My Vision For The Countryside – by Amber Mudd MP

Last week constituents of Amber Rudd, Conservative MP for Hastings & Rye, received an email setting out her vision for the countryside.  Here it is:


If you have trouble reading it, I’ve re-printed it below:

My Vision For The Countryside – by Amber Mudd MP

Residents in Hastings and Rye have access to some of this Country’s most beautiful countryside. Our coastal walks and our beautiful Combe Haven Valley are wonderful features of the landscape. My vision for 2020 is that we protect and enhance our environment and we increase access to it by building a road through the middle of it.

My vision is to work alongside the County Council to fulfil their Car Dependency strategy. Joining up our neighbouring town of Bexhill via a big road through the middle of the Combe Haven Valley. This strategy could make a real difference to a few wealthy landowners, by giving them a huge increase in the value of their land, while attracting cars that will take business out of the town centre economy.

In public I pretend to be very disappointed that East Sussex County Council have caused such distress and disappointment to countryside lovers, by allowing the construction of a link road and business parks in the remarkably lucrative Combe Haven Valley to the west of St Leonards. I have urged them to engage with the Department for Transport to withhold information from campaigners and residents. Secrecy, dishonesty and collusion by our County Council and our Government is our frontline in preserving our political careers. We must have confidence in its execution.

That confidence has received a severe knock, you can read my vacuous PR statement via this link. Summer brings many activities and pleasures as long as you don’t want to enjoy a walk in the countryside and I have attached a photograph below.

On a different note, over the next few weeks I would love to meet you at one of my annual Election Campaign meetings in both Hastings & Rye, learn more about the details here.

Best Wishes etc

Amber Mudd MP



What role can citizens play in the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in transport?

Recently I was asked to write a piece on the role citizens can play in the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the transport sector, using The Big Lemon as a case study.

This is what I wrote. I’d be really interested in your comments!

Introduction162 at Varley Halls 44 launch day

In 2012 our total energy consumption from transport in the UK was 53 million tonnes of oil equivalent, or about 36% of the UK total (2012 figures).1 The total carbon footprint of the sector was 117 million tonnes of CO2, or about a quarter of the UK total.2  It is clear then, that in order to reduce our energy use and our carbon footprint that we must look at ways to reduce the energy consumption of the transport sector.

But how do we do that?  There are a number of things we can do: reduce the number and length of journeys we need to make (for example by moving nearer to work, working from home, shopping locally etc); changing the way we travel (walking and cycling more, using the bus and train instead of the car); and improving the efficiency and sustainability of the vehicles we use.

In the autumn of 2006 a group of people met up in a pub in Brighton to explore ideas for a community bus company to tackle some of these issues.  It was the first time most of the people in the room had met each other, having been invited by posters and an article in the local paper, and the group included community activists, businesspeople, bus drivers, pensioners, local politicians, residents and a few journalists.

It was an interesting and fruitful discussion, and by the end of the evening there was a plan.  There was even an offer from one of the bus drivers in the room to drive the first day of service for nothing.

Over the course of the next few months, The Big Lemon bus company started taking shape, and on the 1st September 2007 the first service was launched between the university campuses and Brighton Railway Station using three buses powered by waste cooking oil from local restaurants.

Since that day The Big Lemon has become a respected local provider of sustainable transport, running all the transport for the University of Brighton as well as services for Brighton & Hove City Council.  The firm is a Community Interest Company and is funded wholly by members of the community through the selling of shares and bonds.  As well as bus services, The Big Lemon runs private hire coaches, a music festival coach service and (new for 2014!) an alternative UK tour called Britain By Bus

The Big Lemon has been recognised as an innovator and change-maker with local, national and international awards such as Best Sustainability Initiative (Brighton & Hove Public Service Awards 2010), Best Social Enterprise (EU Ethiconomy Awards 2011), Best in Responsible Transport (Responsible Tourism Awards 2012), and Social Enterprise of the Year (Sussex Business Awards 2013).

Through its activities The Big Lemon has provided a local, sustainable use for over half a million tonnes of waste cooking oil and by using this as a fuel instead of diesel has saved almost a million tonnes of CO2 emissions.  Through its partnership with the University of Brighton it provides a free bus service for staff and students between campuses, allowing the University to have a car-free policy for students and significantly reducing the number of car journeys made between these sites.

So how does one go about developing initiatives to run local bus services and other transport on renewable energy?  We will look at seven steps for developing your own community sustainable transport operation.


1. A strong vision

The PQA Southwick cast of" Here Comes The Carol Concert" December 2010

“Our Vision is of a future where our society is no longer reliant on the car. A future where everyone has access to affordable, convenient, comfortable and reliable public transport. A future where people care about each other and about the world we live in, and endeavour to leave the world a better place for future generations”                                                                                                     The Big Lemon’s Vision Statement.3

It’s important to know from the start what you’re aiming for.  The Big Lemon made it clear it was aiming for a better future for the next generation.  That gives it a sense of purpose, and guides strategy.  It gives a test – for everything we do, we can ask “Is this helping us provide a better future for our children?”

A strong vision is important not only to guide people within the organisation – it is equally important to give everyone else an idea of what you’re about too.

2. Clear messaging

falmer bus 2

“Life should be fun.  We aim to enjoy everything we do, and make sure everyone involved enjoys it too.  Our customers should have the best possible experience on our buses; our staff should have the best possible time at work, and our investors should feel proud that it is all possible because of them.  We also try and minimise any negative effects on the environment, and ensure that we always do our best for the wider community.”                                                                                                                                                                                       

Effective communication of your values, your brand identity and what you stand for is essential.  The Big Lemon quickly became known as the local eco-friendly bus, not because thousands of pounds were spent on an advertising campaign (they weren’t!) but because at every opportunity it was made clear that the organisation exists to make public transport better to attract more people out of their cars, and that the buses run on waste cooking oil to minimise their carbon footprint.


3. Community buy-in

Fairlight school

“Community is a big part of life at The Big Lemon.  We are owned and run by members of the community and actively encourage members of the community to buy shares in the company.  We regularly get out and about to talk to members of the community and host public meetingswhere people can come and discuss their thoughts, ideas and concerns with us and other members of the community.” 4

As mentioned earlier, The Big Lemon started life in a pub in Brighton, where a group of strangers came together to talk about how to run buses in a more sustainable, more effective, and more community-orientated way.  None of the people in that meeting had run a bus company before. What brought them together was a shared desire to see something better.  A number of members of the public who attended that meeting subsequently became shareholders in the company and two became drivers (one of which is now the Director of Operations).

