Election 2015 Q&A: Heaton Jones’ fair funding pledge

Peter Heaton-Jones.

Peter Heaton-Jones. - Credit: Archant

In the latest of our series of features profiling each of the candidates for this year’s election, we meet Peter Heaton-Jones, the Conservative candidate for North Devon

How long have you been in politics?

I haven’t been a career politician - far from it. I’ve had a real life and proper jobs, from plucking turkeys to presenting radio programmes. My first election of any kind was in 2008, standing for a seat on a district council.

Why have you decided to stand for election?

Because I love North Devon, and there’s so much to do here that hasn’t been done. I also believe Britain needs a Conservative government led by David Cameron, and I want to help make that happen.

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What are the major issues facing North Devon between 2015-20?

The biggest issue is the economy, both locally and nationally. We need a strong economy to secure jobs and investment. Then we need our fair share of funding for North Devon’s schools, NHS and local services, especially in rural areas. And we need financial security for families, pensioners and businesses.

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Connectivity is also vital – albeit an ugly word. The North Devon Link Road is not fit for purpose; our only railway line is creaking under the strain; and we need superfast broadband and reliable mobile phone networks for everyone.

Then there’s planning. I want more say for local people and less power for big developers and unelected inspectors.

What would you like to see done to combat these?

We’ll only get more investment in North Devon if we have a strong UK economy, so I’d like to see a Conservative government! Then we need a local MP who will stand up and fight for what we want and really bang the drum for North Devon.

On the Link Road, it should never have been allowed to be ‘de-trunked’ in the last decade. That needs to be reviewed so we can secure national investment. Regarding broadband and mobile connections, this government has done more than any other to get things moving and has already made a huge investment. I’ll keep pushing for the technology to be rolled out as quickly as possible.

And on planning, yes, we need to look at our current policies. But we’re still living with the legacy of Labour’s big housing targets, and the District Council also needs to establish a Local Plan so developers can’t take advantage of the vacuum.

How would your party deliver on this for the people of North Devon?

In case I hadn’t mentioned it already, by delivering a strong economy. That’s where it all starts. And personally I will use every means possible to ensure we get our fair share of funding in North Devon as the national economy continues to grow.

How much pressure do you think local services will come under should spending cuts continue? Can local authorities cope with these?

As a former Parish and District Councillor, I really understand the challenge being faced by our local authorities. I also know they’re looking at every way possible to protect vital services while living within their means. The key thing is to ensure North Devon gets our fair share, which hasn’t always happened.

Do you support or oppose further housing and renewable energy developments in the constituency? Why?

That’s impossible to say without knowing the details of individual schemes. Each one has to be considered on its merits. Yes we need new homes, especially affordable ones, but not to the detriment of existing communities or North Devon’s green fields. We need the right kind of renewable energy. That means no to legions of wind turbines marching across the countryside or coastline, which is why I opposed the Atlantic Array. We should look instead at harnessing the massive tidal energy offshore which could be a huge resource.

How confident are you of a successful election campaign for your party, both locally and nationally?

I’m fighting this election to win in North Devon, and the Conservatives are fighting to win a majority government. The polls are going in the right direction, but ultimately it’s up to the voters to decide. I’m going to keep running a positive, forward-looking campaign, and hopefully winning the trust of people from all sides of politics.

In one sentence, what would you pledge to offer to the people of North Devon should you be elected?

My pledge is to serve North Devon with renewed energy and determination, to fight harder for our fair share, and to be a strong, active and accessible local MP.

Why should people give you their vote?

Because it’s time for a fresh start in North Devon, because nobody will work harder than me, and because we need a Conservative government led by David Cameron; voting for any other party risks the chaos of a Labour government led by Messrs Miliband and Balls.

What would you say to anyone thinking about not voting in May?

Do vote, and vote Conservative. This is a really important election and every vote will count. And remember we have the general election and council elections on the same day, so it’s all to play for.

Away from politics, give us a quirky fact about yourself?

I once met Julian Clary on Bondi Beach, wearing a silver sequinned bathing suit. Julian Clary, not me.

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