Swindon AdvertiserHOTSEAT SPECIAL: Five takes on key issues (From Swindon Advertiser)

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HOTSEAT SPECIAL: Five takes on key issues

Swindon Advertiser: Labour Group Leader, Jim Grant Labour Group Leader, Jim Grant

Ahead of tomorrow’s local elections, five local party leaders take to our Hotseat to tackle questions on some of the issues that matter most to our readers

Labour Group Leader, Jim Grant:

QWhat would your party do to regenerate the whole of the town centre?

A We think there needs to be a cultural transformation of our town centre, with the area providing a more diverse offer to residents. We think this can be kickstarted from the University Technical College in the Railway Village and a new art gallery on Princes Street.

Q Congestion on the town’s ageing road network is already a big problem for many commuters. What are you going to ease the problem?
A We would initiate shovel-ready plans for all major infrastructure projects Swindon needs in order to continue to grow. Then when funding is available from developers or the government, we can start building this infrastructure immediately. The Council are not doing this for some infrastructure projects, like the Thamesdown Drive extension Road.

Q What are your plans to combat a likely increase in fly-tipping?
A Firstly, Labour would reverse the council’s green waste collection charge which has been the most recent source of increased fly-tipping, bringing back a free service. Secondly we would look to introduce multi-purpose enforcement officers who would be able to issue on-the- spot fines for fly-tippers.

Q What will your party do to ensure the town’s leisure facilities remain open and are not sold for housing?
A Labour believes transferring our leisure facilities on 99 year leases leads to too much uncertainty of the future of these public assets. We believe these facilities should be leased out for no more than 25 years, with break clauses to ensure the Council can stop unwanted development on these assets.

Q With budgets already stretched, if there were any further reductions in funds what would you prioritise for cuts?
A Because of the scale of the cuts, all areas of council spend have to be reviewed to see whether there are any savings that can be made that doesn’t affect frontline services. We have already identified some areas for savings, including the £2.8m per year the Council spends on consultants.

Local Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Stan Pajak:

Q What would your party do to regenerate the whole of the town centre?
A The Regent Circus development, which at long last brings back a cinema plus quality restaurants and a supermarket, gives an amazing opportunity to create a town centre to be proud of. The new art gallery and museum should be housed in an existing heritage building namely the Technical college in Victoria Road. The town centre should be attractive to residents, business and visitors and all developments must reflect this.

Q Congestion on the town’s ageing road network is already a big problem for many commuters. What are you going to ease the problem?
A A total rethink is needed on the town centre road network including radical ideas such as making Commercial Road two way. The Northern Relief road should be a clear priority in our strategic thinking. Congestion black spots should be prioritised and tackled. Public transport should be a crucial element of all our thinking and Swindon should become a Government cycling city as did Bristol.

Q What are your plans to combat a likely increase in fly-tipping?
A The Lib Dems have already added to the Council’s budget for the town centre an officer to tackle fly tipping whose salary will in part be paid for from fines. If successful this can be extended across Swindon. Swift action to tackle fly-tipping is essential if we are to avoid areas becoming dumping grounds and this could be aided by a fly- tipping hotline plus ensuring adequate rubbish collection is always provided.

Q What will your party do to ensure the town’s leisure facilities remain open and are not sold for housing?
A A clear statement that our leisure facilities will remain open and are not for sale. Partnerships with the private sector could reduce running costs but must be matched by safeguards that are fully understood by everyone, particularly residents, and are on a limited time span and cannot be changed.

Q With budgets already stretched, if there were any further reductions in funds what would you prioritise for cuts?
A Cuts should be a last resort. The idea behind One Swindon which brings such services as police, council, health, fire and the voluntary sector is all about creating a better service and reducing duplication and costs. If cuts became necessary after a review of all our cost centres, inevitably administration, including our use of consultants and councillor costs, would be the first area to investigate.

Chairman of Swindon UKIP, John Short

Q What would your party do to regenerate the whole of the town centre?
A We would provide business rate relief for struggling existing businesses, to stimulate the town centre economy. In partnership with major retailers we would make the town centre a more family friendly place. We would work with local property owners to help redevelop existing premises for new rate-paying businesses.

