Tribute to Audrey Gee

Long-serving Lib Dem and former member of Sevenoaks District and Eynsford Parish Councils Audrey Gee passed away on the morning of Thursday 15th March 2018 – just the day after the funeral of Guy Hart Dyke, another local luminary in Eynsford and Lullingstone.

Audrey had done so much in and for Eynsford and the wider community, including the weekly market. She was an inspiration to all, but she had sadly been in poor health for several years now, meaning she had to reluctantly leave politics and village life to others.

One of Audrey’s fiercest campaigns had been to oppose SDC’s withdrawal of funding for the public toilets in the village. She was always fighting to keep local services alive, such as the pharmacy.

It was also Audrey who valiantly fought off attempts by SDC’s Ian Bigwood to combine Eynsford with Farningham and Horton Kirby & South Darenth into a numerically neutral (for electoral figures’ purposes) 3-seat ward just before 2003, and it still remains separate.

And Audrey was strongly (and successfully) opposed to proposals to cut our refuse collections to fortnightly at a time when it might just have happened, so her legacy is that we stayed and still stay weekly.

Audrey was also a highly effective former Chair of Sevenoaks Lib Dems, and managed to recruit new candidates who then got elected as fellow councillors.

Our thoughts are with Martin, her son, who had been looking after Audrey over recent years.

Audrey Gee

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How we can encourage young people to engage with politics

Talking Point March 21 2018 for Sevenoaks Chronicle

Young People in Politics, by Ed Waite, Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats

Ed Waite first came to Sevenoaks in his late teens, and has lived in Japan. He now serves as Town Councillor for Sevenoaks Eastern ward

Q. Should more be done to encourage our local young people into politics?


All political parties advocate more involvement of young people in politics at all levels. The young are, after all, the future. So the answer to the question has to be a resounding YES.

But many young people (and older voters) feel disenfranchised by the political system. In Sevenoaks it will take a political earthquake to elect an MP from a party other than the Conservatives.

However, Sevenoaks local government politics are far broader than many imagine. At District level there are Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and UKIP councillors.

Young people will have increasing influence in Sevenoaks as numbers of students in new and existing local schools expand. Most (if not all) of our schools have some form of School Council open to students to stand for election. This is a crucial starting point. It is a great way to encourage young people to learn how politics works, the importance of negotiation and the necessity of compromise.

Where students have already made a difference – for example through the Youth Town Council – they have shown themselves to be thoroughly capable of organising events for young people, and in campaigns such as safer streets, public transport and cycling.

Our Youth Council shows how local young people tackle serious issues and make things happen. It makes the case – which Liberal Democrats support – for votes to start at 16 in local and national elections. If that happened local Youth Services would be better targeted as the young would have more political power.

Had 16 year olds been allowed to vote in the European Referendum, as they were in the Scottish Referendum, then it is possible that there would have been a different result. As Liberal Democrats pointed out in Parliament – that vote was about their future.

We all gain when young people are encouraged to be involved in politics, because they come with different ideas, energy and often a real desire to change things.

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Lib Dems announce bold new policies on housing, education and policing

Britain is an incredibly divided country, and the Liberal Democrats want to rebuild an open, tolerant, outward looking Britain. As a party we must think big and be radical and forward-looking.

Brexit is sucking the life out of Westminster. Urgent attention needs to be given to the NHS and social care, the housing crisis and homelessness, schools and policing, national defence and much else.

A soft Brexit is significantly better than a hard Brexit, but begs the question: why bother to leave the EU in the first place?

As Lib Dem leader Vince Cable says, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is letting down the working class. You cannot speak up for the poor and be complicit in making the country poorer. You cannot claim to love the NHS knowing that Brexit will starve it of cash. You cannot be an advocate of strong rights at work, and stand by while your country walks away from the organisation which has most stood up for workers.

We are committed to increasing diversity both within the party and across politics as a whole. A Liberal Democrat economy would be one which welcomes entrepreneurs, which rewards profitable, risk-taking companies, which embraces new technology and which sees active government.

