Lewes Liberal Democrats appoint new parliamentary spokesperson, Cllr James MacCleary

james_maccleary02_cropped_1000.jpgLewes Liberal Democrats announced the appointment of a new parliamentary spokesperson, James MacCleary, currently leader of Lewes District Council.

Cllr MacCleary said, “I am delighted to have been appointed as Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Lewes constituency. I would like to thank Oli Henman for all his work during the General Election where we ran the Conservatives so close.

“We are at a critical point in our politics with challenges to our law, the economy, work and health. So it is vital that this government and our local MP are held to account. The Liberal Democrats will continue to challenge this government for their incompetence, their mismanagement of both Covid-19 and the Brexit negotiations, and their devastating impacts on our local community and economy.

“Locally, residents want an MP who puts our community first and speaks out on the issues affecting our towns and villages rather than just toeing the government’s line. I’ve lived in the constituency for over 14 years and am raising my two young children here, so the future of our area means a lot to me. I am looking forward to standing up for residents who are being badly let down by the Conservatives.”

Oli_Henman_Speaks_Hustings700.jpgCllr MacCleary succeeds Oli Henman, who stood as the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary candidate in the 2019 election.

Cllr Henman commented: “I welcome James’ appointment as Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson and am confident he will to continue to hold the Tories to account locally and nationally.

“I am taking the difficult decision to step back from the role of parliamentary spokesperson to pursue a major opportunity in international development with the charity I co-founded. My work takes me to the UN, working with governments around the world to drive sustainable responses to the climate emergency. It is a chance to affect the future of the planet and make a difference to what I believe is the most important issue of our generation. I was proud to represent the Liberal Democrats in Lewes at the 2019 General Election and I would like to thank all of those who voted for the Liberal Democrats and supported me locally.”

Lewes Constituency Chair Simon Burall said, “Our campaign saw the Conservative majority cut by over half to under 2,500, a majority of less than 5%. This moved Lewes from a safe seat in 2017 to hyper-marginal in 2019. The party can build on this strong record thanks to the efforts that Oli and all the team put in during 2019. Oli will remain as a councillor in Lewes, a part of the Liberal Democrat team locally, who will continue to build on the 2019 campaign and work to take the seat from the Conservatives in 2024.”

Lewes Lib Dems call on Maria Caulfield MP to back international law

Lewes Lib Dems are calling on Lewes MP Maria Caulfield to clarify her stance on adherence to international law. Following the Government's decision to introduce legislation which would undermine key aspects of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Lewes Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson Oli Henman said:

oli.jpg“Boris Johnson is preparing to rip up the rule-book so I am writing to Maria Caulfield to request her assurances that she will uphold our international commitments, will she vote for credibility or chaos?

"This government is playing fast and loose with our international commitments. At a time when the economy has already been severely weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic, people in our area need assurances that there will be a proper settlement with our nearest neighbours across the channel. It is in no-one’s interests to create a major legal and trade dispute to add further uncertainty on top of our already extremely challenging economic position.

"Any attempt to tear up commitments made to Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement and confirmed in the Withdrawal Agreement could have very serious consequences for the UK. These could include international legal action and a downgrading of our reliability as a trading partner around the world, threatening our businesses at an already difficult time; as well as a potentially catastrophic destabilisation of relationships on the island of Ireland.”

The Lib Dem’s Brexit Spokesperson, Christine Jardine MP said:

"The head of the Government’s own legal department quitting over Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit should signal how serious a situation this is.

"For Johnson to think it is acceptable to row back on international agreements and assurances made to Northern Ireland shows he has no respect for international law or the UK's obligations.

"How can the UK expect other countries, like China, to respect the international treaties we hold with them if we don’t do the same when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement?

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Text of letter to Maria Caulfield MP

Dear Maria,

I am writing to request that you clarify your position on the UK’s commitments to international law and treaty obligations.

Following the resignation of Sir Jonathan Jones, the head of the Government’s legal department and the extraordinary comments from the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis that the proposed Northern Ireland customs rules legislation will “break international law”, I would like to ask you to confirm that you would not vote for any legislation that would undermine the UK’s historic commitments to international rule of law.

As I am sure you are aware, any attempt to tear up commitments made to Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement and confirmed in the Withdrawal Agreement could have very serious consequences for the UK. These could include international legal action and a downgrading of our reliability as a trading partner around the world, threatening our businesses at an already difficult time; as well as a potentially catastrophic destabilisation of relationships on the island of Ireland.

