Not so Happy 2018 from Southeastern Trains

The 2018 fares have just been announced. An annual Standard Class season ticket from Sevenoaks to Charing Cross or Cannon Street, currently £3,380, will increase to an eye-watering £3,500.

As usual, Sevenoaks commuters are being gouged. Similar length commuter journeys on other operators are significantly cheaper – Watford Junction to London is 11% cheaper and Redhill to London is 18% cheaper.

The Government allows each of the train companies to increase their regulated prices by up to the RPI measure of inflation.

Needless to say, Southeastern are taking the maximum permissible increase in regulated fares – as well as increasing some unregulated fares twice already this year. In the final year of the current franchise there’s little prospect of that money being ‘invested’ into services that the company may lose at the end of next year – it is likely to go straight into corporate profits.

action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

Posted in Bat and Ball, Public Transport, Sevenoaks, Swanley, Tax, Welfare, Work | Leave a comment

Keeping Sevenoaks Green and Safe for all – Eastern Ward update

KEEPING SEVENOAKS GREEN

THE VINE

Your Lib Dem councillors back local residents campaigning against a commuter car park on the Vine. This land, next to Vine Cricket ground, was given to Sevenoaks as part of its War Memorial. It must remain an open space for all, and not become a sea of cars.

Elizabeth Purves was the only councillor at the Sevenoaks District Council Planning meeting who spoke and voted against the plan. All Lib Dem Town councillors voted against the idea.

KNOLE FIELD

Elizabeth has worked with local residents to remove the 50 acre green belt field east of Seal Hollow Road out of the District Council’s list of sites for housing. We will fight to protect our open spaces and the Green Belt.

KEEPING SEVENOAKS SAFE FROM SPEEDING TRAFFIC

Traffic on the A25, Seal Hollow Road, St Johns Hill, Hillingdon Avenue, Quakers Hall Lane, Bayham and Serpentine Roads are damaging for many who live here. Speeding traffic endangers children going to school. Pavement parking and roads without pavements (like Hartslands, Bethel, Prospect Roads) can lead to accidents. We want 20mph limits especially near schools and where there are no pavements.

NEED A ZEBRA – OR TWO!

It’s a long way down Dartford Road from the crossing at The Drive to the next one at Hollybush. This busy road badly needs a pedestrian crossing to reduce risks to commuters walking to the
station, and students walking to school. As school traffic rises and more young people walk to the new schools the danger rises. We want a pedestrian crossing by the shops near Vine Court
Road.

The number of young people walking along Seal Road, and crossing the A25 to get to school is increasing too. A crossing between Millpond Wood and Greatness Park is urgently needed, so
that local students can get to school safely. People come first, not traffic.

SCHOOLS

We also need new school places at Trinity and Weald of Kent Grammar – and more at Knole Academy. The planned 3500 students come from a wide area, bringing more car and bus traffic
morning and afternoon. Growing congestion at Bat and Ball traffic lights and the Seal Hollow Road / Seal Road traffic lights is holding up school buses, and clogging roads.

We back local residents asking for proper plans for school transport. So far their concerns have been dismissed by Kent County Council.

Big developments need traffic plans; not “hoping it will be all right”.

action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

Posted in Bat and Ball, Bradbourne, Children, Cycling, Housing, Public Transport, Sevenoaks, Sevenoaks District Council, Sevenoaks Town Council | Leave a comment

Further Thameslink upgrade delay puts Sevenoaks passengers to back of queue

After years of disruption to Kent commuters and £6.5 billion of taxpayers’ money, rail industry bosses have concluded that the refurbished Thameslink line between Blackfriars and St Pancras will only be able to handle 75% of the planned services in 2018 and 2019.

Their answer: postpone the planned Maidstone East service and stop trains from Sevenoaks via Bat & Ball at Blackfriars.

Thameslink announced that the start of the new Maidstone East to Cambridge service will be delayed from December 2018 until December 2019 at the earliest, and that Sevenoaks via Bat & Ball peak-hour trains will terminate at Blackfriars from May 2018 until May 2019 at the earliest.

