At present it is difficult to watch the news, or pick up a newspaper without coming across a mention of COP 26, but I had a phone call from a local resident recently asking me if I could explain what it is about. COP in this context, stands for “Conference of the Parties” and the 26 is the 26th time that the countries who were signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed in 1994 have met. The conference, which will bring together world leaders, will be taking place in Glasgow, between 31st October and 12th November. Most people now recognise the challenges that the changes in our climate present. In addition to hearing about the very real effect around our world in terms of fires; drought; floods and rising sea levels, excellent programmes by David Attenborough and the Earthshot series have helped our understanding of the urgency to address this crisis. The question is “what to do about it?”
Back in 2015, COP 21 met in Paris and 195 world leaders agreed on a set of objectives, key among which was to “try to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees”. The actions that are required in order to achieve this will be central to the COP 26 discussions. Simply more talking will not be enough; we have the right to expect world leaders to take this opportunity to agree on collective action. To this end rallies will be taking place around the world to demonstrate the importance of this issue. I am often asked whether such rallies make any difference? I believe that peaceful and reasonable demonstrations to highlight the concerns that citizens have can only help to focus the minds of international politicians, which is why I will be joining the rally at Bankers Corner in Terminus Road at 12.00 on the 6th November. I know that it sounds dramatic, but the future of the planet really is at stake.
The organisers of Eastbourne’s Neighbourhood Watch scheme came to see me this week and explained that since the Covid lockdown, they have been struggling to recruit members. They are especially trying to find people willing to take on the role of ward coordinators. If you are interested in knowing more and possibly getting involved in keeping an eye on your local area, I know that they would like to hear from you. They can be contacted via their website http://www.enwa.org.uk/ward.html
Eastbourne Borough Council has landed £19.8 million investment in the town after a bid to the government’s levelling up fund unlocked the multi-million windfall.
The cash will underpin an ambitious and far-reaching plan to link town centre regeneration with a strengthened visitor economy. The project will see:
- £1.037 million - investment in the Towner’s Centenary Project, creating a number of legacy public artworks across the town that will provide an arts trail connecting the seafront, town centre and South Downs National Park, as well as enhancing gallery facilities to support the education and outreach programmes that will engage strongly with some of Eastbourne’s most disadvantaged communities.
- £11.186 million - to create a world-class Culture and Education Centre at Black Robin Farm, a former dairy farm set on the Downs above the town, connecting the South Downs National Park with the town centre and seafront, and providing a new destination for around 100,000 visitors per year, space for new businesses and work placements for young people during both the construction and operational phases.
- £7.623 million - to convert Victoria Place into a vibrant, pedestrianised cultural district, including new green energy infrastructure, with awnings, lighting and heating; with excellent independent cafés and restaurants serving high quality, locally sourced food and drink all year round, also developing a night-time economy.
Councillor David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said:
“This is a legacy defining moment in the history of our wonderful town and one that will benefit generations of residents, both now and long into the future.
“I’m obviously delighted that the government recognised the great ambition within our plans and now look forward to starting the project work and fulfilling the bid’s huge potential.
“I must also thank all those who have contributed to this great council success. Special thanks to Christina Ewbank at Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce and all the other members of the Stakeholder Group for their constructive and supportive contributions and the council officers who drafted the bid.
“Eastbourne working together is Eastbourne at its best!”
Although not a Rotarian myself, I have always seen their organisation as a force for good. I was therefore delighted to welcome their London District 1130 Rotary, to the Devonshire Quarter last Friday, especially as they were the first conference that we have hosted since the lifting of the Covid lockdown. Having made my welcoming speech, I was sitting in the audience listening to other speakers, when Stephen Pound, the former Labour M.P. for Ealing North who is one of their members, came and sat beside me to relay the devastating news of the murder of Sir David Amess M.P.. This horrific act has been rightfully condemned by politicians of all parties. For democracy to be effective, politicians should feel able to meet with those they represent without living in fear of the consequences. My thoughts are with Sir David’s family and friends at this tragic time.
