From the NHS to education - find out where Northampton’s parliamentary candidates stand on the major issues.
Over the past six weeks the Chronicle & Echo has been asking the people bidding for the two seats in the town to explain how they would support education the NHS and the elderly as well as asking them what their attitudes are towards the European Union.
With less than 24 hours to go now until the polls open we have combined all their responses.
In the first of which, below the Northampton South candidates argue - in their own words - why they would fair best at raising educational standards in Northampton.
I have been a school governor at a local primary school in Northampton for six years so I know the challenges we face in education to make sure that all children have the skills they need when they leave.
I want to make sure that our schools give every child the best start in life, and that they do not leave primary school unable to read, write or add up.
We want every 11-year-old to know their times tables, be able to read a book and write a short story with correct punctuation and spelling.
No pupil should be left behind.
Over the last five years Conservatives have more than doubled Labour’s spending on new school places and have promised to protect school funding. We have supported teachers by cutting bureaucracy in our schools and giving them more disciplinary powers to deal with disruptive pupils.
We have reduced the number of failing schools, exams are now more rigorous and we have stopped grade inflation.
We will continue to make sure that schools receive extra money to help children from the poorest backgrounds. We have also created 2.2million apprenticeships since the last election, and will create another 3 million over the next five years.
Education should provide everyone with the knowledge and full range of skills they require to participate fully in society, leading a fulfilled life.
We need a comprehensive system of local schools offering mixed ability teaching staffed by qualified teachers, max 20 students per class. I reject market driven models of education, sausage machines of economic competitiveness. It is failing children. Abolish SATS, League Tables and Ofsted. Parents, teachers and local community to evaluate schools.
Education is a right and should be free to all. Scrap tuition fees, and bring back EMA. Education isn’t a market provision and I’m against privatising state-funded schools or making them profit-making. Bring Academies and Free Schools back into the Local Authority system.
I chair Northampton’s Autism/ADHD support group (FACT), supporting families of children with Special Educational Needs, witnessing how schools just aren’t funded to meet their needs. Academies are just privatised schools, but pursuit of a profit isn’t consistent with a decent education system. Teachers struggle to find money to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled children because this dents shareholder’s profits.
Over the past year I’ve visited schools across Northampton, speaking to teachers, pupils and parents. It’s clear our schools are under considerable pressure, with Northamptonshire County Council revealing that in excess of 1 in 10 of our primary schools is already over-capacity.
Northampton is earmarked for significant housebuilding, but with half of our schools without enough slack to accommodate new pupils our children’s education is going to suffer. This lack of planning and adequate funding is a scandal: our kids in Northampton deserve better.
That’s why Labour would turn frustration into action. We’d abolish the wasteful free schools programme, which has diverted millions of pounds in funding to Tory pet projects, and use the funds to cap class sizes for primary schools. For Northampton, that would mean additional funding to hire teachers into our classrooms.
I’m passionate about raising standards across Northampton’s schools. As your MP I’d call a Schools Standards Inquiry, prioritise new school places, have rigorous local oversight of schools and ensure that all teachers have or are working towards qualified teacher status.
UKIP believes in an education system that works for every child, regardless of their social background or academic ability. We will prioritise teaching and learning, and bring forward improvements to all levels of education.
It is hard to find any proper evidence whether Academies have made education in Northampton better or worse but school statistics overall show that pupils in Northamptonshire have under-performed. UKIP will address this by supporting grammar schools and Free Schools and allowing other establishments to become vocational schools or colleges to enable pupils to develop practical skills. We will also reverse the policy of closing special schools.
To remove pressure on teachers, we will decrease their paperwork mountain, including detailed individual lesson plans and excessive assessments. We plan to streamline centralised targets and enforce the current restriction on class sizes to 30 pupils. Ofsted inspections play a vital role but we will ensure that their primary focus is on the quality of teaching, learning and the overall wellbeing of children, not tick-box targets.
Every child is unique and deserves the best possible start in life - we aim to ensure that they get it.
We talk a lot about “Academies” and “Free Schools”. I don’t really think those discussions are as important as politicians would like to make them. I believe great teachers, properly supported, will do a great job teaching our children.
