Out of touch Conservatives are cutting front line services to Kent's most vulnerable, despite awarding themselves a massive 15% pay rise last year.
In today's budget debate the Conservatives at Kent County Council pushed through further service cuts and hiked council tax by an above inflation 4.99%.
This is a gloomy picture for the people of Kent, particularly those struggling at the margins, and an even gloomier prospect for Kent residents and council tax payers in the future.
Leader of the Opposition, Rob Bird, said: "Back in July, Kent's Conservatives showed just how out of touch they are by awarding themselves a 15% pay rise just a couple of months after the county elections.
"This budget demonstrates that they have learnt nothing from the massive public outcry that caused, and they continue to be focused on cutting local government services when they should be investing for the future.
"For the past seven years, Kent's Tories have tried to persuade the electorate that front-line services were not affected by the £600 million plus reduction in Central Government grants thanks to back office efficiencies, better commissioning and 'new ways of working'. The reality is very different.
"Even with the extra monies found since the draft was published a few weeks ago, we were presented with a budget which fails to meet current needs and rising demand. It heaps up problems for future years.
"KCC has become heavily dependent on commissioned service providers. But we have seen that we are still not getting the quality of service which residents expect from many of these providers."
During the debate, Conservative councillors voted down all opposition budget amendments including the three proposed by the Liberal Democrats.
Rob concluded, "Yet again the Council continues to be focussed on cutting costs when it should be investing for the future. The Administration claim that it's the Government's fault. But it's a Conservative Government and a Conservative Administration; they are both still out of touch."
East Sussex County Council have now released the public consultation into their proposed closure of Milton Grange and Firwood House. You will be unsurprised to learn that it is fiendishly complicated and confusing - one of 8 different surveys - and in pretty impenetrable language frankly. I do wonder sometimes - shades of Yes Minister - if bureaucracy generally tries to make it difficult for people to express their view. In this case that both of these outstanding dementia respite, care and rehab service providers MUST be kept open.
Anyway, I’m not having that, so I’ve had one of my team read through the whole document and pull out the key Milton Grange/Firwood House section of the consultation and pasted the link below. Please do fill it in. It’s ludicrously clunky but don’t give up. Complete online, giving all necessary details of why you believe each Home should be kept open along with your address details and then send off to the County Council. It is SO important we fight these proposed closures on every front and I need as many readers of my newsletter as possible to fill in the consultation survey because if at the end of this whole process County Hall can truthfully say only a few hundred have bothered to complete the consultation, then we may have a problem. It’s the way these things work, which is why I need thousands of people to complete the consultation across Eastbourne, Willingdon and beyond. The fight to keep these two brilliant service providers open is really important for our town - so please help me keep up the pressure. The online Milton Grange/Firwood House consultation is this link: http://bit.ly/CCeCnslt. After filling it in please also ask all your friends to do the same, and for them to ask their friends locally as well. We can stop this wrongheaded proposal I am sure of it, but we will only do it by working the Eastbourne way - together!
I met with Department of Health neo-natal and maternity Senior Policy Officers in Parliament this week joined by long-term advisor to the cross-party Save the DGH Campaign, Conservative Councillor Robert Smart. The meeting was arranged after I requested the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, agree to a meeting with Department of Health officials to discuss the Save the DGH campaign’s concerns around the levels of still-births in Eastbourne during 2016.
It was a productive discussion and our specific request that the Department of Health secure an independent review into the worrying number of local still births will be explored. We also raised the failure of the Trust to comply with the Independent Reconfiguration Panel's decision that Consultant-led maternity services should be provided at Eastbourne as well as Hastings, along with recent performance and new evidence.
The Officials agreed to take back to the department our requests. I will keep pressing them on this as, like, many local people I really do believe we deserve a proper independent review of our maternity services.
I would also like to thank Councillor Smart for joining me in this meeting. He has been a long-term advisor to the cross-party Save the DGH Campaign Group and his specific knowledge of NHS processes, as a former non-executive Director of the Trust, has always been very valuable and today’s meeting was no exception.
Surrey Libdems Transparent Logo Surrey County Council Lib Dems THE OPPOSITION AT COUNTY HALL County Hall, Kingston STATEMENT FROM CLLR HAZEL WATSON ON CLLR ANDREW POVEY'S COMMENTS ON BBC RADIO SURREY
Responding to Cllr Andrew Povey's comments on BBC Radio Surrey this morning, Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said today:
"I am pleased that Cllr Povey agrees with what the Liberal Democrats and I have been saying about Surrey County Council's finances over the last 18 months. He is right to draw attention to the criticisms of the County Council contained within CIPFA's report "Financial Resilience Review - Surrey County Council". This report was commissioned by the current Leader of the Council and was kept hidden from county councillors for months.
"He is correct in his judgement of the folly of the Leader of the Council in pursuing a doomed policy of a 15% council tax rise which was subsequently abandoned. The CIPFA report clearly stated that such a referendum was unwinnable but the Leader of the Council refused to act on their advice.
