Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A sniff of a scandal as Stephen Lloyd’s Lib-Dems descend into dogfight over their plans to do away with popular Dog Warden

The husband of a Lib-Dem Councillor has caused a stir at The Town Hall by distributing a newsletter to members claiming that Eastbourne is to lose its Dog Warden. The leaflet points out, quite correctly, what a good job the Dog Warden does across the Town and calls on Councillors to ‘Stop the cut and keep our dog welfare officer’.  This bizarre development follows recent concern expressed by Conservatives over the findings of a staff survey conducted by Eastbourne Borough Council which identified low staff morale and allegations of bullying.

Leader of the Conservative Opposition, Cllr David Elkin commented, “you can understand why such a high proportion of Council staff feel this way if you see popular and efficient officers thanked for their efforts with a redundancy notice.  I am also tempted to question what kind of an administration conducts policy debate in this way? You have the spouse of a member distributing these letters to other members, telling them what is going on, and then someone else removing these letters from the in trays of opposition members before they have had a chance to collect them !  It is both bonkers and dodgy in the extreme”

Shadow Cabinet Spokesman for Environment, Cllr Tom Liddiard also commented adding “we were disappointed, during the recent budget process, that  the Lib-Dem administration refused to back our proposal to double resources in this important area and provide sufficient to employ an extra dog warden. I will be calling for their crazy plans to leave us with no dog warden at all to be hastily abandoned”.
Following the leaflet having been distributed to Councillors, some having gone missing and my release of this release, things have gone very quiet. We understand that the popular dog warden concerned has been told not to talk to anyone about the situation. Rest assured that my colleagues and I have taken seriously the numerous expressions of concern we have received on the subject and will not relent in holding the Council to account.

The Council's current link to the Dog Warden information on the EBC Website (seems rather hypocritical given this news story):

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

£2 million investment agreed for Eastbourne Town Centre

Over the next four years, East Sussex County Council will invest £2million of parking surpluses to support the overall redevelopment of Eastbourne town centre. This is to support and complement the proposed £70m investment by Legal & General in the redevelopment of the Arndale Centre.The funding was agreed by the Lead Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, Councillor Carl Maynard, at a meeting on Monday (23/07/12). The County Council investment will be supported by funding from Legal & General and will pay for improvements including the redevelopment of Terminus Road. Councillor Maynard said: “Supporting this project is clearly in line with our ambitions to encourage economic regeneration across the county. “Given the financial climate at this particular time, I feel we are very lucky to have a commitment from Legal & General to invest in Eastbourne through such a significant development as the Arndale Centre.“It is a fine example of how the public and private sector can work together on an initiative for the benefit of the local community.”The decision follows the approval on Thursday of a £500,000 contribution towards the redevelopment from the ‘Economic Intervention Fund’. The Fund - part of the Council’s £500m Budget for Growth - was agreed at a meeting by the new Lead Member for Economy, Councillor Matthew Lock on Thursday.

The Leader of The Conservative Group on Eastbourne Borough Council, Cllr. David Elkin said, “This is excellent news and highlights that when groups work together they achieve the very best result. This investment will be used to compliment the street scene around the new development and to enable improved traffic flows. We want to see our shops occupied to full capacity, businesses thriving and jobs created, especially for our young people in Eastbourne. This investment by the County Council supported by funding from Legal & General is a huge step forward to the regeneration of our town centre.” "I will be looking forward to listening to the ideas of the local business community and other local stakeholders to ensure that this cash is spent in order to permanently benefit the feel, the look, and the prosperity of Eastbourne Town Centre".

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Five Acre Saga Continues - Mission Cover Up Now Underway

Following the recent staggering performance over Five Acre Field where residents had to contend with cock-up after cock-up from Stephen Lloyd's Lib-Dems who control Eastbourne Town Hall, there has been another bizarre twist.

For those not familiar with the saga up to this point, we had a Licensing Application submitted by the LibDem run Council to move the Moscow State Circus from the established events field at Princes Park to the community open space known as Five Acre Field, supposedly due to a double booking due to the Olympics. It was exposed during the process that no proper risk assessment had been completed and that not only would residents suffer but circus goers could also have been placed in danger. To add insult to injury, the council also appeared to pre-judge the Licensing Committee outcome by marketing the circus and other events on Five Acre and permitting an alcohol license for the circus event.

Lib-Dem members at the hearing then steam rollered through a one off license before the council performed a complete u-turn under pressure from residents and my colleagues and I as the very real threat of a judicial review was posed. Suddenly it appeared that after further consideration, there was after all now enough room in Princes Park to hold both events.

Now Stephen Lloyd's Lib-Dems spin machine has swung into action as a leaflet has been put round the area trying to convince residents that it has all been a dream and that actually they were holding to their 2007 election promise to protect Five Acre Field after all.

You just couldn't make it up could you? No wonder that after this and the ongoing Asset Management Scandal where public buildings have been neglected whilst the council has invested in numerous consultants and spin doctors, increasing numbers of residents are calling for change!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Common sense prevails with Five Acre victory for residents

News came through this evening that the Liberal Democrat run Eastbourne Borough Council has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown over their crazy plans to move the Circus from the established Princes Park events field due to a double booking with the big screen for the Olympic Games.

