Liberal Democrat County Councillor John Ungar has succeeded in forcing the Conservative administration who run East Sussex County Council to webcast scrutiny meetings. Cllr Ungar explains:
“As Liberal Democrat councillors we believe that we are accountable to the public. Scrutiny meetings are an opportunity to review council policy and services. This is a cross-party opportunity to take an in-depth look at areas of concern raised either by councillors or by members of the public if issues are clearly wide-spread across the county.
They can act as a positive opportunity to improve our services as well as to challenge where appropriate and to hold the Cabinet decision makers to account.”
Cllr David Tutt, leader of the Liberal Democrat group adds:
“We were astonished when we first proposed this last year that the Conservatives turned it down. We live in a democracy and we should all be accountable to our residents for the decisions we take on their behalf. It is sad that the Conservatives have been forced into this climb down by Covid where the many virtual meetings that have been held have made it impossible for them to refuse this very reasonable request which is in the interest of good governance”.
Details of Scrutiny Committees
For further information on this matter:
Cllr John Ungar
Phone: 01323 726322
Email: [email protected]
Cllr David Tutt [email protected]
Conservative councillors unanimously rejected Lib Dem Cllr Sarah Osborne’s proposal to adopt a default 20 mph speed in residential areas with appropriate exceptions with claims that although they supported 20 mph zones in principle this proposal would infringe civil liberties.
County Cllr Sarah Osborne says:
“I find the attitude of the Conservatives, both locally and nationally, incredible. The Conservative government recently signed the Stockholm Declaration with 130 other nations, agreeing on a default 20 mph limit wherever cyclists and pedestrians mix with motor vehicles. Yet when we suggest implementing this locally in East Sussex, where we have one of the highest killed and seriously injured statistics in the country, the best the Conservative councillors can do is to accuse us of petty politics and reject the proposal outright.
In addition, they are also missing an opportunity to invest to save. According to the charity 20s Plenty, by implementing 20 mph on most 30 mph roads in East Sussex for a one-off cost of £2.2 million we would save 149 casualties and £10.1 million in each year. Why would we not want to do this?”.
County Cllr Kathryn Field, Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems, adds:
“The Conservatives say that accidents are down to driver behaviour despite the fact that we know our roads are unsafe and that they could be improved very simply and cost effectively by the introduction of a 20 mph limit as the norm.
The Conservative Lead Member talks about changing driver behaviour but so far, has come up with no concrete suggestions about how to do this. Adopting a default 20 mph speed limit would do exactly that by building habits that would reform and change driver behaviour, just as we now accept that it is dangerous to drink and drive or to not wear a seatbelt.
It’s time the Conservatives faced up to their responsibilities.”
Your East Sussex County Councillors
The government has committed to bringing gigabit-capable broadband to every home by the end of 2025. By the end of this year, these gigabit speeds are expected to reach over 60% of homes, thanks in part to the rapid deployment of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks.
The good news… super fast, full fibre broadband has come to Upperton.
The not-so-good news… the installation by the firms installing it has caused many problems, including poor reinstatement works, damage to other services and traffic/parking problems.
In Eastbourne we currently have two companies installing FTTP networks – City Fibre and Lightning Fibre. City Fibre is a large, national firm and Lightning Fibre is a local firm, based in Eastbourne.
Your Upperton Ward Councillors team have spent many hours working on your behalf and were involved with all parties from the start - local residents, the fibre companies, and East Sussex Highways. East Sussex Highways Permit issue the licences, challenge poor reinstatement of works and damage to other services, and handle problems with access and traffic.
As a result, East Sussex Highways Permit Inspectors carry out inspections on all active work areas up to three times per day. Both companies have had sanctions imposed and are currently working under severe restrictions, including a temporary hold on further excavations, until previous unsatisfactory reinstatement works have been completed to the complete satisfaction of ESCC Highways Inspectors. In future, the fibre companies will only work in small areas which must be complete before they can move on.
