Late and over-budget Tories blasted for A21 road-building shambles

Posted on: March 21st, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

Responding to an National Audit Office (NAO) report on the Road Investment Strategy that shows the Tory Government’s road building plan is facing an extra £500 million in costs, including the vital A21 hospital link from Tonbridge to Pembury which shows an increase in the latest forecast of almost 74%,

Alan Bullion, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Sevenoaks and Swanley said:

“The Conservative government has built just 5% of the roads they have announced, often to much fanfare. The Department of Transport should just call themselves a microwave because of the amount of times they seem to reheat things. The NAO report is damning. It is the civil servant version of a justified character assassination. This whole scheme is late and over-budget. The Tory government are an utter shambles.”

What have they got against Sevenoaks commuters?

Posted on: March 15th, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

Dear Editor,

Nearly four years ago Sevenoaks commuters, along with those in Hertfordshire and Essex just outside London, were offered a deal by the London Mayor. Hertford and Essex said yes – and since 2015 their commuters have been enjoying all the benefits of Overground trains – all stations staffed, fares integrated into the TfL system, Oyster, stronger service management, better reliability and new trains. Kent said no – so we didn’t get anything.

After strong pressure by local rail travellers, and reassurances from TfL, Kent changed its mind, and it looked this time last year as if Sevenoaks commuters would get the same benefits as their counterparts north of the Thames. The deal was agreed by the Mayor, the Minister and Kent. We were looking forward to some real improvements.

Then the Mayor and the Minister changed, and in January 2017 exactly the same deal was rejected by the Department for Transport in Whitehall. And Kent – without any evidence that things had changed – backed the minister rather than its own commuters. We still don’t have a satisfactory explanation why. The hatchet job prepared by consultants for DfT certainly doesn’t give one.

Then, to cap it all, Bob Neill, MP for Chislehurst, discovered a couple of weeks ago that Whitehall plans for new trains on the Metro services into London – on which part of the promises for 12 car operation of trains on lines into London are based – are on hold. The Department for Transport seems likely to let us down.

This list of let downs by Whitehall and Kent doesn’t give anyone confidence that the next franchise, due next year, will deliver what commuters north of London get. Nothing has yet been offered to break the cycle of poor performance.

If we don’t see some real progress in the next three months one question should be on everyone’s lips. What have they got against Sevenoaks commuters?

Yours sincerely

Tony Clayton
75, Bayham Road, Sevenoaks

Tory Hard Brexit imperils EU nationals in Sevenoaks and Swanley

Posted on: March 14th, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

The Liberal Democrats have criticised the Conservative Government for voting against the right of thousands of EU nationals in our area to stay, as a majority of MPs gave the final go-ahead to a Hard Brexit.

Kent Conservative MPs overturned amendments backed by the Liberal Democrats to give Parliament a vote on the terms of the deal and to guarantee the right of EU nationals to stay after Brexit.

Lib Dem parliamentary spokesman Alan Bullion commented:

“On this historic occasion, Prime Minister Theresa May have chosen to support a hard Brexit and to vote against giving EU nationals living here the right to stay.

“This is a betrayal of thousands of people from the EU in our constituency as well as their friends, colleagues and neighbours.

“Dozens and dozens of local nurses and doctors from the EU are already worried about their futures here, this vote sends them completely the wrong signal at a time when our NHS is already facing huge pressures.

“Sadly, you can’t have a hard Brexit and a strong NHS.

“Unlike our MPs, the Liberal Democrats will keep fighting to give EU nationals living in Sevenoaks and Swanley the certainty they deserve and to stand up against a damaging hard Brexit.”

Local campaign forces Sevenoaks District Council to reverse refugee policy

Posted on: March 10th, 2017 by Iain Porter 1 Comment

Syrian refugees. Picture credit: Trocaire

Local campaign forces Sevenoaks District Council to reverse refugee policy

Yesterday evening Sevenoaks District Council finally succumbed to overwhelming pressure from Lib Dem councillors and local people, reversing its previous decision not to help a single family fleeing war in Syria.

Cllr Elizabeth Purves originally challenged the Conservative-led Council on its policy last year. Since then, hundreds of local people have shown their support for refugee families in need, signing a petition calling for a change of heart.

With every other Kent council having pledged support, Sevenoaks was looking shamefully isolated. Ashford had promised help for 250 refugees, while Tunbridge Wells would support 10 families.

