Firstly: may I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. Hopefully 2019 will come and go without too much drama – Brexit notwithstanding!
NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH: Those of us who follow social media sites like Facebook are now seeing images of vans of all different colours and sizes, usually manned by two or three males who walk onto property in this area on a daily basis and take metal, steal property etc. These thefts are usually carried out in broad daylight. Bloggers put very clear CCTV images of the individuals involved filmed by their own security systems which include registration numbers. Most concerning of all is that most of the vehicles have no road tax, are not insured and have no MOT. Daily there are numerous reports of vans being broken into overnight and very expensive tools being taken…once again a lot of these thefts are caught on CCTV.
So what is happening with the policing in this area? The police announced some months ago, in a blaze of publicity, they had recruited some 200 plus PCSOs to be trained to patrol our streets. To date I have not seen one and nor have other residents
I am a coordinator of our local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme. I used to receive updates into my inbox about local crime, Operation Blitz, Farm Watch and general information on current scams weekly, or even more frequently. This reporting system was changed although I was promised that regular alerts would be distributed in a different format. For approximately two months I received a spasmodic alert. To date nothing has been forthcoming from the police. Logging into my NW account under ‘reporting an incident’ this message comes up: ‘Neighbourhood Alert does not currently have a information reporting agreement with your local Police force nor does any other scheme in the area.’ The last crime report was made in October, 2018 but nothing was reported. I shall endeavour to find out more. So watch this space.
The 101 reporting system is a waste of time. Yes, the crime report is logged and possibly a crime number is given but what action is taken? We hear tales from local residents who have seen someone entering their driveway or heading towards their property. They ring the non-emergency number: 101 and then wait for 30 minutes or longer, eventually hanging up in disgust. It clearly states on the police and the Government website, that if a life or property is in danger you should phone: 999.
Affordable Housing: The concept of ‘affordable housing’ comes home when you know someone in need of it. The daughter of a friend, her husband and their two young children, have been living in rented accommodation in the area for more than 10 years. Both have good jobs. They desperately want to buy their own home. But they looked at the properties currently being built in Dads Hill and were horrified to note the cheapest properties were priced at £385,000. These are small and cramped terraced houses, some facing directly onto Cross in Hand High Street with no frontages to speak of and no views of anything but other houses. Rooms are laughably small. They are billed as ‘luxury homes.’ She asked what ‘affordable’ actually means? She said: “Even if we could borrow money or save enough for a deposit, we could not afford to pay the mortgage. Very soon we will be unable to obtain a thirty year mortgage anyway, even with a substantial loan from the family, we are just priced out of the property market where we live. Most of any disposable income we have goes in rent anyway so there is no wriggle-room for savings. What can we do?” Over to you, housing policy makers, councils, developers. Please note the largest house on this estate, which boasts a pocket-handkerchief sized garden and is jammed up against its neighbours, is priced just short of £700,000. Heathfield is not leafy Surrey, London outskirts or even metropolitan Brighton. Somehow or other the people we really need to help run our society are being priced out of the villages and towns they were born in. Where do they go? The Lincolnshire coast is possibly just about achievable. Skegness’s gain is Heathfield’s loss.
East Sussex County Council: Has anyone come across the latest missive from East Sussex County Council? It’s a ‘consultation’ and if you opt to complete the questionnaire, you are told, sternly, you must answer every question posed. One of them, and I paraphrase, gives you two options. You can choose option a) Accept that your council tax must rise by up to 23 per cent over three years or b) Accept that public services such as libraries, care for the elderly or education must be drastically cut. All we now have to do is wait for the announcement to be proclaimed: “A large percentage of those who answered our consultation said they would prefer to see council services cut.” Bang go even more libraries; bang, there goes your elderly day centre; bang - could parents please bring loo rolls into school as we are running out and have no more money; bang - sorry we can’t afford to repair potholes/improve your road. May I suggest a third question? c) Or would you like to see senior council executives accept a pay cut, for example, not one of them should earn more than £100,000?
Don’t hold your breath.
HEATHFIELD ABOUT TOWN: Well Christmas is gradually looming. The Fire Station Christmas lighting display and the large decorated Christmas tree is a welcome beacon to visitors, residents arriving from Cross in Hand into Heathfield. Well done the fire service.
Hopefully all the Heathfield traders are picking up business. Social media reports that they are. Brilliant news. Please give all your support to our local shops. Readers of the column will know I visited most of the shops offering space to any good news stories and promotions they are running - this offer still stands.
