Following initial discussions about the formation of a multi-party co-operative alliance, local Liberal Democrats are inviting other opposition parties back to the table.
‘We know how important it is to our electorate that they are presented with a viable alternative to the Tories, but we know we need to get this right for them in the interest of running the District. If any arrangement is to stand for 4 years and for the administration not to collapse back into chaotic Tory control, we must achieve a working agreement that each of the parties can sign up to to make sure that key aims of their voters are represented,’ said Liberal Democrat Leader, Cllr James MacCleary who is extending an offer of new talks to Green Leader, Zoe Nicholson, Labour’s Chris Collier and Independents, Ruth O’Keeffe and Steve Saunders.
‘As the Liberal Democrat Group on the Council, we know there is a real desire among other opposition groups to get an alternative coalition off the ground but with two parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, of very similar size, this was always going to be more tricky than with one much larger and one smaller party.’
Cllr MacCleary has invited the other party leaders to resume talks on Monday. ‘We are keen to sit down with the other parties and explore all the options. We realise that some people are very impatient for a solution to be reached but we are confident we have enough common ground on a number of issues to be able to work together effectively’.
Following the recent local elections, the Liberal Democrats are now in majority control of 25 local authorities and in alliance or coalitions in number of others, but this would be the first time a multi-party alliance has been mooted in Lewes District.
Liberal Democrat councillors on Lewes District Council are hoping that the Greens will return to the negotiating table to nail down an agreement with the Lib Dems to end Tory control of the council.
Group leader, James MacCleary, says: “The Lib Dems are keen to help put together a progressive alliance to run Lewes District Council and stop the Tories who are not in tune with the wishes of local residents. But any such agreement has to be both fair to both sides and stable so that it can last the four years of the council.
“Lib Dems have considerable experience of running councils, both on our own and in coalition and we know that sensible forward planning is important. I fear that the enthusiasm and inexperience of the Greens is clouding their judgement, and rushing into half-baked plans, as they wish to do, is simply not sensible.”
At this evening’s meeting of the council, the Greens proposed Zoe Nicholson to lead the council even though they knew there was not sufficient support. Liberal Democrats have desperately exhorted the Green leadership to be more flexible and spend a little more time to build up a proper joint platform for taking control. The Greens rejected that out of hand instead attempting to force others to back their bid for power.
Cllr MacCleary adds: “We opened the door to the Greens as widely as we could but I'm afraid they do not seem ready to negotiate sensibly at the moment. I reiterate that we remain open to finding ways to create a progressive alliance to run the council and hope very much the Greens will engage positively with that.
“Liberal Democrats have extensive experience of collaborative working and also of running local authorities – indeed we were running Lewes District Council as recently as 2011. We know that any successful administration needs detailed agreements on issues and policies, and agreed terms of working. The Greens were not interested in settling any of that before making a bid for power. We are not interested in entering into an alliance that just collapses after a few weeks because we did not take the time to put in place the foundations.”
Simon Burall, Convenor of the local Liberal Democrats, added: “After a bruising election contest the focus must be on holding the Tories to account rather than making bids for power without the proper agreements in place to make it work. Local Liberal Democrats will continue to focus on putting local people first as we have always done, and get on with the job of getting results for residents.”
Following strong results in the local elections on 2nd May, the Liberal Democrats make up the largest group on the Town Councils of Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven and have therefore nominated the new mayors for all three towns!
In Seaford, Nazish Adil, known as 'Pinky', has become the town's first ethnic minority British Asian mayor. She is a very active local resident and pledged to work to ensure all voices are heard in planning for the town's future. Pinky said, “The core Lib Dem values of tolerance and respect for diversity are at the heart of my motivation for running for election; so I am delighted to be able to step up and serve the community to deliver on the interests of all our residents.”
In Lewes, John Lamb follows Lewes’ first ethnic minority mayor, Janet Baah, and he has set out a clear demand to deliver on the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan, which includes low cost housing as a key priority for local residents. John said, “It’s a real privilege for me to take over as Mayor after Janet Baah. Janet set a very high bar with her commitment to bringing a fresh perspective to the role and I look forward to continuing to ensure that people of all backgrounds are valued in our town. I have worked for many years on technology for people with disabilities, so accessibility will continue to be a strong focus in my term as Mayor.”
