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Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour is not for the elderly seeking to downsize

Moving here will mean paying expensive Annual Estate Rentcharges found nowhere else world-wide

Sovereign Harbour Annual Estate Rentcharge Disability Association E-mails Forbes Clan
Pensioners Concerns Property Guidelines Council Tax Wrongs EBC Councillors General John Forbes

By Keith A. Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk. 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. 

Pensioners concernsNot on any Eastbourne Borough Council or East Sussex County Council or most estate agents or chartered surveyors websites is it revealed that 3,119 residential freeholders and leaseholders of Sovereign Harbour property must pay a unique Annual Estate Rentcharge of £263.55 per residential unit for 2020 in addition to council taxes, property insurance, management fees and ground rents. Nor is it stated that in no other flood area or harbour or marina area or private estate anywhere else in Britain, the UK, Europe or the world is this Annual Estate Tax similarly payable. Part of it is for Environment Agency-provided flood defence. A much wider flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting more than 15,500 homes from Eastbourne to Bexhill on Sea, 8 miles east. But the Sovereign Harbour Trust and Premier Marinas, both owned by The Wellcome Trust, make only landowning or leasing Sovereign Harbour residents and their successors pay it, not neighboring communities equally affected, or businesses including managing agents and property developers. This makes Sovereign Harbour the only place in the UK, Britain and the world with both such a unique and unfair combined resident-subsidized harbour charge and Environment Agency-levied surcharge. A second unique covenant  requires owners/leaseholders of 369 South Harbour properties in the water feature precinct to pay a further annual charge of of more than £328. It is the only such water feature in the world that applies such a charge to properties adjacent to or overlooking it. Notice about this second covenant is also withheld by most estate agents from prospective buyers of relevant Sovereign Harbour South properties.

Accessibility/affordability of trains

Poor by international standards.  

trainOur trains are the most expensive in the world. For the 10th year in a row fares increased from 1 January 2020 at a higher rate than salaries and wages. Government claims that hugely higher costs are justified because of massive public and private-sector investment that will result in brand-new  and more railway cars, better service and more frequent trains. The UK's Network Rail, the state-owned entity that owns all the tracks of the nation's rail network, which is accountable to Minister of Transport Grant Shapps MP, appears paralyzed with incompetence. 

All we have seen so far, for years, are delayed or cancelled trains, timetable changes that have gone horribly wrong and caused huge delays. Buses have replaced trains far too often. Changes to remove guards from trains who help the elderly and disabled have led to strikes galore. No such constant chaos has occured on any European railway. There, train costs are considerably less. Our system is so expensive because travelers not government bear the burden. No other government has such an abhorrent policy for train users. We have been told of the likely £105 billion cost of finishing the newly-approved north to south high-speed (HS2) project. (HS1 was the very successful cross-channel achievement). We hear about horribly crowded trains between Manchester and Leeds  and problems galore on the other regional rail services. The collapse of Northern Rail emphasized that the structure of the railway industry, with ownership and management of the trains and rolling stock split from that of the track, stations and signaling systems, is simply wrong. Minister of Transport Grant Shapps needs to return to what had once worked so well until the post-war Labour government nationalised the industry   

But, disturbingly, what we have not been told about, despite all the clamor from so many different sources for a modern, world-class train service, is the introduction at long last, of double-decker or bi-level trains trains now so common in most of the European Union, Canada, USA and dozens of other countries. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilevel_rail_car. The horrendous cost of HS2 still focuses on an out-of-date single-decker train system. That money must be spent on modernizing every single aspect of the UK's train system. 

It claims to be the safest in the world but that is no excuse for its cost and old-fashioned railway tracks and carriages of yesteryear.  We need such compatibility instead of continuing chronic inferiority. We need a total upgrading of our rail system to make it possible to use double-decker carriages, including a total revamp of tracks, signaling and safety requirements. Britain began the world’s railways but instead of continuing the initiative and remaining first it became last by default. Britain now has the slowest yet most costly and least efficient railway system in the world. Britain’s railway commuters have paid the cost owing mostly to British Government ineptitude and inertia and will continue to do so until a drastic wholesale change of attitude and policy occur.

The use of double-decker (otherwise known as bi-level) carriages resolves capacity problems on a railway, avoiding other options which have an associated infrastructure cost such as longer trains (which require longer station platforms), more trains per hour (or adding extra tracks besides the existing line).