I am sure you would share my concern that, at this moment in which the country needs to re-build after the Covid-19 pandemic, it would be very damaging to create further tension and uncertainty for the businesses and residents of our area.

I look forward to your reply.

With best wishes,

Oli Henman


Council leader calls on government to confirm NO lorry park for Newhaven

james_maccleary.jpgJames MacCleary, Leader of Lewes District Council has written today to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, asking him to rule out any plans for a lorry park in the Newhaven and the wider Lewes district area.

The letter from Councillor James MacCleary follows the government’s recent introduction of sweeping powers, known as a Special Development Order, that allows for the construction of lorry parks in 29 different council areas across England without any approval from local planning authorities.

East Sussex is one of the 29 areas that has been included in the order.

Newhaven resident Councillor James MacCleary said:

“In any circumstance it is a very worrying sign when a government grants itself such wide-ranging powers without any consultation with either the local Council or residents. The assumption we have to make is they know how deeply contentious and unpopular these actions will be.

“Tories like Lewes MP Maria Caulfield try to dismiss any questions about Brexit as ‘scaremongering’ but for those of us who actually live in Lewes District, it is important to understand what is planned for our community. East Sussex has only one major working port, Newhaven, so to rule out lorry parks at ports in East Sussex is to rule out this development at Newhaven or indeed communities whose transport links serve the port such as Lewes or Seaford.

“Maria Caulfield has claimed publicly that there will be no lorry parks locally, but if that is the case then why is East Sussex listed in the legislation? The country was told Brexit was about reducing red tape and delays. This discussion about lorry parks shows that a massive increase in checks on lorries and paperwork is planned and the Government is planning locations for these extensive new checks to be carried out.

“The uncertainty is causing widespread concern within our community so I hope the Secretary of State will quickly rule out any possibility of a lorry park being built in the district and at Newhaven port.”

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The text of James MacCleary's letter to Robert Jenrick, Minister for Housing, Communities & Local Government is as follows:

Dear Secretary of State

Construction of Lorry Parks in East Sussex

I am writing to you to express significant concern that the Government will be able to start construction of lorry parks in 29 different council areas without approval of the Local Planning Authorities.

Despite East Sussex being named within the instrument put before Parliament last week, I am extremely disappointed that Lewes District Council and East Sussex County Council were not advised at any point of the Government’s intention to grant itself such wide-ranging  powers.

The lack of any communication has caused concern within our community I have received numerous enquiries from worried residents asking where parking facilities will be located. This is causing particular concern in the Newhaven area where we have an important international passenger and freight port.

I understand that Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, has stated via social media that there are no plans to build in the Newhaven/Lewes area. However, if this is the case it seems unnecessary to include East Sussex in the new powers as Newhaven is the only port of its kind in the county.

I would be grateful if you would formally confirm that you do not have plans for such a facility within the Lewes/Newhaven area and commit to meaningful engagement with Councils where such proposals are being considered.


Successful Consultation Leads To Good Outcome For Fire And Rescue Service

Despite claims to the contrary, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has held its most successful consultation ever on its Integrated Risk Management Plan. The public responded in large numbers and enabled the Fire Authority to make an informed decision on the way forward to keep both our residents and our fire fighters safe.


carolyn_lambert01_200.jpgCllr Carolyn Lambert, Vice Chair of the Fire Authority comments:

“Despite repeated criticisms from the Lewes MP for carrying out our statutory duty I am pleased that we now have a robust IRMP in place. The Chairman and I have asked for a meeting with all Sussex MPs in the next few weeks and I will personally be holding Maria Caulfield to account to deliver on her repeated public promises to find additional funding for the Fire and Rescue Service. It will be interesting to see if she really values the contribution our fire fighters are making or is just trying to distract the public from her voting record which has enabled her government to remove funding from all local authorities, including the Fire and Rescue Service.”


SarahOsborne01_600.pngCouncillor Sarah Osborne adds:

“The Fire and Rescue Service continues to face huge financial challenges. We will have to find £1.65 million in savings next year rising to nearly £3 million in 2025 unless Maria Caulfield make good on her promises of increased funding”.

Government Cycling And Walking Funding Fails Communities

Liberal Democrat councillors have expressed their dismay at the failure of the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund to enable a number of schemes across East Sussex to be delivered.

