Newsletter of Hastings & Rye Liberal Democrats: 2020 No.2
Recovering from Covid-19
'E-Petition: Join in improving Hastings recovery from the Lock-down'
"Please sign the e-petition on the Hastings Borough Council website on the organisation of the recovery from Covid-19. The Council is asked to create an open Working Party comprising people across departments, organisations and interest groups. The idea is to provide focus and energy to ensure the best policy for the economic and social recovery of the Borough from the Covid-19 lock-down. It will be useful to consider all options, learn from what others are doing to develop policy to improve conditions in the town and enhance resilience in the future."
The petition can be signed by: accessing the Council website at https://hastings.moderngov.co.uk/mgePetitionListDisplay.aspx or go to https://www.hastings.gov.uk/. Then writing the word 'petition' into the box at the top, right hand corner of the page, then clicking on the second item in the list with the title 'current ePetitions - modern Gov' and then accessing the petition on that page. The deadline to sign is 9th July 2020.
It has long been a central tenet of Liberalism that no one person or body has the sum total of wisdom, and the debate on recovery and its opportunities should be as wide as possible.
Leadership Election and Autumn Conference
Most members should have received an email from Mark Pack, the Party President and Geoff Payne, Chair of the Federal Conference Committee, on the proposals for a new Leader and the Autumn Conference.
They've set a timetable for electing our next party leader - running from June through to August. With the widespread use of online hustings and online voting, we can make this work even if some elements of the lockdown are still in force. What's more, with online hustings we can experiment much more with formats, topics and ways for members to get involved. Go to https://www.libdems.org.uk/leadership for details.
That new leader will be in place in time for our Autumn Conference - which we've confirmed we want to run online in the biggest event of its sort in British politics. There are some important details to sort about what will be technically possible. But we're aiming big, including speeches, policy, training and fringe meetings. There are even plans for an online Glee Club, though we're not sure what the organisers mean by a 'dry run' for this event. We want more members than ever before to take part in our annual showcase.
A Date for the Diary
We live in very strange times indeed.
Having just recovered from December's election, January and February saw us making plans for the May election. We started to deliver leaflets, allocate limited resources to canvasing particular wards, and also started to organise a few social events. However, with the Covid 19 Virus, all local political activity has been put on hold, as has our socialising.
However, I'm happy to announce that a date and speaker for the Annual Lunch has been set. This will, all things being equal, take place on Sunday 1st November 2020, from 12.30pm onwards at The Garden Suite, Bannatynes Hotel. There will be a 3-course sit-down lunch, with Daisy Cooper, the new MP for St Albans, as the guest speaker. It's a definite date for the diary. Places are limited to a maximum of 70, so early booking is advised, tickets priced £30 pp. available shortly.
We're enjoying our Executive Meetings via Zoom which seems to work very well, who knew it even existed before March!
We are thinking of organising a 'pub quiz' event via Zoom in the coming weeks so please let us know if you're interested.
I hope you and your loved ones are keeping healthy and active at this difficult time. Hopefully, it will possible to ease the Lockdown soon.
Bob Lloyd Chairperson
When Lockdown was dramatically announced, we were preparing for May's Borough Elections in Hastings; Focus was ready to go out, and an Emlyn Jones was about to launch an Air Pollution Survey. We will want these out as soon as Lockdown is eased. We had prioritised the Rye and villages Focus, because a byelection was anticipated on the same May day in Eastern Rother - Sally Ann Hart having become an MP was vacating her Rother District Council seat. We had not, at this point named our candidates for those elections, but were ready to go.
With Covid 19 and Lockdown, those elections, and the Police Commissioner elections, were postponed until May 2021, which means that they will run alongside the County Council elections. This causes us to rethink our strategy. County Wards comprise two Borough or District Wards, and both wards in each were not necessarily target Borough wards. Furthermore, the County Steering Group hopes to take East Sussex into No-Overall-Control, as we succeeded in doing with Rother District last year. So, we need 16 names to go forward for the Borough elections and 10 for the County election - 8 in Hastings and 2 in Rye and the villages.
Whilst we assume the Borough candidates will remain in place, people's circumstances do change, and in any case, the following round is in 2022, so it is not too early to start thinking about it. County candidates will need to be approved separately from our own internal approvals,
So, don't be shy; we in Hastings are considerably disadvantaged in our lack of representation at the Borough and County levels, and have only just remedied this on Rother District Council. We won Eastbourne and Lewes on the back of our local government strengths there and will win the back on the same basis. If you want to be part of that in Hastings and Rye, contact us and get an application form now. Nominations for the Rye & Eastern Rother County candidacy close on 31st July 2020 because it is a target seat and we need to be getting on with things.
