Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Conservatives call for A27 road improvements as local Lib-Dem MP launches £1.2m bypass for cyclists

Local Conservatives are to campaign directly to Transport Secretary Justine Greening for much needed improvements to the A27 between Eastbourne, Polegate and Lewes as the two Lib-Dem MP’s serving the area appear to have remained silent whilst nearby Bexhill, Battle, Hastings and Tonbridge received a shot in the arm with improvements to the A21.

This week an expensive Highways Agency project was launched by Norman Baker that links Beddingham & Firle with a £1.2m cycle path whilst Eastbourne & Polegate remains isolated at the end of the A27 restricting its potential in business and tourism growth and inflicting increased exhaust emissions and reduced air quality on the many villages along the road.

Pevensey & Westham County Councillor, Tony Freebody said “how can Norman Baker celebrate the launch such an expensive folly with taxpayer funds through the Highways Agency whilst long suffering motorists have to sit in jams looking at the empty cycle path”.

Eastbourne Borough Councillor for Sovereign Ward, Patrick Warner accused local Lib-Dems of hypocrisy “Norman Baker did very nicely when his former home at Beddingham Level Crossing was flattened to make way for the flyover but both he and his Lib-Dem colleague in Eastbourne have remained silent whilst our local area continues to struggle to generate much needed growth with poor road network access”.

Local businessman & Proprietor of, Steve O’Neil who uses the A27 regularly for airport runs added “motorists are amongst the most taxed in Europe and with fuel costs at record levels, I and other road users could be forgiven for being frustrated that cyclists who contribute nothing financially in direct taxation get such a lavish scheme whilst we sit looking at the car in front”.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Concerns raised over Council staff morale

As a member of the Council's Scrutiny Committee, I find this development very concerning and thought it important to share the following press release with you as part of my blog:

While the Borough Council is trying to do a lot and stretch resources even further in these difficult times, a recent Staff Survey, which was returned by only 242 (57%) of the 427 Staff Members, showed disquieting results. These results and employee fears that the survey returns would identify respondents, raise concerns about staff morale and the current quality and effectiveness of delivery of the Council's services to its local residents.

It will be interesting to see how service to the customer improves over this 1st year of AGILE given that only 43% of staff surveyed agrees that AGILE has improved customer service.

It is important not only for staff morale that the service offered improves but that Eastbourne residents feel they are getting the quickest and best service possible. 

Deterioration in services is not an option and we would hope that staff morale improves to a degree that members feel working for Eastbourne Borough Council offers the best job security and career development.

Cllr Colin Belsey, Eastbourne Borough Council's Chairman of Scrutiny said "I am concerned that such a small sample of the total number of Council employees took part in the survey and that amongst the findings morale seems to have slipped, stress levels are on the increase along with a perception that they are being harassed and bullied. Much of the windy rhetoric we hear from the Cabinet Member responsible, appears to represent a triumph of spin over substance and members of the Scrutiny Committee will no doubt look to be reassured that staff are more happy in their work and able to focus their full attention on improving the service they offer residents in future".

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Time to Save our Heritage!

A number of my colleagues and I feel that enough is enough, the Town's Heritage started to disappear the moment Stephen Lloyd's Lib-Dems took office in 2007 with the sale of Councillor's ceremonial robes and hats and the moving of Full Council Meetings from the historic Council Chamber to the cold and drafty Court Room on the ground floor. But now we are seeing wholesale acts of vandalism taking place such as the demolition of the Wish Tower Restaurant without any real consideration being given to preserving it for public use before either the funding or plans are in place to carry out a more ambitious redevelopment of the site. Even more disturbing, we now hear rumours that Ocklynge Chapel is to be demolished.

Now you might say well, how important is the Council Chamber and aren't robes and hats a bit of a pompous throwback to an ancient past? Whilst I respect your right to whatever your opinion is on this subject, I would say that when robes were originally introduced it was to give all members an equal standing so that whatever your background or whatever clothes you could afford, when the robes went on, all members were equal. But this is not the only purpose, when I was first elected to Eastbourne Borough Council in 2002, I remember putting on my robes and walking out into the Chamber for meetings and feeling a great sense of history and purpose in what I was doing, the act of putting on the robes and taking part in the democratic process in such a magnificent Chamber with portraits of former dignitaries looking down at you also gave one a great feeling of responsibility not only to do your best for ones constituents but also to treat your opponents in the chamber with respect and courtesy, even when you disagreed strongly on issues.

The Asset Management failings have been well documented already both in Council Meetings and local media in recent months (not to mention a few of my blog posts) and you may recall the hasty action that was rushed through by Cabinet despite understandable concern from the family who donated the Wish Tower Restaurant to the people of Eastbourne after World War 2 and numerous letters from residents and former customers expressing concern and disappointment.

Now we have two situations where more historic buildings look set to be flattened, Swanley Court which has been in Trinity Trees since circa late 1800's and Ocklynge Chapel in Ocklynge Cemetery. Swanley Court looks set to be flattened to make way for a characterless block for student accommodation and Ocklynge Chapel has apparently deteriorated to such an extent that it is a danger to the public.

How much more of our heritage can we trust to this Council and where will it stop? If you feel strongly about preserving our Town's Heritage and are interested in helping mount a campaign to ensure our Heritage is not lost as our Town continues to evolve and remain relevant in the future, contact me at

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Stephen Lloyd's Lib-Dems complacent over Bandstand

Stephen Lloyd’s Lib-Dems complacent over Bandstand

Opposition Conservative Group Leader, Councillor David Elkin has accused Stephen Lloyd’s Lib-Dems of complacency over the re-opening of The Bandstand. In a press release issued today, the Cabinet Member responsible claims to be delighted that they were able to re-open The Bandstand three weeks earlier than planned.

