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Published by the Sovereign Harbour Gazette (SHG). Written by Keith A. Forbes at email@example.com. He and his wife live in Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne. A disabled journalist, he is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled.
Accessibility on trains
Not improving, poor by international standards
Older/disabled people are apprehensive about using trains. Every day, there are messages saying one service or another is being cancelled for engineering work and replaced by buses.
Ours are the most expensive in the world. Government claims that hugely higher costs are justified because they are being replaced by brand-new railway cars, better service and more frequent timetables. But other countries have these without such excessive costs payable by taxpayers.
Our system is so expensive because travelers not government bear the burden. No other government has such an abhorrent policy for train users.
Massive new private, not public, investments in railway stock, with our system the most privatized anywhere, have not made things better.
Other factors have affected the worsening situation.
Changes to remove guards from trains who helped the elderly and disabled have led to strikes galore.
Train guards are essential to the running of services, in an emergency and to assist the elderly and disabled. Timetable changes and cancelled trains have caused chaotic delays.
Two disabled passengers with Disabled Railcards who needed a previously advertised direct (no change) train to go from Eastbourne to London Victoria and back, were told their planned 13 December 2018 trip would involve two trains and two buses for the return trip on 15 December. (Fortunately, unable to make the journey in those circumstances, their tickets were refunded in full).
Beyond the UK it is a legal requirement for seniors and disabled to be assisted when getting on and off trains.
Again and again the disabled find that despite arranging assistance well in advance and being assured it will be offered, no one is available when needed to help the disabled get off the train with its wide gap between the train and platform and/or assist with luggage.
Also, It infuriates the disabled and elderly when those not qualified to sit in seats clearly marked for the elderly or disabled or heavily pregnant cannot sit there because passengers who are young, fit and able ignore the signs and occupy those seats, with no protecting legislation.
This happens every day.
BBC's stoppage of Free TV for all over 75s is blatantly unfair
In June 2019 The BBC ended free-to-all-over 75sí TV and will implement this when it takes over TV Licensing from the government. The benefit was originally introduced in November 2000, when the Department for Work and Pensions agreed to pay the government directly for TV licences for those over the age of 75. Then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made the decision to hand responsibility for it to the the BBC. The BBC now believes it is now able to charge for its and all other non-BBC broadcasting in line with inflation.
If all households whuch are liable don't pay the TV Licence tax the BBC, via a third party private entity, chases down and prosecutes them in the courts for refusing to pay.
Protests to Parliament now number over 660,000 but how can Parliament be trusted to act in support when it was all the MPs in Parliament who voted in favour of handing responsibility of the benefit over to the BBC.
For many pensioners this latest action by the Conservative government, unless revoked in the meantime, will the last straw, including for many not wealthy current Conservative party members over 75 , meaning a likely very short tenure for Boris Johnson who in July 2019 succeeded then-Prime Minister Theresa May.
In no other part of the world do people over 75 years old have to pay a TV tax, not even in Norway and the other European countries that have a similar TV tax for younger viewers. TV taxes are a peculiarity of Europe. But in Ireland and elsewhere in the EU people over 70, not 75, get free TV and so do others not over 70 who qualify via a means test.
People in Canada, USA and beyond Europe are aghast that we are taxed to watch TV at all, appalled that over 75s have to. Canadians watch CBC and other channels Canada at no TV licensing cost, so do all in the the USA. Its Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), National Public Radio and equivalents are free, with donations purely voluntary.
Not known by many in the UK and by the great majority in the rest of the world is that the BBC alone, no other broadcasters of radio and TV in the UK, receives the income from the licence. Thus we have the flagrantly unjust situation where the BBC is now both the sole monopolistic regulatory agency and sole recipient via the government of the TV Licence payments.
The BBC now expects all over 75s, except the relatively few receiving means-tested Pension Credit, to stop getting free TV which also means that under the Telecommunications Act which includes the TV Licence, over75s will have to pay the TV Licence fee to get lawful usage at home of laptops, iPads, notebooks, smartphones and the like, even when those pensioners do not watch any BBC television programs but prefer ITV or the many other non-BBC channels.
The BBC claims exclusivity of a TV tax on the basis of no BBC advertising but this is patently not true. It constantly advertises and promotes ad nauseam its own programmes on BBC TV channels, sometimes for up to five minutes at a time
Its UK Government-approved Director General has attempted to justify this BBC charade by saying it needs additional funding to carry on its advertising-free mission. Frankly, in this day and age when most people now use online commercial entities of one kind or another to do most of their communicating, who cares if the BBC does become a commercial entity?
Under the Equality Act the BBC should surely be equal, not superior, to other broadcasting services and share, not take 100% of, the TV Licence. It should not have the exclusive right to such a statutory advantage and at such an expensive annual cost to all households.
