From questions I received, both before and after the local elections from people wanting to vote, the fact that there were no elections in Eastbourne caused some confusion. To explain, there is not a standard method for electing Councils in England. Some Councils elect by thirds, so a third of the Council is elected each year for three years, for a four-year term of office. In two-tier areas such as East Sussex County Council, County Council elections are held on the fourth year. In Hastings, half of the Council is elected every two years. Here at Eastbourne Borough Council, as in Lewes, the whole Council is elected once every four years, with our next elections taking place in May 2023. Turning to the results of the elections that did take place, I am obviously delighted to see Liberal Democrat colleagues gaining a total of 191 seats in England and 221 across the UK as a whole. Whilst I suspect that national issues had some impact upon these results, I also believe that they were largely down to the work that Liberal Democrats do in local areas.
Eastbourne Borough Council and Sussex Police have recently opened a small satellite office along Eastbourne seafront, on the promenade just to the east of the Pier. Although not staffed around the clock, officers will use this office as a base when carrying out patrols along the seafront and be present on an ad hoc basis to observe activities in this busy area and ensuring a safe environment for everyone to enjoy our seafront.
I am delighted that Plastic Free Eastbourne who are working so hard to eradicate plastic in our seas and oceans are running their “Springwater Festival – Celebrating Water” from 13-22 May. With a wide range of activities including walks; a Beach Clean; Pilgrimages; Art Exhibitions; a Concert; a Conference; Science Studies; Studios on the Beach and Water Sports, there is plenty to get involved in. For more information and tickets, visit https://www.plasticfreeeastbourne.co.uk or phone 07971 909 454. Please do get involved.
Fortunately, the weather stayed fine for Magnificent Motors and this event together with Bible on the Beach, which attracted people from all over the country meant that thousands of people enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend on Eastbourne seafront. With the prospects of a good summer ahead, the next large event at the Western Lawns is Beer and Cider by the Sea. This popular event, which provides an opportunity to sample over 100 real ales and cask ciders and perries will take place between the 20-22 May, this is only one of the many events that will be taking place in Eastbourne this year.
If you are interested in local history and art, you might like to visit the “Holidaying at Beachy Head – a Place to Remember” exhibition which is running at the Beachy Head Countryside Centre between 7 May and 15 July. The exhibition includes hand drawn sketches of the Garland Family who visited Eastbourne in the 1870s, Mary Thomas' travel diary written in the 1830s, and Lewis Carroll's bed desk made for his regular holidays in Eastbourne.
Once seen as the answer to many issues, plastic, especially that which is only used once is now recognised as a major problem to the future of our planet. Despite our attempts to recycle, a massive 91% of plastic waste is still not recycled and is causing mass pollution. Research published in 2015 estimated that 8 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. In an attempt to establish just how much is thrown away, Greenpeace is conducting “The Big Plastic Count” for a week, between 16-22 May. They are encouraging schools; businesses; community groups and individual households to take part. I have signed-up, if you would like to join in, you can do so at https://thebigplasticcount.com/sign-up/digital?source=PM&subsource=OCPOPSOAPM01FZ you will be provided with a free pack to record the different types of plastic that you throw away. By helping to establish the extent of the problem, you could be helping to bring pressure on Governments to take more action to address it.
As I have mentioned before the Government announced a Council Tax Rebate payment of £150 for households within Council bands A-D. Several people have asked me if I can provide an update on how and when this will be paid. The Council will begin the process of administering the £150 payment this week, starting with those who pay by direct debit. If you pay by direct debit you won’t need to contact the Council as they already hold your bank account details. Therefore, the Council will notify you by letter over the course of the next few weeks once the payment has been made.
For residents who don’t pay by direct debit, it will take a little longer to process your payments as the Council don’t currently hold your bank details. Once most of the direct debit payers have had their payments processed, the Council will write to you with details on how to obtain your payment, this will take place during May. The letter will include a unique code that you will be required to submit when you make the application through an online portal. Please can I ask you not to try and make an application until you have received this letter.
You may have read in the national press recently that scammers have been cold calling people asking for bank details who purport to be from a local Council. The Council will never ask for your details over the phone in order to pay the energy payment and if they do need to contact you, they will do so either by letter or email.
The Environment Agency are continuing their engagement with local residents on the Pevensey to Eastbourne Coastal Management scheme. This is the plan that they are creating in order to enhance flood defences to protect us for the next 100 years. One of the events which explains why this work is necessary will be held in the Johnson room at the Welcome Centre this Saturday 30 April between 2-3.30pm. if you would like to attend you can register at www.trybooking.com/uk/events
Have a good Bank Holiday weekend!
