Dave Funnell Speaks Out for Rusthall

Dave Funnell, a former civil servant walks down Rusthall High Street. It’s a walk he’s done often being Rusthall born and bred. Dave grew up and has spent his whole life living in the village surrounded by an extended family.

"We are so lucky to have a vibrant high street with no empty shops. You have almost everything you need in Rusthall High Street. How many villages let alone places can boast a vibrant high street these days?"

He believes in shopping local and supports many of the village businesses groups and associations. "There really is no better place to live in Tunbridge Wells for a wonderful community spirit."

Dave intends to stand in Rusthall as the Liberal Democrat Candidate and for Rusthall Parish Council for the forthcoming elections in May and wants to be able to continue in a family tradition and try to serve the community as best he can. He, alongside his wife is currently a General Committee Member of the Bonfire and Fete Group (something his aunt and uncle helped to start over 40 years ago). Dave also volunteers with the elderly lunch club and the library plus is also involved with other community groups in the village.

"Having lived in Rusthall all my life, my neighbours and my community’s concerns are naturally my concerns. When I talk to people on their doorstops, they voice the very same concerns I and my family have had. Three things that come up constantly are: - speeding, parking and congestion."

Dave has volunteered for the speed watch campaign and does his training within the next two weeks. One issue he really wants to address is speeding in the village via the 20 is plenty campaign and other traffic calming measures working alongside the Parish Council. 

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Conservative Led KCC Raises Price of Bus Fares for Young People

After several years of sustained pressure from the Liberal Democrat opposition, Kent County Council has finally agreed to accept monthly payments for the Young Persons Travel Pass (YPTP) in the coming year. This will come as some relief for parents faced with an inflation-busting £60 increase in the cost of the pass to £350 in the next school year from September.

Under the new arrangements, parents will be able to pay the total £350 cost in 8 monthly instalments payable from August 2019. There will however be a £10 administration fee for those paying by instalments.

The Lib Dems first proposed payment by instalments some 5 years ago. Although the Conservative Administration acknowledged this need, the costs of the passes have continued to rise each year without any scheme for monthly payments being introduced up to now.

Tunbridge Wells Lib Dems press officer, Dr Alan Bullion, said: “The new £350 charge will be a heavy burden for many local families. We hope the new monthly payment scheme will make budgeting a little bit easier when finances are tight. We also welcome the decision to scrap plans to impose a £400 charge for travel passes for young persons over the age of 16 with special education needs or disabilities (SEND). We recognise that local government finances are tight, but our council tax bills are rising again this year above inflation by almost 5% to help pay for vital services, while Kent is having to find emergency funds in the event of a no-deal Brexit to keep these services running smoothly as possible across the county.”

Local party chairman Andrew Hickey added: “The £350 charge represents a 21% increase year-on-year in a year when the official inflation rate is 1.8%. It is highly likely drive more cars onto the road. The bus services are currently so patchy and unreliable that many kids get off the bus early, or don't get on it at all, due to delays from congestion and frequent road repairs. The winter is a lottery of late school arrival. It also disproportionately taxes lower-income families who have no means of relief, while wealthier families who have their children in local private schools are unaffected.”

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TN2 Centre's Hours Reduced and May Close Altogether

It is certainly a shock that after just 11 years that the renewed TN2 centre may be shut to the public for good. This comes on top of the proposed drastic reduction in library opening hours at Sherwood from the current 28 hours per week to 15. There are also negative implications for library services at Showfields, Paddock Wood, Rusthall and Pembury, as well as other branches across the borough.

We lose our local library services at our peril, as they are vital for continuing education and literacy for all age groups, as well as their social aspect in providing a sense of community and combatting loneliness. I write as a journalist and published author, who has lived on Sherwood now for over 30 years, and who valued local library services growing up as a teenager on a council estate in Tonbridge.

Many families can no longer afford books for their children, while we have seen schools asking parents to provide textbooks in a time of education funding cuts. Increasing numbers of people also no longer buy newspapers. And Sherwood is also an area like Showfields where there is a higher than average number dependent on Universal Credit for their daily needs.     

Indeed, I find the current crisis as outlined in the Courier with regard to TN2 as something of a mystery. Contrary to what is stated, there are quite a few regular and ongoing bookings at the centre. Also, there are hundreds of new houses and flats both in the surrounding area and on the nearby Knights Wood development. I wonder if sufficient outreach is happening to local people who have recently moved in and might as yet be unaware of the services available and how to use or book them, or whether there is another agenda to gradually run it down and then simply sell off the site altogether for more housing?

