I have just sent a letter to the Conservative leader of East Sussex County Council, Keith Glazier, re their proposed cuts to instrument services within our county-wide music service asking a number of specific questions.
I want to be clear what the options are, and the consequences if County Hall decides to go through with their cuts. Let’s be clear I have real concerns here and believe it’s essential they do not proceed with their current strategy, and it appears my concerns are shared by Arts Council England, which recently wrote to County Hall with similar queries. They are part-funders of the service so I would hope Cllr Glazier and his colleagues take note of what was written. Meanwhile we have only a short time left before the consultation ends (July 27) so if you haven’t already completed it, please do so by going online: https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/childrens-services/eastsussexmusic/ It seems we are fighting this Tory-controlled county council on numerous fronts at the minute. The savage cuts they’ve already made to Firwood House, Home Works, children’s respite care, libraries and many other areas are bad enough but the plan to cut our cherished music services, which is known across the UK for its outstanding reach and quality, will be a further blow to all that was once good with East Sussex County Council. Shame on them.
The shenanigans that is Westminster continued apace this week. For me perhaps the most surreal moment came when Theresa May caved in to a threat from the hard Brexiters and supported their amendment on a customs arrangement. This proposal completely undermined her own quite sensible policy on trade, which she’d only just got agreement from her Cabinet the week before; and which I subsequently backed in the losing vote! It really is a topsy turvy political world at the minute. Donald Trump supporting the President of Russia against his own security services and our Prime Minister going against her own proposal in Parliament. Interesting times...
As many of you will remember this year’s Sunshine Carnival was another success. The overall winning poster design advertising the event was brilliantly drawn by young Lucas Stevens from Tollgate School. Along with Tollgate, two other junior schools took part, including Bede’s and Shinewater, and the array of designs they came up with were excellent. Each of the winners from the schools were treated to a trip to Eastbourne’s fire station. It was Blue Watch who showed them around, for which many thanks. Appropriate too as they were the firefighters who entered the carnival. Our Sunshine Carnival is a fine metaphor, in my view, for what we stand for - we’re keen to put something back into the community, we care for each other, and are very proud of our town.
I was delighted to do some work with Willingdon Community School on another topic. I put a challenge to 60 of the girls, aged between 11 – 14, to celebrate the 100 year centenary since women first got the vote. I asked them to identify issues they believed were important and would make life better for all of us. Each group presented their idea for the others to critique, and at the end a vote would be taken to decide which was the favourite. I committed to then take the winning proposal up to Westminster. The idea came to me only a few weeks ago when I watched the celebratory suffragettes march through London - 30,000 women and girls of all ages. Despite the short notice, Willingdon School and their head, Emily Beer, stepped up brilliantly. Four issues were presented, including improved support for young carers, banning single use plastics, opening up Remembrance Day to recognising the key role women played in the war effort, and fixing an annual women’s equality day. And the winner, by a substantial majority, was the Equality Day concept, so I’ll be taking this forward. I wish you had all been with me to see and hear just what these young women had to say. They were engaged, inspiring and a credit to themselves and their parents. My thanks to Ms Beer and her staff for being so open to my proposal, and to the youngsters for the thought and effort they put in. Democracy is all about engagement so I look forward to doing something similar next year with all the local secondary schools.
I had the pleasure of visiting the tremendous Eastbourne Roller Derby being played out on Fisherman’s Green last weekend. And it was absolutely packed! More than 1,000 people joined from across the country, with some attending from as far away as France and Sweden. Apparently our roller derby has now become one of the biggest and best known in the calendar. Two age strands - adult and children - had their own tournaments which ran over the weekend, side by side. Very impressive and topped off by four teenagers from Eastbourne being selected this year to be part of the national youth GB Rollerball Team. Well done. It is yet another successful, annual community-lead initiative by local people, and yet another example of Eastbourne leading the way.
That it folks. Have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you around town.