Scale of sewage in local rivers exposed by new data

Nearly 500 hours of sewage spills took place directly into Barcombe Mills in 2021, according to new data from the Environment Agency. 

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Spring Statement: Families in Lewes to pay the price for Chancellor's failure

The Liberal Democrats have slammed the Spring Statement as a "massive missed opportunity" to help families in Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven, Polegate and rural communities.

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Local Lib Dems launch campaign for heating oil price cap

james_maccleary02_cropped_1000.jpgJames MacCleary and local Liberal Democrat councillors have urged Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to introduce a price cap on domestic heating oil, after prices more than doubled in a fortnight.

Currently, consumers heating their homes using gas or electricity have some protection from price rises under Ofgem’s energy price cap. However, there is no financial protection in place for the 1.5 million households that rely on heating oil.

They have joined forces with rural Liberal Democrat MPs in calling on the UK Government to urgently extend the energy price cap to off-grid households. In a letter to the Secretary of State, they highlighted that the price per litre of heating oil has surged from 66.74 pence on 24th February to 148.25 pence on 9th March - a 122% increase in a fortnight.

In total, around 4 million UK households are not connected to the gas grid, with 1.5 million of those homes relying on heating oil.

Lib Dem Parliamentary Campaigner James MacCleary said: “'Off-grid' households across many rural parts of our district are seeing astronomical rises in the price of heating oil, with absolutely no financial protections in place. Over the UK, millions of predominantly rural households have been callously forgotten by this Tory government.

“People are already being forced to choose between heating or eating. Ministers must urgently instruct Ofgem to extend the energy price cap to heating oil to prevent hundreds of thousands of households from being plunged into fuel poverty.”

"Government must also go further in promoting alternatives for heating like air source heat pumps and investing in skills training to make sure there is capacity to install and service them".

Councillor Sarah Osborne, County Councillor for Ouse Valley West and Downs, said: "With heating oil prices rocketing I am calling on the Government to take action. These price rises will cause serious risks to health for rural low income households who are reliant on oil to heat their homes. We know that the cold can be dangerous for older people and those with pre-existing health conditions. Low temperatures increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks, exacerbate lung conditions and worsen arthritis."

Cllr Rob Banks, District Councillor for Plumpton and East Chiltington added: "I would like the Energy Secretary to introduce the same protections to those living in rural areas as those living in urban areas have (and able to heat their homes with gas or electricity). It's not only about fairness for all but without action the government risks the health of many of the 1.5 million who have no option other than oil to heat their homes."

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The text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary of State,

Extending the energy price cap to off-grid households


We are writing on behalf of thousands of households across Lewes District and 1.5 million households across the UK which rely on domestic heating oil to heat their homes.

In the past fortnight, heating oil prices have risen from an already high 66.74 pence per litre to at least 148.25 pence per litre. Compounding the situation is the fact that these off-grid households are not protected by the energy price cap, in sharp contrast to those who heat their homes using gas or electricity.

We are all too aware of the many additional day-to-day costs that our constituents face compared to their urban counterparts. It is indefensible that they are now facing even steeper bills as a result of being forgotten about by the UK Government. While we recognise that costs are rising across society at this time, it is clear that off-grid households are suffering disproportionately because they have not received equal treatment from the Government.

We request that you urgently put in place financial protection for consumers of heating oil, equivalent to the existing energy price cap on gas and electricity. Many of our off-grid constituents are already being forced to make the choice between heating or eating, as will be the case across the UK. They must be afforded equal protection from these devastating increases.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr James MacCleary

Cllr Sarah Osborne

Cllr Rob Banks


CC Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer

As Putin rampages through Ukraine, resistance grows. And we must act here

Article first published in Sussex Bylines, March 3rd 2022

by James MacCleary

I am sure you, like me, are watching with horror the events unfolding in Ukraine. It was in the summer of 2013 that my partner Donna and I travelled to Kyiv and Odesa, although it seems like only yesterday. And it is hugely upsetting seeing families hiding in the Kyiv metro that we travelled on as tourists. A few years earlier I had completed a postgraduate thesis at Oxford on (of all things) Russia’s relationship with NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The language used by Vladimir Putin may seem ‘insane’ or ‘unhinged’, but it is actually consistent with Russian foreign policy over the past 30 years or so.

