Local Liberal Democrats have released a three point action plan to support the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in our area after it became clear that Lewes District has fewer vaccination centres than any other area of East Sussex.
They are calling for more action to boost rollout in Lewes District, particularly in Newhaven and Seaford where there are currently no local vaccination centres.
Their plan to improve confidence in the process and access to vaccines for residents calls for:
1. Urgently opening a local vaccination centre in Seaford or Newhaven
2. Making use of local pharmacies and, where possible, GP’s surgeries to administer the vaccines across our area
3. Adding people undertaking caring responsibilities to the priority list
Newhaven councillor and Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Lewes, James MacCleary, says: “People living in Lewes District have the most difficult access to Covid-19 vaccinations. We know that we have high numbers of elderly people in the district who are becoming increasingly anxious as they wait to be contacted.
“They have listened to government advice warning against travel and are understandably very concerned about being asked to travel to Brighton or Eastbourne, often at very short notice. In addition, the cost of travel by taxi is prohibitive for many and the only other option for those who cannot drive is to take two buses to the nearest vaccination centre. All exposing them to increased risk of infection. There are places like the former UTC building in Newhaven and the Downs Leisure Centre in Seaford standing unused that seem like ideal locations.
“Once again Lewes District, in particular Newhaven and Seaford, seem to be at the back of the queue. Residents are asking for help and all that Lewes MP, Maria Caulfield, seems able to do is to blame overworked and exhausted GPs. We want to work with our overstretched health authorities to support the roll out in our community.”
Councillor Carolyn Lambert, Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Seaford South adds: “I have been ringing round as many of my residents as possible and have spoken to people in their nineties who cannot understand why they can’t have the jab in Seaford.
“I have also spoken to a number of people who are taking a huge pressure off the NHS and Adult Social Care by looking after older or clinically vulnerable relatives in their own homes. These people should be treated in the same way as those working in care homes and given the Covid vaccination as a priority, preferably at the same time as those for whom they are caring. It’s a question of common sense”.
So-called food parcels distributed to children in need are a national disgrace. Cllr Kathryn Field Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Children and Families on East Sussex County Council says: “The amount of food parents have received to feed their children is not anything like enough to provide an adequate, nutritious lunch every day. Nor do they appear to represent value for money, given what the parcels should theoretically be worth”.
Cllr Alan Shuttleworth adds: “Yet again, children and families in East Sussex have been let down by this chaotic Conservative government. Only last week I raised concerns about how the government failed to manage the return to school, putting hardworking teachers into an impossible position, and now we see another government failure in the basic need to keep children fed. I am also calling on the Lead Member for Education and Inclusion to provide a urgent update on the situation in schools.”
Cllr Carolyn Lambert comments: “The Conservatives should stop trying to defend the indefensible. Why on earth don’t they simply give the contract to our local Food Banks where volunteers now have years of experience in putting together boxes of nutritional and balanced food parcels and can step in where government has clearly failed?"
Cllr James MacCleary, Parliamentary Spokesperson adds: “Liberal Democrat MPs are calling on the on Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education to investigate the situation urgently and replace these abysmal hampers with food vouchers.
Maria Caulfield should join us in this campaign to ensure that children in her constituency can be properly fed”.
Liberal Democrat leaders are imploring the Government and East Sussex County Council leaders to recognise the fact that we have reached a critical point of the pandemic, with this high level of transmission of the new strain, and now is the time to restrict all but essential contacts. Lib Dem group leader Councillor David Tutt said,
“This is not the time for Party politics, but it is the time for decisive action to keep people safe. The Government are lurching from crisis to crisis without following a comprehensive plan based upon the medical and scientific evidence. They have let schools and parents down by being indecisive, and continually reacting rather than leading. We need a plan which commands public support and the support of education professionals, but most of all that puts people’s lives as the top priority
The plan for schools must allow for the children of key workers as well as other vulnerable children, including those who attend Special Schools, to be able to attend school as they did during the first lockdown. However, for Tier 4 areas, the health evidence strongly supports the closure of schools for the rest of the school community for a period whilst the new strain of the virus is so rampant in our area.
Alongside school measures the Government must send out a clear message about the higher levels of transmission of the virus amongst young people and the importance of not mixing out of school.
We understand completely that children and young people should be in schools and colleges as soon as possible, as do the school leaders. But schools are all different and it is paramount that the professionals are able to prepare fully for testing and opening safely, before they are required to open.
We support the roll-out of testing in schools to help achieve this - but this should have been done months ago. The eleventh hour announcement, made in the final few days of term, put the burden of preparing for a new testing regime on overstretched and exhausted teaching and school staff in already underfunded schools. The timing and handling of the announcement was yet another kick in the teeth for teachers, after the toughest year that some of them have ever had.”
