Candidate round up for Wealden

10th December

We have interviewed all of the candidates and have tried to pick apart the main differences and their suitability to represent an area with a large rural component, challenges around infrastructure, crime and the needs of a significantly high number of elderly residents.

The 2017 results saw a big swing for Labour, but still very short of the large Conservative majority. The LibDems polled third and the Greens and UKIP lost their deposits.

To pay for an increase in services the parties have taken a very different approach Labour plan to increase spending for their policies by £83bn, the LibDems by £63bn and the Conservatives by just £2.9bn. Government funding is delivered at county level for local services So if you are looking for an improvement in services it might be easy to see who will deliver that, but it will depend on your standpoint.

Angie Smith

Angie Smith -LABOUR

Angie has strong local connections and a vote for her is for someone rooted in the community. She has experience as a town councillor. Both she and her family use local services and she has a strong desire to help with all local issues, she feels that proper case work is currently missing. She has a good understanding of the benefits and support system and the difficulties people experience trying to navigate the system, plus she is familiar with government. She has a Masters in Women and Childcare which is an area she currently works in through her work in Development for Domestic Abuse.

Extra funding will come from higher rate tax payers, closing of tax loopholes, increased corporation tax and higher taxes for big businesses. The aim of the Labour party is to make life better for the many and not just for the few.

With canvassing well underway, she was able to say that the current Brexit stance is working well for the Labour Party, as people see a second referendum as a democratic opportunity to make an informed choice.

Rural Community – The Labour party would run Rural Impact Assessments to ensure that rural differences are taken into account with any new policies. For example domestic abuse throws up particular challenges in a rural environment. Labour will encourage sustainable food production and support for smaller farmers via the National Food Commission and will also introduce unionised agricultural wages via a wages board.

Labour would ensure that the finance is there to build up bus routes and invest in infrastructure. The free high speed broadband proposal will have huge benefits for the rural community and encourages businesses to locate away from conurbations. Banks would be encouraged to stay open in remote communities, and the Post Office would be renationalised with increased banking options, and a small loans facility. Another idea is to create a hub for the community in pubs which will be encouraged to diversify with new role as many are currently struggling just offering conventional services. She also wants to see more secure tenancies, with local rent capping and an increase in the provision of council housing.

Austerity cuts starting in 2015 have seen a huge reduction in police numbers; and Angie would support increases in funding to help bring up the police and PCSO numbers in rural communities.

Social Care – Under Labour there would be free personal care in the home and social care reform of the system aligned to the NHS aiming to keep people in their homes for longer and to end bed blocking. The nursing bursary which was scapped by the Tories will be reinstated. There would be an end to the privatisation of the NHS. Child and adult mental health will also be helped with increased funding and the introduction of much needed school counsellors to support children.

Carbon Zero – Labour aim to get carbon neutral by 2030 through moving to Green technologies and making the workers at the centre of their plans. Friends of the Earth recently announced that when all the manifestos were reviewed – Labour came out with the greenest manifesto.

Angie thinks that Jeremy Corbyn will make a great Prime Minister, as he has been an MP since 1983 and has always tried to fight for what he feels is right. He is principled, knowledgeable, with considerable experience and a desire to make a real difference.

Nus Ghani

Nus Ghani – CONSERVATIVE

After some initial confusion from Nus Gharni, when she didn’t seem to know that Hellingly was in her constituency; we settled down to a constructive chat about how she is finding the campaign and what her key focuses are in the election.

She feels that you should vote for her because she is best suited to serve Wealden, she lives locally, uses local services, and is a good advocate for local groups including farmers, she works with the Crowborough Cadets and wants to promote women’s rights in particular with respect to domestic violence. An MP for four years Nus was keen to emphasise her support for every individual to do well.

She acknowledged that house building to quotas needs to be done sensitively in light of local objections. She supported investment in infastructure including the upgrading of the Uckfield Line and acknowledged issues with the lack of bus services – Nus appeared focused on using technology through smart apps to improve the efficiency of public transport as a means particularly for young people to access transport and spoke about point of access for older residents being the issue. The vision is admirable, but we have to hope there will be support for increased funding for grass roots rural bus services if the Conservatives are elected.

