Maria Caulfield MP slammed for voting against Windfall Tax on oil and gas companies

  • Conservative MPs in Parliament voted against a tax on the record profits of oil firms to help cut people’s energy bills*
  • Local Liberal Democrat candidate, James MacCleary, calls for tax cuts and energy bill support to help families in Lewes constituency through cost of living crisis

Last night, Conservative MPs, including Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, voted against a Windfall Tax on oil and gas companies to help people with their energy bills.

Despite 248 MPs voting in favour of the one-off tax on the record profits of multinational oil firms, Conservative MPs voted it down.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has found a Windfall Tax on Shell and BP alone would have raised a staggering £10bn in the first quarter of this year, enough to slash energy bills for millions of people.

James_Ringmer_green_1_1000.jpgLocal Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Lewes, James MacCleary, has criticised the local Conservative MP, Maria Caulfield, for backing tax rises and failing to help people with the cost of living crisis.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for VAT to be cut from 20% to 17.5%, saving the average family £600 a year. Liberal Democrats have also called for a fair deal for our rural communities by bringing in a price cap on heating oil, which is currently unrestricted.

James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Lewes said:

“Time and again we’ve seen Maria Caulfield put her party loyalty ahead of the interests of local residents. On Tuesday she voted against putting £600 back in the pockets of struggling families in our community.

“It is manifestly unfair that oil and gas companies make record profits at our expense. This Conservative Government clearly cares more about the profits of gas companies than struggling people in our local communities.

“Every week I’m on doorsteps in local towns and villages across the constituency and people are telling me the same thing. They are struggling to make ends meet and do not trust this failing Conservative Government to help them one bit.

“Boris Johnson has abandoned families and pensioners who are on the brink as the cost of living crisis worsens. All we’ve had from Boris Johnson is unfair tax hikes and empty promises on helping people, and Maria Caulfield has backed him every step of the way.”

 

*On Tuesday 17th May Conservative MPs voted against an amendment to the Queen’s Speech which would have introduced a Windfall Tax on oil and gas companies. The amendment read:

“but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to announce a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas producers, in order to provide much-needed relief from energy price increases for households.”


Lib Dem peer asks for powers for councils to deal with planning blight

Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Pinnock has raised a question in the House of Lords asking what actions are available to local authorities to take steps to mitigate planning blight.

CL_Yellow_reverse_1000.jpgSeaford Liberal Democrat Cllr Carolyn Lambert explains: “We asked Baroness Pinnock if she could help us and other councils who are faced with the kind of appalling planning blight we are seeing at Talland Parade. Both Lewes District Council and I wrote to the then Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, asking for enhanced legal powers to enable us to deal with this and neither of us even received the courtesy of a reply.

"I am extremely grateful to Baroness Pinnock for her intervention which shows that Liberal Democrats are aware of the damage this sort of blight does to local communities and are actively trying to do something about it”.

talland_600.jpgCllr Stephen Gauntlett, Lewes District Council Cabinet Member for Planning adds: “Unfortunately, it is clear that despite these specific requests for powers to deal with this, the Conservative government is continuing to push out the outdated and unrealistic responses which are the same as those we have received from the MP. We have already tried the remedy suggested by the Minister and have been advised that this would fail in court. Perhaps that explains why the Conservatives didn't take any action on this from 2012 to 2019 when they were in charge of the District Council and residents were complaining about the scaffolding and the length of time the development was taking. Councils up and down the country need proper legislative powers and not the current developer’s charter that the government seems so determined to provide.”


Seaford GP services reach crisis point while minister does nothing

Seaford residents and those providing primary care in the town are being let down by Maria Caulfield, newly promoted Minister for Patient Safety and Primary Care.

Both Old School Surgery and Seaford Medical Practice the two doctors’ surgeries in Seaford have put a cap on new patients. There are exceptions for local care homes, immediate family members and newly born or adopted babies.

Liberal Democrats have encouraged use of the car park behind Seaford Medical Practice to redevelop the site to expand provision. The space has been offered by Lewes District Council for free.

The government has been encouraged to urgently address support for GPs after doctors’ numbers have put a strain on those still working.

james_maccleary02_600.jpgJames MacCleary, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesperson for Seaford explains: “Both the Seaford GP practices have been forced to put a temporary cap on their lists meaning that no new patients can be registered at either practice. Every week I have residents contacting me from Seaford and elsewhere in the constituency about how hard it is to access a GP. These are basic services that we should be able to access when we need them and have always been able to take for granted. The government have allowed this situation to develop despite loud warnings from doctors, nurses and from across the whole medical profession.

