Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Worthing Liberal Democrats Weekly Newsletter – 11th to 17th December 2011

A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR READERS

Articles for the past week:

 
Leader:  Drink and disorderly         
 
News this past week:
 
 1. Higher Charges For New Pool
 2. Cabinet Member For Regeneration Considers Core Strategy A Movable Feast    
 3. Worthing’s Treasury Management Relaxed
 4. No Plan B For Worthing’s Budget
 5. Tories Reject Minimum Pricing For Alcohol
 6. Smoking Ban In Play Areas Deferred
 7. Boost To Worthing Economy Deferrred
 8. Procurement Rules Ignored 
 9. Only £300,000 for Worthing – It’s Paul Yallop’s Fault !  
10. Tories Reject Feed In Tariff Reduction Delay
 
 

WORTHING LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
11TH  TO 17TH DECEMBER 2011
 
  •    Lib Dems will keep Worthing’s services local      
     
  •     Lib Dems will get on with bringing our town into the 21st century – no more dither and delay

  •     Lib Dems will ensure ‘We are all in it together’ – no more waste and high pay                                                                  
  •     Lib Dems are the only opposition in Worthing – Labour can’t win here                                                                                                        
  •     Lib Dems support 20 mph in Worthing’s residential roads
  • Leader:  Drink and disorderly
David Cameron in speeches proudly describes the Conservative Party as being the party of law and order. Yet when Worthing’s Tories were given the chance to support a motion which bolstered law and order in our town they went seriously off-message.and every single Tory declined. As we predicted last week we were not surprised as the motion was put forward by the Liberal Democrats which is the only factor Worthing’s Tories are willing to take into account.  
 
Lib Dem Bob Smytherman moved the motion calling for Worthing Borough Council to make tackling alcohol misuse a priority for Worthing both in the Corporate Plan and the Council Budget 2012-13; to work with other local Councils to introduce a minimum unit pricing for alcohol at a level to deter young drinkers and for Worthing Borough’s Licensing & Control Committee to consider minimum pricing for alcohol at its next meeting.  The Tories made no amendment but rejected the motion in its entirety.
 
The Local Health Profiles for England published in July by the Public Health observatories reported Worthing had 2,501 hospital admissions due to alcohol related harm – over 40% higher than the English average of 1,743 admissions. But it is not only the NHS that has to deal with the consequences of our young people drinking cheap alcohol on Friday and Saturday nights.  It is the residents who are frightened to go out, it is the residents that suffer noise and damage to their property and cars and it is the innocent resident bystanders who get hurt when alcohol induced violence breaks out in our pubs and town centre. Last August David Cameron called for a crackdown on stores selling cheap drinks to stop alcohol fuelled disorder leaving town and city centres like “the wild west”.  Surely any measure to mitigate this should be welcome to his party of law and order.
 
Worthing’s Tories argued the price would have little effect on consumption. The consumption argument has been researched by the University of Sheffield – they found that harmful alcohol consumption does indeed reduce more than the general drop with price increases.  An increase of 10% in the general price has little effect on moderate, hazardous or harmful consumption but a minumum price of 60p per unit reduces moderate consumption 7%, hazardous consumption 12% and harmful consumption 18%. Conversely Worthing’s Tories have also argued drinkers would find cheaper alternatives like meths and boot polish – we don’t think our young people out on a Friday night would see drinking meths or boot polish as “cool” and an acceptable switch from lager.
 
Deputy Mayor Tory Charles James made his own disorderly intervention into the debate and showed a total lack of grasp of the law underlying hearings of the Worthing Licensing & Control Committee on which he sits. Cllr James made a personal attack on Bob Smytherman for daring to introduce the motion as Bob had chaired recent licensing sub-committees which had approved applications from off licences where there had been local objection.  The Deputy Mayor had failed to appreciate that the Licensing Committee is a quasi-legal body and can only reject applications if they contravene the local licensing rules laid down by Worthing Borough Council in accordance with statutory law and not just because the application is not liked. In fact the motion was an attempt to influence a re-writing of those regulations.
 
It is not the first time that Cllr James has attempted to cast an unwarranted slur on a Liberal Democrat councillor and not the first time the victim has deserved an unreserved apology – we expect no less this time.
 
We also expect that Cllr James withdraws from the Licensing Committee until such time as he knows the rules.
 
Worthing Liberal Democrats 
 
NEWS FROM THE PAST WEEK
 
HIGHER CHARGES FOR THE POOL
 
Tuesday 13th December  The new financing plan for the pool is still shrouded in mystery and the full report unavailable to residents’ scrutiny but one detail emerged at tonight’s Full Council. Lib Dem Group Leader Alan Rice asked the Cabinet Member for Environment Clive Roberts whether he thought the apparent discrepancy between the official reported drop in adult participation in sports in Worthing over the last two years and the increase in the Borough’s Fit 4 health club membership was due to a shift from private health clubs.  Cllr Roberts thought that it probably was and was something for which the Borough could take pride. Alan further asked as price could well be the underlying factor for switching, whether the new pool would maintain the same price as the current Aquarena or would prices be higher. The Cabinet Member at first said the prices would be unchanged except for an inflation increase but then clarified the statement by adding “on a regional basis”.  Inspire Littlehampton charges £5.20 for an adult non-member whereas the Aquarena charges £4.40 – a difference of 18.8% which with inflation suggests the new pool could be at least 20% more.  In addition to the higher charge Cllr Roberts let slip that the new financing plan is based on a 10% increased use.
Alan said: “Council tax payers need to be reassured the Tories’ new financing plan is built on a solid base. The new pool may be in the active beach zone – I hope that activitity is not shifting sand.”     
 
