James MacCleary asks Maria Caulfield for clarity

james_pothole_head.jpgJames MacCleary, Lewes Liberal Democrats' Parliamentary Spokesperson has written to Maria Caulfield, asking her to clarify her position on Prime Minister Johnson breaking lockdown rules.

* * * * * * * * * * 

Dear Maria Caulfield MP,

I’m sure you have already been contacted by many constituents who, like me, were shocked by the Prime Minister’s admission on Wednesday that he was indeed aware of parties taking place at Downing Street during the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020.

In particular, the ‘bring your own booze’ party that clearly took place on 20th May 2020 to which 100 staff were invited. A party that the Prime Minister attended. There are countless stories of the sacrifices made by your constituents during that lockdown. Families unable to be with loved ones in hospital, funerals taking place online, fathers unable to attend the births of their children. We made these sacrifices to stop the spread of Covid-19 and followed the advice given by the government.

As a council leader I relayed that advice and urged people to follow the rules. I saw the efforts that local volunteer groups put in to make sure that vulnerable people were not isolated. 

The Prime Minister and your government colleagues have betrayed everyone who sacrificed so much during that incredibly difficult time. As someone with a background in nursing, you know better than most the sacrifices people have made to protect others and the NHS. How can you stand by someone who has so brazenly and carelessly mocked them?

I am writing to ask you three things to which I hope you will give a proper answer:

1. Did you or any of your staff attend the 20th May 2020 party or any other parties that took place at Downing Street during the Covid-19 lockdowns?

2. With many of your party colleagues submitting letters demanding a leadership contest, will you support me in calling for the Prime Minister to resign?

3. Will you apologise to your constituents who feel betrayed by you and your government colleagues over this issue?

With this scandal worsening by the day surely it is time for you to put your residents ahead of your loyalty to your party.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

James MacCleary

 


"Time for Maria Caulfield to start putting residents ahead of her government job," says MacCleary

james_pothole_head.jpgLiberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewes, James MacCleary, has called on MP Maria Caulfield to put her constituents ahead of loyalty to Boris Johnson and the government. New media reports prove that Downing Street staff were invited to a party on 20th May 2020 at the height of the UK Covid-19 lockdown.
 
At the time, Ms Caulfield's constituents were banned from meeting more than one other person outdoors. Media reports suggest the party was attended by more than 40 government staff.
 
"It is time for Maria Caulfield to start putting residents ahead of her government job." says James MacCleary. "There is huge anger out there at the way in which Boris Johnson and the government were partying while residents in our community were making sacrifices.
 
"As a local councillor here I saw the efforts of local people volunteering to support those who were most vulnerable. I heard the stories of people not being able to visit loved ones in hospital, attend funerals to say goodbye, or celebrate a new birth. As a nurse, Maria Caulfield must be well aware of the seriousness of the situation with Covid.  She cannot continue to support this irresponsible and selfish government with one rule for us and another rule for them."
 
"Time and again Maria Caulfield has shown blind loyalty to this government rather than stick up for residents. From dumping sewage in the Ouse to failing to get a vaccination centre for Seaford and Newhaven she has always got an excuse. Well now there are no more excuses and Maria Caulfield must join me in calling on the Prime Minister to resign."

Commenting on the news, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: “This is yet more evidence that while the vast majority of people were sticking to the rules, those in Number Ten were breaking them.

"It is a kick in the teeth for everyone who has sacrificed so much during the pandemic, from those who weren't able to visit loved ones in hospital to nurses left wearing binbags as PPE.
 
"To add insult to injury, on the very same day that the Culture Secretary said people could only meet in pairs outdoors, it seems Boris Johnson's staff were holding a boozy party in Downing Street.
 
"Millions of people are rightly furious and fed up with a Prime Minister who not only allowed his colleagues to flagrantly break the rules - but has repeatedly lied to the public about it.”

