Newsletter 24         August/September 2016

The meeting place for the interests of people aged 50 plus

At 25 August 2016,

our Membership stood at 978

and is this SDSAF Member the last surviving

member of the Sevenoaks Pensioners Group?

Garden HedgesA painful story came our way!  One of our Members who can barely see was making their way along a pavement tapping their stick left and right as usual and walked straight into an overgrown shrub that was hanging way over the pavement.  The tapping stick would not of course have found the shrub but his face did.  If your garden hangs over the pavement, please be aware that this may give a real problem to people walking by.

and Road SignsMotorists in Kent will have a similar problem with vegetation.  These days it hides so many road signs.  Clearly our Highways Authority, Kent County Council, has cut back on cutting back!  The same problem is all across the country.  When someone has a road accident (as our partially sighted Member had a pavement accident) and sues the County Council for allowing a warning sign to be hidden, maybe KCC will do something.  Meanwhile, they will continue to cut public services based on the risk they undertake in doing so.

 Taking Your Neighbour to HospitalSDSAF continues to pressure transport bosses about bus routes and free travel. Members will know that we have consistently been on the case (see Issue 1 below).   Meanwhile, can you do a neighbour a good turn and take them to the Doctor’s or to the Hospital for their checkups?

Hospital Parking Here is a much better bit of public relations!  At least the Medway Maritime hospital people are explaining what happens to some of the income from exorbitant hospital car parking charges.

Kent County Council Transport Consultation

Recently we highlighted the farce of Freedom of Information when Kent CC refused to give us information because it would take too long and be too expensive, though how they came to that calculation I will never know!  We asked KCC how much they spend on consultations and they would not tell us.  From the facts we do have (KCC has undertaken 521 consultations since 2013, and the recent Library consultation cost £45,000) this could mean some £23 million or £7,000,000 plus per annum of our Council Taxes. What difference did any of this money make to the final recommendations?  They have now asked us to be involved in a travel consultation and want a meeting with us.  We have of course agreed so we can tell them what you tell us! See Issue Groups below.

Babs Watsonis the SDSAF Member photographed on page one. She wrote:

Yes, I am the last surviving member of the Sevenoaks Pensioners Action Group, which was very busy in the community during the 80s and 90s and part of the National Pensioners Convention.

I am very glad to be a member of the SDSAF and receive your newsletter, though I can’t be active at 96, but well aware of the commitment of your committee.

I should like to refer to the issue of DRONES in the last newsletter and am aghast that 35 billion is being spent on this technology.  I think robots should be banned as a public hazard but also they are being used in warfare, killing innocent people. I think our MP, Mr Fallon could throw some light on this. And, is there a drone law?

Thank you for highlighting the health issues we have in old age and giving us the confidence not to feel alone and call for help.

As a suggestion, please could we have a postal address to send letters to in the future as not everyone has a computer.  (Sorry we seem to have forgotten to put that into the newsletter, Babs)  Very glad for the SDSAF, Babs Watson.

Thanks for writing Babs, and for the encouragement!

Robert Brookbank, the Swanley Town, Sevenoaks District and Kent County Councillor died recently.  Anyone who stands for public office is taking on a difficult job and we should be grateful for their work.  SDSAF is non-party political and hopes that whoever puts themselves forward for election for any one, two, or three of these positions will bear in mind the needs of older people.

Issue GroupsFrom nothing to three in one go!  You may recall that Issue Groups have been mentioned before without anything really getting off the ground.  In August, the Committee agreed to alter the way SDSAF is managed.  There will now be a small group that gets through the administrative business we have to do, checking the accounts and so on, and a bigger group responsible for getting things done i.e. following up on the concerns that Members express when we meet them.  They will work through Issue Groups.  Three Issue Groups are getting under way focussed on; Bus Transport in Kent, The Disappearing Public Toilets of the Sevenoaks District, and The Swanley Development Plan.

Issue Groups can be two people upwards and will need the support of SDSAF to work on behalf of Members.  We don’t recommend that they get too big, as they could merely become unwieldy committees.  We don’t expect them to be too formal with minutes and vice chairmen – all we need is that they examine an issue, make proposals on what to do about it, and start trying to influence the decision makers.  The Committee will help, we promise.  The ideal Issue Group could easily start with a cup of tea and a biscuit but could finish with powerful people changing their minds!

