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On Tuesday 16th December, members of the cabinet at East Sussex County Council voted unanimously to remove subsidies from a variety of bus services in Hastings and Rother. bus cuts

Despite this, many of the proposed cuts to routes have been dropped as a result of pressure from the Don’t Stop Our Bus campaign led by Labour parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen and local residents. However, there are still some major cuts that will impact on the lives of local bus users.

Of the 101 subsidised routes, 90 will continue to operate with bus operators agreeing to take on 23 evening and weekend routes on a commercial basis.

Sarah Owen said,

“We may have not got everything we wanted, but, on the whole, this is a victory for us.  We mustn’t forget that for those affected by the remaining cuts as this is still a massive impact on their lives.  I want those people to know that I will continue to fight for a bus service that serves local people, and not the bus companies, and look forward to a Labour Government reversing the deregulation that has caused this.”

Cllr John Hodges spoke at the cabinet and proposed alternatives as to how savings could be made by stripping back departments and cutting out inefficiencies.

“The public said no. The full council said no. I implore the cabinet to renegotiate and don’t just cut and slash. Leave our public services intact for those that depend on them.”

 

 

 

On Tuesday, Labour’s parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen delivered an impassioned speech in defence of subsidised bus routes at a full council meeting at County Hall in Lewes.bus 1

Her near-7,000-strong ‘Don’t Stop Our Bus’ petition, collected during a twelve week period, has triggered a full debate at East Sussex County Council. Sarah also ran eleven packed public meetings on the issue throughout Hastings and Rye over the summer. 

Councillors arrived at County Hall to scores of protesters waving placards. The crowd was made up of young and old, able-bodied and disabled, all protesting against the unfairness of the proposed cuts to our buses.

During her speech Sarah said, “These bus cuts and cuts to dial-a-ride will hit our most vulnerable sections of society hardest. And this is where the economic and social damage to our county is seen with stark clarity.  The rural services, in villages, is where we have some of our highest pockets of elderly residents – their bus is their lifeline to the outside world and for many, it is their only option.”

Sarah described how her campaign had been supported by people from every walk of life, from across the political spectrum and from people living throughout the county. She told councillors that the proposed service cuts would have a dramatic effect on the Hastings and Rye economy and warned that it would devastate some areas, particular those that rely on tourism, shift workers and businesses that need footfall from bus passengers.

Following her speech, Councillor John Hodges, Labour’s Transport Spokesperson at the County Council, proposed a motion calling on the council’s Conservative-only cabinet to reject the proposed cuts to subsidised buses when it meets to vote on the proposals next Wednesday (10th December).

Following an, at times, fractious debate, Cllr Hodges’ motion was carried: 25 voted in favour, 21 voted against. Hastings’ only Conservative county councillor, Peter Pragnell, voted Against.

The final decision on the proposed cuts will be made on Tuesday 16th December at the county cabinet meeting. It is important to note that the cabinet is made up entirely of Conservative councillors and no cabinet member lives in Hastings or St Leonards.

 

On Monday, Caroline Flint MP, Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, joined Labour parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen in Hastings to launch’s Labour’s major new plan to end the scandal of cold homes.

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Sarah Owen introduced the Shadow Secretary of State by highlighting the doorstep issues that were raised by individuals and families living in sub-standard housing.  She described the circumstances of a local woman who works part time to support her young family but has to raise them in a cold, damp home,

“As the weather gets colder more people across Hastings and Rother will struggle with paying to heat their homes.  So it was great that Labour’s Energy and Climate Change team led by Caroline Flint MP chose to launch our national plans for improving energy efficiency to an audience of local renewable energy businesses and residents in Hastings.  As well as tackling climate change, these practical solutions will help insulate over 5 million homes nationwide and result in reduced fuel bills for thousands of people in Hastings & Rye.”

Building on Labour’s energy price freeze pledge, Caroline announced a major drive on home insulation and set out plans to deliver long-term, permanent savings on energy bills and warmer homes for millions of people. The plans will mean that at least 5 million UK homes are upgraded over 10 years, saving the average household over £270 a year from their energy bill.

She revealed new figures, showing:

  • Energy bills in the least energy efficient properties are over £1,000 a year higher than homes with good insulation.
  • Two-thirds of households in fuel poverty live in the worst insulated properties.

The Energy Efficiency Green Paper sets out the steps a Labour Government will take to end cold homes:

  • Provide personalised home energy reports for half a million homes a year.
  • Deliver free energy efficiency home improvements to at least 200,000 low-income households a year.
  • Offer up to a million loans for home improvements that are interest-free in the next Parliament, for households that are able to help meet the costs.
  • Set a new target for landlords to get cold and leaky properties up to a decent standard.
  • Designate energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority.