In Newhaven, Graham Amy leads a strong team with an overall Lib Dem majority on the Town Council. He set out priorities to ensure that Newhaven's residents are properly consulted on future priorities for the town and a demand to regenerate the High Street. Graham said, “The Lib Dems are leading the push for a change across Lewes District. We champion local action and listen closely to residents’ views. We will continue to push for better representation of local needs at all levels; by ensuring that the Town Councils are able to support local residents and pushing back against the Tory cuts at District and County Councils and central government.”
Fresh from the Liberal Democrats’ stunning local election results across the country, the party now leads the fight for the European Parliament elections on 23 May.
With Britain’s political parties dividing into Remain- and Leave-leaning in terms of Brexit, the Lib Dems are the only party to have championed Britain maintaining the closest possible relationship with the EU from day one – a stance that has morphed into the Lib Dems supporting a confirmatory referendum with the Remain option on the ballot paper.
And in a clear statement of how the Lib Dems want that new people’s vote to go, the party’s slogan for the Euro elections is ‘Stop Brexit’.
Under the voting system used for elections to the European Parliament, voters vote for the party, not for individuals.
Therefore, each party draws up a list of candidates, and depending on how many votes it gets will determine how many of its candidates get elected to the Parliament.
Lewes falls in the South East European constituency, which elects 10 members. Therefore, each party in the South East can present a list of up to 10 candidates. Top of the South East Lib Dem list is Catherine Bearder, who was an MEP in the 2014-19 Parliament.
Antony Hook, number 2 on the Lib Dem list, brings 16 years experience as a criminal barrister – specialising in prosecuting serious crime, including organised and international. His skills as a lawyer and advocate will enable him to expertly champion the interests of the South East and take on the misleading claims of Brexiteer MEPs like Nigel Farage.
Lewes Lib Dems have a representative on the list, the former district councillor and three-time parliamentary candidate Chris Bowers, who is sixth. Chris says, ‘Every vote for the Liberal Democrats at this election is a vote to give us a chance to stop Brexit.
‘We are democrats, and having had the referendum in 2016 which voted for Brexit but only narrowly and with no outline or vision of what sort of Brexit people were voting for, we feel it’s democratically essential to have a confirmatory vote. But we will make it absolutely clear that we believe Britain’s place is in the EU, and we sense the more people have learned about the implications of Brexit over the last three years, the more sceptical and worried they have become.
‘And the more people from the Lewes constituency who vote Lib Dem, the more our pro-Brexit MP – pro-‘no deal Brexit’ MP even – will have to realise how out of step she is with local opinion.’
A calculation by the Remain United website has shown why Remainers are best voting Lib Dem at this election, as it could make a difference of up to six seats in the British representation in the 2019-24 European Parliament.
Here is the full list of Liberal Democrat candidates for the south east, plus photos and biographical notes.
The full results are now in for local elections across England and the Lib Dems have had the best results in 20 years, we have taken more than 700 new seats and have firmly demonstrated our local campaigning impact up and down the country! In Lewes District we were heartened to receive such wide backing from voters in every part of the District. While the results were mixed, overall we have held steady and in some cases made surprising gains.
Here is a summary of the position regarding Seaford Health Hub outlined by LibDem councillor Maggie Wearmouth.
The lease for Old School Surgery is with private providers and runs out in 2021. That for Seaford Medical Practice is with the NHS Property Services. Many allied professionals in community teams, plus those working for the mental health trust and link workers from East Sussex County Council have very limited accommodation in these buildings and also feel that the accommodation is affecting the quality and scope of the service they provide.
So it has been obvious for some time that health services in Seaford are at breaking point and new accommodation is urgently required. It is the role and responsibility of the Eastbourne Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group to provide or commission health services in Seaford. They remain in financial special measures and have limited course of action at present.
The current plan, approved by the Conservative Cabinet, has approved funding for the Downs Leisure Centre Health Hub which involves more than £1 million from council funds and a £17 million loan from the Public Works Loan Board. As central government funding for councils reduces, so councils have to look to more commercial sources for sustainable and reliable income.