Thameslink say that 2018 will nevertheless see “the full implementation of a new Southern timetable” and “70% of the programme’s overall benefits”.

However for west Kent and Maidstone 2018 and 2019 will see no implementation of new services and 0% of the overall benefits.

The basic reason seems to be that, having taken £6.5 billion of taxpayers’ money for the project including its “sophisticated” signalling, the rail industry now do not think that the “Thameslink Core” between Blackfriars and St Pancras can handle the planned 24 trains an hour in each direction.

Instead the lines will be limited to 18 trains an hour, with the hope that with operational experience more capacity could be achieved by the end of 2019.

However if the rail industry cannot deliver more than 18 trains an hour after a decade to prepare what confidence can there be that they will manage 24 trains an hour after a further year?

The possibility of a delay to the new Maidstone East service was not even mentioned in the extensive consultations on the new Thameslink timetable in autumn 2016 and summer 2017.

Instead the decision seems to have been taken in secret and without consultation with passengers by the so-called “Thameslink Industry Readiness Board” – which represents the same rail industry that have failed to deliver “readiness” on time.

It’s not clear whether even the inadequate peak hour service from Maidstone East to Blackfriars will be maintained after December 2018 – that would require an amendment to the new and separate Southeastern franchise specification for which the new Franchisee could be expected to charge an arm and a leg.

The implementation of the capacity reduction shows a bias against Kent – four new direct Sussex routes are being implemented from May 2018 between Cambridge and Brighton, Horsham and Peterborough, Littlehampton and Bedford and East Grinstead and Bedford.

And for Kent the only new service being implemented is the Rainham via Dartford to Luton service.

It’s only the new Maidstone East service that is being delayed and it is only the Sevenoaks via Bat & Ball service that is being reduced.

Once again it seems that west Kent is at the back of the queue when it comes to improvement in rail services.

action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

Posted in Bat and Ball, Economy, Otford, Public Transport, Sevenoaks, Swanley, Tax, Welfare, Work | Leave a comment

Fallon apart at the seams

Liberal Democrat chief whip Alistair Carmichael has responded to the sudden resignation of Sir Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary.

Alistair Carmichael said:

“Theresa May’s cabinet is falling apart like a cheap piece of flat-pack furniture.

“As we face the biggest negotiations in the modern history of this country her ministers can’t even agree to sit around the same table. Her cabinet is more divided than the 27 EU nations it is meant to be negotiating with.

“Theresa May lacks the authority to lead this country and her government is in meltdown. She has to change or leave. There are no other options.”

Local Sevenoaks and Swanley parliamentary spokesman Alan Bullion said: “The sleazy Tory rats are slinking away from the sinking Titanic at the very moment when our country is at the greatest peril from hitting the Hard Brexit iceberg. Fallon should step down straightaway as an MP as well.”

action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

Posted in Brexit, General Election, Sevenoaks, Sundridge, Swanley, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sevenoaks Council should respect its War Memorial

Last week our Conservative District councillors voted as one to allow parking on the Vine for much of the next two years. Is there any doubt that if somebody else had come up with such an outrageous plan they would have been told where to go?

Among many objections raised by local people to parking on the Vine was the condition on which this land was given to the Town Council between the World Wars. It was to be ‘forever hereafter’ used only as a memorial to those who fell defending our country, and as a public park associated with the memorial, for the use of Sevenoaks residents.

As our Town Councillors gather with local dignitaries at the memorial on Remembrance Sunday next week they might reflect on whether a commuter car park is a fitting use for our tribute to Sevenoaks’ fallen.

Cllr Tony Clayton, Sevenoaks Town Council

action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

Posted in Sevenoaks, Sevenoaks District Council, Sevenoaks Town Council | Leave a comment

Meopham North result

Dear All,

As promised, the result from the Meopham North council by-election count this morning:

Con 721 (64%)
LD 192 (17%)
Lab 155 (13.8%)
UKIP 59 (5.2%)

Considering we didn’t even have a candidate when the last full borough elections were held and only won 5% of the vote the last time we stood in a by-election, in 2012, this is very encouraging. I want to send a big thank you to all those who helped in the campaign, particularly Mary, Simon, Flora, James, Tristan, Tony, Sarah, Adrian, Robin and Alastair. This now gives us something to aim at in May 2019 though, admittedly, it is a big task.