One can only hope that if a USA-UK trade deal is negotiated in the foreseeable future, the future of the BBC itself, not just the NHS, will be part of the package on offer. The BBC should be, but is not, as decent in all respects to the British public as the USA's Corporation for Public Broadcasting is to the American public with its nation-wide collection of free-to-the public (but contributable on a voluntary basis) stations in its TV Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.
In this connection, it is especially interesting and revealing that there is already a similarly named but UK-owned PBS America (see https://www.pbsamerica.co.uk/) service operating in the USA. So surely, under a new trade agreement being considered between the UK and USA, a USA-owned British-domiciled BBC entity should be allowed to operate in the UK! Many people now want the BBC, not the UK's National Health Service, to be part of that deal.
In the USA, tthe BBC earns millions of dollars from prominent commercial advertisers. This has been obvious to Britons holidaying in the Caribbean, where BBC services from both the UK and the USA via http://www.bbc.com are routinely available from most Caribbean hotel rooms where there is no equivalent to the UK's TV Licensing tax.
The BBC receives over £800 million annually from franchising to over 80 countries, with programming such as its Strictly Come Dancing, historical drama and other shows as merely a few examples of UK taxpayer-paid programming sold world-wide, to rake in further millions.
It just should not be allowed to get away with making the over 75s pay for watching television. To many of the over 75s, widows and widowers in particular and/or those disabled, watching TV at no cost to them is a major factor in helping to fend off loneliness. The elderly, frail and disabled in particular, especially in the winter when they cannot get out, depend on TV not only to keep them company but to keep them mentally alert.
Stopping it now will be seen as a monumental anti-humanitarian action on the part of our Members of Parliament.
To many viewers including the author of this article, The BBC, which once reigned supreme as the best of all radio and television anywhere in the world, has deteriorated hugely. It has become a largely irrelevant views, not news, service.
Concealed by the BBC in its Annual Report is the fact that BBC Studios has delivered a fat profit in its first year as a commercial subsidiary, with BBC Worldwide up 42%. Results have demonstrated a strong base for the newly integrated BBC Studios which began trading on 3 April 2018. They reveal that each commercial entity joined together to form a single commercial group from a strong financial base, with BBC Studios reporting headline sales of £432.0m and EBITDA of £7.2m in its first year of trading, and BBC Worldwide showing an increase in EBITDA to £118.3m, while sustaining cash returns to the BBC above £200m for a fourth successive year. Tim Davie," There has been a series of big structural changes in the overall BBC corporate structure. These include: merging BBC Studios and Worldwide to get into intellectual property in a big way; launching sign-in for the iPlayer and getting provisional approval for programmes to be on for 12 months; launching Britbox (an announcement on the archive subscription service with ITV is imminent); launching BBC Sounds; and the partnership with Discovery.
Every morning on BBC 1 we get a gaggle of giggling, simpering idiot presenters who talk to themselves mostly, or all talk at once, with their views not news, instead of addressing their comments to the audience. At night, before 11 pm, we get rubbish views but not news from political commentators and journalists, all of whom are paid far too much for offering so little. Journalists and others asked to appear on panels are paid well for it, out of public funds to give their views - not news - on political and other events.
The BBC's Newswatch is a nonsense. In theory, it broadcasts complaints by viewers about the level, quality and impartiality of BBC news coverage. In fact, all it does, on a BBC channel only, not an independent non-BBC one, is to get BBC-only managers to justify the way news programmes are broadcast. Not once has there been an apology from the BBC on a Newswatch programme. It is a total farce.
The BBC wastes UK taxpayers money in other areas, such as with many staff speaking foreign languages to deliver BBC views and news to non-English-speaking countries abroad. The days are long over when the British Empire ruled over much of the world.
Today, virtually all countries and islands big and small have their own TV, radio and other telecommunications services. There is no longer any justification in any possible way for all UK households to continue to have to pay the TV license fee tax solely to the BBC..The BBC claims falsely it follows an independent point of view in presenting its shows. It that was really the case then how can it justify its claim to its monopolistic TV Licensing Fee exclusivity?
MPs and Local Authority Councillors scandal. Jeremy Hunt MP, who campaigned in 2019 to become Prime Minister, has claimed TV for MPs is a part of their job, a legitimate business expense, not a benefit. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declined to say whether he will act to help the over 75s. Former culture secretary John Whittingdale said free TV licences were "not a fundamental pillar of the welfare state". He said that when the benefit had been introduced in 2000, it cost the government £365m, and as of last year, the cost to the BBC was £660m - a significant chunk of the corporation's total budget.
Age UK and other agencies have pleaded in vain with MPs to right this wrong but have been ignored. The news has now been spread all over the world that on this matter alone the UK is not at all the democracy it has long claimed to be but instead is an autocracy that in many ways including this one treats its over 75 voters with contempt.