CABINET MEMBER FOR REGENERATION CONSIDERS CORE STRATEGY A MOVABLE FEAST
 
Tuesday 13th December  One known detail of the new financing plan in the public domain is the sale of part of the Civic Car Park on Christchurch Road at the rear of the Town Hall. Worthing Lib Dems pointed out earlier this year one asset for sale in the previous plan, land at Fulbeck Avenue, was defined in the Core Strategy for a different use – the sale has since been shelved. Once again this is the case with the Civic Car Park which in the Core Strategy/Masterplan is part of the Cultural Hub. Lib Dem Leader Alan Rice queried this double use with the Cabinet Member for Regeneration Bryan Turner at tonight’s Council.  Cllr Turner replied the Core Strategy was “a movable feast”.
Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration Victoria Taylor said: “Cllr Turner may consider the Core Strategy as a moveable feast but the one thing that can be said about the Masterplan since its inception is there has hardly been any movement at all.  We promise when Liberal Democrats take power our prime objective will be to get regeneration moving at long last.” 
 
TREASURY MANAGEMENT RULES RELAXED
 
Tuesday 13th December  Tonight’s Council meeting approved a relaxation of the treasury management rules in order to provide a wider choice for the placing of Worthing Borough’s investments. Council treasury management has been under the microscope recently following the collapse of the Icelandic banks, the current Eurozone financial crisis and the downgrading of major UK banks credit ratings. These are nervous times and a relaxation of the strict rules which have kept Worthing council tax payers’ monies safe deserves a close critical look. Only last week Fitch put on “negative watch” a Money Market Fund (Prime Rate) used by both West Sussex County and Worthing Borough Councils. West Sussex took immediate action and withdrew the £125 million it had placed with Money Market Funds. These funds were approved by Worthing Borough Council under the stricter rules applying before tonight’s relaxation – Worthing’s Lib Dems urged the Cabinet Member for Resources Steve Waight to proceed with caution.
Lib Dem Group Leader Alan Rice said: “I queried the use of Money Market Funds at a recent West Sussex training session on treasury management as the funds may well place monies with banks that were not on the council’s approved list for direct investment.  Within a month West Sussex felt it necessary to withdraw all its monies from these funds as one was put on negative watch.  Security of council tax payers’ money must be the prime concern – we trust the relaxing of Worthing Borough’s rules will not compromise that security.” 
 
NO PLAN B FOR WORTHING’S BUDGET
 
Tuesday 13th December –  Worthing’s budget for the coming years of austerity was planned on being able to stem the losses on Worthing’s Theatres and was the underlying reason for putting the theatres out to tender. Leader of the Council Paul Yallop was quick to point out the theatres lost £3,000 per day and the loss was unsustainable.  Now that the decision has been taken to keep the theatres in-house, Lib Dem Leader Alan Rice asked the Cabinet Member for Resources Steve Waight at tonight’s Council meeting whether he was confident in Worthing Borough’s finances for the coming years especially in light of the theatres decision, and the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement which signalled a longer period of hard times. Cllr Waight said he had confidence as the in-house theatre management were committed from 2012-13 to a 25% annual reduction in the cost of the theatres. What Cllr Waight didn’t say is what would happen if these savings are not achieved – there was no Plan B.      
 
TORIES REJECT MINIMUM PRICING FOR ALCOHOL
Tuesday 13th December –  It was no surprise to Worthing Liberal Democrats that their motion on minimum pricing for alcohol was rejected by the Tories at tonight’s Council. Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing Bob Smytherman moved the motion seeking council approval to instruct the Licensing Committee to investigate ways of introducing a regional minimum pricing for alcohol policy.  The Tories lined up to castigate the idea following a recommendation from the Adur & Worthing Joint Strategic Committee to reject – effectively an instruction from the Worthing Cabinet to their backbenchers.
Bob said: “Experts have said that if alcohol was introduced today it would be a banned substance in light of the harm it causes – in fact more likely to be banned than cannabis.  It is regretable the Tories simply reject any motion however laudable which is put up by the Lib Dems. It’s Worthing’s residents that suffer the consequences.” 
 
