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Bob Lloyd, the local Lib Dem chair and candidate in the borough and county council elections.

East Sussex Alliance the way to victory for the Lib Dems

The thrust of the Liberal Democrats’ local election campaign is aimed at County Hall, where they see cooperation between the opposition parties as the key to overturning the Conservative majority. The Rother Alliance provides a successful example of the strategy in action, they say. Nick Terdre reports. Photos supplied by the Lib Dems.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an East Sussex Alliance to unseat the Conservatives in County Hall, just as the Rother Alliance has done in the district council. Numerically it’s not an unrealistic aspiration – of the 50 county council seats, the Tories currently hold 29, the Lib Dems 11, Labour four, the Independent Group three and Independent Democrats two – one seat is currently vacant.

“We hold the Conservative Party nationally and locally responsible for many of the ills currently affecting our communities,” says Bob Lloyd, chair of the Hastings & Rye Liberal Democrats and candidate in St Helens ward and St Helens & Silverhill division.

“Whether it be the lack of priority given to tackling Climate Change, the failure (before and during the pandemic) to maintain, build and staff hospitals and care homes, the under-funding of schools or the betrayal of small businesses.”

The Rother Alliance was formed after the 2019 elections, bringing together the 13 seats won by the Association of Independents, the Lib Dems’ seven, Labour’s three and the Green Party’s one to create a majority of 24 over the Tories’ 13. Such a cooperative strategy is clearly a solution to the inequities felt by the smaller parties in the first-past-the-post system.

“The Rother Alliance has proved very successful,” Lloyd told HOT. “We are firm believers in consensus politics.” They are now working together with independents and the other parties on the county council  elections, where they have identified nine seats they believe are winnable by Lib Dems or their allies: Rye & Eastern Rother, Northern Rother, Rother North-West, Eastbourne Ratton, Hailsham Market, Hailsham New Town, Uckfield North, Uckfield South with Framfield, and Seaford North.

Kate Lamb

Deal with Greens

Under a deal with the Greens they are not standing a candidate in Rye & Eastern Rother in return for the Greens supporting their candidate, Kate Lamb, in the by-election for the RDC seat left vacant in 2019 when the previous councillor, Tory Sally-Ann Hart, departed to take up her seat in Parliament.

They are also supporting the independent candidate in Brede & Marsham, Beverly Coupar, many of whose election posters were recently vandalised – “The Tories or their supporters are clearly rattled,” one Lib Dem member suggested to HOT.

The Lib Dems hope that what they see as the successful running of RDC by the Rother Alliance will be noted by electors in Rother’s ESCC divisions, and possibly further afield.

Among these successes they count the decision to set up a town council for Bexhill, whose 18 inaugural councillors will be elected on 6 May (in fact four have already been elected unopposed, including one Lib Dem, Thomas Beverly). Such a move was always denied by the Tories while they were in power, but according to Lib Dem RDC councillor Andrew Mier, “ The new council is healthy for democracy and healthy for the wider District, letting local decisions be taken at local level and Rother free to deal with district-wide issues.”

They also cite the establishment of a housing company, Alliance Homes (Rother) Ltd, which has just gained planning permission for its first project, developing 200 homes on the Blackfriars site in Battle. These will be built to “high environmental standards, as well as ensuring a full quota of affordable housing,” Mier said.

Climate change strategy

They are also keen to burnish their green credentials. One of their first acts was to declare a climate change emergency in September 2019, followed by the development of a strategy aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 which was adopted last September after being put out to consultation to capture residents’ constructive comments.

Kathryn Field

RDC’s  environmental management lead is Lib Dem veteran Kathryn Field, now seeking re-election as a county councillor for Battle & Crowhurst, with the support of the Greens who are not standing a candidate in this division.

The sole RDC Green councillor, Polly Gray, works as part of the Lib Dem RDC group. The entire Rother Lib Dem group has joined the Green Lib Dems, the party’s “environmental conscience,” Mier reported.

On the ESCC front the Lib Dems are in favour of divesting the East Sussex pension fund from fossil fuel companies, though Lloyd said he was aware of the fiduciary duty of the pension committee to maximise the returns for pension fund members. The party also opposed the carbon neutral date of 2050 approved by the Conservative majority in its climate emergency motion, arguing that much swifter action was required.

Listening to local people

It is important to take a lead from local people’s views on matters in formulating policy, Lloyd told HOT. He was critical of the way Labour had overridden local people’s views on the proposed developments on Bulverhythe Rec and the old bathing pool site in West St Leonards. “You need to hear the views of local people, then move ahead,” he said. “You’ve got to start from the grassroots.”

Stewart Rayment out and about in West St Leonards.

His views are echoed by the party’s West St Leonards candidate, Stewart Rayment, who is standing against the incumbent Tory, Karl Beaney. “Climate Change requires a massive rethink on land use, and building homes – no matter how temporary – on flood-plains is not the answer,” he told HOT.

