Chair of Council ‘greatly encouraged’ by response to cost of living crisis and climate crisis

Reflecting on 2022 and the many meetings held with volunteers, activists and campaigners since his election earlier this year, the Chair of Lewes District Council has recognised the ‘indomitable community spirit’ in Lewes district, as people come together to meet the stark challenges faced by society and our planet.

On taking office in May, Councillor Adrian Ross (pictured) determined that his theme of office would focus on addressing the cost of living, climate and ecological emergencies.  Since then, Councillor Ross has visited and met with a wide range of people from different backgrounds, all joined by a common goal - to make life cheaper, greener and better, now and in the future.

Councillor Ross said: 

“My theme of office is two-fold, addressing the immediate needs that so many residents have as result of the cost of living crisis and the existential threat posed by climate change.

“When I consider these acute but different challenges to our lives and how we will meet them, I am always greatly encouraged by the indomitable community spirit I witness in our district and hope that much of what we are doing is being replicated elsewhere.

“I’m certainly in a fortunate position; I get to meet people doing incredible things to help others, people who are often in the background and remain under the radar, but whose efforts and industry reap great dividends for society.”

Over recent months Councillor Ross has visited the Havens Community Hub, Havens Community Cars, the Energy Advice Service, Peacehaven Community Supermarket, Newhaven Sharing Library and Seaford Repair Cafe.

The Havens Community Hub team, led by Paula Woolven, makes surplus food collected from supermarkets in the district available to families in the greatest need in the area. Nearly a tonne of food is collected and redistributed every week, saving money, reducing food waste, cutting carbon emissions, and reducing the area needed for food production. Paula said: "This is food that was previously going to landfill or incineration - not because the supermarkets were unwilling to donate the food, but because there was no reliable way for the food to be collected at 9pm each day.

Havens Community Cars shares an office with Havens Community Hub and involves volunteer drivers giving lifts to residents without their own transport or access to public transport.  This vital lifeline has been particularly important for many isolated residents during the pandemic.  It has also allowed some people to save money and cut emissions by giving up their cars completely.

Another team of volunteers is playing its part at the Peacehaven Community Supermarket.  Ruby Makepeace-Somerville, Food Security Senior Development Worker from the Sussex Community Development Association (SCDA), said: “Our work is community-led, using a fantastic team of volunteers to redistribute surplus food obtained from many different sources to people in need in the local area.  Much of the food is offered on a Pay-As-You-Feel model which means members can chose how much to donate.”  Again, the initiative both saves money and cuts waste and emissions.

-The Lewes-based Energy Advice Service has helped over 500 people reduce their energy usage.  Run by Ovesco, the service focuses on residents in fuel poverty and those who don’t have access to the internet.  The team includes energy champions who help people to understand their bills, see if they qualify for any discounts or support schemes, and offer advice and simple products to reduce energy use. Anyone who would like some help from the Energy Champions can call their freephone number: 0800 4589045.

-Newhaven Sharing Library was launched recently, following the model of the 'Library of Things' in Lewes.  It allows people to borrow household items in the same way as borrowing books from a library, reducing waste and consumption through sharing and repairing. Rachel Fryer of the Newhaven Green Centre that runs the library, said: “We’re building a stock of tools, camping and catering equipment, baby items and more – all the stuff that you only need a few times a year, but costs money to buy, takes resources to produce and is a pain to store.”

-The Seaford Repair Café offers a free monthly event where talented volunteers with many varied repair skills fix broken items or patch worn-out clothes, saving money and reducing waste and consumption. Anyone can turn up with or without broken items to enjoy lunch or a cup of tea at the café, which also offers a toy swap. Gemma Mcfarlane, one of the organisers, said: "Come along and join us on the 4th Saturday of each month at The Mercread Centre, Seaford from 1pm - 3:30pm."

Councillor Ross said:

“It is so heartening to see this energy and commitment across a range of wonderful causes and initiatives, all sharing a common goal of living cheaper and better.

“I am grateful to all of them for allowing me time to visit and find out more, above all, I’m most thankful for what they are doing for residents in Lewes district.” 

Published on December 21, 2022