We would tax pollution and unearned wealth, while promoting work, innovation and environmental protection. And on tax we are the party, unlike Labour, which will be honest with the public with that spending on our priorities.

Local authorities and housing

Councils should be given the power to increase tax on second homes. Local authorities should be able to impose an increase of up 500% and increase the stamp duty surcharge on additional properties to 5%.

High levels of second home ownership can have a hugely detrimental impact on local communities across the country. This too often leads to the unacceptable decline and closure of key local services like schools, bus services, shops and Post Offices.

It’s absolutely vital that we have in place the measures which will keep our communities thriving and ensure that Kent remains both a vibrant and beautiful county to live and work in for everyone.

Local authorities will be given other powers to tackle empty housing: greater access to borrowing for local authorities, strengthened powers to bring empty homes back into use and the power to direct the use of otherwise unwanted public land. Alongside measures to allow local government to abandon Right to Buy and to require that profit from council house sales is invested in new social housing.

Having a place to call home is a basic human right. In the face of a national housing crisis we are failing as a country to fulfil that right. It is clear that the private sector cannot be relied upon to deliver affordable homes for those struggling to get on the housing ladder.

Overhaul of school inspections and testing

Regulator Ofsted should be abolished and replaced with a new Inspector of Schools. The new body will focus on pupil welfare, promotion of equality of opportunity and teacher workload, sickness and retention, as well as attainment. SATs will be abolished for KS1 and KS2.

These reforms represent a culture change in the way we run our schools. The current over-emphasis on high-stakes testing has lead to a system which overlooks many important elements of the development of a child. Ofsted only encourages this and is in our view too broken to be fixed.

Parents want to know their children’s well-being is looked after and that they are receiving a broad education, which equips them for adult life, including creativity and the arts, SRE, financial literacy and first aid skills.

Party of policing – upholding law and order

The police are critical to protecting freedom and promoting social justice. The Liberal Democrats should not place themselves in opposition. Properly regulating policing only promotes civil liberties.

The police should receive an extra £300 million, with a greater emphasis on community policing.

Government must fix railway franchising

Liberal Democrats have passed an emergency motion calling on the Conservative government to fix rail franchising.

The motion calls on the government to bring in sanctions and bans for companies that substantially breach the terms of their contract. It would also allow public sector bodies and mutual groups to bid for franchises, including staff and passengers.

This is the third time in 11 years that the East Coast franchise has failed. Meanwhile passengers on Southern and Great Northern have faced lengthy disruption to services.

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High-quality journalism needs protection in a time of ‘fake news’

Question. Theresa May recently announced a review in to the future of our Newspapers. Do you agree that high-quality journalism is a “force for good”?

Number 3 in a series of Talking Point articles in the Sevenoaks Chronicle/Kent Live – March 2018

Answer from Dr Alan Bullion, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesman for Sevenoaks

As a journalist for 20 years I know high quality journalism is a force for good. As a parliamentary candidate, I’ve seen how strong local media support our democracy, by informing voters. Good journalism can counter ‘fake news’ sources, and their potential to influence election results.

Local papers are losing circulation to social media sites, where many increasingly find news.

Local media has to compete by increasing use of blogs and micro-sites, and some are succeeding.

I believe that good journalism at all levels will be helped by our call to beef up the Freedom of Information Act, ending the right of ministers to veto the release of information by government departments.

There must be a balance on national media ownership, and its powerful influence shaping public opinion. That is why we supported the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking at newspapers.

It is clear that self-regulation by the press is inadequate. We support Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, requiring news publishers to join a press regulator which conforms to the Leveson recommendations as set out in the Royal Charter.

Liberal Democrats support international protection for journalists. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects freedom of expression and the confidentiality of journalistic sources.

Increased concentration in a few powerful media corporations is a danger to democracy. Ofcom should launch a full assessment of media plurality in the UK, of the ‘fit and proper persons test’, and whether the communications regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority, have appropriate powers to deal with concentrations of power in the digital economy.

To support individual rights in digital media we will introduce a digital bill of rights to protect your say over your own information, to limit large corporations, and to preserve the neutrality of the internet. Free media and quality journalism protect our hard-won political freedoms – and they need regulators who will help them do so.

