Conservative Budget Means Residents Will Pay More For County Council Services

Conservative councillors, backed by Labour, voted through a budget which will mean East Sussex residents paying more for County Council services including roads, adult social care, and education. Cllr Philip Daniel, Liberal Democrat Finance spokesperson, explains:

Councillor Philip Daniel head and shoulders“The Liberal Democrat budget amendment meant charging residents a lower rate of increase in regular council tax for ESCC: 1.50% instead of the Conservatives’ 1.99%. That’s on top of the 2% rise by which the government asks local people to pay the County Council for Adult Social Care. We recognise that many people in the county are in financial hardship. Council Tax rises over five years have been almost double the rise in earnings. They are having to absorb the impact of the cuts made to council services by the Conservative government over the last ten years, are paying increased fees and charges for services and now are facing yet another increase in council tax.

Our budget amendment supported spending on capital projects by capital finance, so that work on roads and buildings refurbishment could go ahead funded from the capital budget not from revenue as the Conservatives have now agreed. This would free up more money for frontline services. Altogether, we proposed £2,523,000 of savings and changes to funding which could be used to support our hard-pressed services, slow the Council Tax increase and start to restructure the Council”.

Councillor David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, comments:

david_tutt.jpg“We have consistently put forward budgets that propose a transformation of the way the council organises itself, including putting the emphasis on staff delivering front-line services rather than on highly paid managers.

We are very concerned at the fragility of the County Council’s finances. Services will now be funded almost entirely from council tax and from business rates. We know that businesses are already struggling. The business rate system needs to be reformed to create a level playing field between High Street stores and on-line traders. One-off pots of money from central government are simply putting a sticking plaster over the gaping holes that the Conservatives have made in local authority services – our roads are not the only thing with huge potholes.

East Sussex County Council already has the 4th highest council tax of any shire county in England (2019/20). £134 million has already been taken out of County Council funds over the last ten years and council tax set by the County Council has risen by 36.92% since 2007 compared with Liberal Democrat run Eastbourne Borough Council where the tax rise over the same period has been 21.07%. We have to ask how long residents can continue to pay for these taxes imposed by the Conservative administration?”.

Oli Henman: The quality of democracy is under strain

Oli Henman's letter to the Sussex Express, Jan 2020.

The December election marked a challenging time for our country, for accountability and for democracy. Why would I say that democracy is under threat? Let me explain.

Oli_Henman_Speaks_Hustings700.jpgDemocracy is about dialogue, it is about listening and engaging, it is about being publicly accountable and being true to your commitments.

As the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Lewes constituency I made it my priority to engage with a wide range of voters, to participate in public debates and to respond to questions via email and social media. I took time to reply and to ensure that my views were accountable to a wide range of fellow residents and I was glad to take part in interviews on the radio and television. This is what democracy means - it is about dialogue and a willingness to listen and respond to other points of view. It is also about being open to finding compromise.

But Conservative candidates did not respond to public scrutiny, they did not take part in key hustings, they did not join debates and they were not accountable to the people they serve. The Lewes candidate withdrew from debates and suspended her social media accounts. Why would she do this if she is keen to champion real democracy?

The Conservative Party across the country adopted similar tactics to reduce public debate and to focus on short populist messages with little real substance behind them. This was not about informing the public or about listening to other points of view. But what is worse is that we have been witnessing cynical misinformation combined with a cavalier disregard for parliamentary conventions and an apparent appetite to limit the independence of the judiciary. This is when we start to understand how our democratic system is being bent out of shape. The British system has always relied on ‘gentleman’s agreements’ and unspoken rules but these rules are increasingly being disregarded by those in power.

Furthermore, in terms of the democratic mandate, our ‘first past the post’ system does not provide a proportional number of seats to the actual number of votes cast. In this constituency the Conservatives won with less than 50% of the votes cast and nationally their vote share was more like 43%. This is not an overwhelming democratic mandate to enact such far reaching reforms. Instead the government should be open to listening to other points of view and recognising the need for inclusive decision-making, if it is truly concerned with bringing the country back together.

It is high time the Conservatives acknowledged that real democracy is about actual dialogue and informed debate not just simple soundbites.

Oli Henman

LibDems reaction to Queen's Speech

Following last week’s election the new Conservative government held its first Queen’s Speech on the 19th of December. The Conservatives look set to push forward a damaging and divisive approach - pushing ahead with an extreme version of Brexit, undermining the independence of the judiciary, reducing our social rights and failing to tackle the climate emergency.

Oli_003_Lewes_Castle.jpgLewes Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesperson Oli Henman says “Only a few days after the election, Boris Johnson’s bleak vision for Britain is already becoming apparent.”