This lovely, well stocked fashion boutique is now offering 25% off most clothing. I am reliably informed the shop does carry some very well known brands such as Adini, Sahara, NYDJ and Masai. So pop in prior to Christmas and grab a bargain – Mrs PP will be there, hoping there is space for just one or two new bits and pieces in the wardrobe.
This is a shout-out for Fabrika, the tailoring and alteration business at the bottom of Cherwell Road, just opposite Barclays Bank. It’s run by lovely Turkish lady, Nell (apologies Nell if I have misspelt your name) who can handle just about anything you throw at her, from altering seams so garments can fit, dealing with delicate evening wear, men’s tailoring or re-shaping clothing. Her prices are reasonable and she is fast although quality workmanship is never compromised. When living in West Sussex, Mrs PP used a wonderful woman in Hurstpierpoint who sadly passed away. She has searched for someone ever since and now, after a few ‘near misses,’ including one who charged nearly £40 to turn up a trouser hem, she is going to stay loyal to Nell.
WEALDEN ALERTS: Wealden highlights its priorities for the next four years
Wealden District Council is asking residents and local businesses for their views of the Council’s priorities for the next four years.
Corporate Plan 2019-23
The priorities are outlined in the Council’s draft Corporate Plan 2019-23.
“We are producing the Corporate Plan now to provide strategic continuity as we transition over to a new Council following the District Council elections on 2 May 2019,” said Councillor Bob Standley, Leader of Wealden District Council.
“This builds on this Council’s achievements of the past four years by identifying specific aims and ways in which these can be achieved. We are focussing on Communities, the Environment, the Local Economy and Sound Business Management.
“Given the decline in central government funding, the Council has to become more commercially active so it has the resources to continue to provide services and achieve its aspirations.”
Included in the many actions identified in the 2019-23 Corporate Plan are:
•Helping deliver infrastructure to support growth including schools, medical facilities, care, roads, transport, affordable homes.
•Helping to facilitate cleaner, smarter, more affordable energy for our communities, and extend the electric vehicle charging network.
•Supporting transport improvements, including an improved A27, the Lewes-Uckfield rail link and the continuing development of the A22 corridor.
The Local Economy:
•Supporting the expansion of local businesses.
•Leading on key local regeneration projects.
•Encouraging start-ups and niche businesses.
•Working to encourage inward investment in the District from a range of sources.
•Meeting local needs in our housing market particularly for first time buyers and older people seeking to downsize.
•Build and maintain more council homes to a high standard.
•Helping people who are, or are likely to become, homeless.
•Supporting initiatives to address changing health needs across the District.
•Seeking opportunities to invest in more modern GP surgeries and local health hubs in Wealden.
•Promoting good access to mobile and broadband networks.
Sound Business Management:
•Keeping council tax as low as possible.
•Pursuing income generation opportunities.
•Optimising access to services online 24/7, reducing the costs of delivery and maintaining direct support for people who need it most.
•Ensuring the efficient and effective service delivery of all Council services.
There are 40 corporate actions outlined in the draft Corporate Plan. You can view the draft 2019-23.
You can visit the Consultation pages on the Wealden website .
Local organisations are also being asked to give their views. Responses to the public consultation will be considered at the 30 January 2019 Cabinet meeting. The final recommendations for the adoption of the new Corporate Plan will be made at Full Council on 20 February 2019.
In my opinion, this is a very long wish list. It would be helpful if WDC could identify each action by marking each proposal as an A, B or C priority.
Changes in garden waste collections in 2019
Wealden District Council has confirmed that it will introduce customer charges for garden waste collections when the new Joint Waste Contract for refuse and recycling collections starts from 29 June 2019.
Brown garden waste bin
“We anticipated this decision last year in the expectation that the new contract would be more costly,” said Councillor Roy Galley, Cabinet member for Waste Management at Wealden District Council. “Our commitment to garden waste recycling has helped Wealden achieve its strong recycling record, with recycling rates above 50%. Like our residents we are proud of this achievement. We hope we will be able to continue to achieve this in the future.”
“Garden waste collection is not a service councils are required to provide. It was introduced in Wealden 15 years ago to help increase our recycling. In the face of increasing costs, we can no longer expect council tax payments to subsidise fully this part of the service, particularly when not all residents use the service.
“We have, reluctantly, decided to ask the residents who value the service to make a contribution to the cost, as residents in the other joint waste partnership authorities of Rother and Hastings already do. We will introduce a charge of £50 a year from 1 July 2019. This level of charge will place us well down the list of the authorities across the whole of Sussex that charge for garden waste services with all except Rother charging more.”
“I firmly believe that this still represents good value for money for our residents – a cost of around £1 a week.”
More information about the operation of the scheme and how to sign up will be provided to residents in the New Year, along with information about home composting for those who choose to do so.
