Ahead of next week’s General Election the Gazette asked all the candidates standing in Torridge and West Devon for their thoughts on some of the area’s key issues.
Here's what David Chalmers (Liberal Democrats), Geoffrey Cox (Conservative), Chris Jordan (Green), Siobhan Strode (Labour) and Bob Wootton (Independent) had to say:
What do you think are the three most important issues that need to be tackled?
David Chalmers (DC): 1/ Stop Brexit. 2/ Invest in our public services - schools, colleges, hospitals, police, social care and infrastructure. 3/ Tackle the Climate Emergency
Geoffrey Cox (GC): By getting rid of the huge deficit we can now (1) put new investment into our schools and hospitals, (2) energise the local economy with gigabit connectivity for rural areas, improved roads and new rail links, (3) lift low wages and help create jobs by raising the national living wage while keeping taxes for working people and businesses low, and investing in skills, apprenticeships, science and research, such as the new £15 million Technology Institute at Petroc College.
Chris Jordan (CJ): 1/ The climate emergency. We need to act now. The latest UN report says there is a need to reduce CO2 by 7.6 per cent for each of the next 10 years. Coastal erosion and flooding is already evident. What is our legacy to the next generations? 2/ Integrated transport. Everyone should have the choice to walk, cycle, get a bus or train before choosing (electric) car. 3/ Social care. Put money tree wealth into restoring funds and services to 2010 levels with day centres and specialist community support and fully integrate with NHS systems.
Siobhan Strode (SS): Housing - ensuring that all homes are retrofitted with insulation and that we build eco-friendly social housing. We need homes that local people can afford. We need to help young people stay in TWD. NHS - community hospital beds are closing and our GP surgeries are struggling. We need to save our NHS from privatisation and Trump's grubby paws. Climate - We need to take the climate emergency seriously and tell the truth. Work with farmers and fishermen - those at the forefront of climate change. Working with energy cooperatives to keep things local, reinvesting in our economy with a Green Industrial Revolution bringing jobs to the area.
Bob Wootton (BW): (a) the Climate Emergency, (b) Homelessness and economic deprivation and (c) Domestic violence. In my view, the answer to these issues is the empowerment of the people this affects both legally and economically. To do this, a national Constitutional Convention needs to be held and a fair and just economic operating system needs to be created. A system that has as its output the end of unwanted poverty. The current DLP economic operating system produces the super rich and the super poor, food banks and billionaires.
How can we help our hardworking teachers give the best possible education to children?
GC:The Conservatives will deliver one of the biggest increases in per-pupil funding in Devon, levelling up across the country and giving schools in Torridge more resources, in addition to an extra £6 million next year for children in Devon with special educational needs and disabilities.
CJ: Reintegrate the school system under local authorities so resources can be shared and schools can work together. Encourage community input, with valued mature, retired and experienced volunteer support encouraged. We should make teaching and learning be part of everyone's life. We also need to look at quality improvement delivered by schools, not league tables.
SS: As an experienced teacher and governor, with two children in local schools, I know exactly how to help teachers: Schools need funding! Class numbers are too high, ceilings are leaking, there's not enough SEND support - Devon's Ed Psychs, other experts and services are overstretched. Labour will scrap SATs, alleviating stress for pupils and teachers. By investing in a National Education Service, we'll ensure every child in TWD can achieve their potential.
BW: Education is important to me. I was a mature student in my 40s when I got my 2.2 degree in International Studies from North Staffs. Polytechnic, (now Stafford University) and a (failed) student nurse when I was 50. Nowadays five-year-olds have access to a 'smart device', a smartphone, a tablet computer or a laptop. So I advocate the 'flipped classroom methodology', which uses lessons on these devices as homework and teachers (and also fellow pupils who have mastered a subject) to provide one to one tuition to help pupils who have not mastered a subject, see Khan Academies and the Ted Talks by Salman Khan.
DC: End the unfair funding of Devon school children where currently country currently £294 less per pupil than elsewhere. Recruit 20,000 new teachers and increase education funding by £10.6 bn a year. Replace SATS tests with teacher assessment.