“Instead of action, all we get from the local Tory MP (and Health Minister), Maria Caulfield, is excuses and finger pointing. Seaford deserves much better. I will keep pressing for the redevelopment of the Seaford Medical Practice site at Dane Road.”

Cllr Christine Brett adds: “The pressure our GP services have been under will only be made worse by the current planning applications from Churchill Homes and McCarthy Stone who are seeking to impose unwanted and unnecessary accommodation for older people who will increase the demands on these services. At the same time, they are proposing to demolish perfectly good family homes. We need urgent action to support our local health services to support any new houses.”

Cllr Carolyn Lambert adds: “We have known for years about the accommodation problems being experienced by hardworking and committed staff at both practices. It is not the duty of local councils to sort this out – it rests squarely with central government and the Clinical Commissioning Groups who are funded to provide this, yet Maria Caulfield has done nothing to help solve what is clearly now a crisis. It is time that she put local residents ahead of her government job for once!”


Loss of NHS dentists “appalling” says James MacCleary

  • James_Ringmer_shops_blur_crop.jpgNHS dentist numbers are falling nationally and locally
  • Access reduced for patients to NHS treatment

A loss in NHS dentists in the Lewes area has been criticised as “appalling”, by Lib Dem James MacCleary.

The number of dentists in East Sussex CCG has fallen from 336 in 2015, when Maria Caulfield was first elected, to 296 now, in line with the national decline.

Maria Caulfield, the Lewes MP, is the junior health minister responsible for dentistry.

Lib Dem Cllr Sean MacLeod recently contacted NHS dentists in the Lewes District and found a decline in the number of NHS patients being taken.

Figures on the decline were revealed after a question to Lewes MP and health minister Maria Caulfield from Lib Dem leader Ed Davey.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has criticised NHS England over targets and made clear the national circumstances are challenging for dentists with little support to reach them.

Concern about the impact of Brexit has been highlighted by the BDA, with around 17% of dentists in the UK coming from the EU.

James MacCleary, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Lewes, said:

“A local decline in dentists, when our MP is a minister directly responsible for dentist provision, is frankly appalling.

“The NHS dentists who are left are facing huge pressure and need more support. Government targets come with no means to meet them. Money has been announced, which will barely scratch the surface, and will do nothing to change the approach that has brought us here.

“Dentists are a huge part of the NHS and people deserve the right to see them. It’s clear the government’s policies have led to fewer dentists, working in more challenging circumstances, meaning we all get a worse deal.”

 

Links:

Click here for the statistics on dentist numbers 

Here is the BDA's statement on the impacts of Brexit on dentistry

More info on the role of NHS dentists


Councillors pledge to fight sexism and misogyny

Lewes_Town_Councillors_take_a_stand_against_misogyny_and_sexism.jpgLewes Town Councillors unanimously backed Lewes Football Club’s campaign to curb violence against women and girls at a Council meeting last week.

The Rooks CallHimOut campaign aims to persuade men to ‘call out’ sexist and misogynistic behaviour when they encounter it.

“It is up to men to take action,” said Lewes FC Director Karen Dobres. “Fighting sexism and misogyny, so that women can be and feel safe, is the responsibility of men.

“We accept that how all men talk about women contributes to an environment where some men assault women and where all women can feel unsafe in their everyday lives.”

A motion from Cllrs Emily Clarke, Imogen Makepeace and John Lamb called on male Councillors to adopt the campaign, making a pledge to fight sexism and misogyny, adding the CallHimOut logo to their email signatures and learning more through training about how to challenge bad behaviour in a safe way.

“Sexual assault is such a widespread, daily occurrence that it is rare to find a woman who has not experienced some kind of sexual harassment or assault,” said Cllr Clarke.

“The World Health Organisation reports that roughly one in three women around the world has been subjected to physical or sexual violence.”

With the help of two male directors and a male player, Lewes FC is developing a programme for the men’s first team to talk together, and then to mentor under 18 players.

“We commit to making a difference through our own language and behaviour: we will call ourselves out and welcome being ‘called out’ by each other, and we will lead the way in making the world a safer place for women and a better place for us all,” the Club said.

Cllr Lamb presented male Councillors with lapel ribbons in Lewes FC colours. “Repeated surveys reveal a shocking tsunami of hatred against women, which demands action,” said Cllr Lamb.

“Lewes FC deserves our support for its brave stand. The Town Council will do what it can to bring about a much-needed culture change.”