Dutch bi level train

Dutch bi-level train. Other models,  currently used abroad include Bombardier Multi-Level Coaches

Bi-level trains are claimed to be more energy efficient, and have a lower operating cost per passenger. A bi-level car may carry up to twice as many as a normal car, with double the amount of seating, without requiring double the weight to pull or material to build. Bi-level trains may take longer to exchange passengers at each station, since more people will enter and exit from each car but this should not be a problem here in the UK, just as it is not elsewhere. The increased dwell time at each station they serve makes bi-level trains most popular both on long-distance routes which make fewer stops (and may be popular with passengers for offering a better view) and for east-to-west services like the proposed HS3 route such as Leeds to Manchester and return. Presently, this particular service with its overcrowded conditions offer nothing but misery. It is based on a Victorian system designed originally for less than half the passengers it carries now/

Bi-level cars may not be usable in countries or on older railway systems, such as we have in the UK, with low loading gauges. But at least one British company has developed a plan for double-decker trains that will fit current systems. See  https://railway-news.com/aeroliner3000-fully-compatible-double-decker-train-great-britain/. But will our government agree to this development? See https://www.railway-technology.com/features/seeing-double-uk-ready-embrace-double-decker-trains/.

Passengers with Disabled Railcards are particularly affected by the presently appalling standards affecting them.. Beyond the UK it is a legal requirement for seniors and disabled to be assisted when getting on and off trains. Here in the UK the disabled, elderly and frail do not have the same legislated and properly enforced protections. 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. 

It infuriates the disabled and elderly when those not qualified to sit in seats clearly marked for the elderly or disabled or heavily pregnant women cannot sit there because passengers who are young, fit and able ignore the signs and occupy those seats. All the above matters are now receiving international attention. 

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Action on fraud must be real, not just words and inaction

Every day now we hear news reports on people, especially the disabled and/or elderly, frail, living alone, lonely, vulnerable, widows and widowers who have been conned by online, offline, postal and TV advertising fraudsters. Collectively, they have lost millions of their personal savings and many have also suffered horrific permanent depression and stress. We are urged to report these actual or attempted frauds to organisations such as Action on Fraud and, when they occur online, to our Internet Service Providers BT or Plus Net or Sky or TalkTalk, etc. 

They promise to help but what they do is nothing concrete. This author has complained nine times about it to BT, has asked for action but on each occasion has received the same standard silly answer. Those in corporate and public authority should be required to practice what they preach, work with our borough and County Councillors and Members of Parliament, Police, etc. nationally to get really tough on fraudsters. They must be hunted down and convicted. 

Prison times for fraudsters, presently so inadequate, should be tripled

They should be required to pay their victims full restitution plus a 50 percent penalty as their first priority and if they cannot do so within three months of their conviction in any other way their homes should be sold by their local authorities and their prison times extended until they have done so, as due punishment for ruining the lives of their innocent victims.

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BBC's stoppage of Free TV for all over 75s is blatantly unfair

Latest: The government announced in March 2020 that because of the coronavirus and lock-downs of pensioners over 75 years old, free TV will continue for a further two months, not end in June 2020In June 2019 The BBC announced an end free-to-all-over 75s’ 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 should able to charge for its and all other non-BBC broadcasting in line with inflation. 

If all households which 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.

By late 2019 protests to Parliament numbered over 660,000. But how can Parliament be trusted to act in support of the protestors when all Members of Parliament irrespective of their political stripes collectively voted in favour of handing responsibility of the benefit over to the BBC?

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, the 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, The BBC, which once reigned supreme as the best of all radio and television anywhere in the world, has deteriorated hugely. It has now become a largely irrelevant views, not news, service, overtaken by Netflix social media etc. yet the latter are deemed illegal to use at home if viewers do not have a TV licence,

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, CEO for BBC Studios, and formerly CEO, BBC Worldwide, has been quoted as saying: "The results reflect strong delivery against our strategy; investing in premium British IP and an increased focus on customer management have led to another record year for content sales, while our productions, formats and branded services continue to extend their global footprint and find wider audiences." 

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 (now announced); 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 latter 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 unsuccessfully 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, who achieved an 80-seat majority in the UK's General Election on 12 December 2019, has so far declined to say whether he will act to help the over 75s in this matter. 

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. In fact, no politician at any level national or regional or local will get 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 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 is 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. 

Every year the BBC alone - because the other TV channels cannot afford it because unlike the BBC they do not receive a penny of the TV Licence - mounts the glittering Strictly Come Dancing extravaganza with its millions of £ in expenses in performers, costumes and judges. 

It also hosts the annual Children in Need show with similar extravagance. Only because with the annual TV Licence they can afford it. 

No other country that also has a TV Licence takes such outrageous advantage of the latter by staging such shows.

Here's a list of the biggest earners at the BBC in 2019:

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 2019. So his figure reflects just nine months of work on the Radio 2 breakfast show.

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 performances, 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. 

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. Justin Webb, Martha Kearney, Simon Mayo.

£240,000 - £244,999. Sarah Montague, Jon Sopel.

£235,000 to £239,999. Sara Cox.

£230,000 - £234,999. Mark Chapman.