Public meetings are a great way to get community buy-in.  The Big Lemon has held public meetings in pubs, university campuses, a church, and on the buses themselves.  Public meetings are a very effective way of getting people ‘on-board’ because not only do the discussions invariably generate some brilliant ideas, meetings also show the community at large that you’re serious about listening to people, involving them in decision-making and working with them to improve the service.

There are also a number of other methods available to build community support, and it’s important that different methods are used in order to get buy-in from different sections of the community.  The Big Lemon’s meeting in Ovingdean church did not attract many people below the age of 40.  On the other hand, The Big Lemon’s Facebook group 5 does not have many members over the age of 40.

In order to get community buy-in, you need to get embedded in the community.  Try as many different media as you can to get your message across and build support.  Local pubs, churches, community centres, newspapers, magazines, radio stations, networking events, online forums and social media networks are all good places to become embedded in your community.  One is not necessarily better than another; you need to use them all!

Once you’ve built a relationship with your community and you have a network of supporters you need to keep them!  The best way to do this is to keep them informed.  Take the email addresses of people who come to meetings and ask them if it’s ok to add them to your mailing list.  And don’t then use your mailing list to try and flog travel passes and such like – use it to keep people with you on your journey.  In the beginning The Big Lemon sent out news every month, updating people on developments: getting the operator’s licence, the first route, the first bus, the first driver… it’s all very exciting and people will want to stay in the loop all the way!  Now email news is sent out less frequently, but instead The Big Lemon’s Facebook group ( and Twitter page (@thebiglemon) are updated every few days with the latest news, views and other stories


4. The right legal structure

People's Day

“A Community Interest Company (CIC) is a limited company, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage”                                                                                                     Community Interest Company Regulator 6

The Big Lemon is a Community Interest Company limited by shares.  This means it can sell shares in the company in order to raise finance, but there are legal limits on dividend payments, and the assets of the company are only to be used to further its social objectives.  The Big Lemon chose this model in order to safeguard its aims in law while also allowing it to raise finance from members of the community by selling shares.

Incorporation as a Community Interest Company (CIC) is subject to agreement by the CIC Regulator and must be renewed each year by means of an annual Community Interest Company Report, and if the CIC Regulator is no longer satisfied that the Company is working for the benefit of the community it can withdraw its CIC status.  This means that at all times the public can be confident that the organisation is being run in accordance with its mandate, true to its original vision, mission and values.  Thus incorporation as a CIC makes an organisation immediately recognisable as a social enterprise working for the benefit of the community.

There are, of course, many other models available, and what works for one does not necessarily work for another.  Brighton is a hotbed of successful social enterprises, some of which are CICs, some of which are co-ops7 and some of which are Industrial Provident Societies8.  For more information on types of social enterprise and how to set one up, see “Setting up a social enterprise” on the Government website GOV.UK. 


5. A good funding model

Park and Ride-1

The best things in life are free

Anyone starting a social enterprise, or any kind of business, will soon realise that funding will be one of their biggest challenges.  For start-ups, there are a number of grant-funding bodies, UnLtd10 being one of the best known examples for social enterprises.  These grants are very highly contested, making them very difficult to win, but if you can find a grant that looks suitable for what you have in mind and invest the time in a good application, you may get lucky!

Here are some golden rules of applying for grants:

  1. Don’t waste time applying for grants that are not suitable.  Most grants have very clear aims and elibility criteria – read them thoroughly and don’t be tempted to try either changing your project to fit the grant or describing your project in a misleading way to fit the grant criteria!
  2. Prioritise it!  Grant applications are not something you can do by candlelight a couple of hours before the deadline.
  3. Don’t think you have to fill the word limit.  It’s a maximum, not a target!
  4. Think positive.  If you believe in it, others will too!
  5. Avoid ‘hoping’, eg “it is hoped”, “we hope”.  It sounds a bit hopeful, doesn’t it?!
  6. Keep answers succinct and to the point.  Assessors don’t have much time for each application and don’t like waffle.
  7. Be specific.  If the question is what is your vision, don’t just list a load of things you’d like to see.  Say “Our vision is for X group of people to do Y and achieve Z”.
  8. Always go the extra mile with an answer.  If the question is “Who’s going to be responsible for project delivery?” make sure you include in your answer the individual’s name, job title, qualifications, experience, brief, who they have worked for and why they were chosen as the lead person for project delivery.
  9. Think about what other grant applicants are going to say and try and make yours stand out.  If the grant is for getting people back into work, don’t simply say that your potential client group is largely from low income backgrounds with few opportunities.  This may be true and is definitely worth pointing out, but many other applicants are going to be saying this too.  What makes your group stand out? Why is your project better?
  10. Proof-read!  Or better still, ask someone else to proof-read. You’re unlikely to lose marks for poor English but poor spelling and grammar give a bad impression and you want to make a good impression, right?!

There are a number of reasons too why grants may not be the best way to fund your initiative.  The downside of grants is that they are time-consuming to apply for, highly contested, and if you’re lucky enough to win a grant they may have onerous conditions that are time-consuming to fulfil and reduce the time and energy available for developing the project.  You should also be careful that the business model does not rely on grants for very long.  Grants are very helpful at the start, but you don’t want o become reliant on them.

The Big Lemon found the most effective way of raising finance to be selling shares to members of the community.  Obviously this is only possible if your legal structure allows it, and this is something to consider when choosing your legal structure (see 4 above).