But proper support costs money. It means more teachers, who are better trained and have less paperwork, so children get more time and attention, and it means schools having the facilities they need.
Crucially, it means money going into classrooms, not yet another patronising and expensive reorganisation of the education system from Westminster.
That’s why the Lib Dems delivered the “Pupil Premium” - an extra £2.5 BILLION for schools to support the front lines of our children’s education. It’s why we have delivered free school meals for every infant school child, shown to dramatically improve concentration and attainment. Locally, it’s why your Lib Dem Councillors have consistently called for greater investment in our schools by the Council, to raise standards which are always below the national average.
As your MP, I will fight for more of what the Lib Dems have delivered - money where it’s needed and qualified, well trained teachers so every child has the best possible chance.
With elderly people making up about one sixth of the population in Northamptonshire, the main parties have been keen to make sure their election promises feature older people at their centre.
The 2011 census reveals there were 106,000 people aged 65 or over in the county, 4,700 of who were 90 years-old or older.
What’s more, figures show that traditionally, older people are not only more likely to vote, but are more likely to vote Conservative.
Below the Northampton North candidates have say how they would help to protect the town’s older people.
I strongly believe that our pensioners – who have worked hard all their lives and saved, paid their taxes and done the right thing – deserve dignity in retirement and should get the support they need; and I’ve backed the Conservative-led Government in the last five years to help pensioners.
Conservatives have increased pensions by record levels and we have guaranteed pensions will keep rising by whichever is highest of either earnings, prices or 2.5%. This is in direct contrast to the paltry 75p rise in the pension under the last Labour Government.
David Cameron has also publically committed to continue to protect the Winter Fuel Payment, free bus passes, TV licences, free prescriptions and eye tests for as long as Conservatives are in government. Labour and Liberal Democrats are seeking to take away these universal benefits.
Conservatives in this Government have also taken action to cap the amount people have to pay for social care. Currently anyone with assets over £23,250 has to pay the full cost of their care but, thanks to the Conservatives, from next year social care costs will be capped at £72,000. This will mean fewer elderly people in Northampton having to sell the home they worked for to pay for their social care costs.
We live in the world’s sixth richest economy, yet 1.6m older people are living in poverty; 900,000 in severe poverty. Across Northampton our elderly are switching off heating and skimping on food because they fear the cost, not able to afford even little luxuries in old age. Age UK reports that while more than two million older people have care-related needs, nearly 800,000 receive no help at all.
Government spending on adult social care services have been cut by over £700m. These cuts are central to the public’s concerns. Just 40% of people are confident that older people are treated with dignity when receiving social care. Care workers are paid a pittance and are overworked. Our A&E department at NGH is overflowing with elderly patients whose hospitalisation could have been avoided through preventative care and support.
That’s why the Green Party wants to provide free social care for all over 65s and ensure workers are paid a living wage. We want a Citizens’ Pension, of £180 (singles), £310 (couples) free home insulation and local transport for all pensioners and with a “Robin Hood Tax” of just 0.5% on banking transactions and a clampdown on corporate tax evasion, all this and more can be afforded!
Pensions and healthcare are the two biggest issues that older people bring up on the doorstep.
The Tory cost of living crisis has hit hard at pensioners living on fixed incomes, and Tory health and social care cuts have slashed £3.5 billion from these crucial services.
I think of the Abington woman in her 60s, unable to get respite care, her husband with MS, worried about her own declining health and dwindling savings. Or the 62 year old, drawing down his pension pot seven years after taking early retirement.
Last time round, Labour reduced pensioner poverty by a third with measures including the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and pension credit.
We believe people who have worked hard and built the UK’s success should get security in retirement. So we’re committed to protecting the value of the state pension with the triple lock.
And we’ll tackle pension rip-offs by placing a cap on fees and charges and providing safeguards for people taking out their savings.
And I’ll make it a priority to fight for better support for people with dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and strokes, and for their carers, who battle in the most difficult circumstances. It’s a personal pledge to take on a national scandal.
UKIP is the only party which has not blamed older people for the problems of the National Health Service.