Upperton Ward Councillors will continue to monitor these installations and any others that may follow. Please continue to contact us with your concerns or complaints and we will take these up with both the East Sussex Highways Permit Inspectors and the fibre companies.
Councillors have given the green light to a council development of new affordable homes in the town centre that will boast a wide range of sustainability, employment and training benefits.
The 19 fully-affordable apartments in Southfields Road will provide new homes to people on the council's housing register and include three bespoke and fully adapted disabled homes.
In line with the council's determination to become carbon net zero by 2030, the properties will be highly sustainable with features reducing maintenance costs - making homes cheaper to run and improving affordability.
Councillor Pat Rodohan said "There is no doubt that this is a standout council development of the highest quality and I'm absolutely thrilled that residents who are currently waiting for a home will enjoy living here when it's completed.
"I am also delighted that as part of the planning approval the main contractor will support local employment and training, with two apprenticeships, five work experience placements and four NVQ training places being offered."
Measures to promote sustainable transport are also in the pipeline with a 38-space cycle store planned, plus a £100 cycle voucher available to each of the first residents. Additionally, as part of the Section 106 agreement with the developer, a vehicle will be purchased for use within a new car club, offsetting the wider demand and need for car ownership.
The recent changes to planning law made by the Conservative Government are causing a stir across the country, removing the right of local people to have a say in the planning process. The publication by Government of the White Paper, ‘Planning for the Future’ on 6 August 2020, sets out proposals on reforms to the planning process.
Developers are sitting on land Banks and not building houses.
As it is the vast majority of planning applications are given the go ahead by local authority planning committees, with permission granted to around 9 out of 10 applications and research by the Local Government Association has said that there are existing planning permissions for more than one million homes that have not yet been started. Far from local government blocking planning applications developers are sitting on vast landbanks with planning permission and not building much needed houses.
Upperton Liberal Democrats are concerned that the White paper will Reduce or remove the right of residents to object to applications near them. Grant automatic rights for developers to build on land identified as ‘for growth’ and remove section 106 payments for infrastructure replacing with a national levy.
The Royal Institute for British Architects called the proposals ‘shameful and which will do almost nothing to guarantee delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes’. RIBA also said that proposals could lead to the next generation of slum housing.
The reforms are opposed by the all-party Local Government Association, currently led by Conservative Councillors.
Jim Murray Chair of Eastbourne Borough Council’s Planning Committee says “We have already got to the point where we have very little control at local level with permitted development going up now as well as out, Change of use is now basically decided by central government and the duty to cooperate just doesn't exist. If this new bill goes through we will basically just be signing off on what the main developers have decided to do with their Tory friends and local planning doesn't need to happen at all.
This is very serious and undermines local government. We should all be screaming about this from the roof tops. Control of planning needs to remain at a local level.”
Kathy Ballard believes that local communities must be in the driving seat on shaping the future of their communities, and local determination of the planning framework and planning applications play an important part in this process.
Robin Maxted said “The Conservatives’ planning power grab will disempower local people and local authorities alike, and lead to even fewer affordable homes being built. Instead of addressing the root cause of the housing crisis, the Tories’ proposals serve the interests of wealthy developers, giving them carte blanche to run roughshod over local communities’ wishes. "
Pat Rodohan said “Liberal Democrats at every level of Government will do everything in our power to ensure our voice is heard through the consultation process. We are also calling on the Government to act now to address the housing crisis, by matching the Liberal Democrats' ambition to build 100,000 social homes for rent every year."
Planning for the Future: planning policy changes in England in 2020 and future reforms - House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)
Write to Caroline Ansell MP to register your opposition to these sweeping changes:
House of Commons
Or email: [email protected]
A four-day Vintage Fair is planned for the Summer Bank Holiday Weekend 27th to 31st August. It will feature Vintage Market, Victorian Funfair, Live Music, Artisan Food & Drink, and a Kid’s Corner. Admission is free to the fair and stalls, and there is an open-air cinema planned for each of the three evenings. Free entry is by pre-booked tickets only in order to limit the numbers. Opening times are 11am to 10pm Friday to Sunday inclusive, and Monday 11am to 6.20pm.