However what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all, and there are a number of other types of funding to consider:

  1. Loan-funding: ex-Dragon’s Den star Doug Richard’s School for Startups 11 offers a very good Government-backed scheme giving start-ups affordable loans with mentoring, training 24-hour business support all included in the package.
  2. Crowd-funding: this has grown in popularity recently and is now responsible for some hugely successful campaigns.  In a nutshell you start an online campaign and ‘woo’ potential investors with your offer.  Campaigns are time-limited and you set yourself a target. Usually, if you fail to reach your target within the timeframe the whole thing falls.  There are many sites; some of the most popular are,, and
  3. Peer-to-peer funding: another fast-growing sector.  As with crowd-funding you bypass the banks but unlike crowd-funding you don’t need a campaign and you don’t need a target.  You apply in the traditional way, but because peer-to-peer investors are more accepting of risk you might have a more sympathetic ear to talk to and the interest rate might be better than that of a bank.  Popular peer-to-peer sites include, Zopa, Funding Circle, RateSetter and Assetz SME Capital

Without doubt, however, the best funding model is revenue.  Social enterprises are enterprises, and need to be funded in the long term by selling, just like any other enterprise.  You should plan for the business to be funded from revenue as early as possible, and if you borrow less (or not at all!) at the beginning it will make life much easier later on.

A relatively low-risk funding model is to work with partners to provide services on their behalf.  There are many organisations that may be interested in outsourcing their transport, and with sustainability higher up on the public sector and corporate agendas a sustainable transport organisation may be just what they’re looking for.  However the biggest problem with this approach in the early days will be credibility.  With no track record you’ll have difficulty convincing partners that you’re up to the job, unless you have some good industry people on your team.  The best strategy would be to start with something very modest and manageable, make an impact, get a name for yourselves and then get ambitious!


6. The right people

Happy driver

“I want to compliment you on a fab service.  The bus driver was particularly helpful. Thanks again and please do let the driver know what a great job he’s doing, the personal service makes all the difference and I will be using you as often as possible in the future”                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Kelle Kingsley, Passenger on The Big Lemon

When The Big Lemon started out, it was clear that the unique selling point wasn’t going to be the brand new fleet of vehicles, or the state-of-the-art visitor’s centre at the depot. The company operated three rather old vehicles (only one of which actually belonged to The Big Lemon) from a car park on the edge of an industrial estate.  There was no office, workshop, power or running water on site, just an old van with fuel, oil, water and an assortment of cleaning materials, tools and spares in the back.  What was lacking in finance, facilities and equipment had to be made up for tenfold by offering the best customer service in town.

During recruitment, the first thing that The Big Lemon looked for was the right attitude.  If people have an open mind and a positive outlook, everything else can be taught.

Your team is your best asset, and whether or not you provide a good service will depend on them.  You should look for people who

–       are positive and enthusiastic

–       have an understanding of what you are trying to achieve and are willing to work towards the same aims

–       enjoy working with the public

–       are good team players

–       take pride in their work

–       smile a lot

You should try and avoid people who

–       know it all

–       have done it all before

–       talk about passengers as if they are a problem

–       do not enjoy their work

The Big Lemon has an amazing team.  Drivers are trained to give the best possible customer service, and make a point of greeting everyone when they get on, and acknowledging them when they leave.  It’s so easy nowadays to complete a transaction with a shop assistant or a bus driver without even making eye contact, so when you make a point of doing these little things it makes a world of difference to the service.


7. A good marketing plan



Price – how does your price compare with competitors?

Product – what’s your level of product quality?

Market – how do you describe your customers?

Service – what degree of service do you provide?

Darren Shirlaw’s Blog12

The first thing you need to think about is positioning your service.  Is it a high-end service, budget, or somewhere in the middle?  The point Darren makes in his blog is that what matters most is that your positioning is aligned.

Travelodge has been very successful providing a low quality product at a low price, targeted at people on a low budget.  Conversely, the Ritz has been very successful at providing a luxury service aimed at very wealthy people willing to pay a lot of money.  If a hotel chain tried to offer a Ritz service at a Travelodge price, they would go bust very quickly even if their hotels were always full, simply because the revenue would not be enough to cover the costs of the quality services they provide.

What you should also consider is leading on one of these.  It’s too complicated to communicate your position in all areas – you need to choose one and make sure the others are aligned with it.  Ryanair, for example, is all about Price.  Apple, on the other hand, is all about Product.  STA Travel is a good example of a market-focussed business, offering flights, accommodation, insurance and all manner of other things specifically to students and young people.   And as for service businesses, high-end hotels like the Ritz are among the best examples.

Some businesses have a combination.  Long-haul flights for example will have Economy, where price is the most important thing, and First or Business Class, where service is most important.

Positioning is not fixed, however.  The Big Lemon initially positioned itself at the budget end of the market, and was very successful at growing market share amongst price-conscious students.  In 2011 this was noticed by the major competitor, who responded by cutting their fares on routes competing with The Big Lemon.  The Big Lemon had to change, and change quickly.  A price-war was out of the question, as the competitors had deeper pockets and would be able to run loss-making services for longer.  After a lot of experimenting and a very difficult year, The Big Lemon stabilised its services with a slightly different model, and revised positioning.  Now the company runs services on contract to the University of Brighton and to Brighton & Hove City Council, and has positioned itself closer to the middle of the spectrum because that is where the demand is from the funding partners.

Once you’ve decided on where to position your service, you need to identify good marketing and distribution channels.  How and where will you advertise your services?  Where will you sell them and how will people pay for them?

The Big Lemon’s experience is that the best place to start answering these questions is to identify the community you are planning to work with.   At the beginning it was the student community.  This was a lively and open-minded community, mostly living in the same areas with the same travel needs.  The community had clubs and societies, a weekly newspaper and its own radio station.  It had Freshers’ Fair and a huge number of other events throughout the year.  It was a well-networked community, with online groups on Facebook and other sites, and a number of well-read blogs.  The Big Lemon got stuck into all of these things, building relationships with as many groups as possible.  The key message was ‘cheap, eco-friendly bus with a cool bus driver’ and it worked.

Once you’ve identified your target community, you need to think about whether you’re going to sell direct to the passenger, or establish a partnership with a funder to provide the service on their behalf.  If you sell direct to the passenger you should think about the ticket types you will offer, and where and how to sell them.  The Big Lemon had a membership who paid annually, and then on top of that sold a range of different types of ticket, in a number of different types of outlet.  There were daily and weekly tickets available on the bus, six-journey passes sold in campus shops, and three month and 12 month passes available on the internet.  Paying daily on the bus was the most expensive option, and then the more passengers were willing to commit the cheaper the deal became.  Advertising the service and the deals on offer was done on the buses (both outside and in), on our website, Facebook group, Twitter page, at Freshers Fair, in the student shops, and in students newspapers and magazines.  The company also took advantage of cross-selling opportunities; for example selling coach tickets to music festivals to the student audience already using the bus services, and private coach hire services to the student clubs and societies.

