You may remember how a year or so ago a young mum, Leanna Forse, had to give up her job as a teacher because East Sussex County Council would no longer pay for her disabled son, Billy, to receive transport to his school now that he was over 16?
This was a desperate case but I subsequently learnt not uncommon across the UK. Some councils did pay for the transport others didn’t, and, though I doubt you’re surprised, our own county council is one of those which does not. This despite the government mandating all young people be either in education or training up to the age of 18.
I consider it a basic lack of fairness that on the one hand the government says X must be done, but on the other, fails to make it compulsory which allows some councils to simply ignore the ruling.
Consequently I tabled an Early Day Motion this week to see what cross-party support I can build over the coming months. It’s too late to help Billy and Leanna but their heroic efforts will not be in vain as we try to help future youngsters, I am sure of it.
Knife crime: the appalling news of the numbers of young people in our cities who have been killed in knife attacks recently has shocked us all.
The police, politicians and media all seem bewildered about what to do. And on the one hand the Prime Minister says it’s not to do with the cuts in police numbers, only to be contradicted the next day by her Home Secretary and the Chief Commissioner of the Met.
Some people say we need more stop and search, others say that’s not the answer! In short this is a desperate situation and we lack the empirical evidence about what’s the best way forward.
I think the issue is bigger than just the knife incidents, shocking as they are, as I believe our nation faces two important policing challenges. What should our police be asked to do in the fight against 21st century crime, and what is the right level of resource they need to keep the public safe?
And the truth is that it’s impossible to get a factual, accurate answer to both these vital questions. We either hear political spin, special interest pleading, exaggerated claims or worse, so how on earth are we to come up with workable answers when it’s hard to get the facts?
I think there is a way. I believe the government, as a matter of urgency, needs to set up a Police Royal Commission. This would examine all the issues independently, take evidence from the best policing brains and experts in the country, then make key recommendations about how our forces should be funded and what they must be expected to do. The last commission was almost 60 years ago and it set up an excellent policing framework which lasted well, but it is time for an update.
I’ve been building support for this in Parliament and now have 47 other MPs backing the idea. Thus far the government has pushed back but I think the time for an independent group to assess the future of policing is self-evident, so I’ll keep pressing until it becomes a reality.
If not I fear the current policing debate will result in another patch and mend exercise which untimely fails the public, as well as the brave police men and women who put themselves on the front line line every day.
Community library opens in Langney: It was a pleasure to join the mayor and others last weekend at the formal opening of the brand new community library in Langney Shopping centre. You may remember the county council, in their wisdom (not), closed seven libraries across East Sussex last year. One of them was the long-standing venue in Langney.
Since then the local community has stepped up brilliantly. Lead by my good friend and popular Langney councillor, Alan Shuttleworth, the people of Langney have rallied round. All were ably supported by Neil Avis and his friendly team at the shopping centre who have generously let the group have a new space at a peppercorn rate. Thank you.
Well done to all the volunteers who worked so hard to get it off the ground.
I am hugely impressed with what you’ve achieved. The library is now open three days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am – 5pm, and Saturdays 10am -1pm, and look to extend their opening hours as it becomes established. If you’d like to join and help out in any way, including fundraising, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
That it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.