What is dreadful is that unlike most pensioners the UK's MPs, many of whom with their salaries, pensions and expenses mostly all earn well over £100,000 a year - see https://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/pay-mps/ get the equivalent of FREE TV LICENCES even when under 75 because they can claim their TV license as legitimate business expenses. Yet they have majority-approved this monstrous wrong.
It is not well known but an undeniable fact that many local authority councillors can also write off their TV Licence cost as a business expense. But can most others also claim the cost of their TV License as a legitimate business expense? No. Hunt will not now be getting the vote of millions of over 75s who will now to pay £154.50 from the year 2020 to watch TV in the future because the government that he wants to head has handed over its responsibility for funding the concession solely over to the BBC.
To add insult to injury, the BBC, already paying its over-rated news announcers and personalities huge salaries out of the public purse that commercial stations cannot afford, announced in late 2018 that in 2019 it will be paying 30% more to its senior executives. Their salary increases, not basic salaries, will be up to £75,000 a year. The number of BBC managers earning more than £150,000 a year now exceeds 102, four more than in 2018 despite a public promise to reduce the number.
The BBC has published the latest list of its highest-paid stars later as part of its annual report. Some stars have had pay increases, while others have dropped down the list and there are also some new joiners. Bear in mind that not all earnings are published - for example, Zoe Ball's earnings for Strictly: It Takes Two are not included, as that is produced by BBC Studios, which is classed as a commercial entity.
The stars of other high profile programmes produced by BBC Studios - such as Top Gear and Doctor Who - are also missing for the same reason.
Here's a list of the biggest earners at the BBC in 2018-19:
Gary Lineker - £1,750,000-£1,754,999. Match of the Day, Sports Personality of the Year and World Cup
Chris Evans - £1,250,000-£1,254,999. Evans left the BBC and began working for Virgin Radio in January. So his figure reflects nine months of work on the Radio 2 breakfast show before leaving in December, and not his full annual salary.
Graham Norton - £610,000-£614,999. BBC Radio 2 Saturday show and BBC TV fee for a range of programmes such as Eurovision - but not including his BBC One chat show. 2017/18: £600,000-£609,999
Huw Edwards - £490,000-£494,999. BBC News and and news specials. The BBC has previously reported he's taken a pay cut.
Steve Wright - £465,000-£469,999. Radio 2 afternoon show.
Alan Shearer - £440,000-£444,999. Match of the Day and World Cup. 2017/18: £410,000-£419,999
Andrew Marr - £390,000-£394,999. Start the Week, The Andrew Marr Show and documentaries.
Claudia Winkleman - £370,000-£374,999
Radio 2 show and various TV programmes. Excludes her Strictly permorances, separately covered and not disclosed by BBC Studios.
Zoe Ball - £370,000-£374,999. Ball's figure only covers what she earned for hosting the breakfast show in the first three months of this year, plus her earnings for the Saturday-only Radio 2 show she hosted prior to that. Strictly's It Takes Two salary isn't included as it's made by BBC Studios.
Jason Mohammad - £355,000-£359,999. Final Score, Radio 5 Live, Radio 2's Good Morning Sunday, Radio Wales, snooker, Commonwealth Games, World Cup. 2017/18 figure: £260,000-£269,999
Vanessa Feltz - £355,000-£359,999. Radio 2 show, Radio London show, Radio 2 cover. 2017/18 figure: £330,000-£339,999.
Nicky Campbell - £340,000-£345,999. Radio 5 Live breakfast show.
Stephen Nolan - £325,000-£329,999. Nolan Live, Radio Ulster show and Radio 5 Live shows.
George Alagiah - £315,000-£319,999. BBC News. 2017/18 figure: £290,000-£299,999.
Nick Grimshaw - £310,000-£314,999. Radio 1 breakfast show and then moved to Radio 1 drivetime.
Lauren Laverne - £305,000-£309,999. BBC 6 Music, Desert Island Discs. 2017/18 figure: £230,000-£239,000
Gabby Logan - £290,000-£294,999. Various sports including athletics, football, rugby, Commonwealth Games and Sports Personality of the Year. 2017/18 figure: £230,000-£239,999.
Nick Robinson - £290,000-£294,999. Radio 4 Today programme, Political Thinking plus Panorama and news specials. 2017/18 figure: £250,000-£259,999
John Humphrys - £290,000-£294,999. Radio 4 Today programme.
Jeremy Vine - £290,000-£294,999. Radio 2 lunchtime show
Scott Mills - £285,000-£289,999. The Scott Mills Show on Radio 1, Radio 1 Breakfast Show cover, Biggest Weekend and festival coverage, Eurovision Song Contest.
Dan Walker - £280,000-£284,999. BBC Breakfast, Football Focus and FIFA World Cup. 2017/18 figure: £220,000-£229,999
Ken Bruce - £280,000-£284,999. Radio 2 mid-morning show, Friday Night is Music Night, Eurovision Song Contest
Evan Davis - £275,000-£279,999. Radio 4 PM, Newsnight, The Bottom Line on Radio 4. 2017/18 figure: £250,000-£259,000.
