Thursday 30 August 2012

Squatting set to become a criminal offence

Squatting in a residential building in England and Wales becomes a criminal offence on Saturday, meaning squatters would face jail or a fine.

Ministers said it would offer better protection for homeowners and "slam shut the door on squatters once and for all".

The maximum penalty will be six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.

But campaigners warned the new law could criminalise vulnerable people and lead to an increase in rough sleeping.

Currently squatting is treated as a civil matter and homeowners - including councils and housing associations - have to go to a civil court to prove the squatters have trespassed before they can be evicted. From 1 September it will be a criminal matter, and a homeowner can simply complain to the police who, if satisfied that the claim is genuine, can take action and arrest the squatters.

The law also protects owners of vacant residential properties such as landlords, local authorities and second-home owners.

Housing Minister Grants Shapps said: "For too long, hardworking people have faced long legal battles to get their homes back from squatters, and repair bills reaching into the thousands when they finally leave. Ultimately the government needs to tackle why homeless people squat in the first place by helping not punishing them. No longer will there be so-called 'squatters rights'. Instead, from next week, we're tipping the scales of justice back in favour of the homeowner and making the law crystal clear: entering a property with the intention of squatting will be a criminal offence."

Homeowner Hugh Whittle told the BBC it was a "horrifying" experience when he returned from a stay in hospital to find squatters had moved into his residence in London.

"Just going through the three or four months it took to get them out was a cost in stress. And cost in money as well, of course, lost rent. And the property did actually become worse in its condition which meant that we had to pay builders more."

But the new law was criticised by some.

Catherine Brogan, from the campaign group Squatters' Action for Secure Housing, told the BBC: "What we need is to tackle the housing crisis and not criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

However, Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said homelessness was at the lowest level for 28 years and the government was spending £400m a year on homelessness and £164m on bringing about 10,000 empty homes back into use.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This measure is about justice and fairness for homeowners who shouldn't have their homes stolen by squatters."

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, said legal provisions were already in place for removing squatters from people's homes and the new offence could leave vulnerable people facing jail or a fine they cannot pay.

She said: "It will do nothing to address the underlying reasons why vulnerable people squat in the first place - their homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

"Ultimately the government needs to tackle why homeless people squat in the first place by helping not punishing them."

Chief Constable Phil Gormley, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on uniformed operations, welcomed the move saying police could "now act immediately and remove squatters directly from properties".

Damian Green welcomes figures that demonstrate a fall in net migration to the UK

net migration down

Immigration Minister Damian Green has today welcomed figures that demonstrate a fall in net migration to the UK.
Estimated net migration fell to 216,000 in the year to December 2011; down from 252,000 in the year to December 2010 as a raft of recent reforms to the immigration system start to bite.
The figures also showed a sharp drop in the number of student visas, which fell by 30% in the year to June 2012. Tourist visas remained on the rise.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:
‘We are now starting to see the real difference our tough policies are making, with an overall fall in net migration and the number of visas issued at its lowest since 2005.
‘At the same time, there are encouraging signs that we continue to attract the brightest and best and to support tourism in the UK.
‘We will continue to work hard to ensure that net migration is reduced from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament.
‘We are doing this by improving the selectivity of our immigration system and increasing enforcement activity to prevent people coming into the UK illegally and removing those with no right to be here.’

Harbour Lock Gate Incident Update

Regular readers of my blog will recall the recent entry which passed on a press release from Premier Marinas following an incident during the night on the 4th August in which a pontoon was broken up and some low level damage was suffered by a small number of boats. This blog entry has been widely read and through my work as a local Councillor in the ward, I am aware of the concern felt amongst a number of residents about the incident.
As no further update had been released and in view of the level of concern felt, I contacted the Marina Manager to request a further update. This update is published in full below and I hope that whilst it does not clarify causes of the incident, it does give a little more information and I hope that this may give residents more comfort that the matter is being looked into thoroughly by Premier Marinas and that the findings of the investigation will be released in early October.
Premier Marinas - Latest Comment:
“At 00:27 hours on 4 August 2012 the outer lock gate of the west lock at Sovereign Harbour

Marina was opened during a routine procedure to “top up” the water levels within the marina basin.  The gate was partially open for 2 minutes 30 seconds.  This created a tidal flow on six vessels moored on a single pontoon adjacent to the lock, resulting in this pontoon breaking into three sections. Six boats, in a marina occupied by 727 boats, were affected by the incident.  None of these boats suffered any serious damage, no persons were injured and at no time was the harbour at risk of flooding.  The lock management system has a number of safety features designed to manage the risk presented by unwanted flooding of the marina basin and the outer lock gates will close automatically when the water level within the marina basin reaches a pre-determined level.