The Conservatives are now wholly consumed by Brexit and its consequences; but the Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose this damaging approach and hold the government to account. Brexit is a smokescreen to allow the Conservatives to strip away our hard-won rights and reduce our essential environmental protections. We will fight for the best possible result of next year’s negotiations: a close relationship, preventing tariffs and other trade barriers, protecting our jobs and manufacturing; and we will fight to maintain our key rights.

By pushing ahead with this extreme version of Brexit, the UK government will be free to force through major legislative changes which reduce our core rights and undermine our public services. Ending free movement is bad for public services and employers, and will expose millions of EU citizens to a hostile environment. Proposed changes in sentencing laws make good headlines for the Daily Mail, but the evidence shows that they will do nothing to reduce crime. Meanwhile the proposals to politicise the judiciary threaten the very basis of the rule of law. And perhaps the greatest omission is the lack of any real steps to deliver climate action; by not setting out an ambitious plan, the Conservatives are giving away our future!

We will do all we can to hold the Tories to account, to defend our democracy and our public services, to fight climate change and to keep alive the UK’s true character as an open, inclusive, internationalist and compassionate country.

A thank you from Oli

191116seaford_cropped.jpgThank you to everyone who supported our campaign to win the Lewes constituency. This has been a huge campaign and we can be proud of our result. While we did not win this time, we increased our vote share and halved Maria Caulfield's majority. We have turned this constituency into a much more winnable seat next time.

But the most impressive achievement is the determination and collaboration that I have seen over the last few weeks from all of you. This has genuinely been a team effort, whether you helped with stuffing envelopes, putting up posters, delivering leaflets, calling people or knocking on doors; all your efforts have been vital and your time and dedication are much appreciated.

rainbow_cropped.jpgWe may not have won this time, but we have established a base from which we can win the Lewes constituency. In the meantime, we must continue to fight against the forces of populism. We must not cease in our demands for a fairer, more sustainable and democratic future. We must not step back from community activism or from holding the government to account. Our time will come!

Last Sunday I was invited to share my views on the BBC South East Sunday Politics - you can watch the full discussion here.

We will be in touch in the New Year with plans for our next campaigning activities but in the meantime I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Best wishes


Steve Coogan urges voters in Lewes to vote Lib Dem and defeat the Tories

coogan01cropped.jpgThe general election battle in the Lewes constituency is now one of the closest races in the country, with the numbers showing this is neck and neck and Lewes is one of the seats on which the outcome of the General Election will be decided. Comedy star and Labour supporter, Steve Coogan, visited Lewes on Sunday to show his tactical support for the Liberal Democrats in Lewes and urge voters across Lewes constituency to back the Liberal Democrats in the General Election on 12 December.

A large crowd of well over 100 residents and supporters were on Cliffe Bridge to hear Steve Coogan put the case for tactical voting and defeating the Tories across the country. Former Liberal Democrat MPs, Norman Baker and Evan Harris were also in the crowd.

Steve Coogan spoke on Cliffe Bridge, a traditional political rally point in Lewes,

I’m here today as a traditional Labour supporter. In this constituency where I live and across the country, we need to defeat the Tories by any means necessary. I’ll be voting for Oli on Thursday because that’s the smartest thing to do.

To defeat the Conservatives in this election we need to box clever and I include in this one nation Conservatives like John Major, Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clark, who we all know, even if we disagree with them, that they have integrity. They themselves have suggested that they are not going to vote Conservative. Even Michael Heseltine has said he will be voting Liberal Democrat because the stakes are so high.

People who have spent all their lives with one party are looking at their constituency and thinking what’s the best tactical choice and I urge everyone here to vote Liberal.”

Oli Henman addressing the crowd said,

We are fighting a very close battle to take this seat from the Tories. We are fighting for a fairer, more democratic, more sustainable future. I have been incredibly humbled and grateful, that so many of you have been out with me over the last few weeks.

This election here could go down to the wire. So, I’m incredibly grateful that we have Steve Coogan here with us. People in our constituency who are thinking of voting Labour or voting for the Greens, can now see by voting Liberal Democrat, we have a real chance to get Boris Johnson’s Conservatives out on 12 December.”

Lib Dems to fund 46 more police officers across Lewes constituency

The Liberal Democrats have today announced plans to fund at least 46 police officers across Lewes as part of an extra £1bn nationwide investment into community policing.

key_police.jpgThis commitment amounts to 20,000 more police officers across England and Wales, enough for an extra two officers per ward. The Liberal Democrats will also fund an immediate 2% pay-rise for serving police officers.

Liberal Democrat plans stand in stark contrast to Labour and the Conservatives, who have made big promises on police numbers, but have failed to commit the funding needed to deliver them.