Residents and Sovereign Ward Councillors challenged the plans highlighting a complete lack of proper consultation, unacceptable parking pressures in neighbouring roads which could have prevented emergency service vehicles getting through to residents and staggering shortfalls in risk assessments amongst numerous really valid concerns.

A number of us suggested that both events should have been able to be accommodated within Princes Park and ward Councillors learned earlier today that this has now been investigated properly and is deemed perfectly possible without the need to disturb residents around Five Acre Field.

Following the fiasco that was the Licensing Hearing Committee meeting in which Lib-Dem members gave the green light for the event against the view of the Conservative Councillor at the meeting, residents had produced copies of Lib-Dem election literature that had pledged to protect Five Acre Field from development and ironically the circus and commented on how betrayed they felt.

Ward Councillors will now be looking at ways of repairing the surface of the field to once again enable sport to be enjoyed by the community and holding the discredited Lib-Dem administration to their pledge to improve defences which will reduce the risk of future incursions by travellers.

Power to the people!

Friday, 13 July 2012

New Eastbourne Free School is Go!

It gives me great pleasure to share the following press release with readers of my blog, before leaving you to read all about Eastbourne's new Free School, Gildredge House, I would just like to thank the team who have made this possible, very much for their time, energy and commitment and to wish them a long, happy and successful future.

 The East Sussex Free School Steering Group is delighted to announce that the Department for Education has granted approval to pre-opening phase for the new all-through Free School in Eastbourne. The school will be called Gildredge House, and plans to open in September 2013. This school will provide personalised education for children aged from 4 to 19, and will manage an individual learning journey for each pupil in a consistent and developmental way.

The demographic profile of Eastbourne is changing. There are a growing number of young families in Eastbourne and local primary schools are already struggling to accommodate the increased demand. Gildredge House plans to provide 56 urgently needed Reception places, and will help to meet the projected shortfall in secondary places in the area. It will also ensure that a higher proportion of East Sussex pupils are offered a place at their first-choice school.

Gildredge House plans an initial intake of two classes of 28 pupils in Reception and six classes of 20 in Year 7 for 2013. The school will continue with the same intake in Reception and Year 7 each year thereafter, with the first pupils reaching the Sixth Form in 2018.

There is a huge demand for this new school, with already 674 expressions of interest from parents with 1,039 children supporting the application for this exciting opportunity. In addition, over 100 teachers, extracurricular activity providers and local businesses showed their support by offering their expertise at an open event held by the Free School at the Lansdowne Hotel in April.

Gildredge House’s vision is for pupils to be "cooperative, confident, ambitious and successful regardless of their background." The school’s mission states: "We expect pupils to meet academic challenges, discover their passions, develop confidence, contribute positively to society, be resilient and become independent thinkers prepared for successful and fulfilling lives."

The non-selective Free School will take a traditional approach to education and will offer a broad range of academic subjects, specialising in Science and Technology. Class sizes will be small and a longer school day for seniors will incorporate supervised prep and extracurricular activities. All pupils will be expected to participate in Sport, Art, Drama and Music. Parents will be expected to work with the school in their children’s education and there will be no tolerance of disruption in the school, allowing teachers to teach and pupils to study in depth. Primary teaching will focus on building a solid foundation and instilling a love of, and respect for learning.

A Governing Body comprising members of the Steering Group has been appointed to oversee the creation of the school and initial key activities include appointing an outstanding headteacher and gaining approval for the proposed site (Dental Estimates Board, Compton Place Road).

The admissions policy will be available in early September 2012, and open days will be arranged from this time. The application timings will be in line with East Sussex County Council’s school admissions key dates, and for 2013 admissions, applications must be made directly to Gildredge House. Applications should be made in addition to other schools following the usual Local Authority process, giving parents a choice should they be offered two places.

To be kept informed of developments, please register your interest at www.eastsussexfreeschool.org.uk (new website will be available shortly) or Like the school’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/gildredgehouse
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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A missed opportunity...

I attended the Lib-Dem Cabinet Meeting at Eastbourne Town Hall this evening and I found it a great shame that their trend for stage managed executive committee meetings continued with the usual blend of windy rehtoric, self congratulatory nonsense and reheated ancient political arguments that create a worrying image of a complacent administration that seems more focussed on spin than addressing genuine concerns.

I raised three issues:

1. Asset Management failings could affect sign off of annual accounts. I am concerned that the very slow progress being made to address the asset management crisis could lead to the unknown condition of so many of the Council's properties meaning that values placed on property in the annual accounts is inaccurate if further major weaknesses are revealed in the structure of buildings that are yet to be inspected. It is believed by cabinet that they exceeding requirements set down but with the second batch of survey results overdue, it will be interesting to see if the conditions of these give cause for concern or if these results remain hidden until after the accounts are signed off. We will have to wait and see...