I believe that our senior citizens built the NHS and now they are effectively being deprived access to it. There is no excuse for this. Age demographics are the easiest to compile; life insurance actuaries do it every day. We know exactly how many over 65s, over 75s and over 85s are going to need the NHS in 2020, so there is no possible reason for not planning for it.
Governments simply have no excuse for not anticipating the ageing population and making the capacity available. Did they think it would all happen by magic? It appears so.
So the only people who should take the blame are health ministers in the Labour and Conservative governments since 1992. In fact, I can’t express it better than Mrs Barnes, of Billing Road East, put it in the letters pages of the Chronicle & Echo last week: “Leave our elderly population to enjoy the later years and not feel they are a burden on services that they have contributed to over their working lives.”
I don’t know who you are voting for, Mrs Barnes, but “bravo.” You are so much more savvy than all the Labour and Conservatives health ministers of the past 30 years put together.
Liberal Democrats have put support for the elderly at the forefront of their policies. Care Ministers, Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb, have been instrumental in bringing forward the Care Act 2014.
This Act is the most significant piece of legislation since the establishment of the Welfare State. It ensures that local authorities promote well-being as their primary responsibility. The elderly and people with chronic illnesses will benefit because the Act requires local authorities to integrate with the NHS and other key partners. It will be ‘joined-up’ care.
They will produce care and support plans and offer personal budgets. The funding reforms also include a cap on social care costs and give financial support to people with limited assets.
Most of these reforms have been recently implemented and funding reforms start in April 2016. People will no longer be forced to buy an annuity if it does not suit them. We have secured the biggest rise in the State Pension in the toughest fiscal climate.
Liberal Democrats are supporting the elderly by reframing healthcare and social care around the individual, putting a cap on social care costs and giving pensioners the freedom to organise their finances as they wish.
Fairness has long been the key word when it comes to welfare.
Everyone acknowledges the need to provide financial support to those out of work or with long-term illnesses or disabilities.
But the tough question facing any ruling party is how to make the system fair?
The Coalition government has slashed benefits spending since coming to power in 2010, with the Welfare Reform Act of 2012 introducing controversial measures including Universal Credit, Personal Independent Payments and the under occupancy charge or ‘bedroom tax’.
But where do the Northampton South candidates stand on the issue? Find out below.
During Labour’s time in power, spending on benefits doubled and was a staggering £193.4 billion by the time they left office.
Labour created a benefits culture in which many people felt it was okay to get something for nothing.
I strongly believe that going out to work each day is about more than just earning money; it also gives people a sense of purpose.
Because of the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan, there are now 1.9 million more people in work.
Conservatives are making sure that work always pays and that benefits are there for those who need them.
It is not right that some people claim more in benefits than many hard-working families in Northampton can earn.
It is disgraceful that some people can earn more on benefits than by going to work, so the Conservatives have capped the total amount of benefits to £26,000 a year so you cannot take home more in
welfare than the average family earns in work to make sure that work always pays.
Conservatives have already set out a clear direction of travel for the next Parliament such as freezing benefits for two more years so that they do not rise faster than wages.
Recently, my son had Iain Duncan Smith five metres up on his forklift.
‘Weren’t you tempted to push him ‘off?’
‘No mum, I’d lose my job,’ he said.
He’s lucky to have one.
From age 16 we’ve paid our National Insurance. What’s the return when you lose your job?
Jobseekers Allowance – but miss a signing and you risk sanction – you get nothing for four weeks, leaving a million more people using food banks since the Tories came to power.
Housing benefits and bedroom tax: Families under 25 will get no help with housing.
Now if you are depressed, sick or disabled, IDS will kick you with an ATOS assessment, declare you fit, and send you on a ‘Welfare to work’ scam which provides slave labour.
Meanwhile in Northampton the welfare-related suicide rate rises...
The Green antidote?
Everyone receives a basic income; the rate of child benefit to be doubled.
A citizen’s pension, paying a liveable amount linked to rise in earnings. Appropriate support for people with disabilities.
All this is economically viable.
There are too many insecure, low-paid jobs in Northampton. This undermines our ability to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis, meaning more welfare spending.