Thanks again for all your support.

Best wishes,

John Death

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Exit from Brexit – an update from Bournemouth

LIB DEMS AUTUMN CONFERENCE 2017

Some key messages emerging from debates and conversations on Brexit

Conference passed the motion Opposing Brexit as amended by Amendment 1. This calls for an Exit from Brexit referendum “once the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations is known, for the public to choose between “the deal” or Britain remaining a full member of the EU.” It also commits the Lib Dems to continue to campaign for Britain to remain a full and active member of the EU.

Sadly my proposed amendment to Amendment 1 (along with 10 other proposed amendments) was not selected for debate nor was I called to speak. I did however speak on the key points at a side meeting on Brexit. These points were:-

– to propose a long-stop date of 29th March 2021, by which time the Exit from
Brexit referendum must be held, irrespective of the state of negotiations; and

– to question the uneasy, double-negative slogan Exit from Brexit and to
reemphasise Lib Dems are the Remain party by replacing it with something
like Think Again – Remain.

Vince Cable stamped his authority throughout as the new leader and was most impressive on both Brexit and wider policy issues. He likes to emphasise he doesn’t seek a second referendum, but “a first referendum on the facts”.

On economics, Vince said the post-Referendum devaluation would lead to a squeeze on public sector pay, make UK companies sitting-ducks for overseas takeovers, reduce investment in the UK, cause businesses to emigrate and drain EU talent from the UK. The UK economy is woven into that of Europe such that post-Brexit a vast array of new deals, stretching from airline regulations to blood standards, will need to be negotiated and approved by 27 nations. A soft Brexit will prove impossible. New deals will be unachievable without allowing free movement of people.

Personally, I agree strongly with the “woven in” concept. It applies not just to economics, but more profoundly to culture. It is inconceivable that we can unpick the myriad threads that bind together the UK and the rest of Europe in the areas of history, arts, sciences and education.

Another speaker with decades of experience of high-level work in Brussels stressed how colossal is the current influence of the UK across all EU programmes, and thus how massive will be the UK’s loss of power post-Brexit.

Re immigration, it was noted how much greater the intolerance is in regions of the UK where immigration is low compared with where levels are high. There was some limited support for the ideas put forward by Tony Blair to mitigate numbers.

Re campaigning generally, there was a strong and widespread belief that full respect must be shown to the views of Leavers; and the emphasis should be on pointing out how the emerging reality of leaving is so different from the promises given to the electorate before the Referendum, i.e. giving Leavers space to retreat with honour.

Various speakers, including Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, emphasised the importance of emotional content in campaigning. The appeal must be to the heart as much as the head. This is particularly the case where immigration is concerned. Statistics have little impact compared with humanised messages, e.g. demonstrating the benefits migrants bring to local communities, both immediately and in the longer term through building businesses etc; the horrors of border controls and the pleasures of free movement. The power of online creative videos with subliminal pro-Europe messaging – potentially going viral – was mentioned.

Led by Vince, there was general enthusiasm for widespread collaboration with Remainers in other parties and with all pro-European movements. Lord (Dick) Newby, Lib Dems leader in the Lords, believes we can only achieve a further Referendum by collaboration with Labour to bring down the Government when it becomes highly vulnerable in debates over the coming year.