An investigation into the incident, led by the Harbour Master, has been concluded.  The results of the investigation are being reviewed by The Harbour Board which has responsibility under the Port Marine Safety Code for the safe operation of the marina.  Findings of the investigation will be shared with relevant stakeholders through the Sovereign Harbour Users and Stakeholders Group which next meets on 2nd October 2012.    Berth holders, residents, The RNLI, The Environment Agency, The Police and The Fire Service are represented on this group.”

Tuesday 28 August 2012

What do our Town Hall & the Houses of Parliament have in common?

Parliament could be convened in a replica chamber or a conference centre for the duration of the repair work, which could start in 2015.

The Sunday Times has reported the refurbishment could cost about £3bn.

A Commons spokesman said a study into the long-term upkeep of the Palace of Westminster is under way. Its findings are to be discussed by the year's end.

The Palace of Westminster - the meeting place of the House of Commons and House of Lords - is a Grade I-listed building much of which dates back to the 1840s and 1850s.

In January, the BBC reported that cracks had appeared in palace buildings, and that the Clock Tower housing the Big Ben bell had started to lean, although not to an extent to cause major concern.

A statement from the House of Commons Commission, chaired by the Speaker John Bercow, said at the time that the palace was "structurally sound".

Refurbishment work is ongoing, but a Commons source told the Sunday Times that the Victorian facilities "are creaking".

The buildings are widely reported to be infested with mice, and the plumbing and electrical systems are out-of-date.

The source added that the scale of the work involved made it "obvious" that the most cost-effective answer was to "move out".

They said: "We either move out or spend £10bn over 20 or 30 years on trying to do the work during the summer recess."

MP Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) tweeted earlier that the Commons was a "unique and passionate" place to discuss politics, however conceded that "the rodents are a problem".

The newspaper also reported another option under discussion is leaving the Palace of Westminster altogether, and establishing a new parliament elsewhere in London.

But a parliamentary source told the BBC is it unlikely the palace would be abandoned or sold.

An initial study by the House of Commons Commission into how the work might be done began before the current summer break.

Meanwhile back here in Eastbourne, our own Town Hall building is in a strikingly similar situation of which there appears to be no such guarantee of preservation. Local Lib-Dem controlled Eastbourne Borough Council has all but moved out of the landmark historic building as part of the much trumpeted modernaisation plans which have seen council departments shoe horned into 1 Grove Road from both the Town Hall and the building at 68 Grove Road. Council officers now 'hot desk', working flexibly from home in many cases and sharing desks in the refurbished offices at 1 Grove Road under the Lib Dem plans.

The Strategic Property Board set up in the wake of the Asset Management fiasco is due to recieve reports on many more council owned buildings in the coming months with areas of highest footfall being inspected first. The iconic Town Hall is believed to require major repairs to its roof but in addition, a recent walk around the building showed numerous areas of concern including rotten window frames, peeling paint and cracked plaster.
On a personal level, I think that landmarks like the Houses of Parliament and our own Town Hall should be preserved and where necessary, adapted so they can continue to provide service that is relevant in the modern age. From an historic point of view, there is so much we can learn about how things were done years ago, the characters who strode the corridors of power and in the case of our own Town Hall, even those that were tried for crimes in the original Court Room. Whilst the ornate nature of much of the building may present additional challenges and the need for serious investment, if you look at the value for money provided by it over its years of service, it would probably be fairly impressive and I doubt that many more modern buildings constructed during the last 50 or 60 years will still be standing to pass the same test of time in the next 100-200 years.
Please tell me what you think! E-mail me at 

Monday 27 August 2012

Tensions growing between Balls and Miliband over Labour's direction

George Osborne may be unpopular but opinion polls suggest that he's not as unpopular as his shadow, Ed Balls.
Two reports in the last 24 hours suggest that the relationship between the Labour leader and his Treasury spokesman might merit a bit more attention.