 


James MacCleary backs calls for 'Robin Hood tax' on energy giants to support families with heating bills

james_maccleary02_600.jpgLiberal Democrat parliamentary campaigner for Lewes constituency, James MacCleary, has today written to the Secretary of State for Energy Kwasi Kwarteng demanding that he backs the party’s call for a 'Robin Hood tax' on the super-profits of oil and gas firms, to raise money to support local families facing soaring energy costs.

The proposed one-off levy could raise over £5 billion to help support families in our area as their energy bills sky-rocket.

The Liberal Democrats say the money raised through this one-off tax could fund a substantial package of emergency support to help thousands of people facing higher bills. James has also called on the government to review the way in which energy companies are taxed in the long term and consider overhauling social security to properly explore ideas like universal basic income to ensure everyone can afford basic needs including heating their homes.

In the meantime, the Lib Dems 'Robin Hood Tax' would include doubling the Warm Homes Discount and extending it to all those receiving Universal Credit or Pension Credit, giving 9,643 households in Seaford, Newhaven, Lewes, Polegate and surrounding villages £300 each off their heating bills this year.

The party is also calling for the winter fuel allowance to be doubled, benefitting 13,930 pensioners in the area and helping them keep their homes warm. On top of this, funding would be spent on helping people insulate their homes to slash heating bills in the long term.

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary campaigner for Lewes constituency, James MacCleary said:

"The government's failure to take steps to confront the cost of living crisis that their own policies have created is shameful. We need urgent and strong action to help people cope with spiralling energy costs. That is why I have written to the Secretary of State on behalf of residents demanding action.

“A one-off Robin Hood tax on gas and oil bosses would provide vital funding to support families in our area who are facing crippling energy price hikes. This must be followed up with a widespread review of how energy companies are taxed to ensure that they are paying their fair share.

"Conservatives like our MP, Maria Caulfield, have buried their heads in the sand and refused to take any steps to address the cost of living crisis. Hard pressed families are seeing costs for basics rising rapidly. The answer from Caulfield and her government colleagues is to increase National Insurance so that working people will have ever-less money available to pay ever-increasing bills.

“The Conservatives cannot be allowed to continue to ignore this crisis that they have created. This one off tax will ensure that, for this winter at least, pensioners and local families can pay their bills. The Government cannot look the other way any longer while families struggle to get by.”

 

Text of the letter:

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP
Secretary of State
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

1 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0ET
United Kingdom

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you to seek your support for a one-off levy on energy firms to help address the sharp rises in energy costs being experienced by residents here in my constituency of Lewes. I also would like to know whether you have plans to look more widely at the way in which energy companies are taxed which is clearly currently inadequate.

It recently emerged that Russian energy giant Gazprom’s trading arm, based in London, has cashed in a £179 million dividend. Meanwhile, the boss of BP has described his company as a 'cash machine' after soaring oil and gas prices boosted its profits to £2.4 billion in the third quarter of 2021 alone.

A windfall tax would be a one-off levy on firms who have made huge profits from record high gas prices. This would include oil and gas producers along with energy traders such as Gazprom’s trading arm that profit from betting on fluctuations in energy prices.

I would also call on you to urgently instigate a wide-ranging review of the way in which energy companies are taxed. This levy is an important emergency measure but we need widespread structural reform in order to ensure energy companies are properly contributing.

The proposed one-off levy would raise an estimated £5 billion from companies that are making record profits from soaring energy prices, this could fund:

Doubling and extending the Warm Homes Discount (£2bn): Taking £300 a year off the heating bills of around 7.5 million vulnerable and low income households, by more than doubling the Warm Homes Discount and extending it to all those on Universal Credit and Pension Credit. This would also reduce energy bills for all households across the country, as currently the Warm Homes Discount is paid for by other customers rather than through taxing the super-profits of oil and gas companies.

