The full results are now in for local elections across England and the Lib Dems have had the best results in 20 years, we have taken more than 700 new seats and have firmly demonstrated our local campaigning impact up and down the country! In Lewes District we were heartened to receive such wide backing from voters in every part of the District. While the results were mixed, overall we have held steady and in some cases made surprising gains.
Here is a summary of the position regarding Seaford Health Hub outlined by LibDem councillor Maggie Wearmouth.
The lease for Old School Surgery is with private providers and runs out in 2021. That for Seaford Medical Practice is with the NHS Property Services. Many allied professionals in community teams, plus those working for the mental health trust and link workers from East Sussex County Council have very limited accommodation in these buildings and also feel that the accommodation is affecting the quality and scope of the service they provide.
So it has been obvious for some time that health services in Seaford are at breaking point and new accommodation is urgently required. It is the role and responsibility of the Eastbourne Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group to provide or commission health services in Seaford. They remain in financial special measures and have limited course of action at present.
The current plan, approved by the Conservative Cabinet, has approved funding for the Downs Leisure Centre Health Hub which involves more than £1 million from council funds and a £17 million loan from the Public Works Loan Board. As central government funding for councils reduces, so councils have to look to more commercial sources for sustainable and reliable income.
There are no plans for a Minor Injures Unit, X-rays or Urgent Care centre. I am told that there could be parking space for a mobile MRI scanner unit and space to house a community Diabetes team. There is no funding for extra health professionals, but the CCG would pay extra money to GPs surgeries if their patient numbers increased (capitation fees). The counter argument is that by improving the work environment, staff morale, retention and recruitment would be enhanced.
It is argued that promoting health, lifestyle and wellbeing need the GP facilities to be co located with the Downs Leisure Centre. I challenge this as I believe that social prescribing eg a course of pilates classes for backache instead of pain killers should at least be subsidised by the CCG. Where those classes take place is less relevant than the support given by the CCG to such initiatives. I was directed to a video on the CCG website, but it does not mention finances. I have also asked the LDC project officers for examples of other places where Health Hubs have been tried but they have not yet provided this information. Those that I have found myself include award winning community centres or rooms for private rental by therapists such as the Integrated Centre at Herstmonceux: none involve gyms.
Many people we have spoken to have concerns about the loss of the green space football pitch at the Downs and the loss of the much loved over sixties Club. We share those concerns, especially since the green spaces at the Newlands development may not be available for 4-5 years (my question to the Town Clerk in a recent Town Council meeting).
Our counter proposal is as follows:-
Keep Seaford Medical Practice where it is but move out the community teams from the half of the building they occupy. Work with Seaford Town Council to construct a building on waste land owned by LDC as part of the Richmond Rd car park but rarely used for parking. House Old School Surgery, community teams and community dental clinic there. Consider building over the corner of the Salts (owned by STC) to house new STC council offices / community hall / cafe with view over the Salts and towards the sea. Replace old Scout hut in another part of the Salts.
In this way, facilities that are really needed could be provided, keeping the facilities in central Seaford whilst still ensuring a good commercial return on investment. The downside is parking provision, but this is very much a concern about the Downs project and no assessments have been made about the impact of parking or footfall in central Seaford if both GP practices are moved.
We will continue to question and challenge the decisions made until we think that the people of Seaford are getting what they deserve at an acceptable price.
So - we want to represent and stand up for Seaford residents, we want much more transparency and democracy in the way council decisions are made and we want to protect green spaces and services that are valued by residents.
On the night of 26 April a number of properties on Prince Edward’s Road and Park Road in Lewes, displaying political party posters, were vandalised. Graffiti were sprayed on houses displaying Liberal Democrat, Green and Labour posters, including words such as ‘traitors’ and ‘hypocrites’. The vandalism includes damage to property and the public footpath.
The recent vandalism appears to follow a national trend of anti-social behaviour against political posters and individuals who are involved in local democratic political activity.
