Liberal Democrat councillors have expressed their dismay at the failure of the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund to enable a number of schemes across East Sussex to be delivered.
Cllr David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council says:
“This is another example of the way in which the Conservative government has cynically manipulated the expectations of the public. Unfortunately, this has been compounded by the failure of the Conservative administration of East Sussex County Council to put forward deliverable proposals. Public expectations were very high, particularly when the County Council announced that its Tranche 1 proposals had been so well received by the Department of Transport that more money had been allocated to the County Council than had been asked for.
The fact that so many of the schemes have now been withdrawn has caused reputational damage to the County Council and has undermined the huge efforts made by volunteers in the community who have put forward well-researched schemes in good faith.”
Councillor James MacCleary, Leader of Lewes District Council comments:
“The Conservative-led County Council seems to share with central government a lack of imagination and willingness to deliver even temporary changes to enable safe cycling and walking to take place. We have all waited a long time for the County Council’s cycling and walking strategy, and the outcome of this bid which has failed to deliver so much that the public has asked for must make us question the longer-term commitment of the County Council and its willingness to listen and respond to public demand”.
Councillor Carolyn Lambert adds:
“Some parts of Lewes, including Seaford, will receive no benefit from this funding. If the money is not spent, then the government will claw it back which would be a huge missed opportunity. Cycle Seahaven, one of the biggest cycling groups in the county, has put forward some perfectly achievable proposals, including some for simple signage, which seem to have been discounted. I hope that the County Council will reconsider its approach and listen to local residents”.
Lewes Lib Dems demand local MP and government whip, Maria Caulfield, shows her extra promised additional funding for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Services
Following the devastating fire in Newhaven, local Lib Dems are calling on Maria Caulfield to prove that she has secured her promised extra money for ESFRS. Ms Caulfield is on record claiming incidents like the Newhaven fire are the reason why she is opposing cuts to local Fire Services. Local Lib Dems are asking Ms Caulfield how she can square her position of ‘fighting cuts to ESFRS’ with her voting record in Parliament, where she has supported every vote to cut spending on local government which has had a knock-on impact of reduced budgets for local services, including the Fire Authorities.
Oli Henman, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Lewes, said:
"Maria Caulfield claims to be championing the needs of our local fire service while at the same time she has consistently voted with the government to reduce local government spending over a number of years; and furthermore it is her own party that has been proposing to reduce support to our frontline firefighters in East Sussex.
It seems that Ms Caulfield is happy to provide warm words locally but not take action nationally. I challenge Ms Caulfield to deliver the additional funds from the Home Office that our essential fire service clearly needs. Show us the money!”
County Councillor for Ouse Valley West and Downs and ESFRS authority member, Cllr Sarah Osborne commented:
“The recent serious fire in Newhaven shows how important our local Fire Services are. The Conservative Government has cut local government funding dramatically over recent years, and the cumulative impact of these cuts means a total drop of nearly £12 million, with a 50% reduction in the last five years, for ESFRS; and Maria Caulfield has voted consistently for those cuts to local government. The contribution from national Government to our Fire and Rescue Services is now next to negligible. The Fire Authority needs secure funding, not random one-off payments, to be able to plan services effectively and safely. Officers do a fantastic job in the very insecure financial circumstances that central Government have put them in, but if this continues and a further proposed cut of central Government resources goes through, there will be drastic results for Fire and Rescue.”
1. The government grant contribution to ESFRS was £15m in 2012 and reduced to £3m in the 2020 fiscal year with cuts accelerating in recent years, with 50% reductions since 2016.
2. Maria Caulfield MP voting record on local government cuts, source: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25397/maria_caulfield/lewes/divisions?policy=6671
According to the official records Maria Caulfield has voted consistently to reduce local government funding as follows:
- On 5 Feb 2019: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2018-19 at a level 56% lower than it was set for 2017-18.
- On 7 Feb 2018: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2018-19 at a level 28% lower than it was set for 2017-18.
- On 22 Feb 2017: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2017-18 at a level 44% lower than it was set for 2016-17.Show vote
- On 10 Feb 2016: Maria Caulfield voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2016-17 at a level 24.6% lower than it was set for 2015-16.
The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Government’s approach to exam grading in the wake of outcry and heartache at this year’s botched A-Level grades outcome and have launched an emergency campaign to make grades fair for all pupils.
Despite warnings, analysis has shown that pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were disproportionately downgraded. Across England, 36% of entries had grades lower than their teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades. The pain and confusion brought down on students, teachers and parents was compounded late at night on Saturday by OFQUAL’s hasty withdrawal of criteria for appeals that had only just been announced.
