Home » The Yarn Hustings – who gets your vote?

The Candidates Standing for West Dorset in the May 2015 General Election

The Yarn Hustings – who gets your vote?

Who will you vote for in the forthcoming General Election on 7 May? As we went to press, there were five candidates standing for West Dorset.

We asked each of the candidates the same eight questions and limited them to a maximum of 75 words for each answer.

1. Not enough affordable housing is being built in West Dorset. How will you change this?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
It is true that we need more affordable housing — and more housing of all kinds for our people in West Dorset. That’s why I am backing the new West Dorset Local Plan, the Neighbourhood Plans that are now coming forward in more and more of our villages, and the Community Land Trusts that we are seeing in places like Lyme Regis and Bridport.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
Lack of funding, and lack of profit for developers, creates this problem. CLTs and local initiatives can help. I worked to get the repaid loan from Buckland Newton’s CLT (£2M) dedicated to fund new CLT projects. I am pushing for social rented, low-cost private rented, shared equity, and low-cost open market social housing. But West Dorset District Council must draw on its £50M from selling council houses in the 1980s to enable this.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
Affordable housing allocation is the preserve of district and borough councils. West Dorset’s local plan was rejected because there was insufficient allocation for housing development, including affordable housing. I would ask West Dorset District Council to invest as much in affordable housing for its residents as it did in its own new home and I would lobby Government to restore the affordable housing development quota which was so weakened by the Coalition Government.

David Glossop, UKIP
We need to build more social and low-cost housing, on existing sites not green fields, to help local people. We will make it easier to build on brownfield sites by issuing low-interest bonds to enable decontamination if required. Houses built on brownfield sites should be exempt from Stamp Duty on first sale and VAT relaxed for redevelopment.

Peter Barton, Green
We would make a large increase in the social housing budget and remove borrowing caps from local councils to fund the building of half a million houses for social rent across the country. We would abolish the Right-to-Buy scheme, which has taken a million homes out of the social housing sector, contributing to house price inflation.

We would expand community land trusts and reform the private rented sector by introducing a Living Rent Tenancy.

2. What is your view of the plans to build 760 new homes at Vearse Farm and why?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
I support this proposal — for the reasons given in my answer to the first question: we need more housing locally for our young people. When an application is made, the Planning Committee will, of course, need to look at detailed questions of design, drainage, highway access and so forth — to make sure that the new development fits appropriately into its surroundings.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
760 is far more than this site could take in terms of visual impact, roads, educational and medical infrastructure, and the effects of flooding and drainage. The development would almost double the size of the town: Poundbury mark two? Bridport should decide how many homes it needs — and Bridport’s wish would be for them to be largely affordable and family homes. I challenge the figures which say we need this many houses.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
There are approximately 700 families on the housing list in West Dorset: that’s 700 families who are either homeless or inadequately housed. There are concerns about the consultation process, which is something for which Conservative and LibDem district councillors should be held accountable, and I have reservations about risk of flooding, lack of infrastructure and lack of affordable housing but, if these are successfully mitigated via the planning process, I would support the development.

David Glossop, UKIP
This site completely destroys the nature of a market town such as Bridport by adding a development which will increase the number of houses in the town by some 15 per cent and all within a small area. Insufficient thought has been given to the inclusion of the necessary infrastructure (schools, medical facilities, transport — buses, vehicle access, parking). Putting residential housing on a flood plain does not seem sensible.

Peter Barton, Green
I question the need for new development in Bridport on this scale. As this site includes flood plain, it is not suitable for new housing. We need more affordable homes so that local people can afford to stay and work in the area. We do not need more homes on the open market, which would increase the local population and put pressure on public services already weakened by the Coalition’s huge cuts.

3. Local councils have been told by the Government to make huge savings in addition to those that have already been made. How would you achieve this?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
We do definitely need more efficiencies at both county and district level. That is why I strongly support further efforts to integrate the back offices of our councils and other local public services. The way has already been shown by West Dorset District Council, which has frozen council tax and kept up services by combining with other districts.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
Most services are delivered by local authorities. Cuts represent a false economy. Rural communities pay higher council tax, receive less government grant and access fewer public services than urban counterparts. See my campaign to change this at http://www.west-dorset-libdems.org.uk/rural_bill_of_rights. Local authorities should get increased powers of taxation and infrastructure spending, more funding for transport, education and elderly care as well as an increase in funding to rural clinical commission groups.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
This government has slashed local authority budgets, damaging areas such as children’s services and elderly care. I would support the innovative tri-partnership with North Dorset, which will both achieve savings and add value. I would examine whether more district councils should be included in that partnership, and encourage West Dorset to become more economically proactive, following the lead set by Weymouth and Portland by generating income to replace that being sucked out by national government.

