Liberal Democrat Councillors on the County Council are appalled by the way in which the Conservative Cabinet has failed to get a grip on the County Council’s finances.
Cllr Philip Daniel explains:
"In 2018/19, the Conservative administration made half the savings they said they needed to make. We said all along that the amount of savings needed was not achievable. All the Cabinet are doing now is kicking the can down the road by trying to plug the gap with "temporary variations" – meaning one-off money from reserves. On spending, the County Council can do it, but won’t plan to do it. The detailed amendments the Liberal Democrats put forward for the 2019/19 budget would have restored about £6 million to services to some of our most vulnerable residents, but yet again, Conservative councillors, supported by Independent councillors, voted this down and Labour councillors simply abstained, missing an opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable people in our county.
"The situation will be even worse next year. We simply cannot continue to limp along from year to year with last minute handouts from a national Conservative government that thinks handing out some one-off moneys will somehow plaster over the cracks in service which have now become a gaping chasm".
Responding to research by the Howard League for Penal Reform, which shows that some children’s homes call the police 200 times a year, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said:
“The Conservative Government is underfunding Children’s Services, and that’s a false economy. When they don’t have the staff to deal with these issues, it falls to the police at much greater cost.
“We also need different services to work together to address the factors that cause children to run away or engage in criminal behaviour in the first place.
“That way, the police will be free to focus on tackling the rise in violent crime, solving more burglaries and robberies to bring closure to victims, and making our communities safe.”
Today, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has led the Estimates Day debate for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's spending on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee.
In the debate Layla Moran said:
"Local government spending is a story of unsustainability and inequality. According to the Local Government Association, funding to local government and business rates has fallen by £4.1 billion since 2015.
"We need to end false economies in local government spending, focusing on the long term.
"Local government is vital – it’s the coalface – where real policy meets real people. I hope today’s debate will be a clarion call to central government; local government may not always be sexy, but it is significant."
Following the debate Layla Moran commented:
"As knife crime continues to rise, our elderly fail to get the care they need and our children struggle to get a proper education, it is clear that the Tories are ignoring the biggest issues this country is facing.
"Local government is crucial for our communities, it’s the glue that keeps them together. Rather than funding vital services properly, the Conservative Government is cutting them to the bone.
"Whether it is children’s services, adult social care, special educational needs provision or our youth clubs, the Tories are under-funding them to critical levels and passing the burden on to local government to fund through council tax.
"It is time the Conservatives stopped ignoring the crises they’ve caused, and woke up to the realities of government. The Liberal Democrats would not only majorly re-invest in our communities, but also focus much more on prevention when it comes to local government spending. This cost shunting by central government to local authorities must come to an end."
The petition on the swimming pool launched by Ringmer Liberal Democrats will be considered by the County Council's Lead Member for Resources on Tuesday 25 June.
Ringmer and Lewes Bridge County Councillor, Philip Daniel, says,
“I taught some of my children to swim at Ringmer Pool. Its future matters to residents in Ringmer and beyond, and to me personally.”
The petition started by Lib Dems and supported by some 140 residents simply says,
"We call on East Sussex County Council to guarantee that the Ringmer Swimming Pool will remain open, and that, before any decision is taken that would result in a significant reduction in community availability, it will discuss all options with Ringmer residents, the school and other authorities."
Councillor Daniel added: “In responding to this petition it’s not enough for ESCC simply to roll the response up into the annual budget process. In view of the pressure on County finances that response isn’t reassuring. Consultation on budget cuts tends to come only AFTER the budget has been set. The Ringmer Swimming Pool is a vital part of the Community and, if it’s under threat, consultation needs to start now.”
More on this story is available at the Sussex Express.
A new cross-party Alliance has announced they are set to take the leadership of Lewes District Council.
The move follows a month of discussion and negotiation since local elections. A small number of Cooperative Councils exist elsewhere in the UK, however the move is unprecedented in Lewes District.
The Alliance has a majority of councillors on the council and the new administration will come into effect at the next meeting of the council on 15th July. The Alliance will be led in the first year by Councillor Zoe Nicholson who leads the Green Party group. Liberal Democrat group leader, Councillor James MacCleary, will be Deputy Leader. The new Cabinet will also include Labour and Independent councillors.
The Alliance is underpinned by detailed agreements on how the Alliance will work in practice. This includes a rotating leadership where the Liberal Democrats will lead the council in the second year of the administration.
