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Stephen talking to the media
  • Article: May 4, 2018
    By Stephen Lloyd

    An ongoing saga for Eastbourne has been our decades long experience of the shocker, which we all know as the A27 between Polegate and Lewes. I, along with many others, have been campaigning for over a decade to dual this road. It seemed the best we were ever likely to get from the Government was the money to make some minor adjustments. So I shared the overwhelming sense of disappointment many felt when the announcement was first made, in the run-up to the 2015 general election (now there's a surprise!) for just that. And despite the Government's trumpeting of the proposed tweaks we all knew it wouldn't solve the core problems. It is a narrow single lane road, it's too dangerous, and cannot cope with the ever increasing volume of traffic. Is there any good news for me to to report? Yes. This week a meeting of the A27 Reference Group in Westminster received a briefing from Highways. Essentially, looking at the business and strategic case for a new A27 spur from Lewes to Polegate and the results are extremely promising: a new dual-carriageway with no junctions other than emergency exits, with a journey time of around ten minutes. That's right. Ten minutes compared to, at best thirty five minutes and all too often, over an hour! This would be a game-changer for Eastbourne and the surrounding area.
    Naturally there are many more hoops to jump through, however, unlike the fiasco of the Chichester by-pass, where the different groups couldn't agree with each other and as a consequence the Transport Department finally pulled the project, we on the A27 Reference Group are all of the same mind. All the MP's, the different councils, business groups and the overwhelming majority of local residents - on this we are joined at the hip. We all know, for the sake of Eastbourne and beyond, that we must secure a new dual carriageway between us and Lewes. I will be joining the group's Chair, MP Maria Caufield, and the other local MPs, in meeting the Secretary of State for Transport in the summer to press our case. It now has a powerful report from Highways to back it up strategically and economically. As you know I've always put the needs of Eastbourne & Willingdon above party politics, and this is a classic example where the political parties simply 'must' work together to sort the A27 for the town. I'll keep you, the readers of my Herald column, informed as we progress, hopefully positively, through each stage.

    It was a privilege to join Eastbourne's popular Mayor, Cllr Pat Hearn, at the Town Hall recently to celebrate the largest group of local Legion D'Honneur recipients to gather at any one time in Eastbourne. All twelve were awarded for their gallantry in serving our Nation, and for the liberation of France in World War II. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to these brave men. Local heroes, the like of which we will never see again. Thank you Gentleman.

    I spoke on two debates in Parliament this week about cancer. At the first I quizzed the Health Minister over our long-standing campaign to start screening for bowel cancer at 50, as they do in Scotland, rather than at 60 in England. This was on the back of delivering an astonishing 446,000 signatures last week, collected by Eastbourne lass Lauren Backler. The Minister was well aware of Lauren's campaign. I'm convinced it's coming, but I am also convinced we can never take it for granted until it's there in black and white. And I won't stop until it is Lauren, I promise.

    The second was an altogether more sombre affair. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, came to the House to explain that an IT algorithm mistake set up in 2009 and running up to up 2018, has resulted in almost 450,000 women, between the ages of 68 - 71, who should have been invited to a third and final breast screening not receiving the notification. He emphasised that explanatory letters to all of them would be going out over the next few weeks and an NHS helpline would be set up. I will publish the number once it is in place. My question to Hunt was whether or not he'd also taken the necessary steps to identify women from that age group who aren't registered with a GP? Overall this has been an appalling mistake, with awful consequences for the women who may have gone on to develop cancer because they weren't identified. If any locally, think they are affected, please do contact my office so I can help. My email is stephen.lloyd.mp@parliament.uk and our telephone number: 01323 733030.

    It was good to join the remarkable Jane Lowe last week as she ran her monthly Dementia Cafe surgery. On the last Friday of every month she holds her surgeries at Cafe Nero in Terminus Road (opposite M&S) meeting and chatting to passing shoppers who may be a bit anxious about the disease, either from their own perspective or a relative. Jane and her team run an outstanding dementia care day centre, Ivy House, in Hartfield Road, and is passionate about both de-mystifying dementia, and supporting people who have it to lead independent lives for as long as possible. A lady in the early stages of dementia nervously approached Jane, saying she'd never spoken to anyone about it, felt totally alone and didn't know where to turn. Forty minutes later she was a different woman, having talked openly about her dementia, probably for the first time. It was an honour for me to be part of the conversation. Thank you Jane. We save the world one life at a time.....

  • Article: Apr 27, 2018
    By Stephen Lloyd

    Sadly the budget cuts just keep rolling in from East Sussex County Council, and they're now planning severe reductions to our music services. The absolutely brilliant East Sussex Music Service (ESMS) are celebrating their 84th year; they deliver music lessons to around 7000 children in schools across the county per annum and 1000 children, aged between 4 and 18, attend area music centres each week. Despite this success, the county council have announced plans are being made to close the music instrumental service by 2019. This will result in the loss of valued music provision for many and destroy a service which has introduced thousands of Eastbourne children to music over the decades. I believe such proposals are unnecessary, wrong and shortsighted. I've also been told that staff believe savings can be made without slashing such a much loved music service. We need County Hall to pause, listen to the people they serve and go back to the music staff to ask them how the funding circle can be squared, rather than just propose a decimation of the entire instrumental teaching provision. A decision which if it goes through, will be horrendously difficult to reverse. Please join me in opposing this cut by signing the online petition here: tinyurl.com/EsmPetition18

