Readers of my column will remember the campaign I’ve been fighting on behalf of an older couple over their bank, Santander, refusing to allow them to continue paying their interest-only mortgage beyond the age of 75.
The latest news is that circumstances are looking much better for them. It appears their are many more people across the country caught in a similar situation, facing fears of losing their homes, as they cannot afford to move to a repayment mortgage in the latter stage of their lives. It became obvious to me that this was a systemic problem which needed addressing urgently. Consequently over the last few weeks I’ve had a series of meetings up in Parliament with the various parties to explore a workable solution to the issue so that other, tens of thousands, of elderly couples can enjoy their retirement in their own homes whilst continuing to pay their interest-only mortgages. As you can imagine it is a complicated problem but the discussions I’ve had thus far with UK Finance, the lenders trade association and the Treasury Minister have been productive. The next stage is that I will be convening a round-table in Westminster of all the big banks and lenders so that a practical and ‘considerate’ way forward can be found. Meanwhile the Fitzgeralds remain secure in their own home with the court action against them stopped, whilst I continue negotiating with Santander.
Another fantastic Sunshine Carnival has come and gone and it was the biggest and best so far, so I’d like to do some very public thanks: Firstly my absolutely brilliant carnival committee. What you won’t see are the hundreds of hours these key individuals did over the last 12 months. They are - Rupert Ashford, Nigel Hill, Mark Marsden, Mina O’Brian, Alan Shuttleworth, Steve Holt and Luke Johnson. I couldn’t make our carnival work without your skills, experience and consistent enthusiasm. Thanks also to Julie Ashford who does such a great admin job in the final months run-up. And to Maisie Drysdale who has produced so many innovative posts on the carnival Facebook page. To all the other wonderful volunteers on the day; our indefatigable route marshals, the 1,500+ entrants and participants, the five static entertainment sites who I’ve already been told did a fantastic job entertaining the crowd before the procession arrived.
Finally, to you - the thousands of people who came out on such a lovely sunny day to support our event. Your enthusiasm and encouragement means a lot to us, as does your generosity. The buckets were duly filled and in due course I will be in touch with the participating charities to let them know how much we’ve raised. Thank you Eastbourne. Truly.
Measles, my deafness and our brilliant local audiology department: Many of you will know that I’ve been hard of hearing for years. This was a consequence of me catching measles when I was about six, and having just recovered from cerebral malaria, (I grew up in Mombasa, Kenya) my resistance was weak. The result is I lost my hearing - all from the left ear and 40% or so from my right. In short, I’m actually much deafer than people realise but the advantage (every cloud has a silver lining!) of having grown up with the disability, is that I’ve learnt some good coping strategies. It does mean however that my ears have been tested gazillions of times and that I’ve been wearing my hearing aid for well over 30 years. I had the pleasure of visiting our own local audiology department (based at Park Practice in Hampden Park) the other day. Not as a patient for a change but as part of my ongoing initiative to visit as many of our local NHS Trust departments as possible. And to report back to you the outstanding work they do, within and without the hospital. Thus audiology came up, and the department really is stepping up to the plate. Their team of around 30 people provide hearing assessments and ongoing care and treatment for adults and children with hearing difficulties across East Sussex. It’s also the only NHS Audiology service in the south east with Improving Quality in Physiological Services (IQIPS) accreditation for both adults and children, demonstrating the highest levels of quality of service, care and safety for patients. . The sheer scale of what they do is impressive - 54,000+ adult outpatient appointments every year, 6,000 children checked for hearing loss as well as 5,000 newborn babies screened for deafness per annum.
There’s plenty going on locally this weekend but I’d like to give a special shout-out for Eastbourne’s Cancer Research UK’s Relay for Life event. It starts on Saturday at midday and runs all the way through to the same time on Sunday, from the sports park at Cross Levels Way. Do come along as the organiser, that tremendous force of nature, Janet Geering, with her brilliant team have put together a range of family-fun activities and entertainments.
That’s it folks. Have a good weekend and I hope to see you around town.