I am sure that all progressives in Hastings would have been pleased to read in your paper the first column from Peter Chowney, the new Leader of the Council.
He is an approachable, thoughtful and in my experience of him, significantly less tribal politician than some of his colleagues.
I believe he means it when he says that he will work with others who have a ‘similarly positive outlook’.
It was interesting to read about his programme of reform at the Town Hall (there will be more to say about this), and also to note his reference to the European Union (and the funding opportunities it might provide in the future). These are straitened times, and we are now seeing what an unfettered Conservative Government looks like…
I submitted a Freedom of Information question to the Council at the end of June to find out just what level of funding had been derived from the EU over the past ten years. Surprisingly, for a town with significant regeneration challenges, only (just over) £6m. From my work alongside South East MEP Catherine Bearder, I know that there are more opportunities out there for a Council that seeks to co-operate more closely with Europe.
To that end, I wonder if now is the time (ahead of the Referendum likely next year, or at the latest the year after) for all those of us living in Hastings, St Leonard’s and our Rother regions, who are proud Europeans, to put party allegiance aside and come together in a ‘Hastings for Europe’ campaign?
The Liberal Democrats along with other parties want to see 16 and 17 year olds able to have a vote in the Euro Referendum, just as young people were empowered to vote in the Scottish referendum on independence.
Businesses across the constituency know just how important European markets are to the regeneration of the town.
And now we have a Council declared in its openness to the benefits of Europe.
Let’s grasp the nettle. Cllr Chowney, I hope we can work together?
Local Liberal Democrat campaigner, Nick Perry, has welcomed the election of Tim Farron as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Farron, who is MP for Westmorland & Lonsdale, convincingly beat former Mental Health minister Norman Lamb to the top job.
The new Lib Dem leader will have a significant role to play in opposition to the Conservative Government, as the Labour Party will be leaderless until September.
Nick Perry was part of Farron’s campaign team in the South East and says,
‘I am totally over the moon that Tim is our new leader. He is so different from the usual suspects at Westminster. A Northern lad with personal experience of poverty and poor housing. He is real, and passionate, and someone who will attract people from all walks of life to the party. He will call out the Tories on their divisive approach to social policy; he will be a vigorous and energetic campaigner for liberal causes in this Parliament; and most refreshing of all, he has a knack for telling it how it is.’
Local Lib Dem (and fellow-Northerner) Nick Perry has given formal backing to Tim Farron’s campaign to become the next Leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Farron was re-elected at the recent general election for a third straight term as MP for the Cumbria constituency of Westmorland & Lonsdale.
He has already received significant endorsements from the leaders of Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats, many former MPs and, (in the Guardian recently) over a hundred of the party’s parliamentary candidates who stood at the general election (of which Nick was one).
Commenting, Nick said: “I have worked closely with Tim Farron for many years now – particularly on the crucial issue of fishing quotas. Tim is a proven campaigner and outstanding communicator. His is the distinctive, liberal voice that our party needs and that is why I have formally nominated him to be our next leader. I have urged members here to do the same.”
Tim Farron added: “Nick has been a fantastic Lib Dem champion for Hastings & Rye. I have seen how hard he works for constituents and I am so grateful to have his backing for my campaign.”
I wonder if you will heave a sigh of relief when the election is over?! Well, not long to go now…
We have had a sea of red and blue leaflets through our letterboxes.
Not yellow ones, because the Liberal Democrats aren’t funded by the Unions or by big business.
Mine is a small, gutsy party, that has been delivering a stronger economy in order to underwrite a fairer society, so that there is opportunity for everyone.
We will not risk the economic recovery by cutting too much like the Conservatives, or borrowing too much, like Labour.
We know that local businesses need stability, and that the British people want a Government that does not lurch to the right or left; and that will invest in core public services.
Stable, decent, united: this is the kind of country that Liberal Democrats are fighting for.
So as you go to the polling station tomorrow, I am asking you to vote in the national interest as well as in the interest of our constituency. I am asking you to send a Liberal Democrat to represent you in Parliament.
15 years’ experience working in frontline mental health services; independent-minded, and in no-one’s pocket.
