A reply to Gillian Keegan MP

A reply to the comments made by Gillian Keegan «here»

Gillian Keegan’s statement on the Dominic Cummings fiasco displays her mastery of the art of using many words to say nothing at all. We are still none the wiser as to whether she believes Cummings broke the government’s own lockdown rules, and we don’t know whether she thinks his position as a government advisor is still tenable.

Of course, those of us who have followed her actions (for want of a better word) in this constituency over the last few years recognise the pattern: career before constituents. Chichester Labour Party encourages anyone with serious concerns about this situation to continue to write to her, or write to us and we will take up your points.

Cllr Kevin Hughes, Labour Group Leader, Chichester District Council.

Tories reject input from local businesses and organisations in local post-pandemic recovery planning.

An opposition motion which called for a united and inclusive approach to discuss the way forward beyond the current lockdown has been rejected by the Tories of Chichester District Council. The suggested task force would have helped inform how best to support efforts towards a local economic recovery and long-term environmental impacts of plans by inviting experts from various local stakeholders to inform the decision making process at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Chichester District Council.

Labour Leader on Chichester District Council, Cllr Kevin Hughes (Chichester East) said “It is with great sadness that we witnessed the Tory leadership of Chichester District Council missing an opportunity for cross-party unity at Annual Council. An opposition motion calling for the involvement of all parties in putting together a recovery plan post-covid19 was dismissed with the flimsiest of excuses.”

Cllr Kevin Hughes continued by saying, “The motion called for the involvement of community groups and business experts with deep knowledge of the local area and their fields of interest. In rejecting our attempt to offer support and guidance to hard-pressed officers, the Tories have proven once again that for them political control freakery comes before the public good.”

Speaking at the Council Meeting via Zoom, Cllr Hughes spoke in favour of the motion, “Business as usual has already been acknowledged as not being an option moving forward, we need people with the knowledge and expertise to help shape the right decisions for the residents of our District.“

What we have seen over the last few weeks and months is that in times of difficulty, people co-operate: they work together to collectively meet their shared needs. Communities and volunteers coming together to help the most vulnerable or improve local community resilience has shown the best of us in such difficult times.

A recent article noting the publishing of the report Building a Co-operative Recovery, by the Co-operative Commission, it’s authors noted, “The earlier we can begin building for what comes next, the better our chances will be of delivering a strong and successful recovery. In planning our recovery, it’s important to pause and reflect on what we’ve seen and learned during these difficult past few weeks.”

Cllr Kevin Hughes concluded by saying, “We’ve all been moved by the kindness of strangers and neighbours alike, reminding us of the real power of local communities. This is our chance not to go back to normal, but forward to better. Perhaps a crisis of this magnitude will help us to reimagine and reshape our communities. Labour intends to grasp that opportunity with both hands. We believe that by working together – businesses, community groups and other local organisations along with local residents – we can rebuild an economy that’s better for everyone in Chichester.”

Chichester Labour calls for ambitious action to support cycling and walking

Labour District & County Councillors are calling for bold action to make a lasting difference to local roads, cycling and walking.

Labour members of Chichester, Adur, Worthing and West Sussex County Councils are pressing for improvements to roads and a network of new, safer, cycle lanes, taking advantage of funding for this announced by the government.

The government has said it will make funding available to councils to make safe walking and cycling easier. This is set to be discussed by West Sussex County Council cabinet on 26 May.

New cycle lanes, wider pavements and more pedestrianised roads are being discussed by many councils. A range of London’s city centre streets are being closed off to all but buses, pedestrians and cyclists.  In some areas, pavements are being widened so that social distancing can continue as necessary.

Labour says there are clear priorities locally, those identified already within the Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan. These include cycle routes to schools and car free zones near school entrances. 

Chichester District Council’s Labour group leader Kevin Hughes (Chichester East) said:

West Sussex County Council has a golden opportunity to improve the health and well-being of its residents. There is no excuse for not taking advantage of the new legislation and the fantastic examples being set by many councils. The previous advice from WSCC on this subject has been ‘it’s up to individuals’. In other words, ‘not our problem, guv’. That is just not good enough given the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. Let us hope that Cabinet can find some wisdom and foresight from somewhere before next Tuesday.”