Cllr David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council says:

“This is another example of the way in which the Conservative government has cynically manipulated the expectations of the public. Unfortunately, this has been compounded by the failure of the Conservative administration of East Sussex County Council to put forward deliverable proposals. Public expectations were very high, particularly when the County Council announced that its Tranche 1 proposals had been so well received by the Department of Transport that more money had been allocated to the County Council than had been asked for.

The fact that so many of the schemes have now been withdrawn has caused reputational damage to the County Council and has undermined the huge efforts made by volunteers in the community who have put forward well-researched schemes in good faith.”

Councillor James MacCleary, Leader of Lewes District Council comments:

“The Conservative-led County Council seems to share with central government a lack of imagination and willingness to deliver even temporary changes to enable safe cycling and walking to take place. We have all waited a long time for the County Council’s cycling and walking strategy, and the outcome of this bid which has failed to deliver so much that the public has asked for must make us question the longer-term commitment of the County Council and its willingness to listen and respond to public demand”.

Councillor Carolyn Lambert adds:

“Some parts of Lewes, including Seaford, will receive no benefit from this funding. If the money is not spent, then the government will claw it back which would be a huge missed opportunity. Cycle Seahaven, one of the biggest cycling groups in the county, has put forward some perfectly achievable proposals, including some for simple signage, which seem to have been discounted. I hope that the County Council will reconsider its approach and listen to local residents”.

Show us the money

Lewes Lib Dems demand local MP and government whip, Maria Caulfield, shows her extra promised additional funding for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Services

Following the devastating fire in Newhaven, local Lib Dems are calling on Maria Caulfield to prove that she has secured her promised extra money for ESFRS. Ms Caulfield is on record claiming incidents like the Newhaven fire are the reason why she is opposing cuts to local Fire Services. Local Lib Dems are asking Ms Caulfield how she can square her position of ‘fighting cuts to ESFRS’ with her voting record in Parliament, where she has supported every vote to cut spending on local government which has had a knock-on impact of reduced budgets for local services, including the Fire Authorities.

Oli_Henman_Speaks_Hustings700.jpgOli Henman, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Lewes, said:

"Maria Caulfield claims to be championing the needs of our local fire service while at the same time she has consistently voted with the government to reduce local government spending over a number of years; and furthermore it is her own party that has been proposing to reduce support to our frontline firefighters in East Sussex.

It seems that Ms Caulfield is happy to provide warm words locally but not take action nationally. I challenge Ms Caulfield to deliver the additional funds from the Home Office that our essential fire service clearly needs. Show us the money!”

County Councillor for Ouse Valley West and Downs and ESFRS authority member, Cllr Sarah Osborne commented:

“The recent serious fire in Newhaven shows how important our local Fire Services are. The Conservative Government has cut local government funding dramatically over recent years, and the cumulative impact of these cuts means a total drop of nearly £12 million, with a 50% reduction in the last five years, for ESFRS; and Maria Caulfield has voted consistently for those cuts to local government. The contribution from national Government to our Fire and Rescue Services is now next to negligible. The Fire Authority needs secure funding, not random one-off payments, to be able to plan services effectively and safely. Officers do a fantastic job in the very insecure financial circumstances that central Government have put them in, but if this continues and a further proposed cut of central Government resources goes through, there will be drastic results for Fire and Rescue.”



1. The government grant contribution to ESFRS was £15m in 2012 and reduced to £3m in the 2020 fiscal year with cuts accelerating in recent years, with 50% reductions since 2016.

2. Maria Caulfield MP voting record on local government cuts, source: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25397/maria_caulfield/lewes/divisions?policy=6671

According to the official records Maria Caulfield has voted consistently to reduce local government funding as follows:

  1. On 5 Feb 2019: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2018-19 at a level 56% lower than it was set for 2017-18.
  2. On 7 Feb 2018: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2018-19 at a level 28% lower than it was set for 2017-18.
  3. On 22 Feb 2017: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2017-18 at a level 44% lower than it was set for 2016-17.Show vote
  4. On 10 Feb 2016: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2016-17 at a level 24.6% lower than it was set for 2015-16.

Lib Dems launch campaign to Make Grades Fair

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Government’s approach to exam grading in the wake of outcry and heartache at this year’s botched A-Level grades outcome and have launched an emergency campaign to make grades fair for all pupils.

