X Marks the Spot

 

The upcoming general election in May is likely to be the most complicated and unpredictable in living memory.

Voters in Waltham Forest’s three constituencies are faced with a choice of candidates from at least five parties who may play a role in or supporting the next government, along with a range of candidates from smaller parties.

In a bid to help readers understand the choices on offer, the Echo contacted all candidates listed as standing in the Leyton and Wanstead, Chingford and Woodford Green and Walthamstow constituencies and asked them to answer the same series of questions.

Not all candidates had responded by our print deadline but we have printed responses from those who did.

If we receive further responses, they will be added to the online version of this feature.

LEYTON AND WANSTEAD

What is the best thing about Leyton & Wanstead?

Ashley Gunstock (AG) – Green: What impresses me most about the constituency is its diversity, vibrancy and general community spirit.

What issues do you think are the most important to the people in the constituency?

AG: The NHS, Housing and The Economy

What will you or your party do to tackle these issues?

AG: NHS – Continue to push for better funding, especially via the Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015.

Housing – Continue to insist on the need for more affordable housing and support the Homes for Britain Campaign.

Economy – Continue to campaign, via our anti-austerity and taxation policies, for a better way of conducting how we go about our business.

How do you know, or find out about, what is important to local people?

AG: Word of mouth and the local media. I am often contacted by residents – who pass on information or need help – and the media in the area, to give my opinion on a wide range of issues.

What would a government led by your party do for the voluntary sector?

AG: Implement and enforce laws, to ensure that those volunteering their services are not taken advantage of and are at least reimbursed for any expenses which may be incurred.

Quickfire questions:

Austerity – Yes/No: AG –No
Mini-Holland – Yes/No: AG – Yes
More council housing Yes/No: AG – Yes
EU – In/Out: AG – Out

Also standing:
John Cryer MP – Labour
Martin Levin – UKIP
Carl Quilliam – Liberal Democrat
Matthew Scott –Conservative

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CHINGFORD AND WOODFORD GREEN

What is the best thing about Chingford and Wood Green?

Anne Crook (AC) – Liberal Democrats: Woodford Green is my home and I enjoy its proximity to London plus its open green spaces adjacent to Epping Forest. I lived and worked in Walthamstow in the 1970s and the best things were its diverse and vibrant community, its mile long market and the wonderful William Morris Gallery.

Lisa McKenzie (LM) – Class War: The strong working class people who live under the incredibly difficult conditions of having to cope with a Conservative Member of Parliament who has introduced the cruel and vicious cuts to the welfare state.

Bilal Mahmood (BM) – Labour: Where else can you sail and be 20 minutes from central London! Growing up in Woodford Green, I’ve seen it become a diverse and active community, with residents being recognised for their spirit and creativity. It’s an area that feels like it could be the next big thing in London.

Rebecca Tully (RT) – Green: The many green spaces and amazing views – my favourite being Organiclea’s Hawkwood near Pole Hill. The volunteers and amazing veg are proof that we can create food, jobs, leisure and learning right here in our constituency – and not a punitive measure in sight. And they have a tyre swing!

Freddy Vachha (FV) – UK Independence Party: For me, the combination of our beautiful forest and accessibility to central London were the clinching factors. It still is a bit like a village, which was how my gran (born 1899) remembered it.

What issues do you think are the most important to people in the constituency?

AC: The issues that I think are the most important are housing, the lack of affordable social housing and the high cost of renting property, the cost and overcrowding on public transport and the high cost of gas & electricity.

LM: Like the whole of London, the key issue is housing and homes crisis. I say homes rather than housing because London has thousands of empty properties that have been bought as ‘investment spaces’, the Tories’ benefit cap and lack of council housing means the homes crisis is at breaking point.

BM: We have the highest proportion of people in London earning less than the living wage (just under 50%). The dated image of a leafy, Essex county hides the desperate plight of many residents. It’s one sign that the middle class has been squeezed by this Tory/LibDem Government.

RT: Many are contacting me about tax – angry the government hasn’t acted to stop evasion. It just doesn’t feel like a level playing field for small enterprises, when so many provide jobs in the area. Another big one is the NHS; maintaining standards of care in a climate of such massive cuts.