John Rentoul kicked things off in yesterday's Independent on Sunday. Whatever doubts there may be about Osborne's strategy, ability and popularity there can be no doubt that at the heart of the Coalition there is a strong PM-Chancellor relationship. Labour, in contrast, seems in danger of replicating the Brown-Blair tensions. Rentoul writes: "Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have been getting on particularly badly recently, although each has long found the other trying." The uber-Blairite journalist implies that the relationship could deteriorate once serious efforts begin to put content on that blank piece of paper which is currently the Labour policy review.

In today's Times (£) Sam Coates lifts the veil on what the tensions might be. He suggests that Ed Miliband does not share Ed Balls' wish to rebuild relations with the City while the Labour leader was disconcerted by the Shadow Chancellor's suggestion that he would bank all of the Coalition's cuts. Team Miliband regard Mr Balls as "high maintenance" while Team Balls think Mr Miliband lacks a clear vision for the Labour Party.

UK car manufacturing has increased

Many who know me, know of my interest in cars and my determination to buy British at every opportunity. Some of you might say that there is no such thing as a British car anymore and whilst it is true that most of the best known British brands are in foreign ownership these days, there are some fantastic British automotive success stories with much of the most specialist automotive design still taking place in Britain so it gives me great pleasure to share this blog entry from Jacqueline Foster MEP:

Did you know that the UK now exports more cars than we import for the first time since 1976? This nugget of economic data was lost among the crisis in the Eurozone and the ongoing attempts by Labour to talk down our economy.

In the first three months of this year, the UK manufactured 401,412 vehicles – a 12% increase on the previous quarter.

As our Party’s Spokesman for Transport and Tourism in the European Parliament, I am often in open disagreement with those members of the ‘anti car’ tendency in the Parliament.

Too often, many of those on the Left or the Greens, see car ownership as somehow a bad thing and that with just one more tram line here and an extra bus route there, we could all give up our cars and live happily ever after in a car-free continent.

Yet car ownership and car manufacturing are vital to the success of the economy. In the last few months, manufacturers in my region have announced new investment, and new jobs, often in areas that are in desperate need for both.

Jaguar Land Rover is to spend an extra £1 billion with suppliers over the next four years and will create 300 jobs at a new logistics facility that opens later this summer in Ellesmere Port.

After months of worry, Vauxhall Motors announced that 2,000 jobs have been secured and 700 new jobs will be created at their plant, also in Ellesmere Port, while a further 3,000 jobs are expected to be created in the supply chain as they start work on the new Astra.

Indeed, during my meetings with North West car manufacturers – whether Jaguar Land Rover at Halewood or Bentley Motors in Crewe, it is apparent that the UK in general, and the North West in particular, is increasingly being seen as the first choice for the industry in Europe.

And don’t just take my word for it – this is what the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “Manufacturing is continuing to lead our economic recovery, with automotive at the forefront of long-term growth opportunities. The major investment commitments made by global vehicle manufacturers to their UK plants and facilities are now beginning to create more jobs and stronger growth in the supply chain.”

The combination of good (and improving) transport links, a skilled, flexible workforce and lower taxes (assisted by the new Enterprise Zones) are the ideal conditions for car manufacture.

Whitehall waste reduction saves £5.5bn for taxpayer

A ruthless approach to eradicating wasteful spending across Whitehall enabled the Government to save over £5.5 billion for the taxpayer last year the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, announced today.
The staggering savings were driven by the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG).
The group applied spending controls to cut expenditure on IT contracts, property, marketing, temporary staff and consultancy. These new savings are in addition to the unprecedented £3.75 billion saved in 2010/11.
The savings, which have been independently audited, are equivalent to each of the following:
  • around £500 per working household in Britain
  • the salaries of around 250,000 junior nurses
  • the cost of around 1.6m primary school places

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:
“Because our controls on spending are working well and saving unprecedented amounts of money [indented quote], I’m determined they will be a permanent feature of good governance.
Last year, this Government beat its own prediction and saved a staggering £5.5 billion from departmental expenditure, on top of the £3.75 billion from our first year in office.”
In 2010 we set up an Efficiency and Reform Group in the Cabinet Office to beef up government’s operational centre and to ensure that Whitehall operated in a more business-like fashion. It’s working well, but we are determined to go even further, because when it comes to spending other people’s money we must always strive to find more efficient and better ways of providing public services.”
The savings of £5.5 billion announced today include:
  • £1 billion in savings achieved on consultancy contracts and spending
  • £390 million of savings from freezing all marketing spend - except when operationally necessary
  • £200 million saved by exiting unnecessary properties and not extending unnecessary leases
  • Reductions in the size of the Civil Service through stronger controls on non-essential recruitment has contributed to a reduction in salary costs for 2011/12 of nearly £1.5 billion

Sunday 26 August 2012

Government Reshuffle Speculation - What do you think?

