East Sussex Conservatives are failing our children

key_primary-school.jpgChildren in East Sussex are being failed by the Conservative government and the Conservative county council.

It has been revealed that in East Sussex, children with significant and profound learning difficulties are being made to wait up to 3 years to be assessed so that they can get the help they need to achieve their potential in school. That affects not only their learning, but also their future ability to live fulfilling, independent lives.

This is a crisis.

This Conservative government talks about “levelling up” and yet it is leaving the most vulnerable children in our area behind. Evidence shows that without appropriate support, children with additional needs are less likely to do well in school, less likely to stay healthy and less likely to be able to support themselves as adults. But without an assessment they can’t access the help they need.

Parents locally say they are pulling their hair out with worry. They are worried about their children’s health, their future and their ability to get on in life. But the Conservative county council don't seem to prioritise our children’s mental health. They say it's an NHS problem - yet education and the well-being of children in East Sussex are a core part of the county council's responsibilities.

We know that NHS and school staff are trying their hardest to make the most of a broken system, but they are being let down by a Conservative government and county council who seem unwilling to take action to solve this crisis.

We call on the leader of East Sussex County Council to urgently meet with NHS bosses, school leaders and concerned parents, and take action to help the most vulnerable children in our community access the support they need to thrive.

District Councillor Sean Macleod, who is a local campaigner on this issue, said: “I have brought this issue to the last two East Sussex County Council (ESCC) full council meetings and was passed off by the lead member for special educational needs. They firmly laid the blame at door of the local NHS, even though not all assessments experiencing delays are carried out by the Sussex Partnership Trust, some are contracted by ESCC such as Kent NHS Trust. ESCC says their targets are being met, but a simple chat with parents and schools show this to be very much not the truth.

"Our children are being let down by a county council which is too quick to pass the buck and does not appear to want to address the issue our children are facing. This really is a crisis. It's about time they started treating it like one.”

We're halfway through COP26

We're halfway through COP26. The Guardian has a very useful summary of what has been achieved - and what hasn't - so far.

The LibDems want to Save Britain's Nature. Back the plan here.

  • Four in ten British species are in decline and the UK is failing to meet 17 of its 20 biodiversity targets.
  • The Tories are missing even the modest targets they’ve set themselves on tree planting and biodiversity recovery.
  • Liberal Democrats want to restore the UK's natural environment by cleaning up our waterways, restoring peat bogs and planting 60 million trees each year.


Lewes MP Votes For Raw Sewage In Rivers

Recently promoted Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, Minister for Patient Safety and Primary Care, clearly hasn’t read the job description as she joined 264 of her Conservative colleagues to vote down an amendment to stop private water companies from dumping raw sewage into the UK’s rivers and coastlines.

CL_Beach_huts_600.jpgLiberal Democrat Councillor Carolyn Lambert comments: “This is astonishing hypocrisy on the part of the Conservative government who claim that they care about the environment. Maria Caulfield constantly reminds people of her background as a nurse, yet she seems not to understand the health dangers of raw sewage in our rivers.

"With COP26 coming up shortly, it is difficult to see how anyone can continue to claim that the Conservatives have the first understanding of environmental issues”.

Conservatives Allow 20 Minutes To Save The Environment

manik-roy-92vbv8ARIkk-unsplash.jpgOpposition parties at East Sussex County Council united to angrily condemn a last minute change of heart by Conservatives on a cross party Notice of Motion on climate change which councillors were given a 20 minute adjournment to consider.

Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Cllr Colin Swansborough explains: “Cllr Nick Bennett, the Lead Member, agreed with the Notice of Motion that asked the County Council to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. However, when this came to full council for debate on 12 October, Cllr Bennett issued a last minute set of recommendations that were completely different to his initial response.

"This kind of political skulduggery has no place in this council and also raises warnings for COP26. Will the Conservatives change their mind nationally as well as locally?”

Labour Cllr Chris Collier agreed: “This was a cynical and hypocritical misuse of the democratic process. It was extraordinary that a substantial change like this should have been thrown at Council at the very point at which this item was about to be discussed. We had no notice of this substantial change and no opportunity to give it proper scrutiny.”

Green Cllr Wendy Maples added: “We were sorely disappointed in our Conservative colleagues who seem to think point-scoring is more important than the planet.”

Green Cllr Georgia Taylor noted: “This could have been an historic moment of cooperation in the interests of people and planet”.

Independent Cllr Stephen Shing agreed: “We should stick to the 2030 target.  The Bill has cross party support and party politics should be put aside with an emphasis on the future of the planet.

