• Sevenoaks Lib Dem Councillors 2018
    Article: Jun 11, 2018
    By Pam Walshe, for Sevenoaks Liberal Democrat Councillors

    Liberal Democrats are very clear - the whole point of being a councillor is to represent your community. That's what the job is about, and it's much more important than following a party line or loyalty to a group.

    Being an effective representative means you have to work hard to keep in touch with a range of local opinions, and to balance competing views. Sometimes residents can disagree quite vocally and you have to weigh up whether you are being lobbied by a truly representative voice.

  • Merilyn with Lorry
    Article: Jun 8, 2018
    By Merilyn Canet

    Sites with dangerous levels of air pollution have increased by 25 per cent in just one year according to figures released by Kent County Council.

    At May's full council meeting, Cllr Antony Hook, Kent Liberal Democrats' spokesperson for economic development, asked Cllr Peter Oakford, Cabinet Member for strategic commissioning and public health, how many locations in the county have failed to meet recommended or legal standards of air quality levels.

  • Rob Bird
    Article: Jun 8, 2018
    By Rob Bird, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at KCC

    The Government's latest proposal for a backstop 'Temporary Customs Arrangement' post Brexit does nothing to help maintain the continued frictionless movement of freight through Kent and the Channel Ports after Brexit.

    The proposal is focussed almost entirely on the desire to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is understandably a red line in the Brexit negotiations; even so, the proposal may be rejected by EU negotiators in Brussels.

  • IMG_1207
    Article: Jun 2, 2018
    By Tony Clayton, Sevenoaks Town Councillor.

    Governments often claim that education funding is growing. But they usually fail to account for the number of students the budgets have to cover.

    School funding in cash terms may rise, but not enough to match inflation, pupil numbers, or the pension, pay and other costs government itself fixes for schools. Add in the plans to reshape how money is distributed in the next few years and some schools face a real squeeze.

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    Article: May 27, 2018
    By Dr Alan Bullion

    Now the dust has settled on May elections across the country we can start to see why the Liberal Democrats made gains. Sevenoaks had no local elections this year, but Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone did. The results were influenced by both local and national issues.

    Brexit counts on the doorstep in Tunbridge Wells, which backed Remain 55% to 45%. Most Remain voters think the government is divided and incoherent. Those working in the City, and young people, said they were voting Lib Dem or Labour, and votes surged for both parties, especially in wards which were firmly Remain in 2016. This is likely to be seen in Sevenoaks town next May.

    Housing, and the lack of affordable and social housing for younger people is crucial. The Conservative-run council allowed expensive blocks of retirement flats on former industrial or office sites. These don't help young people in the area, forcing them to move out. They need more affordable and social housing on brownfield sites.

    There was a 'new kid on the block' -Tunbridge Wells Alliance, fighting a £90 million Civic Centre Development proposed for the Town Centre. Many local people support investment, but this expensive plan damages Calverley Park, and raises council tax for the next 50 years!.

    Tunbridge Wells Conservatives lost two seats on May 3, one to the Lib Dems and one to the Alliance. There were surges to these parties elsewhere, while Labour and the Lib Dems comfortably held seats they were defending.

  • Tony Clayton and Merilyn Canet standing up for rail traveler
    Article: May 17, 2018

    The new timetable for Sevenoaks trains to London comes in on May 21st. On the whole it's an improvement on what we've had during the London Bridge rebuild.

    We get regular trains to London - 8 an hour in the peak. But there's a big gap in trains to the City.

    After the 6.08 to Cannon Street there is a 45 minute gap in the City service until 6.53. Not so good if you have to be at a trading desk early.

  • IMG_1219 cropped
    Article: May 16, 2018
    By Dr Merilyn Canet

    What is being done to preserve the Green Belt?

    Councillor Merilyn Canet

    The Green Belt, introduced between 1948 and 1955 around the largest urban areas, is supposed to:
    - check urban sprawl and stop towns merging into one another
    - help safeguard the countryside from encroachment
    - encourage re-use of derelict urban land (Brownfield sites)

    Liberal Democrats recognise the need to balance protecting the Green Belt with urgent need to build new homes for our children and increasing numbers of older people.

    The Conservative Government wants Sevenoaks District Council to allocate land for 700 new homes a year for the next 20 years. It threatens to allow Green Belt building if councillors fail. But we could use a more intelligent approach.

    We need the right homes in the right place at the right price for people - now and in the future. Co-housing projects for older residents would help. More suitable developments for people who own or privately rent - the vast majority here - would release housing for families. Better planning regulations could enable some owners to enjoy 3 generational living.

    Rockdale Housing Association in Sevenoaks creates new homes for older citizens, both leasehold and rented, at high density, a real community. This should be replicated, for social, health and economic benefits, elsewhere.

    All options should be tried before we use Green Belt Land. A large number of homes have been empty for over 6 months; sites with planning permission have been left empty for a decade. Councils should be able to penalise "excessive land - banking" if developers fail to build after 3 years.

    This will not meet Government targets so we may need to accept that 'brownfield' areas of the Green Belt could be released to help local families. But if we do this the infrastructure needed - roads, schools, medical facilities - must be built with the new housing, not after the need becomes desperate.

    Councillor Merilyn Canet


  • /wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Tony-Clayton-226x300.png
    Article: May 9, 2018
    By Tony Clayton

    Many areas have reported a rise in council tax. Are we getting value for money?

    In Sevenoaks our Council Tax pays for a huge range of services:
    - most for Kent County Council's education, transport, social and other services,
    - Police and firefighters once covered by Kent, now separate
    - District Council spend on rubbish collection, planning, health and housing
    - Town Council cash for parks, community halls, support to local groups and activities.

    Your bill for all these has risen faster than inflation over the last five years. In most cases that's because government funding - from income tax - has been cut and replaced with Council Tax.

    This means fewer services are paid for by a 'progressive tax' - which depends on ability to pay, and more by a 'regressive tax', where the amount you pay falls as a proportion of income or wealth the richer you are. So everyone on less than average local income pays a higher proportion of the total bill. For you, value for money is certainly worse.

    Government has tried to hide some increases. For example it forced Councils to describe the 53% hike in the social care bill last month as a 2% rise using 'creative' statistics. Sevenoaks District Council has won prizes for its 'innovative' financial management - part based on raising car park income and risky property speculation.

    Sevenoaks Town Council - which had no government funding to lose - has raised its tax by 30% - five times the rate of inflation - since 2014. In part that's to pay for ambitious schemes, not all of which went to plan!

    For fairer funding of local services, Liberal Democrats back local income tax or land value tax - both used in other countries. Either would ensure each family's contribution is based on income or wealth.

    The big plus for land value tax is that it forces developers to use land where they have permission. In today's system they speculate for bigger plans by sitting on empty sites - like those opposite Sevenoaks station and Sevenoaks bookshop - and paying nothing.

    That's not good value for Sevenoaks, or its taxpayers.

    Cllr Tony Clayton