Responding to recent reports that Lewes schools are being encouraged to consider a move towards a Multi-Academy Trust, local Lib Dems are pushing the Conservative-controlled County Council for greater clarity on the proposed schools budget. Lib Dems support local democratic accountability for schools and believe parents and teachers should have a say over academy conversions.
We're wondering what other parties on East Sussex County Council have to hide. They voted down a Liberal Democrat motion to have People and Place scrutiny committees broadcast via the web. These committees are very important: a great deal of work is done in them, and members of the public can see how the Council is held to account.
Sarah Osborne, LibDem member for Ouse Valley West and Downs said, “I think many of the arguments against webcasting the scrutiny committees are completely inconsistent. You are saying you cannot perform your function on the committee if anybody is watching you, which is ridiculous. “If a whole load of the public turn up are you suddenly going to immediately change your behaviour? Are you not going to be able to function as a scrutiny committee?”
She also suggested that webcasting proceedings might improve behaviour, citing examples of the sexist behaviour she ahs experienced from other councillors.
Ofsted's annual report has provided a damning assessment of secondary schools undertaking 'off-rolling' and has identified a 'worrying gap' in the provisions for schools attended by pupils with special educational needs or disabilities.
The education watchdog warned that thousands of pupils could be "disappearing" from the school system as a result of illegal off-rolling.
The report found that 19,000 children dropped off school rolls between January 2016 and January 2017, during the time that students are undertaking their GCSE exams.
Around half (9,700) of those dropping off rolls between Years 10 and 11 are not reappearing on the roll of another state-funded school.
'Off-rolling', a practice where schools move difficult-to-teach pupils off their rolls to boost performance data, is illegal and leaves the child without access to educational support.
Commenting on the report by Ofsted, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:
"It is shameful that thousands of children are being let down in this way. Every child has the right to an education and should be supported to achieve to the best of their ability in our schools.
"This Government is fostering a culture of senseless competition between schools, where results from a single set of narrowly focused, high-stakes exams, are made to feel like the be all and end all when it comes to judging a school's success.
"All this does is force schools to give up on pupils who are struggling - a decision which will have devastating consequences for their education, job prospects and self esteem for years to come."
The Liberal Democrats, alongside Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green party have written to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, asking for his consideration of a motion that the Government have held Parliament in contempt.
The Government have failed to provide parliamentarians with the 'final and full advice provided by the Attorney General to the Cabinet concerning the terms of any withdrawal agreement' that was requested by the House on the 13th November, and was not opposed by the Government.
Commenting on the letter that has been sent to the Speaker, co-signatory of the letter, and Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:
"The Attorney General, in his most bombastic court-room manner has shown Parliament two learned fingers and refused to comply with Parliament's request to publish the full legal advice.
"This must constitute contempt of Parliament which will be pursued by all legal means.
"The Liberal Democrats demand better than this sorry mess of a Government."
Councillor Vic Ient at Station Street, Lewes, pollution bottle neck
Councillor Vic Ient, Liberal Democrat environmental spokesperson at Lewes District Council, berated the Conservatives at the Full Council meeting this week for not implementing a set of motions designed to deal with air pollution from the Council's July council meeting. He said after the meeting "I checked on the progress to implement the motions passed over 4 ½ months ago and sadly nothing seems to have been done. If the Conservatives are serious about tackling air pollution, then they should have been ordering new air monitoring stations and the 'cut engine pollution' signs already".
Motions passed in July included agreement on the purchase of 2 new air monitoring stations, a bid to the government to request financial support to implement air quality programmes including: expanding the number of NOx tubes throughout the district especially near schools and to undertake a publicity campaign to help reduce CO2 and other polluting emissions into the atmosphere.
There was further debate on tackling air pollution when Councillor Olivia Honeyman (Seaford South) reminded councillors at the meeting that the air monitoring station at Newhaven was still out of service after over 18 months. She asked the Leader of the Council to ensure that swift action was taken to bring the station back into operation. Cllr Steve Saunders (Newhaven Valley) said during the debate on a campaign to persuade drivers to switch off their engines near schools "we need permanent signs not just the temporary ones". He asked the Conservative controlled council to introduce permanent signs not only at schools but in key places where there is regular traffic congestion. Cllr Steve Saunders continued, "Newhaven suffers from very heavy traffic pollution on the A259 ring road, the worst in the district. We need permanent signs here to ask drivers to switch off their engines whilst stationary".