Speculation has been rife for weeks about a forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle and most predictions indicate this will happen shortly, likely to enable a refreshed team to be showcased during the Autumn Party Conference season. But what do you think Prime Minister David Cameron should do?

As a committed Conservative who considers myself to sit on the true blue right wing of the party my thoughts for what they are worth may not surprise many who know me. I find the restraints of coalition Government frustrating even though I understood why David Cameron would have felt he had little choice after failing to secure outright victory in the 2010 general election. The mess left by Labour had to be dealt with and if common ground could be agreed, coalition seemed to offer a great deal more stability than limping on as a minority Government with the punch and judy of party politics dictating decision making and ultimate course of our nation followed by the disruption of an early general election.

I don't think the Government are doing a bad job, I share the view of many that we should be going further in a number of areas, most notably dealing with the economy and benefit reform and I get frustrated by apparent u-turns (even though in some cases I appreciate it demonstrates a listening Government) but I think their real challenge is improving communication of what we they doing and why they are doing it. Too often it seems that the public are left to digest the thoughts of the ridiculous Ed Milliband and Ed Balls on matters of importance when they along with their former master, Gordon Brown were the architects of so much of what went wrong - come on Lord Patten, step your cleansing process at the BBC up a gear please and lets get more balanced news coverage please!

Of course I'd like to see a more right wing Cabinet, I like William Hague, I believe that Ken Clarke although left leaning for a Conservative adds balance to the team and is popular with people in the country. I'd like to see the Treasury team strengthened and it may surprise many that I'd like to see Lib-Dem David Laws return here whilst the Coalition remains - he seemed to have a good grasp of how the Labour debt needed to be dealt with. I am dissapointed that the very bright and communicative Louise Mensch will not remain in parliament following her decision to move to the US as I think she would have become a good future Minister. I would also like to see the loose cannon that is the ever more eccentric Vince Cable removed from Cabinet, for all his supposed experience, he is not a team player and represents more of a risk than a benefit to good Government.

Finally, after what seems to have been a hugely successful Olympic Games, I wonder if a place could be found for two of its key movers, Sir John Major and Lord Seb Coe. Sir John never really recieved the recognition he deserved for not only putting our nation on such a steady course that it took New Labour 13 years to wreck it but also for the groundwork he laid to improve our sporting fortunes with Lottery funding and the formation of the UK Sports Council. Lord Coe is now also widely acknowledged as having executed a well organised games that has after the wonderful Jubilee celebrations, kept a thoroughly positive spotlight on our brilliant country. These talents and wisdom could surely be of benefit in helping us steer the nation through the challenges that lie ahead - over to you know Prime Minister!

UK should have fastest broadband network in Europe by 2015

Nine out of 10 homes and businesses in the UK should have access to superfast broadband, and the UK should have the fastest broadband network of any major European country by 2015, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced.

The Government has allocated £530m to providing the UK with the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015.

“In my very first speech as a Minister I said that I wanted us to have the “best” superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015,” said Jeremy Hunt in a recent speech.

“In defining ‘best’ you include factors like price and coverage as well as speed. But over the past two years it has become clear, as Usain Bolt wouldn't hesitate to say, to be the best you need to be the fastest.

“So I am today announcing an ambition to be not just the best, but specifically the fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015. Indeed we may already be there.”

The market is expected to provide superfast broadband to around two thirds of the country. The Government is supporting the roll-out of superfast broadband to the third of UK homes and businesses that would otherwise miss out.

The UK has made good progress on internet speed:

  • Average speed in the UK has increased by about 50 per cent since May 2010
  • In the last year alone average speed increased from 7.6 Mbps to 9 Mbps, overtaking France and Germany so the UK now has the fastest broadband of any large European Country
  • Two thirds of the population are now on packages of more than 10 Mbps, higher than anywhere in Europe except Portugal and Bulgaria

But the Culture Secretary added that we cannot afford to fall behind in providing high-speed internet access: “We simply will not have a competitive broadband network unless we recognise the massive growth in demand for higher and higher speeds.”

Following lots of interest in this blog topic and concerns specifically about the effectiveness of Broadband in Sovereign Harbour in particular, I have made some enquiries to better understand the technical aspects behind the problem and I will post further news once I have it. Thank you for your interest and feedback.

