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Stephen talking to the media
  • Article: Sep 13, 2018
    By MIKE Bell

    Waste contractor Biffa has been fined more than 550 times for performance failures in North Somerset.

    Biffa was unveiled as North Somerset Council's waste collection provider in April 2017 but the service has been blighted with problems.

    It has meant complaints about rubbish and recycling collections have doubled.

    The company introduced new routes in May this year, but some households continued to have missed collections. Conservative Councillor Peter Bryant, who has responsibility for waste collection, apologised for the issues with the service in July.

    However, the problems have not been fully resolved and figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show Biffa has been issued with financial penalties 558 times between September 2017 and August 10 this year.

    Many fines are for failing to collect bins, not providing photo evidence of blocked access and repeat missed collections.

    Cllr Mike Bell said: "Since Biffa took over the contract last year, the performance levels have been really disappointing. We've had a long list of excuses from the council and Biffa reminiscent of the railway's 'leaves on the line'.

    "Excuses over the past few months have included too much snow and cold weather, too much hot weather, poorly planned delivery routes inherited from the previous contractor, and badly planned re-routing by Biffa. We're now told a further re-routing is taking place which will get everything back on track.

    "The massive increase in complaints and the poor service reported by residents has been allowed to drift for too long. The council needs to get to grips with this and be tougher with the contractor and get them to deliver the service they have promised. Taxpayers are forking out £7 million a year to Biffa through this contract and deserve a reliable and effective collection service. More than one year on, I fail to understand why this hasn't been sorted out."

  • Article: Aug 24, 2018
    By Stephen Lloyd

    Though the weather was a little unkind to us this year it was another brilliant Airbourne, and as usual many different people stepped up to make it work. Of those who do a superb job over the four days - it would be pretty messy without them - are our street cleaners. They spend a huge amount of time and effort keeping on top of the mountains of litter left by tens of thousands of Airbourne fans on the seafront. Emptying the bins up and down the seafront constantly through the day they tell me around 30 tons of litter are collected during the whole four day event. That's an awful lot of rubbish! Their co-ordinator is Richard Westgate. Top man who I've known for a long time. I caught up with him and a few of his team to thank them for all that they do on behalf of our town. A great bunch of hardworking people who care passionately about Eastbourne and do their very best to keep it looking good. Please take the time to thank them when you next see any out and about. It's a tough job and I am grateful for their, sometimes, Herculean efforts on our behalf. I enjoyed a good walk-around on the Friday and Saturday, down from Western Lawns to the other side of the pier, and it was good, as always, to experience the unique Airbourne atmosphere; packed yes but also very pleasant and friendly. That's sadly not always the case when such an enormous crowd comes together but it is in Eastbourne, which is a tribute to the town. Spending a few hours with the collection bucket is another good way for me to see first-hand the mood of the vast audience, and very happy and generous they were. It really is a brilliant day/weekend out for families from far and wide. Thanks to all those others who also stepped up as volunteer bucket collectors and to Sovereign Harbour Rotary Club for organising the bucket logistics. Airbourne costs the council (you/us - Eastbourne residents) a lot of money to put on, and for it to remain free. As it should be. It now has to be one of the biggest free air shows in Europe, which is really saying something about its success. Well done Eastbourne events team - you organised another great show for us all. Thank you.