Other key Lib Dem figures I met on Brexit matters include:-
Baroness (Julie) Smith of Newnham: Cambridge academic and spokesperson on Europe
Tom Brake MP: shadow Foreign Secretary
Sir Nick Harvey: former Coalition Minister and acting Lib Dems CEO. He is very keen for the party to develop three or four core policy messages
Lord (Tim) Clement-Jones: shadow roles on culture, music, copyright etc
Anthony Hook: young Lib Dem Councillor in Faversham – one to watch
Catherine Bearder: Lib Dems sole MEP – powerful pro-Europe speaker
Duncan Greenland: Major donor and former party Treasurer
Michael Young: recently appointed EM CEO – spoke very strongly about EM’s unambiguous Remain stance and the need for alliances with all pro-Europe organisations – much already achieved, now working on OB.
Paul Hienkens: former head of Lib Dems South East
Emma Cherniavsky: Lib Dems Director of Fundraising

Richard Morris
22nd September 2017

Posted in Brexit, Business, Economy, Europe, General Election, Sevenoaks, Tax, Welfare, Work | Leave a comment

Bournemouth Lib Dem conference report – Brexit and so much more besides!

2017 Autumn Conference in Bournemouth – Andrew Michaelides reports.

The strong presence of new members at conference is impressive, and I understand this was the best attended conference ever, with the highest number of first-time attendees as well. The reassuring voice of tradition was still there: it’s always a pleasure to hear from Tony (Lord) Greaves, who I think must have joined in the same year as William Gladstone.

This conference was relatively light on new policy; Paddy Ashdown said in a fringe meeting that we need to be a hotbed of new ideas as we used to be. That is down to us members. The party provides many opportunities for policy discussion and there is a huge range of experience and knowledge among our members. This showed up strongly in a debate about the flaws with Universal Credit, when a number of speakers showed how this new system is making life very difficult for many of those who need to claim the benefit.

Conference organisers were keen to avoid coming across as a single-issue party obsessed by Brexit, and there were plenty of other issues on the agenda. Many of the fringe meetings were about Brexit, how we should respond and what it means for our country. Our MEP, Catherine Bearder, seemed to be everywhere! Brexit provided the single piece of real controversy during the conference. The original agenda set by the Conference Committee, had no debate on Brexit.

However members requested a vote right at the start of the conference, at 9am on the Saturday morning, to replace the planned “consultative session” on Brexit with a debate.

The motion chosen for debate sought to overturn the current policy of a referendum on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations with a new policy that the party would reverse the triggering of Article 50 if elected. The debate on this motion was held on Sunday in a packed hall and there were impassioned speeches on both sides. Opponents of the ‘referendum on the deal’ thought that referenda were a bad in principle and that our policy would be stronger if we simply said we would reverse Brexit through Parliament on a democratic mandate.

I was persuaded by the supporters of the current policy who felt that a referendum on the Brexit deal, once it is clear, gives us the best chance of a different outcome. Among other things it allows the opportunity to work with anti-Brexit MPs in other parties. The vote, at the end of an excellent debate, was clearly for the current policy of a further referendum.

The 2018 Autumn Conference will be in Brighton. I urge members to attend at least one day of the conference while it is relatively close to us. The next one might be in Glasgow! Going to the conference gives a much broader view of what our party is about and there are fascinating fringe meetings and training on how to be a local activist. The problem is how to fit everything in!

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Posted in Brexit, Economy, Education, Europe, Fairness, General Election, Sevenoaks, Tax, Uncategorized, Welfare, Work | Leave a comment

British foods must be protected post-Brexit

Responding to reports that the EU will be setting out a positioning paper on how celebrated brands from Europe, such as Champagne, should continue to be protected after Brexit, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has demanded that the British government negotiates similar guarantees for prime British brands such as Cornish pasties and Cumberland sausages.

Vince Cable said:

“If European food products will be protected as part of Brexit negotiations, then it’s absolutely essential that British foods have the equivalent protections from cheap foreign imitations.

“The government isn’t doing enough to guarantee the integrity of British brands such as Melton Mowbray pork pies or Cornish Pasties, which command a premium and provide jobs in every region of the UK, making a very significant contribution to the British economy.

“We need to hear more from the government about what they are doing to stand up for the British food and drink industry during these Brexit negotiations if they do insist on taking Britain out of the single market and customs union.”