"Opposition parties at the Council demanded an adjournment but realised that more time was needed to consider Cllr Bennett’s recommendations fully.  A proposal to defer discussion to the next County Council was voted down by the Conservatives."

*Photo by Manik Roy on Unsplash


Sign our petition on sewage here: https://www.leweslibdems.org.uk/sewage

Update 1st Dec

It has also come to light that Southern have accepted an investment from Australian megacorp Macquarie. According to Southern Water this is good news.

Macquarie owned Thames Water between 2006 and 2016. They used their ownership to raise Thames’s debt and siphon billions out in dividends while almost entirely avoiding corporation tax. Macquarie also had a relaxed attitude to pollution, culminating in a then record £20m fine for discharging raw sewage into the Thames.

And this is what Southern Water call good news.


Update 25th Nov

Companies across England and Wales issued more than 5,500 sewage discharge alerts in the last year. And the biggest polluter of them all is...




you guessed it...


Southern Water!!!


with 1,949 notifications of sewage discharges in the year to 30th Sept 2021.


Update 26th Oct:

@mariacaulfield's excuses for not voting to stop water companies pouring sewage into our rivers and sea are:
a) unpayable bills for customers
b) Baldrick like: we have a plan

But neither of these actually answer the problem.

To get to the full answer we have to go back to the dawn of time - for privatisation of water, that means 1989. What had up to that moment been viewed as a public health provision became a market issue. Why? Because markets work best, we're told. But where is the market in water?

With most big service provision you get at least some sort of choice. You can choose your electricity or gas supplier. But with water there is no choice. You get the supplier for your region. They are supposedly held in check by a regulator - Ofwat.

To some extent Ofwat has worked. There is a price cap - so the argument about unpayable bills for customers is non-existent. But in other respects Ofwat has been failing consistently for thirty years. It is supposed to see to it that providers deal with leaks, build new infrastructure and don't make too much profit. But it has enabled providers to ignore leak management, to avoid building new infrastructure, and to pay dividends of more than £57 billion pounds to its shareholders.

Let's just say that again. £57,000,000,000 out of the bills of hard pressed customers and into the trousers of shareholders.


Nothing much is going to change. The government plan is to make the providers give us more data about sewage. Apparently, that will embarrass them into behaving better. But we already have such provision. that is what enables us to say how many discharges there have been and for how long.

It enables us to produce maps like this.


They haven't been embarrassed yet. They just keep discharging and laughing all the way to the bank. This is how it is. More than that, they're called "storm discharges" indicating that they are supposed to be exceptional events. But they have become routine.

To quote Sarah Ludford "even moderate rain, not storms, cause discharges because of lack of investment in treatment capacity, that govt has allowed in order not to eat into dividends" https://twitter.com/SarahLudford/status/1452384882622091271

Part b is the cunning plan. It will be statutory and it will be by Sept 2022. But there is no substance, other than the sound of a can being kicked down the road the same way it has been kicked down the road for the last thirty years.

Remember - this government is led by a man terrified of responsibility.

When it emerges, we're betting, the plan will say "We plan to investigate urgently the relationship between rainwater and other aspects of the environment with a view to..." We're also betting it will contain the phrases "world beating" and "British water is happy water".

No. We need action now. Not a plan to have a plan. The water companies have been avoiding action for thirty years. Even one more year is one too many.

On BBC Politics Fay Jones asked "Who is going to pay… to dig up a Victorian sewerage network?" As one of our elected MPs, it's her job to answer that question, not to ask it. She could maybe learn from our Victorian forebears.

When it became obvious that a solution was needed, they got on with it. They used public funds and bent all their energy and ingenuity to solve the problem.

The water companies and most of Ms Jones' colleagues are spending their energy and ingenuity defending profits, while the rest of us swim in s**t.


Update 24th Oct:

Just a reminder that one of the reasons we're here is Brexit. "Government says polluters can dump risky sewage into rivers as Brexit disrupts water treatment" (report Sept 7th)


Update 21st Oct:

And that, dear reader, is just what they did, including our MP, Maria Caulfield: "Here’s a list of every MP who just voted to ALLOW water companies to continue dumping RAW SEWAGE in our rivers".


Update 21st Oct:

But the government doesn't care: MPs set to reject move to make water firms cut sewage discharges - Government opposes proposed amendment to environment bill designed to protect rivers


Update 21st Oct:

Southern Water dumping sewage at 60, sixty, different locations along the south coast of England.