Quango reforms are saving billions for the taxpayer

The Government is more than halfway through the first wave of its quango reform programme, with the changes made so far set to save at least £1.4 billion for the taxpayer in this Parliament, the Minister for the Cabinet Office announced today.

The Cabinet Office has driven reforms which put the Government well on track to save at least £2.6 billion by 2015 – the equivalent of £150 for each working household in the country.

In a recent report, the Public Accounts Committee called the Government’s reforms ‘the largest restructuring of public bodies for many decades’ and said it would have a substantial and lasting impact on how public money is spent. Today’s announcement shows that rapid progress is being made and the benefits are already being felt.

The closure of public bodies will save taxpayer money, increase accountability, and improve public services. This programme forms a crucial part of the wider Civil Service Reforms currently underway.

Today’s progress update follows a review of the public body landscape in 2010. Since then, some of the biggest bodies have closed, including:

• Regional Development Agencies – by 2010 RDAs were costing the taxpayer approximately £2 billion per year, yet the economic disparity between the regions had continued over the last decade. Their closure will save the taxpayer billions and ensure that local economies are provided with tailored support to boost growth.

• Schools Bodies – 11 school bodies have now been closed. By making these closures and bringing a further seven bodies in house, the Government is restoring accountability by ensuring schools are the responsibility of Ministers. Closing these bodies allows resources to be focused on the front line, and sweeps away unnecessary and complex administration for schools

• Canals and Waterways – by moving responsibility for our canals and waterways to the Canals & Waterways Trust, we have replaced a quango with one of Britain’s largest charities. As government moves out the way, volunteers and local communities can take more responsibility for these valuable national assets.

• Child Support - the Government has taken direct responsibility for the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC), bringing it back into the Department for Work and Pensions. The Child Support Agency was a bureaucratic and costly organisation with a history of problems. The reforms will ensure that it is once again the responsibility of Ministers to improve this service for the families that rely on it.

MRSA deaths have fallen by more than a quarter in the last year

New figures from the ONS have revealed that the number of people dying due to MRSA infections in hospitals has fallen by more than a quarter in the last year, to a 15 year low.
MRSA deaths rose by more than 450 per cent from 1996 to a peak of 1,651 in 2006. Since then infections have been brought down by 78 per cent and are now lower than at any point since 1996.
Health Minister Simon Burns said:

‘The news that MRSA deaths are lower than at any point in the last 15 years is a testament to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff across the country.
‘We have a zero tolerance approach to all hospital infections and we have taken the unprecedented step of publishing infection rates on a weekly basis to ensure there is absolute transparency.
'Every avoidable death is a tragedy. We must continue to do more to keep hospital infections at their lowest levels on record and ensure no patient dies because of MRSA.'


Saturday 25 August 2012

Improved online updates are on the way from me!

I have been undertaking a social media experiment for the Conservative Group on Eastbourne Borough Council since late last year in which I have tried  to keep my constituents and other interested groups up to speed with not only my work as a Ward Councillor throughout Sovereign Harbour, Langney Point and the communities in and around Queens Crescent, Kingsmere and Kings Park estates but also local and national news and political stories that may be of interest.

This work has included the use of Blogspot (the blog you are now reading) and links to this along with other updates on social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook. I have to say that this has mostly been an overwhelmingly positive experience and has enabled me to connect with consituents that I may never meet through our more established means of communicating such as door to door canvassing, leaflets and public meetings. It has also enabled me to talk to Conservative Councillor colleagues all over the country which has been particularly useful when comparing initiatives and best practice between our respective authorities.

The other slightly more unexpected benefit has been how up to date I have been with news and current affairs. I often don't get time to read a newspaper during the week and whilst I thoroughly enjoy a Telegraph at the weekend, until recently my chosen means of news updates was BBC Breakfast before leaving the house in the morning and one of the 10 o'clock news programs at the end of the day. However the updates you can get from Twitter are delivered in real time and make just about every other form of media look slow and out of date by the time you see or hear it!

A development of this project has lead me to be encouraged to create a new online presence that is slightly more personalised and more relevant. It is still in its early stages at the moment but if you have time, please check it out at and share your thoughts with me on what could make it even better, obviously once it is in full use, it will feature all updated articles and any incomplete sections will be populated. Alternatively, if you are a local Councillor and are interested in creating something similar, please let me know and I can share my contact with you!