There are no plans for a Minor Injures Unit, X-rays or Urgent Care centre. I am told that there could be parking space for a mobile MRI scanner unit and space to house a community Diabetes team. There is no funding for extra health professionals, but the CCG would pay extra money to GPs surgeries if their patient numbers increased (capitation fees). The counter argument is that by improving the work environment, staff morale, retention and recruitment would be enhanced.
It is argued that promoting health, lifestyle and wellbeing need the GP facilities to be co located with the Downs Leisure Centre. I challenge this as I believe that social prescribing eg a course of pilates classes for backache instead of pain killers should at least be subsidised by the CCG. Where those classes take place is less relevant than the support given by the CCG to such initiatives. I was directed to a video on the CCG website, but it does not mention finances. I have also asked the LDC project officers for examples of other places where Health Hubs have been tried but they have not yet provided this information. Those that I have found myself include award winning community centres or rooms for private rental by therapists such as the Integrated Centre at Herstmonceux: none involve gyms.
Many people we have spoken to have concerns about the loss of the green space football pitch at the Downs and the loss of the much loved over sixties Club. We share those concerns, especially since the green spaces at the Newlands development may not be available for 4-5 years (my question to the Town Clerk in a recent Town Council meeting).
Our counter proposal is as follows:-
Keep Seaford Medical Practice where it is but move out the community teams from the half of the building they occupy. Work with Seaford Town Council to construct a building on waste land owned by LDC as part of the Richmond Rd car park but rarely used for parking. House Old School Surgery, community teams and community dental clinic there. Consider building over the corner of the Salts (owned by STC) to house new STC council offices / community hall / cafe with view over the Salts and towards the sea. Replace old Scout hut in another part of the Salts.
In this way, facilities that are really needed could be provided, keeping the facilities in central Seaford whilst still ensuring a good commercial return on investment. The downside is parking provision, but this is very much a concern about the Downs project and no assessments have been made about the impact of parking or footfall in central Seaford if both GP practices are moved.
We will continue to question and challenge the decisions made until we think that the people of Seaford are getting what they deserve at an acceptable price.
So - we want to represent and stand up for Seaford residents, we want much more transparency and democracy in the way council decisions are made and we want to protect green spaces and services that are valued by residents.
On the night of 26 April a number of properties on Prince Edward’s Road and Park Road in Lewes, displaying political party posters, were vandalised. Graffiti were sprayed on houses displaying Liberal Democrat, Green and Labour posters, including words such as ‘traitors’ and ‘hypocrites’. The vandalism includes damage to property and the public footpath.
The recent vandalism appears to follow a national trend of anti-social behaviour against political posters and individuals who are involved in local democratic political activity.
Speaking for the Liberal Democrats, Simon Burall, who lives at one of the addresses targeted, said:
“We are only days away from local elections and volunteers across the District are giving up many hours of their time to work for improvements to their local area. Acts of vandalism are never justified and these recent graffiti are completely different to the normal politics of Lewes. Whatever your political affiliations, we should live in a society which respects other people’s views.
This is a really worrying development for the health of our local democracy and we will work with others to ensure a more open tolerant society.”
Zoe Nicholson, speaking for Lewes District Green Party, said:
“Our experience of campaigning in the district has been overwhelmingly positive so it's surprising and very sad to see people expressing their political views in this thuggish and intimidating way.
'It's really clear from speaking to local people that they're fed up of the squabbling and bitterness of Westminster politics at the moment.
The vandalism is bad enough, but using highly charged language like 'traitors' against political opponents is not acceptable. We will continue to shun this kind of negative campaigning and focus on positive messages in our campaign, and we stand with other parties against any form of intimidation or extremism.”
Emily Clarke, speaking for Lewes Labour said:
“It is really sad to see this kind of attack on democracy in our town and criminal damage done to the property of residents who are exercising their right to take part in the upcoming local elections. We are experiencing a time when the country is divided on huge issues such as Brexit and people on all sides hold strong and differing views. However, the use of this type of language aimed at local political opponents, who are genuinely working for the community in which they are standing and residents’ property is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. As with any attack on democracy, it is important that we stand together against those who seek to intimidate us.”
