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.”
Following strong results in the local elections on 2nd May, the Liberal Democrats make up the largest group on the Town Councils of Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven and have therefore nominated the new mayors for all three towns!
In Seaford, Nazish Adil, known as 'Pinky', has become the town's first ethnic minority British Asian mayor. She is a very active local resident and pledged to work to ensure all voices are heard in planning for the town's future. Pinky said, “The core Lib Dem values of tolerance and respect for diversity are at the heart of my motivation for running for election; so I am delighted to be able to step up and serve the community to deliver on the interests of all our residents.”
In Lewes, John Lamb follows Lewes’ first ethnic minority mayor, Janet Baah, and he has set out a clear demand to deliver on the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan, which includes low cost housing as a key priority for local residents. John said, “It’s a real privilege for me to take over as Mayor after Janet Baah. Janet set a very high bar with her commitment to bringing a fresh perspective to the role and I look forward to continuing to ensure that people of all backgrounds are valued in our town. I have worked for many years on technology for people with disabilities, so accessibility will continue to be a strong focus in my term as Mayor.”
In Newhaven, Graham Amy leads a strong team with an overall Lib Dem majority on the Town Council. He set out priorities to ensure that Newhaven's residents are properly consulted on future priorities for the town and a demand to regenerate the High Street. Graham said, “The Lib Dems are leading the push for a change across Lewes District. We champion local action and listen closely to residents’ views. We will continue to push for better representation of local needs at all levels; by ensuring that the Town Councils are able to support local residents and pushing back against the Tory cuts at District and County Councils and central government.”
Fresh from the Liberal Democrats’ stunning local election results across the country, the party now leads the fight for the European Parliament elections on 23 May.
With Britain’s political parties dividing into Remain- and Leave-leaning in terms of Brexit, the Lib Dems are the only party to have championed Britain maintaining the closest possible relationship with the EU from day one – a stance that has morphed into the Lib Dems supporting a confirmatory referendum with the Remain option on the ballot paper.
And in a clear statement of how the Lib Dems want that new people’s vote to go, the party’s slogan for the Euro elections is ‘Stop Brexit’.
Under the voting system used for elections to the European Parliament, voters vote for the party, not for individuals.
Therefore, each party draws up a list of candidates, and depending on how many votes it gets will determine how many of its candidates get elected to the Parliament.
Lewes falls in the South East European constituency, which elects 10 members. Therefore, each party in the South East can present a list of up to 10 candidates. Top of the South East Lib Dem list is Catherine Bearder, who was an MEP in the 2014-19 Parliament.
Antony Hook, number 2 on the Lib Dem list, brings 16 years experience as a criminal barrister – specialising in prosecuting serious crime, including organised and international. His skills as a lawyer and advocate will enable him to expertly champion the interests of the South East and take on the misleading claims of Brexiteer MEPs like Nigel Farage.
Lewes Lib Dems have a representative on the list, the former district councillor and three-time parliamentary candidate Chris Bowers, who is sixth. Chris says, ‘Every vote for the Liberal Democrats at this election is a vote to give us a chance to stop Brexit.
‘We are democrats, and having had the referendum in 2016 which voted for Brexit but only narrowly and with no outline or vision of what sort of Brexit people were voting for, we feel it’s democratically essential to have a confirmatory vote. But we will make it absolutely clear that we believe Britain’s place is in the EU, and we sense the more people have learned about the implications of Brexit over the last three years, the more sceptical and worried they have become.
‘And the more people from the Lewes constituency who vote Lib Dem, the more our pro-Brexit MP – pro-‘no deal Brexit’ MP even – will have to realise how out of step she is with local opinion.’
A calculation by the Remain United website has shown why Remainers are best voting Lib Dem at this election, as it could make a difference of up to six seats in the British representation in the 2019-24 European Parliament.
Here is the full list of Liberal Democrat candidates for the south east, plus photos and biographical notes.
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.