Liberal Democrats present bill to extend Brexit transition period
Ed Davey has put forward a bill which, if passed, would force the government into a two-year extension of the Brexit transition period, which otherwise ends with December. An extension to the transition period is essential, ensuring that the government could focus its full attention on tackling the spread of coronavirus. We've seen for the past four years that the Tories can only handle one issue at a time.
Speaking ahead of the Bill's presentation, Ed Davey said: "It is clear the government have not made nearly enough progress on the Brexit trade talks. To choose a No Deal Brexit and crash out, when the option to extend the transition is possible would be an act of national self-harm - especially when our NHS, economy and food supply chains are already stretched and struggling. It is time the Prime Minister did the right thing. That is why Liberal Democrats are today presenting legislation that would enable the government to seek an extension to the transition period.
The European Union Withdrawal (Implementation Period) Bill faces its second reading in the Commons on 11th September 2020. Email our MP at email@example.com urging her to support Ed's Bill. Many of us have sent emails earlier, getting fobbed off with the government's line… but wasn't Johnson himself telling us to use 'good solid British common sense' only a month or so ago? Time for Tories to take some of their own medicine.
Interested in local issues?
"We are looking for any interest of local party members to join small teams to share the work on different areas of local authority action in Hastings and Rye. The working arrangements would be very informal and flexible, respecting the practical possibilities for all participants. If you are particularly interested in any aspect of local policy (eg. Housing, environment, etc.) and would like to join a small team to pick up on such issues.
Please contact our Deputy Chair: Jonathon Stoodley on: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07711206984.
The Fighting Fund
Because of Lockdown, we have been in the difficult position when it comes to fundraising. Normally we would have announced a range of social events over the summer to that end, and some may yet take place, but there are no certainties on that at the present moment.
Next year we now have elections across the constituency - County elections throughout, and Borough elections in Hastings, plus a by-election in Eastern Rother. We have great ambitions for these elections, not least in taking the County into no overall control, as we succeeded in Rother last year, and running it on a similar basis. At present there are 30 Conservatives, 11 Liberal Democrats, 5 Independents and 4 Labour County Councillors (all of the latter in Hastings). Six seats need to be won from the Tories to make this happen, (whilst holding our existing seats) and this, as with the Rother Alliance involves compromise. We are grappling with those thorny issues. East Sussex is the most likely County Council in the region where a coordinated approach is likely to change control of the council; in Kent 65 of 81 are Tories, Surrey, 58 of 81, West Sussex 54 of 70, Hampshire 55 of 78. Oxfordshire is more volatile, with a Tory/Independent majority of one.
But it also requires money. One of the proposals that has come out of our County Steering Group, involving all of the five East Sussex constituency parties, is to employ a Campaign Manager to coordinate the campaign (and help us with our local campaigns). The constituencies will have to come up with most of the funding, on a formula based on their membership, but South East Region is expected to make a substantial contribution. In addition to what the executive has agreed to commit, we are asking members to make a contributions. If ten people gave £50.00, or twenty £25.00 etc. we would soon get there.
Please contact Bob Lloyd on 07973 614278 or email@example.com today!
ROTHER DISTRICT COUNCILLOR'S REPORT
Strange times for us all. Nothing is normal, certainly not for your Rother councillors. Be assured we are still here to help you.
Due to that virus the full council, on 23 March, resolved to postpone decision making where possible. For time-critical executive matters, decision-making was delegated to the two Executive Directors with the agreement of the Leader following consultation with at least four cabinet members and an opposition member, all to be done remotely. Similar but different arrangements were made for non-executive matters, such as planning, licensing and audit. Other councils have made similar arrangements.
Of course, all council and committee meetings are cancelled and councillors are confined to barracks like everyone else. We have been given a helpful letter "to whom it may concern" to explain our conduct if out and about on necessary ward business.
You might think we could then sit back with a few tins of beer and some old films and put our feet up. Due to modern electronic communications it hasn't been like that. I am assaulted on all sides by three sets of WhatsApp messages from Alliance, Lib Dem and Cabinet councillors. Rother has set up home working for officers using Microsoft Teams for communication in addition to the usual email and telephone. Ward residents are in frequent contact through Facebook, Messenger, email and (sometimes) handwritten letters put through the letterbox. Whatever happened to phone calls?
We are all learning to use Microsoft Rother business, but for councillors and party Zoom seems very popular. Your Rother Lib Dem councillors (plus friendly Green) have been meeting this way each week. It was the first time all of eight of us have met together since last May's election. Fairlight and Pett PCs have successfully met via Zoom. Rother's Planning committee has just had its first Microsoft Teams meeting (plagued by technical problems). We need to get back to full democracy as soon as possible.