How would you fix adult social care and how would you pay for it?
CJ: Restore localised direction, planning and control and return to pre-austerity funding proportions. Paid for by reviewing empty and second home charges.
SS: Our National Care Service will work in partnership with the NHS, ensuring care is delivered for people, not for profit. Social care should be free at the point of use. I'd like to see an increase the Carer's Allowance for unpaid full-time carers as well. To pay for this, we'll be increasing spending by 4.3 per cent per year in real terms, using taxes raised from the highest earners paying their fair share.
BW: I would use the Buurgvoort model used in the Netherlands. If extra funds were needed to pay for it, I would scrap HS2 and the planned extra runway at Heathrow.
DC: Integrate social care in to NHS and put 1p on income tax specifically for health (mental and physical) health and care services to raise £7.8 bn a year
GC: The Conservatives will allocate an extra £1billion each year for social care and seek cross-party consensus to bring forward the necessary legislation to deliver much needed long-term reform. Our commitment is that nobody needing care must sell their home to pay for it.
What idea would you suggest to reduce social isolation?
SS: One of the key things we need to change to reduce social isolation is our transport system. The bus network for our rural communities is so unreliable and expensive! I'd like to see local authorities being funded to bring buses under their control, creating a synchronised timetable that works for everyone, allowing people to get out and about, rather than being stuck at home. Bringing people together and revitalising our market towns.
BW: To end Social Isolation locally, I would advocate the formation of residents' associations. Where these do not exist at present, perhaps an economic incentive is needed, eg to qualify for a personal tax allowance, a person must be a member of a residents' association in their ward and also be on the electoral register.
DC: Set up £2 billion Rural Services fund - invest in local bus services, ensure all households have access to superfast broadband - put mental health services on par with physical health
GC: Support for community organisations and charities that tackle loneliness by providing community spaces, drop in centres and other activities. Torrington Men's Shed is a great local example. Initiatives like this play a vital role in improving mental health and wellbeing.
CJ: Social isolation can be dealt with by community prescribing, and a grandmas bench at GP surgerys and even schools as well as free local public transport for seniors.
What taxation should there be, if any, to pay for better local services?
BW: To pay for local services, I have long advocated that all taxes paid by people living in a parish should go to the local parish council and a percentage of the amount forwarded to the district council and so on up county councils and then the national government. In this way, our government could not 'hold the people to ransom'.
DC: £50 billion bonus from stopping Brexit will be used to support local government and invest in public services. We shall reverse the cut in corporation task back to 20%. Replace business rates with tax on the value of the land.
GC: The best way to raise additional tax revenue is to grow the economy, creating more jobs and helping businesses to invest and expand. A strong economy produces more tax income to fund better public services.
CJ: Higher council tax bands. Currently Buckingham Palace and a four-bedroom house share the top band! A generalised carbon tax on fuel use as well.
SS: We need to tax the top five per cent a little more - the same as a monthly cost of a Netflix subscription - also I believe fossil fuel companies and 'dirty' businesses should pay more tax. Returning capital gains tax to 2010 levels will fund our education reforms. If everyone paid their fair share, we could fully fund schools and our NHS!
What's your favourite film and why?
DC: Most recent film - American Woman with Sienna Miller - superb acting throughout. It portrays a tough life in small town USA - despite all its challenges and misfortunes people still pull through to live their lives.
GC: My Cousin Vinny. It is very funny.
CJ: Apocalypse Now. Great direction, great acting and great design. The opening sequence with The Doors' music is amazing.
SS: I spent my teens reading the Harry Potter books, and I love watching the films. My favourite is the Deathly Hallows. The powerful messages about good winning over evil that Dumbledore shares throughout the books and films are inspiring and apt: "Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right." Words to live by IMHO!
BW: My favourite film is the Blues Brothers because I love the music and the 'cartoon' aspect of the film, by which I mean the two brothers get 'blown-up' and attacked with a flamethrower but they never get hurt.