At the recent budget-setting meeting, £200k of match-funding was committed by the Borough council to the future of Motcombe pool. Having opened in 1904, almost all of its internal systems are beyond end-of-life and a full programme of structural repair, reinstallation and refurbishment is required.
Motcombe pool has never made money. In fact quite the contrary, the pool has always cost more than it has bought in. But Upperton councillors and residents know that the future of the pool is about far more than making money. The pool is an intrinsic part of the fabric of our community, loved and used by generations of people in Eastbourne. The government have prevented the Borough from borrowing to invest in the pool. If the government had their way, they would compel us to sell it – in their eyes it is a capital asset that costs money, and should be sold. This will not happen. Motcombe pool will be protected and will serve the community for generations to come.
In the manner of Saltdean Lido, a Community Interest Company is being formed to obtain the likely multi-million £ funding required to fully repair and reopen the pool. A CIC can access sources of funding not open to local authorities, such as National Lottery, English Heritage and other health and social infrastructure grants. This will also likely be a lengthy process. Setting up of the CIC, making funding applications, receiving those funds, inviting bids for the work and then having the work carried out will take some considerable time. Realistically, it is unlikely the pool will reopen before 2024.
Since a building survey was carried out last summer, we have been waiting on two things. First, the results of the government review into the Borough’s finances, caused by the devastating impact of Covid on our tourist economy. Until the government made their report, the Borough had limited ability to forecast our future room for manoeuvre on heritage assets such as Motcombe pool. The second was that once the government report had been received (some 5 months later than promised), Ward councillors fought the case for local residents for the Borough to provide a serious level of match funding to demonstrate to future partners that this is a serious project. To that end, the £200k announced in the budget statement last week is the welcome result of lobbying from your Ward councillors in both Old Town and Upperton. In addition to this, we have extracted a commitment of £10k of short term funding to provide business lobbying and fundraising advice to the CIC.
Eastbourne is blessed with a disproportionately high number of heritage assets. Most towns have two or three at most, we have more than a dozen. With the revenue grant from central government cut from over £10m a year in 2010 to zero now, finding resources to maintain all those assets has been, and continues to be, a challenge. The future for Motcombe pool is best secured through the creation of a CIC, seeking funding from the full range of available of sources, and putting residents at the heart of its future.
In April 2021 Upperton councillors were allocated a budget of £5,000, known as the devolved budget. This is provided by the council to be spent on any projects which benefit the Upperton community.
This year the money has been spent on:
- Travel Maps for Gildredge house school in association with EcoEd 2030, to coincide with International Car Free Day on 22nd September 2021 and the 2021 Eastbourne Walking Festival
Mural artwork by Jewl on 7 x 8ft x 4ft plywood sheets, fixed onto the Gingerbread Café in Gildredge park, to add some colour and help deter unattractive graffiti
- Additional raised beds and seeds for Eastbourne Allotments Society to help more people enjoy the benefits of gardening and to provide fresh produce for Eastbourne Foodbank
Dutch Oven to provide hot food for volunteers at the Grow Eastbourne allotment in Gorringe Road
- On-going project to re-wild St Mary’s churchyard, creating a more biodiverse habitat
- Contribution towards a heavy duty, pop-up Gazebo for East Sussex Hearing, for their client outreach service
- Additional funds to Plastic free Eastbourne, required for siting of water-refill station in Gildredge Park
- Placement of new ‘dog-poo’ bin at junction of Mill Gap Road and St Anne’s Road to help combat dog fouling on the grass verge
- Contribution towards repairs to thatched roof on the Hermitage in Manor Gardens for the Friends of Manor Gardens and Gildredge Park
The 2021 Devolved Budget is now fully spent. But a further £3,000 will be available from April 2022. If anyone has a worthy cause for us to contribute to next year, please contact us and we will explain how to apply.
The storms that we experienced last weekend were the worst that I can remember since the hurricane of 1987. We saw trees uprooted, debris flying and part of the roof of the railway station blown away, resulting in road closures in the centre of town. The clean-up operation however was fantastic. Both Borough and County Council staff, the emergency services and teams from the utility companies pulled out all of the stops to get thing back to normal as soon as possible. All are truly worthy of our thanks for a job well done!
