Santander's intransigence could see a local couple lose their home!

As I flagged with you last week, I have been working on a troubling issue for a constituent for over a year now, which seems to have an obvious resolution but despite this, I keep banging my head on the brick wall of corporate intransigence. It’s on behalf of a local couple who have an interest-only mortgage with Santander Bank. No problem with their monthly payments but the issue is the bank doesn’t allow for interest-only mortgages to people over the age of 75, and as this particular couple have reached that age, and for circumstances that are perfectly understandable, unable to settle the whole debt. Santander is seeking a court order to possess their house. I think this is a shocking decision. Not least as with so many of us living longer than in the past, there will be numerous other couples in the same situation - according to the House of Commons library they’re over 130,000 people of retirement age with interest-only mortgages - so you’d think it would make sense for Santander to be flexible in response to changing times. And some other high street lenders are doing so such as the Nationwide who recently announced they’d be carrying over interest-only mortgages to 85 in recognition of our longevity, so why not Santander? I raised the matter in Treasury Questions and have secured a meeting with the minister to discuss the problem. I’ve also tabled an Early Day Motion deploring Santander’s actions and asked they respond to the changes in our aging society. I hope the Bank can be persuaded to do the right thing. 

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Government Cuts to School Budgets

I was dismayed when, in the run-up to the snap-election last year, it was announced that this Government was going to make such devastating cuts to the budgets of our local schools. Findings from the school cuts coalition of unions (NEU, NAHT, ASCL, UNISON, GMB, and Unite) shows that the average per-pupil income for schools in Eastbourne & Willingdon is set to be £4,210 by the year 2019/20. This represents a drastic cut, on average, of £105 per pupil per annum. A considerable amount of money bearing in mind some schools in the town have over 1,000 students! These latest figures reveal that schools in our town are set to lose up to £337 per pupil by 2020, in comparison to when I was last your MP in 2015.


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Lib Dems win another seat off the Conservatives in southern England: from 0% last time to 56% this time

Rogate ward on Chichester Council was fought by Kate O’Kelly, already a county councillor and making her the first Lib Dem candidate in the ward since 2007 after four contests without one since. And it was certainly worth her standing as she continued the run of Lib Dem gains from the Conservatives across southern England:

Rogate (Chichester) result:

LDEM: 55.8% (+55.8)

CON: 40.1% (-27.3)

LAB: 2.6% (+2.6)

GRN: 1.5% (-18.2)

LDem GAIN from Con.

Cllr Kelly said: “This is a fantastic result not only for the Liberal Democrats but also for the people of Rogate and the surrounding villages.

“They felt abandoned when their previous councillor was elected as an MP and stopped attending parish and district council meetings. “It is a strong message to the Conservatives that they cannot be complacent and treat their constituents with such disregard.” It is the first time in 11 years that the Liberal Democrats have contested the seat, which has been held by the Conservatives for the last three elections.

The by-election was caused by the resignation of Gillian Keegan, who was elected a Conservative MP in 2017.

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Mid Sussex Liberal Democrats select Robert Eggleston

Mid Sussex Liberal Democrats have selected Robert Eggleston to be their new Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC). Robert’s work background is in asset finance, helping businesses invest in essential equipment. In recent years he retrained and qualified as a solicitor and now works as an in-house corporate lawyer.

Robert has council experience, having previously served on Burgess Hill Town, Mid Sussex District and East Sussex County Councils. He has been an active member of the party since joining in 1973 when he was sixteen. He is currently Chair of the Burgess Hill Lib Dem Branch.

Robert said on being selected,

My Liberal Democrat vision for Mid Sussex is for a place which values education and vocational skills, and encourages enterprise in a modern connected economy. It is green and manages development in a way which protects communities. It provides properly funded health and social care. It is open, tolerant and outward looking, embracing international partnerships and obligations.

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Eastbourne and Willingdon MP, Stephen Lloyd urges Minister from the department of health to publish the timelines for when a new bowel cancer test is to be rolled out!


Tuesday, 21st March saw health questions debated and I pressed the Minister from the DoH to publish the timelines for when a new bowel cancer test is to be rolled out. It’s called FIT and to quote Public Health England they’ve stated: “FIT is a more sensitive test, so we will find more polyps and prevent more bowel cancers”. Clearly the sooner the NHS start the programme nationally the sooner more lives will be saved, so I’m keen to pin the department down to a precise start date. Whilst I didn’t get that I did get the minister committing, on the floor of the House, that a rollout announcement would be “very imminent” which is excellent. The initial catalyst for this important, life-saving campaign is a local resident called Lauren Backler. It was her initial drive in setting up a petition to reduce the age of bowel cancer testing when her dear mum passed away in only her mid-fifties, that deserves the credit over these important upcoming initiative.

To get things done in politics involves a lot of pushing, nagging and reminding ad nauseam; in short persistence! Not very glamorous perhaps but it’s very important to ‘never’ let up on the issue and as folk in Eastbourne know; I don’t...


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Chancellor's 'Spring Statement' - what a disappointing non-event it turned out to be!

We had the Chancellor's 'Spring Statement' in Parliament and what a disappointing non-event it turned out to be. Growth raised by .1% to great acclaim by the Conservative backbenchers. Yeh right. This still puts us at the bottom of the G7 and very near the bottom of the whole G20.....wishing on a prayer is a phrase that springs to mind!

Ahead of the announcement to the House, I called on Mr Hammond to 'fix' a couple of the key issues surrounding Universal Credit and WASPI. 

The whole point of Universal Credit is to make work pay, which it did before the Conservatives cut its funding after the Lib Dem’s left government in 2015. The then Chancellor, George Osborne, immediately and stupidly in my view, took an axe to UC's work allowances, slashing them by a shocking £3 billion pounds per year, thus reducing substantially the amount people can earn in low-income work. A genuinely bad decision which the government are having to contend with every day in parliament as UC is rolled out.

I also called on the Chancellor to step up with a transition payment for WASPi women who have been let down so badly by successive governments.

Although he did not meet these calls or, frankly, offer any serious changes, I will continue to lobby the Treasury ahead of the budget in the Autumn. 

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Stephen Lloyd MP and Residents try to save Langney Library from Conservative Closure

I was at County Hall in Lewes on Tuesday to make a final plea to the Council cabinet on behalf of Langney Library. I also supported the Residents Association Chairman, John Pritchett, in his eloquent request that Willingdon is spared as well. Alongside us were representatives from Polegate library and Ringmer. We all reiterated how important libraries are in the community, acting as a hub, how they offer access to the internet and PC’s for those seeking employment. In Langney’s case, it’s position in the heart of the shopping centre makes it doubly valuable as a community resource. Supported by local schools such as West Rise, as well as many elderly residents, some of whom will struggle to get into town to the main Eastbourne Library.

Sadly. All that we said fell on deaf ears. One of the Conservative councillors even talked about the ‘community value’ brought by libraries; what community value do they bring if he and his colleagues choose to close them?

In a bizarre statement, another said the Council "can provide computers (to any of the closing libraries reopening as community libraries under their own steam) so long as there is NO COST to the County Council" ?!?!?!

Meanwhile, we hear that in Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s constituency, Hastings, East Sussex County Council went over budget in refurbishing the library by £720,000. Shutting all seven libraries this week saved them £650k. Not a good look frankly!

The fact is the Conservative controlled County Council yesterday closed a full quarter of our library network along with the mobile library. All because the government (also Conservative) have ignored their lobbying and savagely cut their grant.  I am bound to ask, therefore, what’s the point of them as they obviously have so little clout with their own Tory colleagues in government?

Library users, the broader community, - all of us - across Eastbourne, Willingdon and the county were let down this week.

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Stephen Lloyd MP and Residents turnout to keep Milton Grange and Firwood House open!

The turnout at last weekends protest outside Milton Grange and Firwood House was excellent with over 200 people joining me to show just how determined Eastbourne is to keep both these fine Homes open. Thank you for all your support. We’ve a way to go yet and the consultation remains open until the end of April. I would urge anyone who hasn’t taken part to do so; it’s terribly important we show East Sussex County Council how much we as a town (and beyond) value the outstanding services provided by each Home; Milton Grange and Firwood House. Their dementia respite service is outstanding and many people locally have made it crystal clear to me that without it, their husband or wife or relative would be in a care home losing any vestige of independent living. Is this what County Hall want? Surely not.


CLICK HERE to fill in the consultation

Equally many others have been in touch to say how Firwood House helped them recuperate after being in hospital. Meaning they didn’t block a bed in the DGH, were able to receive proper rehabilitation therapy, ensuring that when they were ready to go home, lived independently. Without this service, we’ll be back to the appalling bed-blocking we had locally in Eastbourne years ago. Which would be bad for the DGH, bad for the patients themselves and, ultimately, bad for adult social services run by the County Council. Again; I cannot believe it is in the interest of East Sussex County Council, let alone local residents to close such a Home? We will continue opposing County Halls proposals, and we will also continue holding the two senior Eastbourne conservative county councillors, David Elkin and Colin Belsey, accountable to keep these homes open. With power comes accountability.


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Lib Dems call for auto-enrolment ‘national information campaign’

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to provide the public with more information about auto-enrolment in the wake of imminent contribution rate rise.

From April this year, employees must contribute a minimum of 3 per cent of their salary, increasing to 5 per cent from next April.

While currently only around 10 per cent opt-out of auto-enrolment, the Liberal Democrats are warning that this rate could increase if workers are not prepared for a fall in their take-home pay.

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Stephen Lloyd says: “With wage growth still lagging behind inflation, it is understandable that many working people will be anxious not to see their pay fall further. But paying into a workplace pension now is a profit for the rest of your life. That’s why I’m calling on the Secretary of State to instigate a national publicity campaign to explain to workers what is happening and what the consequences of the different courses of action are.”

The party has been increasingly vocal on pensions issues in recent weeks, calling for an end to contingent charging and a faster timetable to ban cold-calling.

The Government ran an advertising campaigning featuring a cartoon monster character, Workie,  near the start of auto-enrolment, which Money Marketing revealed had a budget of nearly £50m.

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Eastbourne and Willingdon MP, Stephen Lloyd meets with the Justice Minister over Eastbourne Courts provision

I joined with key legal representatives from Eastbourne in a meeting with Justice Minister Lucy Frazer MP at the MOJ, to discuss the failure of the Courts and Tribunals Service to provide alternatives to the court once it was closed, as they had originally promised.

A couple of years ago I was profoundly disappointed to see that the government had decided to close our courtroom in Eastbourne.  I knew that such a decision would cause tremendous problems for some of the many residents of Eastbourne. Especially as during my original time as your MP I'd seen first hand the challenges faced by some of our more vulnerable neighbours. Bluntly some would struggle to find the funds to go backwards and forward to Hastings where their cases would now be heard. 

Unfortunately, it appears that the government's promise to provide alternative provision locally since the closure has not been followed through with. This is unacceptable so I challenged the government in the Chamber, demanding a meeting with the MOJ to secure a resolution. And this week we made some progress! The Minister has agreed to deliver on the past promise and now we just need to sort out the logistics.

My thanks to Rodney Warren from Warren's Law, Zoe Summers from Mayo Wynn Baxter and Stuart Grace of Lawson Lewes Blakers for raising this issue with me. Onwards and upwards.....

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