Sevenoaks remains an open, tolerant and united community

Statement by Tony Clayton, Chair of Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats

No place in Sevenoaks for violent behaviour masquerading as politics

I’m glad that Sevenoaks Town Councillors came together on Monday night, at their first meeting after the disruption on Saturday in Sevenoaks Town Centre. We agreed, across all parties, that the sort of behaviour seen on the streets has no place in our town.

Both the group which had to lie to get a place to meet here. and the group who came looking to fight them, are nothing to do with our community. Thanks to the Council officials, Stag staff and the police they were sent on their way. We don’t want them back.

Ours is an open and tolerant community – and we want to keep it united.

Tony Clayton
Chair, Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats.
Sevenoaks Town Councillor

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Come and meet the Young European of the Year in Sevenoaks this Saturday evening!

Young European of the Year 2018 is British – and she’s heading for Sevenoaks this weekend

On Saturday 21st April Sevenoaks hosts a big event in the debate on Brexit. Top of the bill is Professor AC Grayling who campaigns on the democratic challenges in the UK government’s approach. He speaks on the next steps in the fight against Brexit.

Supporting Anthony will be Madeleina Kay, designer, singer and campaigner winner of the title of Young European of 2018. She satirises contradictions in the governments attempts to implement Brexit, and calls for young people to be given a real voice in their future. Last month she visited County Hall in Maidstone. We will hear some of her music on Saturday.

Kent experts will also be on the programme:
– Hugh Mercer from Sevenoaks on legal impacts for both UK and EU citizens
– Dr Carlo Berti, BMA consultant, on implications for healthcare and the NHS
– Dick Dunsmore on trade and transport in Kent

Anthony Grayling and Madeleina Kay are pictured above at the People’s Vote rally.

Professor Graying predicts young people will keep us in Europe;

Madeleina Kay talks about her campaigning at

You can be sure that young people like Madeleina are not ‘Leaving’ anytime soon!

Saturday 21st April 18.15, New Beacon School, Brittains Lane, Sevenoaks TN13 2PB

Details – and link to book tickets – at

Organised by Sevenoaks & Swanley Together In Europe, a local all party and non-party group committed to the UK’s links with European countries and the EU.

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How Brexit will endanger Kent’s farms and countryside

A study of the impact to be expected from Brexit on our county’s agriculture and forestry.

Compiled by: Alan Bullion, Adrian Ekins-Daukes, Richard Wassell, Roger Walshe, all from West Kent European Movement.

Supplies – Farm input costs have already seen an overall increase of 5% since the June 2016 EU referendum, according to UK farm ministry DEFRA.

Much of the fertilisers that our farmers use are imported from within the EU, so would become more costly, by as much as 25%. The same is true of certain types of farm machinery.

There is a (little publicised) shortage of timber in Kent as we approach the opening of the important biomass plant at Sandwich, due to the shortage of trained foresters to carry out the traditional coppicing used in our local broadleaf woods.

Efforts to rebuild the supply of foresters was attempted a few years back by a local charitable body, Kent Woodland Employment Scheme, but Regional Development funding for such apprenticeship schemes has died away so the operation is at present ’on hold’.

Labour – potential loss of most seasonal fruit pickers and as much as 90% of abattoir workers in the county. Statistically there are only 17,000 permanent workers in Kent’s farming industry; the bulk of seasonal work is employing EU workers, although already fewer now want to stay here due to the lower value of the pound, resulting in a shortage of 29% in seasonal workers and many tonnes of fruit left rotting in the fields last autumn.

The NFU want to ensure access to a ‘competent and reliable workforce’ which can only be achieved through continued free movement across European borders. Chapel Down, the important Kentish winemaker says: ‘Kent has had East Europeans picking fruit in recent years, but we must all starve if the labour issue is not sorted out’.

It is worth noting that Kent brewer Shepherd Neame have increased sales of beer to Poland as a result of returning Polish workers – this would also be at risk.

Logistics – of necessity a high proportion of agricultural produce has to be properly checked and verified to pass through frontiers of the EU from outside the Single Market and Customs Union. This would create lengthy delays in transportation which would endanger export consignments of perishable goods. What is especially worrying for exports will be the inevitable increase in customs documentation and verification at Dover, Ramsgate and other ports, which would result in very long queues of lorries and possible delays in shipments of perishable foodstuffs.

Trading – Food prices – We are already seeing the higher prices for food in the shops, partly due to the effect of the lower value of the pound for imported produce but also affected by the increasing costs of production here which will inevitably multiply following Brexit. This is why the NFU wants tariff-free access to the Single Market for our exports of food, supported by access to the EU workforce to back up our supplies.