The Tories’ welfare reforms are not working, hardship is increasing: the costs of their failures are mounting. Because our economy is not working for most of us, the Government is spending billions more on social security than planned, while its attempts to reform welfare have created chaos, waste and unfairness, like the scandalous ‘bedroom tax’.
We need a responsible, fair social security system that rewards contribution and protects those who cannot work or cannot earn enough to support themselves. Keeping social security spending under control, and putting decent values at the heart of the system, do not conflict. We will control the overall cost of social security spending by tackling the root causes of rising spending. That means making work pay through a higher minimum wage, banning exploitative zero hours contracts, and building affordable housing.
Only by getting more into work, and creating better paid, more secure jobs, will we tackle the drivers of rising benefit bills and ensure the system is sustainable.
The current “one size fits all” benefits system ignores those in most need.
UKIP supports a simplified, streamlined system. Taking child benefit as an example, we will only pay this to children permanently resident in the UK and future child benefit will be limited to the first two children only. We oppose the bedroom tax as it is unfair, penalising those who aren’t able to find alternative accommodation. People are telling me that the system isn’t working for them, with sanctions imposed on those seeking work and those with disabilities falling victim to the Personal Independent Payment system.
How can we say we live in a civilised society when we have people sleeping rough and others needing support to survive? Support from the various organisations who offer help to the vulnerable in Northampton is needed now more than ever. While a need exists, we cannot say that we have done enough.
We need to look closely at the causes of poverty in the town and put in proper measures to address them to make sure everybody has a good quality of life.
Let’s face it, something is badly wrong when politicians put vanity projects above the needs of people.
We know the extremes of opinion represented by Labour and the Conservatives regarding welfare, but the truth is we need a solution that is honest about the problems of the welfare system, and remembers that we need it for a fair society.
Work should pay.
We shouldn’t penalise people for returning to work, trapping people in a life they didn’t choose, destroying their ambition and fostering resentment.
That’s why we created more than two million new apprenticeships and a million jobs to give people opportunities to get into work, and why Lib Dems supported the welfare cap. It’s why we forced a huge tax cut for working people in spite of Tory opposition.
But it’s also right – and even more important – that there should be a safety net that works and is available to everyone.
Anyone could need help; the recession reminded us of that.
Whether it’s a mistake or bad luck, whether someone is disabled or ill, young or older, it is right that we ensure nobody, ever, falls below an acceptable standard of living.
Nobody should ever fear for a roof over their heads, food in their stomach or the basic means to live free and independent lives.
THE EUROPEAN UNION
A bureaucratic drain on resources or a progressive joining of trading nations that has safeguarded human rights for more than half a century? Opinions on the European Union in the UK remain polarised. While the Conservatives and UKIP have gone as far as promising an in/out referendum, even the parties to the let of the political spectrum agree that reform is needed.
Northampton North’s hopefuls have their say on the divisive matter below.
I passionately believe that Britain should have proper control over our own laws, not the European Union. That is why I support David Cameron’s pledge for an In/Out referendum on our future membership of the EU. The British people have not had a say on Europe for decades. That will change, but only under a Conservative government. I support the Prime Minister in his efforts to renegotiate and reform our relationship with the EU and make the system work better for us. But if the UK cannot get the reforms we want from the EU then I would vote to leave. Labour and the Liberal Democrats do not support giving the public a say in a referendum and UKIP does not have the support to make it happen. Only the Conservatives will give people a say and have the strength of support to actually deliver on that promise. I am clear that as a free trade bloc, the EU is of strong economic benefit to Northampton, but it must reform or it may not be so any longer. Our businesses trade strongly with Europe but Europe must not restrict our freedom to run our town and country the way we wish to.