I have referred several times in the past to the importance of addressing climate change. I was therefore delighted when the Lead Member with responsibility for this area at the County Council, at his own Lead Member meeting, made the decision to recommend the Council support the cross-party, Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which is coming before Parliament. When, however, his report was presented to the Full County Council meeting, he did a complete U-turn, saying that he had reconsidered and would no longer ask the Council to agree to this support. The Conservative majority on the Council then proceeded to support him despite opposition from: Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green and Independent Councillors. This is the first time that I can remember such a dramatic change of direction and I wonder if we should now fear for the line that Boris Johnson may take at COP26.
If you are looking for a little escapism, Wyntercon VIII is taking place on the weekend of 30th/31st October at The Devonshire Quarter. Starting at 09.30 each day, this is an opportunity to enter the world of Sci Fi, as their website says, “It doesn’t matter what world you come from, you’re welcome in ours.” Tickets are available at https://www.wyntercon.org/wyntercon-viii many people attend in costume, so why not go along and spend a day in another world!
Langney Shopping Centre are pleased to announce plans for a partnership scheme to provide a Changing Places toilet as well as additional toilets on the ground floor level in the Shopping Centre. The scheme is being introduced as part of a partnership bid for a Match Funding grant support from a Government Changing Places scheme.
As Centre Manager, Neil Avis, said:
“We have been working with Langney Councillor Alan Shuttleworth and officers from Eastbourne Borough Council to put forward a bid for some Government support for the project. We recognise the importance of providing more accessible toilets for those people who use the Centre, which is a community hub for Langney.”
Councillor Alan Shuttleworth commented,
“These proposals are the culmination of months of work. I pay tribute to the Eastbourne Access Group who have been pressing for improvements for a long time. When this new provision is in place it will be a tremendous benefit for those people who have disabilities and mobility problems and for families with young children and babies.”
The scheme involves a bid for some of the cost from Central Government as part of a national Changing Places programme. The bid is being submitted by Eastbourne Borough Council and includes a bid for a Changing Places toilet in the Congress theatre.
The Eastbourne Access group fully supports the changing places bid for funding for changing places facilities in Eastbourne.
Brian Day, Chairman of Eastbourne Access Group said,
“Changing places facilities are urgently needed at Langney Shopping centre and in the Congress theatre as well as in other locations. Changing places facilities at Langney shopping centre would transform the shopping and eating out experience at Langney for disabled adults, young people and their families. We trust that the funding application will be successful to ensure accessible changing places facilities can be made a reality for people with disabilities in Eastbourne.”
Listening to the Prime Minister it appears that there could be some fairly tough times ahead. We know that the changes in rules on overseas workers following Brexit has had an impact on HGV drivers, which has already resulted in fuel shortages. The hospitality industry and caring professions are finding it difficult to fill vacancies, as is the farming industry, which is having to allow food to rot. This has had a knock-on impact in terms of supplies on supermarket shelves and we have also been told that some foods might be in short supply over the Christmas period. When the increase in gas prices is added to this list, there is plenty to keep Boris Johnson and his Government busy. These issues will of course affect us all, but as is so often the case, those who have the least will be hit the hardest. The removal of the £20 per week top up of Universal Credit at a time when prices are pushing up inflation will leave many struggling this winter.
The Government will also be breaking another election pledge as it is suspending the triple lock on pensions. This is a formula used to guarantee pensioners’ incomes rise by either September’s rate of inflation, earnings growth, or a guaranteed minimum of 2.5% – whichever is larger. Surely, in difficult times, the most vulnerable should be placed at the top of the list of those that we should protect, not the bottom.
I’ve been in close contact with those behind Eastbourne’s Lightning Fibre Ice Rink since tickets went on sale last week. The rink doesn’t open until the 1st of December, but the sales have already been strong, with over 1,000 tickets having been purchased. This fully covered real ice rink is a partnership between Your Eastbourne BID and Visit Eastbourne and will be located at the Enterprise Shopping Centre. This is the first time in a decade that Eastbourne’s had its own real ice rink. Tickets can be purchased online at www.visiteastbournetickets.co.uk. Alternatively, you can buy your tickets at the Welcome Building and the Seafront Office next to the Bandstand. I am sure that it will be a huge success and look forward to watching with a glass of mulled wine from one of the fantastic local traders who will also be at the site.