If the UK was left outside the Customs Union and Single Market, Kentish farms would face EU tariffs of 17.7% for meat and 42.1% for dairy products if they were to maintain any export business. This would seriously impair Kentish businesses such as JFM Fruits and Rodanto both of whose wholesale trading depends on smooth tariff –free movements of fruits and juices across European frontiers.

Food Quality – At present our farms maintain the same high quality standards that are required across the EU. If Brexit goes ahead there would be a serious risk that irresponsible politicians could seek to relax those standards in order to fix a trade deal with the USA by allowing in food to their inferior standards. Kentish farmers would then be forced either to battle against cheaper but lower standard imports from America or to reduce their own standards to try to compete.

Farms & Countryside – The cumulative effect eventually of Brexit is estimated to reduce the average farm income from £38,000 to £15,000. Contributing to this would be the loss of the financial input from the CAP; according to DEFRA it totalled £45m. during 2015/16.

So far all we know about intentions for English agricultural support is that it is likely to focus on environmental performance, which implies much increased levels of inspection and red tape compared with the CAP.

As the CPRE asks: How will the countryside look if we lose the number and diversity of farms, so much a part of its character?

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How to balance school results and well-being

Talking Point for Sevenoaks Chronicle, Liberal Democrats, April 4th 2018


Richard Morris is the former Chief Executive of ABRSM, the world’s leading assessment and awarding body in music education, and the current Chairman of The Yehudi Menuhin School.

A rounded education contains much more than what is measured by academic results. It should include participation in all the arts, sport, community work, and personal, social and emotional development.

I come across this issue all the time, as Chairman of the Yehudi Menuhin School. It was fundamental to the vision and ethos of Yehudi in founding his school, which has probably the highest standards of music educational excellence in the UK, as well as very good academic results. He wanted his school to deliver not only virtuoso performers, judged by competitive results, but a rounded education for exceptionally talented young musicians.

The school maintains the belief that a rounded education is essential for student well-being, which in turn will contribute to the finest musicianship.

Liberal Democrats recognise this across all education. Developing essential knowledge and skills in young people goes alongside educating them to become happy, healthy and engaged members of their community.

We believe that the best way to do this is to place more trust in teachers to apply their expertise to deliver both outcomes and to draw out the best in each individual child. Teachers know their students better than any test is likely to reveal.

League tables encourage “teaching to the test” and can distort the teaching and learning within a rounded curriculum. They are insensitive to both the needs and the overall achievements of the individual child. We believe that these tables should either be abandoned or at least be supplemented by other measures of school performance, including moderated teacher assessment.

Educating a child was once described as lighting a fire rather than filling a bucket. It is easy to measure how full a bucket is, but what really matters is the temperature of the fire.

Richard Morris

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How we can successfully tackle fly-tipping

Talking Point – Sevenoaks Chronicle – Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats

Andrew Michealides, March 28th 2018:
Andrew is a parish councillor in Seal


How much of a problem is fly-tipping in our region? And what needs to be done?


Fly-tipping is an unsightly mess and expensive to clear up. Rubbish dumped can also be dangerous and can block country lanes and footpaths. If fly-tipping is done on private land, the landowner has to clear up and there is usually no compensation for the costs. For hard-pressed farmers this is a constant worry.

In some areas of our district the problem is particularly pronounced. Residents in Horton Kirby and South Darenth collected over 100 signatures in a recent petition asking for a stronger response to the problem that is blighting their area.

Sevenoaks District has 50% more fly-tipping than Tonbridge and Malling, taking account of population size. We get a third more than Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone, partly because we are closer to London.

There may be severe penalties for fly-tipping, but as with most crimes certainty of detection is the serious deterrent, not theoretical punishment. In 2016/17, Sevenoaks District Council issued just five fixed penalty notices for fly tipping even though over 1,500 incidents were reported. Since 2016 only one person has been successfully prosecuted.

The nationwide epidemic of fly-tipping is another consequence of the severe squeeze on local authority funding in recent years. Cash-strapped councils introduce charges for the collection of bulky goods and can’t afford to put enough into enforcement. Central government should make sure councils have the money to do their job.

In the meantime, our own district council should focus its enforcement action on places where there is regular fly-tipping or where it causes most harm. The best evidence comes from cameras, installed where it matters. Such cameras can automatically recognise number plates and can work at night as well.

We need to recognise too that for some people in Kent the nearest rubbish tip or recycling centre is miles away. Would it save money to run more sites and cut the clean-up bills for hundreds of incidents?

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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.

Posted in Brexit, Business, Children, Crime, Economy, Education, Europe, Health Services, Housing, Pensions, Public Transport, Sevenoaks, Tax, Welfare, Work | Leave a comment

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.

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