For the past three months, whilst a large proportion of the population has been in lockdown, one of the services which has continued not only to operate, but to do so to a very high standard, is refuse collection. I am sure that the whole town would like to record their thanks, to those who have kept our bins emptied during this period. This service, which returned to Council ownership just a year ago has recorded very high standards of performance. The very low number of bins missed compares favourably with anywhere else in the country. Congratulations on a job well done!
Following the devastating fire at the Claremont hotel at the end of last year, the roads around the area were closed and all traffic was diverted. This was for safety reasons whilst demolition work was conducted, insurance assessments completed and adjoining property secured. Thankfully, this work is now nearly at the end and it is hoped that Grand Parade will be able to reopen on Monday 22nd June.
Several people have contacted me to ask when the public toilets will be reopened. The Council is keen that this should take place as soon as possible, but only when we can ensure that we have proper infection control in place. At present, this means an attendant in order to conduct frequent cleaning, as we have in place at the toilets for those with a disability on the seafront. To do less would risk spreading the CV-19 virus and put lives at risk.
I am pleased that the Government reconsidered the speed at which schools are welcoming the return of more pupils. I believe that they need time to test the plans that they have put in place to provide for social distancing. My understanding is that overall, in East Sussex, around 40% of those children who were eligible to return to school on Monday did so. Clearly many parents are reserving judgement over whether the lower numbers of Covid cases being reported can be sustained.
#EBtogether, the Eastbourne and Willingdon Lib Dems' response to coronavirus, has won the award for being best telephone drive in the UK during the lockdown - and a place in the Liberal Democrat Community Champions Hall of Fame.
The Liberal Democrat Community Champions Hall of Fame initiative has been launched by Sir Stuart Etherington, the former Chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisation and Chair of the Liberal Democrat Coronavirus Community Taskforce.
As well as helping people with basic supplies, the EBtogether have been doing a range of work from sharing best practice and ideas to organising volunteers to call over 5,000 people across Eastbourne to offer assistance.
EBtogether Co-ordinator Josh Babarinde said:
“With the Coronavirus crisis leaving the most vulnerable in our town at risk, it is critical people receive the support they need. That’s why we've been working flat-out to ensure no one is left behind across Eastbourne.
“We're so proud to have won this national award for our work - but even prouder to have helped thousands of people facing hardship. We would encourage everyone to help in whatever way they can during this difficult time.”
Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:
“I have been amazed by the energy, commitment and creativity shown by members of the Lib Dem community during the crisis. I am so proud of people like the #EBtogether team who have worked tirelessly to help vulnerable residents and fight for the best possible support for people facing hardship.”
Chair of the Coronavirus Community Taskforce, Sir Stuart Etherington, said:
"It is critical that vulnerable people in our communities receive the support they need. It will be communities themselves that have to respond to take the pressure off our excellent but hard-pressed statutory services. I look forward to continuing to work with the #EBtogether team and others as we do out bit to slow the spread of coronavirus, prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and save thousands of lives.”
More information here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/community-champions-hall-of-fame
At the beginning of the lockdown, the Liberal Democrats launched the #EBtogether Community Call Centre - our telephone drive to call vulnerable Eastbournians and signpost them to the support they need.
Thanks to the passion, commitment and determination of our team of 40+ volunteers, we hit our target of contacting 5,000 residents across town!
We were joined by leading Lib Dem MP and leadership candidate Layla Moran, who Zoomed down from Westminster to thank the team (each and every volunteer by name!) for these efforts.
Layla said: "Thank you to the Eastbourne Liberal Democrats for all your hard work! You are absolutely demonstrating best practice. It is incredible!"
#EBtogether Co-ordinator Josh Babarinde said: "Our fantastic volunteers have been calling residents day-in, day-out since the start of lockdown, connecting them with support getting groceries, medication and more. Thank you to each and every one of them. I'm so proud that what we've achieved as a team - and it's fantastic to be able to share news of our work with Layla Moran MP."
Safer and cleaner streets for our residential areas should now be one of top items on East Sussex County Council's agenda.
The lockdown has resulted in cleaner air quality, which has been a silver lining to the terrible virus. As we recover, we must work to preserve this better air quality - especially near our schools. This starts with creating 20mph speed limits in the vicinity of schools.