There were some concerns raised by local residents. Members of Eastbourne Borough Council and the organiser of the event attended a neighbourhood panel meeting to address these concerns.
Some concerns were allayed whilst others remained, especially around the consultation process and security, both within the curtilage of the event and outside in the wider area. The Events Team reassured residents that similar events are held in other areas of the town, e.g. Princes and Hampden Parks, without any adverse consequences.
Friday, 27th to Monday, 31st August 2021
Eastbourne Vintage Festival
As I write this, I am sitting at home, having just returned from taking part in a sponsored walk along the seafront in aid of the Mayor of Eastbourne’s charities. It is Sunday evening and the weather this weekend has been spectacular. The current Mayor, Pat Rodohan, has chosen three excellent local charities to support: ‘Holding Space’, ‘Community Wise’ and ‘Amaze’. It was great to walk from Fisherman’s Green to Holywell and back with their supporters and others to raise money. It was also good to see so many people on the beaches and in the sea. The real heroes of the day however must be those who were taking part in the triathlon along the seafront. To have done that in sweltering heat would have been severely challenging.
Just west of Fisherman’s Green you will find the home of the Eastbourne Angling Association. I was delighted to receive an email from their chairman this week, explaining that, like many others, they have been battered by Covid, but that due to prudent handling of their finances are able to remain in business. Reflecting on recent months and thinking of the future they decided that they wanted to make a positive contribution to the local area and have purchased a defibrillator. This will be available to residents and visitors alike should an emergency occur which requires this life saving device. This is good news and is a welcome addition to the network of defibrillators across the town.
Sticking with a coastal theme, Rampion, the offshore windfarm, are looking to extend their footprint with more and larger turbines over a greater distance, extending to the west of their existing location. Everyone will have their own thoughts on whether they like these or not. Personally, I find them quite tranquil and welcome the renewable energy they provide. The existing field already powers a large number of homes in East Sussex. These new plans will meet the energy requirements of a further 1 million homes. It is not all good news however, as to bring that energy inland will involve digging up parts of the countryside, although this will be reinstated. The plans have been published for consultation and if you would like to read them and respond, they can be found at www.rampion2.com/consultation/
With the 19th of July only days away, the end of wearing facemasks and other Covid related restrictions is in sight, or is it? As the number of new infections is once again rising every day, the Government are passing responsibility to us as individuals, saying that there are times when we would “be expected to wear masks” without making it a legal requirement. To my mind this is a Government opting out of taking responsibility. The judgement that it appears to have made is that it is now acceptable to allow the virus to spread, as due to the vaccination programme there are now fewer hospital admissions.
One of the key priorities for us all should be taking action to address climate change. This will mean being prepared to change the way that we have done some things for much of our lives. If, however we fail to take action now, the consequences for future generations will be immense. Eastbourne Borough Council is committed to playing their part in addressing this challenge by working to deliver carbon neutrality by 2030. Three other East Sussex Councils: Lewes; Hastings and Rother have established the same target. East Sussex County Council have however set a date of 2050 to achieve this goal. I believe that this is too late. In declaring a “Climate Emergency” as they have, I find it hard to understand how they can justify taking 29 years to deal with it. I am therefore proposing that they change this to 2030 and take serious steps to bring about change. The media can take much credit for helping people to understand the importance of acting now and if East Sussex make this commitment, I believe that the majority of local residents will support them.