More to do: Keep signing the petition!

Although we applaud Conservative councillors for finally doing the right thing, their offer is now to support just one family. This seems an attempt to simply ‘tick the box’ and breaks the spirit of local people’s calls for genuine support.

Lib Dems are urging people to continue signing the petition, which Cllr Purves will use to force a full Council debate calling for more meaningful support like our neighbouring councils. The Council should step up engagement efforts with private landlords and other groups to find the required housing.

Funding is covered by Central Government and local people still take priority for social housing

Central Government covers the costs under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. This Scheme focuses on those most in need, such as women and children at risk or survivors of torture. It processes families in Syria or surrounding countries, ensuring they can work immediately upon arrival in the UK.

To sign the paper petition please contact Elizabeth at or 01732 463041.

Or sign the online version below:

EU health workers in Sevenoaks and Swanley should be given right to stay in UK

Posted on: March 3rd, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

Local Liberal Democrats have called on Sir Michael Fallon MP to ensure thousands of EU nationals living in his parliamentary constituency are guaranteed the right to remain in Britain after Brexit.

Some 270,000 EU nationals live and work in the South East, including 816 doctors, 5,488 nurses, and 8,242 working in social care.

The Lib Dems are calling for an ‘NHS passport’ that would guarantee the right to remain in Britain for all EU nationals who work directly for the NHS.

These people are looking after our sick and elderly. Tory Prime Minister Theresa May must not use them as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations, as many Lords of all parties have said.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up against this Conservative Hard Brexit government for a Britain that is open, tolerant and united.

Support our NHS and all health workers – Oppose Tory Hard Brexit – Join the Unite for Europe march on Saturday March 25th – Tory chancellor Philip Hammond admits extra £60bn tax revenue will go towards Brexit, not on NHS – Lib Dem leader Tim Farron calls for emergency £4 billion health and social care funding.

Many Thanks to all our voters and helpers in Swanley

Posted on: March 3rd, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

The Tories won the Swanley White Oak by election with 319 votes on an 18 per cent turnout, by a narrow majority. Labour came in second on 307 votes and Lib Dem candidate Robert Woodbridge got 230 votes.

Many thanks to all our voters and helpers in the by election.

It was a disappointing result but given it largely became a single issue campaign which the Tories now think is resolved we shall see whether they can deliver change for all local people and the 82 per cent who failed to turn out to vote.

Issues around financial incompetence, weak local governance, poor service delivery, and the ‘Masterplan’ remain firmly on the wider political agenda. For example, Swanley Park workers wages are currently in arrears despite local Conservative victory celebrations.

The Tories now need to get their own house in order before building any more homes on the Green Belt. We next look forward to challenging them in the Kent County Council elections on Thursday May 4th.

Swanley’s potholes, pavements and roads all still badly need repairing, social services are suffering, street signs and fences are falling down, fly-tipping is rampant, and secondary schools are now charging parents for textbooks, while the Tories max up our council tax hikes yet again.

The Conservative County Councillor for Swanley, who is also sitting on two other local authorities, while holding down a full-time parliamentary job in Westminster for a Peterborough MP, will no doubt find his own meeting attendance record in Eynsford, Maidstone, Sevenoaks and Swanley under intensive scrutiny by his opponents for publication on election leaflets from now on as well in the public interest, as he did to our un-elected candidate in the White Oak by election.

Tackling Shingles through wider vaccine availability – Lib Dem Question to the Health Minister

Posted on: March 1st, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments


Following contact from several Swanley and Sevenoaks residents about the age restrictions on the availability of the Shingles vaccine, Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb has tabled the following parliamentary question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what the reasons are for age restrictions on eligibility for the shingles vaccination in the NHS; and whether he has made an assessment of the availability of alternative provision for people who do not qualify for that vaccination.”



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Cleaning up the streets of White Oak ward

Posted on: February 27th, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

While out and about meeting and greeting voters across White Oak ward for the Thursday March 2nd Town Council by-election, local people have been asking Lib Dem candidate Robert Woodbridge to help sort out all the daily ‘quality of life’ problems.

These include dumped mattresses and shopping trolleys, broken pavements and potholes, fallen-down fencing, and dilapidated street signs.

