Gathering together for the first time, the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) for Harrogate and Knaresborough took a grilling from students at a hustings event.
Andrew Jones (Con): “In parliament I have take on the role of speaking up for this area and taking up campaigns that will benefit our area with a particular focus on rail, apprenticeships, and health.”
Helen Flynn (Lib Dem): “Transport has become a policy specialism for me and I believe I have got some real life experience to be able to represent this area well.”
David Simister (Ukip): “I am standing because I want to make a difference.”
Shan Oakes (Green): “I became very concerned about what was happening to both people and planet when I was about eight-years-old. That is a long time ago and what has really brought me into politics is the confirmation of my fears when I was little.”
Jan Williams (Labour): “It does aggrieve me that this government has slashed legal aid in family law. If you don’t nip problems in the bud they get worse.”
With the increase in cyclists after the Tour de France, how will your party ensure cycling is safer in our local communities?
Mrs Williams: “Labour wants to bring in tough rules for HGVs and end the stop start approach to infrastructure. We would also focus on more responsibility to local authorities and road safety measures.”
Mr Jones: “The key thing is to separate cars and cyclists and that means investing in infrastructure so cyclists have their own to improve their safety. This has already started but it can certainly be improved.”
Mrs Oakes: “We think cars being the top dog has to be reconsidered and we have to focus on safety. We have pushed to bring in 20 miles an hour speed limits in built up areas and that has had a huge effect”
Mrs Flynn said: “I was very concerned that safety for cyclists was not being addressed as the Tour de France was coming so I worked with Sustrans on an initiative. It is also about behaviour change.”
Mr Simister: “The more people we can get on bicycles the better but there needs to be education on both sides.”
With house prices in Harrogate well above average, how will you ensure that our generation has the opportunity to live in their home town?
Mrs Flynn: “We are committed to building 300,000 homes per year if we are successful because there has been such a chronic undersupply and we need to be more ambitious.”
Mr Simister: “We need to keep younger people in Harrogate and they need to be catered for, but in a way that is affordable and encourages them to stay.”
Mrs Williams: “Labour says 200,000 a year and Labour prides itself on all its pledges being fully costed. We would tackle land banking and make developers who bought land to build on and haven’t got going in a reasonable space of time we would make them pay a levy.”
Mr Jones: “We do want to have a mix of properties that enable people to stay in their home towns. House prices here are eye-watering and it means that many properties are entirely unaffordable and the way to manage that is to keep up the supply in a sensitive way.”
Mrs Oakes: “We want to build 500,000 social rented homes which would in itself free up the housing market. We would increase the social housing budget to £6b a year in the life of the parliament and we would devolve housing benefits to local councils.”
Given that there are more under 20s than over 65s in Harrogate, is your focus on the issues of the elderly just an attempt to get votes at the election?
Mr Simister: “We want to make tuition fees free for people who take stem subjects, but also to look at what else lies beyond, such as apprenticeships.”
Mrs Williams: “You have to remember that older people tend to vote whereas younger people don’t. Labour has promised to extend the vote to 16-year-olds.”
Mrs Flynn: “Our focus is not just on the elderly, we have a strong offer for young people. We have a bus fare which is two thirds of the adult fare for under 21s, votes at 16 is really important, and we have said we will reduce some of the benefits that will go to the wealthy elderly like the winter fuel allowance and some of that is going directly into the reduced price bus fare.”
Mrs Oakes: “We don’t have to fight for resources, this choice of austerity which is making one group say others are getting more than them is not necessary. There are issues that are much bigger than who gets more or less, all our wealth comes from the planet and the people.”
Mr Jones: “We are much stronger when we work as a collective. The key decision in this government is to live within our means and I think that benefits younger people more than any other.”
How can necessary road works be completed in Harrogate without disruption to the local community?
Mrs Flynn: “There is disruption but that can be mitigated with early consultation because local knowledge is everything. It is also about how money is given out and that is about devolved power on how that money can be spent on local repairs.”
Mrs Williams: “I just wonder if in local authority cuts better qualified staff and advisers cost more money and there have been good people that have been made redundant so there needs to be some really trained staff on the strategy.”
Mr Jones: “I am not sure you can have road works without disruption. The key thing is to minimise that and that is a question of planning including some consultation as well.”
Mr Simister: “North Yorkshire County Council working in Northallerton has got little experience about what is going on in Harrogate or Knaresborough. A unitary authority would probably make things better.”
Mrs Oakes: “Local authorities are being pared to the bone so their ability to coordinate is being impaired and there is also this
How do you think HS2 would benefit Harrogate?
Mr Jones: “Our country has not really been investing in rail locally. The HS2 stops at Leeds and York would be very useful to people here and it is about increasing the capacity on our network.”
Mr Simister: “It is going through great swathes of country and what is the benefit? Harrogate will be the loser because the money will be diverted to other projects.”
Mrs Flynn: “It is a huge amount of public money so we have to be sure we’re investing it in the right way and I don’t believe HS2 is the right way.”
Mrs Oakes: “I don’t think we have to go any faster than we are at the moment. We need to improve what we have got so our local links feeds into each other properly.”
Mrs Williams: “Labour supports HS2 but it isn’t about speed it’s about capacity and of course rebalancing the economy so London doesn’t just get richer and richer.”
How would you ensure greater fairness and equality within higher education, for example equality of funding?