Speaking at Sussex Coast College Hastings, Ms Flint said,

“Britain is facing an energy bill crisis, with millions of people struggling to heat their homes. Labour has already set out radical plans to freeze energy prices until 2017, saving the average household £120, and fix the energy market for the future, with a tough new regulator to curb rip-off bills.

“But one of the main reasons our energy bills are so high is that our homes are some of the least energy efficient in Europe – leaking heat from their roofs, walls and windows. That’s why Labour has set out plans to freeze energy bills, reform the energy market and upgrade at least 5 million homes over 10 years. Our plans will mean cheaper bills and warmer homes for millions.”

 

In plans announced by leader Ed Miliband, Labour plan to allow Counties to set bus routes and set fares, as well as being able to integrate transport services. This will give East Sussex County Council similar powers to regulate bus services as those in London.

In Hastings and Rye, Labour’s parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen welcomed the news and said,

hastings-train-station“This is precisely what we need to help protect our local bus services. For the thousands of bus users in Hastings & Rye, and particularly those who supported our Don’t Stop our Bus campaign to save 99 routes across East Sussex, this could turn around the cycle of dwindling bus services, cuts and constant fare increases.

“In the future, we, as an area, would have a direct say over what bus routes we need and we can ensure they are properly integrated with other public transport.”

Announcing the policy Ed Miliband said,

“Labour will legislate so that counties can set fares, decide routes, and integrate bus services with trams, trains and the wider public transport network. Bus services and public transport should be the arteries that keep our regional economics moving, our roads less clogged with cars, and working people travelling to where businesses need them. We will put the public interest back on our buses.”

At present most regions have a strong in-built bias towards heavily deregulated bus provision which prevents them from delivering integrated public transport plans that would allow Oyster card-style ticketing and joined up networks with rail services. It also prevents them combining a transport plan with a growth strategy.

​Labour’s plan would allow county regions which come together in combined authorities to use a simple and swift procedure for getting greater control over local bus services – setting routes and fares, introducing smarter ticketing, and integrating those services with wider public transport and growth plans.

This will mean that rather than different private companies or Whitehall taking decisions about public transport, local areas would be put in the driving seat. Similar models exist successfully in many other countries, including Denmark, and local areas already franchise for some other services in a similar way, for example the Tyne and Wear Metro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact info:

For more information please contact Michael Wincott on 07743 349682 or email Michael_Wincott@labour.org.uk

Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is visiting this year’s Tec 66 event on 27th October to support the town’s emerging high-tech industries.

The MP was invited to the event by Labour’s parliamentary candidate, Sarah Owen, who’s been campaigning for high quality, high-tech jobs in Hastings & Rye to ensure people do not have to move away to progress their careers.

rachel reeves mp

Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will be attending this years Tec 66 event in Hastings.

Hastings has one of the UK’s main clusters of ultra-high vacuum, photonics and optics companies.

The Tec 66 exhibition showcases the latest high-tech innovations with many local manufacturers involved. It’s held at Sussex Coast College, where a high vacuum technology course was recently set up.

Rachel and Sarah will meet exhibitors and local business developers to find out what extra support they need to help the industry expand.

Sarah said: “I’m really excited to be taking our Work & Pensions Shadow Minister to Tec 66. We desperately need to break the trap of this low wage economy in Hastings & Rye and start creating decent jobs for the future-the kind of jobs you’d be proud for your children or yourself to work in.

“These are the sorts of high tech, high quality jobs found in the industries involved with Tec 66 and I will continue to support them to have a future in our local economy.”

Posted by: In: Local, News, Travel 30 Sep 2014 Comments: 0 Tags: , ,

On Friday (26th September), Labour’s parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen and Cllr John Hodges travelled to Lewes to deliver a 7000-strong petition against East Sussex County Council’s proposed cuts to bus services.

Since July, Sarah Owen has organised 10 public meetings throughout Hastings and Rother. Church halls and community centres have been packed as

sarah-owen-bus-petition

residents passionately express their views on how vital the affected bus services are to them. At every meeting attendees took armfuls of petition forms for their families, neighbours and work colleagues to sign.

Sarah Owen said:

“Although we launched the Don’t Stop our Bus campaign back in July, this has truly been a community effort. I was proud to hand in over 7,000 signatures and around 1200 extra comments that were gathered throughout the campaign as a result of hard work from members of the community and volunteers.

“People have been using petition forms from my website, handing out postcards, telling their friends, neighbours, customers, colleagues and congregations about the campaign – one wonderful woman, called Julie gave us around 1000 names that she herself had collected on the buses.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved in the campaign – from the people who have signed petitions and got involved, to the people who attended the 10 public meetings we have held, and the businesses, organisations and charities that have also backed the campaign.”

