Letter to the Argus from Norman Baker MP and Catherine Bearder MEP regarding the recent comments by Cllr Donna Edmunds

Dear Editor,

This week UKIP MEP hopeful and Lewes councillor, Donna Edmunds, came out to say business owners should have the right to turn away customers if they choose – based on arbitrary factors such as gender or sexuality.

Views like these have absolutely no place in the 21st century and I am disgusted to hear someone standing to represent Britain in Europe speak in such anachronistic and abhorrent terms.

The UK prides itself on its tolerance and, although Ms Edmunds defends her argument as ‘libertarian’, we have to ask ourselves whether we want someone with such an underlying sexist and homophobic agenda anywhere near the decision making process.

Electing someone as outdated as this could prove a massive step back for our society.

Hearing about the racist slurs at UKIP’s spring conference last weekend, it is clear this party still has a long way to go to ensure it adequately represents the views of the majority of Britons. They campaign on a one-issue platform but they also clearly harbour a whole range of other very dangerous views.

We now have less than three months to stop this nasty party from gaining ground at the Euro elections. Liberal Democrats, as the party of IN, will be leading the fight against Ukip by standing up for an open and tolerant society, values the EU clearly enshrines.

Yours,

Norman Baker MP and Catherine Bearder MEP

Letter to the Audit Commission regarding Seaford Town Council

I am writing to raise my urgent and serious concerns about the management of Seaford Town Council in my constituency and to ask you exceptionally to undertake an urgent and thorough review of the finances and operating practices of the council. I do not do so lightly.

Seaford is the most populous town in my constituency and I believe that a large number of my constituents are being seriously let down by inefficiency and incompetency in the everyday running of the council. I feel that the failures and concerns are systemic, multiple, and deep-seated.

I am forced to turn to the auditor because complaints to the council currently go through the exact same people who hold responsibility for the present position and it is completely unrealistic to expect them to look into this matter themselves with any degree of objectivity. Indeed, one of the issues raised, though far from the most serious, relates to the non-replies and lengthy delays that so often feature when communicating with this body.

There are a number of issues that highlight the ineffective, undemocratic and often unprincipled way in which the authority is operating and the questionable way in which it is running its finances. Examples of this include the following:

  1.   Serious allegations of bullying from town council staff who say they were forced out, leading to a very rapid turnover of staff. Two came to see me at my surgery last Saturday and another has contacted me today.
  2.  The persistent failure of the council to answer letters from other elected representatives in the town, from clubs and societies, and from ordinary members of the public
  3.  Huge delays in dealing with administrative matters such as the lease for the Seaford Museum which has now been outstanding for almost a year, putting at risk applications for around significant sums via external grants
  4.  The delegation of an extraordinary amount of decision-making to the town clerk to an extent that I feel is unwise and undemocratic.
  5.  Endemic infighting within the controlling group, most recently involving the Mayor Anthony White, who, after a meeting with the council leader and town clerk, resigned suddenly two-thirds through his mayoral year through “ill-health”. Just a week later, last Thursday, yet another councillor, Rita Scarfe, resigned from the council, adding to the litany of resignations since the last election, causing the town a series of expensive by-elections. Another ex-councillor from the ruling group has contacted me today to add his voice to concerns expressed and a sitting councillor from the ruling group has today publicly backed my call for action, in terms even more strident than mine.
  6.  Spiralling costs to the taxpayer from Hurdis House, a council-owned building in Broad Street, that has now been sitting empty for years.
  7.  A huge potential bill being racked up at the council-owned Seaford Golf Club.
  8.  A proposal for a council tax increase of around 9% for the next financial year starting in April.
  9.  The introduction of a new Standing Order that gags councillors, even telling them they cannot use the title “councillor” when they write to the local paper, without first securing the Town Clerk’s permission.
  10. The abandonment of the council meeting last week because a member of public wanted to film the meeting, despite the fact that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is taking through Parliament new laws explicitly to give the public such rights.

I am asking my office to arrange an urgent phone call or meeting with you to elaborate on these concerns further and to furnish you with evidence including witness statements if you wish.

The situation is serious and worsening by the day. I ask for your assistance to help protect the interests of my constituents in Seaford.

Yours sincerely

Formal Signature

Norman Baker MP