HUSTINGS ROUND UP: North Devon election candidates answer your questions
- Credit: Archant
Read a round up of the North Devon election candidates’ responses to our live online hustings.
The North Devon Gazette held its first online hustings on Thursday night – grilling the North Devon General Election candidates on the issues that matter to you.
Readers submitted questions beforehand and on the night, and we put the candidates on the spot, asking them about issues from climate change to hospital closures.
You can view the full debate on the Gazette website under our special election section, but here is a summary of some of the issues covered:
The single most important issue facing North Devon
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PHJ: It’s vital we have a strong and growing economy so we can create jobs and have security for working families. And only with a growing economy can we invest in local services.
GS: Probably the same as for most places, namely poverty, inequality and austerity. Isolation can be a problem.
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MC: Low pay – we live in an area where low wages hold us back. We need an increase in the minimum wage so that people have a chance for a decent standard of living which will help our local economy grow.
SC: There are many problems we face in the short term, especially during the great ‘austerity’, but the thing we really need to do is create some economic momentum for North Devon that means we don’t have to always rely on tourism as our primary source of income.
RK: The austerity imposition is simply not working and we are in denial if we think it is. We are not ‘in it together’. Those with money have not suffered one jot while those least to blame for the financial collapse are suffering the most.
NH: North Devon is coming out of the economic downturn well now: unemployment is lower and new jobs are being created as local companies expand their markets. But sustaining our creaking public services is just as important to the quality of people’s lives here.
On local autonomy in planning decisions
GS: Ever since the 1970s, local government powers have been steadily reduced. Our party wants to see more power to local government.
SC: We need to build the kind of houses we need – especially smaller, cheaper units – and use brownfield sites, small infills and town-centre spaces such as those over the shops.
MC: We need to rebalance the way decisions are reached in this country – too much is either London or Metro centred – we need to devolve power to the regions and give local people the chance to determine how their communities develop.
PHJ: I want more say for local people on planning decisions.
RK: It seems that they want it both ways – national ‘guidance’ and local autonomy. I’m afraid the latter is a non-sequitur, because if a planning application is turned down, the appeal inevitably grants it and the local authority picks up the tab.
NH: It seems that local communities are at liberty to say ‘yes’ but if they say ‘no’ they can be – and are – over-ruled by the Planning Inspectorate. The critical thing is to get rid of the daft idea of the ‘five year land supply’ which is what most councils lose appeals over.
On the cost of private rent and rent caps
GS: Rent should not be dictated by the market. I would like to see rents being less than one sixth of median earnings.
SC: This is a serious problem of lack of supply, both of private rented and public rented housing. Rent caps are an enticing idea, but they work against increasing supply so may have the opposite effect.
PHJ: The answer is to ensure we have adequate supply of housing available for rent, and landlords who are willing to take on tenants who receive benefits – too many won’t.
NH: Increasing the supply of affordable housing is the best way to ease desperate situations. Rental costs follow house prices, and because North Devon has high property values this comes through into high rents.
MC: Many people need to rent and they need better protection. We [Labour] will create more secure three year tenancies and ensure that rents are fair and tied to increases in inflation and will stop rip off letting agent fees.
RK: Government has to act on the disparity of rented properties and the obsession with owner-occupiers.
On hospital closures
PHJ: I want the health and care services, local authorities and the voluntary sector (who all do great work in their own areas) to work better together.
GS: Community or cottage hospitals are so useful for ongoing care for recuperation and for end of life care. We should treasure them.
SC: We have closed far too many beds – there used to be three times as many in the system – and we have done away with the old system of using Red Cross volunteers to help hospitals cope with peak demand. Instead we have agency nurses who cost a fortune.
MC: Our small hospitals like the Tyrell and Torrington have a vital role to play in this and we need to preserve these community based beds as part of the strategy.
NH: People want to be treated at home when it is possible. But we still need community hospital beds when it is not possible. Taking them away will cause individual hardship and distress.
RK: The situation in Torrington, withdrawing beds and the availability of treatment close to home (another absurd oxymoron: ‘closer to home’ actually means further away) is essentially an ideological strategy to sacrifice the UK’s world renowned health system on the altar of the neo-liberal US-dominated business model.
On renewing the Trident nuclear submarine
RK: Trident is a complete waste of money. How on earth can we earmark such extraordinary sums to a system of American missiles which will assure us of mutual destruction? The Green Party will cancel it immediately.
GS: It’s bloody expensive and deadly. £100billion to replace something we never needed.
PHJ: We live in an increasingly uncertain world. In my view it would be irresponsible now to do away with our nuclear deterrent.
SC: Despite the fact that UKIP was against the war in Iraq, the intervention in Libya and the whole general mess that idiotic US and UK policy has made off the Middle East and the Maghreb, we do need to maintain our defence forces. It’s a truism that countries never prepare for the next war, only the last one.
MC: My personal view, and not, I stress, my party’s, is to oppose the replacement of Trident. The cost is astronomic but more significantly it makes little strategic sense.
NH: Keep the deterrent but on a contingency basis – like the rest of our military capability – rather than on 24/7 patrol when we do not have a nuclear adversary. We could save £8bn on the procurement and up to £800million a year running costs.
On the future of North Devon’s fishing industry
PHJ: The way quotas and limits have been enforced has left many fishermen struggling for survival. The EU rules are not helpful.
NH: I really do believe that there would be interest in other EU countries in fundamental changes, so we should attempt to negotiate a much looser framework of regionalised fishing policies, less easy to abuse.
MC: What is needed is a fundamental rebalancing of the way quotas are allocated. The government is not giving a fair share of quota to local fishermen who look after the sea.
RK: The Green Party proposes to bring fishing policy back into the domain of the government. MCZs need to be extended and increased.
SC: The problem is that EU quotas and UK government mismanagement are doing the exact opposite of what they are claimed to be trying to achieve. The reason given is that they want to protect fish stocks, but it’s our own fishermen who know how to do that. They are being forced off the water by minuscule quotas, while the big factory fleets stand offshore and hoover up the stocks.
GS: Very few fishermen like the EU and that is understandable.