Other parties grandstand and boast about their work on these issues, yet evidence of their lack of activity is apparent for all to see across our estates. Indeed, the latest Conservative leaflet claims they are restoring street signs, but our latest photographs here prove otherwise.

Swanley Lib Dems have put forward several practical and viable solutions which we hope you will support:

1. All shopping trolleys dumped should be regularly collected by the local supermarkets to which they belong.

2. All dumped mattresses, damaged potholes and pavements have been reported by us to the relevant authorities and officers at Swanley Town, Sevenoaks District and Kent County councils.

3. We also propose that a lorry and skip regularly call on advertised dates and sites to collect mattresses, used bedding etc., from Swanley householders. This used to happen but was withdrawn some years back by Sevenoaks District Council. This would help to tackle the eyesores there for all to see.

Got a council problem? Please contact us at


Swanley White Oak – The Final Countdown – Polling Day is Thursday March 2nd

Posted on: February 23rd, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

Vote for Liberal Democrat candidate Robert Woodbridge to Protect Swanley White Oak ward

Whatever you do this Thursday please go out and vote for your local Lib Dem candidate Robert Woodbridge to help change Swanley for the better.

If you have a postal vote, you can still return it to the polling station on election day. Polls are open from 7am to 10pm at the White Oak Bowls Centre in Garrolds Close and the Drill Hall at the top of Swanley Lane.

“The future of our community, our town and threatened green spaces hangs in the balance. Only Robert Woodbridge will preserve your Green Belt from
development, defend vital local facilities such as the Olympic and Woodlands, and ask where all the missing money has gone from the Town Council reserves,” said former Swanley mayor Janet Sargeant.

Liberal Democrats Work for You All Year Round – Not Just at Election Time.

Remember – your vote could help decide the final result and make all the difference between another Tory councillor or a Lib Dem alternative voice for Swanley people!

Printed by 4 Printing UK, 5 Mangravet Ave, Maidstone, Kent ME15 9BQ; Published and Promoted by Alastair McPherson on behalf of Robert Woodbridge all at 44 Well Road, Otford, Kent TN14 5P

Sevenoaks and Swanley small firms and shops face massive rate hikes

Posted on: February 22nd, 2017 by Alan Bullion No Comments

Plans to change business rates that will see massive rises for Sevenoaks and Swanley shops and other small businesses while going easy on off-shore multi-national internet giants have been slammed by the Liberal Democrats.

These moves are compounded by the Chancellor’s budgetary tax grab on the self-employed, which is the direct result of the extra costs to our economy of a Tory imposed Hard Brexit.

I have been talking to local small businesses about this delayed revaluation, and the feedback I am getting is that many are extremely worried.

Against a backdrop of increased rents and fierce competition from online retailers, many shops and small businesses are being punished by the Conservative government simply for committing to the economic life of their neighbourhoods.

Why should a local sandwich shop or café face a hike that could threaten its entire business, yet Amazon’s giant warehouses enjoy a tax cut?

If that were not galling enough, local firms have to pay increased business rates for improvements they make to properties that in many cases they don’t even own. Even the Conservatives should admit that this cannot be fair. It is time they held their hand up, admitted they have got this all wrong, and start again.

Vince Cable is chairing a commission for the Liberal Democrats to come up with a fair and effective system. The sad thing is that this was avoidable, but the Conservatives shelved a proposal from the Liberal Democrats during the last coalition government to reform the system.

Small business owners are already reeling from the Conservative Brexit government’s decision to go for a hard Brexit and take us out of the Single Market. Now they are being asked to pick up the tab while the government let big international business off the hook.

This is yet another example of a Conservative Government that has lost any right to call itself ‘the Party of Business’.

Among the issues discussed by me at a meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) at the 2015 General Election was reform of the current business rates system, a matter of major concern for many hard-pressed constituents.

I fully agreed with the FSB that business rates urgently need a radical overhaul and much greater simplification, especially as some businesses in the area are paying more in rates than rent, causing great hardship, and for some to wind up their companies, leading to increased unemployment.

Prompter payment of invoices and outstanding bills would provide a further lifeline, and needs more effective enforcement. Also improved access to credit from leading banks and other lenders would be welcome.

However, any reforms will realistically take five years to take full effect, equivalent to the life of this parliament and beyond, so some temporary relief would also be welcome for many firms.