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February 20 2014.

Liberal Democrats release:

Independent councillor Ruth O’Keeffe will have the deciding vote on the future of Lewes District Council following a meeting on Monday night in which local Lib Dems voted to make Sarah Osborne, councillor for Plumpton, Streat, East Chiltington & St John Without, the new leader of the Lib Dem group on the council.

With Cllr. James Page standing down next week from his position as Leader of the council, a vote will be called for a replacement. This follows the recent sacking of Cllr Rob Blackman as Deputy Leader of the Council and his removal from his cabinet position. All opposition councillors have raised concerns about the lack of transparency in decision making and only a united vote of opposition councillors could put an end to a Tory administration, providing a step in the right direction to a more open council. Insiders calculate the vote will be a 20-20 split with Ruth having the deciding vote on whether to keep the Tories in power.

Local Lib Dems have proven that they understand Lewes better than the Conservatives, including opposing the current Tory administration’s proposal to sell off the iconic Lewes House. The Lib Dems are looking to inject more favourable policies for the area like the proposal from Cllr Osborne to invest in the construction of new homes to alleviate the problems currently faced by locals seeking affordable housing. So far the Tories have not kept to the affordable house building targets that they have set themselves leaving over 2,000 people languishing on council house waiting lists.

Cllr. Osborne says: “I have pledged to keep Lewes House open to the public and in council hands. With a united opposition, fairer policies can be passed by the council helping the worst off residents across Lewes District.”

Norman Baker MP says: “Ruth O’Keeffe must know that her vote will decide whether Lewes has a Tory or Lib Dem District Council. Ruth and other district councillors have to announce whether they will support the Lib Dems who are fighting to increase the availability of social housing and improve the flood defences in the area. As an independent councillor Ruth O’Keeffe cannot sit on the fence for this one. People in Lewes have a right to know how she will vote next Wednesday.

“Having a new leader for the Lib Dem group offers an opportunity to renew the fight against the worst of the Tory policies. With cross party agreement the most unpopular decisions can be blocked, that is why I am calling on the remaining councillors to make their positions clear.”