Despite warnings, analysis has shown that pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were disproportionately downgraded. Across England, 36% of entries had grades lower than their teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades. The pain and confusion brought down on students, teachers and parents was compounded late at night on Saturday by OFQUAL’s hasty withdrawal of criteria for appeals that had only just been announced.

The Liberal Democrats have said they will do all they can to support pupils in the fight to ensure young people get fair grades and have urged local MP Maria Caulfield to lobby the Government to ensure young people are given: a) free appeals - to make it easy for every child to appeal grades they think are wrong; b) the chance to give evidence of their progress - so they can be judged on their work, not their school; and c) clear guidance on re-sits - so everyone knows what choices they have to fix this mess.

Oli_Henman_Speaks_Hustings700.jpgLiberal Democrat Spokesperson Oli Henman for the Lewes constituency said:

"As a parent myself, I know how important it is for young people to be given a fair start in life. So many young people have worked extremely hard in a very challenging environment and yet they have not got the results they deserve, through no fault of their own. This will understandably have brought anxiety, disappointment and worry about what happens next.

When put on top of the stress caused by lock-down and the wider insecurities caused by the pandemic, the overall effect is to shatter young people’s hope for their future before they have even begun. This appears particularly unfair as students from disadvantaged backgrounds and in state schools have been hardest hit by the downgrading of their results. I have heard of significant concerns from parents and pupils at local schools such as Seaford Head and there is even greater unease about the upcoming release of GCSE grades.

"Pupils must have the chance to appeal their grades directly and to present evidence that reflects their performance and progress at no cost. Ministers must also provide clear guidance on how re-sits will work and encourage universities to be flexible where necessary. We also need renewal of local accountability by Councils for school standards and results, to prevent the dreadful outcomes we now see in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

key_layla_200.jpgLiberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

"The shambolic handling of these results has left many young people in crisis. Despite the warning signs, the Education Secretary ignored teachers’ advice and has hit pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds hardest.

"Gavin Williamson is an Education Secretary out of his depth and out of excuses. He must take responsibility for his mistakes and step down with immediate effect. Our young people cannot afford to have their futures robbed by this Conservative Government’s incompetence.”




Notes to editors:

The Liberal Democrats are urging people to support their campaign here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/grades

Please see the text of the letter below.

Dear Maria,

I hope you are well in these challenging times. I am writing to you regarding the ongoing uncertainty on school exam grades.

As you know, so many young people locally have shown real resilience during this very difficult time and should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved. However, too many young people are rightly worried and heartbroken that their futures are being robbed by your Government’s incompetence.

It is completely unacceptable for any student to be downgraded based on their family income, or any other factor. They deserve better.

The Liberal Democrats will do all we can to support pupils in the fight to ensure young people get the fair grades they deserve.

I am therefore calling on you to be on their side by lobbying the Government with our calls to ensure every pupils is given:

  • Free appeals - to make it easy for every child to appeal grades they think are wrong.

  • The chance to give evidence of their progress - so they can be judged on their work, not their school.

  • Clear guidance on re-sits - so everyone knows what choices they have to fix this mess.

Furthermore, I call on you to push for a fairer approach to GCSE grading in the coming week, that does not rely on the faulty 'algorithm' approach.

I look forward to your response.


Oli Henman, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewes

Newhaven funding 'a good start'

The Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council has described a new announcement of £500,000 for Newhaven as ‘a good start’.

There is some confusion as to what the money can be used for as the government is yet to release any details. It is thought that the money may be the first instalment from the Towns Fund.

The Towns Fund is a pot of government money totalling £3.6bn that could see towns, including Newhaven, receive up to £25 million to help deliver long term economic and productivity growth.

james_maccleary.jpgCouncillor James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat councillor for Newhaven South and Deputy Leader of the Co-operative Alliance that runs Lewes District Council said:

“If Newhaven is to receive this money I welcome it.

“The government has already promised Newhaven funding in the realm of £25 million, so while £500,000 is a good start, it would be a betrayal of local people and the regeneration the town needs, if we don’t soon receive the rest of it.

“We have plans to transform Newhaven and to do that the government must meet its full funding commitment.”

The Towns Fund can be used for urban regeneration, planning, land use, skills and enterprise infrastructure and connectivity.

The announcement by the government and local MP, Maria Caulfield, said the money would ‘level up Newhaven’, but gave no explanation of what ‘level up’ meant.

Councillor MacCleary, who lives in Newhaven, added:

“I hope that Maria Caulfield will explain how £500,000 will ‘level up’ Newhaven and what that will mean for our town.

