County Council election candidate, Cllr Peter Diplock, has prioritised the interests of Meads residents at Nationwide during its recent building works.
Peter said, "the refurbishment to the Nationwide Building Society has been completed with the branch re-opening recently. I met local and regional managers there to see the work, which is very impressive.
The branch had been closed for several months, prior to which I had sought and obtained commitments from managers that vulnerable residents who rely on the branch would be looked after for the duration of the closure. I obtained a sneak-peek shortly before it re-opened, and following requests from me, Nationwide managers have agreed to provide meeting rooms for local community groups free of charge when Covid restrictions ease. Do let me know if your group would be interested!"
Last Saturday the time arrived for me to go to the Welcome building for my first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, to protect me against Covid-19. I must say that I was truly impressed. None of the long queues as I had seen on the television at other locations; just a slick process from being welcomed, through the checks on my name, date of birth etc., and the injection itself which was painless. From start to finish it took less than 15 minutes, I returned home for lunch and then fell asleep, but this was the only side effect and that could simply have been the result of a busy week. The thing that surprised me was the feeling of relief I felt afterwards. This was not due to a fear of the jab, but the feeling that after what has been a long and worrying year, we just might be able to start returning to a life of greater freedom. I realise of course that the vaccination is not a guarantee against infection and that in any case it will take several weeks for the antibodies to build up. I also know that more than half the population still need to have their first vaccination, but it provided a sense of hope that at last, we are coming through this.
During the pandemic there are some things such as the vaccination programme which have gone well in the UK and there are others such as the PPE fiasco which have not. Each of us will draw our own conclusions about the overall performance of the Government during this time, but one thing that nearly everyone agrees on is that we have a tremendous amount to thank our health workers for. Not just the Doctors and Nurses, but the porters, ancillary staff, and ambulance crews, all of whom put their own lives at risk in order to protect us. Along with most of the nation I applauded them every Thursday evening during the first lockdown, thankful for their commitment. I firmly believe that there should be a tangible recognition of the service that they have provided and for that reason I am appalled that they have only received a 1% pay offer. That is not a reward, it is an insult and I sincerely hope that the Government will reconsider.
Several people have contacted me to ask about the roads and pavements that are being dug up. There are two companies installing fibre to homes, which should improve the speed of broadband available. Both companies (City Fibre and Lightning Fibre) are committed to reinstating roads and paths to their former condition and ensuring that people have access to their homes whilst the work takes place. The lockdowns have demonstrated just how much we now rely on the internet, so this should provide the infrastructure required for a more reliable service.
The Prime Ministerial broadcast last Monday made it clear that the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions this time around will be a phased and not an overnight approach. With the furlough scheme extended there is some continued support for businesses, which will hopefully help to protect jobs. The roadmap which he has published has announced the earliest dates by which restrictions will be relaxed, if the rate of infection continues to fall, but he also made it clear that he could not guarantee his plan would not be irreversible. In his words “the intention is that it should be”. Hotels and indoor hospitality will not reopen before the middle of May and even then limits will remain on the number of people who can meet up. This will present a continued challenge to our local economy which as a coastal town, relies so heavily on this sector.
Given the current situation, Eastbourne Council have been exploring what additional support can be given to small businesses, within the guidelines of the Government “Additional Restrictions Grant” (ARG). This was designed primarily to support businesses that were mandated to close but were not eligible for grants under former schemes. This review has identified an opportunity to provide small grant support for taxi drivers and private hire businesses. it will also be possible to provide payments to micro, small and medium sized businesses that are still trading but have suffered a significant downturn in income, as well as those who were mandated to close by Government.
As we begin to emerge from the lockdown, it is vitally important that we continue to assist businesses through the recovery who may have had to or will need to adapt or re-purpose to ensure survival. A business adaptation grant will be available for businesses in the form of capital funding, to claim for expenses such as training or upskilling new staff, expansion of an existing business or costs associated with adaptation as a result of the pandemic e.g. diversification into online retail. Details of these schemes will appear shortly on the Council website. The impact of the pandemic has in both health and financial terms been devastating, but I remain optimistic that we can and will recover from it.
The Eastbourne Liberal Democrats have announced Josh Babarinde OBE as their candidate for the Hampden Park by-election for Eastbourne Borough Council on May 6th 2021.
The by-election was triggered after Liberal Democrat Dean Sabri, who was first elected as a Borough councillor for the ward in 2019, stood down in January due to new work commitments.
Community campaigner Josh Babarinde OBE, who was born and bred in Hampden Park, built a career as a social entrepreneur working with ex-offenders and is on a mission to give back as a councillor.
Since the first lockdown, Josh has led the award-winning #EBtogether campaign, a volunteer effort to telephone over 5,000 shielding residents across Eastbourne and Willingdon to connect them with local support.
Local resident Josh also led a town-wide drive to source and donate video phones to care homes so that their residents could still keep in touch with their families when visits weren’t allowed.
He has also qualified as a COVID-19 vaccinator and is preparing to be deployed to a local vaccination centre to give jabs to those next on the list.