David Glossop, UKIP
I would hope that councils will have conducted a review of all their departments, but they do need to ensure that all staff, property and allowances are 100 per cent necessary to the provision of essential services. As an MP I would assist the councils in preparing impact statements on any further compulsory savings. We have had enough of continuous salami cuts and some serious challenges need to be made to central Government.

Peter Barton, Green
Greens reject the case for “austerity” and the huge reduction in public spending made by the Coalition. We would ensure that the funding of local councils enables them to meet all statutory obligations. Sources for this increase in expenditure would include an annual wealth tax on holdings of over £3M, an increase in the top rate of tax to 60 per cent, an increase in corporation tax for large companies and a financial transaction tax.

4. NHS services in West Dorset are under huge strain.

What would you do to improve the situation?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
The basic point is that we need to integrate much more effectively the activities of Dorset County Hospital with the community hospitals, the GPs, and the adult and community care services — so that more frail elderly people are able to remain well and at home, rather than ending up in A&E and then in residential care.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
I would campaign hard for increases in funding. Already, 27 per cent of our population is over 65. People travel great distances to access health services. Formulae set by central government make it hard for county councils and clinical commissioning groups to meet their statutory duties to an ageing population. Mental health service users are particularly disadvantaged. The Rural Bill seeks fairer tariffs for clinical procedures, taking into account their higher cost in rural areas.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
This government has over-medicalised healthcare, focusing solely on the NHS while starving other essential, health-related, services of cash. Much of the strain on the NHS locally is directly caused by cuts in other areas so I would improve funding for mental health services and for social care, especially for elderly people. I would also axe the arbitrary numerical targets, which cause dysfunctional behaviour not only in the NHS but also in all other sectors.

David Glossop, UKIP
Lack of finance is the biggest threat to the NHS. An immediate increase in funding for front-line medical staff is essential followed by an examination of all departments ensuring that all staff, and their salaries, are commensurate with the aim of providing medical services and care. We need to stamp out medical tourism and having the NHS pay for translation services.

Peter Barton, Green
We oppose the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and the steady privatisation of the NHS started by Labour. Greens see no place for the profit motive in the provision of health care. We will restore regional and local democratic control of the health service, integrate all aspects of provision, including social care, introduce policies which prevent illness, and increase the NHS budget by £12bn with further annual increases to match the steadily ageing population.

5. If elected, how would you improve the lot of our hard-pressed dairy farmers?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
We need to complete the efforts currently being made to eradicate bovine TB. We need to improve further the operation of the Groceries Code and the Dairy Code, so those of our farmers dealing with processors get a more consistent price. We need to reduce further the bureaucracy imposed on our farmers. And we need to back British food.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
We risk losing 10 per cent of our dairy farmers. It’s not just the price of milk, but also cheese, butter and yoghurt. My recent meeting with West Dorset NFU resulted in proposals for time-limited fixed rate pricing, such as exists in arable farming. Negotiations with Vince Cable and future business secretaries would seek to tie supermarkets to fixed rates for a fixed term. This would give the industry welcome stability in a globally unstable market.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
It is unfair for a dairy farmer to be paid less than production cost for a litre of milk. We must collectively and quickly inject fairness into the relationship between farmers, processors, supermarkets and customers, who can contribute by asking if a fair price has been paid for the milk they buy. I would work with the EU to ensure honest food labelling and encourage banks to support dairy farmers during this difficult period.

David Glossop, UKIP
Milk should never be sold for less than production costs. If necessary, legislation should be introduced to ensure that British dairy farmers are paid a minimum premium above what it actually costs to produce the milk. Supermarkets should not be allowed to buy cheaper milk from outside of the UK. UKIP will ensure a British Single Farm Payment scheme will be fair to all British farmers.

Peter Barton, Green
Dairy farmers are currently adversely affected by cheap imported milk and the market power of large retailers. Greens would encourage patterns of sale and consumption of local produce with short supply chains, taking steps to significantly reduce imported food. However, part of the transition to a safe, sustainable way of life on a planet with finite natural resources involves our consumption of less dairy and other animal produce.

6. Dorset gets less education funding than other parts of England.

How would you alter this?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
We need to move to a national funding formula for schools, so that the allocations per pupil are based on rational principles rather than
historical accident. Of course, this can only be done gradually. As a first step, additional funding has been given to counties like Dorset that are far behind what the national formula will eventually produce.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
My colleague in Mid Dorset, Lib Dem MP Annette Brooke, recently achieved an increase in funding for Dorset. The Pupil Premium has also provided more funding. Sir John Colfox school received £42,255 in 2013-14, spent on teaching materials and a range of specialist support for pupils and their families.

The Rural Bill of Rights asks for more funding for education but especially for transport for post-16s. I would of course be continuing Annette Brooke’s campaign.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
Funding formulae have long been skewed, becoming more so year-on-year. The only way to fully address this problem is to return to a zero-based system of allocating grant funding, based on an assessment of need that acknowledges the reality of rural poverty. We also need to redress the imbalance caused by the LibDems’ Universal Infant Free School Meals fiasco, which was poorly evidenced and inadequately funded and has left schools out of pocket.

David Glossop, UKIP
Clearly, there is no sound justification in having different education funding for different parts of the country. The maintenance of facilities and provision of staff are not that different from one area to another. The big conurbations tend to get larger budgets because of supposed higher infrastructure costs; the reality is that economy of scale benefits cities and not rural counties. Education budgets should be evened out throughout the country.

Peter Barton, Green
We would restore education funding to 2010 levels in real terms, distributing it fairly across local authorities reflecting the core costs of education, pupil needs, the quality of existing buildings and equity between school types.

We would bring academies and free schools under local democratic control, with a key role for local authorities in planning, admissions policy and equality of access for children with special educational needs.

7. What view do you take of the legislation on hunting, and why?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
Although I do not myself hunt, I have consistently supported the freedom of others to hunt, and I shall continue to do so. I will therefore vote to repeal the Hunting Act if there is a free vote on this issue in the next Parliament.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
I am opposed to the hunting and killing of wild animals with dogs. If there is a need for pest control it must be conducted humanely. However, I recognise that the community role played by meets in this area is important, to farmers and many village communities: it’s part of our tradition. I therefore support trail and drag hunting. The current legislation undoubtedly has its loopholes but I would not want to repeal it.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
I come from a horsey family but am opposed to fox-hunting in the same way that I am opposed to badger baiting, hare coursing and bear dancing. The legislation passed by the last Labour government was incredibly popular, not just in cities but also in the countryside, and it is shameful that a handful of people continue to flout the law and put unnecessary pressure on our police, whose numbers are simultaneously being slashed.

David Glossop, UKIP
Hunting legislation is clearly an example of poor legislation. I support the freedom of choice in all field sports — but always subject to the law. Like UKIP, I believe hunting should be a local decision, not driven by a Westminster bubble.

Peter Barton, Green
The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to all blood sports. We oppose the killing of, or infliction of pain or suffering upon, animals in the name of sport or leisure, and will work to end all such practices.

8. What three aspects of life in West Dorset most dissatisfy you and how would you improve them?

 

Oliver Letwin, Conservative
I want to see imaginative measures to make local bus services more viable. I want to increase opportunities for apprenticeship in West Dorset. And I want to see the completion of our superfast broadband and 4G roll-out, so that ALL of our communities have proper, modern telecommunications. I have been working on all of these issues, and I shall continue to do so.

Ros Kayes, Liberal Democrat
I would work on cross-subsidy of affordable units by open market housing, and to develop a philanthropic investment fund for affordable homes.

I’m part of a Bridport group providing cultural activities for young people. We already have a brilliant youth football scene. My party’s policy is: reduce cost of bus passes for 16-19-year-olds by 75 per cent, and reinstate evening buses.

The Rural Bill of Rights models changes needed to local government funding in rural areas.

Rachel Rogers, Labour
Lack of affordable housing for local people: encourage councils to ensure provision of affordable housing via planning processes, lobby government to legislate against land-banking and restore an affordable housing quota.

Poor public transport: lobby government to invest in local bus services, particularly in rural areas.

Limited job options and opportunities: lobby Dorset’s conurbation-based Local Enterprise Partnership to invest more in West Dorset, an area whose existence it has so far barely acknowledged.

David Glossop, UKIP
Vandalism of our countryside: wind farms, litter. I am “for” renewable energy, but wind farms are ugly and inefficient and enjoy too much subsidy.

Roads are in poor repair, with poor signing and little enforcement of speed limits. Hedges encroach dangerously into road space. Community Service should include road maintenance.

The number of unemployed on the streets. I would reinstate a job centre in the county town and fund a drop-in centre for the unemployed.

Peter Barton, Green
To address key local problems, Greens would restore bus services to public ownership, funded to meet the needs of all seven days a week. To bridge the low wage-high house price gap, we would cap the mortgage-income ratio for loans, build homes for social rent and introduce a Living Wage of £10 per hour by 2020. We would reverse the public spending cuts and reform the social security system, scrapping the immoral “bedroom tax”.


Thank you to Caroline Dilke and Mark Van de Weyer for circulating the questions and collecting candidates’ answers

One comment

  1. Glenn says:

    Well done Yarn on putting such a relevant set of questions. It may not quite have told me who I should vote for, but at least I now know who I will NOT be voting for.

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