Winter Health Crisis

Winter Health Crisis: The Tip Of The Iceberg For Maidstone Residents. One in three West Kent GPs and nurses set to retire by 2020.

The long-anticipated, and much-feared, winter crisis in our health service has dominated the headlines recently. A&E departments in Kent and across the country have been overwhelmed, with severe waiting times for patients and dangerous bed shortages.

Locally, this is the tip of the iceberg. For many residents in Maidstone, problems at A&E are compounded by insufficient provision of primary care, the health care provided for people in the community by GPs.

I attended a recent meeting of the West Kent Health and Wellbeing Board, where they discussed NHS, social care and public health provision where we live; and two things stuck out to me. The first is the health inequality that already exists in Maidstone, of which too many of us are unaware; the second is the severe shortage of GPs in West Kent.

Increasing demand for primary care in our borough has been an agonising and growing problem affecting residents for years now. Many people in town centre and rural practices have relayed to me that they are unable to get appointments when needed, and for people moving homes, joining a local practice has been difficult or impossible.

A local GP told me that the number of vacancies for GPs in West Kent is rising, but young doctors are not joining the profession - they’re training locally, but not staying here. Even more worrying is that a third of all current GPs and nurses will be retired by 2020. So Mrs May’s latest demand that GP surgeries should be open for longer hours is frankly ridiculous.

With too few GPs to satisfy the demand in Maidstone, many residents are missing out on a continuity of care which is concerning. It is concerning for those people who need it most: people suffering from long-term mental health problems or those with a complicated medical history.

This is a situation which has been brushed under the carpet for too long. It needs immediate actions, joined-up thinking, and planning for the long-term. If this is a familiar picture in your community, please do get in touch - I’d like to hear your story.


Emily Fermor is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Maidstone & The Weald

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Farmers set to suffer from Brexit

The release of a government report today reveals how farmers will be hit badly by any withdrawal from the single market, resulting in significant import and export tariffs.  

The report, published today by the Environmental Audit Select Committee, shows the economic pressures already in place on the farming industry, and how this will escalate if Britain leaves the single market and produce is subject to additional charges, along with the withdrawal of the farming subsidy.  

Kelly-Marie Blundell, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes highlighted the report, commenting;

“With significant agricultural and grazing land in East Sussex, farming in Lewes will come under huge economic pressure. We see 95% of sheep exports going to the EU, which would be subject to a 30% tariff if the Conservatives press on with pulling the UK out of the single market.

“The Conservative Government will not guarantee farming subsidies after 2020, which puts farming in a perilous position, without the added pressure of export tariffs to take into account.

“We did not vote on a referendum on the single market, and Theresa May and the Conservatives should heed the Select Committee report which clearly shows how badly our farming industry will be impacted.”


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Adult Social Care funding crisis in East Sussex

In a major statement East Sussex Liberal Democrat Councillors have hit hard at the Conservative minority administration of East Sussex County Council.

Liberal Democrats condemn the government for not properly tackling the funding crisis in Adult Social Care. The Conservative government has said that councils can raise their Council Tax by up to 5%, of which 3% can be used to fund Adult Social Care. This is an extra 1% on what the government had planned. It is not known if the Conservative run County Council will levy the extra 1%. The extra 1% will bring in £2.3 million but will not bridge the funding gap, which in East Sussex has been £6 million each year for the last few years. This continued gap in funding will lead to further cuts which come on top of year on year cuts suffered by Adult Social Care in East Sussex.

Among past cuts we have seen a forced cut of 30%in the cost of packages of care, with the voluntary sector budget cut to the bone, even with this there was still is a £6million black hole in the Adult Social Care budget.

Local County Councillor Rosalyn St Pierre who represents Lewes Bridge and Ringmer division has noted draft plans by ESCC to withdraw support for the Phoenix Day Centre. In recent years this much loved facility which offers care for those with dementia and of course respite for hard pressed carers for a few hours per week. Rosalyn has fought for the care of the elderly from opposing cuts the centre at Harvard Road Road Ringmer to closure of similar centres throughout the county. Rosalyn observes that the Lewes area has an ageing population who have lived and served the town and community all their lives and certainly now deserve good care.

County Councillor John Ungar, Shadow Lead Member for Adult Social Care at East Sussex County Council, said, “I am frightened for very vulnerable people living in East Sussex, they face a very uncertain time wondering if and how the Tory cuts will affect them.” He went on to say,” Part of the problem is that the Conservative administration does not understand the complexity of Social Services care provision. They have been making quick fix cuts over the years instead of providing services in a way that was resilient, this was following the effects of the uncaring cuts in funding from central government.”