Q Congestion on the town’s ageing road network is already a big problem for many commuters. What are you going to do to ease the problem?
A We would redesign the town centre road system to take away the inadequate layouts which are causing unnecessary congestion. The major arteries and junctions coming into the town need careful redesign to promote traffic flow. We would work to achieve the overdue extension of Thamesdown Drive to Great Western Way.

Q What are your plans to combat a likely increase in fly-tipping?
A We would reintroduce weekly refuse collection and scrap the green bin tax. A second household waste site is needed for Swindon. Parks rangers would be integrated with waste management services to inspect and report fly-tipping incidences, to ensure that offenders can be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.

Q What will your party do to ensure the town’s leisure facilities remain open and are not sold for housing?
A Council leisure facilities would be retained in public ownership and not sold for housing. The existing management structures would be rationalised and the facilities run on a self-funded business footing, using private sponsorship (but not management). We would work with the football club in regenerating nearby leisure facilities.

Q With budgets already stretched, if there were any further reductions in funds what would you prioritise for cuts?

A A detailed review of council budgets would be conducted, to target procurement cost reduction through standardisation. Council management would be examined, to aid frontline service delivery by removing layers of senior managers and consultants. There would be no further squandering of public money on hare-brained schemes such as Digital City.

Conservative Leader of the Council, David Renard:

Q What would your party do to regenerate the whole of the town centre?
A We will continue to deliver our Central Area Action Plan and Town Centre Masterplan, which has brought millions of pounds of investment into the Parade, the old police station and Regents Circus. We support the ongoing £350m investment in Kimmerfield’s shops and offices. We will keep our £2 for 4 hours parking scheme that Labour opposed.

Q Congestion on the town’s ageing road network is already a big problem for many commuters. What are you going to do to ease the problem?
A We have set up an infrastructure fund from the one off monies from the New Homes Bonus. We are working with the Local Economic Partnership to gain investment in rebuilding the White Hart roundabout, improving both the M4 junctions and the A420.

Q What are your plans to combat a likely increase in fly-tipping?
A There is no evidence from other Councils of all political colours that fly-tipping will increase. Already we have over 9,000 subscribers to our new service that will provide a better quality of service to those that need it without needing Council Tax Payers’ subsidies.

Q What will your party do to ensure the town’s leisure facilities remain open and are not sold for housing?
A We are not selling leisure facilities for housing. We built new five-a-side football pitches, repaired the Link, worked with Highworh Town Council to save the Rec and Sport England to improve Croft, and upgraded facilities and the Hydro and Dorcan. We will secure a sustainable future for our leisure facilities.

Q With budgets already stretched, if there were any further reductions in funds what would you prioritise for cuts?
A We never forget the importance of value for money for hard-working residents which is why we froze Council Tax for 4 years, a stark contrast when spend happy Labour hiked it by 42 per cent in 3 years. We will be pragmatic, not ideological, in making necessary budget decisions.

Press officer of the local Green Party, Talis Kimberley

Q What would your party do to regenerate the whole of the town centre?
A Let’s have some vision and creativity here, starting with an honest, transparent consultation. Let’s ensure that new builds incorporate the best energy efficient measures, and feature more green spaces including edible gardens. There are some great examples around to learn from.
Don’t we all deserve a people-scaled, pedestrian-friendly town centre?

Q Congestion on the town’s ageing road network is already a big problem for many commuters. What are you going to ease the problem?
A Town planning keeps trying to accommodate ever-increasing traffic volumes. Let’s turn the problem the other way up: how can we reduce the number of journeys people need to make? Let’s support local leisure, employment and other facilities, and make walking, cycling, and public transport safer and more appealing too.

Q What are your plans to combat a likely increase in fly-tipping?
A Accepting that the £40 annually paid-for Green ‘Waste’ scheme was a mistake, for starters. Take-up has been low. I’ve heard already of householders finding other peoples’ waste in their bins. Result: green rubbish bags sitting around which nobody will claim. Make it easy for folk to do the right thing!

