Local Liberal Democrats have welcomed the news that a cross party alliance has been formed to run Lewes District Council.
Independent, Green and Labour Party Councillors have joined Liberal Democrat Councillors to create the Alliance.
Simon Burall, Convenor of Lewes Liberal Democrats said:
“We have worked very closely with our District Council group to make sure that this alliance will deliver our party’s priorities for our area. We stood in May’s local elections on a strong manifesto for change and we’re delighted to see that reflected in the Alliance’s priorities.
“No party was returned with an overall majority on the council in May so building an alliance with a clear majority of seats was crucial to ensure stability for residents and the council”.
“The agreement only covers the operation of the Alliance on the District Council and we will continue to build on the surge we have seen in both our membership and poll ratings recently to ensure that we are ready to defeat the Conservatives and elect a Lib Dem MP for Lewes.
“With Lib Dems now in the District Council’s Cabinet as well as being the largest groups on Town Councils in Newhaven, Lewes and Seaford it is clear that we remain the best-placed party to defeat the Tories across our area.”
Councillor James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat Leader on Lewes District Council added:
“Our local Lib Dem team has backed us all the way on this to ensure we have an agreement which is both in the interests of local residents and the party.
“People always say they like to see parties working together so this is just what Lib Dems are doing. Given the very strong position the party finds itself in nationally and locally we are confident that this will provide us with a great platform for the future.
“I am looking forward to getting to work with our colleagues from other parties to get a better deal for our communities in Lewes District.”
Newhaven Liberal Democrats are working with residents to keep a close eye on the recently submitted plans for the Harbour Heights and adjoining Quarry Road site in Newhaven.
The area of partly greenfield land between Court Farm Road and Gibbon Road was identified in the District Council’s Local Plan as an area suitable for development. A developer has now come forward with a plan to build 696 flats and houses on the site.
Councillor James MacCleary, who represents Newhaven South ward on the District and Town Councils, said:
“This is a very large development for our town that is understandably causing major concern for local people. Such a large concentration of new housing will clearly put a lot of strain on existing infrastructure in the town. I am very worried about the impact on school places and local doctors surgeries.
“However, the biggest concern right now is the traffic. The current plans will route all of the traffic, which will be thousands of car movements every day, down Court Farm Road then on to Fort Road and South Road. These residential roads are entirely unsuitable to handle such a massive increase in traffic volume. And that is before we even consider the impact on the ringroad which is often choked up as it is.
“I am already in touch with District Council planning staff about this. I would urge residents to submit their own views through the planning applications section of Lewes District Council’s website. The planning reference is LW/19/0378 and the deadline for comments is 23rd July.”
Lib Dem Town Councillor and Court Farm Road resident, Joe Emery, added:
“The Town Council is taking a very close interest in this development. Our Planning Committee has already met to discuss this application once, and has agreed to have another, larger meeting at the Hillcrest Centre on Thursday, 30th July at 7pm to allow more residents to have their say.
“At our first meeting it was very troubling to hear that some of the existing businesses at Quarry Road had not been consulted on the plans and did not support them at present. It is vital that local residents and businesses feel that they are being listened to and taken seriously.
“There are big concerns around traffic, housing density, and burden on existing infrastructure and these are all areas that we as Town Councillors will be examining closely alongside other local residents. As Town Councillors we are all committed to delivering the right development for Newhaven.”
Responding to this year's Chief Inspector of Prisons' annual report, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
“This report is utterly damning of the Conservatives’ neglect of our prisons.
“With prisons so badly overcrowded and in such an appalling state, prisoners are not being properly rehabilitated. That means more reoffending and more people becoming victims of crime.
“Too many people are in prison who shouldn’t be there. We know that short prison sentences don’t work, especially for women.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must end overcrowding in prisons by making greater use of alternatives such as community sentences, women’s centres and restorative justice.
“Our goal must be to transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and recovery, with properly-funded education, training and treatment for prisoners to build a life free from crime.”
From Liberal Democrat Lord Roger Roberts' recent speech on protecting children seeking asylum in this country:
"I want a world fit for children to live in, a world where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected in all parts. We talk of so many people who, because of various circumstances, do not receive this care. This could be because of famine, disease, conflict, poverty and so much else. I think the UN’s latest figure was that about 66 million people are in some sort of statelessness. There are nearly 100,000 unaccompanied children in Europe alone. I would love to say that we can resolve all these problems and help every child, but we do not have a magic wand. However, we do have the ability to remove many obstacles and transform the world of thousands of children.
"On a worldwide scale, in the last two months, the conflict in Syria has led to 544 deaths, 100 of which were children. In the same area, unregistered migrants in Turkey have been rounded up and many have been returned to areas where death is a great possibility. On the other side of the Atlantic, on the Mexico-United States border, we have pictures of a little girl drowning in her father’s arms and we read of the President’s intention to round up unregistered immigrants.
"But would the UK treat its asylum seekers any better? If we distance ourselves from Europe and co-operation with European countries, will things be better? If we give up our co-operation with countries such as Italy, Greece and France, will conditions improve? Will the kids have a better life? How will Brexit improve the condition of unaccompanied children in Europe? How will Brexit affect the work of the churches, especially the Catholic Church, and their pan-European activity to help refugees? There are many other organisations which deserve the most wonderful praise for all the work they are doing. They know no borders, but the UK is now guilty, with the whole attitude of the hostile environment, of digging ditches instead of building bridges. We are doing something that in itself will cause children to suffer.
"We must look at the Home Office, and the decisions that create heartache when families are threatened with deportation. Even though I have been promised changes, the latest figure is that over 50% of Home Office decisions are overturned on appeal.
"Somehow, we must restore people’s dignity. We can, and it will not cost us a penny. We would benefit, because they would pay taxes and national insurance contributions. Will the Government now please change their attitude? We need a change in immigration regulations, a change that would transform lives. There is so much that we could do. We could remove the threat of deportation on reaching 18 years of age. We could restore legal advice to those who have nowhere else to turn, and at the Home Office, we could avoid these wrong and heart-breaking decisions. A positive outlook and a generosity of spirit could help."
Responding to the resignation of UK ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Jo Swinson said:
“Sir Kim Darroch should never have been put in this position. His resignation is a true loss to our diplomatic service, and we must have a full and urgent investigation into where these leaks came from.
“It is regrettable that President Trump has such sway over our foreign policy. Boris Johnson’s failure to stand up for one of our most senior civil servants has once again proved that he will always put his own interests ahead of the country’s.
“The UK deserves a Prime Minister who is willing to stand up to bullies and fight for what is best for our country.”
Responding to the Climate Change Committee’s 2019 Progress Report to Parliament (link to download) – detailing how the UK Government is “lagging far behind, what is needed” to meet the old climate change targets, let alone the new net-zero emissions target for 2050 – Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:
"This report shows that this Conservative Government is all talk and no action when it comes to climate change. They’re off-track, but instead of reversing their most damaging decisions such as effectively banning on-shore wind, slashing subsidies to solar power and scrapping the zero-carbon homes standard they instead continue to do more damage by permitting new fossil fuels like fracking. Meanwhile, the two Conservative leadership contenders are taking money from climate change deniers.
"Liberal Democrats demand better. The UK should be leading the world on climate change, instead this Government is squandering the progress we’ve already made. Liberal Democrats would place climate change at the heart of Government, instead of paying it lip service as the Conservatives do."
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.