Guest Columns from Sarah Carr and Jesse Norman


We asked two of our local parliamentary candidates what they consider to be the three most important issues facing Hereford today. Click 'Read more' for their responses:

SARAH CARR: Three Key Issues for Herefordians

Living in Hereford with my family, I have like most people strong views about what is important for the future of the area.  I make it my job to ensure I talk to as many people as possible from all walks of life to ensure that your priorities are my priorities. I am contacted just about every day by residents needing help with housing problems. It is so much more than bricks and mortar. I have seen how housing affects people's lives - how a child cannot do their homework in cramped overcrowded conditions and how the elderly living in damp run down homes will find their health suffering.
We have a huge problem in Herefordshire with more than 7000 people sitting on the social housing waiting list and over one hundred homeless living in bed and breakfast accommodation. Working with our MP, Paul Keetch, I have been urging the leaders of Herefordshire Council to change the local planning rules to ensure that 50% of homes on new housing developments are affordable homes. In the highly contentious Edgar Street Grid regeneration I think there is an opportunity to tackle the housing crisis and prioritise building homes to meet local demand. Replenishing the social housing stock, stimulating the house building industry and providing homes for local people on an existing 'brownfield' site must be prioritised over building on green belt or costly new plans for new retail development especially when the shops of High Town need our support now more than ever before.
Transport continues to be a massive concern for people in Herefordshire. Whether a person lives in a village or county town and is frustrated by a poor or invisible bus service, or lives in Hereford and wants an end to the pollution and gridlock at rush hour. I have always been a strong supporter of a second river crossing in Hereford city.  But this must be as part of a wider package of transport measures and not a solution on its own.  We need safer walking and cycling, better public transport and reduced need to travel.
What is on everyone's minds right now here in Herefordshire and across the UK is the credit crunch. The fear of unemployment, high food prices and rising heating costs mean that the shockwaves of the financial crisis are already being felt across Herefordshire. The bankers were rescued by the government, now I want to see the same approach to the thousands of Herefordshire families who are facing a difficult winter with less to go round this Christmas and not knowing what the future brings. There is a lot the government can do, not least cutting taxes for lower and middle income families paid for by taxing pollution and the higher earners a bit more.
It has been a busy year what with high profile campaigns against the preposterous school and post office closures amongst many other issues, rest assured I will continue to fight this Closure Culture until people see sense.
At this time of year I begin to look forward to going to the carol concerts and enjoying the warmth of seasonal festivities with my husband Shaun and our daughter Ella.  We shall be getting to Church and hosting lots of family and friends at home here in Park Street! Call me an optimist if you like but I believe that it is within our power to make a difference in the world – especially our part of it. Whatever you are planning over the Christmas break I hope you have a happy, healthy and peaceful time.
Sarah Carr (www.sarahcarr.org.uk) is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the Hereford and South Herefordshire constituency following Paul Keetch MP’s decision not to stand for Parliament again. If you would like to discuss any issue with Sarah, please email info@sarahcarr.org.uk, telephone 01432 265528 or drop by her office at Hereford House, 20 East Street, Hereford.
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JESSE NORMAN: Three Key Issues for Herefordians

I'm as optimistic as the next man, if not more so.  But sometimes it's important just to face facts and tell it how it is.
So here goes. The UK is facing a recession that will be longer and more severe than many people now realise.  This county has low wages and a rather fragile economy.  Many local businesses will suffer from the downturn, and will be forced to lay off staff or close. The impact will be profound, especially in the City.
 
In the long run, however, Herefordshire and Hereford City can thrive and flourish. But for this we need leadership and vision.  So what to do?  Here are three key priorities.
 
1.  We must get a better deal from central government. The plain fact is that Herefordshire is politically irrelevant to central government at present.  We might as well be on Mars.
 So:  our schools are the third-worst funded nationwide.  The Hospital loses out because NHS funding does not recognise the county's spread-out population.  The Council is poorly funded, but has a huge elderly population to care for.  The tax office is closing and 90 skilled jobs will go.  The fire service is locked into a chaotic process of regionalisation.  We are at the mercy of regional housing plans.  We have no control over the A49 which divides and pollutes the City...  Enough said.
 
2.  We must plan for a much stronger local economy. Ours is a beautiful city in the most gorgeous county in England.  It is full of creative and independent-minded people.  It could be a national hub of high-value, sustainable business in areas like the arts, software services and new media.
 So:  we need an economic strategy which promotes these values while addressing local problems.  That means better communications through a second river crossing, dual-tracking the line to Malvern, an integrated and balanced City transport plan, and real broadband access everywhere.  It means shaping new City development around the industries we want to attract—and then hitting the road to make sure they know about us.
 
Above all, it means fighting for a University of Herefordshire, with a campus in the City.  International experience shows universities don't have to be big and conventional.  In our case a university would galvanise the local economy and massively boost our young people.
 
3.  We must build a greater sense of identity and civic pride. Two years ago I edited a book of essays by urban experts called Living for the City.  What that book showed was a clear linkage between local political and civic engagement, better local services and environment, and faster economic growth.  More civic energy creates a better environment.  This brings in new companies whose employees want a nicer place to live and raise children.  These then push for further change.  The result is a self-reinforcing cycle of further growth and improvement.
 
A university based on local skills and strengths would make a huge difference here.  But we must also work with the City and County councils to improve the urban environment.  We should rebuild the Buttermarket, plant 1,000 more trees in the City, support local efforts to clean up litter and graffiti, and get rid of all those unnecessary street signs.  And that's just the beginning…
 
These will be three of my top campaigning priorities at the next General Election.  I'd love to hear what you think—please write to me at home at 49 Broomy Hill, Hereford HR4 0LJ or by email on Jesse4Hereford@gmail.com.
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
 
Jesse Norman (www.jessenorman.com) is the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Hereford and South Herefordshire constituency.

Posted: Tue - December 2, 2008 at 06:49 pm          


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