Putin talks a lot about ‘encirclement’ and this is a deeply held fear shared by many in Russia; NATO has long been cast as the ‘enemy’. Putin has also evoked the Nazis. From the Russian perspective their sacrifice in the Great Patriotic War was critical in victory for the allies. It is estimated that some 20 million Soviet citizens died in that conflict and the scars are still raw to this day.

Nostalgia for the Cold War and Soviet Union
Many Russians share Putin’s rose-tinted nostalgia for the days of the Soviet Union. There is no doubt that many Russians miss the global status they had during the Cold War. Much of Putin’s appeal has rested in his ability to boost Russian prestige on the world stage. However, strong warnings for years about the increasingly repressive regime in Moscow have been largely unheeded in the West.

Political opponents have been arrested and murdered and the media stifled. Heroic journalists like Anna Politkovskaya lost their lives trying to expose the corruption and violence at the heart of the Putin regime.

And now the repression is getting worse as Putin cracks down on critical media outlets, protesters and all Russians daring to tell the truth about what is going on in Ukraine. His highest profile political opponent, Alexei Navalny, is currently imprisoned in a labour colony from where he has been tweeting his views in recent days.

The ferocity of Ukrainian resistance has already started to destabilise Putin and his cronies back in Moscow. We must remember that this is not Russia’s war but Putin’s, and many ordinary Russians are appalled by it. Young Russian soldiers are dying in their hundreds (possibly thousands) to satisfy the paranoid ego of a man who these days more resembles a mafia boss than a modern, democratic leader.

So what does this mean for us politically? In my view, Boris Johnson and his own cronies have been exposed in a number of key areas by the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.

Government turning its backs on desperate people
Firstly, his government’s shameful anti-immigration rhetoric has backed them into a position where we are turning our backs on desperate people. Government ministers are happy to wave Ukrainian flags but are unable, or unwilling, to open up the safe routes to the UK for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. It is a product of the Conservatives’ decision to weaponise the issue of refugees for their own shabby political benefit.

The Home Office must immediately lift visa requirements so that we can offer refuge to as many Ukrainians as possible.

Secondly, there is the diminished power and status of the UK, post-Brexit, and the corrosive effect of the Conservatives’ attacks on the our pillars of ‘soft power’ in the world: the BBC, the British Council and our diplomatic service.

This war should refocus minds on the importance of these institutions to British influence.

Finally, the war has shone a harsh spotlight on the billions of Russian money sloshing around in our financial and political systems. We have provided a safe haven for dirty money accumulated by oligarchs who are key to Putin’s power base. My own football club, Everton, are heavily backed by Alisher Usmanov, a man once referred to by a senior British diplomat as a “gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail”. The club has now suspended ties to companies linked to Usmanov, who has had his assets frozen by the EU.

We need to look seriously at how we regulate our financial system to find ways to put an end to our status as the preferred place to clean dirty money.

Questions about the influence of Russian backers
There are also serious questions for our Conservatives – and Republicans like Donald Trump in America – to answer about the influence of Russian backers. A foreign power holding financial sway over the party that forms our government is a matter of national security and has to be an urgent concern for all of us regardless of partisan interests.

The war is not going to be quick. If and when the Russian military finally takes Kyiv and Kharkiv it will be a long, painful occupation. The fragility of Putin’s regime is clear and Russians are taking to the streets daily to protest bravely against the war. Putin’s war may end up bringing him down but, tragically, not before it has claimed the lives of many young Ukrainians and Russians.

What we must do now is send our support to Ukraine. Many are doing so by donating to the Red Cross appeal here. We must also pressure the government to act with decency and compassion. That starts with visas but must lead to wider reforms.

James MacCleary at Kyiv's Lavra 2013

James MacCleary at Kyiv’s Lavra in the summer of 2013. His visit opened his eyes to a beautiful, peaceful country now ravaged by war.