2. Delays to much vaunted Loyalty Card Scheme but costs keep mounting. The agenda item was seeking cabinet approval to move the goal posts on the council's performance monitoring system 'Covalent' whilst new hi tech options are considered. I asked how much the project has cost tax payers so far, how much it will end up costing, when it will be delivered and what benefit it will be to residents and local businesses. The Leader of the Council did not know how much had been spent although officers bailed him out with clarification that £5,000 had already been budgeted but there were questions after the meeting as to whether this included officer time dedicated to the project so far. As a local resident and businessman I sincerely hope that we do actually end up with a product that brings us all benefits and is going to be capable of being seen as a serious alternative to the established Club Card and Nectar Point schemes, rest assured I shall continue to question performance...

3. Parking Strategy concerns fail to be addressed. The planning application for the extended Arndale Centre is now with the council but residents and businesses located in the shadow of the multi storey car park are concerned that their quality of life will diminish if two further stories are permitted. The parking strategy highlights a big over supply of car parking spaces in the Town Centre with the Junction Road and Trinity Trees car parks regularly nowhere near capacity. I suggested that real time information should be introduced to direct visitors to existing available spaces before any further consideration is given to extending the current Arndale car park. The Leader of the Council offered the three Devonshire Ward representatives on Cabinet the chance to allay fears. One remained silent, one spoke about the benefits of the wider strategy document and the last started on about the decrimilised scheme which East Sussex County Council introduced for town centre street parking back in 2007. None of them answered the question and all failed to justify their broken promises on parking, don't forget they pledged to remove the County Scheme but not only did they fail to remove it but they also introduced more expensive parking charges on the Wish Tower Slopes next to the now demolished Wish Tower Restaurant. In adition they also failed to help local businesses by discounting parking charges during the crucial winter months as the Conservative run County Council have done now for the two previous years.

What must residents have thought? Undeterred I will continue to ask questions and say where I think they going wrong but I will also be quite happy to work with them where I believe they are doing a good job! Let's not hold our breath.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

New Information Boards help put Sovereign Harbour on the map!

Sovereign Harbour is often described as Eastbourne's best kept secret with visitors not realising it exists. I regularly recommend people to go and enjoy the waterside walks, sample the many eateries and take in the boating life and everytime it takes people's breath away.

The largest man made Harbour Marina in Northern Europe is a fantastic boast for our town and could be a big draw for tourists if it was more widely known. My former colleague and Councillor for Sovereign, Pat Bowker was instrumental in getting the promenade extended past each development up to the end of the North Harbour at the Borough Boundary with Pevensey Bay and my current colleagues and I never miss a chance to bang the drum for Sovereign Harbour.

However, congratulations must now go to my ward colleague, Cllr Gordon Jenkins who has managed to add two further Tourist Information boards to the planned nine when he spoke at a recent Planning Committee. Sovereign Harbour now features prominently on each board and the picture below shows one of Gordon's extra boards near the lock gates next to the Wild Bird Information Board which ward Councillors contributed towards recently from their Devolved Ward Budget.

Well done Gordon!

Council Clowns break cross party promise on Five Acre Field

Horrified local residents watched a farcical meeting of a specially convened Licensing Committee hearing take place at Eastbourne Town Hall last week as the Town Hall Clowns tripped and tumbled their way through the Five Acre Field application and after a staggering 1 hour and 40 minute wait, gave approval for the circus to take place after some staggering failures in process were disclosed.
The decision to stage the circus on Five Acre Field this year was supposed to have come about due to a double booking of events at Princes Park. Residents were understandably furious that the subsequent licensing application appeared to have been prejudged with event advertising already having taken place and other events being planned and marketed throughout the remainder of the season.
Residents have a number of times in recent years, had to contend with illegal traveller incursions which have led to the burning of trees, dumping of rubbish and churning up of the field not to mention abusive behaviour towards residents and increased fear of crime. Until now, there has been a cross party concencous with both main parties pledging to protect and preserve the local community open space. As recently as 2007, Lib-Dems said that they would prevent development and not even allow the circus on the field.
Prior to this licensing application, a small number of residents in Lib-Dem represented Devonshire Ward at Regency Park were consulted about the plans whilst residents in Conservative represented Sovereign Ward who live closer to the planned event knew nothing until the posters went up.
Residents have raised a number of concerns about disturbance, lack of parking, control of the consumption of alcohol, emergency service vehicles not being able to reach residents as circus visitors clog up local streets and the rapidly deteriorated surface on Five Acre Field with its deep ruts and holes along with an open sewer providing a serious risk to members of the public.
Residents have every right to feel cheated, Stephen Lloyd’s unpopular Lib-Dems have broken a cross party promise to residents and could be forgiven for wondering if once they have completely ruined this much loved open space, if they have secret plans for housing and blocks of flats”.
Information and advice is now being put together to support the filing of a likely Judicial Review of the decision and concern was also raised at the performance of Cllr Pat Hearn who asked how late a risk assessment could be recieved if they were to grant permission at the meeting. It is strongly believed by many present that this demonstrated a desire to permit the application even though this information had not been gathered before the application had been submitted as it should have been.