With home working and video-conferencing I doubt we shall ever go back entirely to the old ways. While there is something lost in a video meeting there are substantial gains to be weighed in the balance. Accessibility to the public is the obvious example. There are huge savings to be made from home working. The Town Hall was widely seen as unsuitable for modern purposes, but with home working the longer-term need for a replacement may be unnecessary. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.
The Town and Parish Councils have done a marvellous job setting up support lines for the home-bound and self-isolating. I'm happy to say that Fairlight was quick off the mark and shared experiences with other parishes in the Ward. The emergency has shown the value of Town and Parish Councils as organised, funded and democratic bodies with local knowledge. Bexhill is about to be granted a Town Council, and my support for that is reinforced by present experience.
Rother officers have been doing an extraordinary job in coping with the present crisis. I've mentioned the upheaval of home working and the necessary IT. Rother has been in the front line in that it has had to house all eight of its rough sleepers and continues to deal with its responsibilities to homeless people (whose problems are exacerbated by self-isolation). Environmental Health has had to ensure that businesses have complied with requirements to close or restrict activities. The council's leisure centres (run by a contractor) have had to close, as has the De La Warr Pavilion . Food banks at Bexhill, Battle and Rye have been supported and food parcels delivered to those on the NHS "Shielded" list. With Rother Voluntary Action a contact "hub" has been set up to direct people needing support to the right agencies, and member of staff at Rother has been designated to deal with enquiries and coordinate responses.
Support to businesses is channelled through Rother, and there has been additional pressure on benefits services and council tax relief. Rother has distributed substantial grants, especially for the retail, hospitality and leisure industries - which includes village halls, sports clubs and holiday lets. Refuse collection has continued, but without the garden waste service, due to staff absences at Biffa through self-isolation, illness etc.
There will be huge financial implications for Rother and other councils. Not only is there additional expense as already indicated, but income has reduced significantly. A major feature is the closure of the Camber car parks, and of the the De La Warr.
Let us hope we can return to some sort of normality soon, perhaps keeping the benefits of improved working practices and, I hope, without too much suffering.
Meanwhile keep safe, but don't hesitate to come to your councillors with any problems.
EAST SUSSEX FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE PLAN FOR A SAFER FUTURE
The East Sussex Fire Authority launched a consultation on its Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP). The Fire Authority has a statutory duty to produce a risk plan. This is not about cuts. The IRMP is at the heart of the work that our fire and rescue officers do and is about looking at the risks that are there in the community and making sure that we have the right resources in the right place to meet them.
All fire and rescue services across the country have been inspected. The inspection report required the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) to make improvements in its Integrated Risk Management Plan.
We are reviewed the IRMP and are made representations to the County Group for a coordinated response by Liberal Democrats across East Sussex. There are three fire stations in the constituency, Bohemia Road and The Ridge in Hastings and at Rye. We have concerns about the proposals for the Ridge and Rye stations in particular. Kate Lamb has raised the issue of the Rye station in respect to Camber, as well as the obvious concerns about the town, and Cllr. Andrew Mier has written with regards to The Ridge station in respect of the villages around Hastings. We understand that Battle Liberal Democrats share those concerns.
The Citadel of Rye is a national treasure, and Camber was highlighted in the report as a potential problem because of the nature of some of the homes and holiday homes. Camber has trouble with traffic practically every sunny weekend, but with Covid-19 the problems became daily during the last heat wave. We hope that common sense will prevail when the final decision on the IRMP is taken.
Cllr. Andrew Mier
AIR POLLUTION SURVEY
Having a retired GP on the team, Dr. Emlyn Jones, proved good for our creative campaigning. Having worked in the Wishing Tree area before retirement, Emlyn was aware of the incidence of respiratory diseases around some of the major road junctions in Hastings, and decided to conduct a survey, along with colleagues Susan Stoodley in Gensing and Stewart Rayment in Silverhill. We're targeting the Asda junction area, down to the Green Garage junction and Bohemia Road. If our suspicions prove correct, we can argue for proper monitoring with a view to environmental measures to alleviate the problem being brought in, particularly near the schools in the area.
Alas Covid-19, itself a respiratory illness, intervened, with the lockdown immediately before we were about to. Some updating of the survey is now necessary, but that is with the printers and we hope to get going as soon as lockdown lifts to our satisfaction (I mean who'd trust a Tory?). We plan to cover 1,500 homes, so will need as much help as can be mustered - not just surveying, but also analysing the data. If you would like to help contact Emlyn on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07850 949773.
Published by Hastings & Rye Liberal Democrats, PO Box 305, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 1JX. Email email@example.com