STEPHEN LLOYD MP: Passion and drive behind library petitions

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Early this week was the culmination of effort from a lot of people across the constituency with me delivering to the chair of the County Council, Cllr Michael Ensor, thousands of petitions, letters and cards urging County Hall not to close our libraries.

I’ve been struck by the passion and range of people stepping up. The schools, parents, teachers, residents and local councillors across Langney and Willingdon. Thank you all. Now it is up to the Conservative leadership of East Sussex County Council to listen and to decide, and I do hope they do the right thing. If it’s any help I can relay to them that Cllr David Tutt has confirmed to me the Lib Dems will be bringing forward in their shadow budget early next year, costed proposals which will keep our libraries open. I urge the Tories take them on board. This is an issue beyond party politics so I am sure if they show humility by accepting the liberals’ alternative plans, the public will be grateful.

The whole issue was a bit of a 24-hourr whirlwind for me as I collected the Willingdon petitions, along with the Willingdon Residents Association on Monday afternoon, then drove up to Westminster as I had some important votes that night. These finished at 12.50 on Tuesday morning, and straight after I drove back to Eastbourne arriving home in Old Town at 3am. All this so that I could be at County Hall to present the library petitions at 10am, before returning to Parliament by train. Then I spoke in the Chamber that afternoon on the ubiquitous issue of Universal Credit! Clearly not a schedule even someone with my commitment to my wonderful job could sustain for long but something I was determined to do. Our libraries are important. To the community and to residents of all ages, so a little less sleep for me this week was worth the outcome, of that I am sure.

Southern Rail - are they having a laugh? I have just written to the Prime Minister asking her government caps the fares for Southern Rail, in the same way they did for the fuel tax rise recently. From January next year the fares are set to go up, on average, by 3.4%, the biggest increase in five years. For commuters in Eastbourne, this could see the cost of their 12-month season ticket rise by as much as £184. Despite the dispute between the drivers’ union and the company coming to an end, users of Southern Rail still experience delays and cancelled trains as part of the ‘normal’ service. It’s just not good enough. Bluntly, I do not believe the company deserve a fare increase from hard pressed commuters, and have said so to Theresa May.

It was a privilege to attend and speak at St Wilfrid’s Lights of Hope remembrance ceremony last weekend. A beautiful albeit naturally sombre service with us all remembering friends and family we’ve lost. For Cherine and I (and others) it’s been a rather tough couple of years - Beryl, Lynda, Marianne, Angelo and Martin. Five brilliant, inspiring and thoroughly decent people no longer with us. Thank you St Wilfrid’s for all you do for our town.

Had a good catch up recently with a fine local charity called Furniture Now. As it says on the tin they sell second-hand furniture at an affordable price to people on low incomes. They also sell high quality office furniture which I rate so highly I used them to stock up my office after being re-elected as your MP. I have known them a long time not least as another part of the group is called Training Now which works effectively with getting people back into the jobs market. Always one of my priorities.

So it was good to swing by and say hello to the team and catch up with Trina Mayson the director, who brought me up to speed with their upcoming plans. And if you need decent office furniture at a fantastically low price go take a look at their site in the Britland Estate. Good people doing good for Eastbourne. https://www.nowcharity.org.uk/furniture-now

Time to buy your charity Christmas cards: It was all a bit frenetic with my diary last weekend but I was delighted to find a moment to drop in to see Eastbourne’s new charity Christmas card shop, and meet some of the forty volunteers who are helping out. Cards for Good Causes, supports a range of national and local charities, offering under one roof, the widest range and best choice of charity Christmas cards in our town, as well as traditional advent calendars, candles, wrapping paper, gift tags, decorations and stocking fillers. Sales of the cards generate funds for the participating charities and sending them also helps raise awareness of the vital work these charities do. Their shop this year is at 19 Gildredge Road (opposite Hyde Gardens) and if you look out for for their distinctive triangular red Santa sign on the pavement outside the shop, you can’t miss it. Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, until December 23. There are loads of different cards to choose from so well worth a visit; and the money goes to worthy causes which is always a plus in my view.

Finally, don’t forget that this weekend is the Eastbourne art open house weekend, where local artists display their work to the public. See the link below for information: http://www.eastbourneartists.co.uk/open-houses.html I love this Festival and consider it one of our towns finest creative initiatives so do take a look; you won’t regret it.

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