£225,000 - £229,999. Greg James

£215,000 - £219,999. Jeremy Bowen. Victoria Derbyshire.

£210,000 - £214,999. Jermaine Jenas. Amol Rajan.

£205,000 - £209,999. Louise Minchin. Katya Adler. Ian Wright

£200,000 - £204,999. Clive Myrie.

£195,000 - £199,999. Fergal Keane. Mary Berry. Sue Barker.

£190,000 - £194,999. Naga Munchetty. Charlie Stayt. John McEnroe.

£185,000 - £189,999. Tina Daheley.

£180,000 - £184,999. Annie Mac. Adrian Chiles. Mark Easton.

£175,000 - £179,999. Nihal Arthanayake. Clare Balding.

£170,000 - £174,999. Reeta Chakrabarti. Simon Jack. Rachel Burden. James Naughtie. Jonathan Agnew.

£165,000 - £169,999. Ben Brown. Trevor Nelson.

£160,000 - £164,999. Orla Guerin. John Pienaar. Sarah Smith. Shaun Keaveny. 

£155,000 to £159,999. Jane Hill. Mark Radcliffe. Eddie Mair.

£150,000 to £154,999. Joanna Gosling. Clara Amfo. Dotun Adebayo.

Only because we have the annual TV tax on all households, can the BBC afford to pay its management and employees these totally unrealistic salaries. It is a massive inequity for the BBC alone now to also be the regulatory agency concerned. This would be legally challenged in any of the democratic jurisdictions, but not here in the UK. 

It is really disappointing to all of us pensioners who are not being protected by our Members of Parliament, instead penalized, that while the American Association of Retired People (AARP) in the USA is so militant in protecting the interests of its retirees that all US legislators of all political stripes in all states are always so careful not to offend AARP members, our British MPs have, in sad comparison, shown their complete contempt for Britain’s seniors by refusing to act to stop the TV Licence from being free to the over 75s. Consequently, we collectively now want the NHS to stay in British hands but the BBC to be traded to the USA where Public Broadcasting Service TV has never been licensed, has always been free. And for a British equivalent of the AARP to emerge, to be, at last, a truly effective organization to protect the rights of seniors.

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Bus campaign continues for disabled and pensioners

This sign on the buses is constantly ignored by younger people

Many bus routes are being cut or eliminated instead of extended

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 and disheartening upward creep of council taxes. See the website at www.bettertransport.org.uk. Our own Sovereign Harbour North to Eastbourne town centre bus service is a case in point. It is hourly only, ends in the evening and pensioners who have free concessionary bus passes are unable to start using them until 10.06 am because of the times of this bus service. Yet, ironically, businesses are being encouraged by a new economic development plan to locate to Sovereign Harbour. Also of concern is how the Priority Seating signs, as shown above, are constantly being ignored by younger riders. In the meantime, because of the coronavirus and its effect on the elderly and disabled, their concessionary bus passes, at least for the time being, can no be used at any time of the day, not just after 9:30 am.

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Cabinet unfairness in Covid 19 lockdown exceptions and exemptions

Our Prime Minister is allowed to go from his flat Downing Street, London to the Prime Minister's country residence at Chequers, 40 miles away, to recover from the pandemic. His close advisor goes hundreds of miles away yet defended by the Prime Minister. The rest of us must follow the lockdown rules and are fined if we do not.  The PM's refusal to sack his advisor has made a huge impact  and if not corrected soonest will result in him losing all the increased support he got in the last General Election at the next General Election. Meanwhile, the privileged Royal Family have gone to Scotland. 

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Carers Allowance pittance

Lowest in the entire EU and beyond by far, a disgrace at only £66.15 a week for full-time registered carers including wives or husbands who work 24 hours a day, far more than the national average. It is the main benefit for people providing unpaid care for spouses, families or friends. It is lower than the £8.70 more paid in Scotland, especially when the latter's Carer Supplement - not applicable in the rest of the UK - kicks in, of an additional £226.20 every six months from the year 2021.

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Climate Change Facts, Fiction, effect on Pensioners and Realism

Is the Earth's climate in the process of changing? Yes it is. It has always been in the process of change. Is human activity having a significant effect on the climate of Earth? No, it is not. The forces that cause continuing change to the climate are MAGNITUDES greater than anything that Humanity's feeble activity can produce. Those forces are NOT limited to volcanic activity, though that is a major factor. They also include Solar activity, cyclical change of the Earth's axial tilt, variations in the planet's orbit, precession, plate tectonic activity, changes in the albedo (reflectivity) of the Earth's surface, and continental drift. Each and every one of these forces are far beyond Humanity's power to change, or even minimally affect. 

