What do you think of the local town centre regeneration plans for Chard and Yeovil?
I was very excited to see the consultations underway. Our town centres are evolving to reflect the way that communities and the way we all shop have changed, these consultations are the first major steps to enable our historic market towns to evolve and embrace this.
It would be my recommendation that as many people as possible engage with the process to help shape the ideas and ensure that the end result is a reflection of what is best for businesses and local residents alike.
What are your thoughts on school meals?
It is a firmly established understanding that well nourished children learn more effectively, are healthier and will develop at a more consistent rate. School meals should reflect the dietary needs and choices of students, as well as offering appealing and healthy options.
I am proud of the Lib Dem achievement in Government, to provide free school meals for all infant school children. Not only does this ensure all children receive a hot, healthy meal each day, it is also a tremendous social leveler. It encourages children to eat together and interact.
I fully support the need for free school meals to be available to all children of low income families.
What are your views on Abortion?
The decisions surrounding abortion are numerous and complex. I do not believe it is a decision that anyone takes lightly, either alone or for those in a relationship. Banning abortion, as has been seen in less permissive nations, results in women in difficult circumstance obtaining unsafe, unregulated abortions which pose serious risks to their own health.
I will always support a woman’s right to choice and control over her own body and will extend my help to anyone in need of safeguarding from those who would try to coerce or force them to take unwanted actions.
I will always support access to appropriate (and importantly unbiased) information, advice and guidance on all options and support that are available.
I also fully support the provision of age-appropriate sex and relationship education in schools to ensure that young people are empowered with knowledge about protecting & understanding their bodies, relationship issues, as well as issues relating to gender identity, sexuality and consent.
What are your thoughts on religion?
Everyone should be free to observe their own faith, without interference. Equally, the practice of observing ones faith should not interfere with how other people enjoy their lawful, personal freedoms. For example, while a person may observe fasting during Lent, Ramadan or Yom Kippur, it doesn’t mean that their friends and neighbours must unless they are observing the practice themselves.
If what you believe and practice doesn’t harm or impact negatively on others, then I will stand up for your right to peaceful worship.
Where do you stand on Capital Punishment?
I do not support capital punishment, under any circumstances.
Our NHS is in crisis – what should be done?
I fully support the Liberal Democrat position of 1p on the rate of income tax to directly fund and support the NHS and social care throughout the UK.
What are your
thoughts on divorce and family break ups?
Relationships and families are varied and complicated things. Each is different with it’s own joys and challenges.
While I would hope that any one in a relationship would endeavour to resolve issues, sometimes these are beyond repair. There is no road map for relationships and what may be right for some, isn’t right for others.
I have experienced complicated relationships in the past and have struggled with the relationships with my (older, and now adult) children at various points. This has been a difficult process, even when I knew they were loved and well cared for. Because of this, I deeply empathise with the impact these circumstances have on a family and, in particular, the children.
It is of vital importance that, in these circumstances, relationships between parents and children are maintained. I would be strongly in favour of robust measures to support the relationships between estranged parents and children and would work with groups supporting both sides to ensure the safety, welfare and stability of children caught up in such events.
How do we improve state education? Private education, does it have a place in the UK in 2018?
Possibly best to deal with these two together. I believe there are lessons to be learned from both private and state sectors. Both have their advantages and drawbacks.
We need to create parity between the standard (or perceived standard) of education that is facilitated in state schools and private schools. That is to say that we bring about such a radical change that choosing between state or private education is no longer an issue (exclusively) of results. This will mean training more teachers, offering more support & development opportunities and reducing class sizes to maximise the potential of all pupils.
State education should be delivered on a level platform. That is to say that all schools are equally enabled by enforcing equality of oversight of poorly regulated free schools and grammar schools which create a two-tier system of 11+ education. Inclusive tiering, based on ability, can be achieved within the school, rather than segregating at year seven.
All schools, irrespective of status, should be open to independent inspection and oversight (be it by OFSTED or any future body). There should be no school that is allowed to claim dispensation from external inspection.
Every step possible should be taken to reduce unnecessary financial burdens on state schools. I would lobby for the removal of the money paid by schools to subsidise SEN staff for statemented children (the first £6500 of an allocated TA’s salary is paid out of existing budgets before any additional funding is received).
Private (fee paying) schools offer a unique setting, often allowing for longer school days, boarding and activities that are far outside of the national curriculum, but may appeal to parents of students looking to follow very specific paths in life (the equestrian centre at Millfield immediately springs to mind).
I believe that fee-paying schools should still be an available option for parents, who may need/want those additional services. However, I feel that allowing these institutions to hold charitable status (and incur the financial benefits), while state schools cannot, is unacceptable (unless directly contributing to the community and neighbouring schools). The same view applies to the parents of students, at fee-paying schools, who are able to claim state support for “childcare costs” which creates a de facto Government subsidy.
Of course, I don’t want to exclude home schooling. This is a lifeline for parents of SEND children who have been unable to find suitable places or those for whom home schooling is the best available option. I feel there is a lot of scope for increasing the levels of support that are made available as well as increasing access to exam centres for home schooled children. While home schooling should not be seen as the gold standard, we do need to ensure that the best possible home schooling is achieved.
Nuclear Power – should we build a new power station at Hinkley Point?
There are two issues to look at – the business case and the environmental case.
I am deeply concerned about the plans to build a new power station with the, as yet, unproven EPR (European Pressurised Reactor). The current Government has committed to a £18bn project which will see EDF paid above market rates per kWh of electricity, leaving tax payers and consumers footing the bill whether reactor operates or not.
The claims of regional economic benefit are flawed. While there will be economic benefits from an influx of well paid civil engineers and construction staff, this has also caused dramatic increases in the cost of rented housing.
In spite of the formation of the Hinkley C training hub, the project is drawing in construction staff from across the region. Coupled with the exodus of European construction staff in the region (in anticipation of Brexit related restrictions), this is causing dramatic shortages in construction staff and will lead to an inevitable rise in the cost of housing development in the region.
I probably don’t need to go into too much depth about the length of time that we commit ourselves, and our descendants, to in safeguarding the waste materials produced by nuclear fission reactors. Estimates (depending on source) for the time it will take for the waste to return to natural (unprocessed ore) levels of radioactivity range from 10,000 years to 250,000 years. Even with the best case scenario, we are kicking a very dangerous issue into the very long grass.
Advances in the development of renewable and micro renewable energy generation have progressed at a rate to make them a viable alternative to yet more nuclear power. However, with reductions to subsidies for renewables and a reduction of the feed-in tariff for domestic production, it is increasingly difficult for the renewable sector to compete on an equal footing.
At present, we need a range of power generation options to fulfill the demand in the UK. I would support more investment in renewables through “green finance” investment while maintaining the capacity to generate through “on demand” sources such oil and gas as a secondary measure.
As a society, it is essential that we take greater responsibility for our energy usage. This means education in schools, public awareness campaigns and local authorities leading by example through the use of renewable and low energy (usage) technologies and practices.
I would not be supportive of more nuclear power generation (without a comparative investment in renewables) unless this was the only viable option to safeguard national infrastructure.