Langney Lib Dem County Councillor, Alan Shuttleworth (pictured left with Cllrs Vaughan & Miah) is calling for a more urgent response to the way coronavirus is impacting on families and schools. He is seeking a full review at the County Council Education Lead Member meeting next week on Monday 18th January.
Cllr Shuttleworth has written to East Sussex’s Lead Member for Education, Councillor Bob Standley, calling for a full report on the effect that coronavirus is having on families and school staff across the county.
Cllr Shuttleworth commented, “The Government handling of policies around schools and education has been chaotic throughout this pandemic. Schools are currently under additional pressures as the number of children attending is much greater than in the first lockdown. There are also huge concerns around the provision of food, and of the under provision of digital devices for those families who are in real need. Help is needed for too many families who are still unable to access home learning after months of crisis.”
Cllr Alan Shuttleworth adds: “Yet again, children and families in East Sussex have been let down by this Conservative government. Only last week I raised concerns about the chaos around Government planning for the return to school and now we see another government failure in the basic need to keep children fed.
On Monday 18th I will be looking to press East Sussex County Council to make representations to the Education Minister following a review of all these matters”.
The rate at which Covid-19 infections has increased is a cause of great concern. Eastbourne now has the highest infection rate in East Sussex, with more than 1000 people testing positive. This includes a new surge in those aged over 60. It is unlikely that the current wave of the virus has reached a peak and so the clear message at present is to stay at home if possible and only venture out if it is essential, irrespective of what the lockdown may technically allow you to do. On a more positive note, there are now three vaccination centres in Eastbourne. These have been setup by the NHS and I know that they have received offers from other potential sites. The faster the vaccinations are rolled out the safer we will all be.
I am pleased that coupled with the announcement that the country would be entering a third period of national lockdown the Chancellor has announced a further package of lockdown grants to support the retail, leisure and hospitality sector mandated to close under current Covid restrictions. The grant will be a one-off payment of up to £9,000 dependent on the rateable value of the business premises. For businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under the payment will be £4,000. Businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 the payment will be £6,000 and businesses with a rateable value above £51,000 it will be £9,000.
There have now been a total of 10 different grant schemes since the first lockdown, which can make it difficult for businesses to understand what, if anything they might be eligible to apply for. Council officers are awaiting further on the detail of the new scheme and when businesses can start applying for the grant. Once this guidance is received details will be provided on the Council website. My thanks go to the Council staff responsible for administering these schemes. Many have been working extremely long hours in order to assist local businesses and ensure that these grants get to them at the earliest possible moment.
Looking to a brighter future, the Council’s Events Team are busy planning for the events that will hopefully take place in the summer and autumn. I confess that there is an element of hope over expectation at this stage, but if there an opportunity for events to take place they need to be planned well in advance. Hopefully the vaccination programme will be successful and later this year we can return to some form of normality. In the meantime
Last year brought many difficult challenges for us all as a result of the Coronavirus and although we are now in 2021, there is no immediate prospect that things will get easier. Just when our hopes were raised by the speed that vaccines were developed to protect against the virus, it has mutated. Hopefully, the vaccines will remain effective, but the ease with which the virus is spreading is a cause for very real concern. The number of new cases has been above 50,000 a day for the past week. This is putting unbelievable strain on our health services at the time of year when they are traditionally under the greatest pressure. I am sure that we would all wish to repeat our thanks to all of those who work in the NHS and let them know just how grateful we are for the tremendous work that they are doing. The best thing that we can do to help them is to stay at home as much as possible and remember the Government messages about washing our hands regularly, not touching our face and ensuring that when we do have to go out, we leave space between ourselves and others.
My thanks go to my friend and colleague, Dean Sabri, who resigned from the Council this week. Back in 2015, Dean became Eastbourne’s youngest Councillor at the age of 21. Since that time, he: has served on the Cabinet; been the Deputy Chair of the Planning Committee and most recently Chaired the Audit and Governance committee. In addition to this he has helped very many residents who have brought their problems to him. His calm and considered approach to all that he does will be greatly missed. Many people believe that being a Councillor is a full-time paid employment, not realising that in fact Councillors receive a basic allowance of only £2808 p.a. and need other work to survive. Dean now works for an organisation which demands political neutrality, hence the reason for his resignation. He takes with him thanks for his contribution to our local community and best wishes for his future career.