I will be a strong voice for our constituency at Westminster – and I will work with my colleagues for a stable, decent and united country.
Thanks in advance for your support.
So here we are: the final straight of the General Election campaign in Hastings & Rye.
And from all of the hustings meetings undertaken over these past few weeks, one question above all has stuck with me.
Towards the end of the Rye Church Together hustings on Thursday night a lady asked us (and I paraphrase) ‘Do you think that honesty and integrity are important in politics, and are you up to the job?’.
I think this is an issue that goes right to the heart of many people’s disillusionment with politics. The disconnect that now exists between the ‘political class’ and most ‘normal’ people has been exacerbated by many things – most notably the expenses scandal.
And even in this campaign which, for the most part, has been fought with decorum by the candidates there have still been issues which have caused me concern.
Last week, along with other candidates, I co-signed a letter to the Returning Officer urging fair play and clean campaigning. This was following concerns about the content of a letter sent out by the Labour Party.
I also admit to having been irritated by the way that the Labour campaign has presented its candidate as someone with considerable experience of a working life outside of politics, when in fact that candidate’s last three jobs have been as a political insider.
Of course the way that messages are finessed and massaged is part of life, however it does nothing to address the deficit of trust in politicians.
I have to tell you that my answer to the lady’s question on Thursday started with the disclaimer that we are all human and fallible, however I strongly believe that experience of a working life outside of politics will help to inure people against the corrosive and positively Victorian culture at Westminster.
Those of us that have had ‘normal’ jobs know what it is like to need to embrace flexible working; to rub along with people we don’t always agree with; to treat people with respect and dignity whether we like them or not.
I also believe that not being in anyone’s pocket helps to maintain an independent mind, and to bolster integrity.
Along with 15 years experience of working in frontline mental health services, this is something that I bring to the table as a candidate to be our next MP.
Liberal Democrats are not sponsored by the Unions; we are not backed by big business. We answer to the people that elect us, and to them alone.
Not surprisingly therefore, I hope you will consider sending a Liberal Democrat to represent you at Westminster on 7 May!
Fifteen years experience working in frontline mental health
services; a family life rooted in our constituency; independent-minded and in no-one’s pocket – these are the things that I bring to the table as a candidate to be our next MP.
And I believe that the Liberal Democrats have a job to finish in Government – delivering a stronger economy in order to underwrite a fairer society, so that there is opportunity for everyone…
There is no doubt that this has been a tough five years.
You will remember where we were in 2010.
With the real possibility of economic crisis in the UK, the Liberal Democrats decided to form a government with Conservatives , in order to provide confidence and stability in the markets, and to create a stronger, re-balanced economy.
Well. There have been mistakes and problems along the way, and it’s not always been garlands and laurels for my party, but we have worked in the national interest.
Businesses here in Hastings & Rye, and across the country, have worked with Government to build economic recovery.
Ignore the naysayers, we have one of the fastest growing economies in the industrialised world.
That is why I am so appalled at the Conservatives’ unfunded spending pledges on the NHS and childcare; and why I am so worried by Labour’s approach: outlining £70bn of further spending, but not giving us any detail, stretching back over a whole Parliament, of what they would cut in order to sort out the deficit.
The Liberal Democrats will balance the books, but we will balance them fairly.
Not like the Conservatives, who will make £12 billion cuts in welfare spending without asking the richest to pay a penny more in tax.
Liberal Democrats will balance the books so that we can invest the £8billion that Simon Stevens, the Head of the NHS, has said is needed.
We will fix the country’s finances in order protect the education budget, increasing education spending in line with inflation once the books are balanced.
Mine is the party that has fought in Government for the Pupil Premium – £2.5billion each year of this Parliament, targeted at the most disadvantaged children, so that their life chances are improved.
Mine is the party that has delivered a hot meal at lunchtime for all of the infants of our country, based on the research that says it will help them to learn.
Mine is the party that has, despite opposition from the Conservatives, got on with delivering a step-change in renewable energy investment; insulated 800k homes through the Green Deal; created the world’s first Green Investment Bank. This is not Green Crap – it matters.