Free sanitary products will be offered to girls in all primary schools in England from early 2020. This follows Chancellor Philip Hammond's announcement last month of funding for free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons last month calling on the Government to extend its policy on free sanitary products to primary schools, colleges, universities and NHS GP surgeries.
Commenting on the announcement, Layla Moran said:
“It is brilliant news that children in primary schools in England will now have access to sanitary products. From the age of 8, girls may start their period and this should not mean that they miss out on education at such a pivotal time.
“Girls should not be penalised because of their period. The number of those who have been missing school each year because of their period is heart-breaking and unacceptable.
“It is now time for the Conservatives to go further and eradicate period poverty wherever it exists. They must provide free sanitary products in places including universities, hostels, GP surgeries, women’s shelters, libraries, and leisure centres.”
The full text of Layla Moran’s live EDM on Period Poverty is below and can also be found here: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52737/period-poverty
That this House welcomes the Government’s commitment to roll out free sanitary products across NHS hospitals and secondary schools in England; notes however that periods may start as early as 8 years old; is appalled that pupils in England are missing time in school, college and university because of a lack of access to sanitary products; is alarmed at reports that 40 per cent of girls in the UK have used toilet roll because they couldn’t afford menstrual products; and calls on the Government to expand its commitment to include primary schools, colleges, universities and NHS GP surgeries in England
Whether it’s young people taking time off school or the Commons’ naked protestors: they are right. We face a climate crisis.
This is the Liberal Democrats' three part emergency plan:
- UK-wide action to green ourselves.
- Action to decarbonise capitalism – starting with the City of London.
- And an international green new deal – where richer countries support poorer countries.
Starting with the UK - Lib Dems have shown we can decarbonise and prosper. Thanks to achievements in Government on renewable energy and what many Lib Dem-led councils have done in their communities, the benefits of climate change action are proven. In government, LibDem Ministers nearly quadrupled Britain's output of renewable energy.
In the first week of full campaigning for Lewes District Council elections, the Lib Dems have set out a bold vision for the future of the District. Their proposals focus on fighting for a fairer future for Lewes District and providing opportunities for all, with key policies on low cost housing, improving green spaces and supporting our local high streets; as well as a central pledge to bring more transparency to council decision-making, to ensure that the District Council is more accountable to the voters and council tax payers of the Lewes area.
There is currently no overall control on Lewes District Council and the Lib Dems are the main challengers to the Conservative group, the Lib Dems have a dynamic new team standing across the District and are pushing to take control.
Senior Liberal Democrat District Councillor Stephen Gauntlett (Seaford Central) said: “Over recent years, we have seen a handful of Tory councillors making key decisions behind closed doors in a ‘cabinet system’, they are out of touch with the needs of our community and have failed to listen to changing needs across the District.
“While national budgets have been squeezed, local budgets have been slashed and local people have been let down. The Liberal Democrats will open up the council, letting all councillors contribute. We’ll also run a regular residents’ survey to ask local people what matters to them; and we will ensure that the council provides more information so that you can see how your taxes are spent and make sure they are spent fairly.”
Councillor Janet Baah (Lewes Bridge) said: “We will focus on fairness of opportunity, including support to local start-ups and small businesses and put buying of council services from businesses in the District at the heart of a Liberal Democrat council; while reducing our impact on the environment, such as reducing plastic waste and improving recycling.”
“Local Liberal Democrats are committed to improving opportunities for all our residents. We want to ensure young people have a future here and will enable them to build their lives by developing low cost housing and thriving high streets so that no one is left behind.” added Councillor Julie Carr (Newhaven North).
“This is our council,” Lewes Town campaigner Oli Henman said, “We believe that everyone should have a say in its decision making. A vote for your local, hardworking Liberal Democrat candidate will make this a reality”.
The Liberal Democrat local manifesto sets out a bold vision to deliver a fairer deal for residents, ensuring budgets are available to tackle the major issues in our District: a cleaner and greener local environment; low cost housing; support for local businesses; and a more open inclusive council. The manifesto is available here (4MB download).