The Covid rules are changing again, as the Prime Minister has announced that from 24th February, all the remaining legal restrictions will be removed. This includes the requirement to self-isolate following a positive Covid-19 test. He also confirmed that, from 21 February, the guidance in education to undertake twice weekly testing will be removed, and free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public will end from 1 April. However, the oldest age groups and those most vulnerable will still get free tests. In terms of safeguarding the most vulnerable, The Secretary of State for Health has announced that a further booster jab will be available to those aged over 75 from the spring. Only time will tell whether these changes are being introduced too soon. I recognise that whilst the number of cases remains high the current impact of Covid appears to be less severe than it was before so many people had been vaccinated, but personally I would have preferred to see the restrictions maintained for a bit longer and fear that these changes will result in a spike in the infection rate.
For those who enjoy trying different real ale or cider, there are two events to look forward to. The Beer and Cider by the Sea event returns to the Western Lawns between 20th and 22nd May, whilst the ever popular CAMRA Beer Festival will be held at the newly refurbished Winter Gardens on the 7th and 8th October. Tickets for both events are now on sale and sell out quickly, so to book or find out more information you can visit https://www.visiteastbourne.com/beer-festivals
The Liberal Democrats have warned that the scrapping of Covid lateral flow tests will slap Eastbourne & Willingdon with a £5,583,778 “tax on caring”, with as many as 18,514 residents facing costs of over £500 a year to take regular tests and visit vulnerable relatives.
Despite the easing of Covid restrictions, the latest figures show that every week an estimated 10,452 people in Eastbourne & Willingdon take regular Covid tests, with 18,514 tests being taken in an average week. This includes people who take tests to protect their elderly relatives and friends, or vulnerable workers who work in people-facing industries such as hospitality and are concerned about their health.
Analysis by the Liberal Democrats estimates that the 10,452 who take an average two tests a week face a hit of £534 a year, assuming lateral flow tests cost around £5.80 each. This represents a total “tax on caring” for people in Eastbourne & Willingdon of £5,583,778 each year.
These people are part of the almost four million across England facing costs of over £500 a year after the decision was taken to scrap lateral flow tests. The move will be of particular concern for the 7,655 in Eastbourne & Willingdon previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, after the government’s own scientific advisers on the SAGE committee warned that removing free testing will “increase anxiety” and limit the “social participation outside the home” of those who are clinically vulnerable or who live with someone who is.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Eastbourne & Willingdon, Josh Babarinde OBE, said:
“Charging people in Eastbourne & Willingdon for the tests they need to safely see vulnerable loved ones is a tax on caring, that risks leaving thousands in this area in lockdown by stealth.
“It means vulnerable people in our community will see fewer loved ones and will be less able to enjoy their lives. It is unfair and unjust.
“The Conservative MP in our area needs to make their voice heard and get behind scrapping these plans, to stop Eastbourne & Willingdon being hit with a cost of living with Covid crisis.
“Throughout the pandemic, the good people of Eastbourne & Willingdon have been trying hard to do the right thing and keep others safe. The Government should not be making that harder.”
During the first weekend of February, Southern Water suffered an electrical fault at their Wastewater Treatment Works on the seafront. There was no backup generator on-site and as a result they discharged hundreds of tonnes of raw sewage into the sea. If this was the first time that something like this had happened it would be a major concern, and I might have taken the view that, hopefully, they would learn from it and take action to ensure that it does not happen again. The truth however is that only last year they were fined a record £90m for no fewer than 6,971 unpermitted sewage discharges along the south coast. For many of these, they blamed the Victorian infrastructure, but that does not apply here as the treatment works were only built in 1997. I have been contacted by representatives of two groups of sea swimmers who are livid that this pollution has taken place and I fully understand their concern. The sea is one of our greatest natural assets and a reason that so many people choose to come to Eastbourne for their holidays. I am seeking a meeting with directors of Southern Water and will be seeking assurances that they will install a backup generator on site, which will kick-in, in the event of future power failures. Southern are not the only water company to behave in this fashion. These sorts of discharge are taking place on a regular basis across the UK. This cannot be allowed to continue; the Government must strengthen the law, in order to protect our sea, waterways and environment. We need much tougher penalties for non-compliance, which not only penalise the companies, but also the highly paid directors who run them.
