Happy New Year. I hope that 2018 can be a year of peace, prosperity and progress for our community, and the country as a whole. In this, my first column of the year, I would like to thank everyone at Border Force and our emergency services, who have worked over the Christmas period, and in so doing been kept away from their families. I am also grateful for all of the work by the team running the Folkestone Churches Winter shelter, and all of the volunteers who assist them. Seven churches in the Folkestone area take it in turns to provide night shelter accommodation and a hot meal, for one night each per week, during the winter. The project is managed from the Rainbow Centre in Folkestone, and you can contact the shelter team there if you would like to help in anyway, or if you would like to refer someone who needs support.
At the end of the December the New Year’s honours list was published, and congratulations are due to a number of local people whose work has been recognised in this year’s list. In particular, Joe Holness OBE who recently retired as an Inspector at Kent Police after a 32-year career in the force. Joe also helped to found the National Police Memorial Day, which remembers policemen and women who have lost their lives in the course of their duties.
Samenua Sesher OBE, a writer who lives in the Folkestone’s Creative Quarter, received an award for her services to art. It seems particularly appropriate that Samenua should receive her award in the list following the 2017 Folkestone Triennial art show, in which she was actively involved. Stephanie Karpetas from Sandgate, was awarded an OBE for her community service to East Kent. I was also delighted to see that Berkeley Hill received the British Empire Medal, which is well deserved not just for his academic career, but particularly for his service to music in our community, as Director of Music over many years for St Leonard’s Church in Hythe, the Folkestone Choral Society, and as founder of the Shepway Singers. There is so much amazing work done in our community, where people go above and beyond the call of duty, and make a real difference to peoples lives. This often fails to receive the wider recognition that it richly deserves, but it is very gratifying when it does.
The House of Commons returns on Monday 8th January and the first government bill to be debated that day, highlights a particular priority for our area in the year ahead. The Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill will receive its introductory debate, and helps to create the legal framework for regulating trade for after the UK leaves the European Union in 2019. It is vital that we put in place the legal, and physical infrastructure we will need to make sure that trade continues to flow freely through the Channel Tunnel and the Port of Dover after Brexit.