Firwood House closure decision was shortsighted

Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon SUS-170614-095516001
Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon SUS-170614-095516001

Following the shocking conclusion by Conservative controlled East Sussex County Council to close Firwood House, I have been inundated by numerous emails/calls and letters from people across Eastbourne and beyond, appalled at the shortsightedness of their decision.

I and many others fear that closing this outstanding rehabilitation centre will have a severe knock-on effect locally via the same challenges our hospital faced in the past ie: leading to a significant rise in bed-blocking. This cannot be right, or safe, for that matter

Consequently I have written to both the chief executive of the CQC and the new Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock MP, asking they implement an independent review of the safety consequences of County Hall’s decision. It was a bad choice to close the home and I disagreed vehemently with the action, as did the 10,000+ signatories of the petition demanding it be kept open. For County Hall to also then propose, with a straight face, that all the vital rehab services provided by Firwood House and the other Home they’re closing in Seaford can somehow be squeezed into Milton Grange with no attendant fall in the quality of care is a nonsense. Hopefully the CQC and/or Department of Health will step in to properly assess this unfortunate outcome.

I attended a meeting with Breast Cancer Now in Westminster, whose members updated me on new treatments they are researching. This is an important issue and there are many residents who have run campaigns over the years to raise money for the cause, and the charity, so it was good to get an update. On a personal note, Cherine and I have lost a number of friends over the years to this ghastly disease and we have others that are, thankfully, surviving strongly because of treatment from our NHS. I was particularly pleased therefore to offer Breast Cancer Now my wholehearted support.

The convulsions taking place within the Tory parliamentary ranks over Theresa May’s recent Brexit proposal have been absolutely brutal. When you have one of your own MPs criticising ‘the sycophants and careerists will rally around the PM and her position’ and another tweeting in support of the PM that ‘we are dealing with the future of our country not some Mystic Meg predictions’, then it’s plain to see the internal fissures within the Conservatives over Europe have well and truly come into the open. My own take is that if Theresa May holds her nerve she will see them off as they don’t appear to have the overall numbers in Westminster; I was reminded of how the then American President, Lyndon Johnson, had said that the first rule of politics is to learn how to count! Those of her party in who oppose the paper coming out of Chequers cabinet meeting certainly have enough support to make a lot of noise but they don’t appear to have the actual numbers to bring her down. Mind you, any cast-iron prediction during the current state of feverish politics is a fool’s errand. My hunch though is so long as some of the senior ‘Leave’ Tories stay on-side with the PM, such as Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom, then she is probably secure up to Brexit day on March 29, 2019. Beyond that I’m not so sure. Meanwhile my own position remains unchanged. I promised to accept the result during the original referendum campaign two years ago by not voting to stop Brexit if that was the outcome, irrespective of my own personal view, and that is exactly what will happen. People know that when I give my word to Eastbourne, I keep it, just as I did when I voted against the coalition governments hike in university tuition fees when I was first your MP.

Talking of US presidents, Donald Trump visits our shores this week. Not my favourite President to put it mildly. However, I am more concerned about his meeting with our NATO allies, and then with Putin following. A fundamental building block of the Western Alliance since the Second World War: if any one of us were to be attacked by another country, the US (and all the allies) would see this as a direct attack on our own territory and react accordingly. It’s Article 5 of the Treaty, and was a crucial bulwark against the likes of the Soviet Union in the past when they swept their tanks into Hungary and Czechoslovakia. However Trump has been making unwelcome noises about the future viability of NATO and he’s also been open in his admiration for Putin. Understandably this has unnerved many people. Just imagine for instance that you live in either Estonia, Latvia or Slovenia at the minute and have been watching, with trepidation what Putin did with annexing Crimea. And then you hear President Trump prevaricating on the US commitment to NATO? You’d be nervous, I’d be nervous! Hopefully he will put these fears to rest over the next few days.

It was good to attend the awards ceremony at Ratton School this week and to see just how well the students have done over the past year. We really are blessed with the quality of our local schools and Ratton is a brilliant example. Our whole schools sector, public and private, plays a key role in what makes our town what it is; community facing, engaged and optimistic. I am grateful for all the fine work our teachers do for Eastbourne and Willingdon’s children. We are well served. Thank you.

That’s it folks. Have a good weekend and I hope to see you around town.