Jo Whiley - £270,000-£274,999. Radio 2 drivetime show and evening show. 2017/18 figure: £170,000-£179,999
Sophie Raworth - £265,000-£269,999. BBC News at Six and BBC News at Ten. 2017/18 figure: £200,000-£209,999
Emily Maitlis - £260,000-£264,999. BBC Two's Newsnight. 2017/18 figure: £220,000-£229,999
Mishal Husain - £255,000-£259,999. Today programme, BBC News bulletins, Radio 4's From Our Home Correspondent. 2017/18 figure: £220,000-£229,999
Fiona Bruce - £255,000-£259,999. BBC News, Question Time. Antiques Road Show. 2017/18 figure: £180,000-£189,999
Laura Kuenssberg - £250,000-£254,999. Political editor. 2017/18 figure: £220,000-£229,999
£245,000 - £249,999
£240,000 - £244,999
£235,000 to £239,999
£230,000 - £234,999
£225,000 - £229,999
£220,000 - £224,999
£215,000 - £219,999
£210,000 - £214,999
£205,000 - £209,999
£200,000 - £204,999
£195,000 - £199,999
£190,000 - £194,999
£185,000 - £189,999
£180,000 - £184,999
£175,000 - £179,999
£170,000 - £174,999
£165,000 - £169,999
£160,000 - £164,999
£155,000 to £159,999
£150,000 to £154,999
Campaign to Save Our Buses continues
Many bus routes are being cut or eliminated.
Efforts continue to press the national government and councils to stop reducing or eliminating bus routes, one of the victims of ever-increasing council budget cuts despite the constant upward creep of council taxes. See the website at www.bettertransport.org.uk. Our own hourly bus service that once routinely went to Eastbourne General Hospital - so frequently used by pensioners and the disabled but no longer does so - is a case in point.
Cap on Energy Charges is meaningless
Why do we still have to search on a yearly basis for the best energy deal? The cost of electricity, averaging 18p per kilowatt hour plus a standing charge (surcharge), is outrageous compared to the USA's, Canada's and the EU's overall national average of US$0.11 cents per kilowatt hour.
Council Tax increases/injustices
Council Taxes, for the fifth year running, have increased by an average of 3 percent, to the disgust of consumers. Council taxes, say leading newspapers, are Britain's most hated taxes for their nation-wide unfairness.
The UK's present system of council taxes is manifestly unjust. Massive inequities since 1991 have been consistently ignored by all British Members of Parliament irrespective of political party. In 27 years they They have not seen fit to change the system with its massively unfair practices. It equates to highest Band H council tax banding in central London - for the most expensive multi-million properties there - pay much less in council taxes than properties worth only a fraction of the value of those £ multi-million lower-priced properties and in a much lower tax banding - Band E- in Eastbourne and elsewhere in the country. Other countries are required by law to re-assess their property taxes every 3-5 years. As one example of a newspaper's condemnation, the Daily Telegraph published a comprehensive report in June 2016. There has to be a council (property) tax on every property. But it has to be balanced, fair, equitable, logical and consistent. It should be a reliable indicator of the fair market value of a property including the house or flat or cottage or bungalow, land on which it sits, what outbuildings or garages there are. It should not matter for evaluation purposes whether the property is a house or flat or cottage or bungalow, exactly the same criteria should apply, instead of it being so discriminatory as it is now.
What should matter are the actual or accurately assessed market price, a legislative methodology to ensure the entire valuation system is reviewed regularly at least every five years, the assessment is open enough to ensure that every property bought and or sold routinely shows both its market price and its council or property tax on property particulars and by doing so avoid any accusation of discrimination, with the valuation of every property open for public inspection to achieve complete transparency. It should not be just a single isolated local authority tax but one mindful of and comparable with council taxes in other areas. It should have enough council tax banding width to easily ensure that unless a property is equal in total value to Buckingham Palace it should be council taxed at merely a fraction of the latter's council tax. And if/when market prices fall instead of going up, the property tax should also fall. No such fair, decent, consistent, regularly updated methodology applies to Council Taxes in Eastbourne. Instead, the Eastbourne Borough Council at www.eastbourne.gov.uk, and its East Sussex Council partner, with the approval of the British Government and all its 650 legislators, applies such a massively unfair council tax system that even small modest two bedroom flats with a market value of under £270,000 and no property-owned land at all pay appreciably more Council Tax than (a) other local properties with an often far higher market value and (b) 775-room Buckingham Palace in London, 90 miles away, worth about £980 million and other multi-million pound properties and their personal gardens in the most affluent areas of London.
