Conservative plans for Lewes Phoenix Centre leave services at risk

Commenting on the latest news about the Phoenix Centre in Lewes, Philip Daniel, Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Ringmer and Lewes Bridge said: “There’s been too much uncertainty from ESCC about the future of the Phoenix Centre. Residents want to see continuity of both service provision and the thriving community centre.”

He was responding to the decision by County Councillor Carl Maynard, ESCC Conservative Lead Member for ASC and Health, on Tuesday 8 January to resume direct provision by ESCC of adult day care services at the Phoenix Centre. This followed a failed tender process where proposals from SCDA, the existing provider and only proposer, were deemed “non-compliant” by the Council.


Councillor Daniel continued, “With government cuts threatening local government finances everywhere, not least in East Sussex, how secure will the Phoenix Centre service be? We need a guarantee of funding for at least three years. I am concerned that this move is simply a back-door way to cut these services after the next budget.

ESCC’s proposal has no business plan. I have asked that one be prepared and published. Any private provider would have to give one.

There is an agreement with the League of Friends of the Phoenix Centre over the property but there is no evidence that they have been consulted on these proposals.

The fact that so much of the background information on which this decision has been based is barred from public scrutiny will only add to disquiet about how the Conservative County Council has handled this issue.

Substantial and scarce public money is involved here, and it is in the public interest for the County Council to make a full disclosure of the reasons for this decision and the financial basis on which it is being made.”

Govt must provide answers over forced marriage scandal

Liberal Democrats today condemned reports that the Government is charging victims of illegal forced marriages to bring them home.

The Times has today reported that women who are sent abroad by their families for forced marriages are charged by the Foreign Office for the cost of rescuing them. 

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christin Jardine said:

“The Government cannot surely think it’s acceptable to ask victims of illegal forced marriages to pay to be rescued.

“These young women who have been through traumatic circumstances are being asked to repay their repatriation costs and then punished if they can't by having their passports confiscated until they pay the Government back.

“The Conservative Government needs to explain exactly why they think this is acceptable.”

Javid comments on asylum seekers 'completely unacceptable'

Responding to the Home Secretary's comments regarding asylum seekers, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said: 

"The Home Secretary's comments about refugees crossing the Channel show that the Tories' nasty, hostile environment is alive and well.
"Many of these people have fled war in Syria or persecution in Iran. For the Home Secretary to suggest – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever – that they are not 'genuine' asylum seekers is completely unacceptable. For the Government to summarily deny their claims would be unlawful and inhumane.
"The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand an effective and compassionate response: investing in a stronger Border Force to stop the smugglers and traffickers, while ensuring safe, legal routes to sanctuary for those forced out of their homes."

HMV collapse shows urgent need for business rates reform

Responding to the reports that HMV is on the brink of collapsing into administration, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

"Although there is nothing to stop the march of technological progress, the issues HMV and other high street stores are facing have been compounded by the out of date business rates system.

"While separate action is needed to ensure online retailers pay their fair share of corporation tax, Liberal Democrat proposals to replace the business rates system would offer a lifeline to struggling high streets.

"As we witness yet another company about to go into administration, the need for reform is clearly urgent.”

The Liberal Democrats published a report earlier this year calling for the abolition of business rates and its replacement with a tax on land values.

Lib Dem call to scrap Vagrancy Act gets Labour backing

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran’s campaign to scrap the 1824 Vagrancy Act has received Labour party support.

Responding to the announcement, Ms Moran said:

“The 1824 Vagrancy Act is a heartless, Dickensian law that is shamefully still being used thousands of times a year by police forces – including to try and remove homeless people from the streets of Windsor ahead of the Royal Wedding earlier this year.
“Despite support from charities like Crisis and St Mungos, sadly the Government have – so far – failed to back my campaign and accept my Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill to axe this legislation. I hope that this growing support from the Labour party will help to convince the Government to do the right thing.
“Scotland and Northern Ireland have already repealed the law. England must follow and axe this cruel, outdated legislation which allows the Police to arrest those sleeping rough or begging even if they aren’t doing any harm.”

Paddy Ashdown


From Vince Cable:

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that Paddy Ashdown passed away earlier this evening following a short illness.