It will be at least two years or more before the new arts and cultural centre opens its doors in the Town Centre. So in the meantime it is vital that the housing estates and villages keep their local library services open and that these are all not eventually centralised to somewhere it may be difficult for many to reach except by an long, expensive bus journey.  

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Calverley Square proposal is poor value for public money, says local government funder

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) has applied for £5 million in government funding towards the total cost of over £90 million for the proposed Calverley Square development. However, a critical technical assessment of the project bid conducted by Steer consultancy, on behalf of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), concludes that the scheme represents poor value for public money.    

The Steer report rejects the current Calverley plan as they don’t think the evaluation process submitted by TWBC is good enough, and also because of potential delivery risks in the completion timeline. It particularly highlights the lack of evidence to support claims that the development would derive additional income from expenditure on food and drink, and also create a significant increase in local jobs.    

In response to this damning verdict, Lib Dem Cllr Pete Lidstone commented: “If the business case doesn’t stack up, the Tories justification for wrecking Calverley Park disappears altogether. It’s bad for business, bad for residents, and bad for the environment, so why are they ploughing on regardless? Sounds just like Brexit! You need sensible councillors, who understand business, have independent judgment, and who will stand up for the people of Tunbridge Wells. That’s the Lib Dems.”

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Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats Elect New Team

The new Chair of the Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats for 2019 is Andrew Hickey with Gillian Douglass as Vice Chair. Gillian has worked as local party Chair for the past three years.


Andrew said: “We start the year in great shape as the official opposition in Tunbridge Wells, with four Liberal Democrat members of the borough council, all of whom are active and vocal on behalf of their constituents. They are David Neve (St. James’), Ben Chapelard (St. James’), Peter Lidstone (St. John’s) and Mark Ellis (St. John’s).


There are 48 seats on the Borough Council so we will work to take more control of the council this May in order to help local constituents on a range of topics from infrastructure like our roads and pavements, developments like the planned civic centre, the Southborough Hub, social matters like affordable housing and homelessness, economic matters like our town centre retail space, and environmental matters such as air quality and congestion. We are active and passionate about our town and borough and we also think that the current Conservative majority needs to be overturned in order to take the town forward.


The Lib Dems will also continue to campaign hard on national issues, particularly for a People’s Vote on Brexit. Tunbridge Wells was a Remain constituency in the 2016 referendum and we will be fighting to defend the will of the majority of local electors, and many others who have since changed their minds on leaving the EU over the past two and a half years as the political and economic damage mounts. We are equally prepared for a snap General Election if one is called, with Cllr Ben Chapelard, our General Election Candidate already in place, up and ready for the fight to win this seat from the Tory MP Greg Cla



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Why Vote for the Liberal Democrats in Tunbridge Wells

I’ve been spending a lot of time knocking on doors and listening to people in our town.  I’m standing as a prospective Councillor in the May local election. After I’ve told people what I’m doing I wait in anticipation for the response. “Good luck with that!” said in an insincere tone, is the phrase I most dislike hearing, it usually precedes a closed door and is short for “You’ll struggle to change things here!”.  In these, thankfully few, encounters there’s a resignation and complacency about the status quo that I don’t identify with. Fortunately most conversations are more positive. Having talked to hundreds of people on the doorstep in Tunbridge Wells to understand their hopes and ambitions for the town I am buoyed by their energy and engagement.

My wife and I came to the town 14 years ago to raise a family away from the press of London life.  The decision has proved a good one.  The town is a lively, thriving and growing community and a great place to live in the heart of a beautiful area of the country.  That is the challenge.  The attraction of Tunbridge Wells is creating growth and change that requires careful management to enhance the town for the benefit the of its diverse community or residents, businesses and visitors.

How do we manage change for the benefit of the community and future communities? The answer is to drive out complacency and resignation and get involved.  Like many I used to spend all of my time on the daily tasks of work and family life and became complacent about the environment I was living in, making an assumption that local infrastructure, shops, transport and support services would magically meet my family’s needs in the way I want them to.  This was of course unlikely as I had not communicated what I wanted to the people who make the decisions about how our town and its surroundings are managed.  I now spend as much of my spare time as possible listening to local people and understanding what they need from the town. After the first rather tentative door knocks back in 2016 I now look forward to talking with my neighbours across the borough.  The energy and interest on the doorstep is palpable.  They know what they want, and what they don’t want, from the town.  They are happy to engage in a discussion even when it might not be convenient for them.  The thing they like the most is living in Tunbridge Wells (overwhelmingly) and the thing they dislike the most is being ignored (by complacent local politicians or campaign groups not visiting them or asking for their opinion).  I don’t always agree with their views, that’s democracy for you!  What I’ve learned is that good local democracy is about getting out there and getting involved with campaigns or political parties and listening and responding. 