Speaking for the Liberal Democrats, Simon Burall, who lives at one of the addresses targeted, said:
“We are only days away from local elections and volunteers across the District are giving up many hours of their time to work for improvements to their local area. Acts of vandalism are never justified and these recent graffiti are completely different to the normal politics of Lewes. Whatever your political affiliations, we should live in a society which respects other people’s views.
This is a really worrying development for the health of our local democracy and we will work with others to ensure a more open tolerant society.”
Zoe Nicholson, speaking for Lewes District Green Party, said:
“Our experience of campaigning in the district has been overwhelmingly positive so it's surprising and very sad to see people expressing their political views in this thuggish and intimidating way.
'It's really clear from speaking to local people that they're fed up of the squabbling and bitterness of Westminster politics at the moment.
The vandalism is bad enough, but using highly charged language like 'traitors' against political opponents is not acceptable. We will continue to shun this kind of negative campaigning and focus on positive messages in our campaign, and we stand with other parties against any form of intimidation or extremism.”
Emily Clarke, speaking for Lewes Labour said:
“It is really sad to see this kind of attack on democracy in our town and criminal damage done to the property of residents who are exercising their right to take part in the upcoming local elections. We are experiencing a time when the country is divided on huge issues such as Brexit and people on all sides hold strong and differing views. However, the use of this type of language aimed at local political opponents, who are genuinely working for the community in which they are standing and residents’ property is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. As with any attack on democracy, it is important that we stand together against those who seek to intimidate us.”
Free sanitary products will be offered to girls in all primary schools in England from early 2020. This follows Chancellor Philip Hammond's announcement last month of funding for free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons last month calling on the Government to extend its policy on free sanitary products to primary schools, colleges, universities and NHS GP surgeries.
Commenting on the announcement, Layla Moran said:
“It is brilliant news that children in primary schools in England will now have access to sanitary products. From the age of 8, girls may start their period and this should not mean that they miss out on education at such a pivotal time.
“Girls should not be penalised because of their period. The number of those who have been missing school each year because of their period is heart-breaking and unacceptable.
“It is now time for the Conservatives to go further and eradicate period poverty wherever it exists. They must provide free sanitary products in places including universities, hostels, GP surgeries, women’s shelters, libraries, and leisure centres.”
The full text of Layla Moran’s live EDM on Period Poverty is below and can also be found here: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52737/period-poverty
That this House welcomes the Government’s commitment to roll out free sanitary products across NHS hospitals and secondary schools in England; notes however that periods may start as early as 8 years old; is appalled that pupils in England are missing time in school, college and university because of a lack of access to sanitary products; is alarmed at reports that 40 per cent of girls in the UK have used toilet roll because they couldn’t afford menstrual products; and calls on the Government to expand its commitment to include primary schools, colleges, universities and NHS GP surgeries in England
Whether it’s young people taking time off school or the Commons’ naked protestors: they are right. We face a climate crisis.
This is the Liberal Democrats' three part emergency plan:
- UK-wide action to green ourselves.
- Action to decarbonise capitalism – starting with the City of London.
- And an international green new deal – where richer countries support poorer countries.
Starting with the UK - Lib Dems have shown we can decarbonise and prosper. Thanks to achievements in Government on renewable energy and what many Lib Dem-led councils have done in their communities, the benefits of climate change action are proven. In government, LibDem Ministers nearly quadrupled Britain's output of renewable energy.
In the first week of full campaigning for Lewes District Council elections, the Lib Dems have set out a bold vision for the future of the District. Their proposals focus on fighting for a fairer future for Lewes District and providing opportunities for all, with key policies on low cost housing, improving green spaces and supporting our local high streets; as well as a central pledge to bring more transparency to council decision-making, to ensure that the District Council is more accountable to the voters and council tax payers of the Lewes area.
There is currently no overall control on Lewes District Council and the Lib Dems are the main challengers to the Conservative group, the Lib Dems have a dynamic new team standing across the District and are pushing to take control.
Senior Liberal Democrat District Councillor Stephen Gauntlett (Seaford Central) said: “Over recent years, we have seen a handful of Tory councillors making key decisions behind closed doors in a ‘cabinet system’, they are out of touch with the needs of our community and have failed to listen to changing needs across the District.