For example: are we able to stop even a single small volcano erupting? Of course not. Nor do we have the ability to even slightly alter or prevent any of the aforementioned forces from doing what they do, and have always done. Producing, over the preceding eons, changes in the planet's geophysical condition that were both MUCH hotter and MUCH colder than what we experience today. And those massive climatic changes occurred long before humanity made it's appearance on the global scene.

Natural factors beyond our control: 

  • The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth's atmosphere in just four days by a volcano in Iceland a few years ago totally erased every single effort made to reduce carbon. Around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spew out ashes and carbon every day.
  • When the volcano Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991 and was active for over a year, and another in that country has spewed out in January 2020, they belched out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth.
  • When the volcano erupted on White Island, New Zealand in late 2019 it spewed out ashes and carbon galore.
  • Wildfires that have constantly raged across California and Australia, especially in 2019 and created sustained havoc in Australia in 2020, the worst that country has ever seen, have completely negated efforts to reduce carbon in the world for the next three to five years.
  • Natural solar and cosmic activity, and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle keeps happening despite our insignificant efforts to affect climate change.

It is distressing and misleading fiction to say we are doing nothing, as some prominent unrealistic and selfish Climate Change activists both young and old have been claiming, falsely. The measures being taken below have and will be costing us all, hugely.

  • Airlines are doing much to offset carbon dioxide emissions from jet fuel for  domestic and international flights. Some will be soon be using sustainable aviation fuel on flights. As climate change concerns grow, the aviation industry has committed to improving fuel efficiency and reducing its CO2 emissions to 50 per cent of 2005 levels by 2050.
  •  We drive a rapidly increasing number of electric or hybrid cars from a variety of companies. Even the most modern diesel-powered cars, once touted as beneficial, are now losing value hugely. 
  • More and more public transport vehicles are switching from diesel  to electric.
  • We have replaced all our once-cheap light bulbs with those ten times more expensive. 
  • Government and local authorities have imposed a whopping carbon tax on all of us, citing the bogus 'human-caused' climate-change scenario. We pay government a significant, over 20%, environmental tax in our energy bills.
  • We pay a significant annual government Emissions tax to license our cars.
  • We pay government a 60% environmental tax to fill our cars with diesel and petrol.
  • We pay another enormous environmental cost, the highest in the world per country, as short-haul and long-haul Air Passenger Duty,
  • Councils, such as those here in East Sussex. have prepared Climate Change environmental facilities. We will all have to pay even more for these in our 2020 and subsequent Council, income and environmental taxes. In Eastbourne alone, The launch of Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 has been hailed a huge success by Eastbourne Borough Council. Unlike the government and other councils that have less ambitious targets for carbon reduction, Eastbourne Borough Council is determined to make the town carbon neutral by 2030. On 18 January,2020 a host of speakers and exhibitors provided visitors with top tips and advice for reducing their carbon footprint and playing a role in tackling the climate emergency.

Climate Change activists also want airline travel stopped, fossil fuels ended, gasworks removed (more than 80% of our homes have gas for heating and cooking), etc; cattle and beef stocks hugely reduced on farms, despite the likely knock-on effect on milk and meat prices because of the nitrogen they emit. But none have mentioned that humans are the worst offenders, human procreation should be limited or licensed, homes should be heated by re-cycled human waste. Surely, they too should be investigated? 

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Coronavirus lessons to be learnt

Now affecting pensioners in previously unheard-of ways.

When shopping for foodstuffs and other essentials Pensioners have incurred acute shortages of toilet paper, flour, fresh fruit, tinned goods and more because of panic buying. All over 70s and others with underlying health conditions have been required to self-isolate since April 2020. 

They, including the frail, vulnerable and mobility-impaired who have not been able to rely on friends and//or family to queue and wait for them, have queued for over an hour outside both pharmacies and supermarkets, in cold or rainy weather too in March 2020, to buy essentials. Pensioners cannot bake when essentials like flour and baking powder are not available. Supermarket home delivery time slots have been difficult or impossible to get. Some supermarkets, to their credit, reserve special times for the vulnerable and NHS staff but no government agency or supermarkets check a person's ID because no-one is required to carry a standard ID card showing age, health condition, infirmity and/or occupation. It is never been a government requirement but is sorely needed now, especially as ID for pensioners and those with long-term conditions

When the emergency is over, the government must plan ahead in major new ways. Personal protection equipment for hospital staff and GP surgeries must be made in this country, not imported from afar. Care homes must have them too and come under regulatory authority like the NHS.

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Council Tax increases/injustices

newspapersFor more details see our Council Tax Wrongs. Council Taxes, for the sixth year running, have increased by an average of 4 percent, to the huge disgust of consumers. 

Council taxes, say leading newspapers, are Britain's most hated taxes for their nation-wide unfairness. As one example, the Daily Telegraph published a comprehensive report in June 2016.