As the latest examples of (a) in January 2019 a spacious penthouse 3 bedroom apartment in the affluent area of Silverdale Road, Lower Meads, Eastbourne, was advertised for sale at £385,000 showing Council Tax D but a 2 bedroom upper ground floor apartment on San Diego Way, Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne, worth much less, £260,000, has to pay a higher tax, in Council Tax Band E.
Disability laws compared to Europe, Canada, USA, etc.
UK disability laws need updating and improving to match disability laws elsewhere. Eastbourne and Brighton both in East Sussex are the two most disabled-unfriendly places in the UK. Disabled visiting Americans, Australians, Canadians, Europeans, etc shocked by our poor disabled laws and regulations compared to where they live
Yet local disability groups are not demanding legislative changes. There is no comparison with the USA's powerful and effective Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) - see http://www.ada.gov or similar in Europe, Canada and beyond. (In Canada see http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/1006). The lack of UK legislative teeth and the unwillingness of the police to act as law enforcement officers in Eastbourne to act on disability abuses has caused many to complained internationally. We hear about them because our Eastbourne & Sovereign Harbour Disability Association at www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/ESHDisability.htm networks with overseas groups, and several of our members once lived and worked overseas where disability standards are both so much higher and legally enforced. All disabled visitors to the Eastbourne area from where disability provisions are fully protected by law both in the public and private sectors, need to know that similar comprehensive disability laws do not apply here. This is stated in www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/ESHDisability.htm.
It needs to be noted that British visitors to those parts of the world who are not disabled but regularly abuse local disability laws because they can get away with it here in the UK are the worst offenders by a huge margin.
When we sent emails reporting visitors' complaints in Eastbourne to the Eastbourne access group, instead of being concerned enough to refer them to their councils and legislators in hope of action to remedy defects, all we got were complaints. Hopefully, the UK Parliament, when debating how European Law will be incorporated into UK law prior to Brexit, will EU-wide Disability laws to replace and give some legal teeth to very inferior UK disability provisions.
Law Commission's proposed Leasehold Reform must finally right many wrongs
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. New government initiatives to modernize living conditions must be implemented. Many affect pensioners and young people living in Sovereign Harbour and elsewhere. One is Commonhold instead of Leasehold. Those living in leasehold not freehold properties are asked by the Law Commission to consider the advantages of commonhold over leasehold, such as ownership not expiring so the costly procedure of lease extension does not arise; management responsibility rests exclusively with a commonhold association made up of unit holders - and more.
Other proposals are also being debated some of which may affect and benefit the thousands of leaseholders in Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone 020 3334 5333 or write to Rachel Preston, Law Commission, 1st Floor, Tower, 52 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AG.In October 2018 a report from these authors was emailed, highlighting inequities in Sovereign Harbour freehold and leasehold premises.
Some really serious issues have still not been addressed. Here are some of the worst ones: Why is it that Estate Agents and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, among others. are ignoring the laws that have now been effect for years that require them to disclose all relevant facts about properties they market as for sale or rent, to freehold and leasehold buyers? Why are some buildings that could and should be sold as freehold being sold as leasehold? For example, apartments in some new 4-apartment Sovereign Harbour buildings were sold on 999 year leases. So they incur costly management fees and more.
Presently, not on any estate agent or council or community websites, is it revealed that purchasers/leaseholders of residential Sovereign Harbour property must pay a unique annual and increasingly expensive flood defence and harbour charge averaging £290 a year in 2019 (£265 a year in 2018) in addition to council taxes, property insurance, management fees and ground rents.
Nowhere do estate agents or chartered surveyors detail on their websites or in other documentation the individual components of the Annual Estate Rentcharge (EAR). Nor do they say anywhere that purchasers or leaseholders do not get advance information about it. They fail to say that not until freeholders and leaseholders are in the process of completing and are reading their purchase documents do they see any mention in the leases or sales agreements of and their legal liability for the Annual Estate Rentcharge. They do not say that even when the relatively few Sovereign Harbour homes are sold as freehold it does not mean freehold in fee simple. They still have to pay the EAR. They omit any mention of the fact that in no other flood area or harbour or marina area or private estate anywhere else in Britain, the UK, Europe or the world does this Annual Estate Rentcharge apply.
A much wider flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting more than 17,000 homes, yet the Sovereign Harbour Trust, owned by The Wellcome Trust makes only 3,104 Sovereign Harbour residents and their successors pay it, to the Environment Agency, not businesses including managing agents and property developers. Estate agents and chartered surveyors also fail to say that not only have the Eastbourne Member of Parliament and Eastbourne Borough and East Sussex County councillors refused to help right this wrong applicable uniquely and solely to Sovereign Harbour residents, but also that an Eastbourne Borough Councillor who constituents include all the residents of Sovereign Harbour is a Director and Trustee of the private-sector trust and its subsidiary company both of which levy and apply the Annual Estate Rentcharge. A second unique covenant requires owners/leaseholders of 369 South Harbour properties in the water feature precinct to pay a further annual charge of £328 in 2019. It is the only such water feature in the world that applies such a charge to properties overlooking it.