There are protected foods in every region of the UK:

North West – Cumberland sausage, Lancashire cheese, Lakeland Herdwick
South East – Whitstable oysters, East Kent goldings, Kentish ale, English wine
South West – Dorset Blue cheese, West Country farmhouse Cheddar, West Country lamb and beef, Gloucestershire Old Spots pork, Exmoor Jersey Blue, Cornish clotted cream, Cornish pasty, Cornish sardines, Plymouth gin
East Midlands – Melton Mowbray pork pie, Stilton, Buxton Blue cheese, Dovedale cheese
West Midlands – Gloucester cheese, Staffordshire cheese, Gloucestershire cider, Herefordshire cider, Worcestershire cider
Yorkshire and the Humber – Yorkshire Wensleydale, Swaledale cheese, Yorkshire forced rhubarb, Traditional Grimsby smoked fish
East of England – Newmarket sausage
North East – Newcastle Brown Ale
Scotland – Scotch whisky, Scotch beef and lamb, Shetland lamb, Orkney beef and lamb, Arbroath smokies, Shetland wool, Scottish salmon
Wales – Welsh beef and lamb, West Wales coracle caught salmon, Anglesey sea salt
Northern Ireland – Irish whiskey, Armagh bramley apples

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Cable: British foods must be protected

Responding to reports that the EU will be setting out a positioning paper on how celebrated brands from Europe, such as Champagne, should continue to be protected after Brexit, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has demanded that the British government negotiates similar guarantees for prime British brands such as Cornish pasties and Cumberland sausages.

Vince Cable said:

“If European food products will be protected as part of Brexit negotiations, then it’s absolutely essential that British foods have the equivalent protections from cheap foreign imitations.

“The government isn’t doing enough to guarantee the integrity of British brands such as Melton Mowbray pork pies or Cornish Pasties, which command a premium and provide jobs in every region of the UK, making a very significant contribution to the British economy.

“We need to hear more from the government about what they are doing to stand up for the British food and drink industry during these Brexit negotiations if they do insist on taking Britain out of the single market and customs union.”

Notes:
There are protected foods in every region of the UK:

North West – Cumberland sausage, Lancashire cheese, Lakeland Herdwick
South East – Whitstable oysters, East Kent goldings, Kentish ale, English wine
South West – Dorset Blue cheese, West Country farmhouse Cheddar, West Country lamb and beef, Gloucestershire Old Spots pork, Exmoor Jersey Blue, Cornish clotted cream, Cornish pasty, Cornish sardines, Plymouth gin
East Midlands – Melton Mowbray pork pie, Stilton, Buxton Blue cheese, Dovedale cheese
West Midlands – Gloucester cheese, Staffordshire cheese, Gloucestershire cider, Herefordshire cider, Worcestershire cider
Yorkshire and the Humber – Yorkshire Wensleydale, Swaledale cheese, Yorkshire forced rhubarb, Traditional Grimsby smoked fish
East of England – Newmarket sausage
North East – Newcastle Brown Ale
Scotland – Scotch whisky, Scotch beef and lamb, Shetland lamb, Orkney beef and lamb, Arbroath smokies, Shetland wool, Scottish salmon
Wales – Welsh beef and lamb, West Wales coracle caught salmon, Anglesey sea salt
Northern Ireland – Irish whiskey, Armagh bramley apples

Posted in Brexit, Economy, Europe | Leave a comment

Sevenoaks rail services can only get better

Dear Editor

A year ago rail travellers in Sevenoaks complained that the services on South Eastern offered the worst value for money in Britain. This came from Which? surveys across the country.

Now comes news that things are getting better. Our rail services are only third worst – as measured by a study sponsored by the Sunday Times. It looked at the price per mile paid by rail travellers on busy commuter lines in July / August, and the proportion of services cancelled or late. Not a perfect measure of value for money, but a reasonable start.

Here are the results:
Ipswich to Liverpool Street 71p per mile, 33.1% delayed or cancelled
Tunbridge Wells to Cannon Street 64p per mile, 29% delayed or cancelled
London Bridge to Sevenoaks 61p per mile, 36.1% delayed or cancelled

On our local services things have been getting better – with trains on time up significantly after the disasters of 2016. We have complimented South Eastern on their progress.

But there’s still a long way to go!

Yours sincerely

Tony Clayton

Chair Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association

Posted in Public Transport | Leave a comment