Here Mark Hendrick, Labour candidate for Preston, answers your questions…Advertisement
1. In Preston town centre there are office blocks full of public sector workers at Lancs County Council, HM Revenue Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions. Most political parties are proposing public sector cuts. So what would you do to protect their jobs and also not lose their spending power that is important for many town centre businesses?
I have been and I am committed to protecting public sector jobs in Preston. We have increased local authority grants year on year since Labour were elected in 1997 and services have expanded considerably since that time. In addition I have continually raised the issue regarding Revenue and Customs jobs and Department of Work and Pensions jobs with StephenTimms, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the time. If elected I intend to do the same.
2. I would like to know if the fuel tax is going to stay at the present HIGH rate or will it be coming down, if it came down it would help the small businesses, which in turn would help in the economic recovery.
The government has an indicator called the Fuel Duty Esculator which automatically indexes the amount by which fuel duty should rise in order to meet government revenue and environmental commitments. In spite of this in order to keep fuel prices lower through periods such as the recent economic recession the increase in fuel duty has been kept below the price that the Esculator would have taken it to. Therefore I do not envisage the price of fuel going down unless the cost of the price of crude oil goes down in the world commodity market.
3. How will you improve the public transport system in Preston & encourage people to leave their cars at home? Wouldnï¿½t a tram system be a good idea as the roads are already clogged? And if so how would you implement it?
Preston City Council under Labour control introduced free bus passes for the elderly and disabled people. The Labour government followed suit and with a national system which has been rolled out across the country. Lancashire County Council under Labour control implemented the park and ride schemes which are now working very well on the periphery of Preston so that cars are taken off roads in the centre of Preston. A tram system might be a good idea in the future but would be extremely expensive particularly coming of out an economic recession as we have done recently.
4. I am a UCLan graduate. Due to their being no cultural sector to speak of in employment terms in this town, I am having to leave Preston to pursue a career. My experience is typical in that I am one of thousands of UCLan graduates who would be happy to remain here and contribute to a growing, vibrant city but for whom there are no realistic employment opportunities to enable this. Isn’t it ironic that at a time when the Council wants to promote and develop Preston as the North West’s Third City, it seems not to have occurred to them that they have a resource in terms of skills and employability on their doorstep in the form of UCLan which is being utterly ignored?
What would the candidates do to reverse this situation in real terms and how and when would they do it (and beyond simply talking about a vision for graduate retention which I’ve often heard spouted at public sector meetings and buffets yet which has come to absolutely nothing in the real world up to this point)?
UCLAN has recently developed it’s own Media Centre, a very imposing new media building in the centre of Preston. I understand that there are plans for this centre to work closely with the development at Media City in Salford, which has a high concentration of internet, communication and media businesses such as the BBC, Granada and other high tech companies. With modern technology there is no need for everything to be concentrated in Manchester and Liverpool and Preston should be able in the future develop its own cultural sector.
5. If the Tithebarn redevelopment doesn’t go ahead what will you do to bring in funding for the city to improve on existing buildings and help businesses in the city centre?
I fully expect the Tithebarn redevelopment to go ahead. However if it isn’t successful in the inquiry I am confident the redevelopment of Preston will continue to take place in a piecemeal fashion so the same ends will be achieved by different means.
6. Walking my son to school in a morning the pavements are full of dog muck, glass and litter. It looks horrible & is dangerous. How will you clean up Preston?
This is a matter for Preston City Council and therefore is not a parliamentary issue.
7. If your 16 year old niece/nephew came to you and asked for your advice as to whether they should study for a Media Studies A Level, what would your advice be?
My advice would be to do it if your niece or nephew wishes to work in the media.