This is a hugely sad day for the Liberal Democrats and for the very many people across political and public life who had immense affection and respect for Paddy.

Paddy was famous for his politics, but his talents extended well beyond that arena. He was an accomplished author and had spent many years serving the country before he got near the House of Commons. Once in Parliament, he made a real mark. He was always listened to, in particular, on international issues and defence. He took up unpopular causes where he was respected for his convictions.

He inspired the Liberal Democrats from a polling position he famously described as ‘represented by an asterisk’, to become a formidable campaigning force laying the ground for the strength which later took the party into government.

In recent years, he has been a powerful voice of real significance to the pro-European cause. He will be sadly missed in all parts of politics and Parliament.

We have set up an online book of condolence should you wish to share a message or simply leave your name. All messages will be sent to Paddy's family.

You can add your name and comments here:


Vince Cable
Leader of the Liberal Democrats


Government must act to prevent deaths on our streets

Responding to Government figures that nearly 600 homeless people died on the streets last year, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“These deaths are absolutely tragic. As a wealthy country, we simply cannot accept people dying on our streets.

"The Conservative Government’s failure to look after these individuals is a shameful dereliction of duty. Conservative Ministers must recognise the urgent need to build more social homes. The Liberal Democrats want to see 50,000 social houses to be built every year, rising to 100,000 as soon as possible.

"These figures also bring into sharp focus how homelessness services for mental health and substance abuse desperately need more funding.

"The housing crisis is a human crisis. It is depriving people of a roof over their head with devastating consequences. The time for warm words and little action has long gone."

Local government finance hits poorer communities the hardest - especially in Sussex

Local government finance hits poorer communities the hardest
Responding to the Local Government Finance Settlement, Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“This settlement does nothing to address the growing inequalities across our country. The highly regressive council tax system means that, as the Conservative Government continue to underfund local government, subsequent council tax rises hit poorer communities the hardest.
“There must be a reform of council tax to prevent the places with the highest demand for services for vulnerable people, struggling the most to fund it.
“Liberal Democrats demand better than the sticking plaster that has been presented today. The Tories are once again kicking the can down the road, instead of setting out a long term financial package that provides security for our local services."
Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson for the House of Lords, Baroness Pinnock added:
“The local government funding settlement that was released today is a drop in the ocean. The offer of £650 million for social care in 2019-20 falls drastically short when the funding gap is expected to reach £3.5 billion by 2025.
“Social care should not be a post code lottery.”
And it's even worse in East Sussex because the ruling Conservatives here want to strip services back to the bare minimum.

Renters' Rights Victory!

For too long, tenants have been made to pay additional, unnecessary fees when renting a place to live.
After years of LibDems putting pressure on the Government, on Tuesday they agreed major concessions on the Tenant Fees Bill.
We campaigned to:
  • significantly limit the fees that could be charged to a tenant by their landlord or lettings agent,
  • require a greater amount of transparency when deciding not to refund a holding deposit, and
  • limit the maximum security deposit a landlord can require to five weeks rent.
These changes will make a huge difference to tenants - giving them savings of hundreds of pounds every year. 
Many of the provisions in the Tenant Fees Bill were proposed in Olly Grender's Rights of Renters Private Members Bill in the last parliamentary session, and we are glad that the Government has been persuaded of the arguments in that bill. 
It is the vulnerable in our society who are most affected by the extortionate fees imposed by unscrupulous landlords and lettings agencies. The inability to pay these fees upfront can even lead to terrible debts and at worst, homelessness.
While we welcomed the Government bringing forward this Bill, there were a number of loopholes that could have had severe consequences for low income tenants or tenants on benefits in the private rented sector.
There is still more work to be done to get tenants a fairer deal, but we are delighted that the Government have listened and  improved this Bill. The task now is to get this change for tenants through this dysfunctional Parliament as quickly as possible before it implodes altogether.
We are grateful for the support of Shelter, Citizens Advice and Generation Rent who have worked so hard to get this Bill in the right place.
If you want to know more about the bill, Shelter has also covered the success here:

Lewes Lib Dems push for fair funding for local schools

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.

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