/ About Ramsgate
/ Letter to the Secretary of State for House, Communities and Local Government
Rt Hon Robert Jenrick,
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government,
2 Marsham Street,
18th May 2020.
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to inform you of the work and the financial cost that Ramsgate Town Council has undertaken to alleviate food poverty in Thanet.
The Council has taken a leading position in setting up a network of voluntary organisations to deliver supplies of food to those that need it in Thanet.
This network has delivered at least 120 tonnes of food since its inception at the beginning of the coronavirus emergency, to those facing food poverty or are not covered by the ‘shielding’ scheme set up by the Govt.
Every part of Thanet is covered and RTC’s part in the scheme is to collect food stuffs from various sources such as Fareshare in Ashford, local farmers, and other sources. Having collected the food, we store it in our facility at Radford House, in Ramsgate (a former Fire Station) and distribute out the food as required to food banks and distribution points throughout Thanet.
The RTC part of the network was set up within a few hours, a few days before the ‘lockdown’ was promulgated, and relies heavily on improvisation and a determination to see that no one in Thanet goes without a well-balanced and adequate supply of food.
The Council has been fully supportive from the start, but naturally it is concerned that RTC’s work, is not being adequately recognised or supported.
Thanet District Council have lent the use of a small van and they have provided a bin to take the substantial amount of cardboard waste that arrives on site as part of the collections, but apart from those much appreciated, but limited items; they have been unable to provide any financial assistance to RTC, to keep the network going.
Kent County Council have been contacted, but so far, they have not replied to our request for financial assistance. We have received funding from one of our KCC members and a member of the public, but that money is ring fenced to purchase food and not to defray RTC’s running costs and we are scrupulous in how that money is disbursed and how it is accounted for.
It is costing RTC around £10,000 per month to keep the service going, this does not take into account the wear and tear to our vehicles, or the risk to Council staff, who have valiantly turned up for work, each day, without complaint and have provided the means to get the job done so well.
We are not asking for financial restitution for loss of income as the various Councils and representative bodies such as the LGA and our NALC are requesting. We have already agreed to forgo rent from the RNLI and a small start-up restaurant business, who both trade from our premises at Custom House, and we are not asking the MHCLG to defray those costs. Neither are we asking the MHCLG to subscribe to our funding for Rape Crisis in Thanet, or the local CAB or our Tourism promotion scheme, called ‘Active Ramsgate’.
We think instead that it would equitable, and fair to allocate a relatively small amount in the MHCLG’s budget for schemes such as this, run by Town and Parish Councils and to fund it directly or through NALC.
There is one irony in all this. Ramsgate is one of 5 most deprived Coastal Communities in England. It has received no more than £100,000 in Govt funding in the last decade, yet it is helping its neighbouring Town, Margate, which has £25m allocated to it within the Towns fund, has received considerable financial support from Central Govt in the last 10 years; but has no Town Council of its own, to carry out the work RTC is doing on its behalf.
Thanet District Council are co-ordinating the voluntary response which has enabled voluntary groups in Margate and elsewhere, to organise very quickly when faced with unprecedented and fast-moving events.
RTC still functions well as a council, post lockdown, residents can phone, email, or access the Council though its website and it is trying to carry out its core work, in spite of the heavy burden placed upon it, because of the food network.
RTC is doing much more than could reasonably expected from a Town Council of our size and financial standing, yet no local govt organisation in Kent seems able to either take on responsibility for the food network or to fund it.
RTC hopes that you will consider this letter most carefully and find some way to recognise the work that is being carried out during this unprecedented crisis and to look for a means of funding our work for the Thanet food network from the Ministry’s resources.
Cllr Peter Campbell,
Chairman, Ramsgate Town Council
Cc Craig Mackinlay MP.