The UK's present system of council taxes is manifestly unjust. Today, disabled seniors living in small leased 2 bedroom leasehold flats in Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne and elsewhere, worth less than £260,000 but at Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council Tax Band E pay much more - nearly double - in Council Tax than owners of freehold, multi-bedroom, million-pound properties in Band H in central London. 

It is outrageous that the £220 million private house in Knightsbridge, London, recently acquired by a Chinese Hong Kong-based firm and the even larger 775-room Buckingham Palace in London, worth about £980 million with its outbuildings and massive gardens - and other multi-million pound properties in the most affluent areas of London, pay hugely less in Council Tax. Massive inequities since 1991 have been ignored by British Members of Parliament of all political parties. In 27 years they have not acted to change the system with its unfair practices. Other countries are required by law to re-assess their property taxes every 3-5 years. 

There should not be a Mansion tax with only one additional Council Tax band. The present Council Tax banding system of A-H should run from A to Z.

There has to be a council (property) tax on every property. But it has to be balanced, fair, equitable, logical and consistent. It began and was intended to remain as a reliable indicator of not what views it had or any other irrelevance but simply the fair market value of a property whether a house or flat or cottage or bungalow. It should have included but did not, the land on which it sits and any outbuildings or garages there are. 

The present system is horribly discriminatory to owners of bungalows compared to two-storey houses and people who rent or lease flats and have no land or outbuildings at all. Instead of it being a property tax for the entire property big or small it became an occupancy tax of two occupants. 

What we should have is an actual or accurately assessed market price, with a legislative methodology to ensure the entire valuation system is reviewed regularly at least every five years as other countries require. The process should ensure that every property bought and or sold routinely shows both its market price and its council or property tax on property particulars. 

This will 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. 

Examples. (a) 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, pays a higher tax, in Council Tax Band E.

Sadly, in the December 2019 UK-wide General Election, not a single political party put Council Tax reform on its manifesto.

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Disability laws v. Europe, Canada, USA, etc.

Disability seating

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 use EU-wide Disability laws to replace and give some legal teeth to very inferior UK disability provisions.

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Energy Costs sky-high compared to elsewhere

household gas 

We still have to search yearly 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. 

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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 propertyandtrust@lawcommission.gov.uk. 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 by the Leasehold Commission and Law Commission and the Leasehold Commission says Annual Estate Rentcharges are no longer part of its remit.

Here are some of the worst issues the authorities above have deliberately ignored to date: 

Why is it that Estate Agents and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors are ignoring the laws in effect since 2009 that require them to disclose all relevant facts about properties they market for sale or rent, or advise on in terms of value, to freehold and leasehold buyers? They can no longer escape their responsibilities in this regard, because the waiver that once applied no longer applies. They should be revealing the precise terms of the Annual Estate Rentcharge. 

They should not be misleading their clients by referring to Annual Estate Rentcharges as "harbour charges" implying they are equivalent to regular harbour charges imposed by other harbours and marinas. 

Presently, not on most estate agents or Eastbourne Borough Council or East Sussex County Council or RICS 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 of £263.55 a year in 2020 in addition to council taxes, property insurance, management fees and ground rents.  

Because of their failure to disclose the full facts 99% of newcomers who buy or lease Sovereign Harbour homes who are not from this area do not find out about this liability until they have completed their relocation or are about to do so, having sold their earlier properties and made their moves, some involving quite a considerable distance. Only when they sign their leases do they find out. 

This is concealed from them by estate agents; omitted by RICS members who are supposed to be on the lookout for irregularities or oddities;  and not picked up by their solicitors, especially when the latter are in another part of the country. 

Local councillors are just as much at fault, for not requiring that estate agents marketing Sovereign Harbour properties specify they are subject to the Annual Estate Rentcharge.

Nowhere do any estate agents state, as they should, that in respect of the Annual Estate Rentcharge a much wider flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting  likely as many as 17,000 properties beyond Sovereign Harbour, including all those in Pevensey, Pevensey Bay Bexhill-on-Sea nine miles to the east, all living in the same flood zone, do not pay a penny for the flood control measures they get.  

Only those 3,119 Sovereign Harbour residents and their successors must pay the charge levied by the multi-billion £ conglomerate The Wellcome Trust, its Premier Marinas, Sovereign Harbour Trust and other subsidiaries.

Nor is it said, as it should be, by the entities above, estate agents and local authorities that residents alone pay, exempted are all businesses including landlord owners of all properties including managing agents and property developers.

The Eastbourne Member of Parliament and Eastbourne Borough and East Sussex County councillors have always stated they want to help their constituents but have repeatedly refused to help right this wrong by, for example asking our MP and others to get the relevant Act and its covenants repealed. In this respect there are two Eastbourne's, not one. 

One is fair but the Sovereign Harbour Part is not. It is subject to costs and restrictions that do not apply anywhere else both in Eastbourne and the rest off the UK.