The Liberal Democrats have said they will do all they can to support pupils in the fight to ensure young people get fair grades and have urged local MP Maria Caulfield to lobby the Government to ensure young people are given: a) free appeals - to make it easy for every child to appeal grades they think are wrong; b) the chance to give evidence of their progress - so they can be judged on their work, not their school; and c) clear guidance on re-sits - so everyone knows what choices they have to fix this mess.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson Oli Henman for the Lewes constituency said:
"As a parent myself, I know how important it is for young people to be given a fair start in life. So many young people have worked extremely hard in a very challenging environment and yet they have not got the results they deserve, through no fault of their own. This will understandably have brought anxiety, disappointment and worry about what happens next.
“When put on top of the stress caused by lock-down and the wider insecurities caused by the pandemic, the overall effect is to shatter young people’s hope for their future before they have even begun. This appears particularly unfair as students from disadvantaged backgrounds and in state schools have been hardest hit by the downgrading of their results. I have heard of significant concerns from parents and pupils at local schools such as Seaford Head and there is even greater unease about the upcoming release of GCSE grades.
"Pupils must have the chance to appeal their grades directly and to present evidence that reflects their performance and progress at no cost. Ministers must also provide clear guidance on how re-sits will work and encourage universities to be flexible where necessary. We also need renewal of local accountability by Councils for school standards and results, to prevent the dreadful outcomes we now see in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
"The shambolic handling of these results has left many young people in crisis. Despite the warning signs, the Education Secretary ignored teachers’ advice and has hit pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds hardest.
"Gavin Williamson is an Education Secretary out of his depth and out of excuses. He must take responsibility for his mistakes and step down with immediate effect. Our young people cannot afford to have their futures robbed by this Conservative Government’s incompetence.”
Notes to editors:
The Liberal Democrats are urging people to support their campaign here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/grades
Please see the text of the letter below.
I hope you are well in these challenging times. I am writing to you regarding the ongoing uncertainty on school exam grades.
As you know, so many young people locally have shown real resilience during this very difficult time and should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved. However, too many young people are rightly worried and heartbroken that their futures are being robbed by your Government’s incompetence.
It is completely unacceptable for any student to be downgraded based on their family income, or any other factor. They deserve better.
The Liberal Democrats will do all we can to support pupils in the fight to ensure young people get the fair grades they deserve.
I am therefore calling on you to be on their side by lobbying the Government with our calls to ensure every pupils is given:
Free appeals - to make it easy for every child to appeal grades they think are wrong.
The chance to give evidence of their progress - so they can be judged on their work, not their school.
Clear guidance on re-sits - so everyone knows what choices they have to fix this mess.
Furthermore, I call on you to push for a fairer approach to GCSE grading in the coming week, that does not rely on the faulty 'algorithm' approach.
I look forward to your response.
Oli Henman, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewes
The Deputy Leader of Lewes District Council has described a new announcement of £500,000 for Newhaven as ‘a good start’.
There is some confusion as to what the money can be used for as the government is yet to release any details. It is thought that the money may be the first instalment from the Towns Fund.
The Towns Fund is a pot of government money totalling £3.6bn that could see towns, including Newhaven, receive up to £25 million to help deliver long term economic and productivity growth.
Councillor James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat councillor for Newhaven South and Deputy Leader of the Co-operative Alliance that runs Lewes District Council said:
“If Newhaven is to receive this money I welcome it.
“The government has already promised Newhaven funding in the realm of £25 million, so while £500,000 is a good start, it would be a betrayal of local people and the regeneration the town needs, if we don’t soon receive the rest of it.
“We have plans to transform Newhaven and to do that the government must meet its full funding commitment.”
The Towns Fund can be used for urban regeneration, planning, land use, skills and enterprise infrastructure and connectivity.
The announcement by the government and local MP, Maria Caulfield, said the money would ‘level up Newhaven’, but gave no explanation of what ‘level up’ meant.
Councillor MacCleary, who lives in Newhaven, added:
“I hope that Maria Caulfield will explain how £500,000 will ‘level up’ Newhaven and what that will mean for our town.
“I’m sure the MP has used local roads when she visits Newhaven and will know they resemble the surface of the moon in places, so they would certainly benefit from being 'leveled up'.
“Quite seriously, when you see these statements and announcements that are full of government jargon, whether it’s to ‘level up’ or ‘shovel ready’, you immediately fear the worst as there is so often no real substance.
"We will continue to engage with any possibilities for funding for Newhaven and hope to see the rest of the promised Towns Fund in the near future."