Q What will your party do to ensure the town’s leisure facilities remain open and are not sold for housing?
A By opposing the 99 year lease-off! Any shorter-term contracts we negotiate, must be written in ways that safeguard our –Swindon’s – assets. Commercial companies hoping to profit from our leisure facilities will have to accept terms forbidding future change of use. Pricing people out of healthy lifestyles costs us all dear.

Q With budgets already stretched, if there were any further reductions in funds what would you prioritise for cuts?
A Sometimes you just have to look at things with fresh eyes; Stroud District Council stopped cutting grass verges so often, resulting in lower costs, roadside wildflower meadows, and improved biodiversity. (With bees an essential part of our food system, protecting them benefits us all.) But when you ‘cut’ – who bleeds?

 

  • The purpose of this article was to give the figureheads of the main local parties a platform to answer the general concerns of our readers. However, Richard Symonds, an independent candidate for the Shaw ward, contacted us post publication requesting the chance to field the same questions. Here are his answers...

Q What would you do to regenerate the whole of the town centre?

A There are several issues that have to be considered here.

1.  The cost to shops operating in the town centre, this has to be reduced and opportunities to encourage businesses to come to the town centre selling products that people want to buy in their town centre.  In the past this aspect used to be covered by the Economic Development Team, do they still exist?
2. Ease of access to the town centre by car and by bus with a new bus station hub situated next to the railway station.
3.  Any regeneration must be planned on the basis of making Swindon a destination of choice and a place where people want to come to live and to work.  If we fail to do either of these two things any regeneration will be a failure.
4. Find out what the people of Swindon want in their town centre?

Q Congestion on the town’s ageing road network is already a big problem for many commuters. What are you going to do to ease the problem?
A This is a self inflicted wound with every single change to the traffic layouts resulting in more and more delays of which Whalebridge is the worst example. 

Additionally it is proposed that Fleming Way is to be closed to all but bus traffic making Station Road two way which will bring the place to a standstill and will further reduce any interest in our town centre. 

We need to fully analyse our road infrastructure before any further changes are considered, but as a matter of priority reinstate the roundabout at Whalebridge and seek to remove pinch points at other locations. 

Having met the man who designed the Magic Roundabout and heard how it was conceived and implemented it I believe that dramatic improvements to traffic flow can be achieved for the minimum of cost, it just takes the removal of outside interference and using the right people to design it.

Q What are your plans to combat a likely increase in fly-tipping?
A
This has always been an issue but now we have the stealth tax on green waste we have yet to see how bad this will become although there are green bags all over Shaw.  In essence scrap the green waste charges and take a very hard line on fly-tippers.

Q What will you do to ensure the town’s leisure facilities remain open and are not sold for housing?
A
I agree with leader Renard that losses of £1.67m are unsustainable, but what I want to know what has his administration done to address these losses?  I find it very difficult to believe that golf facilities that include the prestigious Broome Manor Club can lose £153,000 pa.

I am fundamentally against any form of sell off or giveaway to third parties as I believe it is possible to make them pay without removing them from the public sector. 

If the present team cannot make them pay change the team don’t take the easy way out and give a third party an opportunity to make money in the future by developing these sites into housing.  If it were ever to become necessary it should be the Council who does it not a developer.

Q With budgets already stretched, if there were any further reductions in funds what would you prioritise for cuts?
A
We have run up £120m worth of debt during the time the Conservatives have held power in this town.  Spending £15m on a car park with existing surplus capacity on borrowed money and then proposing to spend a further couple of £m on pulling others down on borrowed money is not the way to run our financial affairs.  All existing budgets and the management structure of the Council and the very costly Forward Swindon Company should be reviewed to identify where money could be saved without affecting services.

Comments (15)

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10:22am Wed 21 May 14

Richard Symonds says...

Looks like John Short reflects the answers I would give most closely.

None of the other responses inspire me in any way!
Looks like John Short reflects the answers I would give most closely. None of the other responses inspire me in any way! Richard Symonds
  • Score: 1

10:31am Wed 21 May 14

trolley dolley says...