At the same time, Liberal Democrats are warning that Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans risk letting hundreds of criminals to escape justice in Lewes, after analysis revealed the extent to which UK police rely on vital EU crime-fighting measures.

The south east region's police forces and prosecutors have used the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to bring over 753 criminal fugitives to justice over the past five years, the analysis reveals. Sussex police force alone extradited 138 criminals to justice in their home country in the last 5 years.

The EAW allows the speedy extradition of wanted criminals, but senior police have warned that the UK risks losing access to the scheme because of Brexit. If current trends were to continue, that would mean more than 138 criminal suspects could avoid extradition in Sussex over the next five years.

Oli002.jpgLiberal Democrat candidate Oli Henman said:

Too many people feel unsafe in their own homes and walking down their own streets. With entire communities feeling exposed and vulnerable, both the Tories and Labour are claiming to offer solutions but the sums just don’t add up.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson's reckless Brexit threatens to cut the UK off from vital crime-fighting tools that the police use every day to keep us safe. His plans mean that hundreds of criminals in the south east could remain at large, threatening the safety of our community.

Only the Liberal Democrats have a bold and credible plan to increase the number of police across Lewes. The Liberal Democrats are committing £1 billion nationwide investment per year to fund this – that’s £250 million more than Labour or the Tories.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party willing to back our bobbies with money, not just words. We are the only party that can stop Brexit, make our communities safe and build a brighter future.”

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Liberal Democrat commitment of 20,000 more police officers is enough for two extra officers in every ward across England and Wales. That is the calculation used above.

The Conservatives’ cuts to police numbers have contributed to a rise in violence and decimated community policing, with 47% of people saying they never see police foot patrols, up from 30% in 2014-15.

Manifesto spending commitments for the police force (by party):

Conservatives: 20,000 more officers, £750m/yr

Labour: 22,000 more officers, £750m/yr

Liberal Democrats: 20,000 more officers + 2% pay-rise, £1bn/yr

Crime statistics under the Conservatives:

Knife crime up 80% since 2015: Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019

248 fatal stabbings in the year to June 2019: Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019

Robberies up by 76% since 2015: Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019

Only 8% of crimes result in someone being charged, down from 15% in 2014-15: Crime outcomes in England and Wales 2018 to 2019

6,612 criminals have been extradited to and from the UK and brought to the justice using the European Arrest Warrant over the past five years, or an average of around 1,208 a year (Source: National Crime Agency, combining both Wanted from UK and Wanted by UK, years 2013-14 – 2017-18).

This includes:

140 for murder or manslaughter

136 for child sex offences

12 for terrorism

152 for rape

In 2017-18, 1,208 criminal suspects were extradited to and from the UK using the EAW. If the use of the EAW continued at current levels, another 6,040 suspected criminals would be brought to justice using the vital crime-fighting tool over the next five years. These figures are broken down by LEA.

Senior police officers have warned the Home Affairs Committee that Brexit could mean losing access to the EAW and Schengen Information System database. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin said: “If we lose the European arrest warrant, we know that we have to refer back to the 1957 convention on extradition. It is a lot slower and a lot more bureaucratic and not as effective, nimble or efficient as a European arrest warrant”. He also said: “Before EAW and SIS II we probably extradited about 60 people a year. We now average probably 1,400 or 1,500 a year.” (Home Affairs Committee Oral Evidence, October 2018).

The EU has also previously warned that the UK will lose access to the EAW under the form of hard Brexit being pursued by Boris Johnson which involved ending free movement and leaving the EU Court of Justice, while a 'no deal' Brexit would also mean an end to vital police cooperation measures with the EU (BBC News, July 2018).

The UK accessed the Schengen Information System (SIS II) a total of 603,569,274 times in 2018 (Source: EU Lisa, February 2019). This is up 12% from 541,258,014 times in 2017 (EU LISA, 2017).

Lib Dems - Immigration detention must be absolute last resort

The Liberal Democrats have criticised the Conservative government following today's Supreme Court judgment, which found that five asylum seekers had been unlawfully detained. The Liberal Democrats are committed to making immigration detention an absolute last resort.
The judgment concerns five asylum seekers, each detained for more than a month in 2015. One was detained for 16 weeks, from 18 August to 8 December. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that they were wrongfully detained, and that they are entitled to compensation.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto commits to making immigration detention an absolute last resort, introducing a 28-day time limit on detention and closing seven of the UK’s nine detention centres.
More than 24,000 people are put into detention centres each year, at a cost to the taxpayer of £90 million a year. On top of this, the Home Office had to pay out £8 million last year in compensation for 312 cases of wrongful detention.
key_CJ_200.pngLiberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Christine Jardine said:
“The Conservatives’ excessive use of immigration detention is inhumane, unnecessary and expensive – as this case demonstrates.
“Not only did the Home Office cause misery and waste money unlawfully detaining these people in the first place, they then wasted even more taxpayer money fighting this case all the way up to the Supreme Court. And now they’ll have to pay compensation too.
“The Liberal Democrats will put compassion and common sense at the heart of our immigration system by ending indefinite detention and making any detention an absolute last resort.
“We will build a brighter future where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and where taxpayers’ money is not wasted defending unlawful Home Office actions.”