Mine is the party that has taken nearly 3 million people out of tax.
So it won’t surprise you to know that these themes influence my local priorities too.
I have a track record as a health campaigner. I was a key player in the Hands Off the Conquest campaign team which was successful in opposing the removal of maternity services from the Conquest before the last election.
I have also campaigned during this Parliament against the changes to Stroke services for exactly the same reasons: the importance of shorter journey times, and the accessibility of excellent emergency services across the whole of East Sussex.
And as a mental health professional for 15 years, not a political insider pretending to have had experience of a working life outside of politics, I know how important it is to have parity of excellence in treatment and waiting times between mental and physical healthcare. And why it matters that we address the serious issue of GP numbers per head of population, and quickly.
Having had our children here, Ruth and I are as concerned as anyone that we have excellent schools right across our constituency. This will be a priority for me if elected on 7 May.
But I tell you what else will characterise my approach…
I won’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions of our key public services.
I will not be in the pocket of the Unions, or of big business. I won’t be shy to ask the awkward questions about why we have not seen the value for money that we ought to have seen from the hundreds of millions of pounds of regeneration investment that has been ploughed into Hastings & St Leonards over the previous Parliament and this.
Whilst I congratulate Amber on her work over the HS1 extension, I believe she has seriously taken her eye off the ball regarding the Link Road (which will give us no housing allocation at all) and the Queensway Gateway Road.
I want to see a change of direction in our regeneration efforts – away from empty office space and business parks, to investing in people, homes, sports and community facilities, with an emphasis on public health.
I want to see Sea Change Sussex held accountable for the taxpayer’s money that it is spending.
And if elected on 7 May I will set up an MP’s commission to bring together all of the disparate bodies responsible for different parts of the regeneration picture in our constituency, and get them to work in a properly joined up way.
So there is so much to do.
We have a wonderful constituency and a wonderful, open-minded, open-hearted country.
The Liberal Democrats want a strong presence in Parliament so that we can deliver a stronger economy in order to underwrite a fairer society, so that there is opportunity for everyone.
If you believe in that positive vision of the future, I hope you will consider supporting me on 7 May.
First of all, can I thank all the business men and women of Hastings & Rye for their contributions to the economic recovery that is underway in our constituency?
One of the points I made at the Federation of Small Businesses hustings at Sussex Coast College on Wednesday evening is that the Liberal Democrats will ensure stability within our economy. We will balance the books, but balance them fairly, allowing us to invest in core public services.
I have been critical of the Conservatives and Labour because of uncosted promises on the NHS and childcare (Conservatives) and unidentified departmental efficiencies (Labour).
And now we are beginning to see the risks unfold…
This week the Brighton Argus has reported that ‘A bypass designed to relieve congestion on the A27 will be put on hold if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister’:
No doubt this is a reminder to many of Labour’s decision to axe our own bypass in the late 1990s.
However what worries me most is that because Labour has not spelt out where it will make cuts, we can’t really know their intentions for current proposed transport infrastructure improvements in Hastings & Rye, such as the dualling of the A21 and the extension of HS1 – let alone my aim of electrifying the Hastings-Ashford line well in advance of 2019, and in due course, a South Coast Mainline Railway.
Instead of posturing as the new party of fiscal responsibility, we need some transparency from Labour on the savings they intend to make over the Parliament.
And we need them quickly.
Last week I sent an email to my list of contacts across the constituency outlining my vision for Hastings (and St Leonards) over the next five years.
Quite rightly and properly, it was not long before I received an email back from a disgruntled Ryer saying how interesting all this was, but had Rye been forgotten – again?
Certainly not, is the truth! But it is important to acknowledge that different areas of our constituency have different needs, and that although there are many common issues, we shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach.
And so this post is dedicated entirely to Rye and District; and I hope you Hastings & St Leonards residents won’t be offended!
Having spent 15 years working in frontline mental health services I know first-hand how important it is to have a properly funded NHS – not just meeting our physical health needs, but our mental health needs too.