So, if you want better roads & pavements, less congestion, more affordable housing, more sustainable development, better recycling and improved public transport, I encourage you all to find a way to get involved. Campaign if you can, whatever your political affiliation, and at the very least make sure you tell local politicians what you want, now and in the May 2nd elections.  The future of Tunbridge Wells is in your hands.  Good luck out there, sincerely!

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Business Leaders: "There Will Be No Brexit Dividend."

Business leaders join Cable in Brexit warning

Ahead of Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement, business leaders have signed a joint statement with Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable warning that the UK faces more uncertainty if Brexit proceeds.
 
Twenty business people, from a range of backgrounds, agree “Any investment which is ‘pent up’ will remain so if Brexit proceeds, during a period of protracted and acrimonious further negotiation.
 
“The Chancellor is labouring in an absurd delusion by suggesting the economy will receive any Brexit Boost. Instead, there will be a heavy price to pay for business and for citizens.
 
 “The Government’s Withdrawal Agreement leaves a panoply of crucial questions about the future trading relationship of the EU unanswered.
 
“The certainty which businesses crave can only be secured by a People’s Vote and a decision to stay in the European Union, as a leading player setting the rules rather than merely following them.
 
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable added: 

"It is quite clear that business isn’t fooled by the idea that ‘getting on’ with Brexit would provide certainty.
 
“The only really certain outcome would be to give the public a choice between the friendless Withdrawal Agreement and remaining in the EU.
 
“Overwhelmingly – whether in public or in private – business would prefer to stay as a full members of the EU.  If the public chooses to do so in a People’s Vote, there would be a significant economic boost.
 
“Contrary to all the government tries to allege, Brexit with a deal or without will cause the economy to contract.  Brexit means a poorer country, and a less welcoming home for business investment.”



 
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Liberal Democrats Want a Peoples Vote on the Withdrawal Agreement

Liberal Democrats are open and outward-looking. We passionately believe that Britain’s relationship with its neighbours is stronger as part of the European Union. Whatever its imperfections, the EU remains the best framework for working effectively and co-operating in the pursuit of our shared aims. It has led directly to greater prosperity, increased trade, investment and jobs, better security, and a greener environment. Britain is better off in the EU.

Liberal Democrats campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU. However, we acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the Government a mandate to start negotiations to leave. The decision Britain took, though, was simply whether to remain in or to leave the European Union. There was no option on the ballot paper to choose the shape of our future relationship with the EU on vital issues including trade, travel or security.

While much remains uncertain about Theresa May’s approach, it is now clear that the Conservatives are campaigning for a Hard Brexit. This means leaving the Single Market, ending freedom of movement, and abandoning the Customs Union – even though these choices will make the UK poorer and disappoint many leave voters who wanted a different outcome.

 

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Emergency planning report details catastrophic effect of no-deal Brexit on Kent

Emergency planning report details catastrophic effect of no-deal Brexit on Kent

  • Food supplies disrupted as safety testing becomes impossible
  • Schools, social care, transport and business will face severe disruption
  • County Council forced to spend over £20 million on reinforcing Kent's roads and hundreds of thousands of pounds to employ more staff to cope with chaos

The true impact of a catastrophic no deal Brexit has been laid bare in a report published on Wednesday detailing Kent County Council's emergency plans.

The high level report outlines the desperate measures the council will need to take to keep basic services such as social care, schools, highways and trading standards running if the UK leaves without a deal in March 2019.

KCC's plans include employing dozens of extra trading standards and communications staff at a cost to taxpayers of several hundred thousand pounds.

With Kent "routinely" having to accommodate 10,000 extra lorries as border checks are imposed under a no deal scenario, the report details fears that the resulting traffic problems will be so bad that carers will be unable to reach patients, teachers and pupils will be unable to travel to school and the council's own staff won't be able to get around the county. 

The Government's traffic management plan, Operation Brock, would see lorries shunted around the county, first parking just outside the Port of Dover, then on the M20. When that was full the next phase would involve opening the old Manston Airport site to park more lorries, followed by the M26 and finally sending lorries "outside the county". Where is not specified. 

The resulting congestion is expected to have a severe impact, and the report details contingency plans to help vital services maintain a semblance of normality despite gridlocked roads across the county. 