James MacCleary in front of Kyiv's Lavra

A striking view of James MacCleary outside the Lavra, one of the most important religious sites in the Russian Orthodox Church


Kyiv's metro in peaceful times

A busy, normal day on the Kyiv metro pictured by James MacCleary in 2013. Now these same stations are being used as bomb shelters.










Conservatives on East Sussex County Council challenged to “green up" their investments

james_maccleary02_600.jpgLiberal Democrat County Councillor, James MacCleary, has called on East Sussex County Council to green up their investments by buying Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) products.

Cllr MacCleary explains:

“All councils publish a strategy each year which outlines how they intend to invest public money. At the County Council’s budget meeting on 8 February, I asked the council to support their efforts to address the climate emergency by investigating making greater use of ESG investments.

"Many councils across the country of all political colours, including locally in Lewes District, are moving investments into more sustainable choices.

"I have supported protests outside County Hall calling for pension fund divestment, but the council's investment strategy can also be used to move towards investments that support environmental projects and bring social good. It can also be done more quickly.

The council's current strategy is to just look at opportunities as they arrive but that is far too passive. If the council wants to show that it is serious then they need to prioritise these sorts of investments. I hope the council will give this proper consideration this as it is the sort of serious, pragmatic change that can benefit public finances and drive the finance sector towards more ethical investment choices."

Conservatives on the County Council rejected Cllr MacCleary’s suggestion and refused to investigate the use of ESG investments.

Dogmatic Conservatives reject opposition budget amendment

Opposition councillors on East Sussex County Council who worked together to produce a joint budget amendment accused the Conservative administration of playing politics rather than meeting the needs of residents.

Cllr David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, explains: “As opposition groups, we put aside our political differences to produce a budget amendment which we believe delivered services that our residents want. It was clear from the response of Conservative councillors that they value tribal politics more than entering into a mature debate about what is best for East Sussex and its residents.

"We offered the Conservatives the opportunity to take a break so that we could discuss which aspects of the amendment they might be willing to accept and the response from the Leader of the Council was “don’t waste your time”. This is not the sort of response residents would expect from a council Leader and sadly reflects the yah boo attitude that has so badly affected national politics”.

Cllr Chris Collier, Co-Leader of the Labour group adds: “Our joint amendment made no impact on either the reserves or level of Council Tax.  It simply took money that the Conservatives had left unallocated and directed this to address issues that local residents have told us are important to them. Many Conservative councillors said that they agreed with a number of the proposals but were still going to vote against them whilst putting them in the bank for their own future budget. The purpose of a budget is to deliver services, not to play political games”.

Cllr Jonny Denis, Co-Leader of the Green group said: “This amendment, which set out a number of pilot schemes that are a practical and pragmatic way to test out ideas, is about changing the way in which we do things. We don’t want to waste the resource and expertise of any of our councillors which is why we worked together on this amendment. Throwing out the amendment has wasted the resources of duly elected councillors who are simply trying to get their residents’ voices heard and officers who have advised and supported all councillors”.

Cllr Stephen Shing, Leader of the Independent Democrat group adds: “Our style of leadership sends a message to our communities. This joint budget amendment gave us all an opportunity to work together in a different way and to send out a different message to our current divisive and confrontational national politics. It is very disappointing that the Conservatives were not prepared to work with us on this small amendment.”

Opposition groups challenge Conservative budget at ESCC

Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green, and Independent Democrat councillors on East Sussex County Council have worked together to challenge the Conservative budget by putting in a joint amendment.

david-tutt.pngCllr David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group explains: “The financial situation for many families will become increasingly difficult with big hikes in utility bills and other taxes including national insurance. It is therefore critical that we do everything we can as local councillors to help and protect our residents.

"As opposition groups on the County Council, we have put aside our differences to create a set of proposals which we believe meet the needs of our communities in a better way than those of the Conservative administration”.

Key proposals include:
• investing in more Vehicle Activated Signs to prevent speeding and providing more safe crossings
• investing in more dropped kerbs and pavement repairs
• supporting schools to address mental health issues
• investing in drug prevention work
• funding pilot schemes to address climate change issues such as encouraging bio-diversity and assessing the benefits of retro-fitting property
• making a one-off investment to investigate creative models of delivering home care services.

Cllr Chris Collier, Co Leader of the Labour group adds: “We believe that our amendment makes creative and efficient use of this small percentage of the Council’s budget that could have a big long-term impact on our residents. I hope that Conservative councillors will see beyond party politics and work with us to deliver some of these much needed proposals”.

Cllr Jonny Denis, Co Leader of the Green group agrees, adding: "We believe that our joint proposals for using some of the £4million revenue surplus on the range of measures we are suggesting will provide some important services that our residents have told us they want.”

Cllr Stephen Shing Leader of the Independent Democrats notes: “This has given us all a real opportunity to make a difference in our local communities and this joint work has put down a real marker in showing that opposition councillors value working for their residents more than tribal loyalties”.

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Churchill advertise Seaford homes without planning permission

Homes in Sutton Road Seaford are being advertised for sale by Churchill Retirement Living even though planning permission has not been granted.

carolyn_lambert_insta.jpgSign our petition here about this development

Cllr Carolyn Lambert comments: "I am shocked that Churchill are apparently assuming that planning permission will go through and are advertising homes that haven’t even been built yet.

"This proposed site requires the demolition of four substantial detached family homes. It was not put forward as a development site in Lewes District Council’s recent call for sites nor is it in the Neighbourhood Plan as a development site. Other similar developments in the town remain unsold so there is an over-provision of this type of accommodation which will only put added pressure on our GP services."

chrisbrettleft.jpgCllr Christine Brett adds:

"Churchill’s advertisement of these homes which are still going through the planning process appears to be a cynical attempt to put pressure on Lewes District Council’s Planning Committee in the face of local opposition. They have not answered any of the local concerns raised and are clearly simply trying to steamroller this application through.

"In addition, they are advertising free parking which will only add to congestion on this very busy and dangerous road.

"Cllr Lambert and I continue to urge residents to oppose this opportunistic and unwanted development which will mean the loss of family homes and huge environmental damage."


Sue Gray update: Maria Caulfield cannot hide behind lame excuses any longer

  • james_maccleary02_600.jpgLocal Liberal Democrat candidate, James MacCleary, calls on Maria Caulfield MP to sack Boris Johnson
  • Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey says “It’s time Conservative MPs did their patriotic duty”

Responding to Sue Gray’s update on parties being held in Downing Street during Covid lockdowns, James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes constituency, said:

This is a damning moment for Boris Johnson. What little credibility he had left is in tatters.

“Maria Caulfield, our local Conservative MP has again toed the party line, but cannot hide behind lame excuses any longer. We all know whilst people in our community made terrible sacrifices during lockdowns, Boris Johnson and his team were partying in Downing Street. She continuously reminds us that she spent time on a hospital ward during the lockdowns, but for many that just makes it worse that she has so little compassion and understanding now.

“I have twice written to her trying to get answers on behalf of angry constituents who have been in touch with me. She has refused to answer basic questions. Why won’t she come out and show constituents that they are more important to her than protecting her job as a minister?

It is time for Maria Caulfield to sack Boris Johnson. No more ifs or buts. Some of her most high profile Conservative colleagues have already publicly called for him to go.

“It is an insult to everyone in our area to see the local Conservative MP refusing to sack a Conservative Prime Minister who broke the law and lied about it.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP said:

Everyone knows Boris Johnson broke the rules and lied to the country.

“It’s time Conservative MPs did their patriotic duty, listened to their constituents and stood up for decency by sacking Boris Johnson. He must go before he does our country any more harm.”

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Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Daisy Cooper MP, has also written to Blue Wall Tory MPs calling on them to sack Boris Johnson

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You can join our call to sack Boris by signing our petition here to tell Boris the party is over.

Rail fares: Another price rise on the way - rail fares in England will rise by 3.8% in March.

Most rail fares in England will rise by 3.8% from 1st March - in the biggest increase for nine years. These ’regulated’ fares make up about half of fares and include season tickets on most commuter routes.

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