Update 16th Oct:

Southern Water described as having high level ""institutionalised culture of cover-ups" at Environment Agency enquiry. BBC report "Southern Water: Illegal spills the fault of a 'small number' of staff".


12th Oct:

We're going to talk about filth now.

Pay attention at the back. We said talk *about* filth, not talk filth.

400,000. That's the number of times water companies let raw sewage into English waters in 2020.


The overflows are supposed to be used only in extreme weather but they lasted altogether for more than 3.1 million hours.


The law needs to be strengthened but the govt is failing to enforce the laws it has. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/13/government-failing-to-stop-sewage-discharge-into-english-rivers-says-charity

"sewage and wastewater discharges by water companies into rivers account for damage to 36% of water bodies."

Meanwhile in Sussex: Southern Water has already been fined £90,000,000 for illegal discharges.


(While their chief executive trousered a bonus of £550,000.)


Lewes District Council has passed a motion calling on Southern Water to say how it will put a stop to illegal discharges of sewage in the River Ouse. https://www.lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/lewes-district-council-news/council-motion-targets-southern-waters-shocking-track-record/

Then there's the business of allowing them to discharge even more legally if they can't get the chemicals, due to the shortage of truck drivers (<irony on>which is absolutely NOTHING to do with Brexit </irony off> - see here https://twitter.com/Lewes_Lib_Dems/status/1442584289363759108)

For an idea of the scale of the issue - there are 35 major sewage treatment works beside the Ouse and its tributaries.


In 2017 there were 64 discharges from Barcombe Sewage Treatment Works: more than once a week. In 2018 there were 98 incidents covering a total of 635 hours. That is nearly twice a week, for a procedure that is only supposed to be carried out during “exceptional rainfall”.


Increasing amounts of water are extracted for human use, meaning the proportion of effluent is greater than otherwise. It is estimated that in summertime about 60% of the river water at Barcombe Mills is sewage effluent. You are swimming in poo_emoji.jpg.

Who owns the companies that deal with our water and sewage. Answer:
- Australians own Southern Water (Macquarrie)
- Australians own 50% of South East Water.

Who do they answer to, their customers or their shareholders? Have a guess.

(Much of the above from motion introduced by LibDem Guy Earl at Lewes Town Council, based on work by John Lamb and Mary Parker https://lewes-tc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Agenda_Council_7th_October_2021-Inc-late-papers.pdf see page 30). Well done, all.)


Jon Freeman


Seaford Liberal Democrats were saddened to hear of the sudden death of former County, District and Town councillor Jon Freeman.

Jon Freeman made a huge contribution to the life of Seaford and to the local Lib Dems. He was a fantastic campaigner, helped a great many local people in his role as a councillor, and did more than anyone else to turn Seaford into a Lib Dem town. He was quirky, funny, and a real one-off. Jon guided many of the local Liberal Democrat Councillors past and present. His advice was invaluable. It is very sad that we have lost him. We offer our deepest sympathies to his family.

𝟐𝟐𝟑 𝐇𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐬 - 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐢𝐬 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 - 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐩𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐧𝐝

sean_macleod_cropped.jpgBy Councillor Sean Macleod Ouse Valley and Ringmer.

When you look at the Lewes District planning portal and search Ringmer, you are met with a number of planning applications, now totalling 223 homes. When the local plan was decided Ringmer agreed to build 240 homes; it has already built 200 homes. This is without the new additional 223 homes sitting in the planning portal. And there is more to come: Croudace is currently consulting before they submit a planning application for another large substantial speculative development and then we have Broyle edge yet to come.

Ringmer is in a situation where being a village is fast becoming a thing of the past but the infrastructure hasn't caught up with the ever-growing urbanisation of the area.

It is clear that the local school infrastructure, doctors’ surgery and dental practices will need upgrading. It's already struggling as it is.

Much of the district has seen large developments already and areas like Newhaven, Peacehaven and Seaford have for years suffered the brunt. But it is clear now with so much of Lewes District being in the South Downs National Park that Ringmer and the other villages outside the park are seen as fair game by developers. Ringmer and other areas need more protection. The government needs to realise that while national parks are rightly protected and not over-developed, the area that surrounds them comes under more pressure and may suffer devastating consequences with their green spaces constantly being eroded.

Stop.jpgWhat we are seeing is the real effect of the government's planning process and how it just doesn't work. The government is constantly moving the goalposts when it comes to a local plan, and now authorities all over Sussex are being left at the mercy of developers who are just destroying green spaces. We have an MP who loves to sound off about how it's everyone else's problem but her government’s, but ultimately it is their fault that numerous local councils in Sussex are in this position.