In fact, one local authority councillor is a Director and Trustee of the private Sovereign Harbour Trust and its subsidiary company both of which levy the Annual Estate Rentcharge on behalf of The Wellcome Trust and Premier Marinas. 

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 2020. It is the only such water feature in the world that applies such a charge to properties overlooking it.

Why are some buildings that could and should be sold as freehold being sold as leasehold? The relatively few so-called "freehold" homes in Sovereign Harbour are not freehold in fee simple. They too must pay the Annual Estate Rentcharge and a management fee. 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.

 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.

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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.

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More calls for introduction of a Pets Charter 

Pets in leasehold homes

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.

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New Members of Parliament from 12 December 2019 and why

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. 

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. Unfortunately for them on 12th December 2019 the political parties concerned that helped to create with their constant negative carping and sniping over the last two years lost hugely from the UK's General Election on that date. 

Their actions really turned people off. None of the UK's 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. MPs of all political parties, with their bickering and sickening political party posturing instead of working in the collective nation-wide interest made a laughing stock of our democratic process. 

They became blatantly adversarial. In the debacle, the attitudes of many of us hardened. Some of us who were Remainers were so shocked by the inflexible attitude of the EU that we became Leavers. Fed up with the three-year process, people voted the way they did on 12 December 2019 to end it. 

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NHS: how it affects pensioners

See https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/online-version/ 

We who live in Sovereign Harbour are fortunate to have a National Health Service (NHS) Harbour Medical Practice that is excellent in many ways, easy to get to, less than a mile away from where we live and with fabulous doctors and staff. 

It is just such a shame that despite the continued fine efforts of this constantly busy practice serving approximately 7,500 patients to arrange periodic special days to devote to specific health problems and with help from its small but active volunteer Patient Participation Group, so few of its many patients usually bother turn up on those days to listen, learn and benefit. 

In so many ways the NHS is a terrific organization (and the largest single employer both in Eastbourne area and the UK). But as reported by the BBC in https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51032691 we could now face massive delays in getting GPs to look into our problems. 

Eastbourne and other south east of London areas have the most patients per available GP in the whole of the UK. There is a critical shortage of available GPs and to make matters worse, it has also been reported recently by the BBC that younger GPs don't want to take on too much work and older doctors will not do overtime because it will put them into a substantially higher tax bracket. But as laymen we have to ask five key questions. 

First, given the size and scope of the NHS and its hundreds of thousands of employees, surely there has long been an urgent need for a specific NHS University to train and when appropriate  re-train and/or additionally accredit doctors, nurses and other NHS staff?  Should the present system be overhauled? If so, and on graduating from it, surely newly qualified doctors and nurses should agree to serve the NHS for at least a specified minimum contract time? 

Surely it is high time that all doctors, consultants, nurses and other healthcare professionals who work at NHS hospitals GP Practices and health centres become re-classified as NHS employees in their respective fields, instead of many or most doctors becoming 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. With the present-day complexity of the NHS this is much regretted. Progress has meant more impersonality in healthcare and with a constant stream of different GPs maximum efficiency is less likely.

Second, as the Daily Telegraph noted in February 2020 the one-patient every 7 minutes rule and one specific ailment only for each GP visit has worsened not bettered matters. So many health problems these days are inter-connected with one helping to cause or affect another. In Eastbourne and area in particular, the population the East Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust cares for is significantly above-average elderly (East Sussex has a relatively low birth rate and high inward migration amongst elderly age groups). Demographic trends in East Sussex indicate that pressure on health and social care services may increase more quickly in the future. Our over 85 population is also projected to grow at 3.5% per annum. 

In populations that are over 75 (and more so in those over 85), certain factors tend to markedly increase the need for hospital or community based healthcare. More people are living with ‘frailty’ and older people are also more likely to have multiple, ongoing health problems (like high blood pressure, angina, diabetes, emphysema) which means that they are more likely to become ill and need hospital attention. 

There is an urgent need to address and medically manage frailty and the risks of frailty outside hospital and  to make the ‘acute’ phase of someone’s illness as short as possible. The ability of the NHS generally to manage this problem and in particular the impact of an increase in those living with frailty will hopefully soon become a key priority. 

Third. With the full effects and impact here in the UK of the world-wide Coronavirus still not yet known, there is now huge concern by pensioners that the NHS, hugely over-stretched, will not be able to do much for them before and after they go into self-isolation and will not have enough beds for them in hospitals if they do catch the disease. And in the matter of Covid !9 vulnerability there are two definitions, vulnerable and extremely vulnerable, with the latter getting letters from GPs. 

But shouldn't those over 65, many much older, on the Disability Living Allowance and its equivalent at the Higher Rate, and those with Stage 4 cancer also qualify as extremely vulnerable? They did not get similar GP letters.

