feared.

The loss of Hartlepool’s A&E services is still a major issue for the area and it is very clear that local people want key medical services to remain at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

The narrative surrounding hospital services in Hartlepool has long centered around talking about which services will be cut, removed or reduced; this must now change to a discussion about how to improve existing services such as the midwife-led maternity services and how to increase provision for those requiring emergency care.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The Lords is bloated and is not fit for purpose. In the name of democracy reform is long overdue

Dear Editor,

I am pleased, and not surprised, that a poll has shown overwhelming opposition to new appointments to the House of Lords.

This has been revealed by new BMG Research polling commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society and it would appear it has put a halt, at least for now, on plans for about 15 new peers to be appointed.

These mooted appointments are opposed by the majority of Conservative, Labour and UKIP supporters who expressed views. The poll shows that 78% think there are already too many Lords – compared to just 18% who think the current size of nearly 800 is ‘about right’.

I am, and always have been, with the majority on this – the Lords is simply bloated and is not fit for purpose. In the name of democracy reform is long overdue.

It is packed with sycophantic cronies as recently demonstrated by the stated aim of several to derail the desire of the majority of the public for Brexit. The Lords was once a respected and respectable chamber but quite frankly that era has gone and the public has had enough of this unelected and unaccountable bunch.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Arnott MEP

It’s not too late to adopt the right approach

Dear Editor,

While the EU continues to stamp its feet like a petulant child over Brexit it was reassuring, though not surprising, to hear that our relations with China will not change.

At least the beleaguered Mrs May was able to return from her trip there with that good news from the Chinese Prime Minister – something she generally needs more of right now – and our trading relationship with that vast country should continue to strengthen.

The EU is a declining economic bloc; by 2050 the EU’s own projections show that the whole EU27 put together will only be the world’s 4th-largest economy.  China is just one of the countries with a growing economy outside the European Union with which we can have mutually beneficial trade deals.

The British government’s negotiating position has so far been weak; a confident, forward-looking, outward-looking robust approach is needed. It’s not too late for us to adopt the right approach.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

Remainers are fighting against shadows

Dear Editor,

As far as I can tell the bottom hasn’t fallen out of the world since the UK voted for Brexit – and nor will it.

But those in favour of remaining still invent opportunities to proclaim, or at least imply, that our future is a bleak one filled with doom and gloom.

The latest I spotted was a report from  Parcelhero (no, I’d never heard of them either) who suggest that Brexit could mean consumer rights giving online shoppers a 14 day ‘cooling off’ period being rescinded. But leaving the EU does not mean that this and all the other EU legislation foisted on us will be torn up by our government. Indeed, in many areas of workers’ rights and consumer rights, UK law is stronger than the EU requirements. If a British government truly wished to erode rights, this would not be the case.

Some legislation, particularly anything imposed with the EU ‘one size fits all” philosophy which does not suit our country, may rightly be amended post-Brexit to be tailored to the UK’s actual needs.

There are virtually no opponents to rights such as those in the Consumer Rights Directive. It is wrong to suggest that legislation that benefits our citizens is automatically at threat; Remainers are fighting against shadows, tilting against windmills.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Arnott,

The North East requires more investment in transport

Dear Editor,

I quite agree with the 26 North East Labour MPs demanding more transport investment in the region.

They are quite right and it is a subject close to my heart about which I have spoken on many many occasions. There may be some dispute about the exact figures involved in the discrepancy between the North East and London but there is undoubtedly a yawning gap.

It is an issue that must be pursued but I have to say it’s a pity that the local Labour MPs did not take action when they were in power between 1997 – 2010.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Arnott, North East Independent MEP

Promises to address the transport spending gap between the North and South usually prove to be no more than empty words

Dear Editor,

I am not surprised that a row has broken out about the transport spending gap between the North and South, it is a perennial problem and likely to remain so I’m afraid.

This issue has spanned many successive governments, both Labour and Tory. We have heard countless promises of investment but it usually proves to be no more than empty words.

Whether the think tank IPPR North has got its figures right or not, as claimed by the Department of Transport, there can be no doubt that there is large discrepancy and it needs to be addressed.

But governments rise and governments fall and though I’d love to be wrong about this,I fear this spending gap will survive.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP