ELECTION SPECIAL: Lancaster and Fleetwood candidates revealed

General Election 2015
General Election 2015

In the ‘ultra marginal’ seat of Lancaster and Fleetwood in 2015, there’s everything to play for politically as voters go to the polls in May. The parties battling to take control have laid out their policies. Nick Lakin reports

In 2010, the Conservative Party won the Lancaster and Fleetwood parliamentary seat by a majority of 333 votes.

Current MP Eric Ollerenshaw received 36.1 per cent of the vote, while Labour’s Clive Grunshaw, now Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, took 35.3 per cent.

The turnout was 61 per cent, and a total of 42,701 people voted.

For this year’s election, on May, the seat of Lancaster and Fleetwood is considered ‘ultra-marginal’.

Seven candidates stood in 2010, and so far this year five are in the running in what is for many one of the most important elections of recent times.

Here we speak to the five candidates about how they’ll be fighting for the seat, and what they think matters most to voters in the area.

Matthew Atkins

Law student at Lancaster University. Lives in Over Kellet. Aged 26.

With national debt standing at £1.4tn, and £40bn in annual interest payments, we’re looking at a need to cut some of the non-essential aspects of the state. This would be the £60bn we spend on quangos, £8bn on EU membership, and £9bn from the Foreign aid budget - we need it here, especially in the north. We would replace the cut in foreign aid with foreign trade agreements. We need to deal with the open door immigration policy. We believe that controlled migration is good for society, but large scale open door policy stretches our services and stretches our social cohesion. There are people who will really have felt that pressure locally. Our local NHS is excellent, and our medical professionals are excellent, and I’m committed to the NHS in our area. It’s important to safeguard it with more funding. UKIP would use £3bn saved on EU membership on care in the NHS.

I would also replace the CQC and Monitor with county healthboards so that overseeing can be done locally.

Executive management in the local NHS was seen to be poorly performing, and we need to hold them to account.

We’d like to end parking charges in hospitals, and this would be paid for by requiring economic migrants to have health insurance for the first five years that they live in the UK. We want to leave the Common Fisheries Policy and get our fisheries back. Angling, cockling and bass fisheries along our coast would immediately support that policy, the same would apply with the Common Agricultural Policy.

We would create a food labelling programme that gives fair credit to British farmers.

In Lancaster, small businesses have started to notice all the empty shops. We can see that our high street is diminishing. We want to reduce tax for small businesses, and reduce the burden of European regulation.

We want to create mor jobs in our area and get our northern economy moving.

We support grants for students taking stem subjects - science, technology, English, maths, and medicine, in our universities, and I would like to see a re-balancing of research funding in the north.

Chris Coates

Lancaster City Coun for Scotforth West. Caretaker at Halton Mill. Lives in Halton.

The big issues for me are the austerity cuts in general, support for the NHS, and support for the fire brigade locally.

The other big issue that’s going to play out nationally is the education reforms.

It’s going to be an interesting election for the Green Party, and for the country.

The polls have shown us in fourth place. Nationally anything can happen. We’re expecting to have our best results ever in Lancaster and Fleetwood.

There’s a frustration when you’re out on the doorstep with the two major parties, who are only offering a small variation on the same thing.

We would not pursue the same sort of austerity measures that the other parties are committed to, and we would not entertain being part of a conservative coalition.

I think people are looking for something different. Personally I think there needs to be a big debate on devolution in the north of England.

We’re the only party that is clear on fracking, and that is to leave these hard to get carbon fuels in the ground. They’re clearly not worth it.

On the local level, one of the big issues is housing and the push to build more and more houses on green field sites. We fully support Lancaster City Council’s previous policy on urban development and then small developments on outlying villages.

Along with some other small parties, we would be cancelling the Trident nuclear deterrent, and we would be working towards a basic income, that’s our policy.

We would also be wanting much tighter regulations on banks. We don’t believe that banks have seen enough regulation put in place. That was the situation we had up to the mid 1980s, so it’s perfectly feasible to have now. We’re very supportive of town centres and independent shops.

I think we’ll see a bigger green vote this time.

If everyone that votes for us locally, votes for us nationally, it will be a three horse race.

Eric Ollerenshaw

MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood. Lives in Lancaster. Aged 64.