County Councillor Kathryn Field, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader at East Sussex County Council, who Chairs two committees which scrutinise the plans and action of Health and Adult Social Care coming together, is worried that many of the NHS and Adult Social Care schemes are in such an early phase that it is hard to see if cash savings can be made, let alone continue to provide the care so desperately needed. She said, “The coming year is going to be a hard one“.

County Councillor David Tutt, Opposition Group Leader at East Sussex County Council, thinks many of the cuts made in recent years were unnecessary as the Conservative group, together with UKIP and Independent allies pushed through budgets which made cuts to Adult Social Care whilst continuing to spend over £1million on communications. David Tutt said, “The Tories have shown their incompetence in the formulation of budgets. These budgets made cuts to Adult Social Care services to the most vulnerable in our county. They did this whilst wasting opportunities provided to them, by the Liberal Democrats, to have budgets which would have protected more front-line services. The Lib Dems proposals would have achieved this by targeting back office services to help the County Council to work more efficiently. "The Conservatives have failed those in need of Social Care at both National and Local level, as a result many will suffer and overall the cost will hit the Health Service budget".

To tackle the crisis in the provision of Adult Social Care Liberal Democrats would, among a raft of measures, lead with investment in a range of community services, primarily through the voluntary sector. This would help relieve pressure on the statutory provided care services. The County Council must work more closely with other organisations so that services can be provided in a joined up way, so that they meet people's needs.




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Best ever year for Lib Dems in local authority by-elections

Last night's three by-election gains make 2016 the Liberal Democrats best ever year of by-election gains.

Last night, the Liberal Democrats won another three council by-election victories with huge swings from the Conservatives - securing the party's best ever year for by-election gains.

Complementing Sarah Olney's victory in the Richmond Park by-election, the Liberal Democrats have gained 31 seats in local authorities across the country this year.

The net gain of 28 seats surpasses the previous best of 27 gains, which were made in 2002.

The by-election wins have seen the party win seats from Labour, the Conservatives, UKIP as well as independents.

Last night's three victories saw the party win seats from the Conservatives in the South West of England, in Teignbridge and Taunton Deane, all with huge increases in our share of the vote.

28 gains is a stunning result and reflects the hard work our local councillors and local parties put into our communities.

The Liberal Democrats are winning again - we are making gains in local government, and winning parliamentary by-elections too.

After the 2015 election, our leader, Tim Farron was clear that the Liberal Democrats would redouble our efforts and fightback - and that wouldn't be just in Westminster.

As we are seeing communities across the country are backing the Liberal Democrats who are now the real opposition to this Conservative Government.

We are fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united - and people are backing us.

Help us make 2017 an even better year. Join us today:

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Lewes Lib Dems respond to Southern Rail Consultation

Lewes Liberal Democrats, including Seaford, Newhaven and Polegate have responded to Govia Thameslink Railways (Southern) timetable consultation for service changes in 2018. The party have been running the Save Seaford Trains campaign in Seaford since October, as proposals from GTR include significant service reduction to the largest town in the district.

The Save Seaford Trains campaign collected 3,211 signatures against the removal of trains which run direct to London from Seaford during peak hours. Liberal Democrats were accused of political scaremongering by the incumbent MP, but continued to campaign and raise the critical issue with residents. 

Kelly-Marie Blundell, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate and Seaford resident commented;

“Passengers are suffering as a result of poor railway management.

“The Conservatives are keen to blame the Unions, but the truth is the trains don't run on time even when there are no strikes.

“To propose significant timetable changes, including a loss of trains between Seaford and Victoria, is salt in the wounds for many passengers, myself included.”

The Consultation, which opened in October 2016, does not ask if respondents are regular commuters, the options only allow people to chose how they travel as 'At least a couple of times a week', 'A couple of times a month', 'Couple of times a year' or 'never'. 

Cllr Sarah Osborne, who represents Plumpton, criticised proposals to reduce services to the villages;

“Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker fought hard to secure improved rail services to Plumpton. For Govia Thameslink to propose reducing them is unacceptable. 

“Both villages have commuter populations who rely on regular transport, and we need to see investment in our local rail services so both villages have an hourly service outside of rush hour, not a slow erosion of local and regular trains.”

County Councillor Carolyn Lambert, who represents Seaford, criticised the misleading consultation;

“The proposals set up false choices for passengers. Residents in Seaford travel regularly to Brighton and to London Victoria. Making them choose between one or the other is unnecessary.

“Southern Rail blame the single line between Seaford and Newhaven. We say, re-open the second line and put more trains in.