The Green Party takes a balanced three YESs approach to Europe. This means we say YES to EU reform, YES to a referendum giving people the opportunity to vote positively for any new deal, and then ultimately we say YES to a positive future relationship with an EU that puts people first not EU bureaucrats and corporations. The UK, however, will always be part of Europe, and we can no more “leave it” than we can rewrite our joint history. But that doesn’t mean we have to always be governed by a European Parliament or even to agree to a joint currency. A lot of what the EU has done has been progressive: Safeguarding rights, ensuring peace and security, environmental protection, and the spread of culture and ideas, but true democracy is local democracy. So the Green Party want powers wherever possible returned not just to a UK Parliament but even closer to home and decisions taken at local level. For example we want agricultural and fisheries policies returned to decision at national/regional level. Europe must not become a superstate or global power bloc instead it should be made up of overlapping, co-operative, democratic, decentralised groupings of nations and regions.
Every British household benefits by £3,000 from Britain’s membership of the EU, according to the employers’ organisation, the CBI, and 3 million UK jobs depend on it, says the Treasury. In Northamptonshire we get £41 million a year from Europe to build our economy. But there’s more to the EU than figures. My parents both served in the British Army during World War Two and saw, in the Common Market, a way to build relations and spare future generations the horror of war in Europe. Later they served the UK Government behind the Iron Curtain and rejoiced when communism fell and nations escaping Soviet dictatorship opted for freedom and democracy in the EU. But like any institution, it has faults. Labour is committed to reforming Europe from the inside: Conservative mismanagement has left us marginalised on the sidelines. Labour will work with other EU countries to reform the free movement of people so migrants have to wait longer to receive beneits and won’t be able to claim for children outside the UK. We will ensure it’s easier to deport criminals, close loopholes so recruitment agencies cannot undercut British workers’ wages. And we guarantee no further powers will be transferred to Brussels without a referendum.
Although the stated ambition of UKIP is for Britain to leave the European Union, that decision will be for the people to decide in a referendum. UKIP’s job is to make sure there is a fair and open referendum. I am still open-minded with regard to the economic benefits and whether getting out of the EU will be good or bad for the economy of Britain. But I have to say that on balance, weighing everything up, the economic argument for getting out is more powerful than for staying in. Ted Heath took us into Europe without a referendum in 1973. He instantly sacrificed our then thriving fishing industry and the people whose livelihoods depended on it. Entering the EU in 1973 cost Britain millions of jobs; now we are told exiting it will cost us millions of jobs, both statistics can’t be true. One thing I can tell you categorically is that the European Union’s policy of open borders cannot be sustained and that is the main problem every country in the union faces. Open borders are good for no one, least of all Britain which is growing by an unsustainable 300,000 people a year. If the EU will not change its policy on open borders then we have to get out because the very future of Britain is at stake.
Because Liberal Democrats are internationalists, we understand that working together, countries can achieve more they can alone. We will actively participate in a referendum before Britain passes any more powers to the EU. In the event of a referendum, Liberal Democrats will vote to remain in the EU and ensure Britain plays a full part in Europe. While we are committed to membership of the European Union, we do recognise that the EU is not perfect and is in need of reform. But such reform is best delivered by a United Kingdom fully engaged in the Union and playing a full part in European discussions. We want to play a key role in shaping the rules of the Single Market so we can boost our global trade, tackle cross-border crime and address environmental threats. Northamptonshire has benefited from European funding by working alongside the Local Enterprise Partnership whose role is to increase prosperity of businesses. Funding is used to attract inward investment, launch initiatives such as Apprenticeship Week and make businesses more competitive. Many schools and local companies in high performance technologies, logistics, food and drink, and financial services are recipients of European funding.
At some point in our lives all of us will need to visit a doctor’s surgery, a hospital or dentist and many of us may need operations, physiotherapy and eyecare.
So it is no wonder health has been the hot issue of the 2015 election.
To conclude our look at where our parliamentary hopefuls stand on the major issues, we asked Northampton South’s candidates how they would work to secure better health provision for the town if elected tomorrow.
I was born at Barratt Maternity Home here in Northampton, and my family have all used the General Hospital over the years, so the NHS in Northampton is very important to me.
As Leader of the Borough Council I support the proposed improvements to the General Hospital, and if I am elected as the MP for Northampton South I will work with the hospital to lobby government for the extra funding to provide first class health care in the town. Failing to invest properly in the NHS will only lead to longer waiting times, shortages and a drop in care, and everyone would suffer as a result. Locally, I am pleased that this month Northampton General Hospital submitted plans to the Borough Council to expand their car parking facilities, which is good news for patients, staff and visitors. The last thing patients and their families need is the added stress of struggling to find somewhere to park when going to the hospital.