I am writing this on Monday evening and have just heard the announcement of a third national lockdown. This is going to be tough, but with the speed that Covid-19 is spreading, is I believe the right decision. Hopefully, if we all abide by these restrictions, we will reduce the number of infections and, coupled with the vaccination programme, beat this virus which has caused so much disruption and suffering.
As the new year arrives, few will be sad to see the back of 2020. It has been a year like no other in my lifetime. The Coronavirus has impacted everyone, changing our way of life, curtailing our freedom and causing suffering to millions. More than 70,000 people have died in the UK as a result of the virus and the financial impact has hit individuals, businesses and all levels of Government. It has also hit the education of a generation of schoolchildren and whilst schools have done a sterling job providing teaching over the internet, it is not the same as classroom teaching. As I write this the Government is insisting that all children will return to school in the new year and this is clearly desirable, but despite the educational benefits of this, I would question the wisdom at a time when the virus is spreading so rapidly. I am sure that teachers will have spent much of their break wrestling with how this can be achieved, as added to the challenge of social distancing, their own numbers are likely to be depleted while colleagues are self-isolating.
On a more positive note, congratulations go to the Eastbourne Eco Action Network who are coordinating the ‘Treebourne’ project. This aims to plant 14,000 new trees at land off Sevenoaks Road and at Hampden Park. The project has received financial support from a number of sources, including Devolved Budget contributions from: St Anthonys, Langney and Hampden Park Wards. Thanks go to all of the volunteers who got this project off to a flying start by planting trees in December.
Our hopes now turn to 2021. New Year celebrations will be different as there will be no group partying, instead I am sure that ‘Auld Lang Syne’ will be sung in houses throughout the town. With vaccines having been approved and an ambitious vaccination programme planned there is good cause for optimism. The next couple of months will however be tough, the new strain of the virus is spreading at an alarming rate and the best that we can all do is to minimise the amount of contact we have with others until the majority of people have been vaccinated. We need to do this, not only for our own protection, but to ensure that the NHS is not overwhelmed during what is traditionally their busiest time of the year.
My very best wishes for the New Year – I hope that it brings good things to us all.
This Christmas will be unlike any in living memory and certainly not one that any of us would have wished for. The Covid-19 virus, which only a year ago, was nothing more than a minor comment in the news as something which had appeared in a part of China, has since swept the globe, resulting in death to millions. Distress and hardship have become commonplace and here in England, the Prime Ministerial announcement last weekend will have further disrupted the already curtailed celebrations for many. I am sure that we will all be reflecting on how life has changed so rapidly. Christmas is of course a religious festival, but it will not only be those of us who are Christians who will have the many who have suffered, in our thoughts and prayers.
Difficult times such as these do of course bring out the best in so many people. Those key workers who have selflessly continued during the pandemic: our brilliant NHS staff, who must have been under immense strain; other members of the emergency services; the refuse collectors who have kept our bins empty the whole year and those who have produced or supply food, they all deserve our grateful thanks, as indeed do the countless volunteers who have helped protect the vulnerable at this time.
Looking ahead to 2021 there is naturally concern over the future. The virus has demonstrated an ability to mutate and the new strain appears to be spreading more rapidly. As it has only recently been identified, we have still to learn what impact it will have. There is however cause for hope. With vaccines already approved and many others being developed, we can be more optimistic that by this time next year, we will be through the worst of this horrific period and that life, whilst in some respects changed forever, will have returned to that which for many years we have taken for granted. At that point, the challenge will be to rebuild our economy and create employment for those who have lost theirs as a result of the pandemic.
As I have already said, this Christmas will be very different for most of us. I send you my best wishes for an enjoyable time, coupled with hope that we will soon be able to once again meet up with friends, family and loved ones and celebrate.
Happy Christmas – stay safe!
With Christmas fast approaching and the Government decision to partially relax restrictions following the second lockdown, I am sure that we were all hoping for a short respite from the challenges posed by Covid-19. Sadly, this is not the case as, whilst the rate of infection remains lower in Eastbourne than the national average, the numbers are increasing. There is the added concern that a new strain of the virus has been identified and this is spreading in the South East of England and the high infection rates seen a week ago in Kent, are now hitting Hastings and Rother. The message is clear, we need to remain extremely vigilant, continue to maintain social distancing, wash our hands regularly, wear face masks and resist the temptation to hug friends and families over the Christmas. The USA saw a spike in infection rates following their thanksgiving break and it is likely that the same will happen here following Christmas.