So long grass – extra cut for county's verges

Grass verges in rural parts of East Sussex will get an extra cut this season because there has been so much rain.

We usually cut verges in urban areas five times a year and those in rural areas twice. But after the UK's wettest June since records began, the county's verges have grown at a rapid rate.
This season's first cut finished recently. We have just started our second cut and the third, extra, cut will start in mid-September. Each cut covers 2,700km of grass verge and takes around 40 days to complete.

Councillor Carl Maynard, Lead Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: "The extent of the savings we've had to make in the last couple of years has been widely publicised and you will appreciate we have to spend our money where it's most needed. Unfortunately this is one area that has been affected, and it is extremely difficult to cut grass only twice a year and for it to look neat and tidy. But I'm pleased to be able to respond to residents' concerns by introducing this extra cut in the autumn."

Seafront cycleway progress with more to come

The first phase of work on a new seafront cycle route has started outside St Bede's School.

The work from August 13 to September 2 will widen the existing footway on Dukes Drive and has been scheduled to avoid clashing with Airbourne or the start of the new St Bede's school term in September.

The cycle route will provide improved linkages between the town centre, the western area of the town and the South Downs National Park.

Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council approved plans for the one-mile route on the existing footpath between Dukes Drive and King Edwards Parade in September 2011 after consultation with the public.

The remainder of the work, to provide a shared cycle and pedestrian route between Holywell Road and the Wish Tower will follow on after September 2. The whole scheme is expected to be completed by 22 October.

There will be limited disruption to car parking later in the construction phase, as bays will need to be removed and repainted, but this work will be carried out over one or two evenings only.

Jay NcNally from cycle group Bespoke, which has petitioned for a cycle path along Eastbourne's seafront, said “We are delighted that work is getting underway on the new cycle path. We're very lucky to have such a beautiful route along our coast and the new route will allow more people to commute and enjoy the scenery in safety. Cycling is great exercise, environmentally-friendly and fun for all the family.”

Councillor Carl Maynard, East Sussex County Council's Lead Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: “I'm really pleased this work is getting underway. Not only does cycling play an important part in reducing congestion and improving access to services, it is good for your health too. I would encourage more people to get on their bikes and enjoy this beautiful part of our county.”

Work was completed on the first section of another bike path, the Horsey Cycle Route – which runs alongside Eastbourne Park between the railway station and the eastern side of town – in March this year, with the remaining three phases due to be completed by September 2014.

Councillor Patrick Warner, representative of Sovereign Ward on Eastbourne Borough Council added "many of my constituents share my view that we should be able to cycle into Eastbourne along the seafront without taking our chances in what is often very busy traffic on the road so I am pleased that whilst work has started at the opposite end of the seafront to us, feasibility work is now expected to be undertaken later this year on how best to provide the missing link in the seafront cycle route between the Wish Tower and Fisherman's Green". Currently cyclists from the Harbour can ride along the seafront promenade from the Water Treatment Works on a dedicated cycle lane as far as Fishermans Green before either having to dismount and walk their cycles the rest of the way or switch to the road along the seafront which is not at all safe.

A Library Service we can be proud of in East Sussex

Whilst enjoying a rare bit of free time with my family this week, I took my children to visit our Central Library in Eastbourne to take part in their reading challenge. For those without primary school age children, the reading challenge is a national initiative aimed at encouraging our youngsters to read six books in the six weeks of their summer holidays.

I hadn't been to Eastbourne's main Library in a very long time and I was gobsmacked at just how much it had changed. Gone was the stuffy 1970's atmosphere with its drab colours, regular clunk of rubber stamps adding return dates on the inside covers as books were handed out and shhhh noise every you corner you turned as people discouraged you from breathing or making any kind of noise that my disturb anyone. In its place is a bright and vibrant place with a great selection of books complimented by technology brimming from every corner and the sort of atmosphere that encourages you to come in and rediscover the magic of reading. The majority of books are now self checked in and out by you or I using machines that automatically read the bar codes on our cards and the books in seconds, there are lots of computer terminals available for those who don't have access to the internet at home and at the back of the Library there was a very busy Learn Direct class going on and I understand that East Sussex Libraries are now the biggest provider of Learn Direct courses in the County which is helping adults improve their basic literacy and numeracy skills to help them gain employment.

