The Politicians put in their answers – well two out of three aint bad…

April 30, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Daily Life | 11 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

So, as per my last post, I am voting for the first time, and have asked for some help from the big three to decide who, as a local elected MP would do the most for me and my family.

Our Conservative leader Nicola Blackwood asked if I have invited UKIP and Green to answer my questionnaire, to which I answered no on the following basis.

Green lost my vote when they pulled up in a nearby market town and draped their big green banner over a huge 4×4.  I don’t quite get that logic.

I heard a radio interview with UKIP this week who lost me when they talked about the importance of introducing smoking rooms in pubs and clubs, and went on to avoid answering most of the other questions put to them.

Anyway, back on track, I’m pleased to announce that our Labour and Conservative candidates have been very helpful and responded quickly and fully to my questions.

I think it’s really important to say that Labour were the first to acknowledge my request, first to respond with their answers, and had someone come to the house to hand deliver a booklet about families, and also emailed me a link with further reading.  Yes, I know they’ve got to be in it to win it, but maybe just a little brownie point is due for their efforts there.

Labour – Richard Stevens

Health

1. We took our son to A&E last year, and had to wait for hours in a corridor.  He was less than a year old.  How would you improve the NHS services at the JR?

I’m sorry to hear you had that experience.  The key thing we can do to improve NHS services at the JR is to make sure we protect public investment in frontline services like the NHS.  Labour’s record on the NHS since 1997 is visible throughout Oxford West & Abingdon.  At the JR alone we have a new heart centre, a new cancer centre and a new children’s hospital.  They are significant new facilities, and they’re here as a result of Labour’s investment.

Education

2. There are some excellent facilities for pre-school children locally including North Abingdon Children’s Centre, how can you support these ventures moving forwards?

The Sure Start children’s centres are a Labour innovation – 3,500 have been created from scratch across the country (including 6 in this constituency), and I agree they’re great facilities and they are used by millions of families.  We are committed to protecting spending on Sure Start children’s centres.  The Conservatives have refused to give the same pledge to investing in them, and their plans could mean 1 in 5 children’s centres closing.

3. We work hard for a living, but sometimes it feels like my three day a week (self employed) earnings goes purely on nursery fees.  How can you support working families?

I agree with you that we need to do more too help working families.
The childcare element of Working Tax Credit helps many families receive up to 80% of their childcare costs through tax credits.  In April 2009 we supported families on low incomes through a £50 increase in the child element of the Child Tax Credit.  All families get Child Benefit, which we increased to £20 a week in April 2009.  And from September this year parents of all 3 and 4 year olds will have 15 free hours of nursery provision a week for 38 weeks a year.

4. I am worried about getting a place at a good primary school for my son, how can you help me to ensure that my children get the best possible state school education?

The most important thing to say is that Labour has pledged to protect investment in education – something the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have not pledged.  We have pledged to set out in law guarantees of the education and personal support pupils and parents can expect.  We have more teachers and teaching assistants working in our schools than we did in 1997, and it’s right that our spending commitments remain focused on education.

Work

5. I want to grow my business, whilst juggling that with being a parent. How do you propose to help small businesses to grow and develop?

In my job as a solicitor I work with a number of small and medium sized businesses.  One thing I think smaller businesses tend to struggle with when trying to grow is access to credit; we have pledged to create a new Small Business Credit Adjudicator to make sure small businesses aren’t treated unfairly by banks when trying to get loans.
We’ve also extended the Time to Pay scheme to help businesses with tax, and a one year holiday on business rates for small businesses.

Local/Environment

6. We live in a quiet street, but near to a busy area, so we really like to see police on the streets.  What are your policing priorities in the area?

Labour has put an extra 17,000 police officers and 16,000 PCSOs on the beat throughout the country, and that investment has made a big difference to community policing.  Every community now has a neighbourhood police team committed to spending at least 80% of their time on the beat and visible in their neighbourhood. This is the third area – after the NHS and education, as set out above – where Labour has specifically pledged to protect frontline investment.  Only by pledging to protect that investment can we tackle the key priorities of neighbourhood crime and anti-social behaviour.