Now, with its new model, the bulk of The Big Lemon’s business is not sold directly to the passenger but instead the company provides bus services on behalf of both the University of Brighton and Brighton & Hove City Council.  This is more secure and enables better planning – as revenues are guaranteed as long as the service is provided as contracted.  The downside is there’s less freedom, but in reality you can still run the service in your own style so it’s a small price to pay and well worth exploring.

In the case of The Big Lemon’s services for University of Brighton students and staff, funding from the university allows the company to operate the service free at the point of use.  This significantly increases take-up and allows The Big Lemon to better fulfil its aims in terms of reducing the number of car journeys and thereby reducing energy use, pollution and CO2 emissions.



coach small

We have been looking here at the role citizens play in the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the transport sector.  Transport is not the first thing that comes to mind when people thing of energy generation, energy use and energy efficiency, but as we saw at the beginning, transport is responsible for 36% of total energy consumption in the UK.  If we are serious about reducing our energy use and moving to more sustainable sources, the transport sector must play its part.  And just as communities up and down the UK are launching community-owned renewable energy schemes they are also ideally placed to launch community-owned sustainable transport initiatives too.

In order to give such initiatives the best chance of success, they need:

  1. A strong vision
  2. Clear messaging
  3. Community buy-in
  4. The right legal structure
  5. A good funding model
  6. The right people
  7. A good marketing plan

Obviously there is a lot more to it than the above: they also need vehicles, fuel, maintenance and cleaning facilities, parking, insurance, an office… and of course there is the question of whether the vehicles are powered with biodiesel from waste oil, biogas, or renewably-sourced electricity.  For more information on setting up a community sustainable transport operation please have a look at Community-led Transport Initiatives Action Pack published by Local United (April 2011).

Whether for interest or practical use, hopefully you have found this informative and useful.  Feel free to share, and if you have any questions the team at The Big Lemon will be very happy to help.



  1. DECC: Energy Consumption in the UK (2013)
  2. DECC: 2013 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Provisional Figures and 2012 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures by Fuel Type and End-User
  8. For more information on Co-operatives, visit:
  9. For more information on Industrial and Provident Societies, visit:
  14. Further Reading: Local United: Community-led Transport Initiatives, April 2011:



  1. Social Enterprise:
    1. Social Enterprise UK:
    2. Co-operatives UK:
    3. Local United:
    4. Transition Network:
    5. REconomy Project:
    6. Social Enterprise Mark:
    7. The Big Lemon:
  2. Grants:
    1. UnLtd:
    2. School for Startups:
    3. Ashden Awards:
    4. Awards for All:
    5. The Big Lemon:
  3. Crowdfunding:
    1. Indiegogo:
    2. Crowdfunder:
    3. Kickstarter:
    4. Buzzbnk:
  4. Peer-to-peer lending
    1. ThinCats:
    2. Zopa:
    3. Funding Circle:
    4. Rate Setter:
    5. Assetz SME Capital:

Reply from Katy Bourne, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner

On the 14th March I wrote to Katy Bourne, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner because I had reached a level of frustration with Sussex Police that I could no longer bear.  Broadly speaking, this was because whenever I had been a victim of crime Sussex Police had failed to do anything significant about it, but when I took part in a peaceful protest I was arrested and subjected to legal proceedings for 14 months during which I had seen the Police engage in a mission to get a conviction at all costs… even it that meant lying under oath.

If the Police fail to protect you from crime and fail to investigate crimes committed; and then proceed to alienate people who had previously been sympathetic to them by providing false evidence against them and lying in court in order to criminalise them – that is a failed Police force.

But I don’t want the Police to fail.  I’d much rather have the Police than not have the Police.  I appreciate the efforts of the huge numbers of officers who are actually trying to catch criminals and reduce crime.  But they need to be able to operate in a system that enables them to maintain their impartiality, their integrity and their focus.  They need to get back to the basics of cutting neighbourhood crime, not acting as the Government’s heavies to enforce the Government’s will.  That’s the job of the Armed Forces.  And they need to stop acting as private security for private companies – that’s the job of private security hired by the company.

For all these reasons I wrote to the Police & Crime Commissioner.  This is her reply:

Sussex PCC

02 April 2014

Dear Mr Druitt

Thank you for taking the time to write to me in such detail with your views and experiences of Sussex Police. You raise a number of points in your letter and I would like to address these thematically:

Supporting victims of crime

Victim Focus is a key priority in my Police & Crime Plan and I have pledged to improve victims’ experiences and confidence in the criminal justice system. That is why I welcome the recent introduction of the Victims’ Code, which will ensure victims are placed at the heart of the criminal justice system. The Code sets out the enhanced professional standards by which victims of the most serious crimes can expect to be treated and the appropriate levels of support they will receive. As Chair of the Sussex Criminal Justice Board I will be working closely with Sussex Police and partners to ensure all agencies understand their obligations under the Code and that all victims of crime in Sussex know their rights and receive a high standard of service.

Response times

Response times are a consistent theme during my monthly Performance & Accountability meetings with the Chief Constable, which are webcast live. At the end of last year I noted that there had been an overall reduction in Grade 1 response times in comparison to the previous performance plan year and I asked for reassurance that Sussex Police is continuing to monitor, review and improve its response times. The Chief Constable has set out the Force’s aim to achieve a safe response to calls and explained that it has set up a working group to focus on five key areas of performance; technology, deployment of vehicles, training of call handlers, continued support for response teams and recruitment of police officers. Transformational changes within the organisation, including a 20% reduction in the Force budget, will naturally impact on performance. However, public safety and confidence in the police must remain a high priority for Sussex Police and this is something I will continue to challenge the Chief Constable on.

Police response in Balcombe

I visited the protest camp in Balcombe on several occasions to speak to local residents and protestors to understand their issues around the policing response.

As a result I addressed these issues during an accountability meeting with the Chief Constable when I directly questioned him. This meeting was webcast live and the minutes are published on my website.