“Too many people in Seaford are suffering from journey delays, disruptions and cancellations. We need a rail service fit for the residents, and this consultation proposal clearly will not meet the needs of the people in Seaford.”

Residents across Lewes district are growing fraught at the ongoing problems with Southern Railway services.

Kelly-Marie Blundell, who has been vocal on the subject, commented;

“The Conservative Government holds the contract with Southern to deliver the services. If the needs of the service are not being met, they should be stripped of the contract and it should be given to another provider.” 


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Last week Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney sent a strong message to Government when she overturned Zac Goldsmith’s 23,000 majority to become the new MP for Richmond Park in London.

The Lib Dem campaign in Richmond focussed on two issues, which clearly rang true with voters:

  • the underfunding by Government of NHS services, which is leading to severe problems for care services for elderly and other vulnerable residents
  • worry about a Government heading for a so-called ‘Hard Brexit’, without free trade with the rest of Europe, with huge concerns on what this means for people’s jobs and livelihood.

Many traditional Conservative and Labour voters, including many ‘Leave’ supporters backed the Liberal Democrats because of our strong positive messages on the NHS and ‘Brexit’.

Find out more and how you can get involved here.

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By-election shock as Lib Dems surge to historic victory

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Jonathan Brown wins Southbourne By-Election

Jonathan Brown, a leading local Liberal Democrat campaigner and Southbourne resident gained a seat on Chichester District Council at the Southbourne By-Election on Thursday 1st December.

Jonathan gained the seat from the Conservative party with 58% of the vote and a majority of 357.

Jonathan said “I am privileged to have been elected to serve on Chichester District Council on behalf of the residents of Southbourne. I am grateful to the residents for the confidence they have expressed in me and I look forward to ensuring that Southboune, Prinsted, Nutbourne, Hermitage and Thorney Island have a strong voice on the Council.”

Jonathan has worked hard on behalf of residence in recent years and is already a Parish Councillor, Chair of the Southbourne Environment Group and a member of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group.

Jonathan’s overwhelming victory is the result of years of hard work on behalf of residents.

Following his election Jonathan will be dealing with a wide range of issues identified during the campaign including parking problems in the Lumley and Hermitage area, flooding and planning issues in the ward.

To ensure residents are kept in touch Jonathan will be producing an online Newsletter and regular Focus leaflet delivered to residents in the ward.

General Information

The Result 

Name of Candidate


Number of Votes

Jonathan Brown

Liberal Democrat


Rebecca Louise Hamlet

Labour Party


David Michael Harwood

The Conservative Party Candidate


Patricia Hunt



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Stephen Lloyd's Response to Chancellor's Autumn Statement

Autumn Statement - disappointing!

The new Chancellor's first Autumn Statement left important gaps and will penalise a lot of ordinary people. No mention of the NHS or the growing Social Care needs in all 72 pages of the Autumn Statement! This is despite urgent calls for additional funds for both services, which we keep hearing are in a state of financial crisis. It is astonishing that the Chancellor did not mention these core public services once.

And the bulk of George Osborne’s stringent welfare cuts are set to go ahead, including no help at all for those disabled people trying to find work, with the proposed 30% reduction to their income remaining unchanged.

I think this is simply wrong.

The Chancellor also announced an increase to 12% for all insurance premiums. In total, it means premiums have doubled since 2015 under the Conservative Government. This means the typical family will now have to pay an extra £90 a year compared to 2015.

Compare the decisions above with today's announcement that the government have said they will allocate an extra £240m in this parliament to deliver the expansion of grammar schools!

I think this is completely the wrong priority and will of course benefit the already privileged, when they could have invested the extra money to improve 'all' our schools. . 

A budget for the few in my opinion.

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Commuters prepare for Judicial Review on Southern Rail

The commuter-led organisation The Association of British Commuters, who raised £25,000 to fund a legal challenge, have revealled their basis for taking the Department of Transport to judicial review for failings in relation to Southern Rail. 

The organisation, which Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Kelly-Marie Blundell has helped campaign, want the Government to disclose the contract held with Govia Thameslink Railway, who run Southern Rail, so they can be held to account for their failings in providing adequate service.

Kelly-Marie Blundell welcomed the next step, saying; 

“For residents in Lewes, the continued poor service is unacceptable. We have seen 80% of trains in the area cut due to Southern Rail failings. While Govia Thameslink are quick to blame Unions, delays and timetable changes persist even when there are not strikes. Quite simply, the Conservative government should have taken action long ago and removed the contract from them.

“That commuters have to take the government to judicial review to get answers is frankly appalling, but I applaud and support the action taken by Association of British Commuters and will assist in any way I can." 

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