Issue Group 1 – Bus Transport: Kent County Council has invited SDSAF to meet with their officers for a discussion.  Four Members from New Ash Green, Hartley, Eynsford and Sevenoaks have offered to help with this one.  If you have views, we would be happy to receive them on or through Roger Bryan – contact details on the back page.

Issue Group 2 – Public Toilets: not something to laugh about especially if you are one of the many older people who need to spend a penny fairly regularly. Local authorities do not HAVE to provide public toilets but the people need them!  Our local authorities do lots of things they don’t have to do.  Most of our  councillors in Parish, District, and County are of an age where they probably need them too but they don’t want to spend thousands of pounds per year maintaining them.  What can we do?  Will our GPs help us?  Is it a priority or not?

Issue Group 3 – Swanley Development Plan: there are big plans for Swanley whose residents, like those of Edenbridge, constantly tell us that they feel ignored by Sevenoaks District Council.  The District Council has spent millions buying property in Swanley already with more to go.  But how will our older people fare?  When the town centre was last redone, block paving was put in but the ground was not levelled with the result that wheelchair users and mobility scooter users are faced with something more like a teenagers’ skateboard park. They also missed the chance to make sure that the shops could be accessed without going up a step.  This group should help to make sure that the needs of older people are taken into account.

If you would like to join Groups 2 or 3 or would like to contribute your thoughts to Group 1, please contact any of the committee through the contact details on the back page.

Now you see it, now you don’t.  Member Alan Dean took these photos of the Swanley Club, one of the sites owned by and earmarked by Sevenoaks District Council for redevelopment.  Join Issue Group 3 and help to form the District Council’s plans.



Financial Bureaucracy SDSAF gets a grant from KCC to help with its costs.  Because of this, we are, quite rightly, held accountable for the use of these public funds.  However, the extent of the record keeping and the details we are expected to keep have increased over time even though KCC reduced our grant in a most cowardly fashion this year.  We expect these grants to be reduced further.  We have consistently offered to meet with them so they can understand that we do not need to be a thorn in their side, we want to be a good positive partner.  KCC also seems not to understand the difference between volunteers like us and local government officials.  They expect that we will act like those officials and not like the volunteers we are.  We can see a future where KCC will lose all its volunteers because whilst they look on us as cheap workers (free) they demand that we act like employees.

Something wrong here!  And we offer AGAIN to meet with officials and councillors to discuss this imbalance of expectations.

101 Have you tried ringing the Police on 101?  101 takes the weight off emergency teams so they can concentrate on the big crimes but has 101 worked for you?

Don’t be a Money Mule Geoff Parsons and e-Watch remind us this week that if you take anything abroad for anyone else, you will be held responsible for it, so, if you break this or another countries’ rules on what you are carrying for someone else, you could find yourself in trouble.  If you have any doubts at all, ask your Bank about the rules on carrying someone else’s cash and avoid doing a favour for a friend that you having doubts about.

Stroke Consultation Have you, or anyone you know, had a Stroke?  Let the NHS know about the treatment you received.  Did it help?  Better than you expected? Leave you disappointed? Phone 03000 424941 for more information about meetings being held in Kent; the nearest to our area being Tonbridge on the 29th September 2016.

The Jasmine Programme and Mental Health First Aid Training West Kent Mind are holding a two-day First Aid training course at the District Council Offices in Sevenoaks on Monday 7th November and Friday 11th November at a cost of £120 per person; details from Ruth Brown on 01732 744950.  Ruth is also the person to talk to about the Jasmine Programme, which looks like a great help to anyone suffering from anxiety or other like difficulties.  Don’t be put off from getting help.  West Kent Mind are lovely people and they are there to help.

Help in Senior Yearsis the special day organised by the Oaks Surgery in Swanley on September 20th. They will be hosting at The Clocktower Pavilion from 2:30pm to 5:30pm.  Experts will be on hand throughout the afternoon to advise on Dementia, Falls, Osteoporosis, Making a Will and the Power of Attorney and so on.  Just turn up!