FV – The pressure on local services and housing, mainly caused by mass uncontrolled immigration. We have only to look south from Chingford to see the enormous menace heading our way, with construction cranes everywhere in Walthamstow. So great is the pressure, and contrary to propaganda spread by other parties, that even parts of our forest are under threat.

What will you or your party do to tackle these issues?

AC: Liberal Democrats have worked hard in government to tackle the housing crisis. By May 2015 we will have built 170,000 new social & affordable homes. We have set out plans to build 275,000 more affordable homes by 2020. Liberal Democrats pledge to create a better deal for lowincome energy consumers.

LM: We will compulsory purchase empty properties from landlords at the same rates our local councils are selling off publicly-owned land and property to the private sector. That is rock bottom; some of our land has been given away, and sold for £1.

BM: Capping energy bills, reducing the tax rates at the lower threshold, building more homes and campaigning for the living wage. Making sure the NHS is properly staffed, and local businesses thrive also helps. The Council and local Highams Park volunteers obtained £100,000 for shop fronts, which is a great start.

RT: A Tax Dodging Bill in the first 100 days. Crack down on tax havens. Caroline Lucas has called for a Fair Tax Mark. Locally: new leisure services to include ALL needs. This connects to wider changes: a health service free at point of delivery, no internal markets or creeping privatisation.

FV –When a bathtub is overflowing, the first thing to do is to turn off the tap. Somehow, the other parties haven’t managed to grasp this. Fix uncontrolled mass immigration exacerbated by a benefits system that pays out to newcomers almost immediately and irrespective of contribution and the issues vanish.

How do you know, or find out about, what is important to local people?

AC: As I have lived in the area for over thirty years I know many local people and the issues that concern them. I have worked as a teacher in local schools and met many parents. I have also worked as a Volunteer Adviser at CAB helping people with their problems.

LM: The only local people I am interested in are working class people, the people that the Tories despise and Labour have let down. I’ll be in the pubs and on the council estates talking to the people that our system ignores.

BM: Living locally! We do our shopping in the constituency; it’s a great way to get a sense of the community. I recently introduced myself to a local mums and toddler’s group on Facebook asking to hear their views on childcare. I’ve had to arrange three separate meetings to meet demand.

RT: I live here, volunteer here, and work with other community groups here that use the services we all care about. I am also (with an ace little team – get in touch if you want to join it!) visiting as many residents as possible to research specific issues we can support.

FV – I moved to this borough in the summer of 1981. I have lived in Chingford itself for 30 years, and raised a family here. Unlike my opponents, who have to rely on pollsters and spin, I just listen to what neighbours, friends and people on the street say to me.

What would a government led by your party do for the voluntary sector?

AC: Liberal Democrats admire the work of the voluntary sector and are supportive and responsive to the voluntary sector in government e.g. Nick Clegg has championed the work of Mind; he announced that by 2020 patients needing talking therapies for conditions such as depression will be guaranteed treatment in six weeks.

LM: I do not agree with voluntary work, ALL work should be paid. More emphasis needs to be put into our communities keeping them stable by allowing people to live and work locally. There is a lot of volunteering in poorer communities, people need supporting in continuing this through pay.

BM: I got a sense of community action from working in charities. That’s partly why I joined Labour. Our shadow charities minister Lisa Nandy launched a consultation with millions of voluntary sector workers late last year because we recognise the advice, support and enthusiasm the sector can give to public services.

RT: It will be relieved of the huge pressure it is under now by, for example, welfare payments paid to terminally ill people WITHOUT sanction; real affordable housing so that homeless charities don’t have to pick up the pieces; and inspiring volunteer programmes not being undermined by involuntary, unsuccessful work programmes.

FV – UKIP is the only major party with policies giving real power to the people. On any local issue about which there is sufficient interest, a UKIP government will itself pay to carry out a local referendum, whose results will be binding in law. Voluntary sector, think what that means!

