This post is the latest instalment in my by-election series. I’m interviewing the candidates standing in Chesham and Amersham this month.
Today I spoke to Carla Gregory, the candidate from the newly formed Breakthrough Party. Having grown up in the constituency, Carla wants to make a positive difference to her community. She hopes to use her experience of the local area to make a genuine difference to residents.
Having been vocal on social media about her concerns and worries for a while, she thought it was time to “put my money where my mouth is” and stand to be MP.
Here’s what he had to say…
Any views expressed in this post are not my own, but those of the interviewees.
- Affordable housing
- Social housing
- Social mobility
- NHS pay rise
- The local community
Affordable housing is “one of my biggest bug bears,” Carla said. “I’m 31 and have no idea how I will be able to buy a house.”
House prices in the constituency are very high and a lot of residents simply can’t afford to buy. Many also struggle to afford private rents, which has led to some of Carla’s friends leaving the area.
Carla believes we need to make the most of the brownfield sites in the constituency. These should be used to build more green and sustainable housing, which should be used for affordable homes and social homes.
Carla also highlighted the issue of social housing. There’s not enough of it in Chesham and Amersham and the social housing that does exist is not good enough quality. Carla said she’s heard multiple reports from friends that their properties have mould problems.
There’s also a four-year waiting list for three bedroom properties, which means a lot of families are inadequately housed.
The housing association are developing and acquiring new properties, but it’s not happening quickly enough, Carla stressed.
“We need more social properties not just affordable schemes.”
“There’s a huge gap between the rich and poor in this area,” Carla stressed. “Lots of better off people don’t see it.”
For example, over 7,000 people have used the Chiltern Foodbank in the past year – a staggering number to many.
The Foodbank manager told Carla that success for her is not having a job, but that’s a long way off.
Carla isn’t surprised by this. With high rents, Council Tax, bills and food, anyone earning under £40,000 is likely to struggle, she said.
“It’s got to the point where I’ve had enough. That’s why I’m doing this. No one seems to be standing up for these people and it seems like they’ve been forgotten,” Carla explained.
“I don’t expect the rich to get poor, but I feel there could be more of a balance.”
To help solve this, Breakthrough Party is calling for a £15 an hour minimum wage – a substantial increase from the current £8.91.
“People shouldn’t be working just to get by,” Carla stressed. Currently many people are doing just that and some are working and still not getting by.
This is why the party supports Universal Basic Income (UBI). While the exact figures are yet to be worked out, the idea is that everyone will have enough to cover the necessities.
NHS pay rise
The Breakthrough Party is also calling for a 15% pay rise for all NHS staff. This would apply to all staff, including cleaners and caterers, not just clinical staff.
Explaining the reasoning for this, Carla said: “They have all been working throughout the pandemic, going in and risking their lives and their families. Doing this at the time when we didn’t know as much as we know now about coronavirus was the ultimate bravery.”
The local community
“People shouldn’t have to move away from the communities they grew up in because they can’t afford to live there anymore,” Carla stressed.
Living near family and friends is important to many people and having a support network is vital to some, particularly those with children.
Carla said she’s considered leaving the area in favour of somewhere cheaper, but she can’t bring herself to leave her home.
Chesham and Amersham has a strong sense of community, which was only heightened by the pandemic. “I want to hold onto that where possible,” she said.
Carla would like to see more cohesion throughout the different groups within society. She wants to see everyone – regardless of their background – working together on community projects.
The Breakthrough Party also has links to Chesham.
Its founder Alex used to live in Chesham, which is where him and Carla first met. He launched the party in January and, knowing Carla was passionate about the same issues, reached out to her to get involved. Little did she think then that she’d be running for parliament 6 months later.
Regardless of what the result is on Thursday, Carla is committed to making a change in Chesham and Amersham. “You won’t be seeing the last of me,” she concluded.
You can read my other interviews here. These are with: Sarah Green, Liberal Democrats, Alex Wilson, Reform UK, Carolyne Culver, Green Party, Brendan Donnelly, Rejoin EU, and Peter Fleet, the Conservatives here.
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