We call on East Sussex County Council to wake up to the facts and make the changes necessary to reduce air pollution and save lives as a result.
Over 14 million people across the country live in local authorities which are adopting, or have adopted, this policy. Through democratic debate, those communities have decided that "20 is Plenty Where People Live". And it is those same communities who have then changed their behaviour to drive slower in residential streets where there are schools and people walking and cycling.
20mph must become the default speed limit on residential and urban streets. This can be done on most streets without the need for any physical calming, no need for expensive speed bumps or cameras, just some signage telling people to slow down, which will save lives and reduce pollution.
Sign the petition here: https://www.eastbournelibdems.org.uk/20_is_plenty_petition
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that there is a website supported by the Council called eatlocal.info/Eastbourne, which provides the delivery of food from local businesses. I was browsing through this again the other day and could not help but notice how the number of suppliers has grown. In addition to all kinds of hot meals, you can purchase a wide variety of other food including: bread; eggs; meat; fruit and vegetables; fish; jam; milk and alcohol. If you haven’t looked at it yet, please do and support our local businesses who are doing their best to keep us fed during these difficult times.
During the lockdown the Government made grants available to many businesses to help them financially. These grants excluded many small businesses who do not make direct business rate payments. More recently they have made just over £1m available to Eastbourne to make discretionary awards available to these organisations and details of how to apply for this money can be found on the Council website.
A group who should be congratulated are the Hospitality Association. They have used their purchasing power to establish a local PPE hub. This can supply non-NHS grade personal protective equipment to local businesses. Using local suppliers, this gives the additional benefits of lower cost and rapid delivery.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, sadly most of the events that normally take place in Eastbourne during the summer have had to be cancelled. If, however the rate of transmission continues to decline I hope that the Walking Festival will still take place. This is scheduled for the 18th to 27th September when organised walks will take place across the town. These walks, which will explore the coast and surrounding countryside, will also provide an opportunity to learn more about nature and our heritage. After a long period of lockdown, this event should be a good opportunity to improve mental health as well as providing physical exercise, so why not put the dates in your diary?
As the Government relaxes the rules around lockdown, it is understandable that many of us, who have been cooped up at home since March, are keen to enjoy our newly found freedom and get out to enjoy the sunny weather. The danger is that people will believe that the risk of catching the Coronavirus is now over, or at least very much reduced. The truth however, is that the risk is still very much with us. Whilst we are fortunate in East Sussex, in being a part of the country with a low rate of infections, the good weather will bring visitors from neighbouring areas with far greater levels. Nationally, there are still around 2000 new cases and hundreds of deaths recorded daily. To beat this deadly virus, it is vitally important that we all observe the social distancing rules, or risk a second wave of cases which could be worse than we have already experienced.
A few people have mentioned to me their disappointment that the libraries are closed and that they cannot borrow books. Whilst I understand the frustration during a period when people might have more time available to them to read, I understand the need for them to be closed at present. If, however you have the ability to read books on-line you can still borrow e-books from the East Sussex Libraries website. They have a good range of books available and as with the physical books, you can borrow them free of charge.
One of the facilities which has reopened is the Household Waste site in St Philips Avenue. The County Council are to be applauded for the security measures that they have put in place in order to observe the social distancing rules, but residents living near the site tell me of the long queues and reckless acts of some drivers, who not wanting to visit the site attempt to overtake the queue on the wrong side of the road. I would ask everyone to be aware of these issues and for the time being, only to visit if it is essential and to drive carefully to avoid potential accidents.
As another month of 2020 slips past, the usual array of events which we normally enjoy, and mark where we are in the year, have all been cancelled. Had it not been for the Coronavirus, this Saturday would have been the Carnival, but along with everything else this is unable to go ahead due to social distancing. Stephen Lloyd, who organises this uplifting event has however announced that this has only been postponed and set a provisional date of 13th September for it to take place. Let’s hope that this can happen, as the Carnival is not only a lot of fun but also raises a lot of money for charity.