Sadly, the war in the Ukraine continues with a devastating impact on the lives of the local population. Towns and cities have been destroyed and many thousands of civilians have lost their lives. Reports suggest that more than four million people have left the country in search of safety. These are mostly women and children and the majority have gone to neighbouring countries such as Poland. For those seeking to come to the UK, there are two possible routes. The Ukraine Family Scheme, where the applicant has an existing family member here, or via the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, which requires a sponsor in the UK who is independently matched with refugees. So far, approximately 1000 people are coming to East Sussex via this route, most of them to various parts of Wealden. All the Councils in the county are working together with voluntary groups in order to ensure that appropriate support is in place and they are made to feel welcome.
It seems as if Bank Holidays are coming thick and fast at present. Fortunately, the weather stayed fine for the Easter weekend and I hope that the same will be true at the end of the month, when one of the attractions is Magnificent Motors. Taking place on the Western Lawns, on Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May, this is an opportunity to view some truly amazing vehicles. Some six hundred classic motors are expected across the weekend, including classic and vintage cars; steam engines; motor bikes and scooters. Entrance to the event is free, but you will need a ticket. This is in order to ensure that numbers can be managed safely. Tickets can be obtained via the ‘Visit Eastbourne’ website. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/magnificent-motors-2022-tickets-249184707167 If you are not interested in cars, you can always enjoy the seafront market or a ride on the big wheel. There is also a funfair for the kids.
A local Community Interest Company (CIC) who do some great work helping people to understand technology is Tech Resort. One of their projects has been to refurbish old laptops and provide these free of charge to people in need, particularly young people who need them for their education. They are currently looking for donations of second hand laptops which are less than ten years old and run Windows. If you are able to help them, please drop them a line via their website https://techresort.org/contact/ I know that they would be pleased to hear from you.
Liberal Democrat MP candidate Cllr Josh Babarinde OBE is campaigning for the return of Eastbourne’s Dotto Train in time for the summer season.
Operated by Stagecoach, the Dotto Train service runs along Eastbourne’s promenade during the summer months. The two trains run between Holywell and the Sovereign Harbour.
The Dotto Trains are currently undergoing maintenance works, and Stagecoach are experiencing driver shortages, which are causing delays in their return.
Cllr Babarinde has called for a meeting with senior executives at Stagecoach to pressure the company to bring the Dotto Train back for the summer.
In a letter to Stagecoach, Cllr Babarinde requested a timeline for the completion of the maintenance works. He also requested that the company supply an action plan for the recruitment of new drivers.
Cllr Babarinde said,
“As a born and bred Eastbournian, the iconic Dotto Train has been part our seafront experience for as long as I can remember.
The Dotto Train also a critical part of our transport and economic infrastructure, which is why I have called a meeting to urge Stagecoach to bring it back into action as soon as possible.
“I’ve offered to do everything I can to work with Stagecoach to bring the Dotto Train back to where it belongs on our stunning seafront.”
Since the lockdowns have ceased it has been good to get out again and meet people in person, instead of only seeing them on a computer screen. With Covid still spreading I have spent many months leading a charmed existence, avoiding the virus, but last week the inevitable happened and like thousands before me I tested positive. Other than the relentless cough and headache, I have found that the most debilitating aspect that I have experienced is the constant tiredness and lack of energy. I am extremely grateful that I have received the 3 injections to protect me against Covid. This could have been so much worse without them. I will now be isolating until I am fit again but the experience has made it clear to me that we are still far from the end of this pandemic. Clearly, the NHS remains under extreme pressure with several hospitals having to prioritise patients with acute illness or injuries, due to staff sickness. Hopefully the warmer weather will once again see a reduction in the rate of transmission, but it is important that we all continue to do what we can to limit the spread of this dreadful virus.
I know that I do not often praise the Government, but I was pleased to read this week that Ministers plan to bring in legislation which will ban Councils from charging residents for disposing of materials resulting from DIY work in their homes. Under the plans businesses will continue to pay, but the charges will be scrapped for individuals. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, believes that the introduction of charges by some Councils led to a large increase in fly tipping. I agree that this has been the case and argued that it would happen when East Sussex County Council decided to introduce charging. They currently charge: £4 to dispose of a bag of hardcore or soil; £4 for a sheet of plasterboard; £6 for a bag of bonded asbestos and £2 for a tyre. Whilst the Council will take legal action against those who fly tip, catching the culprits can be difficult and the cost of clearing dumped materials is very expensive. So, in my opinion the sooner that the Government act to abolish the charges, the better.
My very best wishes for a Happy Easter!
Josh Babarinde OBE's Liberal Democrats have called on Eastbourne's and Willingdon's Conservative MP to sack Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak following the revelation that both are to be fined over lockdown-breaking parties at Number 10.
The Liberal Democrats are also calling for Parliament to be recalled immediately so MPs can hold a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, following the revelation that both he and Rishi Sunak are to be fined over lockdown-breaking parties at Number 10.