Opposition parties at East Sussex County Council united to angrily condemn a last minute change of heart by Conservatives on a cross party Notice of Motion on climate change which councillors were given a 20 minute adjournment to consider. Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Cllr Colin Swansborough explains:
“Cllr Nick Bennett, Conservative Lead Member, agreed with the Notice of Motion that asked the County Council to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. However, when this came to full council for debate on 12 October, Cllr Bennett issued a last minute set of recommendations that were completely different to his initial response.
This kind of political skulduggery has no place in this council and also raises warnings for COP26. Will the Conservatives change their mind nationally as well as locally?”
Labour Cllr Chris Collier agreed:
“This was a cynical and hypocritical misuse of the democratic process. It was extraordinary that a substantial change like this should have been thrown at Council at the very point at which this item was about to be discussed. We had no notice of this substantial change and no opportunity to give it proper scrutiny.”
Green Cllr Wendy Maples added:
“We were sorely disappointed in our Conservative colleagues who seem to think point-scoring is more important than the planet.”
Green Cllr Georgia Taylor noted:
“This could have been an historic moment of cooperation in the interests of people and planet”.
Independent Cllr Stephen Shing agreed:
“We should stick to the 2030 target. The Bill has cross party support and party politics should be put aside with an emphasis on the future of the planet.
Opposition parties at the Council demanded an adjournment but realised that more time was needed to consider Cllr Bennett’s recommendations fully. A proposal to defer discussion to the next County Council was voted down by the Conservatives.
At the recent election our County’s residents elected green party Councillors for the first time on this Council, indicating a concern for green issues. It is pleasing that everyone could eventually work together on this important issue to protect our environment, so that real change can take place”.
Following several years of campaigning, Upperton Lib Dem councillors Pat Rodohan, Robin Maxted and Sammy Choudhury and the Chair of Upperton Neighbourhood Panel, Kathy Ballard, gained funding from Sussex Police’s Community Safety Partnership fund to make Gildredge Park safer. The funding will ensure eight heritage style lampposts are added along the paths between the entrances at The Goffs and Compton Place Road, and from that path to the entrance at Saffrons Road.
With national news highlighting Sarah Everard’s violent end, the case for the safety of women is not difficult to make. The case for the children, teenagers and parents crossing the park to and from Gildredge House School is compelling too. Gildredge House and students also supported the Councillors’ bid. Since its establishment in 2013, school numbers have grown to a capacity 1,200 students and many now cross the park from home to school, even in the darker winter months.
Eastbourne students and their parents are being encouraged to walk, scoot or cycle to school, and Upperton Lib Dem councillors want them to be able to do so safely. Upperton Lib Dem councillors are campaigning for the area around Gildredge House School to become a School Safety Zone, and improved lighting through this important access route will be a critical improvement in that project.
Kathy Ballard as Chair of the Upperton Neighbourhood Panel said,
“I am delighted that Gildredge Park has received this funding for much needed lighting. This will go some way to making the park feel safer.”
I have always been grateful that here in the UK we live in a democratic society. One where those who make decisions over our lives are elected and where, if we believe that they are not doing a good job, we can collectively remove them at the next election, by voting for someone else. It might not be perfect, indeed I would prefer to see changes to the method of electing our representatives from the current first past the post system, to a form of proportional representation, but it certainly beats some of the alternatives. I am therefore concerned that we are once again witnessing more public money going into Quangos.
These semi-public administrative bodies are funded by Government, but we as voters have no ability to remove those who run them. Quangos were rife 20 years ago under the Labour Government, costing a staggering £38.4bn by the time that they left office. The coalition government promised to cull them and more than halved this expenditure to £18.6bn. However, under Boris Johnson this has once again been rising steeply and stood at £29bn in 2020. Many of those who run bodies such as: HS2, Visit Britain and Homes England are earning six figure salaries, well in excess of that earned by the Prime Minister, and some for working only a two-day week. Surely those responsible for spending this public money, should like those of us who have been elected, also be accountable to the public. Whilst possibly not the most pressing issue on the Governments agenda, I nevertheless hope that it is one which they will address.
Last week I was fortunate to be invited to the opening of the new Bonners store in Faraday Close, Hampden Park. I can remember the early days of Bonners from when I was a teenager and have watched them move from location to location within the town as they have expanded. They are a real Eastbourne success story, their new store offers a very wide range of guitars, pianos and keyboards and is staffed by a knowledgeable team who are passionate about music. It is great to have them in town.