Monday 21 February sees the start of Fairtrade Fortnight and the Council will once again be flying the Fairtrade flag over the Town Hall. Purchasing Fair Trade goods supports those who work in the industries that grow the food and produce the items that we buy, helping to save many from being exploited and ensuring that they receive a fair wage for their labour. Nowadays, it is much easier than it once was to find Fair Trade goods, as they cannot only be found in specialist stores, but on most supermarket shelves. Whilst we should of course be looking for fairly traded products throughout the year, this fortnight is used by the Fairtrade Foundation to increase awareness of the exploitation which takes place and encourage us all to do more to create a more equal world. The title for their event this year is “Choose the World You Want” and more information about the festival can be found at https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/Get-Involved/Current-campaigns/Fairtrade-Fortnight/
about the festival can be found at https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/Get-Involved/Current-campaigns/Fairtrade-Fortnight/
Heart and circulatory diseases account for a quarter of all the deaths in the UK and the British Heart Foundation estimate that more than half of us will get a heart or circulatory condition in our lifetime. Therefore, the provision of cardiology services will play an important part in most of our lives. The NHS East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust are currently considering making changes to these services locally. To inform the way forward, they are conducting a public consultation exercise which runs until 11 March. This consultation considers two options, namely:
- Co-locate all catheterisation laboratories and specialist cardiology inpatient services at Eastbourne DGH, with acute outpatient and diagnostic services at both Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital, Hastings; alongside establishment of Cardiac Response Team in the emergency department and hot clinics providing rapid assessment at both acute sites
- Co-locate all catheterisation laboratories and specialist cardiology inpatient services at Conquest Hospital, Hastings with acute outpatients and diagnostic services remaining at both Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital, Hastings; alongside establishment of Cardiac Response Team in the emergency department and hot clinics providing rapid assessment at both our acute hospital sites.
My personal belief is that given the importance of cardiology services they should continue to be provided in full in both Eastbourne and Hastings. Certainly, thinking of Eastbourne and understanding the high number of elderly people in the town, removing any part of this service makes no sense to me, particularly at a time when the Government has promised us a new hospital. Whilst you may not personally need these services now, there is a strong likelihood that you or your loved ones will in the future. If you want to ensure that they remain available in Eastbourne, please take the time to respond to this consultation. You can obtain a copy of the consultation paper by phoning 0300 131 4691 and then either complete a paper-based response and post it back in a pre-paid envelope or respond online at www.opinionresearch.co.uk/Cardiology
Along with most of the country, I have been closely following the revelations about Downing Street parties. My many years involved in politics have taught me that things are not always what they seem and so it is not advisable to make a judgement too soon. I therefore listened to those Conservatives who urged us to wait for the publication of the Sue Gray report before reaching any firm conclusion. It is now Tuesday morning and I have just read the limited report that has been published. The initial allegation that there had been ‘a party’ was swiftly denied by the Prime Minister, but we are now aware that Sue Gray has investigated at least 14 alleged gatherings. As the report makes clear, what has been published so far are only ‘general findings’ and there will be more details at a later date, once police investigations into some of the alleged events are complete. Despite this, I believe that what has already been said is damming. The report includes the following words ‘there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public. There were failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place’.
I have always been reluctant to call for politicians to resign as I know that hindsight allows us all to reflect on how we would do some things differently if a situation arose again. What makes this case different is that this was not an error of judgement, but a flagrant disregard for the laws that those breaking them had themselves established. Whilst across the country people were observing the lockdowns, which for many meant that they were unable to say a final goodbye to loved ones, some in Downing Street seemed to think that these rules did not apply to them. Whilst Boris Johnson has issued a form of apology, he still does not seem to think that he did anything wrong and it appears that his greatest regret is having been found out. It is the disregard for the rules that he has himself set and an apparent belief that he is above the law, that I believe that Boris Johnson should resign. This is not a party political point, I listened to much of ‘Prime Ministers Question Time’ and it was clear from this that this view is shared by many good, honest Conservative M.P.s, a number of whom suffered the loss of loved ones during the pandemic. For the Prime Minister to do other than resign, calls into question the integrity of all politicians. I recognise that things are changing quickly and so hopefully by the time that you read this, he will have done the decent thing and the country can move forward with a new person at the helm.