The news last week of the collapse of Shearings, dealt a blow not only to our local tourist industry, but to nearly every resort in the UK, as the company ran hotels in nearly every major location. In Eastbourne they operated both the Burlington and the Majestic Hotels, providing seafront accommodation for tourists and employment for a large number of local people. Currently, with hotels and restaurants closed due to the lockdown, the tourist industry that underpins our local economy is finding the going tough. The future may however be brighter, as when these establishments are allowed to reopen and people are once again allowed to holiday, I believe that British residents will choose to take those holidays here in the UK and where better than Eastbourne to do so. By that time, I hope that purchasers will have been found for these hotels and the jobs that they provide saved.
At the time of writing this, it remains unclear whether schools will reopen to more pupils as planned on the 1 June. My understanding is that the decision whether to do so or not will rest with the school. For those that do open their doors, class sizes will be limited to 15 pupils, but even with this number I can understand the concerns some teachers have, as enforcing social distancing amongst younger pupils will be almost impossible. Parents will also be deliberating whether or not to send their children back for this final term before the summer holidays. For this term it will not be compulsory to do so and every parent will need to make their own decision based upon how they see the risks.
I have asked recently where you can go if you are in urgent need of a dentist. The answer is that whilst the Government have set up “emergency dental hubs” during the lockdown they have not said where these are, as they do not want people just turning up at them. Their advice is that if you have a dental emergency you should call your own dentist who will make arrangements for you to visit a hub or call NHS911 who will assist. I hope that this is helpful?
Healthwatch East Sussex, have adapted their engagement activities to try and gather a picture from all East Sussex residents/staff/colleagues about their health and wellbeing while under Lockdown and ask if you would complete their survey and share it together with the attached flyer. The survey is running until the 7th June – Real Life under Lockdown 2020
It’s quite relatable to all aspects of our lives – it’s not just health and care services but the impact of the many changes and challenges – work, income, housing etc. on our sense of wellbeing and mental & physical health.
The survey released Friday 1st May has already had more than 800 responses, which is a great initial response. However, Healthwatch want to hear from all parts of the community which includes both the public and of course colleagues and staff of organisations and businesses.
The findings from the survey will be shared publicly. Both NHS and county/district authorities will be able to understand better the impact on Covid-19 on their communities which will help them adapt existing services and plan more effectively for the future.
Sharing your views is easy by completing the survey:
Environmental campaigners are celebrating a victory on the borders of Langney as Wealden Council planning committee turned down a development on the Friday Street Farm.
The campaign to protect the wildlife and plant life around the Pevensey Levels Site of Special Scientific Interest and preserve the green belt was led by Langney Councillor Alan Shuttleworth supported by over 200 emails from residents to planning members.
As Cllr Shuttleworth said, “as well as the strong environmental case the existing problems with flooding and pumping stations were compelling arguments. This is a victory for the environment, and for local democracy."
With summer nearly upon us, the sunshine has already been clearly in evidence in recent weeks, as is becoming of the sunniest place in the UK. This good weather, coupled with the Government announcements, which have started to ease the lockdown, means that we can once again enjoy the wonderful environment in and around Eastbourne. A walk in the park, a stroll over the downs or the chance to enjoy an ice cream along the seafront. We are fortunate in having so much open space to enjoy. As we do so however it is important to remember to maintain social distancing and by doing so help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and save lives.
A number of towns are currently taking the opportunity provided by reduced traffic to experiment with temporary road closures which allow a greater amount of space for pedestrians and cyclists. This makes good sense, as those which work well might be retained, whilst it will be possible to do away with those which cause problems. The chance to do this will not be with us for long and I have asked East Sussex County Council to try this in Eastbourne, I hope that they will respond positively. Alongside the potential benefits for walkers and cyclists, such closure might enable an early opportunity for some restaurants to provide outdoor meals, if this complies with Government rules, during part of the summer and help to kickstart the revival of the hospitality side of our local economy.
Just before writing this column I heard that the Government are planning to open a Covid-19 test centre at College Road car park. I am currently trying to find out more details of how this will operate, whether it will be open to the public and if so, whether you will need to make an appointment or will just be able to turn up. It would obviously make sense to prioritise key workers who currently have to go to Gatwick, so this looks like being good news for Eastbourne in the fight against the virus.
Stay safe – keep well.