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Local Lib Dems launch campaign for heating oil price cap

james_maccleary02_cropped_1000.jpgJames MacCleary and local Liberal Democrat councillors have urged Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to introduce a price cap on domestic heating oil, after prices more than doubled in a fortnight.

Currently, consumers heating their homes using gas or electricity have some protection from price rises under Ofgem’s energy price cap. However, there is no financial protection in place for the 1.5 million households that rely on heating oil.

They have joined forces with rural Liberal Democrat MPs in calling on the UK Government to urgently extend the energy price cap to off-grid households. In a letter to the Secretary of State, they highlighted that the price per litre of heating oil has surged from 66.74 pence on 24th February to 148.25 pence on 9th March - a 122% increase in a fortnight.

In total, around 4 million UK households are not connected to the gas grid, with 1.5 million of those homes relying on heating oil.

Lib Dem Parliamentary Campaigner James MacCleary said: “'Off-grid' households across many rural parts of our district are seeing astronomical rises in the price of heating oil, with absolutely no financial protections in place. Over the UK, millions of predominantly rural households have been callously forgotten by this Tory government.

“People are already being forced to choose between heating or eating. Ministers must urgently instruct Ofgem to extend the energy price cap to heating oil to prevent hundreds of thousands of households from being plunged into fuel poverty.”

"Government must also go further in promoting alternatives for heating like air source heat pumps and investing in skills training to make sure there is capacity to install and service them".

Councillor Sarah Osborne, County Councillor for Ouse Valley West and Downs, said: "With heating oil prices rocketing I am calling on the Government to take action. These price rises will cause serious risks to health for rural low income households who are reliant on oil to heat their homes. We know that the cold can be dangerous for older people and those with pre-existing health conditions. Low temperatures increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks, exacerbate lung conditions and worsen arthritis."

Cllr Rob Banks, District Councillor for Plumpton and East Chiltington added: "I would like the Energy Secretary to introduce the same protections to those living in rural areas as those living in urban areas have (and able to heat their homes with gas or electricity). It's not only about fairness for all but without action the government risks the health of many of the 1.5 million who have no option other than oil to heat their homes."

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary of State,

Extending the energy price cap to off-grid households

 

We are writing on behalf of thousands of households across Lewes District and 1.5 million households across the UK which rely on domestic heating oil to heat their homes.

In the past fortnight, heating oil prices have risen from an already high 66.74 pence per litre to at least 148.25 pence per litre. Compounding the situation is the fact that these off-grid households are not protected by the energy price cap, in sharp contrast to those who heat their homes using gas or electricity.

We are all too aware of the many additional day-to-day costs that our constituents face compared to their urban counterparts. It is indefensible that they are now facing even steeper bills as a result of being forgotten about by the UK Government. While we recognise that costs are rising across society at this time, it is clear that off-grid households are suffering disproportionately because they have not received equal treatment from the Government.

We request that you urgently put in place financial protection for consumers of heating oil, equivalent to the existing energy price cap on gas and electricity. Many of our off-grid constituents are already being forced to make the choice between heating or eating, as will be the case across the UK. They must be afforded equal protection from these devastating increases.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr James MacCleary

Cllr Sarah Osborne

Cllr Rob Banks

 

CC Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer


As Putin rampages through Ukraine, resistance grows. And we must act here

Article first published in Sussex Bylines, March 3rd 2022

by James MacCleary

I am sure you, like me, are watching with horror the events unfolding in Ukraine. It was in the summer of 2013 that my partner Donna and I travelled to Kyiv and Odesa, although it seems like only yesterday. And it is hugely upsetting seeing families hiding in the Kyiv metro that we travelled on as tourists. A few years earlier I had completed a postgraduate thesis at Oxford on (of all things) Russia’s relationship with NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The language used by Vladimir Putin may seem ‘insane’ or ‘unhinged’, but it is actually consistent with Russian foreign policy over the past 30 years or so.

Putin talks a lot about ‘encirclement’ and this is a deeply held fear shared by many in Russia; NATO has long been cast as the ‘enemy’. Putin has also evoked the Nazis. From the Russian perspective their sacrifice in the Great Patriotic War was critical in victory for the allies. It is estimated that some 20 million Soviet citizens died in that conflict and the scars are still raw to this day.

Nostalgia for the Cold War and Soviet Union
Many Russians share Putin’s rose-tinted nostalgia for the days of the Soviet Union. There is no doubt that many Russians miss the global status they had during the Cold War. Much of Putin’s appeal has rested in his ability to boost Russian prestige on the world stage. However, strong warnings for years about the increasingly repressive regime in Moscow have been largely unheeded in the West.