Why are garages underneath multi-story residential buildings of flats - occupied by only some of their tenants - required to be subsidized by all tenants but when such buildings have lifts, only their tenants have to pay an additional annual maintenance charge? If lifts are not regarded as common-to-all property, why are their garages?
The inequity caused by the lack of appropriate laws that presently allow owners of specific apartment buildings to tell certain individuals who lease apartments or flats that they can let their premises out on short term daily or weekly or monthly rentals, but at the same time to tell others in the same building, and even to include this in their lease, that short-term renting is not allowed. Landlords ought to be required by law to impose the same leasehold restrictions in every lease of every apartment in the same building.
Members of Parliament of all political parties have ruined what could have been a decent on-time Brexit
When the referendum was held in 2016 it was the (slim) majority wish of the British voting public that Britain should leave the European Union.
But none of the political parties in Parliament ever resolved to work together to come up with a deal. From the start they should have been required to co-operate as a cross-party entity to craft a deal, Instead, only the party in power - the Conservatives - came up with a (very faulty) deal, amid bitter and chronic internal division. It was presented to and accepted by the EU, before being debated by Parliament and rejected by a huge majority.
All MPs of all political parties must share the blame equally for the bizarre situation facing us now. By their bickering and sickening political party posturing instead of working in the collective nation-wide (not just local) interests of constituents they have made a laughing stock of our democratic process. They have become blatantly adversarial. All they have done is to vote their own selfish political party wishes. In the debacle, the attitudes of many of us have hardened. Some of us who were Remainers have been so shocked by the inflexible attitude of the EU that we are now Leavers.
The EU should have been solely a trade entity. But when it became such a hugely political organization that it affected the currency, laws, immigration policies and more of every EU nation, it became intolerable to some. When then-Prime Minister David Cameron visited the EU in 2015 in an attempt to persuade the EU to give the UK a better deal, the EU ignored him, foolishly. It led to the referendum taking place in 2016. If any of the political parties concerned believe that the mess it helped to create with its constant negative carping and sniping over the last two years will lead to its victory or gains at the next general election, it better think again. Its actions have turned people off.
They are fed up with them all for not having had the collective political will to act as decent parliamentarians to help the public come up with a deal. Without one, pensioners and others face potentially significant rises in their cost of living and more. It's no surprise that so many voters from all political parties feel that their voices arenít being heard, that the issues that affect their lives arenít being addressed.
Mis-use by cyclists of Sovereign Harbour walkways as cycle paths
Throughout Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, nuisance cyclists, many not living in the harbour area but in nearby caravan parks, interfere daily with the safe passage of resident walking pedestrians.Many are elderly and with limited mobility or disabled or have hearing problems. Cyclists believe wrongly they have an unrestricted right to cycle on both the narrow North Harbour beachfront pedestrian-only path (not a cycle path), which is not wide enough to let four people pass without giving way) and the wider inner harbour walkways. They also believe, again incorrect, they have the right of way and ring their bells to get walkers out of their way.
Some cyclists even believe they have a right to ride two abreast. They deliberately avoid the less scenic but purpose-built cycle track shared pavement running the entire length of Atlantic and Pacific Avenues. Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex Council, both with jurisdiction in this matter, have not acted to stop this abuse. Nor will the neighborhood panel, or the police, act. They must take action to stop this before elderly or disabled or deaf walkers get hurt by a cyclist.
More calls for introduction of a Pets Charter
Sovereign Harbour is a classic example of an animal wrong that needs to be righted. Most Sovereign Harbour residential buildings are apartments or flats and most of their landowners state in their leaseholds that tenants cannot have animals. But some do anyway, when family members or other guests bring dogs which sometimes wet the carpet of lifts. Yet while tenants are so restricted, the general public who use Sovereign Harbour pathways and walkways with their dogs are not similarly regulated in any way. They come in droves, with no objections from councils or landlords to their use of any Sovereign Harbour route. Why does this tenancy unfairness by landlords exist? Called for - and not by one political party but by those who support other political entities too - is a pledge to give leasehold tenants in both public and private buildings a default right to keep pets in the leased or rented properties. People want and expect cross-party support to create or strengthen the rights of tenants to keep most smaller types of pets (cats, dogs, birds, etc). Many pensioners have - contrary to their landlord's leasehold requirements - cats or dogs, or fish in tanks or birds in cages as their only full-time companions. But there must also be a proviso that all concerned who want such a Pets Charter - including pensioners and those who are disabled in out of wheelchairs - are physically able to clean up their pets messes, both indoors and outdoors; and will put their dogs on leashes when required by local ordnances.
NHS Long Term Plan
But problems remain that need to be fixed.