Police targets

Like you, I am not an advocate of unnecessary targets. Sussex Police Authority had numerous target s in its 2012/2013 Local Policing Plan. I believe targets can have unintentional consequences and often unhelpfully incentivise police officers to pursue particular outcomes and crime types ahead of others.

By contrast, my Police & Crime Plan has removed targets and the associated performance pressures they bring. There is now an emphasis on strengthening police officer discretion to focus activity around local priorities which differ by district and division. This approach empowers local District Commanders and staff with greater discretion to exercise their professional judgement to ensure that offenders are dealt with effectively, safe in the knowledge that no one outcome is favoured over others.

Strengthening police officer and staff discretion should also help promote a more victim-focussed approach, by removing perverse incentives for forces to record and pro-actively pursue certain crimes on the basis of locally-set detection targets. It will also encourage officers and staff to consider the needs of victims and the importance of engaging them throughout the criminal justice process.

Trust and integrity in the police

I am a Director on the Board of the national College of Policing, which has been established to set and maintain high professional standards in policing. The College,s Code of Ethics, which will very soon be coming into practice, sets out the expected standards for all police officers and staff and emphasises the importance of personal integrity and professional conduct.

Increasing public confidence is one of my key priorities and trust in the police will play a big part in helping to achieve this. The majority of officers serve with professionalism and make an enormous contribution to keeping us safe. I have seen this pride and dedication first-hand when I have joined officers out on patrol and at their early and late-turn briefings. I agree with you that trust in our police is essential and that is why I am committed to keeping standards high in Sussex.

As Police & Crime Commissioner I have a statutory duty to consider complaints against the Chief Constable of Sussex Police only. Complaints against Sussex Police are investigated by its Professional Standards Department. I hold a quarterly accountability meeting with the head of this department to seek my own assurances that these matters are handled robustly and in accordance with the statutory guidance.

As a member of the public you also have the right to make a complaint directly to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Information on the work of the IPCC and the complaints process can be found here:

Role of Police & Crime Commissioners 

Since the election there has been widespread debate about the role of Police & Crime Commissioners. Her Majesty,s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) recently published a report acknowledging that Police & Crime Commissioners are driving forward a better focus on community policing issues and reducing the level of bureaucracy seen under the previous Police Authorities. Just over a year into what is a brand new role some very good work has already been carried out across the country. Police & Crime Commissioners have set Police & Crime Plans with clear priorities and objectives that reflect local needs.

I think one of the most important roles of Police & Crime Commissioners is to hold Chief Constables to account on behalf of the public. In Sussex my monthly accountability meetings with the Chief Constable are webcast live and this effective form of scrutiny has already been recognised nationally by the Policing Minister as best practice.

Police & Crime Commissioners also have the ability to work across multiple force areas. This is already happening in Sussex with some of the changes proposed within the probation service and Surrey and Sussex police forces are working together much more effectively .

For the first time ever Police & Crime Commissioners are directly commissioning services that are tailored to local needs. From April 2015 Police & Crime Commissioners will take on the full range of responsibilities and funding for
commissioning victims services in their Force areas. This will replace the current model where the majority of services for victims are provided at a national level by government.

People in Sussex tell me they want more effective and efficient local policing and the Chief Constable and I share this view. The authority of my role means that, despite budget pressures, I have been able to reverse the decision made under the Police Authority to cut back on police numbers and I have opened recruitment for frontline officers for the first time in three and a half years. This clearly reflects the ability of PCCs to respond directly to what local people want.

Thank you once again for taking the time to consult me as your police and crime commissioner – it is much appreciated.

Yours sincerely

Katy Bourne

Katy Bourne


Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner


ImageThis morning I received an email from a chap I didn’t know, setting up a web design firm and looking for business.  Reasonably average start to the day then.

But not only had he emailed me ‘cold’, he’d copied in hundreds of others too – and their email addresses were all proudly on display in the CC box.  Oops.

In marketing circles, this is quite a clanger.  But it got worse.  Some people on the list were also web designers, so not only had he broken Rule 1 of the Email Marketing Handbook, he’d also given his whole contact list to his competition.

The response from his ‘victims’ started off quite angrily, but then a beautiful thing happened.  In a very ‘Brighton’ way people started sticking up for him, and then they all got into the spirit of self-promotion and before long there was everything from iron grates to surfboards on offer!

The goodwill rolled along like a snowball down a hill, gathering speed and more and more offers along the way.  Before long there was talk of a networking ‘Spam’ picnic, and even a facebook page dedicated to this new network called “we woz spammed

How very Brighton.

An Open Letter to Katy Bourne, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner

Still 2

My arrest by Sussex Police

Dear Ms Bourne

Sussex Police is broken.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I know there are huge numbers of dedicated officers, who joined the Police to do something good for their communities.  Over the last 15 months I’ve got to know many of them quite well.

I’ve seen them at work at the Bexhill – Hastings Link Road.  I’ve seen them at work at Balcombe.  I’ve seen them at work in Brighton at the EDL marches.  I’ve been to village Parish Council meetings with them.  I’ve even driven them to the airport.  One senior officer is a family friend of some friends of mine.  She’s lovely.  But as a force, Sussex Police is not fit for purpose.

Over the last few years I have had a number of dealings with Sussex Police.  In the early days of The Big Lemon we had a spate of incidences of vandalism, theft and even one episode of sabotage.  To start with, I reported these crimes, but it soon became clear to me that I was wasting my time.  The Police rarely came out to see me, and never made any real attempt to investigate the crime.  It seemed that their procedure was to take a statement, give me a crime reference number, and tell me to give it to my insurance company.

The only problem was that the excess on our company insurance was £1000.  So when we had £800 of fuel stolen, it made no sense to claim because we’d get nothing.  When our bus had its air-lines cut, oil drained and dashboard wires snipped the bill came to over £1000 but it still made no sense to claim, because we’d only get a small amount and the claim would increase future premiums.  However, even though these things almost bankrupted what was a very young business, I didn’t hold it against the Police because I understood that rape and murder were much more important things to investigate and if they had to prioritise those, that was fair enough.  I just stopped phoning them.