“I’m sure the MP has used local roads when she visits Newhaven and will know they resemble the surface of the moon in places, so they would certainly benefit from being 'leveled up'.

“Quite seriously, when you see these statements and announcements that are full of government jargon, whether it’s to ‘level up’ or ‘shovel ready’, you immediately fear the worst as there is so often no real substance.

"We will continue to engage with any possibilities for funding for Newhaven and hope to see the rest of the promised Towns Fund in the near future."

Newhaven LibDems call for action on road accident black spot

Newhaven Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign to bring attention to road safety in the town. Yet another recent accident at the junction of the A26 and B2109 (Avis Road) has brought renewed focus on this accident blackspot and other local road safety issues.

200712_Darren_Grover_roadside.jpgLocal County Councillor, Darren Grover, says: “In over 30 years of living in Newhaven and South Heighton, I have witnessed first hand dozens of collisions at this junction, as well as overturned HGVs. Too many people have died and for too long, the county council and Highways have shirked their responsibility to protect the public.”

To support their campaign the local Lib Dem team have launched a petition via their website (https://www.leweslibdems.org.uk/safer_roads) appealing directly to East Sussex County Council, East Sussex Highways, and the Highways Agency who are the authorities responsible for the roads in question. The petition was signed by over 250 local residents its first 24 hours.

sean_macleod.jpgCouncillor Sean Macleod, Lib Dem councillor for South Heighton says: “As a local resident and district ward councillor I know just how dangerous this junction is. We see accidents time and time again at this location and things have to change. We understand budgets are tight but at the end of the day people's lives far outweigh the need to cut costs”.

james_maccleary.jpgNewhaven councillor James MacCleary adds: “Newhaven always seems to be put to the back of the queue by the County Council - unless they want to dump an incinerator on us! Improvements at this junction are long overdue and we demand they prioritise the safety of local people and the tens of thousands of people who use this dangerous junction every week."


We must stand for equality and against discrimination in our society

Recent events, both in the US and here, have prompted a wave of reflection about who our society chooses to honour, and who it does not. This debate is not restricted to Bristol, but is countrywide; only a few days ago the Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council announced that there will be a review of all plaques, monuments, statues and street names to ensure they “reflect the city’s values”.

The immediate cause of this reflection was the removal of Edward Colston’s statue by protestors in Bristol. Some are outraged about the way this was done.

As liberal democrats the rule of law is a fundamental principle, central to our beliefs. This does not mean that we should automatically join those outraged by the events in Bristol. As our party President Mark Pack says in his statement on this issue

“What is vital is the equal application of fair laws. And these protests were born out of anger that the law and police treatment have not been equally and fairly applied.”

As Mark points out, in the last 30 years there have been 1,741 deaths following contact with the police in the UK. He notes that this is a problem in itself. But given that black people are twice as likely to die in police custody, he says “the very unsettling reality of the unequal policing of black people is hard to ignore.” This problem is compounded by the fact that there have been no prosecutions of police officers over any of those deaths.

Given this context, it should come as no surprise that these protests have happened now. The spark was the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and in the past we have seen protests at deaths at the hands of the police both here and in the US flare up and then die down again, with little impact on the lives of the people experiencing the negative effects of unequal treatment by the law. But this time feels like it may be different.

One thing that is different is the COVID-19 pandemic and its differential impact across our community. Specifically, BAME people made up 16% of all corona virus related deaths in England (up to 28 May). The causes of this are complex and there is as yet no firm evidence about what they are. What is clear though is that the virus is having a disproportionate impact on one part of our community. The outrage expressed in Bristol and across the country is understandable, personal and urgent.

As a party we need to acknowledge that we have not always made enough noise about systemic injustices. It has been too easy for us to fall into the trap of worrying about the rule of law some of the time. This will not be true of all members our party, but for many of us these protests expose an unhappy truth.

The global Black Lives Matter protests are an important historical moment. For those of us who have not questioned our own approach to the application of the rule of law closely enough, this is our chance to listen, reflect and learn. It is our chance to support those leading the campaign and we must be careful not to distract from their work and priorities.

Words however are not enough. We have to look long and hard at our own party. Are the inequalities within wider society reflected in our own structures? We are a party that welcomes debate and diversity of opinion. But do we see this reflected equally within our party? If we don’t, do we know why? And what are we doing to correct these inequalities?

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