7. Abingdon town centre has huge potential, and although showing signs of the vibrant and bustling market town it could be, needs more – what would you like to see happen to it?

I would like to see an increasing number of independent shops, which would allow Abingdon to really thrive as a vibrant market town.  But the crucial thing about Abingdon is tackling the infrastructure and access.  ABITS needs a radical overhaul, and the Councils need to work together urgently to make that happen – otherwise I fear that Abingdon town centre will not get the visitors it deserves.

8. What are your thoughts on improving household waste collections and encouraging families to recycle more?

Labour’s policy of sending less waste to landfill has resulted in changes to waste collections – not all of them immediately popular – but the policy has worked nationally.  There have been problems with the implementation of local recycling schemes by local authorities, and that’s definitely happened in Abingdon.  A key pledge in Labour’s manifesto is to move towards a “zero waste” Britain by banning recyclable and biodegradable materials from landfill.

And ConservativeNicola Blackwood went out of her way to get these answers back to me today which was kind.

Health

1. We took our son to A&E last year, and had to wait for hours in a corridor.  He was less than a year old.  How would you improve the NHS services at the JR?

Firstly, I am really sorry that you had such a bad experience with your son, I do hope he’s ok?

Few things matter more to our country than the NHS – it is an institution which binds our nation together. As the daughter of a local doctor, I know only too well the strains on far too many of our NHS staff and just how frustrating the system can be to patients.

Although we have some first class care, health professionals and facilities in Oxfordshire there are some concerns. Even though Labour has spent record amounts on the NHS, we are looking at £240m cuts to local NHS services. Conservatives have committed to protecting the NHS budget and ensuring that spending on the NHS increases every year of a new Parliament but we also need to look at how the money is spent. Over the last 10 years there have been 9 reorganisations of the NHS, the number of managers in the NHS is increasing more than five times as fast as the number of nurses. And nurses now spend more than a million hours every week on paperwork.

We need to insulate the NHS from political interference with an Independent NHS Board (like the Independent Bank of England). We need to cut down on targets making sure that what matters is the care of patient not the process and paperwork. And we need to let the health professionals decide on the health priorities for their own areas. And finally, we want to set up a powerful new Patient Watchdog to really give patients a voice in how their NHS is run.
Education

2. There are some excellent facilities for pre-school children locally including North Abingdon Children’s Centre, how can you support these ventures moving forwards?

All of us were shocked when we saw the UNICEF report which claimed that the UK was the worst place in the developed world for child wellbeing. The UK was placed last in a league table of 21 industrialised countries across a range of indicators including poverty, family relationships and health, we have to change that.

Key to our plans to better support families is the Conservative commitment to strengthen Sure Start with 4,200 Extra Health Visitors. A Conservative government will ensure that every family gets the support they need from properly trained professionals by funding 4,200 additional health visitors. We will pay for this by diverting funding earmarked for Sure Start ‘outreach’ workers, and through the Department of Health budgets where we have pledged real increases.

Under a Conservative government, Sure Start Children’s Centres will be run as independent institutions, similar to Academy schools, by community and voluntary sector providers with a proven track record of helping the families with the greatest needs. We will link the payments made to Children’s Centres to their performance against key outcomes, focus more resources on the frontline rather than on administration, and publish data to gauge how effectively Centres are helping the neediest families. Our plans will give all families much better support and ensure that resources also get through to the disadvantaged children who need them most.


3. We work hard for a living, but sometimes it feels like my three day a week (self employed) earnings goes purely on nursery fees.  How can you support working families?

The Conservatives offer the strongest family package any Party has put together. We will recognise marriage in the tax system, we will end the couple penalty in the tax credits system and we will make it easier for parents to strike a good balance between their family and work.

We support the extension of the entitlement to free nursery care for all 3 and 4 year-olds from 12.5 hours to 15 hours a week. We appreciate that many private and voluntary nurseries are facing funding problems when delivering the free entitlement. We will review this to support the choice in childcare that parents need.

Many families struggle to find affordable childcare. The childcare element of the Working Tax Credit can help cover costs, but the system is so bureaucratic and difficult to understand that thousands of people do not claim what they are entitled to. We want to simplify tax credits so families can get the support they need.