Doubling the Winter Fuel Allowance (£1.9bn): Giving up to £600 a year to 11.3 million elderly pensioners to help with their heating bills, through a one-off doubling of the Winter Fuel Allowance. Pensioners are currently facing a £208 real-terms cut to the state pension next year due to the Conservative government’s decision to scrap the triple lock. This would cost an estimated £1.9 billion.

A new ten-year home insulation scheme (£500m): This would be spent on reducing people’s energy bills in the long-term through an emergency home insulation programme to upgrade poorly insulated UK homes - including through fully funded grants for those in fuel poverty and on low incomes. This would cost an estimated £500 million in the next year.

Supporting energy intensive businesses (£500m): This funding would be used to support businesses and protect jobs in energy-intensive industries, while helping firms reduce their need for energy in the long-term.

This would provide enormous amounts of support to the thousands of residents in my area who are facing a crippling 50% increase to their energy bills.

Since 2015 the Conservatives have failed to take action on making our homes warmer. We have seen energy efficiency standards for new homes scrapped and a complete failure to insulate millions of homes and cut people’s energy bills.

Now, we need a substantial package of support that provides immediate support to those struggling to get by, while helping people insulate their homes to slash heating bills in the long term.

I look forward to your urgent response.

Yours,

James MacCleary

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewes


Lewes Liberal Democrats Choose Candidate To Win Back Constituency At The Next General Election

james_newhaven_600.jpgLocal Liberal Democrat members have chosen James MacCleary as the party’s candidate for the next General Election in Lewes constituency. The seat is one of the closest Lib Dem battlegrounds with the Conservatives with the party finishing a very close second in 2019.

The constituency was held by Lib Dem MP, Norman Baker, for nearly twenty years between 1997 and 2015. It is considered one of the top targets for the Lib Dems to gain at the next election. Recent polling projections have repeatedly shown the Lib Dems winning the seat if there were an election today.

James is a local councillor who lives with his partner and two young children in Newhaven. He is currently Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council and an East Sussex County Councillor representing Newhaven and Bishopstone division. Before moving to Newhaven, James lived in Lewes for ten years.

Speaking about becoming the party’s new candidate, James MacCleary said: “It is a really exciting time for the Lib Dems. On a national level we have just pulled off one of the biggest shocks in British electoral history by gaining North Shropshire from the Conservatives with a huge 34% swing. For context, we would require less than 3% to gain Lewes constituency.

“It is time that we had an MP who actually stands up for our community. Our current Conservative MP has prioritised her ministerial career over the needs of local residents and has a reputation for toeing the party line no matter what. We saw that recently over the revelations about Southern Water dumping raw sewage into the Ouse and Seaford Bay. Local people wanted their MP to take action. Instead she joined her government colleagues in doing nothing.

“I will be a visible, local MP who will always put the needs of local residents first. As a senior local councillor I already have a record of action for our community and am looking forward to building on that in the coming months.


“Sadly, many residents have resigned themselves to being ignored by their MP. I want to change that by winning back Lewes constituency at the next election.”

Former Lib Dem MP, Norman Baker, adds: "I am delighted James has been chosen by local Lib Dem members to fight the next General Election for us here in the Lewes constituency. He combines a real commitment to local people and local issues with the gutsy approach needed to take on the arrogant and complacent Tories nationally. Only the Lib Dems can win this seat from the Tories at the next General Election and James is exactly the right person to make it happen.

 

Notes:

Result of the 2019 General Election in Lewes: Con 26,268 (47.9%), LD 23,811 (43.4%), Lab 3,206 (5.8%), Grn 1,453 (2.6%), Ind 113 (0.2%) - maj. 2,457 4.5% https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewes_(UK_Parliament_constituency)

Lewes is the eighth closest Lib Dem/Con seat in the country, and the closest in Sussex

James MacCleary is currently Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council but will take over as Leader in July 2022


Conservatives break promise to protect Ringmer from overdevelopment

This week, Lewes District Council's Planning Committee rejected the Ranger's farm planning application.