Social care services have been told to identify staff who live close to particularly vulnerable patients, who may be able to visit if their regular carer cannot reach them. 

Schools have been asked to review travel plans for staff and pupils and put contingencies in place if people cannot get to school. They have also been told to plan for poor air quality caused by idling HGVs outside school buildings. 

According to the report, council staff have staff have been told to consider the following:

  • Prolonged disruption to passenger and freight networks impacting the strategic road and rail networks and the surrounding local road network
  • Disruption to the importation and exportation of goods, foodstuffs and other consumables, and medicines and other medical supplies due to changes in trading rules and regulations and from traffic congestion
  • Disruption to vulnerable individuals and communities affected by major traffic congestion resulting in an inability to attend schools, hospitals, etc
  • Disruption to staff travel leading to staff shortages in key services such as social care and an inability to provide local services and individual appointments
  • An increase in the numbers of migrants arriving in Kent, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, as a consequence of the change in UK-EU relations.
  • Another little discussed yet vital area likely to be severely affected is Kent Scientific Services, which tests food to ensure it is safe. This testing relies on chemicals imported from the EU, and on samples being able to move freely and quickly around the county. If this testing cannot be done, food supplies could be disrupted as it will become impossible to tell whether imports are fit for human consumption. In the event of no deal, transporting samples quickly around the country and buying the necessary chemicals may become impossible. As a result KCC is stockpiling vital chemicals and planning to spend money on new testing centres and staff.
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An Open Letter to Greg Clark

Dear Greg Clark MP,

Let’s be frank. Brexit is a complete mess. You and I both knew this a long time ago. The government's Brexit withdrawal only confirms that the Brexit fantasy is collapsing under its own contradictions.

Greg - in your heart of hearts do you genuinely believe that the PM’s agreement is in our best interests? Be honest - do you really think your government’s arrangement is better than our current EU deal?

In 2016 we both campaigned to Remain. We even managed to put a Lib Dem sticker on you! You were ardent in your beliefs that we were stronger in the EU. Two years later what has happened to that Greg Clark? I am surprised that you have had this extraordinary change of heart!

My question to you is: why put yourself through selling something you clearly did not and possibly still do not believe in, especially when your own constituents voted against Brexit? As business secretary, you are also no doubt very aware of the catastrophic consequences that a bad Brexit could have on business and commerce.

Complicit

My belief is that you should free yourself of this predicament by leaving the government and, instead, put all your energies in to campaigning to give all of us the final say. By staying in Mrs May’s government you are complicit - I use the word advisedly - in making Brexit your unwanted gift to your constituents.

Here are 5 reasons why you should support the People’s Vote:

1. The referendum was not free and fair. There were lies. Turkey is not joining the EU and in any case the UK would have a veto. Leave donor Arron Banks is being investigated by the National Crime Agency. He is innocent until proven guilty but, should illegal foreign money have played a part, then the legitimacy of the result must be questioned. Do we really want to go ahead and reward liars and possible cheats?

2. Voters were not well informed about the reality of Brexit. Of course, leaving the EU was on the ballot paper but what does leaving look like in reality? It wasn’t clear back in 2016. It was only last week, two and half years after the original vote, that the Brexit deal was, in part, revealed. By giving the people a vote we are allowing them to make an informed decision on the facts - not the fantasy mis-sold by Brexiteers.

3. The promises of 2016 have not been met. The backlash against the PM’s deal from Leavers and Remainers alike has only increased divisions. It satisfies neither side of the debate. If Brexit à la Theresa May is such a good deal for the UK, surely residents will endorse it again!

4. The country is allowed to change its mind - democracy should be an ongoing process. What looked like such a good idea in 2016 is now in doubt. People are, quite rightly, having second thoughts. I am sure you will that seen the recent opinion poll in Tunbridge Wells showing that the pro-Remain majority has actually increased since the referendum. Surely you were elected to represent the views of your constituents!?

5. Brexit will be your legacy to Tunbridge Wells. Despite our differences, my genuine belief is that you went into politics because you wanted to make a difference. I cannot understand why you are so determined to be an architect of a project which will make things worse for all of our residents? Please search your conscience and make the right decision.

Your constituents, whether Liberal Democrat, Conservative, Labour or of no political affiliation, deserve to decide whether your Brexit agreement is good enough.

Mr Clark, can we - your Remain constituency - count on you at this time of national crisis?

Councillor Ben Chapelard, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Liberal Democrat general election candidate for Tunbridge Wells

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