As a candidate, why do you need to be inspired.!!
As a candidate, why do you need to be inspired.!! trolley dolley
  • Score: 4

10:36am Wed 21 May 14

Richard Symonds says...

trolley dolley wrote:
As a candidate, why do you need to be inspired.!!
Your lot certainly do not inspire me, you have had your day and cost us £120m in debt in the process.

I know what I would do if I were in power and as I said John Short's answers most closely reflect what that would be.

Are you up for re election tomorrow?
[quote][p][bold]trolley dolley[/bold] wrote: As a candidate, why do you need to be inspired.!![/p][/quote]Your lot certainly do not inspire me, you have had your day and cost us £120m in debt in the process. I know what I would do if I were in power and as I said John Short's answers most closely reflect what that would be. Are you up for re election tomorrow? Richard Symonds
  • Score: -1

10:36am Wed 21 May 14

swindondad says...

I make no comment on their suitability to lead the council but it is good to see UKIP given the opportunity to express their policies on subjects other than the EU.

I would hope that as many of the electorate as possible read these Q&A's and make up their own minds who to vote for. Sitting at home moaning about the "system" will do nothing to improve it, at least if you get out and use your vote you can express an opinion even if it is only through a "protest" vote.
I make no comment on their suitability to lead the council but it is good to see UKIP given the opportunity to express their policies on subjects other than the EU. I would hope that as many of the electorate as possible read these Q&A's and make up their own minds who to vote for. Sitting at home moaning about the "system" will do nothing to improve it, at least if you get out and use your vote you can express an opinion even if it is only through a "protest" vote. swindondad
  • Score: 13

10:40am Wed 21 May 14

ChannelX says...

Some interesting responses.

Jim Grant comes across as the most career politician sounding ('shovel-ready'... David Brent lives on).

The UKIP man's reponses are a little bit 'magic wand', so will appeal to many.

Hadn't realised the Green Party were still in existence.
Some interesting responses. Jim Grant comes across as the most career politician sounding ('shovel-ready'... David Brent lives on). The UKIP man's reponses are a little bit 'magic wand', so will appeal to many. Hadn't realised the Green Party were still in existence. ChannelX
  • Score: 7

11:15am Wed 21 May 14

fuzzey says...

Good luck to Jim Grant . Really looking forward to the return of our already paid for green waste collection .green sacks all over the place in our area The big green van doing a tour round swindon looks lovely the 3 chunky guys sat up front must have the best job in swindon now .
Good luck to Jim Grant . Really looking forward to the return of our already paid for green waste collection .green sacks all over the place in our area The big green van doing a tour round swindon looks lovely the 3 chunky guys sat up front must have the best job in swindon now . fuzzey
  • Score: -1

1:08pm Wed 21 May 14

back_to_reality says...

ChannelX wrote:
Some interesting responses. Jim Grant comes across as the most career politician sounding ('shovel-ready'... David Brent lives on). The UKIP man's reponses are a little bit 'magic wand', so will appeal to many. Hadn't realised the Green Party were still in existence.
Unlike your lame and predictable attempt at condescension.
[quote][p][bold]ChannelX[/bold] wrote: Some interesting responses. Jim Grant comes across as the most career politician sounding ('shovel-ready'... David Brent lives on). The UKIP man's reponses are a little bit 'magic wand', so will appeal to many. Hadn't realised the Green Party were still in existence.[/p][/quote]Unlike your lame and predictable attempt at condescension. back_to_reality
  • Score: -8

1:50pm Wed 21 May 14

ChannelX says...

back_to_reality wrote:
ChannelX wrote:
Some interesting responses. Jim Grant comes across as the most career politician sounding ('shovel-ready'... David Brent lives on). The UKIP man's reponses are a little bit 'magic wand', so will appeal to many. Hadn't realised the Green Party were still in existence.
Unlike your lame and predictable attempt at condescension.
Typical left-wing bile.

