One of the first acts of the new co-operative alliance running Lewes District Council was to declare a climate emergency. Councillors from all political parties backed the co-operative alliance's plan to take forward a range of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become climate resilient by 2030, in common with many other authorities across the UK. Liberal Democrat Councillor Christine Brett seconded the motion and Liberal Democrat Councillor Rob Banks spoke in favour of the motion:
"No-one thinks that our district on its own can successfully tackle this huge global crisis. But we can take a lead and do our bit. There are now well over 100 Councils all over the country setting out to get a grip on this crisis in their own communities. It is important to learn together, work together and make progress together with all these councils.
"We want the District Council to work with other councils and organisations to help prevent a catastrophe for our children and grandchildren.
"It will be crucial to involve the whole community in all our towns and villages. We need to involve people in providing ideas and action, provide more information on what is happening and what can be done about it, and take a lead in making the changes that will be needed. At the same time we can learn from the ideas and actions of other Councils across the land, and work closely with them.
"In 1979 what was happening to our climate was a growing concern even then. In 2019 it is an emergency. In 2030 it is game over because this is when scientists tell us that climate change is irreversible damage. It is ridiculous to think that people not even born yet have to wait to be adults before we can achieve this.
"I won’t be able to look my children in the eye and say I did nothing. There is a recognition of a need to take urgent action. Science proving this is stark and robust and we need to implement the policies to deal with it.
"Co-operating together on this issue is so important, and I hope all groups on the council can work together on this.
"The motion sets us on a clear path of carbon reduction. Not only will we set our own house in order, but we will inspire others to act and create the conditions for them to do so. The Council’s decisions come with a climate impact assessment, so that this emergency is always at the front of our minds, and for the Council to be a leader in the community through education and information.
"I want to see bold action on climate change. Amendments to planning rules can allow residents to update their homes to cut energy consumption – saving money as well as the planet – and of course, any new homes should be as energy efficient as possible."
Rob cited examples from other Liberal Democrat authorities, saying:
"Eastleigh Borough council requires housing developments to be more energy efficient than national building regulation standards and encourages passivhaus home development.
"It was in the early 2000s that Sutton helped pioneer the Beddington Zero Energy Development. They are currently working with partners to build a Passivhaus Secondary school.
"South Somerset is creating a new energy storage facility, which will be the largest council-owned battery storage system in the UK. It will provide instantly available electrical power, on demand to the National Grid. It will also bring in much needed funding for the authority.
"Cornwall is supporting a project to explore geothermal energy and Bedford with hydro-electric power."
Paying tribute to the hard work of Liberal Democrat District councillors in the previous council including Sarah Osborne and Vic Ient, Rob added:
"This council has already made a good start – to give just a few examples - by investing in solar panels on council owned buildings – including council housing stock; it has changed planning policy so all new buildings need to have external charging points and so each new home built includes a renewable energy scheme, and charging points for electric vehicles. Let’s build on that good work and go forward together across the council with all political groups involved."
The alliance consists of Liberal Democrat, Green Party, Labour and Independent members. The Climate Emergency motion was passed by all parties on the council.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Carolyn Lambert is calling for answers from the NHS on their plans for the Dane Road site.
Councillor Lambert says: "The NHS has repeatedly been asked for clarification on their requirements for accommodation. There is still no clear statement from them as to the square meterage the two surgeries need both for their immediate needs and to future proof accommodation for the two practices. This leaves in doubt the statement from the Clinical Commissioning Group that the Dane Road site is too small to meet their needs.
"I remain unclear as to exactly why this site could not be re-developed to keep the surgeries in the town centre. Simply saying the site is too small is not good enough when they cannot provide facts and figures to back this statement up.
"In addition, I am very concerned about rumours circulating that the NHS plans to sell off the Dane Road site to build a hotel. We need a clear statement of intent from the NHS about their plans for the site. If indeed, they are proposing to sell the site, then why are they asking Lewes District Council to foot the bill for building new accommodation?
"I remain fully in support of both our medical practices having accommodation that is fit for purpose. I am pleased that this project has now been called in for scrutiny by the new administration at Lewes District Council. However, in view of the substantial sums of public money involved and the serious concerns raised by local residents, I urge the District Council not to proceed with this project until these questions have been satisfactorily answered."