“The Bathing Pool site is a lost opportunity of community engagement, the proposed scale of the development is out of proportion with the site and will blight the lives of those living around it. The Lido idea could be a dynamic part of the town’s tourist potential as well as contributing to the leisure and health of the local community.

“Hastings Labour’s politbureau will never believe they are wrong. A dialogue is needed in politics to make things work, no one party or group is the sole owner of all wisdom, and in these instances the amount of noise from outside should tell Labour that they must rethink.”

Martin Griffiths, the Lib Dem candidate in Ashdown ward and the Ashdown & Conquest division, has similarly expressed concerns in HOT about the cluster of housing developments at the top of Harrow Lane.

Gene Saunders from the Land of Green Ginger.

The party is standing a full slate of candidates in Hastings – according to them, the Greens did not share their willingness to entertain electoral pacts. In 2018, the Lib Dems stood aside in Old Hastings ward to improve the Greens’ chances against Labour – and they came very close to winning a seat. This time however the Lib Dems have put up Gene Saunders, owner of the Land of Green Ginger vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the High Street – “a strong candidate”, in Lloyd’s words, in a four-way fight.

In line with its policy of listening to local residents, in their manifesto the Lib Dems undertake to improve resident participation in decision-making following the lessons of the pandemic and input from the local voluntary sector

Other undertakings include a call for the number of HBC councillors to be halved, and transparency in the workings of the council, while on the housing front they want priority in the use of council land to be given to community land trusts and self-build groups to provide locally affordable social housing, and a tougher line to be taken with developers on affordable housing provision and holiday home ownership.

Liberal Democrat candidates

Candidate HBC ward ESCC division
Martin Griffiths Ashdown Ashdown & Conquest
Robert Wakeford Baird Baird & Ore
Lee Grant Braybrooke
Katy Hunter-Burbridge Castle Braybrooke & Castle
Stephen Milton Central St Leonards Central St Leonards & Gensing
Veronica Chessell Conquest
Susan Stoodley Gensing
Anne Gallop Hollington
Jonathan Stoodley Maze Hill
Gene Saunders Old Hastings Old Hastings & Tressell
Jon Smalldon Ore
Terry Keen Silverhill
Bob Lloyd St Helens St Helens & Silverhill
Jim Deasley Tressell
Steward Rayment West St Leonards Maze Hill & West St Leonards
Emlyn Jones Wishing Tree Hollington & Wishing Tree
Jamie Bennett Sussex Police and  Crime Commissioner

 

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Posted 15:47 Friday, Apr 30, 2021 In: Politics

5 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. J B KNIGHT

    CONGRATULATIONS!!

    That was Interesting

    Comment by J B KNIGHT — Friday, May 7, 2021 @ 18:10

  2. June Knight

    Bhuahuahhau!!

    LibDems (Will Never Be Forgiven) And Greens (We Like the LibDems “Don’t Want Those Kind of People” sniff)

    Spilt beneath a piece of trying to encourage and persuade people to vote for an Alliance Candidate and trying to persuade that they are on the same side politically and morally.

    Ethically and Egotistically I think you are on the Same Side – PEEVISH! and Blindside to the PR impression you give overall.

    Comment by June Knight — Monday, May 3, 2021 @ 10:40

  3. Nick Perry

    This is how it was reported by Stuart Baillie at the time:

    https://www.hastingsinfocus.co.uk/2020/02/26/cross-party-bid-to-challenge-labour-and-tory-domination-of-hastings-borough-council-falls-at-first-hurdle/

    Comment by Nick Perry — Friday, Apr 30, 2021 @ 20:41

  4. Nick Perry

    Sadly Julia is being economical with the truth. We offered an eight for eight division of the Borough. When the Greens did not want that we negotiated to offer 4 for 4 with half of the Borough being contested. Green members did not agree to that. End of negotiation. We were aiming towards an arrangement, not a non-aggression pact. If the Greens do not manage to get Julia elected (which I hope they do) then it will have been a costly strategic error.

    Comment by Nick Perry — Friday, Apr 30, 2021 @ 20:25

  5. Julia Hilton

    Just to be clear on the electoral pact proposal that was made locally by the Lib Dems. We did have an informal conversation in early 2020 but the Hastings Lib Dems initially wanted the Greens to stand aside in 4 – 8 seats in Hastings in exchange for them standing aside in 4-8 for the Greens. We didn’t want to take part in denying a Green vote in so many seats when it wasn’t clear that the Lib Dems had any chance of winning those seats. I note that in the wider County Council elections they are only standing down in one seat in exchange for the Greens doing the same in their target. This is what the Hastings Green Party offered to the Hastings Lib Dems but it was turned down flat with no negotiation offered. We have not been approached again by the local Lib Dems.

    Comment by Julia Hilton — Friday, Apr 30, 2021 @ 19:39

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