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How can we successfully tackle crime in Sevenoaks?

Talking Point for Sevenoaks Chronicle/Kent Live – published as the second article in a series on March 1 2018

Question: According to police figures, recorded offences show a 14% year on year increase across England and Wales. Is this a true reflection of crime in our area?

Answer from Cllr. Merilyn Canet:

If you live in Sevenoaks District, the police figures show you are less likely to be a victim of crime than almost anywhere else in Kent. Only Tunbridge Wells is significantly safer. And Kent is safer than the national average, so something is going right!

As a councillor I get to see the crime reports published by the police for Sevenoaks, and most of them are minor thefts, antisocial behaviour and car crime. Relatively few are violent or threatening to individuals. But the numbers of crimes reported are increasing, and reports seem to come in ‘bursts’, like the recent surge in BMW thefts here.

But things are changing. Different types of crime – like fraud over the internet and domestic abuse – are growing, and this requires new approaches by police.

Kent Police are asking for up to 200 more officers and 80 more support staff, with new training to tackle these new threats. We need to find ways of helping them meeting the challenge.

Many of us now know how to protect our homes and property better against crime, so criminals are adapting. We need better training for everyone on how to use the internet safely and defeat the scammers. It’s easier now to report crime to the police online, what we need are more effective ways for the police to help us all beat online fraud.

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Dear Paul Carter, we need to know the costs of Brexit to the people of Kent now!


The message on our bus is stark. We have delivered a letter to Paul Carter, the Tory leader of Kent County Council, demanding assessments of the impact of Brexit on Kent. Given Kent’s wealth of business activity, cross-channel freight, hospitals, public services and farming, the damage could be even greater than to Britain as a whole.

The United Kingdom today is a leader in Europe, the largest economic power in the world. But we are intending to pay £40 billion to give this up! And if we want ‘frictionless trade’ elsewhere, conditions will apply to get deals with Africa, Australia, South America, Asia, or North America – not only with the EU.

How will Government fix Dover port congestion, the Irish border issue, up-front VAT for exporters and importers, manufacturing moving to countries in the customs union to retain customers who don’t want increased bureaucracy? It’s time to recognise we will face job losses in Kent.

All Government projections show that Brexit will make us poorer. It will also increase inequality through reduced capacity/political will for public spending.

Is it worth it?

Some say it is – to regain our sovereignty. But they forget the UK has always been international We moved from Union with Scotland then Ireland, to Empire to Commonwealth to leading EU player – never just an island nation. Leaving the EU is against our nature. It isolates us from friends and neighbours.

UK has a great history in welcoming immigrants. Nowadays we recognise the vital importance of EU citizens in NHS, social care, agriculture, construction, education and hospitality industries.

We also recognise the enormous benefits of Europe-wide collaboration in science, medicine (Euratom), culture and education.

Young people want to Remain, but their futures are marred by Brexit decided by the old. Within a few years, Remain will be the majority vote.

Who will decide if it’s worth it?

Our MPs have a democratic duty to scrutinise Government proposals in the best interests of country, not party. We also insist on the democratic right of the electorate to change its mind as new facts become clear.

27 EU countries, plus many regional parliaments, some requiring referenda, will vote on the final deal. The British public must also have its final say.

Richard Morris
26th February 2018

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Does there need to be a specific law in the UK that makes cyber-bullying illegal?

Question from the Sevenoaks Chronicle/Kent Live

This is the first response published on February 22 in a series of articles where local political parties were asked to contribute their views on a topical Talking Point of the day:

“There is no specific law in the UK that makes cyberbullying illegal, does this need to be addressed?”

Answer from Cllr. Tony Clayton:

Bullying behaviour that’s illegal in person, on the phone or in writing, should be illegal if done online. Digital isn’t different. It’s the same for bullying, threats or intimidation, whether it’s personal or if it’s based on somebody’s race, gender, sexuality, nationality or religion.

Today the law is a mess. We need reform so that criminal liability for comments made on social media, or on the phone or to people physically present, is the same. Laws on liability for threatening words and behaviour under the Public Order Act, the Malicious Communications Act and the Communications Act should be aligned. We need a single rule to apply to all.