Lewes District Council, after 8 years of Conservative leadership, is now controlled by a Co-operative Alliance of councillors from the Green, Liberal Democrat, and Labour parties plus two Independents (Monday, 15th July). Liberal Democrat Councillor, James MacCleary and Labour Councillor Chris Collier proposed the new Leader of Lewes District Council, Councillor Zoe Nicholson, leader of the Green Party group in a move to take control of the council. The Alliance voted unanimously for the new leadership arrangements with Councillor James MacCleary, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, as Deputy Leader.
The Alliance has an overall majority on the councillors and is the result of joint working that has been ongoing since the local elections in May. The Alliance will operate on a shared leadership arrangement with the Green Party and Liberal Democrats rotating the leadership annually.
The new Leader of the council, Zoe Nicholson, who leads the Green Party group, said: "I am very much looking forward to getting to work with our Alliance colleagues and focusing on what matters to local people. I’m excited about working with our new Cabinet of skilled local people who really have the district in their DNA. The support we have received from local people has been really inspiring, we will be completely focussed on living up to people’s expectations.”
The council’s new Deputy Leader, James MacCleary, who leads the Liberal Democrat group, said: “It’s taken some hard work to get to this point, and we were determined to build this alliance on firm foundations. 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 our hardworking council staff. We have a lot of work to do and this alliance represents a chance to create opportunity and release the potential of our communities.”
Labour group leader, Chris Collier, who will serve in the new Cabinet, said: “Forming the Co-operative Alliance was just the first step in building a more collaborative, forward thinking administration. We’ve worked hard to put in place a solid platform for the next four years. From here, it’s about delivering on our manifesto commitments as a shared vision across all our communities.”
Ruth O’Keeffe, co-leader of the Independent group who will also serve on the Cabinet, said: "In our discussions as a Co-operative Alliance we find that we agree on a lot concerning what matters to local people. We have already found that we will be able to put the interests of local people first and manage to work out positive solutions if there are things that not everyone in the group can agree on."
Independent group co-leader, Steve Saunders, added: “I’m looking forward to giving a voice to those I represent. Joining with like-minded colleagues across the District, to change the way decisions are made and help make the Council work for each and every one of its residents.”
• The parties that make up the Co-operative Alliance won a total of 22 seats on Lewes District Council representing an overall majority. The Conservatives have 19 seats.
• Those 22 seats break down as: 9 Green Party, 8 Liberal Democrat, 3 Labour Party, and 2 Independent.
• Leadership of the council will be rotated between the Green Party and Liberal Democrats on an annual basis.
• The council’s Cabinet will be composed of 9 Cabinet members, four Green Party councillors, three Liberal Democrats, one Labour and one Independent councillor. Between them these parties hold 22 of the 41 seats on Lewes District Council giving them a controlling majority.
Liberal Democrats have celebrated the announcement that computer pioneer and code-breaker Alan Turing will feature on the new design of the Bank of England’s £50 note.
It was the campaign by the Liberal Democrats, led by John Leech, the former MP for Manchester Withington, which eventually led to Alan Turing’s posthumous pardon.
Following the announcement, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:
Alan Turing made an immeasurable contribution to our country.
Not only is he the father of modern computing, but the work that was done at Bletchley Park in cracking the German Enigma Machine saved countless lives in bringing the war to an end.
He was for an important period of time also a resident in my Twickenham constituency when he worked at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington.
Today’s announcement is monumental in recognising the invaluable work he did. It is also an important reminder of a part of our history where prejudice and blatant bigotry were enshrined in law.
In honouring him today, we must also remember that bigotry and discrimination leads to a terrible waste of talent for society as a whole.
Welcoming today’s news, Turing pardon architect John Leech said:
It is almost impossible to put into words the difference that Alan Turing made to society, but perhaps the most poignant example is that his work is estimated to have shortened the war by four years and saved up to 21 million lives.
I’m absolutely delighted that Turing will be the face of the new £50 note and I hope it will go some way to acknowledging his unprecedented contribution to society and science.
But more importantly I hope it will serve as a stark and rightfully painful reminder of what we lost in Turing, and what we risk when we allow that kind of hateful ideology to win.
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."