In the Queens 2020 Birthday Honours, Josh was made an OBE for services to criminal justice, social enterprise and the economy.
Josh said: “It’s an honour to be standing for Eastbourne Borough Council in my home patch.
“If elected, I’ll be taking my ‘roll up your sleeves and get stuck in’ attitude to the Council to help lead Hampden Park’s fight against COVID-19, and our community’s recovery beyond the pandemic.”
Eastbourne Borough Council Leader David Tutt said:
“I’m delighted that Josh is our candidate in the Hampden Park by-election on May 6th. With such a strong record of giving back to our town, he is exactly the sort of advocate who will do local residents proud.”
Cllr David Tutt, Leader of the Council and Cllr Stephen Holt, Deputy Leader of the Council and Finance Portfolio Holder
Eastbourne Borough Council yesterday (Wednesday 24th February) passed the annual budget.
Speaking, Deputy Leader of the Council and Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr Stephen Holt said, “Eastbourne Borough Council has four main income streams: Business rates, council tax, locally raised income such as our theatres and conference facilities and investments. As a result of COVID we faced the appalling loss of 60% of our income – almost overnight. This would be unsustainable for any Council.”
He went on to say: “With the costs of the pandemic to the national government expected to be in the region of £394 billion – the Government is also having to take out loans, consider its spending plans and I am sure – make cuts.
“This budget is laying the basis for managing uncertainties within the capitalisation limits set, as well as maintaining our investment in new homes for local families, such as at Victoria Mansions and Bedfordwell Road. In doing so, as well as addressing our housing needs, we are also contributing towards the creation of job and opportunities for residents and Eastbourne’s business community. We will also continue to support green initiatives and work to ensure this Council fulfils the Carbon neutral pledge by 2030.”
“As we come out of the pandemic we will seek new tourism opportunities, investing in items like the world’s busiest bandstand and seafront lighting to ensure that Eastbourne remains a safe, attractive place to visit, live, work and play in!”
"This authority is making significant progress in identifying savings and efficiencies whilst helping restart our local economy. Whilst tough decisions will need to be made, I will always ensure that the needs of our residents come first.”
Leader of the Council, Cllr David Tutt stated, “It is extremely disappointing that our Conservative opposition have used this important budget to play party politics. Our capitalisation loan from the Government has been offered following considerable scrutiny and analysis by Government appointed assessors and has been offered on the same basis as has been made to Conservative Councils who, like Eastbourne, have experienced an unavoidable loss of income due to Covid. Until now I have been proud of the way that all local politicians have put party politics aside and concentrated on doing what needs to be done to support and protect our local community during this pandemic. I hope that now the budget meeting is over everyone will return to that way of working.
Eastbourne has suffered from successive budget cuts in Government funding from a position in 2010 where we received a grant of approx. £9m, until now, where there is no recurring revenue support grant.
We know that there are still some councils who are continuing with their discussions as their requests were submitted later. We also know that so far, capitalisation for 6 councils have been agreed, with 4 so far accepting the conditions. We agree with others and suspect we are the tip of the iceberg with more to follow.
The opposition should stop playing party politics with our recovery.”
With the rate of new Covid-19 infections continuing to drop and the number of vaccinations increasing I am sure that many of us will be awaiting the promised Prime Ministerial announcement on 22nd February regarding lockdown with eager anticipation. There are already clear messages about a return to school after Easter and hints about being able to book self-catering breaks. Managed in a cautious way, this sounds like good news. If all goes well, we could find shops and restaurants reopening in a socially distanced way. That will provide an opportunity to demonstrate our support for those businesses, especially the independent local ones that give Eastbourne a unique character and help them to recover from the lockdown.
Supporting the local economy is a key priority for local government. There are several sites in central Eastbourne which, as a result of various events need attention, but also provide opportunities. The closure of both T.J. Hughes and Debenhams have left two large sites empty. As a Borough Council we have been working alongside owners and other interested parties to encourage fresh use of these sites. Hopefully, the work planned by the County Council on the next phase of the town centre pedestrianisation, should make these areas attractive investment prospects. At the seafront end of Terminus Road, the Borough Council purchased the run-down flats, together with the shop units at Victoria Mansions from Administration and have invested in their restoration. The shop units will soon be completed, and I am delighted to say that there is considerable interest in them as food outlets. The other site which has concerned me greatly is that of the Claremont Hotel opposite the pier, which was destroyed by fire. The Council have been working closely with Historic England and I am hopeful that plans will come forward in the near future that will recreate the original façade of this important building.
The 22nd February marks the start of Fairtrade Fortnight. Fairtrade offers better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. It has been shown to increase standards of living and reduce risk and vulnerability for farmers and workers. The standards it sets also promote training for farmers, which can include advice on switching to environmentally friendly practices. This has been shown to lead to good agricultural practices, which have encouraged environmentally sustainable production. The standards also guide producers in adapting to climate change and mitigate their impact. When the idea of Fairtrade Fortnight first began, it could be difficult to find fairly traded products, but today they are far more readily available in supermarkets and coffee shops. I have made a personal commitment to do my best to buy fairly traded products, not just for the next fortnight, but throughout the year.
