Election 2015 Q&A: Labour’s Cann wants rise in minimum wage

Labour candidate for North Devon, Mark Cann

Labour candidate for North Devon, Mark Cann - Credit: Archant

In the latest of our series of profiles, we meet Labour’s candidate for North Devon, Mark Cann

How long have you been in politics?

Since 1979, when I first became a Town Councillor, but as an activist since my student days in the early 1970s.

Why have you decided to stand for election?

As the Labour candidate, I believe that our policies offer a fairer vision of the future, both for the Nation as a whole and here in North Devon. There are so many issues that need addressing and I believe in taking Labour’s message forward, I can help make a difference to the lives of the majority who have struggled so much over the past 5 years.


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What are the major issues facing North Devon between 2015 and 2020?

Low pay, a shortage of affordable housing, pressure on our NHS and social care services, work opportunities for our young people and problems facing small businesses.

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What would you like to see done to combat these?

We need to increase the Minimum wage and move to a Living Wage. By paying people fairly we not only make work pay and in doing so end the nonsense of the state making up for employers who don’t pay fairly. It also shows people the respect and decency they deserve. For employers it makes sense too – fairly paid workers are more productive and with more money circulating in the local economy more business opportunities arise.

North Devon has some of the most expensive housing in the country when compared with average incomes. We need to address the housing shortage and by increasing supply, prices can become more affordable. We also need to ensure that we have sufficient rented accommodation based on fair rents and protected tenancies.

We have an ageing population and the pressures on the Health and Care services will only become more intense. By having a joined up service, we can get people out of hospital beds and back to their own homes and so relieving the pressure on bed occupancy in our hospitals. Local hospitals like the Tyrell in Ilfracombe have a vital role as a half-way house in this process and need to be maintained.

Work opportunities for young people are few and far between. Students face the cost of tuition fees and for those seeking employment at 18, too many jobs are low skilled and low paid, often on exploitative zero hours contracts. We need greater investment in Apprenticeships so young workers in North Devon can build a career based on the skills we will all depend upon for the future.

The North Devon economy depends on many small and medium sized businesses and more needs to be done to help them invest and produce the jobs we need. Lack of access to fast Broadband is just one example of how many of our rural business struggle.

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

Labour is committed to raising the Minimum wage to at least £8 an hour by 2020. It will also offer incentives to employers who commit to the Living Wage.

Labour is committed to building at least 200,000 houses a year by 2020. These will be both affordable and built where local people want them. Labour will also act to give tenants a fair deal by guaranteeing fair rents and longer term tenancy agreements.

Labour has announced plans to improve Health and Social Care – a 10 year plan for the NHS which is a blueprint to raise standards of care and ensure the health service is sustainable in the 21st century. Labour will invest an extra £2.5 billion for more nurses, doctors, care workers and midwives, guarantee that you will not have to wait more than a week for a cancer test or 48 hours for a GP appointment. Labour will repeal David Cameron’s NHS changes that put private profit before patient care.

On apprenticeships, Labour will give businesses more control over apprenticeships while in exchange, employers will need to offer more opportunities and raise the standard and quality of apprenticeships so they last a minimum of two years. To help small businesses, Labour will cut and then freeze business rates, freeze energy bills and create a network of regional banks to boost lending for local businesses.

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

Coalition policies have seen people worse off than they were in 2010 and local services cut to the bone. Conservative plans are to cut still further as they seek a reduction in the role of the state. This will leave the most vulnerable at great risk. Labour’s approach is different. We can balance the budget and cut the deficit but in a fairer way which will ease some of the pressure on local services. Local authorities are already at a point where more cuts will see dramatic changes to the services we depend upon. We need a fairer financial settlement which sees those who can afford it paying more and not leaving the most vulnerable to depend on food banks.

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

Nationally, Labour is committed to get Britain building again. At the moment in North Devon as we have no adopted local plan, developers hold all the cards. The plan put forward by NDDC is logical and should form the basis for development in North Devon. Labour will give local people more say in where housing should be built and give local people priority when it comes to purchasing.

We need to look seriously at any proposal that helps to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Wave and tidal energy are still untapped and more could be done with these technologies. Wind and solar will play a part but their location needs addressing sensitively.

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

According to the one local poll carried out in North Devon, Labour is set to at least double its share of the vote and amongst 18-24 year olds, Labour leads. Both locally and nationally this will be a very close election. In North Devon, many people have voted for the Liberal Democrat in the past to ‘keep the Tories out’ only to end up with the Liberal Democrat putting the Tories into power and supporting them on every major policy including the Bedroom tax and the increase in Student fees. I’m sure that people can draw their own conclusions and use their vote wisely this time.

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

If elected, I will endeavour to represent all the residents of North Devon and work hard to ensure that North Devon is not forgotten in our ‘Metropolitan’ dominated political system.

Why should people give you their vote?

I believe Labour has a policy platform that recognises the need for a different approach to the way we manage our country. Coalition austerity policies have seen people £1600 worse off than in 2010 and an economy still struggling to reach the levels of 2010. Labour believes by sharing the burden more fairly we can achieve decent living standards for all.

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

I have a real concern that some may think it makes little difference who you vote for. My message especially to young people is – get registered and use your vote. There are important choices to be made about how we take the country forward. Young people in Scotland were energised by the recent Referendum campaign – the same should be true here and if you don’t vote don’t be surprised if you get an outcome you didn’t want.

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

Some of my spare time is taken up with working for Glastonbury Festival with which I’ve been associated since 1981

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