The Conservatives are putting the NHS on a sustainable footing for the future because we have a credible long-term plan to grow our economy. I will fight to protect the NHS and other local services, and I support Conservative plans to invest further in the NHS.
Training as a nurse at Northampton General in the 1980s I saw Maggie selling off Laundry services to the lowest bidder leaving us with no blankets, wheeling vulnerable patients to theatre down those long NGH corridors shivering under a thin paper sheet, in the name of a market economy. Bad enough? Fast forward to Cameron selling lucrative NHS contracts to Tory donor Rifkind, most expensive bidder by £7 million. Taxpayer’s money going into shareholders pockets. Inexcusable. Illegal? No, but it strikes me as immoral.
We pay National Insurance to fund our health service, not multi-millionaires profits! MPs gave themselves an 11% increase while offering nurses 1%. Have they no shame. Meanwhile people suffer on longer waiting lists, and the hardworking NHS staff struggle to care for people with meagre resources.
‘Austerity’ causes suffering, and the Labour party have signed up to continue more of the same.
We need to be able to get a GP appointment that day when we’re ill, and not have to wait painful hours in Casualty. The Green Party will champion a new NHS Bill rolling back privatisation and reinstating the founding NHS principles – truly public, fully protected, and free at the point of delivery.
As the son of a nurse, the NHS is close to my heart. It’s my top priority.
The doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals that work at Northampton General Hospital do us proud every day, but in recent years the NHS has been put under intolerable strain. It’s harder than ever to get an appointment with your doctor. The ‘red alert’ at NGH earlier this year served as a stark reminder that our hospital is at bursting point. As Northampton has grown, investment in our health services has failed to keep pace.
As your MP I will campaign hard
to help secure the capital investment needed for a major expansion of NGH, including new children’s facilities and an expanded A&E.
Through a mansion tax and a tax on tobacco companies we’ll fund 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 GPs nationally, with a fair share for Northampton. We’ll guarantee GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week.
Labour’s plan for the NHS will end the indignity of 15-minute adult social care slots. I’ll work hard to ensure we get the health service we deserve in Northampton - a health service fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
I’m proud Liberal Democrats in Government have driven forward legislation for mental health services, which have been ignored for too long.
Target treatment times now apply to non-physical illnesses for the first time, helping to tackle mental health issues that touch almost every family.
As your MP, one of my top priorities will be to protect the NHS. I believe it’s not only a service – but a symbol that we as a Country believe in looking out for each other. That we will not leave people hurting when we could help.
The Lib Dem guarantee that NHS budgets will be protected and will rise by £8 BILLION by 2020, ensures that services won’t have to be changed for the sake of money, if that compromises patient care.
Neither Labour nor the Conservatives will match that pledge.
But we can keep working to improve patient outcomes.
In Northampton, we need to make sure our hospital is modern and fit for purpose. Wherever care is delivered it needs to be personal, local, and joined up – with the NHS working with Councils to integrate social care with emergency care so people are never forgotten and always know where to turn for help.
Health policies of previous Governments have brought the NHS to its knees These include expensive re-organisation, too few beds, too many managers, insufficient front-line staff, no forward planning, hospitals bursting at the seams and a shortage of GP appointments.
The A&E Unit at Northampton General is overwhelmed at one end from those with minor injuries and at the other end by inadequate provision for post-operative care.
I will fight for a new hospital for Northampton which will offer a complete service to patients on one site. Combining pre- and post-operative care, GP services to deal with minor ailments and many more hospital beds will be a huge “Ask” - but if you don’t Ask, you don’t get. So far no other politicians have asked.
We underpay and undervalue
NHS staff at our peril. They work under huge pressure of patient numbers with insufficient staff resources and it is time this changed. It is unacceptable that their salary remains frozen whilst bankers earn large bonuses and money is sent abroad in foreign aid. We owe it to them to make a difference. Making a difference to their working environment, their pay and how we value them would be a good start.