The Lib Dems have always said these developments are unwelcome and we will campaign against any speculative developments outside the local plan. We stand up for Ringmer green spaces and we welcome today's outcome.

sean3.jpegCouncillor Sean Macleod said: "While I am pleased the application was rejected, I am disappointed, although not surprised, to see three Conservative councillors voted for this damaging proposal.

"This just shows quite clearly that we cannot trust the Tories to protect our green spaces. I am happy that the committee agreed with me about the need to protect Ringmer from damaging, speculative development, while it seems the Tories want to see further destruction.

"I am, personally, delighted with the outcome but we must now wait to see if the developer will appeal to the planning inspectorate. I will be watching that very closely, given that our MP promised us all that the inspector would uphold the decision of the committee."


Plumpton 86 house development unanimously rejected by District Council

Residents in Plumpton Green are celebrating after elected members of the District Council's planning committee unanimously voted tonight to support the recommendations to refuse planning permission at Nolands Farm.
 
rob_banks_ditchling_road_plumpton_600_head.jpgSpeaking against, Lib Dem District Councillor Rob Banks said: "The site was explicitly rejected by the 2018 Plumpton Parish Neighbourhood Plan which was voted on by local people. This accepted some new housing development - indeed one site is being built out as we speak. But the cumulative impact of the 86 extra houses would negatively affect the character of the village"
"A previous application for 45 houses on this site was refused in 2019 because the development would represent “incursion of development and urbanisation of open countryside”. Nothing has changed and this reason for refusal still applies. It is regarded in Plumpton as breathtakingly arrogant that the developers wanted 86 houses." 
“This also shows how unacceptable the neighbouring potential site owned by Eton college would be. If 86 houses right next door is deemed not appropriate then surely a potential site of 3,250 houses rights next door is very much the wrong thing in the wrong place.
He added: "I would like to thank the planning committee members for listening. The issue here is that local democracy must decide what housing goes where, not through central government housing targets forced onto Lewes District"

A26 safety improvements

james_maccleary02_cropped_1000.jpgUpdate on A26 safety improvements from Councillors James MacCleary and Sean MacLeod.

As your local councillors we wanted to get in touch about work taking place on the A26. In recent months we have been pressing National Highways, who are responsible for the road, to make various improvements to enhance safety for road users and residents.

We have been particularly focussed on making the junction with Avis Road (B2109) safer as it is very dangerous. There have been a number of accidents there in recent years and we have been prominent in the local press calling for action.

We are really pleased to be able to tell you we have been successful!

To their credit, National Highways have been happy to engage with us and are taking the issues seriously. We have already got them to cut back overgrown vegetation to improve sightlines for instance.

We are now very pleased to be able to confirm a major programme of work is commencing that will take place over the coming months to upgrade the entire stretch of the A26 as it comes into Newhaven and make the junction with Avis Road much safer.

sean_macleod_cropped.jpgWork is already underway to upgrade lighting along the road and that work will continue along different stretches of the road for the next couple of weeks. All residents affected should have received a letter from National Highways with details of the work. There is more information available via their website: www.nationalhighways.co.uk

The next job will be the junction itself. They have made it a high priority due to the number of serious accidents there and pressure from ourselves and local residents. They plan to install permanent traffic lights to allow traffic to flow safely on and off the A26 making the junction much safer for all road users.

National Highways covers the entire country so we are really pleased to have got this project on to the list. The work will not happen immediately, but they have told us they expect to get started within the next year.

We will keep pressing on local highways issues and are always happy to take up issues on behalf of residents so please get in touch.

With best wishes

James and Sean


Decision date looms for 86 houses at Nolands Farm in Plumpton

A controversial application for 86 houses on a greenfield site in Plumpton is set to be decided at Lewes District Council's planning committee on December 8th. Council officers are recommending the committee refuse the application.

rob_banks_ditchling_road_plumpton_600_head.jpgPlumpton's Lib Dem District Councillor, Rob Banks, who has objected to the application, said: "The development would mean unacceptable impact and pressure on the open countryside and the intrinsic rural character of Plumpton Green and nearby area.