Political opponents have been arrested and murdered and the media stifled. Heroic journalists like Anna Politkovskaya lost their lives trying to expose the corruption and violence at the heart of the Putin regime.

And now the repression is getting worse as Putin cracks down on critical media outlets, protesters and all Russians daring to tell the truth about what is going on in Ukraine. His highest profile political opponent, Alexei Navalny, is currently imprisoned in a labour colony from where he has been tweeting his views in recent days.

The ferocity of Ukrainian resistance has already started to destabilise Putin and his cronies back in Moscow. We must remember that this is not Russia’s war but Putin’s, and many ordinary Russians are appalled by it. Young Russian soldiers are dying in their hundreds (possibly thousands) to satisfy the paranoid ego of a man who these days more resembles a mafia boss than a modern, democratic leader.

So what does this mean for us politically? In my view, Boris Johnson and his own cronies have been exposed in a number of key areas by the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.

Government turning its backs on desperate people
Firstly, his government’s shameful anti-immigration rhetoric has backed them into a position where we are turning our backs on desperate people. Government ministers are happy to wave Ukrainian flags but are unable, or unwilling, to open up the safe routes to the UK for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. It is a product of the Conservatives’ decision to weaponise the issue of refugees for their own shabby political benefit.

The Home Office must immediately lift visa requirements so that we can offer refuge to as many Ukrainians as possible.

Secondly, there is the diminished power and status of the UK, post-Brexit, and the corrosive effect of the Conservatives’ attacks on the our pillars of ‘soft power’ in the world: the BBC, the British Council and our diplomatic service.

This war should refocus minds on the importance of these institutions to British influence.

Finally, the war has shone a harsh spotlight on the billions of Russian money sloshing around in our financial and political systems. We have provided a safe haven for dirty money accumulated by oligarchs who are key to Putin’s power base. My own football club, Everton, are heavily backed by Alisher Usmanov, a man once referred to by a senior British diplomat as a “gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail”. The club has now suspended ties to companies linked to Usmanov, who has had his assets frozen by the EU.

We need to look seriously at how we regulate our financial system to find ways to put an end to our status as the preferred place to clean dirty money.

Questions about the influence of Russian backers
There are also serious questions for our Conservatives – and Republicans like Donald Trump in America – to answer about the influence of Russian backers. A foreign power holding financial sway over the party that forms our government is a matter of national security and has to be an urgent concern for all of us regardless of partisan interests.

The war is not going to be quick. If and when the Russian military finally takes Kyiv and Kharkiv it will be a long, painful occupation. The fragility of Putin’s regime is clear and Russians are taking to the streets daily to protest bravely against the war. Putin’s war may end up bringing him down but, tragically, not before it has claimed the lives of many young Ukrainians and Russians.

What we must do now is send our support to Ukraine. Many are doing so by donating to the Red Cross appeal here. We must also pressure the government to act with decency and compassion. That starts with visas but must lead to wider reforms.

James MacCleary at Kyiv's Lavra 2013

James MacCleary at Kyiv’s Lavra in the summer of 2013. His visit opened his eyes to a beautiful, peaceful country now ravaged by war.

 

James MacCleary in front of Kyiv's Lavra

A striking view of James MacCleary outside the Lavra, one of the most important religious sites in the Russian Orthodox Church

 

Kyiv's metro in peaceful times

A busy, normal day on the Kyiv metro pictured by James MacCleary in 2013. Now these same stations are being used as bomb shelters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Conservatives on East Sussex County Council challenged to “green up" their investments

james_maccleary02_600.jpgLiberal Democrat County Councillor, James MacCleary, has called on East Sussex County Council to green up their investments by buying Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) products.

Cllr MacCleary explains:

“All councils publish a strategy each year which outlines how they intend to invest public money. At the County Council’s budget meeting on 8 February, I asked the council to support their efforts to address the climate emergency by investigating making greater use of ESG investments.

"Many councils across the country of all political colours, including locally in Lewes District, are moving investments into more sustainable choices.

"I have supported protests outside County Hall calling for pension fund divestment, but the council's investment strategy can also be used to move towards investments that support environmental projects and bring social good. It can also be done more quickly.

The council's current strategy is to just look at opportunities as they arrive but that is far too passive. If the council wants to show that it is serious then they need to prioritise these sorts of investments. I hope the council will give this proper consideration this as it is the sort of serious, pragmatic change that can benefit public finances and drive the finance sector towards more ethical investment choices."

Conservatives on the County Council rejected Cllr MacCleary’s suggestion and refused to investigate the use of ESG investments.


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