Just Room for a Few Words from Kent Fire and Rescue  Mealtimes can be a busy time for families and often residents find themselves juggling many tasks whilst cooking for everyone.  Distractions can cause you to take your eye off your cooker. The phone may ring.  A text message comes in.  There is a knock at the door.  Sadly, as Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) knows only too well, unattended cooking can lead to a serious fire and severe damage to your home and may put you and your family at risk. Over half of all the fires KFRS attends start in the kitchen.  The majority are caused by unattended cooking, a build up of grease and fat on the cooker, or by kitchen mishaps, where items such as tea towels and chopping boards have been placed on a hot hob.”

Contacting SDSAF Committee People (Please note the changes):

ChairmanFrank McConnell

Vice Chairs:Merilyn Canet01732 461397

Steve Plater01732

SecretaryDerrick Bateman

TreasurerDavid White

Committee Members:  Eileen Murray Giles, Jean Bentley, Anna Durrant, Brian Gasson

Membership SecretaryRoger Bryan07470

Write to us via Membership Secretary, Roger Bryan, 10 Greenside, Swanley, BR8 7ER

SDSAF Membership Forms are available online:

 Thanks to our partners:



Newsletter 23 April/May 2016

The meeting place for the interests of people aged 50 plus



The SDSAF Committee hereby give notice that the 2016 AGM will be held on Friday, 27th May from 2pm to 4pm at White Oak Indoor Bowls Club, Garrolds Close (off Hilda May Avenue), Swanley BR8 7BF.  

 Members may remember that we were badly let down last year by County Councillors with a responsibility for older people who agreed to speak to us but then ‘were not available’.  This year, we are very happy to announce that our speaker will be Councillor Peter Fleming OBE (pictured left), Leader, Sevenoaks District Council and Deputy Chairman, Local Government Association. We have asked Peter specifically to reassure us that Councils and Councillors really do listen to their local community, that decisions have not already been made, and that consultations really do mean consultations!

ENTRY FOR MEMBERS ONLY.  Please let our Membership Secretary, Roger Bryan, know that you are coming along.  Contact details on the yellow panel on the final page.

The Bowls Club is a 5-minute walk from Swanley Centre, and next to White Oak Leisure Centre.  There is some parking.  The 233 bus from Swanley Centre stops in Hilda May Avenue.


CONSULTATIONS  SDSAF contacted KCC twice to ask for more information on the recently closed Libraries consultation.  Consultations are often handled by an external company so you have to be Sherlock to find the KCC decision maker behind them.  We are persistent and found that person who told us that the consultation cost over £15,000.  We don’t know whether the consultation process made any difference to the decision which is that Kent Libraries are being handed over to a Libraries Trust. Sevenoaks District Council did something similar with their swimming pools and leisure centres creating SENCIO.

We promise our Members that we do our best to influence decision makers and by taking part in these consultations we try to deliver that promise. SDSAF automatically receives invites to comment on many issues.  This internet-based system ( may be available through your local library.

SDSAF AT VILLAGE FETES AND FAIRS  Watch out for our blue gazebo around the District.  We now have 863 Members and we really should do something special for our 1000th Member (sometime this year?) 

HEADWAY WEST KENT  The charity Headway West Kent supports people who have acquired a brain injury.  Kate Hasted runs a drop in at The Stag coffee shop twice a month.   They can offer one to one help and have a centre in Tunbridge Wells.  When families suddenly have to deal with great changes in life, they often do not know where to turn.  If you are in this position, Headway will try to help you.  Kate Hasted is on 01892 619 001 or

THE HIDDEN DISABILITY  Having listened to ‘Women’s Hour’ followed by reading the SDSAF Newsletter, I am inspired to write.  Apparently, according to the guest on WH, there is greater provision of loos for men than women. I can well believe it, although, frankly, I think that for both sexes the provision is very poor in England. Why can small villages in Wales manage to keep their public loos open when England cannot?

As a keen walker, I am always pleased to arrive at a village when nature calls. However, I recently walked to Otford, only to find the notice, ‘The Vandals Have Won’, on the closed door. Are there no vandals in my country of birth?  Apparently, Scotland too provide loos in remote places.

Surely, if loos are closed in the early evening, they could be secured from vandalism.  I am lucky enough not to suffer from incontinence but I know too many people who do, hence the heading; and anyway, I still need to go sometimes!

