On Thursday, 7th June I visited No 10 Downing Street to hand over a petition asking the government clarify the rules around county councils providing transport for disabled children over 16. You may remember a year of so ago a local woman, Leanna Forse, who was a teacher, had been put into an invidious situation by East Sussex County Council, when they refused to pay the transport costs for her son Billy to stay at school after he turned 16 years. This despite the government changing the law so that everyone now has to either be in education or training ‘up to’ the age of 18.
The problem is that they didn’t change the statutory regulations for councils to provide the transport for severely disabled children. It was discretionary. Some councils do this, such as West Sussex whilst others don’t. East Sussex being one of them!
Tragically this lead to Leanna having to give up her job as a teacher so that she could take Billy to school. An absolutely crazy situation which simply must be addressed so other parents don’t have to go down the same road.
Consequently I joined Leanna, her son Billy, the excellent disability charity whose been supporting them, Contact, and another Mum with her disabled daughter from Coventry. It’s clearly a national issue!
We all delivered the petition to Theresa May at No 10 Downing Street this week.
I sincerely hope the PM listens and does the right thing.....
I’ve been very impressed by the Eastbourne Heart Beat Campaign, which has so far installed more than 50 new public access defibrillators across town.
The initiative has been a really brilliant one for Eastbourne. I had the privilege of speaking in Parliament on the need for more defibrillators across the country, particularly in schools, asking the education minister in Parliament whether his department would commit to putting a defibrillator in every school. I did so after meeting the father of a young lad called Oliver King in Parliament whose son had a cardiac arrest, suddenly, whilst at school. Sadly he passed away, and since then his father has been campaigning to get a defibrillator in every school in the UK.
Medical advice says many young lives could be saved if this simple, low cost appliance was available and awareness training given. I’m proud that the Eastbourne Heart Beat Campaign team, led by leading Lib Dem Councillor, Alan Shuttleworth, has worked successfully to install more than 50 lifesaving public access defibrillators (PADs) across Eastbourne.
PAD SNAP is encouraging people to take interesting or funny photos with their nearest defibrillator.
The best photos will win amazing prizes – including a Grand Afternoon Tea at the Langham Hotel, and £50 to spend at Prezzo. All you have to do is email your snaps to [email protected]
Click here to view an up-to-date map with all the public access defibrillators available in Eastbourne and beyond. And click here to read more about the competition.
On Monday in Parliament, Chris Grayling MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, was being used for football practice, figuratively speaking, and was kicked around the Chamber by players from all sides as he defended his utterly shambolic oversight of the new timetable chaos.
What made it so different this time was that MPs from all sides lined up to lambast him and the rail timetable fiasco. Including the former Minister for Defence Sir Michael Fallon and Nicolas Soames. Neither of whom are anything but loyal Conservatives. They were also joined by a dozen or so of their own colleagues so I think the end may be nigh for Mr Grayling. He started his ministerial statement a little earlier than we had anticipated so by the time I got to the Chamber he’d just sat down, so I asked another MP to sum up what he’d said in his ministerial statement: he obliged pithily with “It's all a complete shambles - but none of it is my fault.”
The House was not impressed frankly. It is clear action needs to be taken quickly to address the more absurd changes to the timetable, which many of you have notified me about. So over the last few days I’ve been busy to try and resolve this for Eastbourne.
I've already had meetings with the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, Southern Rail/GTR and Network Rail. All have promised to get back to me with steps they will be taking to improve our local situation. I’ll keep up the pressure.
Click below to watch Stephen being interviewed about Southern Rail -
The sensitive issue of abortion in Northern Ireland also came up this week. Labour MP Stella Creasy applied and won something called a SO24 debate. This is a legislative tool which, if granted by the Speaker, allows an issue to be debated, albeit not voted on. There were a number of outstanding contributions including from Stella herself. It was also obvious there was cross-party support for Northern Ireland to re-address current legislation on abortion. It is almost wholly impossible for instance to have a termination in NI under virtually any circumstances, which is why 700+ woman came to England in 2016 to have an abortion. I can only imagine how desperate that must have been for all of them.
Northern Ireland remains an outlier compared to the rest of the U.K. For instance, if a woman who was a rape victim were to order online and use a pill which subsequently terminated her pregnancy, her sentence would be longer than her rapist. This cannot be right. Even Tory Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, tweeted her support afterwards: “Message from NI Secretary of State today: NI should take that responsibility. Message from the House of Commons: if you don't, we will #trustwomen”. Mordaunt clearly believes the DUP should not be allowed to block change. It was also reported the following day that Theresa May supports reform.
Liberal Democrat wins in Leatherhead North and Bookham South mean that the Conservatives have lost overall control of Mole Valley District Council. The successes of Emma Cussell in Leatherhead North and Elizabeth Daly in Bookham South mean that the new 41-member Council comprises 20 COnservatives, 14 Liberal Democrats and 7 Independents.
Emma Cussell - new Councillor for Leatherhead North Elizabeth Daly - new Councillor for Bookham South
Tthe budget cuts just keep rolling in from County Hall, and they're now planning savage reductions to our music services across East Sussex.
The absolutely brilliant East Sussex Music Service is celebrating its 84th year; it delivers music lessons to around 7000 children in schools across the county every year and around 1000 children, aged between 4 and 18, attend area music centers each week.
Despite this shining success, the county council has announced that plans are being made to close the music instrumental service by 2019. This will result in the loss of valued music provision for many children and destroy a service which has introduced thousands of Eastbourne children to music over the decades.
I believe such proposals are unnecessary, wrong and shortsighted. I have also been told that staff believe savings can be made without slashing such a valuable and much-loved music service.
We need County Hall to pause, listen to the people they serve - us - and to go back to the music staff to ask them how the circle can be squared, rather than just propose a decimation of the entire instrumental teaching provision. A decision which if it goes through, will be horrendously difficult to reverse!
So will you join me in signing the petition below?
Stephen Lloyd MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon frustrated the Prime Minister didn’t bring the government’s case for military action in Syria to parliament last week!
I was frustrated the Prime Minister didn’t bring the government’s case for military action in Syria to parliament last week, so we could examine the evidence, debate the issue and vote on whether or not the government should take action on our behalf. The precedent which has been in place since 2003 is that our government unless the U.K. is under direct immediate threat, should secure consent from parliament for military action, so it’s disappointing Theresa May wasn’t prepared to do so. Not least as I believe, like the Father of the House, Ken Clark MP, that she would have won the vote. This would have made our case stronger and, I believe, secured the majority support of the British public. We all understand that chemical weapons, which have been illegal to use since mid-1920’s20’s, are beyond the pale and that President Assad’s use of them demanded a response. I fear though the PM going ahead without securing parliament's support could be problematic for us down the road. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
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.
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.
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.