    I met with local volunteers and staff from the well known and respected national charity Guide Dogs for the Blind recently. They introduced me to the three key ways of travel that blind and visually impaired people use - guiding by a volunteer, the long white cane and a guide dog. Having lost my own sight for a period of six months in my mid twenties due to cataracts, I had some experience of the first two but I have never used a guide dog before. And tricky it was at first! Mainly because they go so fast. Or feel as if they do. The team reassured me that of course the dog is moving at a normal pace but with a cane, for instance, one is gingerly feeling ones way along whatever route being taken. With a guide dog it's like suddenly being in a Ferrari so being led by Dinah, the Guide Dog, was initially very unsettling because she was walking at normal speed and believe you me, if you cannot see where you're going (I was wearing a blindfold) that feels a tad speedy. However with the intense (6 weeks) training which Guide Dogs provide, their blind customers soon become very adept. All in all a thoroughly enlightening experience and with around 4750 people locally of which 640 have severe sight-loss, this is an important issue I was keen to learn more about. We are also lucky with our own outstanding Eastbourne Blind Society, who provide a lot of support to visually impaired residents locally. Me and Dinah the lovely Guide Dog? If I could have got away with it I'd have spirited her home in my pocket.

    I had a busy few days in the Chamber this week, pressing a defence minister on what services the MOD provide to veterans who have fallen on hard times, the business and trade minister on the government's role in ensuring its major contractors pay their sub-contractors on time, leading for the Lib Dem's on the financial guidance and claims bill and speaking in a debate about transport infrastructure in the South East. A subject we all know well locally because of the town's dubious experiences over the years with Southern Rail, and the ubiquitous A27! It was a mixed bag of results as these things often are. The defence minister provided some welcome clarity for veterans who may be struggling in civvy street but the business minister ducked my question on prompt payments, which is disappointing. I had asked him to ensure the government would not allow Capita and other major companies who did so much government work to do what its been discovered that Carillion so disgracefully did. In other words not pay their suppliers for 120 days and sometimes even longer. You'd have thought that as the government give so much tax payers money to these conglomerates, they'd hold the whip hand and be a bit firmer! The minister dodged the question somewhat so I will be keeping on this issue. For small and medium sized businesses who often do much of the sub-contacted work on behalf of these corporates, not being paid for months on end is simply unfair. On the finance bill, a more positive session. The government have taken on board a number of proposals from us and Labour which will, I believe, improve consumer protection. Then onto a Westminster Hall debate about a new(ish) body called Transport for the South East. This debate was secured by my Bexhill and Battle colleague, Huw Merriman MP, and in it we all pressed the minister from the Transport Department to ensure adequate infrastructure resources were allocated to our area. I also asked him directly about plans for duelling the A27, and he confirmed they're would be an announcement soon so I'll be following this up with a meeting and will keep you all posted. This and improving our rail services to London (and along the coast) are absolutely vital to Eastbourne's successful future.

    Finally I had the pleasure of joining a remarkable young Eastbourne woman called Lauren Backler this week at the culmination of her long journey. Her dear Mum died a few years ago through bowel cancer and Lauren discovered that if she had lived in Scotland, the cancer would most likely have been identified early enough as they screen people from fifty onwards, whilst here in England it's at sixty. Mrs Backler passed away in her mid fifties. Since then Lauren has been petitioning the Department of Health to bring down the age for screening here as well, and in the process she has collected over 400,000 signatures. This week she presented them to the DoH in Whitehall, and it was a pleasure for me to join her. Along with the bowel cancer charity who have been working alongside Lauren, I also presented Early Day Motion 617, which I'd placed in Parliament and has received the support of 77 MP's from across all the political partys. From the discussions I have had with health ministers I think her campaign, in memory of her dear mother, will in due course be won. It makes sense, the public are totally behind it and the department know it's the right thing to do. An impressive Eastbourne woman making a difference for good. Well done Lauren. It's been a privilege to support you over this important, life-saving initiative.

  • Article: Apr 25, 2018
    By Stephen Lloyd

    Dear All - the budget cuts just keep rolling in from County Hall, and they're now planning savage reductions to our music services across East Sussex.

    The absolutely brilliant East Sussex Music Service is celebrating its 84th year; it delivers music lessons to around 7000 children in schools across the county every year and around 1000 children, aged between 4 and 18, attend area music centres each week.

  • Article: Apr 24, 2018
    By Stephen Lloyd

    I have being working on a troubling issue for a constituent for over a year now, which seems to have an obvious resolution but despite this I keep banging my head on the brick wall of corporate intransigence. It's on behalf of a local couple who have an interest-only mortgage with Santander Bank. No problem with their monthly payments but the issue is the bank doesn't actually allow for interest-only mortgages to people over the age of 75, and as this particular couple have reached that age, and for circumstances that are perfectly understandable unable to settle the whole debt, Santander are seeking a court order to possess their house. I think this is a shocking decision. Not least as with so many of us living longer than in the past, there will be numerous other couples in the same situation - according to the House of Commons library they're over 130,000 people of retirement age with interest only mortgages - so you'd think it would make sense for Santander to be flexible in response to changing times. And some other high street lenders are doing so such as the Nationwide who recently announced they'd be carrying over interest-only mortgages to 85 in recognition of our longevity, so why not Santander? I raised the matter in Treasury Questions and have secured a meeting with the minister to discuss the problem. I've also tabled an Early Day Motion deploring Santander's actions, and asked they respond to the changes in our ageing society. I hope the Banks can be persuaded to do the right thing.