What I feel needs to be taken into account more is that areas that sit outside the National Park need greater protection and the impact these developments have on the neighbouring park should also be taken into account on every development. The villages that we love so dearly are slowly being eroded and there is a lack of infrastructure that make things worse as well.

East Sussex taxi shambles

Update: the taxi shambles was featured on BBC Politics South East on 19th Sept. For the full segment click this link and go to about 18 minutes in.

* * * * * * * * * * * 

The ongoing shambles on East Sussex County Council school taxi contracts is covered in this week's Sussex Express (print edition only, as far as we can see). We quote here the words they carried from LibDem District Councillor Sean MacLeod, who is Chair of Lewes District Council's Licensing Committee. (Note that taxis as a whole come under the District Council's jurisdiction, but the schools contract, being an education matter, belongs to Conservative controlled East Sussex County Council.)

sean_macleod_cropped.jpgCllr MacLeod said, "My main concern is that there appears to have been a clear lack of due process when, in mid-July, they awarded this contract to 24x7 cars.

"This firm, according to the press release, did not have the cars to do the contract and had to order 160 vehicles in a less than four week turn around before the school term started. On top of this they would have had to have found 160 drivers and 160 support workers.

"To any reasonable thinking person, this turnaround is unrealistic and not achievable.

"What the County Council have effectively done is award a contract involving vulnerable school children to a firm with no taxis or staff.

"It's frankly shocking and I do believe that senior Conservative councillors should be deciding if it's time to resign.

"There are really also real safeguarding concerns; we are seeing vehicles not plated or with any identifiable signs.

"How is anyone to know if these drivers have had the appropriate checks other taxi drivers have when they are not even showing their plate number?

"East Sussex County Council have to remove this contract and hand it back to firms who have a proven record in East Sussex."

Home to school transport in disarray

david_tutt.jpgLiberal Democrat councillors joined parents in expressing dismay at the collapse of parts of the home to school transport contract. Cllr David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group explains:

“The Conservative administration that runs the County Council decided to re-tender the contract for home to school transport. The Canterbury based company who won the contract could then not deliver two of the routes as they apparently had insufficient vehicles, drivers and passenger assistants or any backup vehicles in the case of a breakdown. Two parts of the contract then had to be cancelled leaving parents in the lurch.”

sarah_osborne_02_600_cropped.jpgCouncillor Sarah Osborne adds:
“This shambles has left parents, including parents of some of our most vulnerable children, faced with uncertainty and confusion at the start of the school term. We have heard that some children were not collected at all. Our children have been through enough disruption in the last year without this inept contract management. The Conservatives need to sort this out as a top priority.”

MacCleary challenges MP to oppose Universal Credit cut for nearly 6,000 local families

As many as 17% of hard-pressed families across Lewes constituency, which includes the towns of Seaford, Polegate, Newhaven, Lewes and surrounding villages, face being left worse off when the government ends the uplift to Universal Credit next month.

New data from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation exposes the true nature of how badly some areas will be hit by the £20 Universal Credit cut, which is opposed by local Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson, James MacCleary.

In the report, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate that the Universal Credit cut alone could force 500,000 people, almost half of them children, into poverty. Their breakdown shows that some 5,930 families in Lewes constituency will be harmed by the government's cut, with 33% of families with children being affected adversely.

james_maccleary02_600.jpgResponding to the data, James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson, said:

"It is time that Maria Caulfield stood up in Parliament and put her constituents ahead of her party. Only the Tories would think that the place to start making savings is by clawing desperately-needed money back from those with least. Maria Caulfield should join those in her party who have already said the increase in universal credit should be made permanent.

"There are nearly 6,000 families across the constituency in Seaford, Newhaven, Polegate, Lewes and our villages anxiously facing the prospect of Caulfield and her government taking away this much-needed top up at the most difficult time.

"Liberal Democrats are calling for the Universal Credit uplift to be made permanent. Rather than looking at cutting support for those with least, the government should be exploring ways to increase support further."

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP added:

“Just as we begin to hope that Covid is being tamed in the UK, the Government is ripping support from millions of families across the country. We cannot have a full recovery if families are struggling to make ends meet.

The Prime Minister's claim that he wants people to live by their own 'efforts' rather than 'welfare' shows how out of touch he really is. With almost half of those receiving Universal Credit already in work and with many having young families, this cut will leave parents and their children behind despite their efforts."

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