Last week I sent the same email to the 5 parliamentary candidates for Swindon with 4 questions – basically asking them directly what they’re going to do for Swindon. See here
The Green Party candidate Poppy Hebden-Leeder was the second candidate to respond – 9 days after the email was sent.
Here are her answers, presented in full:
Question 1: Culture.
Swindon is in a prime location along the M4 corridor, with easy access to London, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff, and is surrounded by some beautiful countryside. This is often the only response I can give to associates who ask me about the benefits of living in Swindon – that it’s close to lots of nice places! What can you do to make Swindon itself a nicer place to visit, and what will you do to change the image of the town?
Personally I think people are far too hard on Swindon and forget just how much we have here – having lived in another part of the country that was really lacking in a lot of what we’ve got, Swindon is very well equipped. The answer to give to anyone relies upon what they’re interested in seeing/doing. I’ve only touched on a few things here.Swindon has some fantastic outdoor spaces, nature reserves and walks; Lydiard Park and Coate Water to name a few.For the more active, we also have the fantastic Mountain Bike trail at Croft., this can be combined with cycle routes around Swindon (many special routes devised by local cyclists in collaboration with the council) or entry onto the Ridgeway nearby..There are far more cultural events than I ever get to go along to; Swindon Mela and the literary festival and various museums – we’ve got the best 20th century Art collection outside of London. And stately homes, and gardens in the National Garden Scheme.In terms of leisure it would hard to be bored in Swindon with the swimming pools, leisure centres, outdoor parks, climbing wall and various clubs and activities from Archery to Salsa.People often knock the look of Swindon, but architecturally we have some world famous buildings (the former Renault building) and roundabouts, as well as the lesser known but unique to Swindon. Yes there is some pretty horrible looking stuff – but there is everywhere, but we also have some wonderful buildings too.This is just a snap shot of what’s here – and we need to shout about it a bit more. Swindon suffers from people who have never been here passing negative comments which is a shame. I’d love to see Swindonians have more pride in our town and start to promote it better as somewhere to come to, rather than being apologetic and explaining that it is a great place to reach other places. Its low hanging fruit, but if we have pride in Swindon I think other people will start to see it more postively too.Maybe we need a street slide down Victoria Hill like the one they had in Bristol last year… (actually that might be scarily steep?)
Question 2: Transport
The Swindon to London rail route is famous for being one of the most expensive £per mile rail journeys in the country – considering that this country is known to have one of the most expensive rail networks in Europe, that’s a pretty impressive penny. What will you do to ensure a fairer price for your constituents who work in – or wish to visit – the capital?
Green party policy is to bring the rail networks back into public ownership so that the service begins to run for society, rather than the shareholders of a few companies. I am committed to this and believe that the £4bn in public subsidies could be better reinvested back into our railways. 66% of the members of public polled by YouGov agreed with the idea of bringing railways back into public ownership.One commitment the Green Party has made that would be an immediate cost reduction for the travelling public is to use some of the £15bn allocated to the national major roads programme to achieve an average 10% fare reduction in public transport (ie on trains and buses) – this would cost about £8bn over the Parliament, but be of massive benefit to many people relying upon the rail network to get to their workplaces.At a time when fuel prices are very low, but the benefits of this don’t seem to have been passed on the public transport users, it is clear we need to take a different view of transport in order to support increased use of public transport. This is especially pertinent right now following several days of very poor air quality levels caused by a combination of factors including air traffic pollution. I am keen to see more people use public transport as a way to reduce pollution and improving the service while also offering cheaper fares is an obvious way to do this.
Question 3: Business
There are quite a lot of corporations with their headquarters in Swindon: Nationwide, Intel and WH Smith to name just three. Considering that Swindon has a much cheaper way of life, but is less than an hour from the capital. What can you do to encourage companies who are looking to cut down their operational costs to relocate from London to Swindon – in the process, opening up a much more attractive job market in the town for it’s residents?
There are a few issues that once tackled would contribute to more organisations being willing/keen to relocate to Swindon. At a recent business hustings there seemed to be two key issues raised:Availability of suitable office space:a lot of comments focused on the fact that while there is office space available it is not always suitable for companies. We have a number of industrial estates with buildings on them that are not fit for purpose. If we are serious about attracting more business we need to make sure the infrastructure is in place – this isn’t just about the buildings, but access to them through transport links too.Skills: this was also an issue that came up at the business hustings, with some businesses saying they are unable to recruit staff locally because of a lack of skills. I have personally encountered this problem at times in my job too while running recruitment rounds. Swindon absolutely needs a University – too many of our young people leave to go away to study, and then not returning. A university would be a way to tackle the shortage of skills that some local organisations experience.Having benefited from a university education, I am very keen to see a university set up in Swindon and think there would be a wide range of benefits to the town – this is something I would push for very strongly if I were elected.
What other priorities do you have for Swindon that you haven’t already mentioned? In short, why should the people of Swindon vote for you?
Hebden-Leeder didn’t directly respond to this question but did add to the email following the answer to the last question, the following:
The Green Party has a fully developed set of policies and we released our manifesto today – for those undecided who to vote for, a really useful website that is independent of all the political parties is voteforpolicies.org.uk – very easy to use and allows you to compare policies easily.
She then asked the exact address of my blog, so presumably she’ll find this post – naturally, wanting to check I have quoted her properly! – so if you have any questions, perhaps add them into the comments?
I’ll send an email to the remaining three candidates (Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP) this weekend if I haven’t heard back from them.
You can read what the Conservative candidate Justin Tomlinson had to say here