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Eastbourne & Willingdon, Josh Babarinde OBE, said:
“Our Conservative MP could put an end to this farce right now and use her influence as one of Boris Johnson's MPs to call for him to resign. No more ifs or buts.
“Whilst people across our town made heart-breaking sacrifices during lockdowns, Boris Johnson and his team were partying in Downing Street.
“We all have painful memories of that lockdown, from not being able to see dying relatives, to being separated for months on end from our friends and family.
“How on earth can Conservative MPs keep supporting a law-breaking Prime Minister and Chancellor? Our country needs leadership right now, not a Government in chaos.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey, said:
“The country cannot have criminals and liars leading our Government, especially at a time of national and international crisis.
“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak took the country’s sacrifices for granted, while they broke the law to party in Downing Street. They are not fit to hold office. If they had a shred of decency, they would resign.
“Parliament should be recalled immediately so that MPs can hold a vote of no confidence. Conservative MPs must do their patriotic duty and kick these criminals out of Government once and for all.”
- Josh Babarinde demands action to rein in water companies
- Local MP urged to put needs of residents ahead of party loyalty
- Lib Dems call for new Sewage Tax to pay to clean up rivers
According to new data from the Environment Agency, nearly 276 hours of sewage spills took place directly into seawater and 329 hours of spillages into two places in Willingdon, mostly New Stream Ditch, in 2021.
The Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Eastbourne & Willingdon, Josh Babarinde OBE, has slammed Conservatives’ inaction on the issues, and their blocking of opposition attempts to clean up rivers.
The data shows that sewage was spilled into swimming waters - and waterways draining into the sea - for 605 hours in 2021; a massive amount of pollution, affecting wildlife and swimmers alike, and during a pandemic period when enjoyment of the beach and sea swimming was of huge importance to staycation families in Eastbourne & Willingdon.
The data also reveals hundreds of hours of storm spillages in neighbouring areas along the Ouse in Newhaven and Lewes, all of which will have eventually impacted the English Channel.
Conservative MPs, including Eastbourne & Willingdon’s MP, have twice voted down measures to stop pollution flowing into rivers and the sea; the first to make spillages illegal, and the second proposing to name and shame companies.
Locally, Liberal Democrats are campaigning to stop these spillages for fear that seawater and beaches will no longer command the pristine status of previous years, and with huge concerns for wildlife.
Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Eastbourne & Willingdon, Josh Babarinde OBE, said:
“This really should be the final straw, and Conservatives, including local MP Caroline Ansell, should do the easy thing and support the action we all want to see taken to stop raw sewage being dumped directly into the English Channel.
“It’s frankly disgusting to think about the sheer scale of what is being pumped into our local environment!
Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:
"This is a national scandal.
"The Government is letting water companies get away with polluting our rivers and poisoning animals for decades to come. Now the public is expected to foot the bill for cleaning up this mess despite water companies raking in multi-billion pound profits.
"The whole thing stinks!
“Why aren't Government Ministers listening to the public on this? They are ignoring the country's outrage at this scandal. The solution is staring us all in the face. The Government needs to get tough on these water companies to end this disgraceful practice. A Sewage Tax should also be introduced to make water companies pay for cleaning up our rivers.”
One of the events I look forward to each year with the arrival of spring, is the Bluebell Walk at Bates Green Farm in Arlington. As a result of global warming the bluebells seem to appear that little bit earlier every year and therefore the walk is open 10am-5pm daily between the 13th April and 19th May this year. There are a variety of different circular walks available, catering for those who just want a gentle stroll to others who are happy to cover just under 3 miles across the Sussex countryside. In addition to enjoying the blanket of bluebells, I love the peace and tranquillity. Listening to the sound of birdsong and smelling the wild garlic.
At a cost of £6 per adult, £3 per child or £16 for a family ticket, I believe that the Bluebell Walk offers excellent value. The money that is raised goes to support a wide range of excellent local charities. Each charity is allocated a day during the event and if you want your visit to support your favourite charity, you can find details of which charity will be there and when, on their website https://www.bluebellwalk.co.uk/charities It is possible to purchase food and drink during your visit, with the allocated charity being responsible for this each day. Alternatively, if you prefer to picnic, you can do this in the large field opposite, where you can also park. I have been enjoying my visits there for many years and can recommend it as a relaxing day out.
There are of course plenty of opportunities to enjoy country walks free of charge. One of my favourites is across the Downs from Butts Brow. From here you can enjoy the most spectacular views of Eastbourne and the coast. Understandably this area is popular with dog walkers, which if kept from worrying the farm animals, are welcome. My most recent visit was a couple of weeks ago, just at the start of the warmer weather. I was pleased to see that unlike some beauty spots the area was almost completely free of litter, but I was disappointed to observe that some dog walkers who had taken the trouble to clear up after their pets, had left the bags containing this on the path. So, a plea to those people. -- For the enjoyment of all, please can you deposit these bags in one of the bins at the car park?