Proposed Local Library Cuts: I attended a public meeting in Coppice Avenue recently to discuss East Sussex County Councils proposal to close Willingdon Library. The mood in the room (130+ attended) was overwhelmingly against the decision.
With the Willingdon library only costing around £40k pa to run, co-ordinating over 20,000 transactions a year to residents, and playing such an important role in the community I believe it is absurd such a minuscule amount from the council’s overall budget of £780m cannot be found to keep it open. Despite the anger at county hall’s decision, the meeting actively and positively discussed what actions can be taken to ensure the leader of the council, Cllr Keith Glazier and his conservative colleagues who run the council, ‘really will’ listen to the views of local people, rather than just go through the motions of a consultation. Willingdon Parish Council organised the event in Trinity Church and their chairman, John Pritchett, expertly facilitated the meeting. I flagged that almost 2,000 people so far have signed my petition, both on-line and in the shops across Willingdon and the Langney Shopping Centre, where that Library is under threat as well. A colleague of mine, Lib Dem county councillor Colin Swansborough, also told the meeting as chair of scrutiny in Lewes he had asked the proposal be sent back for review, but was promptly out-voted by the three Tory councillors on his committee. It does make one wonder whether it’s already a done-deal?
It is important we keep up the pressure on East Sussex County Council so they turn back from what I and the vast majority of local residents believe to be the wrong decision. If you haven’t already done so please go to their consultation website to express your views. www.eastsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay
Armed Forces Pay: I attended a debate this week in Parliament over the issue of Armed Forces pay. Coming up to Remembrance Sunday I appreciate just how much we as a nation support our Armed Forces, so I wanted to make a point of how disappointed I was at the governments decision to cap, yet again, our service men and women’s wage rise to only one per cent. It’s clear from recent independent research morale across each of the services is taking a bit of a battering at the moment as the government on the one hand consistently cuts numbers and force-readiness, whilst at the same time obstinately sticking to their pay cap. I hope they picked up the strong mood of many in the Chamber they should reverse the decision. Having also just lost their Defence Secretary to a sudden resignation, it won’t be a good look if they continue believing all is well within the services when it is clear it’s not.
Beating Bowel Cancer: I also had a very productive meeting with representatives from the national charity - Beating Bowel Cancer - in Westminster. The charity is campaigning to bring screening down to 50 rather than, as current, 60 years. They were first brought to my attention shortly after being re-elected when I met with an extremely impressive Eastbourne lass called Lauren Backler at one of my community surgeries. She told me that sadly her mum had died from this awful disease but, if she’d been screened earlier, such an early death may have been prevented. Sobering words.
Lauren went on to tell me she was actively supporting the charity in their campaign so that at least other lives could be saved in future, but that the impetus had dropped since the interruption of the snap election, and would I help kickstart it? Something I was very happy to agree to. So I was pleased to be able to confirm to their CEO, Judith Brodie, at our meeting that I will happily pick the issue up in Westminster on their behalf.
Our first general discussion was planning the next steps on the journey toward what I hope will be finally winning the campaign to provide automatic screening for everyone from 50 years old. Not least as the data they showed me is that over 4,000 people could be identified early in the cancer cycle by bringing forward screening; and this may well save the lives of virtually all of them! As with most cancers, the earlier the clinicians diagnose, the more chance of success. Please join me in signing Lauren’s change.org petition below. It’s an important issue and one that I am determined to do what it takes to make the screening age reduction a reality. https://www.change.org/p/jeremy-hunt-secretary-of-state-for-health-lower-the-age-for-bowel-cancer-screening-in-england-to-50
Thank you Lauren for bringing this to my attention. Your mother would be proud of what you are doing on behalf of others, of that I am sure. That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.