Cllr Candy Vaughan has been involved in baking and delivering cake and other thank you provisions from the Lib Dem councillor team to local NHS staff. And throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns our #EBtogether campaign has been calling many who need help and advice, or just a friendly voice in these difficult times. Lib Dem volunteers in Eastbourne have made almost 6,000 welfare calls to vulnerable residents since the start of the pandemic, with several hundred being made to isolated residents over the Christmas and new year period.
Josh Babarinde OBE, organiser of #EBtogether said: “The best thing we’ve provided through this are good, old-fashioned chats that have made sure Eastbournians know they are not alone. We are here for them. This is what the Eastbourne Lib Dems are all about.”
Cllr Alan Shuttleworth added, “We pay tribute to the many people who have worked so hard on behalf of our town during this dreadful pandemic. From the NHS, our care homes, essential retail and not forgetting those many volunteers who have been shopping for vulnerable people. Thank you.”
Cllr Candy Vaughan said, “Thank you to all residents who are following the rules and guidelines. Please keep it up. If you, or anyone you know, needs help please phone us, or telephone the Eastbourne Borough Council Community Hub helpline on 01323 679722 which offers a wide range of advice and support.”
A recent tweet from the Sussex Police:
"We have had a small number of reports of attempted Covid vaccine scams in East Sussex, so we are urging people to be careful. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge. At no point will you be asked to pay."
Cllr Alan Shuttleworth is continuing the fight to save our green belt by opposing building over Friday Street Farm which is in Wealden Council area, but borders Langney at Pennine Way.
Alan said, “So many people oppose building on this unique piece of the green belt and recognise the enormous impact in terms of traffic congestion, pollution and damage to the environment and to protected species, as well as the flooding impact, and inadequacies in pumping and wastewater sewerage arrangements.”
This Planning committee is restricted to the access to the site from Pennine Way, and the expected traffic congestion, as Wealden Council have already approved the development.
Pennine Way is the only route in and out of this area for many hundreds of existing properties, never mind the increased traffic from this development.
East Sussex Highways have recognised the impact in terms of congestion on the road network. There is uncertainty over the funding of these works.
Alan is hoping to persuade the committee to refuse permission despite the planning officers’ recommendation of approval, “The Planning committee must refuse permission due to the inevitable impact in Pennine Way as well as the severe impact on the surrounding road network if this development is approved without guarantees on the funding for all the required mitigation works.”
Permission must be withheld until all the monies for highway works are in place, and a condition that no housing be occupied until these works are completed should be applied. This may dissuade the developers from starting this building.
The battle to save our green belt goes on. Hands off Friday Street Farm!
A walk-In service provides a unique access to healthcare which is not replicated elsewhere in the town and offers an important safety net for patients who can’t get an appointment at other GP surgeries. The Walk-in centre is an important service for Eastbourne’s most vulnerable, some of whom are unable to book a GP appointment in advance, as well as for visitors to Eastbourne who are taken ill,
Langney Lib Dem Councillor Alan Shuttleworth led the fight to keep the Walk-In service. As a member of East Sussex Health Overview & Scrutiny committee he presented the case to keep the service.
“It is unbelievable that this health provision is closing when we are still in a health pandemic and this facility has never been more important.”
Conservative Councillors voted for the health centre’s closure. Despite Lib Dems voting against the closure, they were outvoted by the Tories who hold the majority on this committee.
The Conservatives have now decided the fate of this vital town-wide service.
Cllr Candy Vaughan commented, “I can’t believe that Conservative councillors voted to allow this much-needed medical centre to close. It has been used as a safety net for people across Eastbourne.”
As East Sussex County Council Tory-run authority increase Council Tax by £1 a week and Lib Dem-run Eastbourne Borough Council by 10p a week it is clear which council offers value for money. Since 2007 Lib Dem-led Eastbourne Borough Council has raised council tax by 23% and the Conservatives in Tory-run County Hall by a whopping 42%. During the Covid pandemic Eastbourne has received £1.8m in Covid grant whereas East Sussex County Council has received £32m in support!
Liberal Democrat County Council budget proposals focus on the most vulnerable residents. Our 2021-22 budget proposals redirected unallocated money to support people who have suffered most during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the Conservative-led County Council voted-down our amendments.
We would have added £200,000 from the County’s Covid money to support children’s mental health assessments and catch-up work for the many children who have been so badly affected by the lack of school attendance.
Lib Dems proposed that additional social services money - £880,000 - should go towards providing respite services for carers; grant funds for front-line voluntary sector services; adult mental health support.
Cllr Alan Shuttleworth said,
“The budget meeting was an opportunity to give more financial support for our schools and particularly those children who have missed out, as well as carers and mental health. There is a real need for more support for families who have suffered, especially with mental health issues.”