I was delighted to learn that Prince Harry and his wife’s new title is to be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and have already written to the happy couple inviting them to visit Eastbourne.
The wedding, taking place on a Saturday, always one of my busiest days, meant that I wasn’t able to watch it live but I did finally manage to catch up with the highlights afterwards, and was struck by just how different this wedding was compared to previous royal events. Lighter, less regimented. From the now world famous sermon pyrotechnics of Bishop Curry, which I rather liked not least as it was so transparently sincere and let’s face it if you can’t feature ‘love’ as a prominent theme at a wedding, then when can you? Harry and Meghan are clearly smitten with each other, the enormous crowd was in a magnificently happy mood and, of course, the pomp and pageantry was stunning. All of this added to the gaiety of the nation which we could do with at the minute. Time for the lovely couple to pay a visit to our town methinks. I’ll get to work on it.
On a more sombre note, I joined parents of children with severe disabilities at Bankers Corner the following day, Sunday, to protest against the proposed cuts from East Sussex County Council to respite care for profoundly disabled children. The founder of a fine local charity, Embrace, which support parents in this area, Becky Whippy, spoke eloquently at the gathering, of the severe impact the closures will have if they are allowed to proceed. I spoke with one parent afterwards who, almost in tears, told me that if the respite care was taken away from her she was not sure she’d have the strength to keep her disabled son at home, and may be forced to put him up for foster care. They’re already under extraordinary stress because of the pressures of looking after a child with severe disabilities. It’s a 24/7 task and without respite she was just not sure she could cope. I’m fighting ESCC on so many fronts it’s almost a parody of a black comedy. I also met last week with the team and some of the service users of Homework who are equally threatened with their budget being cut in half; and we all know the ongoing fight we’re currently engaged in against the proposed reduction/closure to Milton Grange and Firwood House. Plus a quarter of our library network across East Sussex has disappeared, proposed cuts to mental health services, our county-wide music services on the ropes Yet throughout this County Hall just keep reiterating it’s not their fault, it’s all down to the reduction in grants from central government. My response is blunt. You are choosing which services to cut! And you’re a Conservative-led council dealing with a Conservative government, so if you cannot pick up the phone to stop this, to demand a meeting with the very people who are your own colleagues - in the same political party for pity’s sake - then what’s the point of you? Meanwhile - society’s weakest will suffer, which is simply not right. Not right at all.
This week is Dementia Awareness Week and I dropped by an excellent session put together by the Alzheimer’s Society in Westminster. We are making some progress compared to a decade ago but it’s still slow going so anything that can help raise awareness and improve services is a good thing. We’re blessed with some really high quality dementia services locally, one of which being the aforementioned Milton Grange, and another I know well is the Ivy House day centre in Hartfield Road. They were putting on their splendid annual theatrical revue last weekend at the Birley Centre. It was packed to the gunnels with clients and their families, and enormous fun it was too.
I also had a productive meeting with the roads minister this week to discuss the forward plans for the A27. He agreed our consensual approach was very sound as I explained that I’ll be joining all the other affected local MPs on the A27 reference group to pitch to the Department of Transport in the summer.
It was a pleasure to welcome a group from Shinewater School up to Parliament. Introducing children to Westminster is important. They are after all the future, so it’s vital they get an early understanding of just how democracy actually works. Great school and great children. Good to meet them all. By coincidence, I then debated in Westminster Hall that same afternoon the schools’ budgets issue. I’ve been told numerous times over the last year or so by Heads that their (our) schools are facing unprecedented financial pressures, so it was an opportunity for me to press the Government. Fine local schools like Shinewater and many others similar across the country are facing a significant squeeze on their budgets. I hope the minister was paying attention to what I and the other MP’s were saying.
Finally. This coming Saturday is Carnival time. As usual we head off from adjacent to the Grand around 2pm and thread our way down to Princess Park. Over 1,500 people are taking part this year and the weather is predicted to be perfect. The Eastbourne Sunshine Carnival procession is ready to roll.
That’s it folks. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you at the carnival.