We strongly support free speech so we won’t censor legitimate debate. But the increasing amount of cyber-bullying does mean we need clear rules.

Use of social media to incite others to bully a victim is too easy. It can wreck people’s personal and working relationships. The same principle of equal treatment online should apply to incitement offences.

“Revenge porn” – posting intimate photos online – is particularly vicious, and must be tackled. It should be a criminal offence for an individual to disclose sexual images of another identifiable person when they know that the person shown did not consent to it.

Systems to take down material quickly when offences like these happen are getting more effective. Germany now fines big internet firms which don’t act quickly to remove such postings.

We should also invest more in education for young people to protect against bullying, to manage their private information, to stay safe on line and to report crimes. Many schools have done great work and we want to build on the best.

And we need to spread similar standards for safe cyberspace across Europe, the US, and the world. The internet doesn’t recognise national borders!

If you’ve been affected by cyber-bullying, find out more at:

– recommended link from the Citizens Advice website for people looking for help.

Councillor Tony Clayton, Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats


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Lib Dems to fund NHS spending through dedicated health tax

The Liberal Democrats will protect the National Health Service budget in the next Parliament.

Spending will rise by at least the rate of inflation over the next Parliament under plans included in the party’s election manifesto.

We will also pool health and social care budgets. This would help make care more tailored towards individual patients and reduce inefficiencies.

This comes after a previous Liberal Democrat commitment to establish a mental health research fund worth £50 million per year by 2020.

Liberal Democrat Health spokesman Norman Lamb said:

“The NHS was a Liberal idea and we are proud to be committed to protecting funding over the next Parliament.

“In this parliament the Government has had to make difficult decisions to cut the deficit and build a stronger economy. We have protected the NHS and Liberal Democrats will continue to protect the NHS budget from cuts in the next parliament.

“We are clear that a crucial part of building a fairer society, where there is opportunity for everyone, is ensuring that once the deficit is eliminated public services are protected.“

“Labour have said that this is irresponsible, and in Wales they have cut the NHS budget by 8%. They are wrong and will be judged on this record.“

The Liberal Democrats will:

· Guarantee the NHS budget will rise by at least the rate of inflation every year. We will commission a Fundamental Review of NHS and social care finances in 2015, before the next Spending Review, in order to assess the pressures on NHS and social care budgets and the scope for efficiencies. This will allow us to set multi-year budgets that will be sufficient to maintain and improve the current standard of NHS services, including keeping waiting times down.

· We will always ensure access is based on need and not on ability to pay and that that NHS remains free at the point of delivery.

· Secure local agreement on and pooling of budgets between the NHS and social care.

· Reform the NHS payment system to encourage better integration of hospital and community care services and better preventative care for people with long term conditions. This would include more use of personal budgets for people who want them and better access to technology and services to help people get care closer to home.

· Implement the Dilnot Report proposals for a cap on the cost of social care.

Why it is necessary

The NHS was the idea of a Liberal politician – William Beveridge. That ideal, of healthcare free at the point of delivery is as important today as it was when it was conceived, over 65 years go. We are absolutely committed to the NHS: a service provided free at the point of delivery providing better care.

To protect our NHS, we will guarantee that the NHS budget will not be cut. It will go up by at least the rate of inflation every year.

But in order to protect our NHS it will need to work differently in future. There are long term pressures on the budgets of health services all over the world – an ageing population, the rise of long term conditions like diabetes, and the development of new technologies and higher expectations mean that there is continued pressure on the system. In order to meet these challenges, services will have to work differently: to be more joined up. To provide care closer to home.


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Save £560 a year from Sevenoaks to London

If you’re a regular commuter and just about to renew your annual season ticket to avoid the New Year above inflation price hikes, you can legitimately save £560 a year by buying two season tickets – one from Sevenoaks to New Cross, and another from New Cross to London terminals. Southeastern has confirmed to Lib Dem Cllr Tony Clayton of Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association that this is entirely legal, for now.

Happy New Year!

For further details see:

contact us at:

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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.

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