28 Feb Norman’s Notes February 2022
By the time you read this things will have moved on with regards to the invasion of Ukraine, but I want to share with you some information from Mims Davies, MP.
The Prime Minister has made it clear the United Kingdom will respond decisively and that our thoughts are with Ukraine and its people at this devastating and dark time.
Our MP was in the Chamber, as the PM announced major Russian banks will be excluded from the UK financial system and oligarchs have been targeted in new sanctions which are the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions Russia has ever seen.
The UK Visa Application Centre in Lviv has now opened for all those who are eligible for a visa via the Family Migration route. Immediate family of British nationals in Ukraine wishing to apply should call (+44) 0300 303 2785 for assistance.
Mims Davies says, “If any families in Mid Sussex have family members in Ukraine, they should please contact my office via either phone or email and we will do everything we can to help loved ones leave Ukraine”.
The Lviv Visa Application Centre address is Lviv, Bogdana Hmelnytskogo str., 176, Business Centre Lemberg.
For full visa guidance please visit:
The Home Secretary has also announced changes to allow Ukrainians in the UK to have their visas temporarily extended, or be able to switch onto different visa routes. More information here:
The Levelling Up White Paper
Since I wrote, last month, about the challenges of producing a new District Plan, the anticipated Levelling Up White Paper has been published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Sadly, there were no changes to the planning system. Our MP, Mims Davies and the Leader of Mid Sussex District Council, Cllr Jonathan Ash-Edwards, have made strong representations to government for infrastructure improvements, housing and other key aspects of planning.
The white paper outlined a number of ‘missions’ to be achieved by 2030. Some of these are as follows:
- Improving local public transport
- Rolling out 5G broadband
- Eliminating illiteracy and innumeracy amongst primary school leavers
- Reform of housing standards
- Improving productivity
- Skills development
- Pride in the places where we live and work
- A new ‘devolution framework’ to be published later this year, with greater powers for local areas where there is local consensus
- A Shared Prosperity Fund to be devolved to District Councils
- £2.6 billion to be used to improve skills, business support and ‘pride in place’
Anyone driving through Ardingly to Haywards Heath will have been delayed by new superfast broadband cabling being laid, initially to Ardingly Show Grounds; then on to East Grinstead as additional funding is secured.
This is part of the District Council’s initial idea to link all of West Sussex via a superfast spine, from which commercial providers, corporate clients and government agencies can link. This will be especially valuable to those organisations who require high bandwidth, for example NHS CAT Scan files which can be very large. Then there are future developments of things like driverless cars with their GPS requirements.
Funding has been provided through the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, which covers all of West Sussex, including Brighton and Hove, the Gatwick Diamond and London Borough of Croydon.
Opportunity Mid Sussex
The Mid Sussex District Council Economic Development Strategy makes a commitment to develop a specific marketing and promotion strategy. This is to ensure the continued economic success of Mid Sussex, by actively marketing the district’s competitive advantages for businesses and promoting the attractiveness of Mid Sussex for residents and visitors.
We are pleased to be able to advise that Opportunity Mid Sussex, our inward investment project, has now launched. This initial stage of the launch consists of a ‘landing page’, which showcases MSDC’s social media channels, and gives an opportunity for people to register to learn more about what we are doing in the coming months.
Please go to www.opportunitymidsussex.co.uk to register your interest. You can also go to:
- Instagram https://www.instagram.com/opportunity_mid_sussex/
- LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/opportunity-mid-sussex
- Twitter: @OpportunityMS
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OpportunityMidSussex/
Corporate Plan and Budget 2022/23
Mid Sussex District Council’s Cabinet has recommended the Corporate Plan and Budget 2022/23 for approval by Full Council on 2 March.
Each year the Council sets out how it will deliver its services and use its financial resources over the next financial year. The plan is created in line with the Council’s key priorities to:
- provide effective and responsive services
- create sustainable economic growth
- deliver strong and resilient communities
- maintain financial independence
Flagship projects being progressed in the Corporate Plan and Budget for 2022/23 include the upgrades to several parks and play areas, plus the trial of food waste collections and the masterplanning of the new Centre for Outdoor Sports in Burgess Hill.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to place significant financial pressure on organisations in both the public and private sector. MSDC depends on income from fees, charges and rents to fund public services, and the pandemic has severely affected the income from these areas. While the Government’s Income Compensation scheme has helped to mitigate the loss, the Council continues to experience a significant dip in income as a result of the pandemic.