We who live in Sovereign Harbour are fortunate to have a National Health Service (NHS) NHS Harbour Medical Practice that is excellent in many ways, offering appointments when needed. The NHS is a terrific organization (as well as being the largest single employer in the Eastbourne area as well as in the nation). The good news from the NHS is that from 2019 on it has announced a new Long Term plan with more staff to serve in communities. The bad news is that it seems to be so wasteful in one particular area, in costs of medicines. Instead of the NHS ordering medicines in bulk for the entire NHS, with individual NHS Trusts collecting the medicines, the latter do their own ordering, with no economies of scale resulting from one central body doing all the ordering. Also, given the size and scope of the NHS and its hundreds of thousands of employees, surely there has long been a need for a specific NHS University to train doctors, nurses and other NHS staff? And on graduating from it, newly qualified doctors and nurses should agree to serve the NHS for a specified contract time. an appropriate period of time.
Why is the NHS more costly than it should be? Is it not about time that all doctors, consultants, nurses and other healthcare professionals who work at NHS hospitals and GP Practices become NHS employees, instead of doctors at GP practices being self-employed? Once, patients at any NHS practice could count on one doctor attending to their needs for some appreciable time. Nowadays, in many practices, patients have to see different doctors each time. Also, despite the fact that so many thousands of patients, including pensioners, need to use the life-changing thyroid drug liothyronine, many are now denied it because it is deemed too expensive, after one of the pharmaceutical companies supplying it recently jacked up the price from 16p a tablet to the present NHS cost of £8.55 a tablet. Other competing companies offer prices only slightly lower.
The Competition and Markets Authority - see https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/competition-and-markets-authority - needs to investigate this outrageous increase in price of 5,663%. Its website indicates it has not done so yet. We expect the NHS, which does so much good for so many people, to be able to get advantageous and competitive prices from manufacturers. We expect our government and its agencies, including the Competition and Markets Authority, to act in the interests of consumers and our NHS.
Why are NHS hospital car parks, which are not run by the NHS but by private car park companies, being allowed to substantially increase their car park charges, with only a small portion of the proceeds going to the NHS? It's a rip-off! Most of those private car park companies are seriously negligent, with their staff never seen to be on duty. Because they do not turn up they fail to ticket and book those who misuse Disabled Parking Spaces. These private third party parking companies, a waste of money, deprive the NHS of much-needed funds by not reporting car park misuses. Our local councils must surely realize that by not requiring proper and efficient regulatory control over all hospital car parks within their jurisdiction and letting miscreants off with no penalty they are depriving themselves too of much-needed income.
Another problem, with no answers available yet, particularly affects those who want to travel to Europe. What will happen to their NHS-provided European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) after 31 October 2019 when the UK finally exits the EU. The EHIC has been a huge relief to many travelers to Europe. They have been able to get the same level of free basic healthcare and hospitalization in the EU that the NHS in the UK provides.
Not mentioned to date in many doctors' offices is the fact that pharmacists can be hugely useful. It needs to be made better known that pharmacists can the first persons to contact for minor health problems where patients do not need to see a doctor. The NHS has also declared in 2019 that pharmacists can give heart tests.
Many medicines were long ago classified as P medicines, not needing a prescription. Some common other complaints where a pharmacist might help are aches and pains, headache, migraine, period and teething pains, allergies and stings, colds and flu, ear care, stomach ache, skin and mouth problems, hay fever and more. Be aware though that by going to a pharmacist instead of to a doctor or being referred by a doctor to a hospital can be more expensive.
National Trust's Essential Companion cards
This nice gesture from the National Trust is warmly welcomed. It enables any single necessary companion or carer of the card holder - who does not have to be a member of the National Trust and is often a pensioner with a recognized disability - to enter free of charge at any National Trust property in England or National Trust for Scotland. Normal membership or admission fee applies to the cardholder. This card is for the cardholder's use only, is not transferable, valid for one year at a time and must be presented by the cardholder at the time of admission to each NHS property.
Social Care unfairness of Councils
The current social care system used by local authorities throughout the UK cheats residents, unlike the methodology long-used in the European Community. Further (6th) delay for Social Care Green Paper was originally pledged in 2017.
There, National Health Service and Local Authority equivalents were long ago integrated and treat all citizens fairly and equally. In bleak contrast, here in the UK those with total assets including their homes not exceeding £23,500 are given NO local authority funding or support while others can get up to 100% local authority funding. Scandinavian and other European countries are appalled by this callousness towards the elderly here in the UK. A new type of social care system Ė a combination of National Health and Social Care Service Ė integrated with the NHS and funded through general taxation, is called for, urgently.