“While national budgets have been squeezed, local budgets have been slashed and local people have been let down. The Liberal Democrats will open up the council, letting all councillors contribute. We’ll also run a regular residents’ survey to ask local people what matters to them; and we will ensure that the council provides more information so that you can see how your taxes are spent and make sure they are spent fairly.”
Councillor Janet Baah (Lewes Bridge) said: “We will focus on fairness of opportunity, including support to local start-ups and small businesses and put buying of council services from businesses in the District at the heart of a Liberal Democrat council; while reducing our impact on the environment, such as reducing plastic waste and improving recycling.”
“Local Liberal Democrats are committed to improving opportunities for all our residents. We want to ensure young people have a future here and will enable them to build their lives by developing low cost housing and thriving high streets so that no one is left behind.” added Councillor Julie Carr (Newhaven North).
“This is our council,” Lewes Town campaigner Oli Henman said, “We believe that everyone should have a say in its decision making. A vote for your local, hardworking Liberal Democrat candidate will make this a reality”.
The Liberal Democrat local manifesto sets out a bold vision to deliver a fairer deal for residents, ensuring budgets are available to tackle the major issues in our District: a cleaner and greener local environment; low cost housing; support for local businesses; and a more open inclusive council. The manifesto is available here (4MB download).
The Liberal Democrats’ campaign to save Ringmer swimming pool is gathering pace, with the launch of a petition to save the facility that was built in the 1980s thanks to community fund-raising.
Within minutes of the Lib Dems breaking the news that the pool is threatened with closure, a local Facebook page had picked up the story and brought out massive support for keeping the pool open. The pool is currently run by Wave Leisure, but its contract with East Sussex County Council runs out on 31 March, and there’s currently no arrangement for what happens after that.
The February issue of the Lib Dems’ newsletter Ringmer Focus broke the story. Three days after it hit the first doormats, Lewes Liberal Democrats launched a petition, which reads: "We call on East Sussex County Council to guarantee that 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."
Lib Dem county councillor for Ringmer and Lewes Bridge, Philip Daniel, said, "I now understand that with Wave Leisure’s contract to manage the pool expiring on 31st March, the county council invited proposals for a new management contract for the pool but received no bids. This is obviously worrying, and we need to find out why, as the pool may well be viable under a different management model.
"That’s why I'm encouraged that the council is trying to negotiate a one-year extension with Wave Leisure (and with cooperation from Kings Academy that shares use of the pool) which would allow us time to fully assess the pool's use and how we can keep it open in the long run. I am obviously monitoring developments closely."
The pool was built in the early 1980s after a massive fund-raising campaign among people in Ringmer. It was originally open-air, but a roof was built shortly after. For many years it ran with volunteer lifeguards, but stricter retraining and refresher requirements reduced the numbers of lifeguards, and the management was contracted out first to Freedom Leisure and then to Wave Leisure.
Ringmer Lib Dem Chris Bowers, a district councillor from 2007 to 2015, added, "We learned about this because, as good local campaigners, we have our ear to the ground in Ringmer. Given the way the pool came into existence, the most important thing is that the community of Ringmer has a chance to retake control if no commercial entity is willing to run the pool, perhaps along similar lines to the way Ringmer Library has been relaunched under voluntary local management.
"We know it's not easy to make pools pay for themselves, and we know council funding has been cut to the bone. We just need the future of the pool to be decided with full community involvement - that’s what we're fighting for."
Lewes District Council’s budget, passed on Monday night, included a number of amendments put forward by Opposition Liberal Democrat group leader Sarah Osborne to safeguard jobs and the environment.
The Lib Dem amendments include: spending £10,000 on a citizens science project to measure air quality around the district; spending £10,000 on projects to improve and preserve local biodiversity; and spending £28,000 to replace litter bins with dual litter and recycling bins to make it easier for residents to recycle “on the go”.
Cllr Osborne’s amendments also included the appointment of a trade and investment account manager. They would be responsible for attracting investment and supporting businesses within the district.
