Since leading a cross-party motion at the Eastbourne Borough Council thanking our carers, paid and unpaid, for the fantastic work they do, Councillor Peter Diplock has continued working to support carers in our town.
Peter has worked with carers' organisations and Eastbourne Borough Council to bring in 'Think Carer' training for all customer-facing staff and managers. The training will help staff spot the signs that someone is a carer, and how to offer them the best support and help for their unique circumstances. It will also help managers better support their own staff with caring responsibilities.
Nationally, the Lib Dems are calling for all unpaid carers to receive breaks, and an increase in carer's allowances. The Lib Dems recently proposed an East Sussex County Council budget amendment to fund carers' training, but this was voted down by the Tories.
In relation to the 'Think Carer' Training, Cllr Peter Diplock said,
"I'm really proud of this, as carers give so much and ask for so little, they deserve all the help we can give. Not everyone who is a carer realises they are. As a result they can often miss out on valuable help and support, and Think Carer training will help address that."
With Covid restrictions lifted, the local economy has been in recovery mode. In Eastbourne, the largest private sector employer is hospitality. Sadly, the Covid pandemic hit these businesses harder than most, establishments were closed and many staff laid off. It has therefore been good to see that most hotels and restaurants have now reopened. Their trade will have been boosted by many people choosing “Staycations” this year over foreign holidays and further helped by the Government decision to reduce the rate of VAT on the hospitality sector from 20% to 5% on a temporary basis. Regrettably, this reduction only lasts until the 30th September, just when the holiday season is coming to an end. Personally I believe that there is a strong argument for the lower rate being applied on a permanent basis, as this would be consistent with many other countries, but at the very least I hope that the Government will extend the period that 5% is levied, in order to help these businesses to get back on their feet.
A local issue that several people have contacted me about in recent days concerns parking at the shops in Beatty Road. Several weeks ago, the owner of the car park outside of the shops erected signs to say that in future there would be a charge for parking, but that the first hour would be free. This makes some sense as these spaces are intended for shoppers visiting these stores and so I can understand them wanting to discourage long term parking. These signs have however now been altered and charges will apply whatever the length of stay. To make matters worse, payment can only be made by phone. As this is private land, East Sussex County Council have no control over this decision. I do however hope that the owners of the land will rethink as the consequences are likely to be an inconvenience for some who don’t have a phone with them; congestion outside the homes of neighbouring residents as others choose to park on the street and the loss of trade for the shops as some people will undoubtedly go elsewhere.
This weekend the popular “Beer and Cider by the Sea” event takes place on the Western Lawns. With over 100 Real Ales, Ciders and Perries to choose from and a variety of music, it promises a good time for all who attend. Tickets can be purchased from the “Visit Eastbourne” website at www.visiteastbournetickets.co.uk/beercider
Stay safe and enjoy summer!
Your Old Town Councillors have received many complaints about the installation of high speed fibre broadband.
Following requests from your Old Town Lib Dem team ESCC Highways Inspectors have visited several times, and where works have not been up to standard the companies have been told to reinstate properly. As well as the County Highways Inspectors, your councillors have met with both Lightning and City Fibre to highlight residents' concerns, and to work constructively to avoid these issues as work progresses.
Provided they have a permit, utility companies have the right to dig up roads and pavements to install their services. East Sussex officers cannot refuse a permit request without a legal reason. Your Old Town Councillors think it is wrong that councillors are not involved in the permit-issuing process.
Cllr John Ungar said,
"The Tory-run County Council have delegated this responsibility to officers. Incredibly, there is no responsibility on utility companies to work together to minimise the impact on residents. The Old Town councillor team will continue to hold these companies and County Highways to account on this matter."
Residents can report issues direct to the County Highways team on 0345 608 0193.
All East Sussex County Council meetings will be face to face as the Government has stopped councils running any more online remote meetings. The recent East Sussex County Council Annual Council Meeting lasted only 18 minutes and no substantive business was discussed.
Cllr Amanda Morris said,
"It's right that some meetings happen in person, but the government's approach is ridiculous. all these county councillors travelling from all over East Sussex for an 18 minute meeting, which could easily have happened online. The time, money and carbon emissions from councillors travelling from all over the county - what a waste!"
Lib Dem-run Eastbourne Borough council recently approved and published a Biodiversity Plan to increase biodiversity across the town and prevent the loss of habitats and species. These are decisive steps to protect and strengthen the local environment for future generations. In 2019 the Council declared a climate emergency and committed to delivering a carbon neutral town by 2030.
Old Town Councillor Jonathan Dow who led the work said,
"It is essential we work together and pool our expertise that helps sustain and improve biodiversity. We want to conserve, protect and enhance the natural environment here in Eastbourne."
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats in East Sussex County Council are asking the Tory-led Council to change its policy of achieving carbon neutrality from 2050 to 2030. Residents may remember that the Lib Dems proposed this previously, but an alliance of Tory and Labour County Councillors swept this aside, adopting the target of 2050, rather than the Eastbourne Borough target of 2030.
Old Town Councillors have been very happy to fund projects and work at two Old Town landmarks.
The Old Town Community Centre on Central Avenue received £450 to help fund Covid-related safety measures, ensuring they could once again provide facilities to the wide range of community groups that use this fantastic resource. If you wish to make a booking to use the Community Centre, contact [email protected]
Funding was also made available for educational signs and activity sessions to support the re-wilding of the churchyard at St Mary's Church. Since the project started, extremely rare orchids have been identified, and native flower seeds re-established.