Councillor Elkin said “this represents a new level of astonishing complacency given that this historic venue is now being propped up with unsightly RSJ steel girders until the end of the tourist season before major repairs have to be completed that would not have been necessary had the Council been monitoring the condition of tax payer’s assets and keeping them in good repair”.

Since the Asset Management Scandal was highlighted late last year, a number of key Council owned buildings have been highlighted as in a state of neglect, the Wish Tower Restaurant is so bad the administration claim it needs to be demolished, there is now fencing protecting visitors from unsafe railings at The Redoubt Fortress and The Congress Theatre remains shrouded in faded tarpaulins and scaffolding as we head into the third Tennis Tournament since concrete started falling off the front of the Theatre.

Councillor Elkin added “the recently formed Strategic Property Board has been charged with sorting out this mess but with a huge backlog of property still waiting to be inspected it seems likely that the situation will get worse for some time before residents and visitors to Eastbourne can take the kind of comfort from the Council’s performance that Stephen Lloyd’s Lib-Dems seem to have”.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

'Real Time' Scrutiny Needed in Eastbourne

I should start this blog by paying tribute to my former colleague, Nigel Goodyear who as a retired Policeman brought a great deal to the role of Chairman of Scrutiny in Eastbourne, quickly gaining a reputation for fairness coupled with a forensic ability to grasp the detail. I know that members and officers alike will miss his approach to Scrutiny in Eastbourne.

Following Nigel's recent resignation to turn his attention to campaigning to become the new Police & Crime Commissioner for Sussex, Councillor Colin Belsey has taken over as Chairman of Scrutiny for the following Civic year. Colin is someone I have known for many years and I am sure he will build upon the progress made by Nigel.

I too am a former Chairman of Scrutiny, having held the role when it was first created during my first term of office on Eastbourne Borough Council between 2002 and 2007. I am pleased to add my experience to the committee and I look forward to working with my colleagues from both parties.

My first Scrutiny Committee meeting of the new Civic year was held at the Town Hall earlier this evening. As we read through a very detailed report reflecting on the 2011/2012 Civic year, I couldn't help feeling that whilst there was a huge amount of detail, a mixture of progress made and items requiring further effort - it was all a bit historic and missed the opportunity in many areas to act earlier and bring more progress sooner.

This is why I will be calling for more 'Real Time' Scrutiny this year, where we take some of the most important issues affecting the council, look at historic results alongside current performance and against future plans. Additionally, we currently recieve reports at Scrutiny Committee meetings by the Departmental Lead Officers and whilst they have valuable input, I'd like to see the Cabinet Portflio holders account for work done in their name more often and I believe that this could lead to action being taken to improve Council performance sooner, giving residents more confidence that they are getting value for money from their local Town Hall.

If you have any area of concern about the performance of our Council and you think that the Scrutiny Committee should look into it, please feel free to get in touch with me at

Licensing hearing date set for Five Acre Field

Readers of my blog will be aware of the Licensing Application for a Circus to be held on Five Acre Field in Langney Point, currently under consideration by Eastbourne Borough Council, which following a packed mediation meeting at the Strollers Cafe in Princes Park recently has now been modified to a 'one off' application.

Concerned residents are worried about additional noise, invasion of privacy, difficulty with youngsters sleeping at night, rowdy behaviour by revellers, parking in nearby residential streets, litter, loss of amenity space, restricted access for emergency service vehicles and the like but they also point out that the uneven nature of the field in places makes it a far from ideal venue and it appears that the levels of risk assessment carried out could have been more thorough.

I felt sorry for the Events Manager during the mediation meeting who at first it seemed had made an innocent enough mistake by double booking the established events field at Princes Park. I have seen how hard the Events Team work over the years and I pay tribute to the enthusiasm and dedication they show in making sure there is lots for residents and tourists to see and do in our wonderful town each year. However I felt he was let down and left exposed on this one with no Cabinet Member or Senior Officer attending the meeting to support him or give any kind of reassurance to residents.

It transpires that consultation took place in neighbouring Devonshire Ward (represented by Lib-Dems including the Cabinet Member responsible for Tourism) but that none took place in Sovereign Ward (represented by Conservative opposition Councillors) where there are many more residents who will be directly affected by the plans. Furthermore, whilst this double booking may have been a mistake, it would appear that despite pledging in 2007 election material that Five Acre Field would be protected by Lib-Dems who took all three seats at that election, now Conservatives have regained Sovereign Ward at the 2011 elections, other events are planned for Five Acre Field this year and publicity has already taken place.

I share the concerns of my constituents and I was very pleased earlier this year to have been able to have Five Acre Field included in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Parks scheme which adds extra protection to public parks. Residents have put up with alot over the years with a number of Traveller incursions and they accept the important role Five Acre plays each year during Airbourne when the field is used as a park & ride facility to help keep our local roads moving but it is a much loved community open space and should be maintained as such for the enjoyment and recreation of residents. Our wonderful town has many open spaces which are far more suitable for events and I share residents concerns that if this application is approved, the floodgates will be opened for many more events throughout the year.

The final decision looks set to be made by Councillors serving on the Licensing Committee at a hearing set for 6pm in The Assembly Hall at Eastbourne Town Hall on Thursday 28th June and your Councillors will be there. A leaflet is being distributed to homes in nearby streets in the coming days advising them of the hearing date but we recommend that as many residents as possible should attend to show members of the committee the strength of feeling.

Once this first hurdle is passed, we will be renewing our calls for defences against future Traveller incursions to be introduced and will also be requesting that some levelling takes place to enable sports to be played on the field again. Some residents have also asked about the old Sports Pavillion located at the Sovereign Centre end of the field and if this could be renovated and able to be used by the community - tell us your views?