8. Proposed Death Tax – When will all pensioners in need of care be treated the same regardless of how much money they have, or whether they own a property. Consider the following scenario. Two people in the same job earning the same money all their adult life. One chooses to buy a house and save some money. The other decides he wants to rent a property and spend any spare cash he has, maybe on foreign holidays flash cars or whatever. Maybe the one buying the house and saving a bit has had to make sacrifices to do this. Why, when care is needed, does the one with the money and the property have to fund his own care, whilst the other person, who has had a whale of a time spending all he has earned, then have the state pay for all his needs? Where is the justice in that?
Whichever party wins the General Election in 2010 there is now a general consensus that there needs to be a cross party agreement and plan on how the elderly will be treated in future.
9.Which candidates actually really welcomes students? Ones I’ve spoken to give me the impression we’re not welcome in Preston?
Having studied at University myself I know how important student life is and how much the precious experience means in terms of personal development. I welcome all students to Preston as they bring such life and vibrancy to the city centre as well as making a major contribution to Prestonï¿½s economy.
10. How will you improve employment opportunities for young people in the city of Preston? Many are leaving school or college to find there is no work & no hope.
Throughout my time as Preston’s MP I have continually supported initiatives that generate employment in Preston. The achievement of Preston gaining city status has put Preston firmly on the map and encouraged start up and new business in Preston. Government grants over and above the rates of inflation to Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council have generated new opportunity for young people to get jobs. In addition government investment and government grant to UCLAN,(now the fastest growing university in the country) has created jobs. This is also the case at BAE Systems. BAE Systems employs over 12000 people and 1000s of other indirectly. The nuclear industry currently employs 1500 people and this will grow considerably in the future because the government is now committed to a new generation of nuclear power stations to meet the countries energy needs.
11. When are the public going to be told the extent of public money spent on duplicated, or unnecessary jobs? Do we need to have 67 quangos, employing 28000 officials, spending £3,157,000,000 a year in one government department i.e. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (DEFRA) The Food Standards Agency (FSA) includes 37 committees, such as The Advisory Body for the Delivery of Official Controls The Food Standards Sampling Coordination Working Group. Which party will make a commitment to reduce the above?
It is essential that the government implements regulations at European level to protect the environment, food we eat and the countryside. DEFRA is the government department responsible for seeing that this is carried out. The Food Standards Agency is an organisation to police this operation. If we want good environmental standards, good food quality and to be able to manage the countryside these bodies are essential.
12 How will you improve the health and mental well being of people in Preston?
Since 1997 we have considerably improved the health and well being of people in Preston. There has been tremendous investment in Royal Preston Hospital and through the development of Central Lancashire Primary Care Trust we plan to carry out further investment in the future.
13. It has been reported in the local media that the housing market is picking up. How will young people and first time buyers ever get a foot on the housing ladder? How will you improve accessibility to affordable housing in Preston and shorten waiting lists for social housing?
We have refinanced banks and encouraged banks to lend money to house buyers and businesses. We have also removed stamp duty on houses at the lower end of the market and also made it possible for people to buy a part share of a property with the option of buying the whole of the property at a later date.
14. Many people reading Blog Preston would like to see more sports facilities (Olympic sized swimming pool) & creative industries (workshops/improved museums/libraries/public art) in Preston. How will you encourage that to happen?
There are several sports centres in Preston and UCLAN has plans to build a huge new sports centre in the city centre. The provision of public art, museums and libraries is an issue for Lancashire County Council.
15. The Surestart Childrens Centres in Preston provide a lifeline & essential support to families with young children in the city. Will you continue to support and build on all the work already put in place over the past 13 years & if so how will you do that?
Labour introduced seven Surestart Childrens Centres in Preston, they have been a tremendous success helping families with young children. The Conservatives plan to cut Surestart to the tune of £79 million. They would also cut the Child Trust Fund and the Child Tax Credit cut for parents (with both working) with salaries over £16,000. These benefits have done a lot to help families with young children in Preston. The Liberal democrats would cut child tax credits for some parents to the tune of £1.3 Billion per year, and abolish totally the Child trust funds