Councillor Carolyn Lambert is calling on the government to provide safe local vaccination sites for the first group of Seaford residents who are eligible for the Covid vaccination. Councillor Lambert explains:
“I have been ringing round residents to see how they are getting on in lockdown and overwhelmingly, people are concerned about access to vaccinations. I have spoken to a number of older residents who have been asked to travel to Eastbourne, Hailsham and Lewes for their vaccinations. Understandably, people are concerned about the infection risk of being asked to travel in lockdown. In addition, many of our older residents are classified as vulnerable and it simply isn’t appropriate for them to have to travel. Not everyone has access to a car or can afford the taxi fare.
The government have had months to prepare for this vaccination programme and it is simply unacceptable that vulnerable people, who are already anxious, are being asked to travel like this and in many cases, are having to wait outside in unsheltered conditions.
Yet again, it seems that the needs of Seaford residents are being ignored in favour of Lewes, even though Seaford is the biggest town in the district.
I am calling on the government, the Sussex Resilience Forum and local NHS providers to work with the community to identify local vaccination centres in Seaford, including using GP surgeries, as a matter of urgency so that our residents can be properly protected”.
“The preparations made by Kent County Council have been all over the news in the last week,” said Cllr James MacCleary, parliamentary spokesperson for Lewes. “But when a Lib Dem county councillor, Cllr Darren Grover, raised the Newhaven road capacity issues for lorries entering the port after we exit the single market and the customs union as a verbal question at the county council, he was assured that there was sufficient capacity at the port and there would be no disruption, queues or other impacts on surrounding roads.
“If we get a No Deal, all the current methods of working will vanish on 1st January and ports will have to deal with tariffs which are taxes on goods, being brought into or leaving the country. All these changes mean that the seamless way that ports and cross-channel transport work is coming to an end, but there seems to be no acknowledgement from either central Government, by Highways or by East Sussex County Council that there are any changes needed at Newhaven.
I know many people find what is going on at the ports and with leaving the EU really confusing, but the very basic trade deal that the Government is seeking only deals with goods, it’s that or no deal at all. In both cases, this means a huge increase in paperwork and checks for goods and big delays in transit times. Things are never going to be the same again, despite Government promises of frictionless trade and ‘the same benefits as before’.
“I have written to the Minister and raised it in the press and have been assured that there are no plans for a Brexit lorry park. Neither the Minister nor the Civil Service as far as I am aware have set out any further contingency plans for ports in the south east other than Dover. The Government and ESCC seem blissfully unaware that major retailers such as Tesco are talking about rerouting transport routes away from Dover to other cross-channel routes. Newhaven-Dieppe is one of those routes. It’s also likely that if Dover becomes log-jammed, then hauliers will reroute trucks to other channel ports.
“If the government and the county council were on top of this issue and listening to hauliers and the road transport industry and to businesses like supermarkets, manufacturers and food importers, then they would be making proper contingency plans. It looks like their strategy is to shut their eyes and keep their fingers crossed and hope it will go away. Local communities deserve more than this and they certainly don’t deserve lines of trucks stacked back along the A26 because of complacency by East Sussex County Council.”
Lewes District Council has voted to lobby our local MPs against the government's proposed changes to our planning system.
Councillor Rob Banks, Plumpton and East Chiltington's Councillor, who moved the motion, told the council: "As someone who really values the role local democracy plays, I remain so angry at these attacks on our planning system. My email in-box has been packed with complaints about the government’s plans.
"These plans reduce or remove the right of residents to comment on applications near them, and represent a “power grab” from local communities and democratically elected councils. Residents and councils alike, from the parish and town level onwards, will find they will not be able to have their say.
"The White Paper will grant automatic rights for developers to build on land identified as ‘for growth’. To my mind, in addition to the democratic deficit, the changes make it more difficult to design in methods to tackle climate change, protect nature and provide more affordable housing.
"And joy of joys we have another algorithm, generated by central government, saying how many houses need to be planned for every year. The Government is currently demanding that parts of Lewes District outside the National Park have to more than double the number of homes built every year to over 800.
"I am pleased the council supported this, but sadly the Conservatives refused to vote for the motion".
Councillor James MacCleary, Lewes District Council leader added: "Over a million homes currently have planning permission across the country but are not yet built, so the current planning system, while not perfect, is not a bar to development. We must stop the power grab by central government and developers, and lobby our MPs to call on the government to support a system that supports local communities needs rather than ignoring them".
Residents are rightly concerned about road safety at Bishopstone with two accidents in two days that have closed the road. The problem is made worse by conflict between the Conservative MP for Lewes who wrongly claimed that traffic lights were going to be installed, and the Conservative administration of the County Council who said very clearly that they were not. It is a mess and residents are right to be concerned at the lack of any action.
