With just four days to go until the country goes to the polls in the most closely-fought General Election of modern times, we asked the candidates contesting the Berwick seat to outline their three key priorities.
The constituency is a marginal one, and as part of the most sparsely-populated county, some of our priorities may differ to those in other parts of the country and particularly in Westminster, London and the south east.
Read what the candidates would focus on if elected and see if it coincides with what matters to you – healthcare, transport, the A1, small businesses, farming and fishing are all mentioned.
Nigel Coghill-Marshall (Ukip)
We are now just a few days from one of the most important elections of modern times. You have a decision to make about who to ask to work on your behalf at Westminster. The campaign is the most open for over 40 years. Your vote really will count.
Much needs to be done, but I will concentrate upon the following three issues.
Small businesses in the centres of our towns and villages are suffering from high rates and from unfair competition. I will fight to ensure that Ukip policy on business rates for premises with rateable values under £50,000 are implemented. This will result in a 20 per cent reduction in costs for small businesses.
There is too much building on the greenbelt. We don’t need any more executive-type housing, but affordable homes to rent and buy, built on brownfield sites. Such developments will help keep young people in the constituency and regenerate town centres. I will fight to ensure that this happens. A good housing stock will help bring the new jobs we need.
Our farmers and fishermen have been ignored by successive governments. Their way of life has been decimated by EU regulations that serve the interests of others. I will be their voice in Parliament, campaigning on their behalf.
I live in the constituency and love the county. I want to serve its people. Please support me with your vote. Vote Nigel Coghill-Marshall. On May 7, vote Ukip. Get Ukip.
Scott Dickinson (Labour)
Jobs and wages – To tackle the historically low wages in our constituency. Working with businesses to bring sustainable well-paid jobs to the area and support local people ensure they have the skills to carry out the jobs offered. Reversing the cut in adult training and ensuring opportunities are made available to all. Build on our tourism offer, we live in a beautiful county and people rightly flock here, we have a strong tourism contribution and we need to support them develop more. Our NHS – To further integrate and improve health and social care, my passion is the NHS and protecting it from profit before care is one of my main priorities. Build on the new hospital for Berwick and further work with Border health issues and ambulance services. Ensuring that our NHS staff feel supported and valued. Invest in quick cancer treatment, offer GP appointments quicker and many other areas our party is committed to.
Housing – Developing appropriate affordable housing in areas across the constituency, working with communities to do that, be a strong voice for local people and work hard to tackle the housing shortage for those in need of social housing and axe the bedroom tax implemented by the Tories and Lib Dems. Supporting first-time buyers get on the housing ladder rather than move out of the communities in which they have grown up to find suitably-priced housing.
Neil Humphrey (English Democrats)
The A1 ‘study’ should be dual-carriageway from London to Edinburgh, but we’re the bottleneck. Remote Tory Londoners like Boris Johnson incorrectly think the M1 goes to Scotland. We have no decent east-coast route, and that costs jobs. Warrington and Tamworth became the fastest growing jobs areas hosting distribution. When tourism dries up in winter, there are seasonal festivities. A day’s drive from main docks, be a distribution layover for Scottish transport. With no actual funds to build now, I’m afraid the government will stash 2020 election bribes instead.
By stopping all forms of money abroad (or foreign immigrants) – Scotland, Ireland, Wales, European Union, and foreign aid – we can stop all cuts in England. We bailed out Eire and banks, although independent. Via EU, farmers reap taxpayer cash. Genuine emergencies like Nepal needs reciprocal peaceful international relations. (Slow retreat from the EU in favour of trade-only EFTA). I’m the only (anti-PC) candidate suspending immigration, yet proposing UN global military action against Nazi-like Islamic State extremists and Russian aggressors. (Crimea and Syria neighbour Nato obligations in Turkey). Now isn’t time for cuts in our conventional or nuclear forces.
Removing ducal-covenants on public buildings, and softening planning on barn conversion, creates small, technical business – so youngsters don’t leave and can afford housing. Remote working and worldwide projects are the future (Newcastle and Edinburgh are international airports). Brewing, robotic, agricultural automation and green-energy some high-tech jobs to attract. Knowledgeable, listening and professional, a working-class alternative to ‘career-politician’ bean-counters, voluntary workers and service providers.
Julie Pörksen (Liberal Democrat)
I grew up in Northumberland and I’m raising my family in Rothbury. I care deeply about improving the lives of local residents – making sure people can get a job here, that there is access to good-quality healthcare and that the A1 is safely dualled all the way to Berwick.
Working with Sir Alan Beith and Liberal Democrats in government, I helped secure £290million to dual large sections of the A1 and fund further improvements – safer junctions, more crawler lanes – to other sections.
This is an important first step, but I will not stop until the dual carriageway is extended right up to Berwick.
Liberal Democrats have helped create more than 16,000 new apprenticeships in Northumberland since the last election. Unemployment is falling, the economy is recovering. I will help local businesses grow, not least by championing extra support for the rural economy. From a sheep-farming background, I have taught at an agricultural college. I really understand the challenges facing rural areas like ours.
Improving access to high-quality local healthcare is vital. Thousands of residents have supported my petition to increase emergency ambulance coverage and I have secured a commitment from local health bosses to place special focus on improving rural healthcare. People need to know that our health service is in safe hands and I have a proven track record as a committed and listening local campaigner on health.
Rachael Roberts (Green)
Local economy – Perhaps you expect the environment to be my top priority. But if we fix the economy to work for everyone, we’ll take care of the environment too.
Through taxes on incomes above £150,000 and wealth above £3million, we can end austerity and invest in local infrastructure – new affordable housing, health centres, ambulance services and cheaper, cleaner energy sources. By focusing on providing the things that people need locally we address climate change; insulated homes, quality jobs and training and fit-for-purpose schools. We would pay an hourly living wage of £8.10 and reduce employers’ national insurance by a third, so local businesses can take on staff and grow. If we rebalance our local economy we won’t need fracking or opencast coal in Northumberland.
Local transport - In the largest constituency in England, we rely on transport, but 25 per cent of households have no car. We’ll increase rail capacity to allow for stopping trains across Northumberland, reopen train stations and provide regular bus services which link stations to towns and villages. We’ll provide safe and health enhancing walking and cycling routes.
Local democracy – Did you know the whole of Northumberland is represented on the North East Combined Authority by a single councillor elected by 685 people in Blyth? Our planning decisions are now made in Morpeth and Westminster. We’ll restore local councils to make planning decisions and run housing, waste collection and neighbourhood services. We’ll give communities more say in planning and bring more democracy and transparency to all levels of government.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative)
The key focus of my efforts are:
1. Getting our infrastructure up to 21st-century national standards after 40 years, by dualling the A1, getting superfast broadband to every home and ensuring mobile coverage covers the whole constituency, to bring in new and better-paid jobs;
2. Working to change the rural funding methodology in Whitehall so that we are no longer left at the bottom of funding levels in education, ambulance provision, healthcare, dentistry, bus services and more, because of our small rural communities;
3. Working for better long-term planning for our food and energy production across Government, so that our farmers can produce the best food within a secure economic framework and so that we can ensure reliable energy supplies at a cost which will maintain our businesses’ economic viability and work towards effective renewable and a cleaner fossil-fuel mix of energy sources.