However, one evening I had to phone them.  I was driving the 42 bus from Brighton city centre to the universities when a man started being abusive and threatening to the students on the bus.  It was clear that he was out of control, and that someone was about to get hurt.  I stopped the bus, and called the Police.  With the help of a couple of other passengers I tried to keep the situation under control while we waited for the Police to arrive.  In the next twenty minutes I saw three Police cars whiz past on other calls, but no one came to us.  I called again.  Again I was promised they would come, but I was told it was a very busy evening.  Fair enough, I thought… if they’re all busy on other calls we’ll have to deal with this ourselves.

So we did.  Three of us overpowered him, and threw him off the bus.  Literally.  But before we could get the bus going again, he’d managed to run back, force the doors open and push his way back on.  We threw him off again; but this time we pushed him to the ground some distance away from the bus, and then ran back and drove the bus away before he had a chance to get back to it.  It was pretty traumatic for everyone involved, but I just thought “Oh well, the Police must be really busy tonight”.

I carried on driving, and soon I was back in the city centre.  As I turned the bus into West Street I saw three riot vans and about two dozen police officers, hanging around, chatting, giving Friday night revellers directions to Wetherspoons… that kind of thing.  So this is why they couldn’t come to us.

To be fair, the Police did respond appropriately once.  There was another fight on the bus a couple of years later, and they were there in minutes.  Brilliant.  So it is possible.  But rare.

Last autumn we had a taxi stolen from our depot after someone came to ‘buy’ it.  We called the Police, and they came – so far so good – and they spent a couple of hours with us, but then told us it was a civil disagreement, not a crime.  So a chap comes into our depot to ‘buy’ a vehicle, puts it on the back of his trailor and drives away without paying, and that’s not a crime?  We also told them that the chap drove his vehicle straight at one of our staff, but they didn’t seem to think that was a crime either.

So, why bore you with all these stories?  Simply to illustrate the point that for most victims of crime, calling Sussex Police is just not worth the effort.  You might as well call your nan – at least she’d show you some sympathy.

Until recently I thought this was all because the Police were too busy and under-resourced.  However, at Combe Haven in January 2013 there were plenty of officers available to arrest people (myself included) for sitting in trees, and at Balcombe… well I’ve never seen anything like it.  A permanent presence of dozens of officers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, acting as a private army for a private company.  And you know better than anyone how much that’s cost – a cool £4m.

Sussex Police at Balcombe

Balcombe, Summer 2013. Most days officers heavily outnumbered protesters

I’ve chosen those words carefully: private army.  Even ‘private security’ would not describe them adequately.  Cuadrilla had security (who, by the way, were absolutely lovely, being mainly retired Gurkhas simply standing at the gate smiling at everyone), but the Police’s role was different.  They were not passively observing, arresting people if they broke the law; they were actively working to help Cuadrilla get the supplies they wanted into the compound.  Why is their job to do that?  What other work (dealing with aggressive bus passengers, thefts of taxis, sabotage or vandalism, for example) did they not do because they were assisting Cuadrilla get their lorries in?  Why does it matter to Sussex Police whether Cuadrilla can get their lorries in or not?  What makes Cuadrilla special?  The Big Lemon doesn’t have a team of Police officers on standby to help with anything we need at the drop of a hat; why should Cuadrilla?  Why can’t they just phone the Police if they have a problem – same as everyone else –  and wait their turn?  And if the Police are too busy dealing with more important things like bus passengers being threatened, they’ll just have to wait.

So, it’s not a question of resource.  But what is it then?  (That’s not a rhetorical question – I really would like to know the answer.)  I could hazard a guess: priorities.  But let me say this: prioritising rape and murder cases over things like theft and vandalism is absolutely fine.  Prioritising the enforcement of government policy in the face of protest, or the money-making activities of a private corporation, is not.

But what’s worse than the Police not doing their job when you need them?  Or wasting our money helping private corporations trash the countryside?  What’s worse is when, having done both of the above they then make up lies to turn you into a criminal.

Two days ago, despite the best efforts of Sussex Police, I was found ‘not guilty’ of aggravated trespass at the site of the Bexhill – Hastings Link Road.  I say ‘despite the best efforts of Sussex Police’ because, again, it really seemed to matter to them that we were convicted.  Why?  I have no idea.  If I’d been arrested, charged and convicted on the basis of the true evidence of Police officers, honestly given, I wouldn’t mind at all.  To be honest I had no idea at the time whether I was breaking the law or not.  It didn’t seem a relevant question to consider.  There was a mauling of the countryside going on and people needed to know about it – that was the only thing that mattered at the time.

But now, having seen Police officers lie to the court about the facts in order to turn me into a criminal, I’m more angry than if they had told the truth and I was convicted.  At least then you’d know that you can trust them.  That they’ve no ulterior motive.  That it doesn’t matter to them whether you’re convicted or not.  Then you’d know that the trial had been fair.  I wouldn’t even mind being convicted as long as the trial was fair.

So, how did the Police lie?  There were a number of occasions when Police accounts were slightly confused, although I’m not including those here as I believe they were errors due to incompetence, lapse of time, unfamiliarity with the area, or some other pretty understandable reason.  What really made me angry was two blatant lies, both made to make me look guilty.  The first was written evidence from Inspector Bartlett, the officer in charge of the case.  As I wrote on a blog post the other day, Inspector Bartlett gave written evidence that I had parked a Big Lemon bus across the entrance to the site in order to obstruct it.  Here’s the photo:


It’s not the best photo in the world, but it’s clearly not a bus, and there’s clearly a large van easily passing by next to it.  Why did she write that?  Did she not realise that photo and video evidence would show her to be wrong?  Video evidence was indeed shown in court, and it was obvious to all, Judge Crabtree included, that it was not a bus and it was not obstructing anything.  Although Judge Crabtree never referred to the taxi in his verdict, he did accept Inspector Bartlett’s evidence, and not once was her claim (that a bus was blocking the site) challenged, or any questions asked why she fabricated such a story.

The second outright lie that was told in court was by Sergeant Russell.  There was a lot of weird stuff going on here.  Sgt Russell and I had actually become quite friendly during my time at Combe Haven and I found him to be a ‘good egg’.  We had a bit of banter, shared a cup of tea occasionally and talked about the price of fish.  He watched us bring supplies to the camp and did nothing.  He watched us build tree houses and did nothing.  He watched me climb a tree that was about to be felled, and even when the tree felling team had to stop work, he did nothing – except bring me soup.  