Fourth. We implore the NHS to stop losing money from the public purse by default and at last implement a policy to ensure it is adequately paid for its services by non-residents of the UK who in the past and presently have defrauded the NHS. Visitors from non-European countries, like Africa, Asia, Caribbean islands, Bermuda, Canada and USA who do not have NHS numbers are the chief offenders.

Fifth. This relates to the NHS being so allegedly wasteful in bulk buying including costs of medicines. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28490572. People once involved in the supply area have claimed that instead of one central NHS unit ordering medicines in bulk, to achieve maximum economies of scale for all the NHS Trusts, individual NHS Trusts order the medicines with no economies of scale at all. If true, this too needs a drastic change for the better. 

Sixth. There have been very disturbing recent reports of massive golden handouts to retiring or terminated NHS Trusts executives, far higher than most of the private sector would bestow.  Does the NHS really need so many separate trusts with their chief executives each paid so much? Surely, regional heads would be more cost-effective? Is the NHS over-managed in some areas? 

In defence of the NHS, when it serves so many people with so much care and devotion, at no cost to them at all for hospitalization and surgery, why should they be able to sue the NHS for those very few operations and procedures which are botched? None are deliberate but these legal actions cost the NHS £ millions annually in settlement. Surely, there should be a waver of liability? 

Also, despite the fact that so many thousands of patients, including pensioners, need to use life-changing drugs including thyroid drug liothyronine, many were recently - thankfully only temporarily - denied it when it is deemed too expensive after one of the pharmaceutical companies supplying it recently jacked up the price from 16p a tablet to the-then 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 - needed to investigate this outrageous increase in price of 5,663%. What other drug-price-abuses have occured and what is our government doing about this? We expect the NHS with its millions of patients to be able to get advantageous 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.

Not until very late 2019 did our government state that the scandal of high-cost parking at NHS hospitals, run by private car park companies, was going to end, with concessions for certain patients and their visitors. The previous system was a rip-off, with most private car park companies seriously negligent. But we now face another problem, more gross misuse by able-bodied drivers of disabled car park spaces. 

Violations galore have continued with NHS hospitals, the councils in which they are located and central government consistently both unwilling and unable to do what hospitals, local authorities and central governments beyond the UK have routinely done for years, namely crack down with heavy fines, imprisonment for persistent offenders and confiscation of their vehicles for deliberately and contemptuously ignoring the legal rights of the truly disabled whose disabilities are such that disabled parking spaces closer to hospital and other medical services are really needed. 

Another problem affects those who want to travel to Europe. What will happen to their NHS-provided European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) with effect from January 1, 2021? The UK  exits the EU on 31 January 2020 but it has been revealed the EHIC cards will remain valid until December 31 of that year. The EHIC has been a huge relief to many travelers to Europe. They were able to get the same level of free basic healthcare and hospitalization in the EU that the NHS in the UK provides. Will this stop completely after 31 December 2020?

At some NHS medical centres and GP surgeries it is now stated that pharmacists have a unique role to play. They can often be the first persons to contact for minor health problems where patients do not need to see a doctor. They can also give heart tests. 

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. 

But what has not been stated is that when you visit a pharmacy without visiting a doctor first and without a doctor's prescription to help remedy what ails you, any off-the-shelf non-prescription medication you get from that pharmacy will have to be paid for instead of it being normally free of cost when payment exemption normally applies. 

Many have publicly expressed their apprehensions that in the event of a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and USA the NHS could become a target. It is hoped this will not happen, that the BBC not NHS will instead be affected because the USA's Public Broadcasting Service is free to all, unlike the BBC with its awful and expensive TV Licensing requirement for all households including from 2020 those over 75. 

But it should be known by those who want the NHS to stay British that more and more NHS goods and services are already in American hands. Examples include Boots and ASDA stores and pharmacies wholly owned by giant American corporations; in-hospital patient TV services are American controlled; corporate ownership in the USA of a vast array of prescription drugs sold or dispensed in the UK; and in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vast numbers of NHS-used computers and diagnostic machines are made in or directly or indirectly supplied by the USA.

The NHS has announced its Long Term plan - see https://www.england.nhs.uk/long-term-plan/- with more staff to serve in communities. It has too many points to mention here but it is encouraging, especially to those of us who are older. Many new services are either already in place or are being contemplated. A Long Term Plan National Assembly is also on the cards, see https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/terms-of-reference-nhs-assembly.pdf 

A newcomer is Social Prescribing and its mention of public partners. At first sight it appears similar to what has been achieved in NHS Scotland for some time. See https://www.nhstayside.scot.nhs.uk/GettingInvolved/NHSTaysidePublicPartners/index.htm.( Both this author and his wife were once NHS Tayside Public Partners until we re-located in 2016 to Eastbourne). It was a wonderful experience and helped us hugely to realize what an amazing organization the NHS is. It has helped us so much in so many ways, not just medically but in our appreciation of the NHS and its services. We hope this will help all NHS patients to realize what a uniquely valuable organization it is.