What encouragement is this for people to walk to their local shops, let alone keep fit by following some of our wonderful footpaths? Until his dying day my Dad went to ’Spend a penny’.  I would happily spend 10p rather than see such vital facilities close.Jean Bentley

DISABLED ACCESS  Committee members Merilyn Canet and Medina Hall are now both on the Disabled Access Group at Sevenoaks District Council.  This group does exactly what it says on the tin, informing and influencing councillors on the needs of people who have some difficulties whether it be walking or seeing or whatever.  This is one of the groups that SDSAF talks to when our members tell us of the difficulties they have with public services.  Obviously, the councillors on the group bear in mind what they have been told when they come to make decisions on services provided by private companies too.

CHAIR BASED EXERCISE This is a great idea! Exercise doesn’t have to be about walking ten miles or running up a sweat while wearing athletic kit. If you are feeling a bit stiff, then a gentle session makes far more sense.  Dementia Friendly Kent 0800 500 30 14 may be able to help.

AUTISM  Have you seen the gripping ‘The A Word’ on TV in which a family come to terms with an autistic child?  As usual, when someone in a family has to deal with something big, everybody in the family is drawn in.

Contact for further details. The Kent Autistic Trust is on 01634 405 1668 or

HOME LIBRARY SERVICE  This really useful KCC Library service can help you if you cannot actually get to a Library – phone 03000 41 31 31.  Right now, they desperately need a new volunteer treasurer/administrator at Sevenoaks Library. The role involves: keeping the accounts (not much money is involved!), applying for local Town Council and District Council grants once a year and sorting out van insurance and making arrangements for MOTs and occasional servicing and similar tasks.  The current volunteer, Alec, would be happy to answer any questions and can assure you that it really isn’t too time-consuming. 

OTFORD MEDICAL PRACTICEis organising ‘Our Senior Years’ at the Otford Memorial Hall on 14 May.  This health awareness half day includes an agenda from gentle exercise through music, to speakers on health, a chance to ask and talk about dementia, loneliness, and bereavement, and a session on planning for an older age.  From 10 am to 1.30, you can just turn up.

 THE GREAT EU IN OR OUT DEBATE   It’s difficult to arrange an evenly balanced panel of Pro Speakers and Con Speakers on this and SDSAF is committed to basing our work on what our Members tell us and we have not surveyed our Members on this.  So, as the Committee exists to run the organisation and pass on your concerns, not ours, we suggest that you attend the EU debate being arranged by Sevenoaks Chamber of Commerce.

HELP!  Do you have marketing skills?  Or writing skills?  With SDSAF’s huge growth, the workload has grown and we could use some help with our newsletter, website, lobbying and marketing.  What’s your background?  Could you help?  You don’t have to join the committee or do other stuff you would find boring but we could do with some help.  Would you like to be our village or town contact person? Please don’t be shy!!!  Give us a call, send us an email …

SEVENOAKS DAY NURSERYis due to move to a new building in 2019 and is looking for new trustees particularly with accounting, local government or project management skills to help manage this project successfully.  The trustees hope to work more closely with groups like children’s centres, low income families and the women’s refuge to make sure we’re targeting those who most need our services. Contact more info on this volunteering opportunity.  Please note: an opportunity like this may be filled before we go to print!

COMMUNITY FIRST RESPONDERS  If you call for an ambulance, you are liable to find that a CFR gets to you first.  It’s good to help people as dedicated as the CFRs and they are having a fund raising concert on July 9th at Otford.  SDSAF is helping!  Yes, you can see the odd SDSAF committee member putting on a completely different hat and entertaining CFR supporters!

NOTE TO OTHER COMMITTEE MEMBERS – I hope you’ve got this in your diaries!

ANOTHER SCAM  DON’T RESPOND TO AN EMAIL OR TEXT MESSAGE SUPPOSEDLY FROM A BANK ASKING YOU TO PHONE A PARTICULAR NUMBER.  Instead phone your bank on the number you have on your statement and ask if they have sent you this message.  They will not have!  It’s a scam.


 Thank you to our partners

© 2012 Sevenoaks District Seniors Action Forum Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha