The turnout at last weekend’s protest outside Milton Grange and Firwood House was excellent with over 200 people joining me to show just how determined Eastbourne is to keep both these fine homes open. Thank you for all your support. We’ve a way to go yet and the consultation remains open until the end of April. I would urge anyone who hasn’t taken part to do so; it’s terribly important we show East Sussex County Council how much we as a town value the outstanding services provided by each home. The dementia respite service is outstanding and many people locally have made it crystal clear to me that without it, their husband or wife would be in a care home losing any vestige of independent living. Is this what County Hall wants? Surely not. Equally many others have been in touch to say how Firwood House helped either them or a relative recuperate after being in hospital. Meaning they didn’t block a bed in the DGH, were able to receive quality rehabilitation ensuring that when they went home, they lived independently. Without this service, we’ll be back to the appalling bed-blocking we had locally in Eastbourne years ago. Which would be bad for the DGH, bad for the patients themselves and, ultimately, bad for adult social services run by the county council. We will continue opposing County Hall’s proposals, and we will also continue holding the two senior Eastbourne conservative county councillors, David Elkin and Colin Belsey, accountable to keep these homes open. With power comes accountability.
I had the pleasure this week of visiting Strands hairdresser on Meads High Street to have a long chat with the manager, Zoe Grimes. I first met her at a prize-giving ceremony staged by Sussex Downs College, where she won the ‘exceptional adult learner’ award and was so impressed I wanted to catch up and learn more. Zoe’s a local lass, schooled at West Rise and Causeway, and then Sussex Downs to study what had long been her passion, hairdressing. On the journey her training was interrupted somewhat by getting married and having three children but she persisted, going back to college, and her obvious talent and determination was recognised with her award a few months ago. Equally she reached the extraordinary heights of the World Skills final, having previously already won Sussex Region. Clearly an outstanding local talent. And as this is also National Apprenticeships week I know many hundreds of local youngsters who have successfully been through just such a process. Strands itself has long taken part in apprenticeships schemes, and I’m a strong supporter. When I was last your MP I launched the first ‘100 Apprenticeships in 100 days’ initiative, which has been copied by hundreds of other mp’s across the country. Where Eastbourne leads, the UK follows! Zoe also emphasised to me just how much she appreciates the opportunities given to her by the owners of Strands, Abby and Jackie. Well done Zoe. You are a great example of the best of Eastbourne.
I was at County Hall in Lewes on Tuesday to make a final plea to the council cabinet on behalf of Langney Library. I also supported the Residents Association Chairman, John Pritchett, in his powerful request that Willingdon be spared as well. Alongside were representatives from Polegate library and Ringmer. All of us reiterating just how important libraries are in the community, acting as a hub, how they offer access to the internet and PCs for those seeking employment. In Langney’s case its position in the shopping centre makes it doubly valuable as a community resource. Supported by local schools such as West Rise, as well as many elderly residents, some of whom will struggle to get into town to the main Eastbourne Library. Sadly. All that we said fell on deaf ears. One of the Conservative councillors even talked about the ‘community value’ brought by libraries; what community value do they bring if he and his colleagues choose to close them? Meanwhile we hear that in Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s constituency, Hastings, East Sussex County Council went over budget in refurbishing the library by £720,000. Closing all seven libraries this week saved them £650k. Not a good look frankly. Our Conservative controlled County Council yesterday closed a full quarter of the library network along with the mobile library. All because the government (also Conservative) have ignored their lobbying and savagely cut their grant. I am bound to ask, therefore, what’s the point of them as they obviously have so little clout with their own Tory colleagues in government? Library users, the broader community, - all of us - were let down.
On a lighter note, it was an absolute delight the other day to be invited as the surprise guest for a lady’s 90th birthday held at the Chalk Farm Hotel in Willingdon. All I can say is that whatever Mrs Colette Said is taking, I would like some of it! Thanks to her daughter, Gabrielle, for inviting me and a special thank you to Colette; I hope you had a wonderful time on your very special day.
That’s all folks. Have a good weekend and I hope to see you around town.