The seven Labour county councillors are all opposed to the cuts but the ultimate decision will be made by eight Conservative councillors on the council’s cabinet. County officers will now prepare a detailed report to be considered by the Cabinet on the 15th December.

You can keep up to date with developments on Sarah’s website – www.sarahowen.org.uk/BusCuts

Over 100 concerned residents condemn county council proposals to cut local bus services at public meeting in Ore.

The packed meeting held at the Ore Centre on Monday was arranged by Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Hastings & Rye, Sarah Owen and local county councillor Michael Wincott. The event was the latest in a series of roving Don’t Stop Our Bus public meetings that Labour are holding throughout the constituency. It follows meetings in St Helens and Westfield with further meetings to be arranged in Hollington, Baird, Tressell, Rye, Pett, Brede, Fairlight and Winchelsea Beach.

During the meeting, Sarah highlighted the impact these cuts will have on local people. County councillor Michael Wincott confirmed that the entire Labour group on the council were strongly opposed to the proposals due to their impact on those on low incomes, people with disabilities and the effect the changes would have on employees and employers.

Sarah Owen said:

sarah-owen

“Everybody in Hastings and the surrounding areas are going to be affected by these proposed changes to local bus services.  It threatens our local economy, businesses, employment rates, the environment and seriously impacts on people’s quality of life, particularly those who have no other means of transport.

“People from all walks of life at the meeting in Ore told us loud and clear that bus services in the Hastings are a vital lifeline for them. There were serious concerns raised about how people would be able to get to and from work, hospital, shops, colleges, children’s and care centres as well as church, especially with a lot of the proposed services to be axed by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) falling on a Sunday.

I agree savings need to be made, but ESCC need to show some business sense and a backbone.  They should go back and negotiate with Stagecoach to make the bus company take on some of the less profitable bus routes.  County Councillors in Lewes should stop choosing our area to suffer the most severe cuts in the county and look at more innovative, fairer ways of saving money.”

“The meeting wasn’t just packed with people angry about the proposed cuts to bus services, but also about how the Conservative-controlled council are carrying out their poor excuse of a ‘consultation.’  The consultation document is too long, not user friendly and everybody at the meeting reported that they have struggled to get hold of a copy – We took details of people who requested more copies and are encouraging them to fill out both the official document and my Don’t Stop Our Bus petition postcards, as it has been confirmed they will both form part of the final submission to the official consultation.”

Local resident and local bus user Andrew who attended the meeting said:

“I’d like to thank Sarah and Michael for organising this meeting as without them we would never of heard about this. The most worrying thing about these proposals are the fact that shift workers and those that do 12 hour shifts have little chance of being able to get to work and back. Some of my friends that work at the Conquest hospital and Tesco in Hollington might not be able to afford to get to work anymore. Has the council done any assessment of how this will affect working people?”

ore_bus_audience

Councillor Wincott also drew attention to seemingly contradictory statements from cabinet members at County Hall,

“They seem to be making it up as they go along. Not long ago, local councillors met with County officers and cabinet members as we were concerned that the new link road would lead to unacceptable delays on The Ridge. The Conservative lead member for transport assured us that the council would encourage greater use of public transport. Abolishing Sunday bus services to the Conquest Hospital tells us that those were hollow words. There is clearly no joined-up thinking by the political leadership in Lewes.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Sarah Owen asked the audience whether anyone supported the proposals. Not one person put up their hand.

After months of consultation and a huge amount of support including petitions from the public to keep it open, Hastings main post office at Cambridge Road is set to close in March 2014. It is unknown how many jobs will be lost but with any closure or downsize there is an unfortunate inevitability in this.

hastings-post-office-closure

Hastings post office closure is happening in March and moving to Priory Meadow shopping centre.

The post office is going to move to WHSmith’s in Priory Meadow shopping centre and given how busy this main post office is all the time we are a speculating here at Business in Hastings as to whether the same level of service (and quality) can be achieved in its new location.

We spoke to Sarah Owen, Labour Parliamentary candidate for Hastings & Rye who has been one of the main opponents of the Hastings post office closure and relocation, she said;

“This makes a total mockery of the word ‘consultation’. Thousands of Hastings people signed my petition and Post Office Ltd have chosen to disregard their wishes. This is a clear downgrade of our postal services, a downgrade of accessibility for disabled customers and a downgrade to our town centre.”

As to what the old building will be turned in to is anyone’s guess at the moment, we doubt it will be anything that can serve the public as the post office does and the general feeling from residents and businesses via the FSB is of exasperation to the decision as the post office is always busy.

We will keep you updated as to any more developments regarding this. Feel free to let us know your thoughts and views on this.