21st Mar, 2019

Elections 2016: Party leaders pledges one day before voters head to the polls

Joshua Godfrey 4th May, 2016 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

TOMORROW (Thursday) thousands of voters across Worcester will head to the polls to vote for who they want to be represented by on the City Council.

But what vision does each political party have for the city and why do they think there’s is the best, what are their pledges and which party believes they will form the best administration at the Guildhall.

Observer reporter Joshua Godfrey spoke to the leaders of the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Green Party and the chairmen of the Liberal Democrats and UKIP to find out why voters should put a cross in the box next to their candidates when they head into the polling booth.

THE CONSERVATIVES currently hold a majority on the City Council, and will be looking to keep it that way after Thursday, May 5, but what does Coun Marc Bayliss, Leader of Worcester City Council, think his chances are of remaining in post once voters have cast their votes.

“You always have to be respectful of the electorate and so I take nothing for granted, but I think we’ve got a good record we’re fighting and we have got pledges which are ones that tune in with the public,” Coun Bayliss said.

“I’m quietly confident we will keep our majority. When I go out and talk to people on the streets they’re very happy with what is happening here in Worcester and so everything seems positive.

The Conservative leader at the Guildhall also told the Observer he’s confident his party’s track record on the City Council will prove popular with voters.

“I think people like what they see in terms of the new eight-lane swimming pool at Perdiswell,” he added.

“I think they’re keen to see the continuation of the High Street regeneration we’ve done in the past and would like us to do more to fix The Shambles and Broad Street.

“Our pledge to build a new footbridge from Gheluvelt Park across to the west side- I think that’s something which has captured the local imagination as well.

“And I think things like offering to freeze car parking charges again for another year has been very popular.

“We will protect green spaces and invest another £100,000 in play areas which are popular across the city.

“We’re pledging to also help Worcester City FC return home, to do our best to help them to come back to Worcester.

“And we’re pledging to deliver further value for money- that’s one of the key themes of this administration.

 

THE GREEN Party in Worcester made a break through four years ago by getting their first councillor elected to the City Council.

Now Chairman of the Greens in the city, Louis Stephen, is hopeful the party will have two councillors after this week’s elections.

“We’re hopeful,” Mr Stephen said.

“We’ve done a lot of campaigning. What we don’t do is just go and talk to people just before an election; we knock on doors all year round.

“In St Stephen ward we already have Neil Laurenson as a councillor, and he’s obviously seeking to be re-elected, so he has a track record to draw on.

“And when people saw that we had such a close result last time in Battenhall, people say we will support you because we know that you can win.

Green councillors on the City Council would promote small businesses, oppose the Worcester Woods development, and get flats built above shops in the city centre Mr Stephen also told the Observer.

“There are two major issues we’re campaigning on and one is supporting small businesses,” Mr Stephen added.

“We know there are plans and thoughts about this new out-of-town shopping centre, we think that will rip the heart of the city- we would definitely be opposed to that.

“But we want the council to work with local businesses to use more local suppliers. We want them to encourage local businesses.

“If we use smaller independent businesses that money will then go to those businesses and then the money tends to be retained within the local economy.

“And we’ve really been promoting the building of flats above the shops in the city centre. We really think this is a very good opportunity to get hundreds more dwellings in the city centre and this should be done first before we build on green field sites.

Depending on what the make-up of Worcester City Council is following the elections; Mr Stephen said the Greens would work with any party to make his pledges a reality.

“We will work with any party that will further the goals we’re seeking to push.

“With things like supporting small businesses and building flats above shops we will work with any party that does that.

“But we’re focusing at the moment on the elections in May, rather than what happens afterwards.

“We have to follow what the people of Worcester want.”

 

THE LABOUR Party have not been in power at the Guildhall since 2013, but does the leader of the party on the City Council, Coun Adrian Gregson, believe his party can gain enough seats to lead an administration once again.

“I’m hopeful and optimistic about holding all the seats we currently have,” Coun Gregson said.

“Then we’ve got to look seriously at whether there are options in other areas and that’s not always clear at this stage in the campaign, so at the moment it’s an open game really.

“We’re looking for a Labour majority. We’ve got to look at that as being the target; the issue is where those votes come from.

Bringing Worcester City FC home is one of the main issues the Labour group are campaigning on. Coun Gregson said he is ‘determined’ to see the club play in the city again.

“We want to see the football club brought back to the city,” he added.

“We’re determined the club comes back to the city and we’re determined it goes to the right place at the right time.

“In my mind there is a right place and that is Perdiswell. I know there is opposition in the Perdiswell area and I know there is support as well.

“There are no alternative grounds being put forward. If somebody came up with a viable alternative which the football club was comfortable with then of course we would look at that and we would support it.

Coun Gregson also made pledges to tackle rogue landlords, to stop the outsourcing of cleaner and greener services and to make sure housing developers provide enough affordable housing.

“The vast majority of the private landlord sector works perfectly well, but there are areas of concern and so what we want to make sure is tenants have their rights respected and that neighbours do as well,” he said.

“We would be looking to introduce measures which will ensure that landlords and tenants have equal access to their statutory rights.

“Where planning applications include the affordable housing amount we’ll make sure the threshold is met.

“My belief is that if we have a threshold, we should be looking to hold that threshold. I think there’s evidence that in some cases the threshold is not always met.

“And we want to stop the privatisation of cleaner and greener services moving on.

“I think most people probably prefer their public services delivered by public sector people.

“What our evidence is from other privatisation is that the level of service drops for a variety of reasons such as a lack of training, a change over of staffing and the costs are usually underestimated by the company.”

 

THE LIBERAL Democrats haven’t had a councillor on the City Council since 2014, but the party’s Chairman in Worcester, Mike Mullins, told the Observer he will be using the election to keep ‘rebuilding’ the Lib Dem presence in the city.

“We are working hard for a stronger result in Claines, with our excellent local candidate Melanie Allcott, and are hoping to make inroads in Bedwardine and St Johns,” Mr Mullins said.

“The response on the doorstep has been positive, especially as all our candidates live in their wards and fully understand local issues.

“We want to keep improving Worcester, with good recreational facilities, work opportunities and services.

“We want to enhance the City Centre and are concerned about the proposed out of town retail development.

“Our goal at these elections is to keep rebuilding our presence in Worcester, from our good local party base.”

 

UKIP in Worcester currently do not have a councillor on the City Council, but the party’s chairman in the city, Owen Clearly, is confident UKIP will see its first elected member this week.

“Our teams of volunteers have been campaigning hard and in parts of the city our support is strong,” Mr Clearly said.

“From the reaction on the doorstep and responses to our literature, we feel we have a good chance of returning our first councillor in one of our target wards.

Mr Clearly also spoke to the Observer about his party’s pledges ahead of polling day.

“Vote to reduce council tax and instead support better use of existing funds. There’s no need to cut frontline services,” he added.

“Support long term residents and Armed Forces veterans being prioritised for social housing.

“Support the local people having a larger say regarding developments and spending decisions that affect their community. Local opinion is paramount and our few remaining green spaces must be protected.

“Vote to increase funding for our communities for cleaner streets, better street lighting and well maintained children’s play areas.

“And support the return of our local club Worcester City FC back home, where it belongs.”

“UKIP candidates are real folk, with real jobs and lives in the real world. They are the folk you see everyday about the city. They understand what’s good for Worcester because they are Worcester.

“Our city has been kicked about like a political football and we aim to change that.

“In UKIP, there is no party whip. Our councillors vote exactly how their constituents wish, with no outside influence, agenda or party line.

“That’s the true role of a local councillor and real local democracy, something our city desperately needs.”

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