The financial outlook of the Council for the next four years predicts that, even with some support from the Government, the Council must bridge a £5.5 million funding gap. However, the Council has extensive experience in budget management and has always responded effectively to difficult financial challenges in local government.
Cabinet has recommended a Council Tax increase of 2.8% which is a £4.95 annual increase for an average Band D property, and to use the Council’s General Reserve funds to balance the budget and protect council services.
Cllr Jonathan Ash-Edwards, Leader of MSDC says, “The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to place significant financial pressure on Councils across the UK. In Mid Sussex, this is principally because we have had to provide significant financial support to our leisure centres to keep them open for residents during times of social distancing and reduced income. Our plans for the next financial year take the steps necessary to protect our services for residents and to support the economic recovery”.
£1.5 million for parks improvement approved by Cabinet
Mid Sussex District Council’s love of parks and open spaces was re-emphasised with a commitment by Cabinet on 14th February to invest over £1.5 million improving key parks and open spaces across the District over the next financial year. This is part of a longer-term plan to improve parks and outdoor spaces.
The Cabinet met to approve investment proposals for Mount Noddy in East Grinstead, Hemsley’s Meadow and Finches Field in Pease Pottage and Victoria Park in Haywards Heath.
MSDC consulted with residents to create distinct masterplans that set out proposed improvements for each location. Landscape architects used public feedback to prepare draft designs that show how each park could be improved over time.
The plans are available for residents to view online at www.midsussex.gov.uk/leisure-sport/parks/
Some of the potential improvement projects for Mount Noddy include:
- Leisure equipment for older children and young adults
- New sensory play area
- Improved lighting
- Creation of a picnic meadow
Plans will be subject to further, detailed consultation so residents and park users are encouraged to keep an eye out on social media and in the park for invitations to get involved.
Cllr John Belsey, MSDC Cabinet Member for Environment and Service Delivery said, “Our public open spaces are often at the heart of the local community, so it’s fitting that we’ve finalised the funding for these proposed improvements on Valentine’s Day. Parks have a tremendously positive effect on our health and wellbeing. As well as being valued for nature, they also present opportunities for people to meet and enjoy the outdoors”.
He goes on to say, “Residents told us, through our public consultations, how they would like to see parks develop and improve over the next few years and we’ve listened carefully to what people had to say”.
Hurstpierpoint couple jailed for benefit fraud
It is never a pleasant thing to have to take a local resident to court, but in this instance it was necessary. The result was that a couple from Hurstpierpoint were convicted of benefit fraud after dishonestly claiming over £60,000.
David Aston and Eugina Wallis of Willow Way, Hurstpierpoint fraudulently claimed £62,930 in overpaid benefits after providing false information to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Mid Sussex District Council.
The couple made separate claims for Income Support on the basis that they were single and living alone. However, an investigation by MSDC produced evidence that David Aston and Eugina Wallis were in fact married and living together in Hurstpierpoint.
Mr Aston also dishonestly claimed Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit for a property in Bognor Regis, which he said he was living in with his carer. That property was occupied by his adult daughter Kelly Aston, who was living in the property rent free.
David Aston, Eugina Wallis and Kelly Aston pleaded guilty at Lewes Crown Court to 11 of the 19 indictments brought against them.
Judge Janet Waddicor said, “There is overwhelming evidence of dishonesty over a number of years. The amount of work by the investigators on this case is truly impressive. The amount of work that has gone into this investigation is astonishing. The degree of careful investigation was truly exceptional.”
Sentencing took place on 28 January 2022 and David Aston received 22 months in prison. Eugina Wallis was sentenced 36 weeks in prison and Kelly Aston received 12 months community service, comprising 100 hours work.
This is the sixth year that I have been writing monthly Norman’s Notes. How that time has flown! I have decided that it is time to have a new face and a different perspective on government and local government news, so I will be stepping back from writing Norman’s Notes.
I want to thank you all for your interest and the EGBA for allowing me this opportunity. It has been thoroughly enjoyable and a great privilege.