Labour leader on West Sussex County Council, Michael Jones (Southgate and Gossops Green) said:

“Any road users in West Sussex will know from first-hand experience that our roads have been neglected by the Tory-run council for years, with continual cuts and very visible consequences.  Now the Tory Cabinet is dragging its feet and still dithering on this important issue, meanwhile Labour-run Brighton and Hove City Council has already got many of its pop-up lanes into operation. It’s time for action. It’s time to make our roads safe for cyclists so cycling can be a real choice for local people.

“Social distancing will be a challenge on public transport for some time.  It’s about giving people choice in how they get about and get to work.  There is a real danger that congestion and the air pollution that causes will be even worse than before the lockdown if more people have to take their cars to work. 

“There are more people cycling in West Sussex than ever before, we need the county council to actually have some vision on this, for once, and capitalise on this increased popularity.”

Cllr Sarah Lishman raises much needed money for Stonepillow

Labour District and City Councillor Sarah Lishman is raising funds to support the work of Stonepillow, the homeless charity working to support the most vulnerable in Chichester.

Sarah Lishman has said, “In these times, the homeless have become invisible – either through us staying at home and not seeing them on the streets, or through people having temporary accommodation in our currently empty hotels. They are so easily forgotten, but I didn’t want to allow that to happen.”

Cllr Lishman will be sleeping onboard a bus as the challenge is to sleep in the silliest place due to the usual location of Chichester Cathedral being ruled out due to the ongoing pandemic. So far Cllr Lishman is at 108% of her fundraising minimum and is asking for anyone who wishes to support the work of Stonepillow to sponsor her.

Cllr Lishman continued, “This is only a temporary fix, and so many of our most vulnerable people will find themselves sleeping rough again. Stonepillow are working so hard with our local homeless community, providing vital support and resources, night and day. One night of discomfort, sleeping somewhere unfamiliar and cold, is a small price to pay in comparison to what is happening on our streets nightly, and I hope that all of those taking part in the Sleep Out can raise vital funds so that Stonepillow can continue with their amazing work”.

Labour’s Cllr Michael Jones confronts Tory cabinet at West Sussex County Council over Rumboldswhyke School closure.

Cllr Michael Jones, Leader of the Labour Group on West Sussex County Council, took the Conservative cabinet of West Sussex County Council to task on their plans to close three small schools including Rumboldswhyke School in Chichester.

At the cabinet meeting which took the decision on Wednesday of this week, Cllr Michael Jones said, “I really must underline my continuing deep opposition and that of the West Sussex Labour Group to the closure proposals for Rumboldswhyke. I’m sad it looks like the Conservative cabinet of this council are pushing this through, particularly in these exceptional times.

Cllr Michael Jones, Labour leader at West Sussex County Council
Cllr Michael Jones, Labour leader at West Sussex County Council

These children have already had their education disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. Is it really appropriate for them to have it further disrupted at this crucial time by yet another forced move to unfamiliar schools at a time when they should be catching up on their studies? How [would closure] help educational outcomes all round? It doesn’t make sense to me.”

As the cabinet member for education said himself earlier on, there is a higher proportion of SEN pupils than the average and I don’t like the fact the council is putting them through this at all. It seems to me that this whole thing is being driven by financial reasons and by the national governments pretty disastrous ideological education programme which is allowing schools to be set up where there is more than adequate provision rather than being an honest and responsive approach giving our young people the best education. This in one case is resulting in the closure of a school that has been located there for over a century is an absolute travesty.”

“Whatever the legal arguments, it is quite clear that our communities have been led on a merry dance by this Conservative Council and you can see why when one of those communities finds out that before even going to consultation it would appear that the leader and the cabinet member had already set a date for closure for this August. If you read the emails councillors have been receiving, and there have been many of them, it is also clear to me that there are so many telling reasons why not to close that aren’t in the report that the cabinet have, that I don’t think the cabinet had time to consider them and do them justice here today.”