Green Party Leader, Councillor Zoe Nicholson, who has been nominated as Leader of the council, said:
“British politics is changing. We are seeing a realignment beyond the traditional two-party system. I hope that this sort of co-operative arrangement will become more typical as it represents a true diversity of viewpoints and opinions. It also represents the will of voters in Lewes District as the participating councillors represent a majority on the council.
“I am excited about what we can achieve on behalf of local residents and can’t wait to get started.”
Liberal Democrat Leader, Councillor James MacCleary, said:
“We have been determined not to rush into this. It needs to be an enduring partnership that can achieve real change for local people and that means getting proper agreements in place. I am confident that we have got an agreement that will last and gives us a stable basis to work from.
“We put forward a forward-thinking manifesto for the District in the local elections and are looking forward to working with our partners to deliver that agenda.”
Labour Leader, Councillor Chris Collier, said:
“I’m delighted that we’ve got an agreement. This is an exciting change for Lewes District that we know will better serve all our communities. As well as securing a strong agreement, we’ve agreed a shared policy platform that all partners are signed up to. We are convinced this is the best way to achieve positive change for everyone.”
Independent Co-Leader, Councillor Ruth O’Keeffe, said:
“I have always felt that Councillors’ first priority should be working together for the people who elected them, and I am very hopeful that this Alliance will do a lot of good for the residents of Lewes District. There are many areas where we could do better as a Council and this is a chance to achieve this.”
Independent Co-Leader, Councillor Steve Saunders, said:
“I am looking forward to being part of this new group of like-minded Councillors, that represent the vast majority of Lewes District residents and giving them a real voice in the running of our Council”.
From the mayor of Seaford, Pinky Adil.
On this auspicious Eid day which is one of the grandest celebrations we the Muslims have after Ramadan, I would like to spread the message of peace and harmony to the whole Ummah (Muslim brothers and sisters), my community and the towners on the whole to honour, meet, greet and treat everyone with love, respect, equality. And to be more accepting, forgiving and helpful to one another.
I would like to say the town has always been welcoming and has warmly embraced the minorities with great regard and open mindedness which is the wonderful character of our kind and generous inhabitants.
A very happy and prosperous Eid to everyone celebrating and fortunate returns with positive spirits of the same to all my family, friends and locals. Here’s to the integrity and Unity of the community of my Dear Old Seaford Town.
Wishing everybody a sweet and blessed Eid.
On the night of 29th May, political violence flared up again in Lewes, when 2 residences on Priory Street near the railway station displaying political posters with the message ‘Stop Brexit’ and a Lib Dem logo had their windows smashed with bricks.
Oli Henman, leader of the Lib Dem group on Lewes Town Council, stated: “We are appalled at the recent incident on Priory Street. This is yet another example of the damage that is being done to the fabric of our society by the Far-Right rhetoric of Nigel Farage and the aggression unleashed by Brexit. This follows earlier damage to several properties in two previous incidents around the time of the local and European elections in both the Priory Street and Wallands areas of Lewes.
“We are actively campaigning for a more tolerant vision for the future of our country, which is built on mutual respect and shared fundamental rights for people of all backgrounds and we will not be intimidated by this kind of politically motivated violence. We have written to Sussex Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner and expect them to take this matter very seriously.
“We were overwhelmed by the level of support shown in our recent local and EU election results, where we took control of various Town Councils and won 3 MEPs across the South East region, and it is clear from the doorstep that people in Lewes reject the politics of exclusion.”
Lewes Liberal Democrats have announced that, due to health reasons, Parliamentary Candidate Kelly-Marie Blundell will be standing down from the role.
Kelly-Marie Blundell succeeded Norman Baker MP after Maria Caulfield MP took the seat in 2015. Kelly-Marie stood in the 2017 snap General Election, increasing the vote share and turning many areas across the constituency orange.
Kelly-Marie, who lives in Seaford, resigns with regret;
“I have been honoured to represent Lewes Liberal Democrats for three years. We have a fantastic team who are committed to putting the Parliamentary Seat back in the hands of the Liberal Democrats.
“With successful European Election results, seeing us elect 3 MEPs across the South East, it is clear that there is a great deal of support for people who put liberty, equality and community first, as well as opposing the chaotic government we have in place at the moment, risking our futures with a hard Brexit.
“Unfortunately, due to health issues, I can no longer fulfil the role of Prospective Parliamentary Candidate. I am very sorry to stand down, as it was always my intention to carry on fighting the hard Brexit MP and put the seat back where it belongs, in Liberal Democrat hands.”
The Liberal Democrats held the Parliamentary Constituency with MP Norman Baker, who was the member of parliament from 1997 to 2015.
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.”