On policing she voiced her thoughts that – although Wealden appears to be a beautiful area, there is a level of crime that can surprise people – from farm theft of high value machinery to the sale of drugs via the ‘county lines’ activity and the invisible cost of internet fraud and online grooming. She supported the reintroduction of Community Policing. (Cuts were made under austerity pressures from the Conservative Government resulting in a forced saving of £56 million in the Sussex Police force between 2015 – 2020).

Unlike her fellow Tory, Huw Merriman she did not seem to support any social levy to provide for care for the elderly, nor funding through sale of personal assets, rather a centrally funded approach. This does seem to be a gap in the Conservative thinking, she isn’t the only Conservative MP to talk about a centrally funded cross party approach – the same stance was quoted on BBC Radio Women’s Hour (4.12.19). This masks the reality of what the Conservatives actually plan to do about social care funding.

She suggested that Boris Johnson should be returned in the role of Prime Minister because he has achieved a new Brexit deal, united the party and reached working people. She told us that she has been talking to 1000s of voters and the overwhelming message on the doorstep is that voters want Brexit done.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time which curtailled the interview.

Georgina Taylor – Green Party

Georgina Taylor – GREEN PARTY

A vote for Georgina is for someone who has lived in Wealden for nearly 20 years, has worked on a local farm education project, been a Parish Councillor and volunteered on the farm. She has a background in international development and has worked in government (10 years for the Department for International Development). She has worked with parliament, and government departments in the UK, worldwide and the United Nations. She feels: ” It gives me a good understanding of how best to represent the Wealden voice in parliament and get what we need.”

She is pro-remain because she feels it will better protect the environment, and also ensure workers rights and in favour a referendum on the “exit agreement” and the proposed trade relationship with the EU. We think that the Conservative position of a quick exit is a lie, there will be no quick resolution to this issue. We already have preferential trading agreements with 50 countries because of our membership of the EU. We will lose these if we leave the EU and each one will have to be negotiated separately and from a weaker bargaining position.

Georgina is against the building targets set for places like Hellingly. She thinks they are not based on local need and are not embedded in local comprehensive planning. In many cases there is no consideration of the increased infrastructure and services needs with the housing increase. Also, though “affordable housing” is supposed to be one of the targets, in practice many of the housing being built is for purchase by people who have enough money, which is a small percentage of the local population. The Greens want to increase the level of social housing, and in the manifesto commit to 100,000 new social housing homes each year . We will increase central government funding to councils by £10 billion per year.

Georgina confirmed that the Greens manifesto is commited to community based policing alongside investment in education and employment, and in youth services.

She commented on the Green Party Leaders ” Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley are principled and honest, highly capable and committed to this country, and to addressing the climate emergency – a top priority for our future. “

Chris Bowers – photographer Katie Van Dyck

Chris Bowers – LIBERAL DEMOCRAT

The Liberal Democrats are standing on a revoke Brexit platform which Chris feels has given him a clear campaigning message and voters understand exactly where the LibDems are on Brexit. A vote for Chris Bowers is a vote for someone who wants to make life sustainable and build communities. A man who has lived in Uckfield for 21 years, whose children have grown up there; someone who has seen life and who wants to stand up for his beliefs. His family were refugees from Nazi Germany and he feels it is important to counter extreemist behaviour in the UK and not to allow it as happen as it did in Germany.

On local planning – he believes that housing targets are needed because solving the housing crisis is important, but random targets are pointless, if housing isn’t being built near centres of employment. Especially if it causes more traffic due to lack of transport. All of this creates problems for the future in places like Hailsham. The recent extensive flooding in Hailsham in areas where developments are planned is very questionable in his opinion.

The LibDems will have a 2bn rural services fund. They want to ensure that superfast broadband is available everywhere, to boost rural economies and employment opportunities and the viability for homeworking.

Chris confirmed that the Liberal Democrats will restore community policing with a billion pound fund, and he believes that the police need to be visible to deter criminals. They also plan to spend 500 million pounds on repairing the dessimated youth services.

They also want to green the economy with more non-service industry jobs. A guaranteed minimum income is another policy they want to trial.

Social Care will be paid for with 1p in the £ to upgrade the NHS and deliever social care for all.

The LibDems feel that climate change is the most urgent question on the agenda and their zero carbon target of 2030 is based on what he suggested is a programme with immediate cuts on emissions and swift action now.

On the question of leader suitability, he felt that it is the content of the party’s policies that stand out, and it is this that people should be looking at and not personalities. On tactical voting he urged all LibDems to use their votes as there is everything to play for.