Safety for women

The text of a letter sent to Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and Chief Constable Jo Shiner by Liberal Democrats in Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven. To lend your voice to ours, sign our petition at https://www.leweslibdems.org.uk/safety_for_women

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Dear Ms Bourne and Ms Shiner,

We write to you to express our concern at the treatment of protesters at the vigil to highlight the murder of Sarah Everard.

As women, you cannot be unaware of the strength of feeling among women and girls across the UK and in Sussex and of their shared stories of sexual attacks, threats, domestic violence and street harassment following the terrible murder of Sarah Everard and charging of a Metropolitan Police officer. A testimony that shows what a common daily experience this is for women and girls of all ages and from all sections of society. A very recent report showed that 94% of women between 16 and 24 have experienced sexual harassment and women of all ages report all types of violence, harassment and assaults against them that happen solely on the basis of their sex.

As Police and Crime Commissioner, Ms Bourne, you have raised the amount paid to support the police by very high rates in the last two years, 7.5% for the year 2021/22 following a 20% rise for the year 2020/21. We would like to see you set out how you will spend some of this increase in police spending on the protection of women and girls across our county.

It is not good enough that police forces, including Sussex, often only fully engage and intervene after an assault or murder has occurred. We have had too many incidents where women have reported violent, threatening and stalking behaviour to the police for it not to be acted on sufficiently seriously. In some terrible cases, inaction by the police has resulted in serious assault and at worst, murder. As political representatives of a party representing a wide section of the constituents of Lewes District, we would like your response to the following points.

i) An explanation of the policing at the Brighton vigil and why it was thought to be necessary to be so heavy handed. We would like assurances that any future protests by women and girls highlighting issues around female safety should be policed in a collaborative way with organisers and with a community-focused approach. We would not expect to see any arrests or cautions at such peaceful protests and vigils.

ii) That part of the increase in police funding, paid for by all residents of our county, should be directed towards improving responses and actions on violence towards women and girls, and this should encompass all aspects from serious sexual or violent assault by strangers, to domestic violence, danger from partners, stalking and street harassment.

iii) That the police must not further entrench ideas about victims holding responsibility for their attack or bringing it on themselves by ‘being in the wrong place’, ‘going out at night by themselves’ or ‘wearing the wrong clothes’. As we are sure you are both aware, to hold down a job or visit or go out with friends, virtually all women and girls will find themselves in the situations above if they are to live normal lives. Women should not be expected to adopt a form of modern purdah in order to protect themselves from violent attacks.

iv) That we would like both of you, as leaders in policing and setting standards for the Sussex Constabulary, to set a standard that tackles institutional sexism and misogynist attitudes within the force. The fact that statues are being offered greater protection in law than women with heavier prison terms than those given out to perpetrators of sexual assault says much about how half the population have their basic human rights infringed.

You will be aware that Cllr Carolyn Lambert has twice raised concerns about the numbers of Sussex Police subject to misconduct hearings including for matters of a sexual nature. The response provided by you as the Police and Crime Commissioner was an attack on Fire and Rescue Services. Perhaps these concerns could now be treated with the respect they deserve and a more constructive approach taken towards these concerns.

In 2016, the UK Parliament voted in favour of the adoption of the Istanbul Convention to the UK statute book. The Convention seeks not just to act after women have experienced violence but to set a standard that sets out that governments have a legal duty to act to discourage violence against women, and protect women from assault, harassment and sexual violence. We would like to see the principles of the convention applied in policing across Sussex so that women are protected from assault and that the police no longer only seek to intervene after serious incidents and harm have occurred.

With regards,

Cllr Kate Wood, Lewes Town Council
Helena Pickup, vice chair, Lewes Liberal Democrats
Rt Hon Norman Baker
Cllr Carolyn Lambert, East Sussex County Council
Cllr Jamie Bennett, Liberal Democrat candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner
Cllr Sarah Osborne, East Sussex County Council
Cllr Sean Macleod, Lewes District Council
Cllr Rob Banks, Lewes District Council
Cllr Julie Carr, Lewes District Council
Cllr Janet Baah, Lewes Town Council
Cllr Christine Brett, Lewes District Council
Cllr Olivia Honeyman, Seaford Town Council
Cllr Oli Henman, Lewes Town Council
Rob Parsons
Imogen Taylor
Kevin West
Peter Flake
Gina Hawthorne

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To help do something about this appalling state of affairs, sign our petition.


Massive increase in house building on the cards as part of government planning power grab

powergrab400.jpgLocal Liberal Democrats are opposing the Government power grab on planning. Under an existing government formula, the number of houses the District has to find land for outside the National Park could more than double.

County Councillor Sarah Osborne (Ouse Valley West and Downs) says, “Housing numbers should be decided on local need not what someone in London thinks is the right figure. In addition to this, a new law could mean local people and councils will have their voices gagged if a system of “zoning” is introduced – at the moment the need to get planning permission means residents can have a say in what happens.”