Newhaven Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign to bring attention to road safety in the town. Yet another recent accident at the junction of the A26 and B2109 (Avis Road) has brought renewed focus on this accident blackspot and other local road safety issues.
Local County Councillor, Darren Grover, says: “In over 30 years of living in Newhaven and South Heighton, I have witnessed first hand dozens of collisions at this junction, as well as overturned HGVs. Too many people have died and for too long, the county council and Highways have shirked their responsibility to protect the public.”
To support their campaign the local Lib Dem team have launched a petition via their website (https://www.leweslibdems.org.uk/safer_roads) appealing directly to East Sussex County Council, East Sussex Highways, and the Highways Agency who are the authorities responsible for the roads in question. The petition was signed by over 250 local residents its first 24 hours.
Councillor Sean Macleod, Lib Dem councillor for South Heighton says: “As a local resident and district ward councillor I know just how dangerous this junction is. We see accidents time and time again at this location and things have to change. We understand budgets are tight but at the end of the day people's lives far outweigh the need to cut costs”.
Newhaven councillor James MacCleary adds: “Newhaven always seems to be put to the back of the queue by the County Council - unless they want to dump an incinerator on us! Improvements at this junction are long overdue and we demand they prioritise the safety of local people and the tens of thousands of people who use this dangerous junction every week."
Recent events, both in the US and here, have prompted a wave of reflection about who our society chooses to honour, and who it does not. This debate is not restricted to Bristol, but is countrywide; only a few days ago the Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council announced that there will be a review of all plaques, monuments, statues and street names to ensure they “reflect the city’s values”.
The immediate cause of this reflection was the removal of Edward Colston’s statue by protestors in Bristol. Some are outraged about the way this was done.
As liberal democrats the rule of law is a fundamental principle, central to our beliefs. This does not mean that we should automatically join those outraged by the events in Bristol. As our party President Mark Pack says in his statement on this issue
“What is vital is the equal application of fair laws. And these protests were born out of anger that the law and police treatment have not been equally and fairly applied.”
As Mark points out, in the last 30 years there have been 1,741 deaths following contact with the police in the UK. He notes that this is a problem in itself. But given that black people are twice as likely to die in police custody, he says “the very unsettling reality of the unequal policing of black people is hard to ignore.” This problem is compounded by the fact that there have been no prosecutions of police officers over any of those deaths.
Given this context, it should come as no surprise that these protests have happened now. The spark was the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and in the past we have seen protests at deaths at the hands of the police both here and in the US flare up and then die down again, with little impact on the lives of the people experiencing the negative effects of unequal treatment by the law. But this time feels like it may be different.
One thing that is different is the COVID-19 pandemic and its differential impact across our community. Specifically, BAME people made up 16% of all corona virus related deaths in England (up to 28 May). The causes of this are complex and there is as yet no firm evidence about what they are. What is clear though is that the virus is having a disproportionate impact on one part of our community. The outrage expressed in Bristol and across the country is understandable, personal and urgent.
As a party we need to acknowledge that we have not always made enough noise about systemic injustices. It has been too easy for us to fall into the trap of worrying about the rule of law some of the time. This will not be true of all members our party, but for many of us these protests expose an unhappy truth.
The global Black Lives Matter protests are an important historical moment. For those of us who have not questioned our own approach to the application of the rule of law closely enough, this is our chance to listen, reflect and learn. It is our chance to support those leading the campaign and we must be careful not to distract from their work and priorities.
Words however are not enough. We have to look long and hard at our own party. Are the inequalities within wider society reflected in our own structures? We are a party that welcomes debate and diversity of opinion. But do we see this reflected equally within our party? If we don’t, do we know why? And what are we doing to correct these inequalities?
Lewes MP Maria Caulfield has joined forces with Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle to tell the East Sussex Fire Authority that it can ignore the legal requirement to produce a Risk Management Plan. Liberal Democrat Councillor Carolyn Lambert says:
“This is an astonishing action on the part of two elected MPs, one of whom is a government whip. The Conservative government clearly feels that they can play fast and loose with their own rules.
All Fire and Rescue Services have a statutory duty to produce a Risk Management Plan. This is a legal requirement under the Fire Services Act 2004. In April, James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Security, wrote to all Fire and Rescue services emphasizing that work on the IRMP must continue and that a failure to do so could result in government intervention.
The recent inspection report made it clear that the Fire and Rescue Service needed to review and update its Risk Management Plan and experienced professional fire fighters have spent 18 months analysing between 5 and 9 years of data to keep both the public and our fire fighters safe. It is astonishing that these MPs are apparently prepared to put lives at risk by their cavalier attitude to safety”.