On returning home I tweeted about my positive experience and it seems from the responses I got back that many of my friends were also taking part in the challenge with their children and had either just got back or were just about to go and visit. My friend and colleague, Tony Freebody also responded with some facts that I was not aware of. Tony is East Sussex County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Services which includes the Library Service and he tells me that East Sussex is one of the only authorities in the country that is still investing in Library provision. The upgrades in our local Library are complimented by a new £6m Library in Hastings, a new £6m Library in Seaford and an investment of over £1m in improvements in Newhaven.

If you've not had chance to visit your local Library and are fortunate enough to live in East Sussex, I recommend you get on down there without delay and use this fantastic service - one that we should all be very proud of!

Monday 20 August 2012

Review of my recent Blog topics

As the holiday season is upon us and council meetings are fairly scarce during August, I thought it might be useful to pause for reflection to update readers of my blog on some of the subjects I have posted about in recent weeks and months:

Open Letter to the MP on Parliamentary Reform
It seems that our MP may well be away on his summer holiday as my letter to him dated the 8th of August remains unanswered twelve days later, lets hope he has enjoyed his break and will return raring to go and ready give comfort to us that he does support the majority view from the public that and will be voting yes to the following; 1) to reduce the number of MP's in Parliament from 650 to 600 at the next election with possible further reductions to follow after that, 2) to redraw the constituency boundaries so that they are of even size and more fairly represent their electors. This is a clear part of the coalition agreement and our constituency is to remain unchanged at this election in the findings of the independent review which has been undertaken by the Boundary Commission.

Visit Eastbourne & Buy Local
This Wednesday sees the third of the new Eastbourne Street Markets held at the sea end of Terminus Road. Congratulations to all of the traders who have helped make this happen including Tim Tradewell of Secret Garden who has been the guiding force behind the market. One slightly concerning issue that has come to my attention in recent days however is the fact that one local craft seller tried to contact the Council to sell her produce at the seafront promenade market during the Airbourne weekend. She was told that the she could not take part as it was organised and managed by an out of town travelling market company and therefore local traders could not be involved. I will be raising this with Council officers as it seems crazy to me that at one of the biggest events of the year, when we hop that local businesses will benefit from the millions of visitors, local traders are turned away in favour of a company who is not even local.

Harbour Lock Gate Incident
Following the incident on the 4th August when a tidal surge caused damage to pontoons and a small number of boats, there was a statement reassuring members of the public that the event was being investigated. No further information has yet been forthcoming and whilst I have no doubt that the investigation will prove to be thorough, the blog story on this topic has attracted lots of page views and I have heard residents express concerns. Many seem under the impression that it may have been caused by human error but the lack of further comment is understandably leading to concern that if it was not an innocent mistake, the public could be placed at risk again with more serious damage occuring next time. I will make contact with the Management Team to find out what the latest news is.

Sniff of scandal over loss of a dog warden
This topic has become the most read blog to date in under a month which goes some way to showing how popular our dog warden is to the people of Eastbourne. I recieved several expressions of concern after the story first broke following the husband of a Lib-Dem Councillor leaking it via his newsletter. The Town Hall has remained tight lipped about the subject after the dis-unity broke out and we understand that even the local newspaper have experienced difficulty getting a comment. Since then we understand that the Leader of the Council has since pledged that he will continue to provide the services of a dog warden but it seems far from clear if this will mean that the popular officer who currently fulfills the role will be asked to continue or if the effectiveness will be diluted from the role being merged with another post. Conservatives will continue to push for the Lib-Dem administration to come clean over their plans at the earliest opportunity!

County Council's £2m investment in Eastbourne Town Centre
There has been widespread appreciation of the news that Conservative controlled East Sussex County Council is investing £2m in our Town Centre regeneration. This money which is only available because of profits gained from the decriminalised parking scheme will be used for highway and public realm improvements at the same time as Legal & General invest £70m in the extension of the town's Arndale Shopping Centre.

Arndale Planning Application being considered by members this Thursday evening
A special planning committee meeting has been convened to look at the application for the extension to the Arndale Centre at 6pm this Thursday 23rd August in The Court Room in Eastbourne Town Hall. This is a public meeting so members of the public are welcome to watch your Councillors in action. My colleague has rightly expressed concern about the design of the main entrance to the extension which faces the magnificent main entrance to the station and victorian clock tower opposite what is currently The Gildredge Public House. Early sketches showed a somewhat hideous white cliff edge which seemed to clash horribly. I have also previously raised concerns from independent traders at the Enterprise Centre about the proposed iron curtain along the external boundary on Ashford Road which concerned traders feel would block off any view of their shops and residents concerns in the Longstone & Tideswell Road areas who are worried that they will be cast in an even greater shadow if the existing car park is extended by two further floors. I will be present at the meeting and aiming to re-iterate these concerns and I hope that the applicant will relook at these concerns and agree to amend the application.