“The schools have well mapped futures open to them and I think this cabinet has a clear lead from the scrutiny committee to give them a chance, which I think the cabinet should follow. If the cabinet doesn’t follow that lead I hope you all will give very good reasons for setting a different path so at least our communities can see better for now why it is not possible to save this obviously much loved school’s. It’s my view that you will not be acting reasonable if you push this decision through now. [closing the schools] is the wrong decision at the wrong time by far.”

Phil Wilson (on the left)
Phil Wilson (on the left)

Former Labour Candidate for Chichester South, Phil Wilson has commented on the decision, “This is clearly the wrong decision and will be a blow to the whole school and wider community. The pupils and their families need the safety and stability of the school community to continue, especially given current circumstances, but longer term we need to rebalance the injustice of schools funding being redirected to support schemes such as Free Schools, which has led to this purely financially driven decision”.

Councillor Kevin Hughes, Labour Group Leader on Chichester District and City councils said “This decision reflects the tin ear that WSCC has for communities. These schools are vital for the parents whose children attend them and for the pupils themselves. I actually attended Clapham and Patching for a couple of years back in the 1970s, so I can imagine the disruption that this decision will cause there and at Rumboldswhyke. I feel for the tireless campaigners who must now feel totally devastated and exhausted after this decision.”

Open Letter – Concern about information dissemination in the light of the Covid 19 crisis

Dear Ms Shepherd and Ms Shaw,

Please find attached and below a letter from the three minor parties on Chichester District Council – Labour, Green and Local Alliance.

We would like to express our concerns that we are now 27* days into the Government’s lockdown due to Covid-19 and yet the County’s Hub details have still not been circulated by either Chichester District or West Sussex County Council through all doors to all households in Chichester District.

 We know that volunteer efforts from the Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups have ensured some dissemination of information through doors but we are not convinced such coverage is comprehensive.

 We appreciate all of the efforts that have gone into setting up the Hub and know that officers are working very hard. But we need to reach all areas of the District that are not covered by Residents’ Associations or active Parish Councils. We also need to cover flats or gated developments and hard to reach individuals who are not online or don’t have mobile phones.

We understand that efforts are being made to ensure that leaflets are circulated before the end of the month. We feel that this work is very urgent and must, if possible, be brought forward.

 Yours sincerely,

Cllr Kevin Hughes, Leader of the Labour Group

Cllr Sarah Lishman, Labour Group

Cllr Tim Johnson, Leader of Local Alliance

Cllr Donna Johnson, Local Alliance

Cllr Sarah Sharp, Leader of the Green Group

Cllr Heather Barrie, Green Group

“Every single day that I get into my cab, I’m scared.”

Cllr Sarah Lishman (Lab), a local councillor for Chichester East on both the City and District Council has spoken about working on the frontline as a key worker and appeals to the public to heed government advice during the coronavirus crisis.

“In these times, wherever possible, we all need to stay home and save lives. We need to protect all of our key workers, and give special thanks to every single person working for the NHS right now – from porters to surgeons, you’re all amazing.

There are understandably essential journeys being made on public transport to buy weekly shopping for yourselves and more vulnerable people who are staying home, or to collect vital medication.”

I say this not just as a District and City Councillor for Chichester East. But I’m also a bus driver. And I’m completely terrified. Every single day that I get into my cab, I’m scared. We have our security screens up, with the air holes sealed over. We’re asking people to not pay cash. We have been supplied hand sanitiser. It’s claustrophobic, and some passengers are struggling with these changes.”

I’m working to take those amazing people that are keeping our country going to their jobs. I can only say, please, please, stay away from public transport if you don’t need to make an essential journey. You’re not only risking your own life, but the life of the driver, and every other passenger on that bus. Transport workers are dying. We have already held a minute silence for the 15 transport workers who had died two weeks ago. Now even more have given their lives to keep the country moving.”

Right now, I’m not just a Councillor. I’m a human being who drives buses for a living. There are no petty politics right now.”

Save lives. Stay home. Protect the NHS, and all our key workers.”