Councillor Jonathan Dow said,
"It's wonderful to be able to support these really local schemes and groups, and the relatively small amounts of money go a long way."
Good News! In the May local elections Old Town residents voted for our local, hard-working, Lib Dem County Councillor John Ungar. John saw off the Tory challenge and had a good winning majority. As well as being the Old Town East Sussex County Councillor, John is also the Lib Dem's spokesperson for Social Care, an area in which the County and government continue to let us down.
Cllr John Ungar said,
"I feel honoured to have received such a large number of votes. I see the vote as a confirmation that local residents want me to put their priorities first. During these difficult times with money so short it is all the more important that East Sussex County Council provide good value for money services and meet the needs of local residents. I will continue working hard for Old Town, and persuading County to put people first."
With the Covid restrictions lifted, it has felt great to be able to attend events again, to mix with others and give family and friends a hug for the first time in over a year. I have however been keeping an eye on the number of new infections and whilst Eastbourne remains at the lower end of the national scale, there were over 200 new cases in the past week. This is approximately 1 in every 500 of us in the town and is twice the rate that it was just 7 days earlier. The vaccination programme has clearly made a big difference, but people are still being hospitalised, including some who have been double jabbed. It is therefore important to remember that Covid remains a killer virus despite the lifting of restrictions, so we clearly need to remain cautious.
A week ago, I wrote about my sadness at having failed to persuade East Sussex County Council to revise their carbon neutrality target down from 2050 to 2030. I make no apology for returning to this subject, as in just the past few days an alarming new United Nations report argues that global warming could make parts of the world uninhabitable. In a week that has seen fresh flooding in parts of the UK and uncontrollable fires on Greek islands, the report makes sober reading. It makes it clear that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. The analysis also makes it clear that it is our actions which have caused this situation. The report states that whatever we do, sea levels will continue to rise, which is a major concern for anyone living near to the coast. It does however offer hope that if we act now there is still an opportunity to reduce the effects of change.
Given the seriousness of the situation and the scientifically calculated predictions of the impact of climate change, you might question why politicians appear to be so reluctant to take urgent action. I believe that the answer to this is simple. To do so will be costly and will involve many unpopular decisions. But in the words of Alok Sharma, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office with responsibility for the COP26 conference later this year “the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action”. Now is the time for governments at all levels across the globe to act. I will continue to take that message to County Hall.
At a recent Council meeting, both Liberal Democrat and Conservative Councillors took the opportunity to criticise the Government’s Planning Bill. Although they used different language the messages were clear: this proposed law is bad news for the future development of all areas and needs to change. Personally, I am not a great fan of much of the current planning legislation, especially the fact that appeals are determined by a Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol and not by local people familiar with the area. I believe that these new proposals would effectively remove a large proportion of local decision making and allow many plans to go ahead unchallenged. The contributions that developers are currently obliged to pay towards local infrastructure projects will also be taken away from local Councils. The representations made by Councillors in Eastbourne complement those made by Councillors of all political colours across the country. Consultation on the “Planning for the Future” White Paper closes in October. I just hope that the Government listens to the concerns that are being voiced by local communities and scraps many of their proposals.
I have previously mentioned that I was calling upon East Sussex County Council to amend their “Climate Emergency” plans by revising the carbon neutrality target from 2050 to 2030, which would bring them in line with: Eastbourne; Hastings; Rother and Lewes Councils. Whilst my request was supported by Liberal Democrat; Green; Independent and most Labour Councillors, it was rejected by the Conservatives who hold the majority at County Hall. As we have seen from recent events around the world such as floods in China and Western Europe and fires in Turkey and America, climate change is a reality. If we do not take action now, we will be failing future generations.
On Sunday 15th August, a new event will enter the Eastbourne calendar in the form of the Eastbourne Run Festival. This family friendly event will feature a variety of different distances, providing an event for runners of all abilities. If you would prefer to watch rather than take part, the start and finish lines will be at the Western Lawns on the seafront, where there will be music and family entertainment to enjoy.
Stay safe and have a good summer!
With Covid rules still susceptible to change and the status of countries constantly changing in terms of the need to quarantine, many people are looking forward to a “staycation” this year. Fortunately, those of us who live in and around Eastbourne, do not need to travel to enjoy summer as we have so much on our own doorstep. From walks on the South Downs to days on the beach; golf; tennis or a cultural visit to Towner Eastbourne, there is plenty to do. As a tourist town there is not only entertainment but also a wide range of good restaurants and pubs to visit for food and drink. For those who crave some retail therapy, the Beacon has many big-name stores, whilst Little Chelsea, the Enterprise Centre and Terminus Road have some excellent independent traders. With so much on offer locally and with the added relief of avoiding the stress of travelling, I for one will be holidaying at home this year.
After 18 months of various Covid restrictions I am sure that we could all do with a laugh and a bit of fun. Thankfully, this is available at The Congress Theatre this coming week in the form of “Magic Goes Wrong”. I saw this show in the West End just before the first lockdown and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a mix of comedy, as would be spectacular tricks, go disastrously wrong, combined with some genuine magic tricks which left me questioning how they did them. This entertaining show promises a good night out.
The summer holidays can be an expensive time for families as they attempt to find ways of entertaining the children during the long break. With the warm weather here, you could do a lot worse than catch some free, traditional seaside entertainment, in the form of the Punch and Judy show on the Wish Tower slopes. Performed by Eastbourne’s own Ray and Jacqui Sparkes, the show returns for the 30th year. Performances take place at 12.30 and 2pm, every Tuesday and Thursday until the 31st August. “That’s the way to do it!”.
Stay safe and have an enjoyable summer!