This is the first of a number of questions being put to the candidates for Harrogate and Knaresborough Member of Parliament.
Question: There many significant national issues being talked about by all parties, but what do you see as the key local issues and what do you see the part a Member of Parliament should take in those issues ?
Judith Rogerson, Liberal Democrats, said:
To my mind the most key local issues all relate to the long term future of our local communities. These require a mixture of both local and national solutions so that we can build a brighter future for everyone in our area.
There is a huge level of concern being expressed to me about the number of new housing developments being built in the area. There’s no doubt that more houses need to be built around the country to deal with the crisis in the shortage of homes, but they need to be the right kind of houses in the places where they are most needed. And there must be the right level of infrastructure and services to support these growing communities. There is definitely a sense at the moment that this is not happening in our area. Ultimately local planning decisions are made by the Council and this has not been helped over recent years by the delay in finalising the Local Plan. I see the role of MP as making sure that the voices of residents are heard by working with local councillors and also in Westminster by raising these issues with those who are making wider policy decisions.
Then there is the state of our railways. This is raised with me on a very frequent basis and something I have personal experience of – we have to put up with an out of date, expensive and unreliable service. There is real anger that promises to significantly improve the local system just haven’t materialised. People feel forced to use their cars instead of public transport. This just adds to the problems of congestion and pollution in our local area. The Lib Dems have an ambitious package of reforms to change the way that our railways are run. It will be my role as MP, as someone with direct personal experience of these problems, to stand up for local commuters by lobbying those making decisions about the future of our transport systems to ensure that the attention and investment we need comes our way.
Thirdly, a key issue at the present time is the future of our high streets and town centres. We need to adapt to the changing economy and come up with a clear vision of how we can attract local people and visitors into our town centres. We need to listen to the views and ideas of a range of groups and individuals who have different perspectives and interests so we can form a plan for the future. As MP I’d be very keen to play my part in helping to form that vision. The Lib Dems have a carefully thought out plan to revive our high streets which includes replacing business rates with a new scheme that would reduce the taxation burden on small and medium sized businesses.
Andrew Jones said:
There many significant national issues being talked about by all parties, but what do you see as the key local issues and what do you see the part a Member of Parliament should take in those issues?
The main issue in our area is how we maintain and improve our quality of life and the place where we live.
That is why I led the successful political campaign against a relief road through the Nidd Gorge which would have harmed a valuable piece of our natural heritage loved and used by thousands.
It is why I championed the bid for clean bus technology. This resulted in us seeing grants worth millions to retro-fit dirty old buses with emission cleaning filters and bring in a whole new fleet of electric buses.
On trains after decades we are seeing the phasing out of the pacers. They transition should be complete by early next year but even before that we will see six daily direct services to and from London using brand new Azuma trains.
Better public transport and greener methods of travel are important for our environment and for us to get where we need to be and people to get to our area. There are issues to resolve, I have contacted Northern Rail about the problems with timetabling and there are areas where we need to encourage local bus companies to provide services.
Our quality of life is affected by the vibrancy of the area in which we work and shop. Our high streets are seeing challenges brought about by the shift to online shopping. We need to help our retail centres adapt to these changes in shopping habits. To support them while this happens I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to look at rebalancing business rates so that traditional high street stores aren’t at such a disadvantage compared to multi-national online stores.
I was pleased to see the local council take a pro-active approach to several long-term empty shops on Knaresborough High Street which they negotiated to purchase and are now bringing back into use.
Local health services are an important part of the mix too. The provision of mental health services is changing and I want to be sure that the correct level of provision – particularly for those in crisis – is available locally and quickly. Our NHS though has won plaudits from the independent Care Quality Commission (CQC) for its caring approach and our cancer care is among the best in the country. And in the last few weeks we have seen Harrogate NHS Trust win a share of multi million pound funding to upgrade cancer detection and treatment equipment.
Our MP has an important role in ensuring we maintain and improve our quality of life. It’s easy to bang on about Brexit or do the political sniping but I don’t think that is what our MP should be doing. Our MP needs to be a champion for our area; supporting local groups and campaigns, speaking out for our schools and NHS, being an advocate for constituents who bring problems to them irrespective of any political concerns and bringing new funding to our area.
I hope that is the kind of MP people think I have been and if re-elected on 12 December that is the way I will continue to work.
Kieron George, Yorkshire Party candidate said:
I think the key local issues are; helping struggling local businesses, addressing homelessness and preserving green spaces in the area.
These are all issues that can and should be addressed with the powers ceased by Parliament.
But the Liberal Democrats had failed to provide promised tax reforms that would revitalise the local economy.
And the Conservative have failed to build promised housing to prevent people sleeping rough.
So the Yorkshire Party will ensure that Yorkshire gets its fair share of funding to address all issues, if not more, to address historical shortfalls.
The plan for a relief road and treatment of our beautiful stray came from our Conservative-led local councils. We cannot trust a Conservative member to protect our area.
The hard work of the constituents of Harrogate and Knaresborough prevented the relief road. They won our fleet of electric buses. We need an MP that would sign the people’s praises not their own. When I say I will speak up for Yorkshire, I will speak up for them.
Mark Sewards of the Labour Party said:
One of my top priorities as the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough will be backing investment in our local schools and health services. The next government needs to give our NHS the funding and resources they need to make sure everyone in can access the care they need, when they need it. We should also recognise that prioritising education is the best investment a society can make. We have a duty to ensure that every child in our area has the best start in life. Harrogate & Knaresborough is fortunate to have so many beautiful green spaces including the beloved Nidd Gorge. There’s no denying that more affordable homes need to be built but this should never come at the expense of losing green spaces.
We must adopt a brownfield first approach so that housing and businesses are built in the right places. I’ll also make supporting and promoting our local businesses a top priority. I’m proud that Labour has promised to reform the business rates system to make life easier for those running small businesses. I also support the idea of flexible rents to bring much needed relief to existing businesses within the area. Finally, we must address the dreadful service that passengers on the Harrogate Line have experienced for far too long. Labour will end Northern Rail’s contract and bring our railways back into public ownership, putting passengers before profit and addressing the issues or unreliability and lack of investment in our local rail services.