"A previous application for 45 houses was rightly rejected. The only reason the developers are trying to get away with 86 houses is a change in government rules which encourage these speculative bids"

"The pressure on the existing infrastructure - which cannot cope with the existing housing - includes sewers which frequently fail, a poor power supply and narrow rural roads. Indeed the rural road which serves the village would be urbanised.

"And you would see hundreds of extra car movements a day on local roads as the village has no essential services like a GP surgery - that's not good for the environment.

"This development is outside of the 2018 Neighbourhood Plan which was voted on by local people - and allowed some new housing in the village but this site was rejected. Democracy should be respected."

sarah_osborne_02_600_cropped.jpgCounty Councillor Sarah Osborne, who also wrote to object, added: "The site was rejected for 45 houses in 2019, for very good reasons including impact on the countryside and landscape. So 86 would be really devastating. I also fear the damage to people’s well-being and mental health resulting from the loss of yet more green space."

In the officer recommendation to the planning committee, the report states: "It is considered that this extensive development to the east of the village, extending the built form of the village onto an area of undeveloped countryside would have a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the wider landscape setting of this part of the village and wider countryside. Overall, it is considered that the proposed development would have an unacceptable impact on areas or assets of significant importance, in this case the character of and visual amenity associated with the wider countryside and result in significant harm".

The report recommending refusal can be seen here.


Barcombe Bridge

BarcombeBridgeHRE400.jpgWhen there was a railway running through Barcombe, there was a bridge. The railway is gone, but the bridge is still there. Where the rails used to run is now a vibrant wild space full of immensely diverse life, and much loved by walkers. It is in a conservation area. The bridge has seen better days; it now has a maximum weight capacity of 20 tonnes and is in need of repair work.

This is the responsibility of National Highways, who decided to support the bridge by infilling – in other words to pour an estimated 1800 tonnes of aggregate and concrete underneath it to shore it up, thereby destroying the valuable wildlife and recreation area running beneath it. Lewes Liberal Democrats support the campaign by local residents to prevent this and to secure an environmentally friendly solution.

On Oct 15th Liberal Democrat peer Jenny Randerson asked in the Lords about the fate of the bridge. The reply gave nothing away, but the fact of the question being asked means that National Highways know that their actions are being vigorously scrutinised, including the fact that a contract for the infilling has already been awarded. Baroness Randersen has made it clear that she will continue to pursue this case.

BarcombeBridgePoster600.jpgAs well as Lewes District Council, residents have been strongly supported by national campaigning body The HRE Group, an alliance of walking, cycling and heritage campaigners, engineers and greenway developers who see the Historical Railways Estate as an asset for future good.

Thanks to the efforts of the community, work has now been paused to allow for reconsideration, but it is unclear what the intentions of National Highways are. More news will follow as we hear it.

More detail in this BBC report: Barcombe: Campaigners fight to save disused railway bridge

and a video with the current deputy leader of Lewes District Council, James MacCleary

This is one of a number of sites around the country where a similarly heavy handed approach has been taken.

Image credits:

Bridge: the HRE Group

Poster: Zel Ouse


Ed Davey: Draft COP26 agreement is "kicking the can down the road"

key_eddavey.jpgResponding to the draft COP26 agreement calling on countries to strengthen their carbon-cutting targets by the end of 2022, Liberal Democrat Leader and former Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey MP said:

“I fear this is more about kicking the can down the road and expectation management after a disappointing conference.

“We can have as many COPs as we like, but until the West convinces China to cut emissions more quickly, these summits will continue to fail.

To keep the 1.5 degree target genuinely alive requires greater political will, stronger leadership and far more serious domestic and global action.

“Otherwise beating the existential threat of climate change will be a pipe dream and the greatest failure of global leadership ever.”


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