"Instead of blaming the government for lack of funding and backing an unwinnable referendum, the Conservative administration should have been working on identifying sensible efficiencies and a realistic level of deliverable savings without cutting services. It should also have acted much earlier on the many empty buildings it owns across the county, which have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds each year to maintain.
"Surrey County Council is in a poor financial position with no clear plan to improve the situation. Unless a solution is found, then we only have to look to Northamptonshire County Council to see the consequences of when the money eventually runs out."
A link to Cllr Povey's interview on BBC Radio Surrey can be found here (starting at 2:07:35):
A link to the CIPFA report can be found here:
Cllr Andrew Povey was Leader of Surrey County Council from 2009-11, and was elected in 2017 for the division of Cranleigh & Ewhurst.
Liberal Democrat county councillors in Surrey have expressed their concerns over the long waiting times faced by children and young people with mental health problems in the county.
Ahead of next week's Children and Education Select Committee, where the matter is due to be discussed, Cllr Chris Botten, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Children & Education, said:
"After the fury we expressed at the last meeting in November, I am shocked to see that for many children with mental health problems waiting times for assessment can be over 160 working days (this includes children in care) and for treatment, assuming some is deemed necessary, the wait can be between 10 and 75 working days.
"This shocking state of affairs is not going to be resolved by contract managers shouting at the providers - the fact is demand for these services is going through the roof and the services are underfunded.
"Children's mental health is in my view the greatest public health crisis nationally. A child who is self-harming or suicidal will be marked by such trauma for life unless they get urgent support. In Surrey they can't always get the support they need in a timely manner and that is not good enough for our children."
The agenda for the Children and Education Select Committee meeting of 20th February 2018 can be found here (Item 6):
The campaign, which has the support of the Kent Messenger, has gained more than a thousand signatures. Services in the area will be under a new rail franchise from December and a document said bidders were given the option of running services to Abbey Wood rather than St Pancras. KM reporter Tom Pyman and KCC Lib Dem leader Councillor Rob Bird joined us in the studio to tell us more.
Medway Liberal Democrats are pleased to announce Martin Rose has been selected for the by-election on 8th March. Martin has lived in the area all his life, including four years in Rochester, with a strong desire to improve the quality of services in Medway.
Currently working as a public transport planning specialist in London, Martin holds degrees from the Universities of Kent and Westminster. If elected, he will use his knowledge of public transport, environmental and town planning issues to seek a better deal for people living in Rochester West.
Since joining the party just over a year ago, Martin has been active on a number of issues including our campaign to improve the quality of local mental health care, which in turn would reduce the burden on resources in the police, social services and housing.
Martin joined the party in early 2017, after becoming frustrated and concerned about the Government's dogmatic attitudes to austerity and Brexit. He passionately believes that Britain is better off in the EU. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to give the final say to the British people in a referendum on whether to accept the deal or remain in the EU.
If you believe that Medway Council needs greater representation of pro-European views, people who will speak up for residents' rights and the need for the ports and borders to function efficiently and thus avoid holds ups on the M20 and the need for lorry parks in Kent, only the Liberal Democrats can make that case.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Janet Baah has been elected mayor of Lewes Town Council.
Ghanaian-born, she is the first ethnic minority mayor to be appointed in Lewes since the Borough Council (the Town Council’s predecessor) was incorporated in 1881.
“Today you have made history in electing someone like me,” Councillor Baah told the council after her election. “I feel very excited, honoured and grateful to live in a town where I am respected and whose councillors have elected me to serve the whole people of Lewes.
“Mayoral duties can be difficult because you have to deal with issues concerning the law and individual freedom, but I lo0k forward to supporting everybody’s democratic rights and fighting for the needs of the whole town.”
Baah came to Britain in 2001. She obtained a master’s degree at Brighton University and is now completing a PhD at Sussex University. Her research involves studying the education system in a slum in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
“Janet will be a great champion for Lewes, she has already made a big impact in Malling, where she is admired for her work in the local community,” said Lib Dem Group Leader on the town council, John Lamb. “She will do a great job as town mayor.”
Elected a Liberal Democrat councillor for Bridge Ward in Lewes in 2016, Baah also sits on the group that advises the county council on inclusivity in social care. She is a non-executive director of Breaking Down Barriers, an organisation that provides inclusivity training.
Eastbourne’s MP has called for an inquiry into the government’s actions after Carillion announced it had gone into liquidation on Monday, 15 January 2017.
Stephen Lloyd has spoken out after the major construction firm crumpled after failing to reach a deal in talks with the government – threatening thousands of jobs.
Mr Lloyd, who is the Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesman, said, “The government must now take responsibility to ensure the pensions are properly protected for the tens of thousands of Carillion employees. “We also need a parliamentary inquiry into some of the very questionable decisions made in the past few months, including the issue of the former chief executive still being paid his salary, plus perks and bonus.
“Meanwhile, the Carillion pension scheme has a deficit of £580 million, meaning there isn’t currently enough money in the scheme to meet the promised pension payouts.
“The actions of this government and the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, have been lamentable. To continue awarding contracts to Carillion despite the profits warnings is appalling. Chris Grayling needs to consider his position!”
The firm, which was the second-largest construction company in the UK, is a landowner at Sovereign Harbour.