This post is the latest instalment in my by-election series where I will interview the candidates standing in Chesham and Amersham this month.
Today, I spoke to Sarah Green, who is the Liberal Democrat’s candidate in the Chesham and Amersham by-election. The Lib Dems are hoping to challenge the Conservative strong hold in the constituency and said campaigning is going very well.
“If we want to send a message to this government, we really can do it,” Sarah said.
Here’s what she had to say…
Any views expressed in this post are not my own, but those of the interviewees.
- Affordable and social housing
- Social mobility
- The NHS
- The EU
- Local community
Affordable and social housing
Affordable housing is a key issue for many young people, so it made sense to begin our conversation here.
Sarah highlighted that certain areas in the constituency haven’t seen any affordable housing built for over 10 years.
“This is one of the reasons I’m so outraged by the proposed planning law changes the government is proposing,” she explained.
On the surface it seems like a great idea. It’s designed to free up areas of the country for developers to build houses and, simply put, more houses is a good thing.
But, it comes with no obligation to build social or affordable housing, Sarah warned. Developers are more likely to consider their shareholders than the communities their building in, which means it is likely they will build luxury homes in areas like this.
If elected MP, Sarah said she would vote against these planning rule changes.
“I think it’s fundamental that any new building that takes place incorporates social and affordable housing because that’s what’s needed.
Sarah also stressed the importance of increasing the volume of social housing. Many people are inadequately housed, and we need more social housing to be able to accommodate all those who need it.
Before Sarah got involved in politics, worked with the Social Mobility Commission, so is aware of many of the issues a lack of social mobility causes.
A 2020 report from the commission found that the area has some of the worst levels of social mobility in the country.
Sarah said this is “quite surprising for some people” as from the outside the constituency looks like a very affluent area. However, if you look below the surface, it is much less surprising.
She pointed to a Winston Churchill ideal – there should be a safety net below which no one can fall but above which anyone can rise.
This resonates with Sarah, as she believes society should be there to support anyone struggling. Equally no one should be prevented from going on to achieve great things.
However, “the safety net now has gaping holes in it,” Sarah warned. Stories of nurses and students relying on Foodbanks shows that individuals are not being supported or compensated how they should be. In December, the Trussell Trust predicted Foodbank usage would be up 61%.
The first step to filling these gaps is to acknowledge the problems exist, Sarah said. Then you can work out the best way to tackle them.
One area that Sarah definitely thinks needs work is zero-hour contracts. Having an insecure income is very difficult and impacts what you can and can’t do. It makes renting or getting a mortgage much harder and it can be hard to know if you’ll have enough money to pay your bills or buy food.
Another way to improve social mobility is to improve the local transport links.
“If you can’t afford a car round here and rely on public transport, it’s really challenging,” Sarah said.
Even before you factor in the cost of running a car, there’s an upfront cost to learning to drive. It’s a huge factor in social mobility, Sarah suggested.
Because transport links within the constituency are so poor, certain jobs are simply unavailable to those who don’t drive. Improving local buses could open up a whole raft of employment options for many people.
Another issue is the state of the roads. For those that do drive, an added expense can be changing tyres regularly as there’s so many potholes.
“I’m aware that I won’t be able to change government policy on many big issues. I’d just be one MP. But, on a local level, I can challenge the council and local bus companies, for example, and make a real difference,” Sarah said.
When she’s out campaigning, Sarah said one thing that keeps being mentioned is the NHS.
“People have great respect for the work the NHS and healthcare workers have done for the past 16 months, but they also fear they could walk away,” she warned.
Staff are overworked and exhausted and need greater support to be able to keep doing their jobs. Sarah said she would advocate for the pay rise these workers deserve.
The Lib Dem’s stance in the 2019 General Election was firmly in favour of remaining in the EU.
This hasn’t changed, Sarah said. In fact, a pro-European stance is included in the Liberal Democrat’s constitution.
Sarah believes it is still in our best interest as a country to be in the EU. This won’t change, but she currently has other priorities.
“However, right now my focus is on stopping the new planning laws and mitigating the negative effects of HS2.”
Within the constituency, Sarah said there’s a real feel among many residents that they’ve been ignored and taken advantage of in previous elections. Being a safe Conservative seat traditionally, many don’t think their vote counts.
Sarah wants to change this.
The Lib Dems have conducted a residents’ survey to gather as many views from constituents as possible.
“It’s so important to find out what people really think and what the most important issues to them are,” she concluded.
To read the first candidate interview, click here.
Are there any questions you’d like me to put to the candidates in the Chesham and Amersham by-election when I speak with them? What issues most concern you right now?
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