The Joint Waste Partnership authorities taking part in the negotiations for the new East Sussex Joint Waste contract are Hastings Borough Council, Rother District Council and Wealden District Council.
If this scheme is a Joint Waste Partnership I ask why is Rother charging £35.00 per annum, Hastings £60.00 per annum and Wealden £50.00 per annum? When I go into a national retailer, say M & S I expect to pay the same price for the same goods (not a local store markdown) for the same item in all their local stores. Surely the cost to housholds should be consistent over all the Partnership members?
Moving towards self-sufficiency
Wealden District Council is proposing a 2.7% increase in the council tax residents pay for its local services. This will enable it to become a self–sufficient local authority unsupported by central Government grants.
“There is a great deal of uncertainty going forward as to what, if any, funding we will receive in the future from central government,” said Councillor Bob Standley, Leader of the Council. “At the time of making this decision, we still have not received details of the Local Government Finance Settlement which had been expected earlier this month. A re-set to Business Rates is expected in 2020/21 with a new funding formula to be announced.
“We are expecting a full contribution over the coming year from our Vicarage Field shopping centre investment and the new crematorium. Together with this proposed council tax increase, we should be in stronger position in the years ahead.
“The measures we take now will enable us to continue to deliver the high standard of services local residents and businesses expect.”
The proposed increase will mean an additional £5 a year contribution by the average Band D council tax payer, with proportionate increases for the other council tax bands.
The Council has built up a reputation for sound financial management through shared services and partnerships as well as its own investments. In a survey last year, 76% of residents said they were satisfied with the way the Council runs things compared to a national average of 67%.
Over the past four years Wealden has ensured nearly 600 new affordable homes have been built in the District and 1,555 new jobs have been created, supported by nearly 20,000 sq ft of new employment space. Since it began building council houses in 2013, the Council will have built 201 council-owned homes in the District. The four Council-supported leisure centres attracted more than 1 million visits last year, and two new open access countryside areas have been created at Walshes Park and Horsted Green. The Council also continues to support Wealden’s tourist industry which generates over £305 million a year and supports more than 8,500 jobs.
Here’s how the proposed increase will affect council tax bands:
Council Tax band Increase per year Council tax per year
Band A £3.33 £128.29
Band B £3.89 £149.68
Band C £4.44 £171.06
Band D £5.00 £192.44
Band E £6.11 £235.20
Band F £7.22 £277.97
Band G £8.33 £320.73
Band H £10.00 £384.88
Your final council tax bill is used to provide a range of services in East Sussex including services provided by East Sussex County Council, Sussex Police, and East Sussex Fire and Rescue as well as your local Parish or Town Council. Wealden’s share of this is only 10%.
The District Council provides a wide range of important local services including public housing, private housing assistance, waste and recycling services, planning enforcement, countryside protection, free public car parks, public health, licensing, environmental protection and community activities.
The public are invited to take part in a consultation about the proposed council tax increase, alongside local business associations, town and parish councils, the Wealden Strategic Partnership and council employees.
Well done Wealden – although I do hand out the brickbats from time to time, this is a bouquet for Wealden’s officers who have worked hard over the past few years to make savings.
MAYFIELD and FIVE ASHES: Parish Council Christmas Opening times
Over the Christmas holiday the Parish Council office will closed from Monday December 24 and will reopen on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.
Home insulation scheme warning
East Sussex Trading Standards are warning residents of Mayfield to be vigilant about companies who are cold calling and claiming to offer a home insulation scheme that is supported by East Sussex County Council (ESCC). It is not in the remit for ESCC to support schemes that involve cold calling, and companies claiming that they do are misleading residents and may be breaking the law. This warning follows a spate of recent complaints about cold callers falsely offering an ESCC supported insulation scheme.
Grants may be available for home insulation for households that qualify. For further information on the current East Sussex schemes available please visit www.warmeastsussex.org.uk
Trading Standards advise residents to be very wary of all unsolicited telephone calls, text messages, emails and knocks on the door. For unsolicited visits to your property:
Never agree to have work done or part with money on your doorstep.
Research the trader and always get written quotes from at least three traders for any work.
Remember that you have 14 days to cancel any purchase of goods or services over £42 that you make in your home.
For consumer advice, or to report a concern to Trading Standards contact Citizens Advice: 03454 040506.
HORAM: Supporting our local Producers - J&R Sheffield Poultry Farmers Vines Cross
Not ordered your Christmas Turkey yet? The above poultry producer has free range Bronze and white turkeys for sale in selected weights and at very competitive prices.
For further details call: 01435 812145.