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    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

    action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

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    Article: May 2, 2018
    By Tony Clayton

    For people in Sevenoaks, 'safer streets' means something simple. It's the ability to walk our town without feeling threatened by heavy or speeding traffic, and to cross the roads and use the pavements without injury. It affects all ages. Here are four simple solutions.

    First, as the volume of traffic rises - and Sevenoaks District Council sets out to attract yet more - we need urgent action to make streets safer for all. 20 mph speed limits in town centres and residential streets are now standard across Britain. They've arrived in Seal, but not yet Sevenoaks.

    Results from villages, town and cities with 20 mph zones show that they lower accident numbers, reduce the risk of injury when accidents do happen, and cut noise and nuisance for people living on busy roads. The most obvious place to introduce them is near schools. Anyone who has been to Australia will know that there school speed limits are prominent, and rigorously enforced because they save lives.

    Second, limiting heavy lorries though the narrow streets of Sevenoaks would help. Big vehicles often threaten pedestrians, mount pavements and damage roads, paths and even buildings. Limits to the weight of HGVs - or at least to the times of access - would improve life for everyone and reduce congestion.

    Third, the pavements in Sevenoaks are a danger for everyone on foot. They are a particular hazard for older people. Most of us know someone who has tripped or fallen, and ended up in hospital. Our pavements need fixing.

    Fourth, there aren't enough safe places to cross busy roads. We need new pedestrian crossings:
    - on Seal Road, to get to Greatness Park
    - on Dartford Road, for students coming from the station to the secondary schools
    - on Bradbourne Vale Road, to help residents marooned by A25 traffic.
    And most people would welcome safer walking access to Knole Park - which District and County councillors refused three years ago.

    Not rocket science. Just determination to put people first.

    Tony Clayton

    action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk


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    Article: Apr 30, 2018
    By Tony Clayton



    Dear Editor

    It is never good to feel ashamed of your own government, but many in Sevenoaks will have experienced just that over the Windrush scandal.

    We may have hoped that it's an isolated incident, but it isn't. It happened to one of my colleagues at work.

    She is a Commonwealth citizen, working for the civil service for over a decade now. A skilled economist, she impressed her employers so much that they invested £25,000 in a masters degree for her at a top Canadian University. That was one of the excuses (being out of the country for a year) that the Home Office used to try to revoke her visa and throw her out of Britain.

    We thought it was a mistake. But the Home Office (then run by our current Prime Minister) ploughed on and made her life frightening for months. The campaign against her got more absurd, despite letters from top officials in other government departments, until it ended up in court.

    The judge took 5 minutes to throw out the case and tell the Home Office that it was wasting public money and valuable talent. This was in 2012, just as the 'hostile environment' policy got under way.

    Here in Sevenoaks there are hundreds of families, not just mine, including EU and other nationals who will be vulnerable to this sort of harassment in future. The policy has to stop if we want to feel safe in our own country - and proud of it.

    Yours sincerely

    Cllr. Tony Clayton

    action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk






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    Article: Apr 27, 2018
    By Dr Merilyn Canet

    The short answer is no, and we need to fix the problem. Challenges facing our health services are not just about money, which politicians focus on. They are about people, and simple facts.

    First, here in West Kent we live longer. This is good news, but means we need more healthcare - both NHS and social care. Few of us want to be looked after by robots. We want sympathetic carers, as well as skilled professionals to keep us healthy.

    Second, here and nationally, we are short of nurses. One third of people working in the profession are due to retire within five years. A lot of training is needed very fast.

    Third, over one in ten of our doctors, nurses and support staff - over 540 in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust alone - come from the rest of Europe. They've stopped coming due to the uncertainty threatening them and their families.

    Short term cash fixes don't tackle real human needs like this. Liberal Democrats set up a Heath Commission including former heads of NHS England, the Royal College of Nursing, and the Patients Association to develop a long term strategy.

    Its report published this year says:
    - the NHS in England needs a real funding increase of £4bn in 2018-19, followed by £2.5bn in both the following two years; taxation for this should be ring fenced so heath organisations and workers can plan ahead
    - to make it sustainable in future, health and social care should be paid for by a single dedicated tax to replace National Insurance
    - we need better incentives to encourage people to save more towards adult social care, and the cap on costs to individuals must be brought back
    - local authorities need financial support to invest in public health

    All this will only work unless we can fund social care better, so that people don't get left in expensive medical hospital beds. The same goes for mental care. As Norman Lamb our health spokeman says, one in four of us will need help during our life, and those affected by mental health issues often get stranded in hospital.

    action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

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    Article: Apr 17, 2018
    By Tony Clayton


    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.

    http://www.kentonline.co.uk/sevenoaks/news/man-arrested-as-activists-clash-in-town-centre-181408/

    Tony Clayton
    Chair, Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats.
    Sevenoaks Town Councillor

    action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

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    Article: Apr 16, 2018
    By Alan Bullion



    Cone akong to the Grayling lecture this Saturday evening starting at 6.15pn at the New Beacon school in Sevenoaks.

    Young European of the Year Madeleine Kay will also be speaking on the impact of Brexit on her generation, along with Professor AC Grayling and other key panellists.

    Tickets and further details available via Eventbrite. Click on the link v.ia www.sstie.uk

    Event organised by Sevenoaks and Swanley Stronger in Europe.

    action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

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    Article: Apr 16, 2018
    By Alan Bullion



    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; http://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/ac-grayling-christmas-2020-1-5442627

    Madeleina Kay talks about her campaigning at https://twitter.com/albawhitewolf?lang=en

    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 http://sstie.uk/grayling-lecture/

    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.

    action@sevenoakslibdems.org.uk

  • Vince Cable in Twickenham
    Article: Apr 14, 2018
    By Vince Cable

    Riding the coattails of an erratic US President is no substitute for a mandate from the House of Commons.

    The Prime Minister could and should have recalled Parliament this week and sought the approval of MPs before proceeding.

    Liberal Democrats stood ready to assess the evidence and objectives for any action and if it were properly planned and justified, to support a military response.

    At this moment our thoughts are with British and allied troops. But the Government's decision fatally undermines the integrity of this mission.