Nasty people.
[quote][p][bold]back_to_reality[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]ChannelX[/bold] wrote: Some interesting responses. Jim Grant comes across as the most career politician sounding ('shovel-ready'... David Brent lives on). The UKIP man's reponses are a little bit 'magic wand', so will appeal to many. Hadn't realised the Green Party were still in existence.[/p][/quote]Unlike your lame and predictable attempt at condescension.[/p][/quote]Typical left-wing bile. Nasty people. ChannelX
  • Score: 5

1:54pm Wed 21 May 14

house on the hill says...

Lots of typical politicians generalised non answers with no mention of how they will pay for them. They just concentrate on the things that will get them the most votes rather than what is best for the town overall. And so the cycle continues and the same discussion will be had just before the next election when whoever is elected makes the same mistakes. With heavy rain and storms predicted tomorrow it could be an ever lower turnout than usual.
Lots of typical politicians generalised non answers with no mention of how they will pay for them. They just concentrate on the things that will get them the most votes rather than what is best for the town overall. And so the cycle continues and the same discussion will be had just before the next election when whoever is elected makes the same mistakes. With heavy rain and storms predicted tomorrow it could be an ever lower turnout than usual. house on the hill
  • Score: -2

3:10pm Wed 21 May 14

Davey Gravey says...

Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was.
Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was. Davey Gravey
  • Score: 2

4:09pm Wed 21 May 14

Richard Symonds says...

Davey Gravey wrote:
Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was.
It was his policy Davey or should I say his Lead Member's, after all he is Leader of the Council isn't he?
[quote][p][bold]Davey Gravey[/bold] wrote: Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was.[/p][/quote]It was his policy Davey or should I say his Lead Member's, after all he is Leader of the Council isn't he? Richard Symonds
  • Score: 0

8:29pm Wed 21 May 14

ChannelX says...

Davey Gravey wrote:
Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was.
I'm very pleased I'm no longer being forced to pay for other people's green waste to be collected, thanks.
[quote][p][bold]Davey Gravey[/bold] wrote: Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was.[/p][/quote]I'm very pleased I'm no longer being forced to pay for other people's green waste to be collected, thanks. ChannelX
  • Score: -1

9:23pm Wed 21 May 14

Blackwell 2 says...

Perhaps you could take up gardening.
Then you'd have a hobby (finally)
You'd also have more empathy for social, honest, hard working, principled civilians.
Perhaps you could take up gardening. Then you'd have a hobby (finally) You'd also have more empathy for social, honest, hard working, principled civilians. Blackwell 2
  • Score: -1

8:20am Thu 22 May 14

ChannelX says...

Blackwell 2 wrote:
Perhaps you could take up gardening.
Then you'd have a hobby (finally)
You'd also have more empathy for social, honest, hard working, principled civilians.
I have plenty of 'hobbies' (we call them 'interests' here in the 21st century). Thankfully, they don't involve dancing round like an absolute fool.

'Civilians' - do you still think there's a war on?
[quote][p][bold]Blackwell 2[/bold] wrote: Perhaps you could take up gardening. Then you'd have a hobby (finally) You'd also have more empathy for social, honest, hard working, principled civilians.[/p][/quote]I have plenty of 'hobbies' (we call them 'interests' here in the 21st century). Thankfully, they don't involve dancing round like an absolute fool. 'Civilians' - do you still think there's a war on? ChannelX
  • Score: 1

11:53am Thu 22 May 14

Davey Gravey says...

ChannelX wrote:
Davey Gravey wrote:
Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was.
I'm very pleased I'm no longer being forced to pay for other people's green waste to be collected, thanks.
The green bin balls up is costing more than the previous arrangement. So you are paying more for it and now not getting the service. Lose lose.
[quote][p][bold]ChannelX[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Davey Gravey[/bold] wrote: Only the Tory leader could defend the green waste collection mess up. Glad most of the others realize what a stupid thing to do it was.[/p][/quote]I'm very pleased I'm no longer being forced to pay for other people's green waste to be collected, thanks.[/p][/quote]The green bin balls up is costing more than the previous arrangement. So you are paying more for it and now not getting the service. Lose lose. Davey Gravey
  • Score: 1

Comments are closed on this article.

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