The restrictions on what we can and cannot do has hit our local eateries hard. So, I am really disappointed to hear that since reopening many pubs and restaurants have reported that they have been taking bookings from people who just don’t turn up. I know that plans change, but I would ask on their behalf that you let the venue know in advance if you need to cancel. Being in Tier 2 has hit them badly. They order food and arrange staffing to cover the numbers that they are expecting to cater for, so please help them at this difficult time.
If you are shopping in the town centre, please don’t forget about the Christmas Cracker raffle. This is a ticket that money cannot buy, but just spend £40 or more on food or goods and email the receipts to Christmas@youreastbournebid.com or take them to: the Welcome Building; Coffee Republic or Flowers of Eastbourne at The Enterprise Centre, a and you have the chance to win a magnificent prize which will last the whole of 2021.
Looking for something to do with the Children over the holiday period, why not pay a visit to the Congress MOVIE theatre? Congress complies fully with the Government guidelines to protect against the spread of Covid-19 and provides a big screen experience for a range of Christmas films including: The Nightmare before Christmas; Frozen; Nativity; Elf; The Muppet Christmas Carol and more.
Conservative County Councillors led by Eastbourne's former Conservative Mayor Colin Belsey recently voted to approve the closure of the popular NHS GP Walk-In Centre at Eastbourne station.
The Walk-In centre has over 3,400 registered patients on its books and comes at a time when GP surgeries are reeling from Covid-19. Your Liberal Democrats led opposition to the proposals but the Conservatives on the County committee voted for closure. Ignoring hundreds of objections from local residents, the Conservatives at County decided to rely instead on the over-stretched 111 phoneline, and a once a week, limited-hour, drop-in service.
The Lighthouse and Grove Road surgeries are under ever increasing pressure, and with the Bolton Road surgery relocating to Old Town early next year, where will these 3,400 registered patients go?
Kathy Ballard said, “This is a real kick in the teeth for residents in the town centre. So many people rely on these services. At the end of the day, Conservative Councillors have voted to close the Walk-In Centre, undercutting what is in the best interests of the people of Eastbourne, and disregarding the vast number of people who raised objections. It's time for change at the County Council.”
In part acknowledging that they made the wrong decision earlier this year, Conservative-run East Sussex County Council have temporarily suspended on-street parking charges in the town centre after 4pm between Thursday to Saturday in the run-up to Christmas.
County Conservatives imposed steep increases in both residents parking permits and on-street parking fees earlier this year. After considerable protest from residents, local businesses and your local Lib Dems, the Conservatives at County seem to have realised that imposing steep increases in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic might not have been the best idea.
Although the fee suspension is only temporary in the run-up to Christmas, Sovereign spokesperson Kathy Ballard said, “Although not the complete u-turn we hoped for, we welcome the County decision as part of a concerted effort to boost local business at a crucial time of year.”
Conservatives at the County Council refused to support a request asking them to sign up to the UNISON Ethical Care Charter as soon as possible.
Signing the Charter would mean an end to 15 minute appointments; ensuring wherever possible vulnerable residents are routinely visited by the same carer; and that carers are paid for their travel time between appointments. It establishes improved standards for safety, quality and dignity of care.
A cross-party approach made by Liberal Democrat and Labour County Councillors pointed to the huge contribution made by carers during the Covid-19 pandemic and argued that it was high time care-workers were properly rewarded. This was rejected by the Conservatives.
Kathy Ballard said, “Care visits should be scheduled so as not to rush client or the carer, and 15-minute appointments should not be used. Anyone who’s received these 15-minute appointments will tell you it risks undermining the dignity of clients, and carers feel they can’t do a proper job in such a short timescale. There is no reason why the County Council should not sign up to this Ethical Charter as many other local authorities have done. It would give a strong message to our carers that we recognise the value of the work they are doing. I’m really disappointed that Conservative Councillors didn’t support this.”
Since it was launched in 2013, 46 councils responsible for social care have signed the Charter.
Kathy Ballard was delighted to join Sovereign Business owners at a networking meeting in the Garden Bar. She met Deirdre Glasgow, the organiser, and was really impressed at the enthusiasm in the room.
This meeting was set up for businesses that are based in the Harbour. There will be another meeting in December (Covid permitting), and Kathy said, "this is a very good way for businesses in the harbour area to share ideas. I look forward to working more closely in the future with Deirdre for the promotion of Harbour businesses".