What we really need now here in the UK is a tax-funded National Care Service that can cater to all with care needs, not just the people below the minimum total assets threshold described earlier, along the lines of what has happened beyond England. The current system of social care funding is grossly unfair and needs revision as a matter of urgency.A few years ago, the Scottish Government introduced it throughout Scotland and while not perfect, it is working. The rest of the UK should, too. See http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Policy/Health-Social-Care-Integration and http://isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Health-and-Social-Community-Care/Health-and-Social-Care-Integration/ and https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/integrated-care-northern-ireland-scotland-and-wales. See What it Means in Scotland, at http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2013/05/16/what-integration-with-health-means-for-scotlands-social-workers/ and our own summary about this at www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/Integratedservices.htm.
Sovereign Harbour's outrageous £290 in 2019 Annual Estate RentCharge
So say numerous estate agents. It applies nowhere else in the UK, Europe or the world, yet our Lib Dem MP and Conservative councillors will not help to get it revoked
Pensioners who seek to move to Sovereign Harbour and at the same time need or want to downsize not just in terms of size of a house or flat but also in recurring annual or monthly expenses such as council tax and other overheads, should beware of the unique annual Estate Rent Charge applicable in Sovereign Harbour, East Sussex. Why? Because, as shown in the website above, a number of law offices of repute warn you to beware of investing in a place with so many covenants and other restrictions.
In Sovereign Harbour alone, nowhere else in the UK or Europe or the world, all freehold and leased homes or flats, whether whether worth £180,000 or £800,000, will cost you and those who later buy your property a covenanted Estate Rent Charge of £270 in 2018, increasable annually by the rate of inflation. Plus, Council Tax, even for a modest 2-bedroom flat, will also be much higher than equivalently-priced properties elsewhere in Eastbourne or beyond.
What makes it so additionally unfair is that only the 3,104 Sovereign Harbour residents concerned pay this flood charge, not the 14.000 residents also in the same flood area east of the harbour. And, if you plan on living in a certain part of Sovereign Harbour South, you will have to pay a further covenanted annual Water Feature charge of a type that exists nowhere else. And although all developments are private including the pathways and walkways, the public are free to roam anywhere, with their dogs and cycles, completely without charge, with only the residents having to pay.
Only when this Annual Estate Rentcharge is revoked will Sovereign Harbour be a much less expensive place in which to live. Until then, pensioners need to know that Sovereign Harbour requires you to pay appreciably more in overheads not found anywhere else in the UK. Even when other the few other places have an Estate Rent Charge, it is only nominal, £10 or so a year, not Sovereign Harbour's outrageous £270 a year.
Our present Member of Parliament has not acted to help right this wrong, has not called for repeal of applicable legislation and covenants that exist nowhere else. The local community group which says it represents residents has never tried to take this case to Members of the European Parliament and beyond. Some residents are now making a formal complaint to European, North American and other authorities. Some also want the injustice and world uniqueness of the Estate Rent Charge to be brought to the attention of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, international press organizations and more.
A formal complaint about the injustice and unfairness of the Annual Estate Rentcharge was also made in September/October 2018 to the Government's Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, House of Commons, London SW1A GAA. Email email@example.com. Its members are Edward Beale, Clerk, email firstname.lastname@example.org; Jenny Burch, Second Clerk, email burchj@parliament; Tamsin Maddock, Committee Specialist, at email@example.com; Nick Taylor, Committee Specialist, email firstname.lastname@example.org; Tony Catinella, Senior Committee Assistant, email email@example.com and Eldon Gallagher, Committee Support Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org, It is incredible that with so many other things being legally amended or eliminated or eradicated in the interests of justice, there has been no change in this long-outstanding matter.
Travel Insurance for elderly with medical conditions is outrageously priced
More than 15 million people so affected are unfairly treated by travel insurers. Those issued by Santander and its travel insurer Chubb were singled out in a The Times newspaper report of 6 October 2018, page 65. The Financial Conduct Authority, the industry regulator, has noted how those with medical conditions face a lack of transparency around policies and have great difficulty finding competitively-priced insurance. In future comments, we will show what options could and should be available to those who may need them, as well as those not always needed, such as repatriation home in the event of death.
Only in the UK do citizens and residents have such a hard and expensive time in getting travel insurance at an affordable price. Why! Canadian, American, Europeans, etc. can get travel insurance inexpensively.
Winter Fuel Allowance (WFA) not increased since 2012
A universal age-related benefit not means-tested. It once enabled UK-resident pensioners to recoup about a third of the cost of their heating and lighting costs. Now it is less than one sixth.
Yet in comparison, local government council taxes, Members of Parliament salaries, fuel costs and overall costs-of-living, to quote just three examples, have risen by at least 5% a year since 2012. The injustice of this by the government should not continue to be overlooked. Fuel poverty affects over 40% of all pensioners. True, there are some who can afford to give the WFA to the NHS as Dame Esther Rantzen has suggested. But most pensioners of moderate means or lower cannot. It is worrying that this matter seems to have completely either escaped the attention of, or is deliberately not being addressed by, local, regional and national senior associations and groups concerned about conditions affecting the elderly.
Keith also writes
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© 2019. Revised: October 15, 2019