Councillor Sarah Osborne adds:
“This is a consultation. No decisions have been taken and no decisions will be taken until the outcome of the consultation has been properly analysed and considered. We will absolutely be considering alternative proposals where these are based on sound evidence”.
Councillor David Tutt comments:
“This Conservative government has consistently reduced funding for all local authorities, including the Fire and Rescue Service. The total government grant for the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has gone down over the last decade from around £15 million in 2010 to just over £3 million in 2020, a reduction of almost 80%. We certainly do need more investment particularly to deal with business safety inspections.
"Maria Caulfield claims that she has offered to speak to the Treasury to get more funding for our Fire and Rescue Service. Has she done so? And how much additional funding has she been able to get?”
Councillor Sean MacLeod who represents Ringmer and Ouse Valley ward on Lewes District Council has joined the Liberal Democrat group on the council. Sean currently sits as an Independent member of the council.
The Liberal Democrats are now the largest group in the Co-Operative Alliance that has been running Lewes District Council since last July.
Sean says: “I have decided to join the Lib Dems for a number of reasons, my passion is around mental health and I think the Lib Dems’ policy around this far outweigh any set out by other parties.
“I like the fact they are looking at a New Zealand approach focusing on the wellbeing of a nation. Locally I am great friends with many within the party and for me personally I feel comfortable around them which is important for my mental health condition and the fact I feel comfortable around them says a lot.
“Since I have left the Green Party I didn't really know what i was going to do, I have been supported hugely by a number of councillors from all colours of the political spectrum, but my friendships with a number of the Lib Dem members has just continued to grow.
“For me personally this is the right move, and it's not been a quick decision and I've talked long and hard with people around this. l'm really looking forward to continuing to work hard for local residents as a Lib Dem councillor."
James MacCleary, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Lewes District Council, adds: “We are delighted to welcome Sean to our group and to our party. We are growing strongly as a party locally with more members and an excellent performance in December’s General Election where we came so close to defeating the Conservatives.
“Sean is a passionate and committed campaigner who will make a fantastic addition to the Lib Dem team on the council.”
On the morning of Thursday 14 May Maria Caulfield MP shared a post on her twitter account showing an apparent video of an interview with new Labour Leader Keir Starmer. Within hours this video was shown to be deliberately edited to give the appearance of almost the opposite point of view from the one that was actually presented in the full video and may be libellous.
The Lewes Lib Dem parliamentary spokesperson, Oli Henman said:
“Maria Caulfield has shown a very serious error in judgment here, this video was heavily edited to paint a misleading picture of the views of the Leader of the Opposition and undermines trust in politics as a whole. At a time of national emergency, when the country should be coming together to support the whole community, it is shocking to see our MP engaged in political point scoring of the most cynical kind.
Unfortunately this behaviour seems to be part of a pattern of half-truths and downright misinformation from this government. Ms Caulfield herself has previously suspended her social media account during the General Election and has blocked opposition party representatives from asking her tough questions on social media, now more than ever we need representatives who tell the truth. Maria Caulfield must resign.”
The Liberal Democrats are leading a cross-party campaign calling on the Government to support local and independent media through an increased share of public health communications spending.
Writing to the government, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael had warned that although the "All in, All together" campaign had provided public health information as well as advertising revenue for major media groups, local press organisations and individual journalists had raised the Government's lack of support for them.
In a letter to the Government, the cross-party campaign is calling for the Government to pledge a proportionate share of public health advertising spend to local press, meaning both a short-term boost to the Government’s public health communications as well as a long-term investment in protecting and maintaining local media across the United Kingdom.
Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said:
"Local press are some of the most trusted sources of news for our communities and we must support them in this challenging time. They are vital to our efforts to respond and recover from the coronavirus and yet they are facing significant financial difficulties.
“This letter is about getting a fair share of government advertising spend for local and independent press, to reflect both their importance in our communities and their financial needs. The Secretary of State for Health has an important role in deciding where these advertising funds go.”
Local campaigner and Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson, Oli Henman said:
"Local journalism is an important part of the community in our area. Local outlets such as the Sussex Express and the Argus play a crucial role in not only keeping us all informed about the news in Lewes and the surrounding areas, but they also play an essential role in ensuring accurate information is available locally on the fight against coronavirus and the incredible community response.
"The Government must take action in pledging a proportionate share of public health advertising spend to local media. This will not only provide financial support so that these outlets don't go under during this crisis, but will also ensure that they can continue to provide timely information to the public, which is imperative to slowing the spread of the virus."