With regards health, Jeremy Hunt has made it quite clear that the hospitals are protected. We have massive issues in terms of geography, and we need the finance to reflect that, not just population and age. Everybody is considering how we deal with an ageing population, and one of the ways we’ve been able to deal with that is to transfer funds to social services. We don’t need another reorganisation of the NHS, but the relationship is critical in health outcomes for everybody.

Energy is a big sector here in the north west, with good examples being research at the uni and the renewal of the power stations at Heysham. In terms of shale gas, I’m not ideologically opposed to it, but I voted in favour of the moratorium, against the government, because I can’t see what the great profit is going to be in Lancashire, and there’s worries about water as some of my constituents draw straight from the water table.

For me, the great untapped resource is tidal, and there’s huge potential here in Morecambe Bay. We’re still trying to get a government, whatever party, to agree a policy on investment in tidal energy.

I’ve been working with Lancaster City Council to see if we can get a realistic housing target, and the city has done well in terms of redeveloping brownfield sites. Our villages could take a few extra houses for sustainability and so that those who choose to stay can stay, but the issue comes down to housing type and there’s too many four bedroom luxury houses being applied for. Strong neighbourhood planning is key. Here in Lancaster we’ve got first class schools. The Government has promised to protect small schools, and is also brining in the baccalaureate so children are in a much better position to make choices for their future.

Everyone has had to cope with the recession, but we’ve come through it well, and now we have major investment in the M6 Link and Lancaster University. We’re in a unique position in Lancaster in terms of the idea of a northern powerhouse, HS2 will be positive for the area, and I believe that we’re beginning to make headway here, and I don’t want to lose that headway. The big promise I made was that London and the government had to take notice of us, and I think that’s happening.

The government has promised a referendum on the EU in 2017, and we’re the only party that can deliver that. I believe that we’re beginning to realise the potential of working together here in Lancashire, and by doing so we can match the best in the country.

Cat Smith

Works for an organisation supporting social workers. Has a partner of 10 years. Aged 29.

Lives in Lancaster.

The number one local issue is the NHS and in particular our health trust.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has not had the easiest of rides, not least because of their deficit.

That’s the issue that’s come up most on the doorstep. Labour is planning big investment into the NHS. With 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more care workers, and 3,000 midwives, in order to give the NHS the resources it needs to provide proper care. One of the big changes we will make is bringing together mental health care, physical care and social care under the NHS umbrella.

Tax is a big issue, and we’ve already made our stance on mansion tax. There’s a huge focus on how things are funded.

People are going out and working hard, but are treading water when it comes to income. We’ve got to increase wages.

Since the crash, the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer. We’re looking at expanding free childcare, increasing the national minimum wage, and getting a better deal for working families. It’s about the whole package.

The two parties are more distinctive in this election than they ever have been before. The Labour Party’s manifesto is going to be more radical.

I’m looking to prove that we’re not all the same, and I would be someone that stands up for ordinary people in Lancaster.

I’m opposed to fracking. Rather than investing in fracking, we should be investing in becoming a world leader in renewables.

The Tories are a party of big business, the party of multi-nationals.

The Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) should not include the NHS. I’m cautious when it comes to TTIP. It doesn’t seem to provide the best deals for local people. The country should be run by the people. The idea of corporations coming in to run things has definitely scared people.

Robin Long

Scientist at Lancaster University, lives in Lancaster. Married father of one. Aged 29.

Policies are often based on beliefs and ideological nonsense rather than on reason, are often not thought through or fully investigated before implementation. I would like to see more MPs who are not career politicians, but who come from other vocations, such as science, to diversify the thinking in the House and to grow a culture of sound and reasoned policy-making.

The first paragraph of Liberal Democrats constitution resonated with me where others had failed to - ‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity’. This is just what I believe.

As I read their policies I found more to like: a commitment to environmentalism, restorative justice, evidence based policy and much more. Whilst I do not and will not always agree with all of the policies of my party, or indeed how some MP’s vote, I still find the Liberal Democrats best aligned with my own views.

I will focus my campaign on promoting vocational education and apprenticeships; on fighting for improvements to the NHS as a fully publicly-funded source of pride; on promoting equality of opportunity; and on implementing fairer taxation and welfare spending.

Lancaster and Fleetwood deserve an MP who will analyse policy, consult with experts and get the best for residents, rather than simply repeating party policy without listening to or helping their constituents.

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