More houses, fewer affordable houses
Councillor Sean Macleod (Ringmer and Ouse Valley) says, “Currently in the District we have hundreds of sites with planning permission but not a single brick has been laid so we have developers sitting on agreed sites that just are not building. Instead of triggering an algorithm to produce a completely unrealistic new figure, the government should ensure that existing sites are built on first."

Lewes Bridge and Ringmer campaigner Janet Baah adds, “Our current housing supply numbers are around 300 a year. This has them jumping to over 700 a year. It’s just unacceptable, especially when you have so many agreed planning locations with permission to build sitting empty.”

And Chailey division campaigner Hazel Fell-Rayner says, “It’s not just more housing, it’s more unaffordable housing. The Government plans to increase the number of dwellings in a development before there is a requirement to deliver affordable housing from 10 to 40 or even 50!” This would mean Lewes District would have had over 37% fewer affordable homes built over the last 5 years.

Sign our petition here and help to stop the Tory government's building power grab.


Climate Change Emergency At The Heart Of Lib Dem Capital Budget Proposals

david-tutt.pngThe Liberal Democrat budget proposals for East Sussex County Council tackle climate change head on. Cllr David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, explains:

“Despite the fact that East Sussex County Council, under pressure from the Liberal Democrats, declared a climate change emergency there is nothing in the Conservative budget to fund measures that will actively support this. This could explain why they set the target date as 2050 as opposed to the Liberal Democrat proposal of 2030.

It is time for radical change and for some decisive action to tackle what most residents see as essential for all our futures.

We therefore propose to spend £1 million next year on a capital programme to reduce carbon emissions that arise from County Council activities.

We will start with three main projects. We will install electric vehicle charging points, put in low-carbon heating conversions for buildings owned by the County Council and will install solar panels and electrical storage.

We will also take £250,000 from revenue spending next year to create a fund to remedy environmental damage, for example by converting felled tree sites into habitats for insects and to accelerate the preparation of the County Council’s Climate Emergency Plan.

Finally, we will increase expenditure on pavement repairs by £200,000 to make pavements safer for everyone in the wider community as this will assist climate change as people will be encouraged to walk more”.

Cllr Kathryn Field, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat group adds:

“People are tired of empty promises from the Conservatives and of the way in which they are cynically kicking climate change into a future date which is far too late. We need action now and proposals that will help to bring about economic recovery as well as benefit the environment”.


Liberal Democrat Revenue Budget Proposals Put East Sussex Residents First

Liberal Democrat budget proposals focus on the most vulnerable residents. Cllr David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, explains:

“Conservatives talk about vulnerable people, but Liberal Democrats take action to support them. Our budget proposals are aimed at putting money back into the budget to support some of the people who have suffered most during Covid 19.

We will add £200,000 from the County’s Covid 19 money to support children’s mental health assessments and services. Many of our children have been badly affected by the lack of school attendance and it is vital that we help them to recover and catch up with their learning.

The Conservatives have put aside £880,000 for additional social services but have not said what this will be spent on. Liberal Democrats are proposing that this money should go towards providing training and information on respite services for carers, setting up a grant fund to support the voluntary sector, enhancing adult mental health support and most of all enabling the successful Community Hubs who have done so much for our local communities in the last year to grow and develop.

The £100,000 that has been set aside for economic development should go to help our local businesses by supporting business associations and their members.

Cllr Philip Daniel, Liberal Democrat Lead on Finance and Resources adds:

“Our climate change emergency initiatives are vital and fully in tune with cross-party thinking in the Council. It is bewildering that the Conservative Leadership put nothing in the budget to support those. We have done that while also putting forward social care measures that make a huge difference to our residents and are affordable. Why don’t the Conservatives get it in the first place?”


Lib Dems call for urgent action plan to boost vaccine rollout in Lewes District

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 surgeries to administer the vaccines across our area
3. Adding people undertaking caring responsibilities to the priority list

james_maccleary01_600.jpgNewhaven 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.”

carolyn_lambert_insta.jpgCouncillor 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”.


School Meal Box Disgrace

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”.


Lib Dem Call For Action On Schools: “Time For Decisive Leadership”

david-tutt.pngLiberal 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.”


Seaford Residents Need Safe Access To Covid Vaccinations

carolyn_lambert.jpgCouncillor 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”.


Newhaven's Covid and Brexit double whammy

James MacCleary, leader of Lewes District Council, on BBC South discussing the challenges facing Newhaven port after France closed its borders last night.

https://peertube.co.uk/videos/watch/aa8c072d-be37-4930-b89b-bffb8bd82239

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Is Newhaven braced for a No Deal Brexit?

james_maccleary02_cropped_1000.jpg“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.”