4. I am worried about getting a place at a good primary school for my son, how can you help me to ensure that my children get the best possible state school education?

Although we have some really excellent schools in Oxford West & Abingdon (I should know I am a governor at a particularly excellent local special school) there is an increasing problem with school places. Especially when one local school is much better than another. Conservatives want to do two things: improve standards at all schools and make it easier to set up more schools. The main ways in which we want to do that are:

Move to a high quality system of teacher recruitment and training by raising entry requirements, expanding Teach First and incentivising top maths and science graduates.

We will give teachers the tools and powers they need to keep order in the classroom. We will abolish the legal requirement of 24 hours’ notice for detentions; reform the exclusion process; and give headteachers the power to ban, search for, and confiscate any items they think may cause violence or disruption.

We will take urgent action to reverse the decline in standards. We will reform the National Curriculum, remove political interference from GCSEs and A-levels, and allow state schools to do the same high quality exams as private schools. We will replace Key Stage 1 Sats with a simple reading test, reform Key Stage 2 Sats, and make Ofsted report on schools’ setting policies and reading schemes.

We will make it much easier for educational charities, groups of parents and teachers, cooperatives and others to start new Academies (independent, non-selective state schools). We will also move to a national per pupil funding system, with extra funding for the poorest pupils (a pupil premium).

Work

5. I want to grow my business, whilst juggling that with being a parent.  How do you propose to help small businesses to grow and develop?

Firstly, we want to make flexible working available to as many people as possible. Currently, the right to request flexible working is only available to parents with children under sixteen or disabled children under eighteen. We will extend the right to request flexible working to all parents with children under 18. We will ensure that the public sector – Britain’s biggest employer – becomes a world leader in providing flexible working opportunities.

We were the first major economy to go into recession and the last to come out and business suffered more than ever before: more companies went bust in this recession than in any other previous recession. We firmly believe that it is only by genuinely supporting business that we can get our economy back on track. That is why small, medium and large businesses across the country have come out in support of our proposals to make the UK the best place in Europe to do business:

Cut Corporation Tax. High taxes prevent businesses from investing in future growth and deter foreign firms from locating in the UK. A Conservative government would cut the main rate of corporation tax from 28 to 25 per cent, paid for by removing some complex reliefs. We will also cut the small companies’ corporation tax rate from 22 to 20 per cent.

Cut Red Tape. A Conservative government will not only cut the burden of regulation on businesses but will improve the quality of regulation.

Abolish Tax on Jobs Created by New Businesses. Within the first two years of a Conservative government, we will abolish the tax on the first ten jobs new businesses create in their first year.

Halve Labour’s Tax on Jobs. We will raise the secondary threshold at which employers start paying NICs by £21 a week, saving employers up to £150 for every person they employ relative to Labour’s plans. This will reduce the cost of Labour’s tax rise on employers by more than half.

Cutting Time it takes to Start a Business. Make it easier for people to set up new enterprises by cutting the time it takes to start a new business, and making Britain the fastest place in the world to start a business. The Conservatives will reduce the number of forms needed to register a new business, and move towards a ‘one-click’ registration model.
Local/Environment

6. We live in a quiet street, but near to a busy area, so we really like to see police on the streets.  What are your policing priorities in the area?

I think that the Neighbourhood Action Groups have been a positive step in making local policing more in tune with community priorities but we need to go further.

The reality is that an increasing burden of administrative and procedural bureaucracy has come to consume progressively more of police officers’ time, keeping them away from the front line of crime-fighting and reducing their effectiveness: just 14 per cent of all police officers’ time is spent on patrol compared with 22 per cent of their time on paperwork.

Conservatives want to cut red tape by scrapping the Stop form and letting police just radio in a Stop and Search. We want to scrap targets which distort local policing priorities and give police new powers to deal with anti-social behavior. And, of course, we want to make sure that existing alcohol and drugs laws are properly enforced.

Finally, in order to make sure that local communities really have a say we want to introduce elected Police Commissioners who will be directly accountable to you for local policing.