Lib Dems respond to Tory candidate who said “nuisance tenants” should be forced to live in tents

In response to a Conservative candidate in a marginal seat stating that "nuisance tenants" should be forced to pick vegetables and live in a tent in a field, Lib Dem Spokesperson Layla Moran said:
Layla Moran"Everyone in this country deserves a decent standard of living. Conservative candidate Lee Anderson’s comment exposes a concerning disregard for this basic human right, and a lack of empathy towards those whom he aspires to represent.
"As a Conservative parliamentary candidate in a marginal seat, Anderson should not be stoking and entrenching division, or targeting vulnerable people.
"Unfortunately, this sort of comment is all too common from Conservative Party candidates, who are out of touch with the constituencies and the people they are attempting to represent."

Swinson: Liberal Democrats will scrap business rates

Speaking to the CBI today, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson announced that the Liberal Democrats would scrap business rates entirely to breathe new life into our high streets.

Shops on a high streetThe Liberal Democrats would abolish business rates and replace them with a commercial landowner levy, based on the value of the land only. This would take the cost off businesses and help support our high streets.

The change would cut taxes in 92% of local authorities and help rebalance the UK economy.

The Commercial Landowner Levy would give a big boost to the manufacturing sector and make it cheaper for all businesses to invest in renewables or other new technology for their premises.

In her speech, she also set out plans to spend £130bn on infrastructure, including housebuilding, and £5bn for a new Green Investment Bank to invest in zero-carbon projects.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said:

“Liberal Democrats are committed to helping small businesses, who are the engine of our economy.

“That is why Liberal Democrats would scrap business rates and replace them with a Commercial Landowner Levy.

“It will shift the burden from the tenant to the landlord, so that we can breathe new life into our high streets.

"Frankly, we have seen enough promises of reviews of business rates from the Conservatives. It is time for clear action that will give proper help to our small businesses.”

“We’ll invest £130bn in infrastructure over five years. We’ll use that to improve our railways and open up new lines. To reduce how much energy our buildings use.

“And we’ll use it to leverage private investment in renewables, to help us meet our target of generating 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030.


"And as part of our radical and credible plan to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible, we will make the UK a global leader in green jobs and technology.

“A Liberal Democrat government will work with you to open up new opportunities for green growth and to save our planet. We will invest £5bn in zero-carbon projects through the Green Investment bank.

“We are the last generation that can stop irreversible climate change, and we are running out of time.

“And while there is much that government can do, I am clear that the business community is absolutely part of the solution.

“Not least because we need to channel your ingenuity and entrepreneurialism to take on this huge challenge, and others we face.

"And my vision is for a country where business joins forces with government, public services and civil society to create the kind of society we deserve.”

Lib Dems commit £6 billion per year to strengthen welfare system

Jo Swinson with baby speaking at a rallyThe Liberal Democrats will today (Sunday 17 November) announce bold proposals to invest £6 billion per year to strengthen the welfare system over the next Parliament. This forms part of the party's ambitious plans to build a brighter future.

Tory austerity has left a fifth of UK citizens in poverty, unable to afford even the most basic essentials. 

The Liberal Democrats will tackle this crisis by committing £6 billion per year to strengthen the welfare system over the next Parliament. Liberal Democrat proposals will prioritise tackling child poverty by abolishing the cruel two-child limit for Universal Credit and ending the unfair benefits cap. 

A Liberal Democrat government will make work pay and tackle in-work poverty, by using part of the Remain bonus - the £50 billion of extra funding that would be generated by stopping Brexit - to restore Work Allowances and introduce a second-earner Work Allowance. A Liberal Democrat government will also invest in boosting the Local Housing Allowance by linking it to average rents in each area.

Liberal Democrat plans to strengthen the UK's welfare system will protect the most vulnerable and help to build a brighter future. 

Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions Tim Farron said:

“For too many people in the UK today, working hard and playing by the rules is no longer enough to secure a decent life. Millions of people’s lives have worsened under the Conservatives. Since 2015 they have bungled the roll-out of Universal Credit, made brutal cuts to benefits and introduced their senseless two-child limit that is fuelling child poverty.

“The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and invest billions of pounds from the Remain bonus in building a brighter future for those struggling in our society. We will fix our broken welfare system to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities regardless of where they come from.”

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.