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 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, Cllr Diplock 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.”
Most of us know someone who is a carer. Carers UK estimate there are more than 11,000 unpaid carers in Eastbourne, and in Meads alone that’s likely to be over 1,000 people, families and friends directly affected.
Cllr Diplock recently presented a motion to the Borough Council thanking carers, paid and unpaid, for the incredible work they do, and supporting efforts to extend working flexibility to carers, allowing them to balance their employment with their caring responsibilities.
Here in Meads and across the county, the Lib Dems have a five-point plan for carers. We would encourage employers to make sensible changes to help carers combine work with caring responsibilities; boost Carers Allowance to £75 a week; raise the amount a carer can earn before losing out on other support; give young carers free travel on all public transport; and make caring a protected characteristic in the Equality Act - securing equal rights and protections for carers in the workplace and beyond.
Peter recently hosted a virtual coffee morning for Carers Rights Day, and is working with local employers, Carers Groups and the Borough Council, to improve training opportunities and increase awareness and understanding of the unique pressures faced by carers.
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.
Peter Diplock 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.
Potentially dangerous trip-hazard pavements and large road potholes have been repaired following reports by your Meads Lib Dems. The County Council have responsibility for the quality of pavements and roads, and it can often be an uphill task getting them to make the necessary repairs, particularly to pavements. This damage in Lower Meads was reported by Peter Diplock and subsequently made safe. Peter said “Having spoken recently to two residents who have fallen on uneven pavements, the effects are awful. I’m busy out and about reporting these trip-hazards, and will keep working on the County Council to get them sorted.”
The Borough Council’s commitment to Carbon Neutral 2030 has led to some impressive collaborative working.
The Borough in partnership with residents and the Eastbourne Eco-Action Network (EEAN), has been planting the first of some 14,000 new trees in Eastbourne. Using land owned by the council, and bids for funding led by the EEAN with council advice, these new planting schemes will help make a big step towards an ever greener town with better air quality for all.
Peter Diplock (pictured alongside other volunteers out planting on a cold and windy day!) said “This kind of partnership working is fantastic, and achieves so much for our town.”
Yet again this year Christmas has crept up on me far too fast. In October I was telling myself that I had plenty of time to prepare and suddenly last weekend, I was hit by the realisation that there was less than three weeks to go. That was my cue for some frantic activity: the annual trip to the loft to retrieve lights and decorations; the writing of Christmas cards; thinking about making the Christmas cake (well I still have a bit of time left, don’t I?), the buying of presents and deciding what food we will need. Of course, Christmas will be a bit different this year. Normally we have a large family gathering but through a series of calls and discussions, we have decided to postpone our usual celebrations in the hope that the vaccination programme will be successful and that we can meet-up for a belated Christmas in the spring. So, time to scale down the usual food order and store away some crackers for use in a few months’ time.
Whilst the number of Covid-19 cases in Eastbourne is less than half the national average, this virus can spread extremely quickly and it is important that we do not allow ourselves to ‘throw caution to the wind’ over the holiday period. Viewing scenes from London it is clear that many people are totally ignoring Social Distancing regulations and many have abandoned the use of face masks. My fear is that this will lead to yet another spike in the rate of infections and many more avoidable deaths.
I have been asked many questions about the vaccination programme. People want to know how it will operate; where they will have to go to be vaccinated and which groups will be vaccinated first. I have asked these questions myself and the answers I have received are that these details are being worked on. Conducting this programme is going to be a herculean task and the call has gone out for vaccinators and trainee vaccinators in Sussex. If you are interested you can find the details at www.sussexcommunity.nhs.uk/work-with-us/covid19vaccine.htm
With Christmas Day now just two weeks away, I wish you well with your Christmas preparations. Things will feel very different this year. Many more people than usual are likely to be feeling lonely, especially elderly people who live alone and have been isolating to avoid the risk of infection. If you know someone like this, please give them a call and let them know that you are thinking of them. Hopefully we all have better days ahead.
The Government announcement last week has placed Eastbourne, together with the rest of East Sussex into Tier 2, for Covid-19 restriction purposes. With only three areas of the country categorised as tier 1, there is clearly much turmoil in Parliament with many Conservative M.P.’s opposing the policies of their own Government. The arguments surround balancing health issues with those of the economy. Personally, I have always believed that the actions taken to guard against the spread of Covid should be led by scientific evidence and this supports strict controls. These will have an impact upon many businesses, especially in an area like Eastbourne which is based so heavily on the hospitality industry. So, hand in hand with the controls, I believe that greater Government support is needed for those businesses suffering as a result of these measures.
The rules surrounding Covid have been changing frequently and it seems likely that they may change again in the near future. Many people have asked me about what they can and can’t do, both now and over Christmas. I have read the Government guidelines and find some of them to be ambiguous, greater clarity is required if, the Government expects people to abide by them.