The day before my arrest I had a conversation with a Police liaison officer, the gist of which was that their approach had changed, and they were no longer arresting people who’d locked on in treehouses.  I thought this was a very sensible decision, and as a result I was very surprised when I was arrested the next day.  I had expected that we would be removed from the tree and asked to leave – and would then be arrested if we refused.  But we were arrested as soon as our feet touched the ground.

I emailed Sgt Russell four months later with some feedback, saying that although I found his team very pleasant I felt let down by the fact that they’d told me there had been a change of approach, and that people locked on in trees were not being arrested, and then found myself arrested anyway.

In my email I had referred to the conversation as one that I’d had with him.  In his reply he didn’t dispute that.  But in court he said he’d had no such conversation with me at all.

I was confused.  I remembered the conversation very clearly.  I had reported it to our evening meeting and my decisions, and that of others, were made the next day safe in the ‘knowledge’ that we wouldn’t be arrested as long as we didn’t resist the protester removal team.

But then a funny thing happened.  Right at the end of his evidence Sgt Russell said he’d spoken with his colleague PC Barden, and the conversation may have happened after all.  But with PC Barden, who, Sgt Russell explained, was the same height and build, and also had short dark hair.  And glasses.

So I’d made a mistake.  It wasn’t Sgt Russell I’d spoken with, it was PC Barden.  But why hadn’t Sgt Russell told me that in his reply to my email?  Why hadn’t he said “Tom, I’m not sure what conversation you’re referring to – are you sure it was me?”

So either it WAS actually Sgt Russell who I’d spoken with; or Sgt Russell had replied to my email giving me the false impression that it was him, when it was actually PC Barden.  Why would he do that?  The only explanation I can think of is that Sgt Russell spoke to his superiors about my email, and they’d decided to allow me to continue believing it was him I’d spoken to, in the knowledge that when it got to court they could discredit me by providing evidence that Sgt Russell was not on duty that day (which they did).

But what Sgt Russell did next was even worse.  He told the court that throughout the time I was there (on and off from 21st December 2012 to 16th January 2013) he told me that it was private property, that I was trespassing, that I should leave etc etc… and told me about the offence of aggravated trespass.

Sgt Russell and I had many conversations, but on no occasion at all did he say those things prior to the 16th January.  On the contrary, he chatted and joked with us.  He drank tea with us.  He asked us how we were doing.  He told us he respected the stand we were making for what we believed in.  He told us, repeatedly, that he and his team were there to facilitate our protest.

Despite the evidence of all the banter, and the fact we were pretty much left to get on with what we were doing for three weeks without any intervention by the Police, Judge Crabtree believed Sgt Russell that he had said those things.

Judge Crabtree had said at the start of the verdict that he would be guided in his assessment of the truth of our evidence by our ‘good character’.  The theory goes: if you haven’t got any criminal convictions you’re more likely to be telling the truth.  (I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case, but I won’t go into that now).  He also said at one point that he found Sgt Russell’s evidence self-contradictory.  But then, when there was no evidence at all apart from my word against Sgt Russell’s, why would he choose Sgt Russell’s?  I don’t have any convictions, so in theory he should give weight to my evidence.  He found Sgt Russell’s evidence self-contradictory, so in theory, he should view his with suspicion.  But he didn’t.

It’s notable I think that at every point where protester evidence and Police evidence was incompatible, he chose to accept the Police evidence and reject ours.

So, we see an evidence bias towards the Police, and we see Police lying in court to get protesters convicted.  But why?

That, Ms Bourne, is my question to you.  Why does it matter to the Police whether a prosecution is successful or not?  Is there a cultural bias in the Police against protesters?  Is there pressure on officers to ensure convictions are successful?  Are there government targets to meet?

Thank you for reading this, and I look forward forward to your reply.

Sussex Police is broken.  But it can be fixed.  I want it to be fixed, and I’ll do anything I can to help.  Just ask.

Here’s what can be done:

1. If there are targets for arrests, prosecutions, convictions etc., get rid of them. They’ll only serve to warp justice.  If in one month you have hundreds, and in another month you have only a handful, that’s fine.

2. Stop Police lying.  I remember a lesson we had at Sandhurst which was all about integrity.  It was inspiring.  It made you really want to develop your integrity, and to maintain it.  Police need to have no incentives to lie and lots of incentives not to.

3. Stop acting like the Government’s muscle, to be used to force Government policy on people regardless of how popular (or unpopular) it is.  People have a right to protest.  It doesn’t matter if it’s inconvenient for private businesses.  Let them sort it out themselves.  Save your resources for real crimes affecting people in your community.  If you do that, you’ll give people confidence in the Police again, and next time I’m a victim of crime I might just pick up the phone.  It’ll mean you’ll need more telephone operators, and it’ll mean your crime statistics rise, but it’ll also mean real crime will go down, and people will be better off for it, and have more faith in the Police.



Tom Druitt

Tree-top Link Road protestors acquitted of all charges

Combe Haven Defenders

Five of the six trial 4 defendants outside Brighton Magistrates Court, 12 March 2014 Five of the six trial 4 defendants outside Brighton Magistrates Court, 12 March 2014

Press release
Combe Haven Defenders [1]
Wednesday 12 March


Six anti-road protestors who were arrested in January 2013 after occupying trees along the route of the controversial Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) have today been acquitted of all charges following a thirteen-day trial originally scheduled to last five days.

The six – all of whom were charged with aggravated trespass following tree occupations on the route of the BHLR – first went on trial in Hastings last September [2].  However the trial, originally scheduled to last five days, ended up taking thirteen, running on dates in October, December and January, and finally finishing today in Brighton.  Further acquittals are possible next week when the verdict will be given for the last remaining case, involving five…

View original post 282 more words

The possibility of becoming a criminal

In a tree

Treetop office

Over the last year I have been in the throes of the criminal justice system and as this process is coming to an end with a verdict and possible sentencing due tomorrow it’s been on my mind recently more than normal.

I was arrested on my father’s 70th birthday in January 2013 following the occupation of a tree in the Combe Haven valley, the site of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road.  My crime?  Sitting in a tree.