The Liberal Democrats have set out a “cost of living rescue plan” that would save thousands of struggling families in Eastbourne nearly £1,000 this year.
It comes after Ofgem announced a crippling rise to people’s heating bills, with the energy price cap set to soar by 54% to £1,971 in April.
Energy bills for homeowners in Eastbourne are forecast to soar by an estimated £609 per household in April, according to analysis by the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, broadband bills are set to rise by 9.3% with inflation at its highest rate in almost thirty years.
The Liberal Democrats warned that Rishi Sunak's proposals to deal with soaring energy bills will just be "spreading the pain over the coming years" while clobbering local families with tax hikes.
The cost of living rescue package being proposed by Eastbourne & Willingdon Liberal Democrats includes taking £300 off struggling families’ heating bills by doubling and expanding the Warm Home Discount, funded through a “Robin Hood” tax on the super profits of oil and gas companies. The party would also scrap the planned National Insurance tax hike being introduced by the Conservatives in April and ensure low-income families can access cheaper broadband deals.
As many as 17,332 households in Eastbourne would stand to benefit from the full package of support, saving them up to £975 each a year. 17,332 households would save up to £580 thanks to the scrapping of the National Insurance hike and the Stealth Tax on the income tax personal allowance. 3,032 poorer pensioners would receive the expanded Warm Home Discount while 15,162 struggling families would gain access to cheaper broadband deals, helping them cope with the cost of living crisis.
In total, the package represents savings of 18,027,536 across Eastbourne for 35,516 households feeling the pinch.
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Eastbourne & Willingdon, Josh Babarinde OBE said:
“Energy bills are going through the roof, forcing families in our community to choose between eating and heating. But all the Conservatives are doing is clobbering people with an unfair tax hike and spreading the pain over the coming years.
“Eastbourne deserves better than a Conservative MP missing in action, more concerned with their own political career than helping families struggling to pay the bills.
“The Liberal Democrats’ cost of living rescue plan would wipe up to £1,000 off the bills of 35,516 struggling families in Eastbourne by scrapping April’s tax hike, offering support to the most vulnerable, and insulating homes to slash energy bills in the long term.
“We are fighting for a fair deal for people in our community who are being let down by a Conservative Government that is taking them for granted.”
Most of us who drive will feel fairly confident that we understand the Highway Code, we have of course had to pass a driving test of which knowledge of this is a part. However, laws can and do change and it is possible that people will fall foul of changes that they are unaware of. This coming Saturday 29 January, major changes to the Highway Code come into force. The most significant changes are designed to give vulnerable road users a greater degree of protection. With this in mind, the rules set out in the following hierarchy, placing those most at risk at the top and those least at risk at the bottom:
- Pedestrians (in particular children, elderly adults and those with disabilities)
- Horse riders
- Large passenger vehicles/HGVs
These changes provide stronger priority for pedestrians at junctions and clarity of who has right of way. The new rule states that instead of cars having priority when they turn left or right into junctions, pedestrians crossing the road will now have priority over vehicles. The rules also give priority to cyclists in certain situations, including at junctions when they will nearly always have priority. Full details of the changes can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-highway-code-to-improve-road-safety-for-cyclists-pedestrians-and-horse-riders/summary-of-the-consultation-proposals-on-a-review-of-the-highway-code It would probably be sensible for us all to read them.
I recently visited East Sussex Hearing together with the Lead Member for Social Care at East Sussex, Cllr Carl Maynard, and was really impressed to learn about the support and services that they provide to people with hearing impairment. If you would like to learn about their work and how they might be able to help you, there are drop-in days at East Sussex Hearing’s Upperton Road centre every Tuesday and Wednesday, 10am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 3:30pm. They also provide hearing aid maintenance in the library at Langney Shopping Centre, on the third Friday of the month, 10am to 12 noon and at St John’s Church Hall Meads, last Friday of the month. From the spring onwards, they will also have a gazebo popping up around the town to offer support, information and advice. Keep an eye out for it.