7. Abingdon town centre has huge potential, and although showing signs of the vibrant and bustling market town it could be, needs more – what would you like to see happen to it?

Abingdon needs a government which supports business and that is exactly what a Conservative Government would do but it also needs to give more decision making power to local people on issues like planning and development. We need to fight for greater government investment in our roads so that we can get the traffic under control and we need a district council which will attract investment to the town centre – you only have to look at the way South Oxfordshire have transformed Didcot to see what is possible with the right investment.

Finally, we need to be better at marketing Abingdon. It has had tough times, and they are not quite over, but it has so much to offer – a great community, great buildings and a great location – we just need to make the most of it.

8. What are your thoughts on improving household waste collections and encouraging families to recycle more?

We will repeal the bin tax legislation, saving families from new taxes. We want to promote schemes which reward and encourage neighbourly behaviour and recycling, rather than imposing schemes which tax, fine or incentivise fly-tipping.

• The Government has already undertaken some ‘reward-only’ pilots, which showed positive behavioural effects of rewarding recycling (DEFRA, Evaluation of the Household Waste Incentives Pilot Scheme, August 2006).

• Conservative-run Windsor & Maidenhead Council is already piloting the ‘Recyclebank’ scheme, used in America, where householders are paid for recycling through high street vouchers. Boris Johnson is also planning a pilot in London. The Greater London Authority has estimated that Recylebank incentive schemes could result in a financial benefit of households of £14 a month (GLA, The Mayor’s Draft Municipal Waste Management Strategy, January 2010, p.70). These pilots will show how it can be a fiscally neutral scheme, as increasing recycling reduces the costs of waste disposal.

• We will work with councils to encourage the take-up of such Recyclebank-style reward schemes, creating a stable investment framework for councils by providing certainty over the long-term level of landfill tax.

• We will also make it easier for councils to introduce discounts and incentives for recycling and green behaviour. Under the Local Government Act 2003, only billing authorities may introduce discounts and must fully fund their cost. This creates significant problems where the waste disposal authority is not the billing authority. We will amend the legislation to allow any local council to introduce a discount, funded from its own budget, and enable waste collection authorities and waste disposal authorities working together to introduce incentives.

So, the Lib Dems are yet to reply with their answers, but when they do, I’ll be setting about making my decision, ready to cast my vote on Thursday.

If the papers do cover it, I’ll let you know!

Happy Bank Holidays!

Advertisements

11 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. This is fab and has inspired me for when i get a knock on the door from our local candidates this weekend. Weird how similar my questions would be (minus the small business one) – I’d ask them about childcare provisions given I’m a working mum…. the APPALLING local NHS services I received during pregnancy (and they’re even planning to take that away) and how to maintain local parenting provisions.

    • Am really chuffed that I’ve inspired you thank you!!!
      Let me know if you manage to put any door to doorers on the spot this weekend!
      I think it’s right that we ask, ‘actually, what are you going to do for me?’
      xx

  2. Wow, well done for getting them talking in such detail! Did you feel there was enough substance in their replies? Will they influence your decision? I’m asking as somebody who’s not going to vote, ’cause I’m French.

    • Am definitely going to base my vote on this, but probably more so their willingness to help me, I want my local MP to be responsive and proactive, so it’s been a really interesting process.

  3. What a great idea! I quizzed my local MP last week but didn’t think to turn into a blog post. Looks like you got some good detailed responses. I’m not a million miles from you in West Berkshire.

    • You should post about how its influenced your decision!
      Had photo taken for local papers this morning, they’re covering the story which is exciting! Going to run it tomorrow so will tweet the link! x

  4. […] For a quick catch up on the replies received from my local Labour and Conservative candidates you can read those here. […]

  5. What a fantastic piece and well done on getting in the newspaper

    • Thank you! Just called the Guardian, but think I am having delusions on that one!

  6. I think this is wonderful as you know and the fact they got back to you with such good answers helps. Well done on the paper running the story too. x

    • Thank you hun. Just had a really nice email from Labour, I have to admit they’re ticking all the boxes when it comes to helpfulness!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: