With the General Election due to take place on 8 June, The Bath & Wiltshire Parent asked the four candidates for the Bath seat to detail what they would do for local families if elected. Here’s what they had to say.
Ben Howlett – Conservative
It was an absolute honour to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Bath in 2015. During the election campaign I set out my ‘6 point plan’ with my priorities for my work as an MP. One of my aims was to ‘Boost Bath’s Talent’ which naturally included a focus on helping local families get the best possible education for their children. It is great to see that two new primary schools are being built in the city and that Bath schools are performing well. If re-elected on June 8th, I want to see more development like this across the city and I will continue to work with the Department for Education and the Council to ensure that Bath schools get the help they need to support our young people. When the issue of fairer funding was brought to my attention, I spoke immediately with the Education Secretary to ensure that no Bath school would lose money as a result of the introduction of the formula and I am pleased to see that the Conservative manifesto has a clear commitment to protect funding in cash terms across the UK with the overall schools budget increasing by £4 billion in real terms by 2022.
It is not just through education that children develop and throughout my time as Bath’s MP I have supported a variety of schemes, whether it be drama clubs or social groups, which help equip Bath’s young people with the skills they need to succeed. One such scheme was the National Citizen Service. I supported the scheme, which equips young people with a unique range of skills, at both a local and national level and I hope to see it grow over the coming years so even more young people can graduate from the scheme.
If re-elected as the Conservative MP for Bath on June 8th, I will continue my work and support of children from Bath, helping secure investment in their education. I will also support local families by making it easier for them to get onto the property ladder and have a family home to call their own. Since I was elected 700 new homes have begun to be built in the city and I want to continue pushing for these homes to be built so more families can achieve the dream of home ownership.
Bath is a great place for families to live and children to grow up but I want to see it get even better and if re-elected I will work hard to ensure that it does.
Wera Hobhouse – Liberal Democrat
I am the mother of four grown-up children and a former teacher, so I know that these are worrying times for parents. That is one of the reasons I am a Liberal Democrat because they believe that education is the key to a fairer society and they have strong plans to fix the problems in schools.
Reversing the cuts to budgets. Schools are in crisis and seriously short of money. The Conservatives will tell you that school funding is at its highest ever, but that hides the fact that because pupil numbers are up, spending per pupil is going down. We will reverse all the cuts to frontline budgets of schools and colleges by investing an extra £7bn.
Free school meals. The Conservatives have an awful plan to axe free lunches at a cost to parents of £480 a year per child. Studies show that where children are given a free school lunch, they are academically months ahead of other children. We will continue with free school meals.
Keeping teachers is a problem. Teachers’ pay has been held down to 1% increases for too many years with the result good teachers are leaving the profession. We will end the cap on teachers’ pay so that they can be paid what they are worth.
Early years education. We will triple the Early Years pupil premium to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the best start in life.
No new Grammar schools. We oppose the Government’s plan to create new divisive selective schools or expand existing ones. The money that would be spent on them should go towards the education of all pupils, where it is desperately needed.
Free childcare and cheap bus travel. We will extend free childcare to all two-year-olds, and 16-21 year olds will have their bus travel cost cut by 67%.
Our NHS has been badly neglected by Mrs May. It’s a big problem that needs a serious solution, which is why we would put 1p on tax so that we can invest an extra £6bn a year into the NHS and social care. This includes an extra £1bn into mental health which affects so many young people these days.
A little bit about me: before I got involved in politics, I had several careers that gave me insight into the real world outside politics. I was a teacher, a radio journalist and before that I was an artist. I joined the Liberal Democrats because they allowed me the freedom to stand up for my beliefs.
While I was a Councillor, a housing company tried to build homes and a nursery on some badly contaminated land. We had to fight for seven years to stop them building on that land. We need more housing in this country, but not at the expense of a big company taking advantage of a community.
It would be a great honour to represent the people of Bath in Parliament.
Joe Rayment – Labour
In the sixth richest country in the world, parents are entitled to expect a decent, affordable home in which to raise their children; an education that develops their children’s potential; and the opportunity for their own parents to grow old with dignity.
Yet in Bath today, one child in five lives in poverty, rising to one in three in some areas. The government’s austerity programme is directly linked to the increase in child poverty. Zero-hours jobs and cuts to in-work benefits have contributed greatly to hardship and insecurity, so that 63% of children in poverty are in families where at least one of the adults is working.
A Labour government will ban zero-hours contracts and increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour. It will repeal social-security cuts to people with disabilities and increase the carers’ allowance. It will also increase paternity leave and pay – because fathers deserve to spend time with their new babies too. To help new parents further, Labour will overhaul the childcare system so that places exist to meet demand, and extend the 30 hours’ free childcare to all two-year-olds.
Cuts to school budgets have affected almost every school, with many having to consider cutting staff or shortening the school week. Labour will tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, reduce class sizes to below 30 for 5–7-year-olds, improve secondary-school chances and extend apprenticeships. It will also embed SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) training for all staff, so that children are better supported. While the Conservatives have tripled tuition fees for university students, we will abolish them from autumn 2017.
Hospitals such as the RUH are under severe pressure and this government’s policies have driven junior doctors to strike. Underfunded local authorities are finding it impossible to provide adequate social care. Labour will supply over £30 billion extra funding for the NHS, reverse the Tories’ privatisation of services and ensure the world-class standard of care that patients deserve. We will also work towards making the country autism friendly, so that autistic people can access the whole of their community.
Average house prices in Bath are nine times average pay, and rents are unacceptably high. We will build over a million new homes, including 100,000 affordable homes a year for rent or sale. As MP for Bath, I would oppose the loss of social housing at Foxhill and support a Clean Air zone for the city and better public transport, to reduce dependency on cars.
Eleanor Field – Green Party
The Green Party policies and values towards families is one of the main reasons I joined the party. I want the best for my teenage daughter; the Green Party cares about not only our children’s future, but their present as well.
We have a strong set of policies towards providing the best education for children. We fundamentally believe that education is a right for all ages, and we need to have a system where teachers can teach and children can be children.
Having our children seen as customers rather than learners is destroying our children’s educations. We need to have Academies and Free Schools back under local authority control, not being controlled by businesses.
Schools have faced trying times with constant underfunding and cuts. We need to fully invest in our schools, giving them the ability to provide a comprehensive and varied education to all. We will abolish needless tests such as SATs and reduce class sizes so all children can get the most out of being in school.
Beyond education, we believe in protecting our environment around us, so that our children can gain as much from the planet as we have. We believe in investing in renewable energy and fighting against air pollution in our neighbourhoods and schools. We need to look to save our planet so that our children have a future, and so that they can live long and happy lives.
Low income Families are being routinely failed by mainstream parties, with skyrocketing rents and the lack of social housing. I will fight for rent controls and commit to building more social housing on existing brownfield sites.
I have talked a lot about policy, but I believe that our plan for families and children will push for a fairer, and cleaner, system that everyone can benefit from. This has only been a few of the promises we have made to families, and you can find the rest on www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/
In this election, the kind of country we want to be is on the line. We can’t stick with politics as usual, with the established parties routinely ignoring, or worse case actively sabotaging, our children’s future. We need a stronger education system that is fully invested in, as well as a planet that our children can still enjoy, and we are the party fighting for that future. So vote brave and vote Green Party.