There’s much I could say about the scheme, but I’ll leave that to another time (in the meantime have a look at Here I just want to say a few things about the way this case has been handled as it has fundamentally changed my outlook on the Police, the Government, and the relationship between the two.

Call me naive, but I had grown up with the idea that the Police were there to stop crime and look out for people in their communities.  They were there to protect you.  In other countries the Police were corrupt, but not in Britain.  Our Police are trustworthy.  They help you when you need help.  They’re your friend.

I had grown up with a similar view about the Government.  You might not agree with them, but you could trust them.  Other governments are corrupt, not ours.  When I was at school I joined the Scouts, largely because my friend Richard had joined, but I really enjoyed it.  When I was at University I joined the Officer Training Corps, and after a few years and a short stint at Sandhurst Military Academy, I became an Officer in the British Army.  During my time there I met many exceptionally decent people and many of my best friends today are people I met there.  I am not your normal rent-a-mob hippy anti-establishment protester.  For a time I WAS the establishment.

However, although I know a number of very honest and hard-working policemen and women, some of whom are very close friends of mine, my faith in the Police in general has, I fear, been irreparably damaged.

During the course of our trial for aggravated trespass I have become increasingly convinced that the Police have been acting from start to finish with no regard whatsoever for the facts of the case and no desire to see justice done.  The only thing they seem to want is a conviction, and it seems they will go to any length to get one.  The case has been a roller-coaster of crazy happenings…and some amusing exchanges.

One of my favourites was when the prosecutor was late one morning during the heavy rains in December the Judge (District Judge Crabtree) observed “If you drive a soft-top Porsche in this weather you’re asking for trouble.”  Another gem was when Inspector Bartlett, the officer in charge of the prosecutions, moaned “my head hurts” after a particularly taxing day.  But the best moment I think was when the prosecutor challenged one of my co-defendents about an article he’d written in a magazine to inspire people to join the protest. The prosecutor said provocatively “So you DELIBERATELY chose language that you hoped would further your aims” to which my friend said without any hesitation “Yes, that is the nature of discourse”.

But I digress.  Amongst the amusing bits there have been a number of very serious errors that could well affect the outcome of the trial.  Some of these are undoubtedly mistakes due to incompetence; others are plainly and simply instances of Police officers lying under oath to further their aims.  And the officers doing the lying I’m sure are not not doing it because they have anything personal against me or my co-defendants; it is more likely that they have been leant on by their superiors… a quiet word beforehand touching on the tricky subject of potential promotion opportunities.  And if you’re a hard-working officer with hopes for his or her family and loyalties to a partner, children… this is going to be a very real consideration.

It started almost instantly we were arrested.  The custody sergeant is apparently supposed to be the one making a decision about whether to press charges, based on the evidence contained in an MG5 report. We got to see those during the trial. Of the six of us, three of us were referred to throughout the report by the wrong gender.  All of us had an identical paragraph, obviously a ‘copy and paste’ job because the Police are too underfunded to do the job properly.  I’m no lawyer but I understood that we were supposed to have ‘individual consideration’ in the merits of our prosecution.  And what did the paragraph say?  That we had stopped work by climbing a digger.  Really?  Oh no… that was the allegation against someone in a completely different trial, for an event that happened at a different place, the previous week.  Oops.

It continued. Inspector Bartlett wrote in her written statement prior to the trial (I still have a copy) that I’d parked a Big Lemon bus across the entrance to Adams Farm to obstruct it.  However the video evidence shown in court clearly shows a little London taxi parked by the side of the road with vehicles little and large passing by easily.

When the trial started the first thing they did was change the charge.  I don’t blame them to be honest – the initial charge was a confused nonsense.  The change was all technically above board and the Judge permitted it… but it’s still a bit odd that it’s perfectly acceptable to charge someone with X and have them preparing for eight months to answer the charge of X… and then change the charge to Y on the first day of the trial.

When the trial got under way there were a number of other peculiarities.  First of all there was Inspector Bartlett, sitting in the courtroom with the prosecution’s solicitor, discussing this and that and passing notes to the prosecution barrister.  After almost a week of this she was called as a witness for the prosecution.  Now I didn’t know it at the time, but according to our barristers witnesses are not supposed to be in the courtroom prior to giving evidence.  It makes sense.  But it seems not to apply to the Police.

Towards the end of the trial it became evident that the warrant issued by East Sussex County Council for the compulsory purchase of the land was not in fact dated.  This matters because the warrant referred to timescales (in this case “14 days”) from the date of the warrant, and if the date wasn’t specified then whatever was supposed to be the case “14 days” later may not, legally, be the case, even today.  So the land may not have technically been in the possession of East Sussex County Council on that fateful day after all.  Was there even a warrant in existence at the time?  Or was it written out afterwards for the benefit of the trial?  Who knows.

However, in the course of this whole experience nothing has made me so angry and upset than to see a Police Sergeant whom I had for all intents and purposes befriended, stand up in front of the Judge and lie under oath.  Knowingly and intentionally.  He told the Judge that he had warned us, repeatedly on a number of occasions over a period of three weeks, that we were trespassing, that we had to leave, and that we were committing an offence of aggravated trespass.  This was a complete fabrication.  I had had a number of conversations with him on different occasions about the protest, and why we were there.  He’d watched us build tree-houses, and done nothing.  He’d watched us bring materials onto the site, and done nothing.  When I was in a tree a week before my arrest, protesting against its felling, he brought soup and handed it up to me.  Not once in the three weeks had he mentioned that we shouldn’t be there, or asked us to leave.  Until my arrest I had not even heard of the charge of aggravated trespass.  Whether he realised he should have mentioned these things and was trying to cover himself, or whether he’d been asked to say that by Inspector Bartlett, I’ll probably never know.

But why do the Police care so much whether the prosecution is successful or not?  I can only speculate, but having observed the indifference shown by the Police on occasions when I have reported a real crime, as well as policing of both Combe Haven and the fracking demonstrations at Balcombe and Barton Moss; it is very clear that the principal role of the Police in today’s society is as much to do with enforcing the will of the Government as it is about combating crime and protecting the community.

The verdict and possible sentencing will be given by Judge Crabtree at 10am tomorrow (Wednesday 12 March) at Brighton Magistrates Court.  The public are welcome in the public gallery, and we’re going to have a few photos with banners outside the court at 9.30am.