Quickfire questions:
Austerity – Yes/No: AC – No; LM: No!; BM: No; RT – No!; FV – Yes
Mini-Holland – Yes/No: AC – Don’t understand the question; LM: Yes!; BM – No (sorry!); RT – Yes!; FV – No
More council housing – Yes/No: AC – Yes; LM: Yes!; BM – Yes; RT – Yes!; FV – Only if needed, given that we will fix the underlying problem of overcrowding
EU – In/Out: AC – In; LM: In!; BM – In; RT – In!; FV – Out

Also standing:
Iain Duncan Smith MP – Conservative

WALTHAMSTOW

What is the best thing about Walthamstow?

Stella Creasy (SC) – Labour: Its people. They are creative, talented, cheeky and opinionated and it’s a privilege to work for and with them.

Michael Gold (MG) – Green: There is a cosmopolitan population and a mixture of cultures especially for food in the shops, market and restaurants. Good transport connections benefit those that live here and those that come for the vibrant art, cultural and political scene.

Molly Samuel-Leport (M S-L) – Conservative: The best thing about Walthamstow is the people. They’re friendly, tolerant and proud of their community. Walthamstow is fantastically located and has plenty of transport options for hardworking Londoners. It’s no surprise that more and more people are discovering just how great Walthamstow is.

What issues do you think are the most important to the people in Walthamstow?

SC: At the moment the most important issues are personal and household debt, housing, healthcare and education.

MG: The NHS as people are frightened that privatisation will end free at the point of delivery care.
Housing– many people, especially the young, find it impossible to buy and can only rent by sharing. Wages and security of employment in world of zero hours contracts.

M S-L: Good schools & education so youngsters have opportunities to get on in life; safe streets for families & communities; affordable homes; employment opportunities; investment in leisure & recreational facilities for people to go out & enjoy in the community.

What will you or your party do to tackle these issues?

SC: I do a lot of personal work on these issues. Fighting legal loan sharks; ending fees for tenants, building more housing; repealing the health & social care act; improving access to GPs; investing in schools and more spaces for growing numbers of students; providing more business education for young entrepreneurs.

MG: Cease all privatisation of the NHS. Restore rent control and security of tenure and abolish tax relief for buy-to-rent landlords. Abolish zero hours contracts and bring in a living wage of £10 per hour by 2020.

M S-L: I will work closely with the Safer Neighbourhood Board to engage community organisations that work with disaffected groups. We will invest £18bn for new school buildings nationally. We will continue with our long-term economic plan for growth & jobs that has seen 1,435 fewer people in Walthamstow claiming unemployment benefit.

How do you know, or find out about, what is important to local people?

SC: I have lived here for 18 years and people stop me on the streets to tell me about their issues. I work with community groups, tenants and residents associations. I have always said I am not a customer complaints office, we need to work together. I will get you involved.

MG: I live in the area, am involved politically and socially and listen to what people say.

M S-L: To find out what is important to local people the easiest method is to talk to them! I believe that to find out what’s important to the local people you need to have had different experiences that they can relate to.

What would a government led by your party do for the voluntary sector?

SC: I come from the voluntary and community sector and understand their value. We are contesting the gagging law and making it easier to work with the public sector. I think it is really important to value the sector for its unique contributions.

MG: The voluntary sector is under tremendous pressure to provide a safety net for increasing numbers of people as government turns its back on them. Measures on housing and wages would take away some of this need.

M S-L: We’re making it easier to give money to charities so they can help more people through employer payrolls & match funding. We’re investing around £470 million to directly support charities and voluntary groups. We’re making it easier for charities to offer services to the Government by opening up government procurement.

Quickfire questions:

Austerity – Yes/No: MG – No; M S-L– Continue to reduce our deficit so we can safeguard our economy & invest in frontline public services
Mini-Holland – Yes/No: MG – No; M S-L– in principle yes, as proposal currently stands, no
More council housing – Yes/No: MG – Yes; M S-L– more affordable homes
EU– In /Out: MG – Out; M S-L– referendum so it’s the British people who decide; Stella Creasy chose not to answer the quickfire questions and instead offered the message: “Change the questions, change the country!”

Also standing:
Paul Hillman – UKIP
Nancy Taaffe – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
The Liberal Democrats had not yet named a candidate by the time we went press.