SMOKING BAN IN PLAY AREAS DEFERRED
 
Tuesday 13th December –  Worthing Lib Dems motion calling for the banning of smoking in outdoor children’s play areas was deferred at tonight’s Council and has been referred to the Cabinet for recommendation. Debating of the motion would have been timely tonight as it would have coincided with a school children’s poster exhibition in the Town Hall foyer calling adults to give up smoking.  One child’s plea was “if you don’t smoke in our playgrounds, we won’t drink in your pubs”.  Unfortunately the motion will now not be debated until at least February 21st.
Bob, mover of the motion,  said: “This is ridiculous – council officers are already working on proposals for a non-smoking play area policy.  Once again a Lib Dem motion gets kicked into the long grass while the Tory Cabinet dreams up a reason to amend or reject.” 

        

BOOST TO WORTHING ECONOMY DEFERRED
 
Tuesday 13th December –  Tonight’s Council was full of no surprises with the Lib Dems’ third motion calling for support of Worthing’s economy referred to the Cabinet for recommendation and again not being debated until at least February 21st. As we stated last week our motion was almost word for word one which was approved by West Sussex County Council immediately without deferral – after being proposed by Tory Cllr Bob Lanzer in October.  In fact action has already been taken and £15 miilion released for capital projects to boost much needed jobs thoughout West Sussex.
Alan Rice, mover of the motion, said: “West Sussex considered quite rightly it was an urgent matter to boost jobs in these dire economic times.  I am incredulous that Worthing’s Tory Cabinet is so out of touch they cannot see the urgent need for jobs.  We deliberately based the wording on Bob Lanzer’s motion at West Sussex – it is a Conservative worded motion. The Tories don’t even have the excuse to reject it because it’s a Lib Dem idea. Surely they can’t reject this one in their normal robotic fashion.”
 
PROCUREMENT RULES IGNORED
 
Thursday 15th December – Tarring Lib Dem Councillor Hazel Thorpe has today revealed the findings of Internal Audit on Worthing Borough Council’s Contract Letting and Administration.  Internal Audit could only give limited assurance in their latest report – limited assurance means “weakness in the system of controls are such as to put the system objectives at risk, and/or the level of non-compliance puts the system objectives at risk”.  As an example of the reasons for issue of a limited assurance it was found 7 out of 10 cases examined of purchases over the limit of £6,000 no evidence was found that the Procurement Officer had been consulted. Worthing Liberal Democrats are appalled to learn of this situation and Hazel will be delving deeper to unearth any skeletons the Tory Cabinet would prefer to be kept hidden. We trust this is not related to the continuing delay of the signing of the new swimming pool contract.     
Hazel said: ” It was at the last meeting of the Joint Governance and Audit Committee that I learned of this situation. I am the only Lib Dem Member from either Worthing or Adur Councils on the committee and was concerned not only with the report but also with the rush Tories wanted to gloss over the findings.  I will not be rushed and intend to find out more – watch this space.”

 

ONLY £300,000 FOR WORTHING – IT’S THE LEADER’S FAULT !
 
Friday 16th December –  Worthing Liberal Democrats have been bemused why West Sussex County Council saw fit to only allocate Worthing £300,000 from their £15 million capital programme to boost jobs in West Sussex – after all Worthing vies with Crawley as the largest town. All was revealed today at the West Sussex County Council meeting when the Leader of West Sussex Louise Goldsmith said £300,000 was all that Worthing requested. And with whom in Worthing did West Sussex consult?  It was Paul Yallop as Leader of Worthing Borough Council.  Worthing Liberal Democrats would not have left the town so short-changed. 
 
 
TORIES REJECT FEED IN TARIFF REDUCTION DELAY
 
Friday 16th December –  It’s not only at Worthing Borough Council that Lib Dem motions are rejected out of hand by the Tories. The same happened today at West Sussex when the Tories rejected a Lib Dem motion for the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change requesting a review of his emergency matters on the 50% reduction in the “Feed in Tarrif” on solar panels.  The motion further stated “in particular, the Council supports delaying the implementation of the changes; and protecting community run schemes, including those run or planned by councils, by extending the cut-off date for these schemes to the end of the financial year”.  Even though the Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, is a Lib Dem the Tories rejected without even offering an amendment.       
 
DIARY
 
Monday 19th December – WBC Standards Committee – Gordon Room, Town Hall at 6.00 pm                          

Tuesday 20th December – Lib Dem Durrington Surgery – New Life Church, Durrington 7.00 to 8.00 pm

                                       and every third Tuesday of the month
Wednesday 21st December – WBC Planning Committee – Gordon Room, Town Hall at 6.00 pm
Wednesday 21st December – Lib Dem Northbrook/Durrington Ward Surgery – “The North Star”, Littlehampton Road 7.30 to 8.30 pm
 
FURTHER AHEAD
 
Saturday 7th January – Lib Dem Central Ward Surgery – St Pauls Centre, Chapel Road 10.30 am to 12.00 noon
                              and every first Saturday of the month 
Saturday 7th January – Lib Dem Broadwater Surgery – The Community House, Dominion Road 2.00 to 4.00 pm  

                              and every first Saturday of the month 
 
 
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Published and promoted by Worthing Liberal Democrats, 18 Woodlea Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 1BN