Five Acre Victory for Residents of Langney Point
Following a well organised campaign by Ward Councillors in Sovereign and residents in Langney Point the seemingly impossible was achieved and the Lib-Dem run council was shamed into a u-turn recently as barmy plans to hold the Moscow State Circus close to residents properties without proper regard for the comfort of residents or the safety of circus goers were ditched at the last minute! Both this and the Olympic big screen event passed off safely on the spacious events fields at Princes Park after all. I wonder how much this fiasco cost the taxpayer and why common sense did not prevail in the first place!

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Open letter to our MP about constitutional reform

During the last couple of weeks we have seen divisions open up withing the Coalition Government abouth the constitutional reforms going through parliament. Part of the Coalition Agreement included pledges by both David Cameron and Nick Clegg to 1) bring forward a plan to debate reform of the House of Lords and 2) to reduce the number of MP's to save money whilst equalising the size of constituencies to produce a level playing field.

Nick Clegg came forward with a plan to reform the House of Lords which generated considerable opposition across the political divide of both houses of parliament. The plan was debated but seemed doomed to be voted down in its current form. That said, all parties recognise the need to reform so it seems that a better thought out plan of reforms will come back at some stage.

The politically independent Boundary Commission have also come forward with the promised proposal to cut the number of MP's from 650 to 600 and redraw the constituency boundaries to equalise the size and create the level playing field. However this week we hear that Nick Clegg has gone back on his part of the deal and will not be supporting these plans when the vote goes before parliament. 

Whilst the proposed changes do away with some constituencies and heavily redraw a number of others, there are no changes to our own Eastbourne Constituency so I have written the attached open letter to our Lib-Dem MP, Stephen Lloyd to see where he stands on this important subject and I will keep readers of this blog along with my followers on Twitter & Facebook updated with my progress in getting a response.

Monday 6 August 2012

Visit Eastbourne and Buy Local

Inspired by the success of the first Street Market at the sea end of Terminus Road in Eastbourne, I have decided to try and promote other local businesses via my Facebook & Twitter pages so that that the Street Market can act as the catalyst we all hope it will to encourage people to visit our wonderful town and spend money in a variety of local businesses.

I will remind my followers each week that the market is on and I am looking for recommendations that I can direct followers to whilst they are here. For instance this week I am suggesting that if you want to have a sit down meal after a busy morning shopping, why not go in and see my friends at Solo Pasta in Cornfield Road for a great value Italian meal. But I'd like to expand this by recommendation to the many other great restaurants and cafes that we have, so please get in touch with me at to let me know who you'd like me to give a helping hand to.

Additionally, if you have a special product or service that people might like to know about, tell me about those too and I'll happily encourage visitors to go and check out a shop each week as well. This is aimed at small independent traders in the surrounding retail areas like Little Chelsea, The Enterprise Centre, Cornfield Road, Langney Road and of course Terminus Road so do please keep those recommendations coming through and lets get those cash registers ringing in our Town Centre!

It would be very wrong of course if I didn't recommend a visit to Sovereign Harbour on the way home, ideal for any of those big store purchases you forgot, a meal in one of the many Waterfront Restaurants or a film at the cinema!

Sovereign Harbour Lock Gate Incident - 4th August

Following an incident at the marina sea locks early on Saturday morning, Premier Marinas has issued the following statement.

“Sovereign Harbour - Incident Statement - 4th August 2012
At around midnight on 3rd August, immediately following a routine ‘top up’ of the Inner Harbour basin, one of the seaward lock gates opened whilst the Inner Harbour gates were open.
The lock gate opened approximately eight feet, with a three foot head of water entering the Harbour. The tidal load on the vessels and pontoons resulted in a pontoon breaking into three sections. These have now either been secured or removed.
Harbour personnel were on site and responded immediately. Power and water supplies were isolated and a count of crew on board vessels was carried out. No persons were injured. There was some superficial damage to a small number of visiting vessels.
The lock gates are in working order and we are currently carrying out a full investigation into the incident.”

Thank you to the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association for alerting me to this story. For more news, views and information about events in Sovereign Harbour, please visit