Cllr Osborne said: “Never before have local authorities needed to do more to attract new businesses to their areas.
“We know we will soon be partially reliant on business rates for much of our income and of course we face the challenge of a possible Brexit.
“Thus we need to resource and have a focused approach to boost the start-up and growth of businesses in the Lewes area.”
A final amendment sets out plans to use empty council-owned assets as ‘pop-up business spaces’ in Lewes and Newhaven, in an effort to provide office space for small scale businesses and start-ups.
Speaking after the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill was passed in the House of Commons tonight by just 58 votes, former Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb MP said:
“Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people are at risk of unlawfully having their freedom restricted and receiving inappropriate care. That is the deeply flawed system this Bill should have fixed, but instead the Conservatives produced one of the worst pieces of legislation ever seen.
“I set the Government two tests at the beginning of this process. Does the new system safeguard individuals’ human rights and does the new system result in very vulnerable people being better protected? Conservative Ministers have failed both of these tests.
“It is incredibly worrying that the Conservative Government are still pursuing this change in legislation when there has been overwhelming and united opposition from parties and care organisations. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats will keep fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable.”
“When are weekend rail closures going to end & when is the government going to stop jamming up our narrow streets in Lewes with rail replacement buses?” asks Lewes District Councillor Vic Ient.
The 9-day closure of the rail network between Lewes and London scheduled for the 16th to 24 Feb was intended to bring an end to weekend rail closures but it is not so. Vic Ient says: “I am absolutely fed up with the line closures on Southern! If the Lewes to Uckfield line hadn't been closed in 1968 there would be an alternative route to London, but government policy is to put ‘all eggs in one basket’ and route all trains up the crowded Brighton mainline!”
Cllr Ient continues “Not only have the residents of Lewes and the surrounding areas put up with years of weekend line closures with replacement buses jamming the narrow streets of Lewes, we now have a 9 day closure from the 16th to 24 February plus several weekend closures which will close the line between Lewes and London. This 9 day closure was meant to avoid lots of weekend closures but Network Rail are continuing with closures both before and after. Here in Lewes the ancient Southover High Street was crowded with replacement buses last Sunday, which has become a typical Sunday scene.
Councillor Ient is exasperated at the continued weekend closures and the lack of information on the Brighton mainline and Southern websites. He says “Neither the new special ‘closures’ Brighton mainline, nor the Southern Railways websites give you enough detail. Regarding the 4 day closure in March locally, Southern say on their website ‘We are awaiting further details of how Southern are affected by engineering work on this date’. The Southern website doesn't tell you to go to the Network Rail website but that is the only place where you can find actual details needed to plan a journey. It seems there is a complete lack of coordination on providing information between Thames Link/GTR, Southern, Network Rail and the Dept for Transport. Why isn't all this information directly available on one website?”
Cllr Ient who is a retired project manager, concludes “If Network Rail and the Department of Transport were running this as a professional project, they would have all the downstream dates logged and published in one place. I wonder if their plans have been worked out in detail or are these rail closures like the timetabling debacle of last year? Chris Grayling, the Government’s Secretary of State for Transport, refused to take blame for rail timetable chaos and I guess he'll remain true to form and distance himself from any rail closures problems. I have written to him and asked him when weekend rail closures going to end and why doesn't he reopen the Lewes to Uckfield railway line.”
Join our call to reopen the Lewes to Uckfield line- sign the petition here
Rail closures coming up are listed on the special Brighton mainline website:https://brightonmainline.co.uk/ and on Southern Railway's website. They include:
- Saturday and Sunday the 9th and 10th of February
- 9-day closure from the 16th to 24 February
- Closures on the 2nd and 3rd of March
- 4 days of closures between the 7th & 10th March for routes east of Lewes*
- March continues with closures on the 23rd/24th and the 30th/31st
- Further closures in April
* Network Rail say that local closures from the 7th to 10 March will include closures to services between the following stations:
- Wivelsfield - Lewes
- Falmer - Lewes
- Seaford - Lewes
- Polegate - Lewes
Details of engineering works can be found here: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/service_disruptions/currentAndFuture.aspx