I have been liaising with the statutory bodies involved in the Birling Gap noxious haze for weeks now, trying to find out from them the cause of the gas, and what it actually was. And to be frank it’s been a bit of a challenge! Then only this week I hear from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that they will not be able to identity the source, ‘as they don’t know what it is’.
This after weeks of telling us they were narrowing it down to one of the 150 or so vessels in the area at the time. And as all the other agencies have basically concluded ‘we do not know what the gas was as firstly we did not have the right equipment to take a sample, and secondly its transient nature meant there was no time to collect a sample’. The whole outcome is very disappointing. To be blunt it’s simply not good enough. Imagine if the consequences of the haze had been, say, only 20 per cent more toxic? Then members of the public affected by the gas either at Birling Gap or across Eastbourne (of which many were) could have suffered a much more severe reaction. I’ll leave the possible consequences to your imagination but it certainly wouldn’t have been pretty. Consequently, I will be insisting the relevant bodies come back to me and the public with a clear explanation as to (a) why a sample was not taken, and (b) a coherent plan which demonstrates they will be able to successfully collect gas samples in future. The public deserve nothing less.
Meanwhile I am very disappointed to see that East Sussex County Council is planning to close both the Willingdon and Langney libraries. I think this is short-sighted and unnecessary.
Each of these libraries perform an important cohesive role in our communities and to close them is just plain wrong. I’ve been out and about in both areas and it’s clear residents agree with me. I’ll be vigorously opposing these closures and making my views known. Please join me in signing my petition here: https://stephenlloyd.org.uk/en/petition/save-willingdon-and-langney-libraries
I was at our party conference this week in Bournemouth. As the Lib Dem spokesman on the DWP (department of work and pensions) I gave a speech on the governments rollout of Universal Credit. I’m less than impressed as it’s original premise, which I supported, of making work pay has been cut to ribbons. Even Iain Duncan Smith’s own think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice, has lambasted the Chancellor’s decision in 2015 to cut £2bn from the employment support segment. It goes live in Eastbourne on October 11 but I’ve urged the government to pause its rollout so some of its more obvious failing can be fixed. Such as paying rent direct to the tenants for them to pass on to their landlords, and delays of up to six or even in some cases 10 weeks before recipients get their new Universal Credit? All are going to cause real difficulties for many people. I will be working with our CAB, Money Advice, the council and Eastbourne FoodBank to try and alleviate UC’s impact on local residents but can’t help thinking the Conservative government is causing misery on the anvil of an ideology, irrespective of what’s happening on the ground. This is both unnecessary and cruel.
On a more positive note, one of the local charities that I’ve the pleasure of being fundraising patron for is Eastbourne’s Cancer Research (UK), so I was delighted to celebrate the success from this year’s Relay event. The group raised more than £38,000, which is an absolutely fantastic result. Many congratulations to Janet Geering, our driving force, who I had the pleasure of verifying the cheque with this week, and all the many teams who raised the money during the 24-hour Relay. Eastbourne has a wonderful sense of community and these sorts of initiatives always take a ton of work from people giving up their time for nothing. I never cease to be profoundly impressed by what so many local residents do for a good cause. Thank you all.