  • Article: Aug 17, 2018
    By Stephen Lloyd

    I received some excellent news last week from a Health Minister called Steve Brine MP. He contacted me personally to say the new Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP, had accepted the recommendation of the UK National Screening committee, that screening for bowel cancer in England should be provided from the ages of 50 to 74; not from 60 years, as it is currently. It's already 50 in Scotland but the DoH had been resistant to bringing the age down in England. However, this is important news and now, literally, lives will be saved in England where in the past, and currently, they'll not be. It is also a testament to an extraordinary campaign by a young woman from Eastbourne, Lauren Backler, hose change.org petition to reduce the screening age has reached more than 470,000 signatures nationwide. An absolutely astonishing result. Lauren brought the issue to me within a matter of weeks of my re-election as your MP in 2017, and asked for my support. I was deeply moved by the passion she showed in her determination to get the Department of Health to reduce the age of bowel screening from 60 to 50 - which would have saved her mother's life - and also by her focus on ensuring the campaign had support across communities, representatives from all the political parties and the country as a whole. I committed my support on the spot to helping make her dream happen. So I was delighted to hear the news from the Health Minister, not least as I had specifically challenged him twice in Parliament over the last few months to reduce the bowel screening age, helped deliver the hundreds of thousands of petitions to the Department of Health, and also lead in Westminster a successful cross-party Early Day Motion which received the support of 76 other MPs from across all of the parties. Well done Minister. An announcement from the government that was good news for a change. Thank you. And now they've made the commitment, I will keep the pressure up to get a fixed start date. It's important to see the full details of the rollout, so it becomes a reality. I also had the pleasure of taking part in a game of blind tennis last week at the sports centre on Cross Levels Way. Really interesting. It's sponsored by Eastbourne Blind Society and run by a super organisation called Defiant Sports. The balls are lighter and a bit slower, are either bright yellow for those with a visual impairment or contain a rattle inside to make a noise. This allows someone who is completely blind to play tennis. Absolutely fascinating, and it was good to see the members engaging so actively. The director of Defiant Sports, Loretta Lock, pointed out that just because someone has a disability it doesn't mean they can't play a sport - it just means we all have to be a bit more creative. Her commitment is to engage more people with disabilities in sport so if you want to give it a try, whatever your disability, go online to learn more. Their link is: info@defiantsports.org.uk Many congratulations to the Eastbourne Blind Society for their innovation. Hat tip also to Eastbourne Borough Council. A recent report listed those councils across the country whic have closed public toilets over the last few years and it makes for grim reading. Closures across the UK on almost an industrial scale and I think that's simply wrong! Public loos may not be a subject we discuss much in polite company but their availability should be a priority for local authorities. For all of us, whatever age or gender, being caught short and not having access to a toilet is beyond the pale. I was delighted therefore to see that Eastbourne Borough Council is one of the very few authorities who not only have resisted cutting the number of available public facilities, but have actually increased them. Well done EBC. I'm really looking forward to Airbourne again this weekend. It's such a popular event and, if memory serves me right, we're now one of the largest airshows in Europe - and deservedly so. There's always plenty to see and I'm sure you have your own favourites. For myself it's the rather stately if not lumbering Lancaster bomber as it flies majestically past the massed crowds on the beach. Slow but evocative of a time when good versus evil seemed just, somehow more obvious, compared to today's globalised fast-moving world with all its nuances and complexities. A wonderful sight. As ever I will be out and about with a collection bucket along with many other volunteers, so do please drop in a few coins or notes. It costs the council a lot of money to put on this free event and they're wholly committed to doing so despite the stringent budget cuts from central government. Every penny counts and the bucket split is 30 per cent to local charities with 70 per cent going straight back into the Airbourne Fund to help pay for next year. I'm also looking forward of making a special point of thanking our brilliant seafront cleaners as I walk around. Trust me, they do an absolutely Herculean job every day to keep ahead of the mountain of litter which is dropped (sadly) on our beach and seafront, so I will make sure I thank them. Great people working hard for Eastbourne.

  • Article: Aug 10, 2018

    Could town become a Unitary Authority
    Eastbourne Herald 10/8/2017

    It was recently revealed that East Sussex County Council are preparing to become the second Conservative-run council, after Northamptonshire County Council, to set out plans to strip back services to the "legal minimum" as they look at a worst-case scenario deficit budget position by 2021/22 of £46.4m. This is very worrying news and I am bound to ask just how our services locally could be cut even more bare, than the proposed closure of Firwood House and the long list of other cuts ESCC recently announced.