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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. The disabled and/or elderly are very grateful to the National Trust for allowing a companion caregiver to accompany them to see glorious National Trust properties at no cost when Essential Companion cards can be produced.

Also much appreciated from the National Trust is how, during the coronavirus emergency, National Trust gardens can be used free of charge by pensioners and their carers.

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Social Care unfairness of Councils, National Care Service is needed

Two seniorsThe current social care system used by local authorities throughout the UK cheats residents, unlike the methodology long-used in the European Community.

There, National Health Service and Local Authority equivalents were long ago integrated and treat all citizens fairly and equally. There, there is no need to sell your home, or seek a "Deferred Payment Agreement" with your relevant local  authority. It has been revealed that more than 6,400 such agreements worth over £214 million are in effect.  Under such agreements if their savings are less than £23,250 then in England then the local council agrees to pay home care fees itself and is repaid from the estate of the person in care when he or she dies

In bleak contrast, except for system shown above that merely defers payment, does not eliminate it, here in the UK those with total assets including their homes exceeding £23,500 may have to pay up to 100% of their care, while others with total assets including the value where they live if their own it or own their lease for over a specified length of time 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 – a combination of National Health and Social Care Service – 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

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Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour's outrageous £263.55 in 2020 Annual Estate RentCharge

 See www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/Estaterentcharge.htm.

Sovereign Harbour propertiesSo say numerous estate agents and legal entities. It applies nowhere else in the UK, Europe or the world, yet our Member of Parliament and Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council councillors have not seriously tried for more than 15 years to get it revoked. They keep saying they are working on it purely to help get them re-elected.

This injustice accentuates to the world that there are two Eastbourne's, not one. Eastbourne 1 has 11 wards and is fair. But Eastbourne 2, with one ward, Sovereign Ward, of which Sovereign Harbour is the bigger part, is massively prejudiced against.

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 this unique annual Estate Rent Charge. Why? Because so many law offices of repute warn you to beware of investing in a place with unique 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 worth £170,000 or £1.25 million, will cost you and those who later buy your property a covenanted Estate Rent Charge of £263.55 in 2020 based on 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 3,119 Sovereign Harbour residents concerned pay this flood charge, not the more than 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. Qualifying residents who live there are not offered the exclusivity they deserve and should be entitled to when they sign their leases.

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 £263.55 per unit. 

Our Member of Parliament until 12 December 2019 never acted to help right this wrong, did not call for repeal of applicable legislation and covenants that exist nowhere else. 

Hopefully, the new MP will, but this has to be doubted for two reasons - it has already gone on for so long; and another Member of Parliament from the same political party represents constituents who get the same flood services for free and want it continued that way, unlike Sovereign Harbour residents alone who have to pay for it.  

The local community group which says it represents residents has never tried to take this case to Members of the European Parliament and beyond. 

It has never objected to the fact that estate agents deliberately evade making mention of the Annual Estate Rentcharges.

It has never objected to the fact that on all the websites of The Wellcome Trust, Premier Marinas, Eastbourne Harbour,  the Sovereign Harbour Trust, its subsidiary Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) and Pevensey it has never been stated that the Annual Estate Rentcharge is paid by only Sovereign Harbour residents, no-one else.

It has never objected to the fact that because the "harbour charge" is used misleadingly instead of the Annual Estate Rentcharge being quoted accurately, mortgages are being granted despite the fact that for legal reasons, reputable mortgage companies will not deal with Estate Rentcharge-levied properties.

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 international press organizations.

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 hclgcom@parliament.uk

But no reply has been received from its members  who are: Edward Beale, Clerk, email bealee@parliament.uk; Jenny Burch, Second Clerk, email burchj@parliament; Tamsin Maddock, Committee Specialist, at maddockt@parliament.uk; Nick Taylor, Committee Specialist, email taylornc@parliament.uk; Tony Catinella, Senior Committee Assistant, email catinellat@parliament.uk and Eldon Gallagher, Committee Support Assistant, at gallaghe@parliament.uk.  

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. 

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Travel Insurance for elderly with medical conditions is outrageously priced or no longer available

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.

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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. But not the WFA.

The injustice of this by the government has not been reported internationally. 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 disgraceful that this long-standing matter has not yet been addressed by Members of Parliament, local authorities, seniors associations and  groups concerned about conditions affecting the elderly. Premier Boris Johnson and his new majority government need to right this wrong.

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Written, administered, web-mastered, published and updated by

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Keith A. Forbes and Lois A Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk  
© 2018. Revised: June 1, 2020