And that’s why I have spent the last eight years campaigning for excellent emergency services across the whole of East Sussex.
It is particularly important for the East of the constituency to have timely access to key services. That is why from 2007 onwards I fought tooth and nail against losing maternity services at the Conquest, and why during this Parliament, I campaigned for us not to lose Stroke Services; and why I will defend local Health services against misguided downsizing and reorganisation every time this is attempted. And despite problematic national and local trends for General Practice, I will work to ensure that we have sufficient numbers of GPs per head of population in our constituency.
I am proud to tell you that the Liberal Democrats have committed to delivering the £8bn that the Head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, says it needs over the course of the next Parliament.
We can only make this investment because we have put the country’s finances in order and turned the economy around. We have halved the deficit and created nearly 2 million jobs. That is how we are different from Labour.
But Liberal Democrats in Government have created a stronger, greener economy in order to underwrite a fairer society, so that there is opportunity for everyone. Our priorities have been totally different from the Conservatives.
We have taken millions of people on low wages out of tax, benefitting many in Rye and our villages, and we aim to take everyone earning the Minimum Wage out of tax altogether.
We have created nearly two million apprenticeships and we have more work to do, in order to ensure that our young people have a future in which they can excel – not just if they are academic, but if they have talents that are optimised by a superb vocational and experiential education.
Liberal Democrats have spent £2.5bn each year of this Parliament targeting money at school children from disadvantaged backgrounds. If elected, I will make my priority the provision of excellent local schools across our constituency, helping to protect education spending from cradle to college.
I will also campaign for a change of direction in our regeneration efforts – away from building empty office space, to investing in homes and people, as well as regenerating the sports and community facilities of Rye, and in the villages.
This is a way of fighting social exclusion, but is also key to improving public health as well.
And in order to help with this process I will join forces with any progressives who want to take on Rother District Council, and realise proper decision-making powers for Rye and the villages.
I will continue to fight for a fairer deal for our fishermen; and I will do all I can to support Rye’s well-deserved reputation as a premium tourism destination.
And I will deliver the improvement of our public transport infrastructure that we all want to see, demanding the electrification of the railway to Ashford sooner than the HS1 extension, and the creation of a South Coast Mainline Railway.
I will also lead the debate on how to manage the infrastructure implications of HS1 in Rye town centre, and will champion park and ride solutions for the station, and improved cycling and walking infrastructure.
I will be a skilled and an independent-minded advocate for the people of Rye, and the villages of our constituency, at Westminster. I will bring to the job of MP a wealth of experience from a working life outside of politics, dedicated to the most vulnerable in our society.
Hastings Independent Press has asked the candidates for the General Election in Hastings & Rye a series of questions, and the answers have been published over the editions before Polling Day. Here is what I said about my vision for Hastings over the next five years:
‘Hastings and St Leonards are fantastic places to grow up, live and work. My partner and I both work locally. Our children go to school and church here. We spend our money and our leisure time here.
‘We moved here in 2007 because of Hastings’ unique combination of history, lifestyle, natural beauty and the arts.
‘But I accept that there have been significant problems unresolved over decades, and that there continue to be challenges ahead.
‘I want to see a more self-confident Hastings in five years’ time. A town making the most of the skills of its people – young and old. A town where municipal politics is less tribal and more geared towards helping our most vulnerable, in a cross-party way.
‘Improving our transport links, and building more affordable housing will improve prosperity and quality of life. But we must protect our architectural heritage too; and sort out our planning system once and for all.
‘I believe our children and young people deserve excellent schools, colleges and sports facilities; as well as the possibility of working in interesting, well-paid jobs, in the town that they grew up.
‘I want us to facilitate high tech and green industries locating here to create jobs.
‘With the regeneration of the Pier, there is the opportunity to build a unique tourism offer based in the arts, and our collective approach to the environment. We must work with other local authorities along the coast to join-up thinking, funding and resources.
‘I believe my experience of living, working, and bringing up a family in the town, along with the skills and expertise that I bring as an advocate for our most vulnerable, make me the best candidate for the job in May. I hope your readers will give me the opportunity to prove it.’