Mrs Williams: “We desperately need people who may not want to go to university who have plenty to offer and these people are languishing when they could be offered a vocational qualification of a high calibre.”
Mrs Oakes: “Education is for the common good, for students participating and for the wider community, and we need to end tuition fees altogether. We need to support student living costs and we will reintroduce student grants. Putting young people into debt is the wrong thing to do.”
Mr Jones: “We should encourage people to stay in learning for as long as they wish. We need to have a very broad definition of what success looks like - some of it is university, some is college, some is apprenticeships.”
Mrs Flynn: “Vince Cable was really keen to boost vocational training and we have seen the introduction of technical colleges to highlight that. We’re vouchsafing education funding from cradle to college to ensure it is better than it is now and that it is spent in the best way.”
Mr Simister: “There must be so many people aged 16 who want to leave education and get a job or an apprenticeship but they can’t and we are transfixed on quotas with 50 per cent going to university and that is wrong.”
Do you think the proposed lowering of tuition fees is a feasible option after already being raised after the last election?
Mrs Flynn: “No I don’t because we have more people than ever from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university and why would we want to mess that up? The £6,000 pledge from Labour is such a regressive step and it could only possibly help people on higher incomes.”
Mrs Oakes: “We need to take away the emphasis on making children fit a certain template, it is the diversity we would want to develop and we would get rid of tuition fees.”
Mrs Williams: “Our policy is just a proposed lowering of tuition fees. The NUS welcomed it. I’m not surprised people from low income homes are going to uni because the know they probably won’t be able to pay it back.”
Mr Simister: “When it comes to university people who want to go should be able to go, and people should be able to take vocational courses as well.”
Mr Jones: “I think lowering tuition fees is probably unsustainable and Labour got into a lot of trouble when they announced it.”
What would you do to ensure a more effective child-protection system?
Mrs Williams: “I would first of all argue for the £2b virtual wipe out of legal aid for families to be restored. We will invigorate Sure Start and make local services work together more cohesively.”
Mrs Oakes: “It is about getting agencies to talk to each other. I really believe the only way is to give local authorities the power and influence to pull together on these kinds of issues because that is where it goes wrong.”
Mr Jones: “This is a very complicated issue to deal with but there have been some significant failures for a number of reasons. The words of the children have not been taken seriously. The answer to that is to change the culture within authorities.”
Mrs Flynn: “Local authorities have a duty of care to children in their area and I think that’s right. Given that we are looking at institutional failings, we need to look at our system of regulation.”
Mr Simister: “Children were let down by every authority because of the fear of race. If somebody is abusing children they need to be punished whatever community they come from. We need to get away from the fear.”
Though there are negative consequences of immigration, why is it being used as a smokescreen to cover up the real problems our country faces today?
Mr Jones: “To say it is at the heart of the problems in our country is completely mistaken and politicians making that claim are wrong.”
Mrs Williams: “It needs to be controlled and the impact properly managed. This government has no proper counting in or out and we need some proper figures for that.”
Mrs Flynn: “We believe immigration is a benefit to our country. People should learn the language to better enable integration, which is key.”
Mrs Oakes: “If we hadn’t cut so many border jobs illegal immigration wouldn’t be happening to the extent that it is. People are scapegoating immigrants and we have got to stop doing that, we should have grown out of that by now.”
Mr Simister: “Great Britain is a fabulous, welcoming country and we welcome immigrants from every corner of the world but the amount of people coming at the moment is not sustainable. Immigrants are not to blame for our problems in society, politicians are.”
Due to instability in the Middle East and Russia, should fracking be speeded up to ensure that our energy security is prioritised above environmental objections?
Mrs Oakes: “It is not necessary and it is incredibly damaging and it will completely ruin our landscape. We say it is entirely wrong in so many ways and our candidates have been arrested on these issues. We can get all our energy means through conservation.”
Mrs Williams: “The sensible thing is if you want oil you need to pay for it rather than invade like what happened to Iraq. We want to drive towards renewables and we are doing that. If we are going to have fracking we would have a little bit to tide us over.”
Mr Simister: “UKIP is in favour of fracking but I don’t think there is a race for it, it has to be got right.”
Mrs Flynn: “My head is not in the sand when it comes to climate change. I think fracking would be a very bad, regressive move and we could be investing that money with things like the Swansea tidal project.”
Mr Jones: “We have terrible instability in the Middle East and in Russia and I don’t want to be beholden to a man who used to head up the KGB for our energy supply and fracking does still have a role to play and should be considered as part of a mix.”
With the likelihood of another Hung Parliament, should we look at reforming the voting system?
Mrs Flynn: “Yes. We did try but our coalition partners were very vociferous against the benefits. There is a better solution to have multi-member sets where you can still vote for people you like they will definitely get a representative. To me that is fair.”
Mr Jones: “No. We had a referendum on this in 2011 and there was overwhelming support in our area for the first past the post system. We don’t justchange our constitution because something may happen.”
Mr Simister: “This time there will be a hung parliament and the horror could be Labour in with the SNP. Whoever you want to vote for you should vote for.”
Mrs Williams: “It is about how do you distribute wealth and power. I would reform it by giving votes to 16-year-olds and track the 7m people missing off the electoral register.”
Mrs Oakes: “We think there should be proportional representation. People really are thinking about an alternative and it could be the Greens who win in this area, seriously. It is about time we really shook out our cupboards and look at our system.”