This week saw the launch of the Christmas Cracker raffle organised by the BID (Business Improvement District) team. They have collected over £2500 worth of prizes which one lucky person will win on Christmas Eve. These include tickets to the pre-Wimbledon tennis at Devonshire Park, and £300 of shopping vouchers. You can’t buy tickets for this raffle, but you can enter by simply spending £40 in our town centre and sending a copy of your receipt to [email protected] For those who prefer not to use the internet to do this, you can also take a copy of your receipts to the Welcome building or the Enterprise Shopping Centre. Full details are available at www.eastbourneChristmas.com This is a great way to support the town centre. Simply eat or shop there and send in those receipts.
Another way to support local businesses, without even leaving home is to shop on the internet at 1EBN there are already four great local shops on this site. You can purchase: clothes; flowers; soap; candles; bread and cakes. With one simply checkout, the goods are delivered to your home the following day. I have bought, Bread, Cinnamon Buns and Cookies and can tell you that they are great.
Covid-19 cases have continued to rise again this week with the number in Eastbourne being 44 per 100,000 of the population, roughly in line with the average for East Sussex. Mercifully, this remains well below the average for England at 192 and as a result we continue to enjoy greater freedoms than many other areas. It is important for our health and economy that we do not become complacent and remember the mantra of ‘hands, face, space’ in all that we do. I know that the rules have changed many times and I was asked this week about family gatherings. The current rule is that whether family or not, groups meeting up from different households indoors or out, should not exceed 6 people.
The team at the Council run Environmental Services Company (SEESL) have done a fantastic job keeping our bins empty during the pandemic and deserve our thanks for all of their hard work. They also do their best to keep our streets clean, but this can be a hard task as some people irresponsibly drop their litter. I remember when I was young the item I was most likely to see discarded were cigarette ends, then when the number of smokers reduced, it became plastic carrier bags, the introduction of a charge at supermarkets tackled this. Now, it appears to be disposable face masks. Please think of others when your mask reaches the end of its useful life and pop it in a bin instead of dropping it on the pavement for someone else to clear up. If there is a street that you believe needs to be swept, this can be reported either via the Council website or by using the smartphone ‘report it’ app.
We are now entering the final week of ‘Beat the Street’, which ends on 4 November. This has been a huge success and congratulations go to all involved in making this possible, especially Dr William Bird at Intelligent Health, who organised the event. As it comes to a close, I have no doubt that it will have left many (myself included) much fitter. The challenge now is to maintain this level of exercise!
In the early days of Covid 19 the government promised to reimburse the costs Councils incurred in supporting local residents, and the impact that the collapse of local economies would cause to Council coffers.
The cost to Eastbourne Borough Council is an estimated £30 million budget gap over the next 4 years.
Covid 19 has had, and continues to have, a severe impact on income the Council would normally receive from the Theatres, Conferences and other tourism related activities.
Like most Councils, Eastbourne Borough Council still awaits information from Government on how much they will contribute towards their Covid related costs.
Meantime the Borough Council are progressing a wide range of “radical” changes to services and assets in order to address the acute financial challenges posed by the Covid crisis. An independent Report by Grant Thornton Accountants was recently commissioned to look at factors affecting a council’s ability to recover from the pandemic. The study showed that councils like Eastbourne have been particularly impacted by the high number of businesses, and employment, in risk areas such as Tourism and Hospitality.
Pat Rodohan says, “The Government must do what they promised to do at the start of the pandemic and contribute to the huge loss of income Eastbourne has experienced and the direct Covid related costs. As a tourism reliant town, we have been hit harder than most."
Liberal Democrat East Sussex County Councillor John Ungar, Opposition Lead Member for Adult Social Care, has put forward a Notice of Motion asking the County Council to call on Her Majesty's Government to publish its White Paper on the re-organisation of Social Care. This Notice of Motion is supported by County Councillor David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition.
At a Lead Member meeting, the Conservative Lead Member for Adult Social Care decided not to support the Notice of Motion calling on Her Majesty's Government to publish its White Paper on the future of Adult Social Care. He did not put forward a strong reason as to why the County Council would not support the Notice of Motion. The Motion now goes to full County Council where we will do our best to persuade the whole council to support this most reasonable motion.
John Ungar said, "It is a pity that, once again, East Sussex County Council Conservatives have refused to work with Liberal Democrat County Councillors to improve services to the people of East Sussex. There are many families in East Sussex who don't know what is expected of them when funding the care of their relatives. Many see their life savings disappear."
County Councillor David Tutt said, "Boris Johnson, when he was first elected as Prime Minister, he promised to fix this problem. As is typical with this government, we are yet to see any action."