Liberal Democrats on Lewes District Council say a taskforce must be formed to consider how Newhaven Port will be affected if the Brexit chaos continues.
They have presented a motion for debate at Monday’s full council meeting.
Councillor Vic Ient (Kingston and Ouse Valley West) said “We are presenting a motion to try and force the authorities to take action.
“Chaos seems to be the only word one can use for the present state of the government.
“I, like the majority of people in the Lewes constituency, wanted to stay in the EU and after months of wrangling we seem no further forward as to what the Brexiters want.
“I hope we have a People’s vote and this country draws back from the brink.
“But failing all of this, we must prepare for the worst-case situation and investigate the risks for the port of Newhaven and act responsibly on behalf of the thousands of residents who may be affected.
“Is there a plan to deal with the massive number of lorries which may back-up in the case of there being customs difficulties?
“The only way into Newhaven is via the A26 for HGVs.
“Even a small delay could cause major problems.
“If there are jams, how will the government and the county council keep traffic flowing for local businesses and residents?
“Vehicles will try and find alternative routes along the A259 and through my own council ward along the C7 between Lewes and Newhaven.
“We need joint action and we are calling for a taskforce to be set up so that risks and mitigating actions can be prepared in advance.”
Sarah Osborne, leader of the Liberal Democrats at Lewes District Council, said: “We must get ready for all eventualities.”
LibDem councillors responded forcefully:
Philip Daniel: “The Conservative government has been in charge for the last decade and the Conservatives have been running East Sussex County Council for some 20 years. It is nonsense for Cllr Glazier to try to duck the responsibility for these appalling proposals.”
David Tutt: “The so-called core offer ... will leave residents with less than the basic level of key services. The proposals being considered include further cuts to children’s services, adult social care and highways that are simply unacceptable.”
An excellent performance by LibDem Councillor Sarah Osborne on the ITV programme 'Last Word'. Selected highlights:
- the EU (5.05)
- ESCC cuts (11.00)
- cross questioning the Tories on local government financing and cuts (15.00)
- standards in public life (18.30)
- she welcomes the introduction of restrictions on gambling machines (21.58)
The Liberal Democrats have today announced they will back a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill to ensure the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals are introduced within six months.
Speaking ahead of the vote next week, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:
“A few months ago I was approached by a mother who was distraught after her son had committed suicide as a result of distress caused by debts that had accrued from compulsive gambling.
“There is now a network of grieving relatives who have been brought together by the same dreadful experience. Like them, I want the NHS to recognise gambling addiction as a serious mental health condition. Preventive action is also needed including urgent steps to curb some of the more exploitative practices like high stake fixed-odds betting terminals.
“I and the Liberal Democrats will therefore work with others to stop these abusive practices and introduce a crackdown as promised. The Government has been utterly craven in giving in to lobbying from the industry and must now back the cross-party amendment or face defeat.”
Liberal Democrat Culture, Media & Sport Spokesperson in the House of Commons, Christine Jardine, added:
“Further delays are causing more and more vulnerable people to face financial stress, mental health problems and worse.
“It doesn’t need to be this way. Liberal Democrats demand better, which is why we have been calling for the maximum stake to be reduced to £2 for nearly a decade.
“The Tories have already taken too long to act, now they are kicking it into the long grass. It simply isn’t good enough.”
Responding to the news that NHS Digital has withdrawn from its immigration data-sharing arrangement with the Home Office, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The Home Office should never have been forcing NHS staff to supply patients’ data in the first place. Doctors and nurses’ time should be spent providing healthcare to those who need it, not acting as border guards in Theresa May’s hostile environment.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We will completely scrap the Tories’ hostile environment and instead invest in an accountable, intelligence-led Border Force to prevent people entering the country illegally and quickly identify those who overstay their visas.
“That way we can secure our borders and rebuild trust in the immigration system, while leaving NHS workers to focus on their jobs.”