As readers of the Herald will know, East Sussex County Council has recently proposed crippling service cuts across the board.
This week in Westminster, during a debate on local government finance, I urged the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP, to appreciate the drastic funding crisis facing East Sussex County Council and to increase HMG’s grant to County Hall before more vital services are cut.
The response I received was a good illustration why the public get so fed up with politicians; it perfectly combined spin and fantasy economics!
The minister claimed local authorities will have an extra £1.3bn in the next financial year. But - and here’s the rub - this is their estimated “spending power”, not the guaranteed government grant which will in fact ‘fall’ by around £1bn.
In other words he was being highly selective with the data, and we all knew that in the Chamber. Frankly it’s extremely frustrating having to listen to such whoppers whilst being aware our services locally continue to be savagely reduced, through a combination of hopeless Conservative leadership at County Hall and further draconian cuts from their Tory colleagues in Westminster.
Mark my words, another county council is going to follow Northamptonshire’s example by going to the wall in the next 12 months, unless this government takes on board the seriousness of the local government funding shortfall. As I see for myself the cuts across many important services in Eastbourne and Willingdon such as Firwood House, libraries, meals on wheels for our elderly, English as an additional language, school transport for disabled children and more; it gets harder and harder to protect our most vulnerable citizens. A bad business...
We need a Police Royal Commission: I also quizzed the Home Secretary in a separate debate on a campaign to set up a Royal Commission on Policing. We haven’t had one for almost 60 years and even he has acknowledged that modern policing has changed out of all recognition in that time.
Consequently, to me and the 45 plus other MPs who have backed my Early Day Motion, it makes perfect sense to set up a Royal Commission to enable us all to identify exactly what our police really need resource-wise to successfully tackle modern day crime. In other words the facts without the spin we get from so many misinformed different sources - including Whitehall. And it’s becoming ever more urgent.
This government has already inflicted £1 billion of real-term cuts on frontline policing as well as taking 5,000 officers off our streets since 2015.
You’d have thought therefore, that such a sensible idea of an independent Royal Commission into policing-needs in the 21st century would be welcomed by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP. For government, of whatever stripe, to get clear and unbiased advice on how to keep the public safe.
There was a little movement in that he had said a flat ‘no’ when pressed before, and this time his response was a little more equivocal.
Perhaps a tiny chink in his prior, dogmatic negativity is materialising? I hope so because I’ll not give up on the issue. I believe the successful future role of our policing across the country demands the independent root and branch review a Royal Commission would bring.
Chinese New Year: clear your diaries for Sunday February 17, as Eastbourne is putting on a fantastic Chinese New Year celebration. With a giant parade through the town centre, and entertainment afterwards in the Hippodrome Theatre. Our very own Eastbourne and District Chinese Association, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, are preparing an extravaganza which I am sure we’ll remember for a long time. The parade starts outside the Metro Bank at midday, marches through the Beacon, before walking up Terminus Road, towards the pier, down Elms Avenue, along Seaside Road and turns around outside Leaf Hall.
As well as having three nationally renowned dragon dancing troupes in the procession, the organisers have also organised 20 mini dragons which our local schools, scouts, dancers and martial artist groups are going to be performing. It’s set to be enormous fun, so do join me on the day. See their website here: click here
Another event for the diary: Eastbourne’s a busy town! Is this year’s Half Marathon. It’s in its 15th year, is a great success and like so many of our events, run entirely by volunteers. It’s also on a Sunday, March 3, and if you fancy starting the marathon bug, Eastbourne’s Half is a perfect entry event. It’s flat, runs along sections of our lovely seafront and always has a very welcoming atmosphere. And you get a (short) speech from me at the start so what’s not to like! See their website for details: click here
That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.