A news item that caught my eye last week is the fact that there is half a billion pounds sitting unclaimed in child trust funds. Child trust funds (CTFs) were created by the government in 2002. They were automatically opened for children born between September 1, 2002, and January 2, 2011, who received a £250 voucher (£500 for lower income families). The children could not gain access to the account until they were 18 and so the first trust fund babies were able to get at their money in September last year. The fact that so much has gone unclaimed suggests that many young people may not realise that this money, which is rightfully theirs exists. With interest, it is likely to be worth a few hundred pounds, so worth claiming. If you were born within the dates detailed above and want to trace your fund, you can find it using HM Revenue & Customs’ official tracing service. You will need to register to get a Government Gateway ID and password and provide a national insurance number. If you have a trust fund statement, it should have a unique reference number that you can enter too. HMRC says it will send details of the trust fund company by post within three weeks.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister made the announcement that virtually all remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted on 19th July. This is at a time when the number of Covid cases is once again rising, but due to the vaccination programme the virus appears to be having a reduced impact on those who have been double jabbed and far less people are being hospitalized than in previous waves.
The removal of restrictions will come as welcome news to many businesses, especially retailers, hotels, restaurants and pubs, as these have suffered disproportionately from the lockdowns. With uncertainty over the rules that can be imposed at short notice when taking foreign holidays, the next couple of months will provide an important opportunity for Eastbourne, where so many residents rely upon the tourist trade for employment. I am hopeful of seeing an early boost to our local economy and am encouraged by the interest that those from outside of the town are showing in opening businesses here. Last week I was invited to visit ‘Churchills’ a splendid new Fish and Chip restaurant at the Langney Shopping Centre. This family-owned business is a great addition to the renewed centre. The owners of this shopping centre are to be congratulated on the investment that they have made, as they have transformed what was a tired old 1970s construction into something very attractive. They also understand the importance of community and have provided space for the ‘Langney Community Library’, which replaced the one which was closed by the County Council.
One of the new freedoms that I am looking forward to is the opportunity to visit the theatre once again. Sadly, the pandemic meant that the Congress had to close shortly after reopening following major refurbishment. Chris Jordan has put together an excellent programme for the next year with shows such as “The Play that Goes Wrong”; “Magic Goes Wrong”; “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”; “Waitress”; “Chicago” and “Mamma Mia” plus ballet and many famous comedians. The full programme can be found at www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk/whats-on The Royal Hippodrome also has many great shows and on 17th July will be staging “Phoney Fools and Horses”, a good laugh guaranteed. Let’s all do everything we can to support our local businesses as they emerge from Covid restrictions.
As we arrive at July, I am sure that many people will be wondering whether the Government will actually remove the Covid restrictions from the 19th July or extend them yet again. This question will surely be at the forefront of the new Health Secretary’s mind as he views the increasing rate of infection in the UK and seeks to balance this with the knowledge that the vaccination programme is going well and that there has not been a similar surge in the number of hospital admissions seen during past spikes in infection rates. I find that I am hearing from what I believe are an increasing number of people who are suffering from lockdown fatigue. They are trying to obey the rules but are uncertain as to what they are as one gentleman said to me “I watch the football and there are crowds of tens of thousands in close proximity to each other without masks, but I am told that I cannot meet up with a group of a dozens friends for a meal at the restaurant, despite the fact that we have all had two vaccinations”. I believe that an early announcement about the way forward would be welcomed by all, with a clear explanation of any future restrictions and details of how they will be enforced. Without this, people will lose patience and the whole idea of managing behaviour will unravel fast.
The ambiguity over Government messaging has had an impact upon the County Council. Despite lobbying from Councils over all political colours, the Government refused to extend their ability to hold meetings on-line. I am led to believe that the reasoning behind this is that they consider that it is more democratic if we meet in person. If this is true, then it is not working. East Sussex County Council held their Cabinet meeting this week, but only had space for three members of the public and restricted the number of members that political parties could send as they did not have sufficient space to observe the Covid distancing rules. Whilst those unable to attend in person were bizarrely allowed to take part on-line, this effectively created two classes of Councillors, which cannot be good for democracy.
My personal hope is that we will soon be able to forget about restrictions and with the majority of the population vaccinated, return to the freedoms we enjoyed back in 2019, but I recognise that this depends on the impact that the current wave of infections has and whether those who do catch Covid will need to be hospitalised.