“This is another Tory shambles” said Cllr Carolyn Lambert, County Councillor for Seaford South, “There have been two accidents in two days at the Bishopstone junction. Our roads already have some of the highest killed and seriously injured statistics in the country, and as a Seaford resident, I am daily aware of the dangers people face on our roads. Unfortunately, all the Conservatives are doing is fighting among themselves rather than taking the action we need. The safety of local residents is more important than party politics.”
She adds: "We completely understand the frustration and concern of residents. However, we think this is a bigger problem than just the Bishopstone junction. We need to take a holistic look at all the junctions with the A259 throughout Seaford, all of which are potentially very risky. Seaford is the biggest town in the district and is continuing to grow. We call on East Sussex County Council to undertake a proper survey of the town to identify the areas of greatest risk to car users, cyclists and pedestrians, and to come up with some concrete proposals to enhance road safety."
Cllr Darren Grover comments: “I’ve been working hard to get action to improve the safety of Bishopstone junction since I was elected four years ago and have met with refusal by the Conservative County Council”. Grover, county councillor for Newhaven and Bishopstone, continued, “The Liberal Democrats locally have set up a non-political petition on the East Sussex County Council website for people to sign and make their feelings known about the dangers they face at the Bishopstone and Hill Rise junctions. This is not a political issue, people’s lives are at risk. People in our area tell me they feel very strongly about underinvestment and neglect by the Conservative County Council over the last 20 years, made worse by a Tory Government that has spent 10 years making savage cuts. These cuts have cost lives.
“I have worked with County Council colleagues of all parties and this led to the council investigating the options to make these junctions safer. Those investigations are now complete, but unfortunately Conservative cuts mean that action cannot be taken – despite local Liberal Democrats campaigning and the hard work of council staff. It is Conservative cuts that have meant that safety improvements are not happening.”
“This is not the first time this year we’ve had to take direct action on dangerous roads on the coast”, said Cllr Sean MacLeod. “Earlier this year, we needed to raise a petition to get Highways England to take action on major safety concerns on the A26. This is undoubtedly due to the constant cuts to funding from the Tory Government that has left both the County and Highways cash strapped and unable to protect local people, but mismanagement among Tory-run County Council is a big contributing factor to these failures.”
As local Liberal Democrats, we’ve always championed sustainable modes of transport. We need your help to support walking, cycling and sustainable modes of transport across Lewes District and help lobby ESCC to put resources into a local walking and cycling investment for Lewes.
Now is the time to have your say, East Sussex County council have released a consultation for the East Sussex Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan. The deadline to complete this is 11th December.
The Plan sets out proposed cycling and walking networks, but it doesn’t have specific proposals. ESCC say they are focusing on areas of the county where there are opportunities to increase levels of walking and cycling with an emphasis on delivering infrastructure improvements for those who don’t walk and cycle.
While Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven have been covered in the plan, there’s not enough on routes between villages and between our towns and villages.
The link to the consultation is below. Please do go online and complete the survey. The more Lib Dem voices added to the survey, the stronger the voices will be to support sustainable transport in our towns and to make sure our villages are not forgotten.
Thanks for your help!
The government's Spending Review announced by the Chancellor has been described as a 'missed opportunity' by local Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson, James MacCleary.
The Spending Review announced no extra support for the 3 million taxpayers who have received no support from the government during Covid-19 or for carers, children living in poverty or those in need of mental health services.
James MacCleary says: "This was a big missed opportunity for the government to step up and address some of the glaring inequalities exposed by Covid-19. There are 3 million UK taxpayers who have received no support whatsoever from the government and businesses who have been completely missed out.
"The government are pursuing a levelling down agenda with 1 million small businesses estimated to close. Locally, we have more small businesses than most and the government's lack of support will have a disastrous effect. Especially as there is nothing in the review to help with the impact of Brexit.
"Once again local MP, Maria Caulfield, is failing to support our community. Businesses are being abandoned and she is not speaking out on their behalf instead just toeing the government line.
"The government talk about levelling up. It's time they levelled with the British public - 'if you're running a small business, struggling to make ends meet, or if you're an unpaid carer, we're not helping you'."
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
"With the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the Chancellor needed to ensure today that no one is left behind. That was the litmus test, and he has failed.
"Far from a radically new approach to the recovery that tackles deep-seated inequality and builds a new green economy, we have a Government that is failing to support carers, children living in poverty and everyone in need of mental health services.
“The Chancellor has also made some unforgivable political choices today. He has chosen to continue to ignore people excluded from support and chosen to reject calls to properly extend furlough, leaving too many people facing unemployment. People deserve better.”