This week we’re asking the six general election candidates for the Altrincham & Sale West constituency for their views on certain key issues.
Last week we asked our Facebook community for the questions they’d ask the candidates: Sir Graham Brady (Conservative), Geraldine Coggins (Green), Angela Smith (Liberal Democrat), Andrew Western (Labour), Neil Taylor (Liberal Party) and Iram Kiani (Independent).
We’ve selected a shortlist using a mix of questions that were upvoted by the community and questions that ensure the candidates cover as broad an array of topics as possible.
Each candidate has then had a few days to come up with their answers to the same set of questions.
Today it’s the turn of Labour Party candidate, Andrew Western.
DAN McMULLAN: What are the candidates’ views on assisted dying for the terminally ill – this is a topic which I’ve not heard any party talk about but is a matter a significant number of people believe needs looking at again.
ANDREW WESTERN: This is a very delicate issue but one that has been avoided in national discourse for too long. If elected I would support an inquiry into a potential change in the law in this area. I feel that in strictly regulated circumstances where the medical evidence and the will of the individual is clear, there is a case for assisted dying in the UK particularly as there are examples of people going overseas to die in countries where assisted dying is legal.
VITTORIA ELISA: Will you protect Green Belt land in the area?
ANDREW WESTERN: As the Leader of the Council I have reduced significantly Conservative proposals to build on Green Belt land in Trafford. I take no pleasure in the prospect of building on our Green Belt but in the current legislative framework laid down by government this is unavoidable. Whilst I have reduced the number of units proposed on green belt land in Trafford by more than 3,000, I am unable to reduce this further because the Conservative Government has determined that they should use out of date population statistics in order to inflate the number of housing units required in Trafford. Additionally they have withdrawn tens of millions of pounds of funding to remediate brownfield land in Greater Manchester making it more difficult to protect our green belt land. If elected as our local MP I would lobby ministers to ensure that the latest (and lower) population statistics are utilised. This change would mean that no housing units were required on green belt land in Trafford. Sadly this issue has never been raised by our longstanding Tory MP.
NICK ROBINSON: What, in your view, are the causes of us needing to have five food banks in one of the richest constituencies in one of the richest countries in the world?
ANDREW WESTERN: Austerity is undoubtedly the driver of this. Food banks had all but disappeared in the UK pre-2010, as indeed had rough sleeping. Both have returned with a vengeance due to the policies of the Conservatives and their Lib Dem allies. It is a disgrace that in this relatively wealthy constituency thousands of food parcels were issued to local families last year and even more alarming when one considers that the majority of people using food banks are in work. Wages have been suppressed for too long, for many work is insecure, and benefit to those in and out of work have been punitive. We must act now to lift millions of people out of poverty in this country, many of whom are children or pensioners.
JAMIE BUCKTON: With the large increase in crime around the constituency over the last couple of years, what are your plans to tackle it?
ANDREW WESTERN: Labour will reverse the Tory and Liberal Democrat cuts to the police since 2010 which have reduced police numbers nationally since 2010 by 20,000 officers. We will restore those 20,000 posts and recruit a further 2000 officers on top of this which will allow for the return of neighbourhood policing in our communities.
SARAH SCOTT: Given Altrincham and Sale West is a Remain voting area, how will you represent your constituents on the Brexit issue?
ANDREW WESTERN: I voted remain in 2016 and campaigned in Altrincham and Sale West and across Trafford to stay in the European Union. Under my leadership Trafford Council has declared itself a second referendum council and I personally moved a motion opposing No Deal in any circumstances in the Council Chamber in November. I strongly support Labour’s policy of a second referendum and would support and campaign for remain in any such vote.
KATIE SALINGER: I’ve seen manifestos from the parties with details of what each party will deliver. A lot of those promises are longer term, and outside of the immediate 5 year fixed term. What promises are you making for the immediate 12 months after your election in our constituency?
ANDREW WESTERN: Labour have promised a referendum on EU membership in our first six months in office. We would also legislate swiftly to increase investment in education, policing and our NHS.
MICHAEL BATTMAN: What are the candidates’ views on state-funded religious schools?
ANDREW WESTERN: I believe that schools should serve all children regardless of religion.
ALISON O’CONNELL: What’s your stance on WASPI women – will you be supporting an initiative to make up the £40,000 in lost pension we have lost?
ANDREW WESTERN: I have been a supporter of the WASPI campaign for several years, working with Trafford’s WASPI campaigners to fight to right this injustice. One of my first acts as Leader of the Council was to pass the WASPI motion through Council – previously rejected by local Tories – and light the Town Hall purple in solidarity with WASPI campaigners. I support Labour’s proposals to compensate women born in the 1950’s many of whom have been left in financial hardship as a result of the shift to their pension age.
DANIELLE MOLYNEUX: How are you going to address the climate crisis?
ANDREW WESTERN: Labour have brought forward an ambitious programme in the form of our Green New Deal. This sets out a radical agenda to transform our economy and protect our environment by adopting the most ambitious carbon neutrality targets of any government in the world. This will include the retrofitting of 27m homes, lifting the ban on onshore wind, banning fracking, and investing heavily in public transport and electric vehicles as well as investment in other areas. We are just a few years from climate catastrophe and radical action is needed to address this now.
EMMA STANTON: What are you going to do about the fact that there is now a generation of young people who were born and raised around Trafford who can now not afford to live in their hometown because house prices / rent are completely unattainable in this area?
ANDREW WESTERN: This is something that I am affected by personally as a 34-year-old who has lived in and around Altrincham all my life. I am in the process of buying my first property after years of renting privately, whilst many of my friends have been forced to leave the area because of rocketing house prices.
There are problems at all levels of the UK housing market. We need to build more social homes, end the right to buy which has contributed to the shortfall of social rented properties, introduce private rents caps and tougher regulations for landlords, and increase support for first time buyers and others looking to buy a genuinely affordable property. Only with a range of support at all levels can we begin to tackle the housing crisis.
PAUL McCARTHY: Will you support the saving of Stamford Park Infant and Junior Schools from demolition, in favour of architectural remodelling on the same site?
ANDREW WESTERN: I don’t support the retention of the existing buildings which are not fit for purpose, do not meet Department for Education classroom size standards, and in which some children with special education needs are being taught in corridors. I believe that a new, modern, fit for purpose building is required bringing the two schools together and increasing pupil numbers modestly to meet increased demand in the local area. As Council Leader I have earmarked £8m to deliver this project because I believe it is the right the thing to do and will offer the best possible facilities for children living in the area.
ANNA WHITE: What youth services are you going to provide within the borough to help reduce knife and other crime? (Anne White)
ANDREW WESTERN: Austerity has hit councils hard with 60p in the pound being lost from local authority budgets nationally since 2010. That said youth services have been a priority for my administration since becoming Leader of the Council. We have insourced the Council’s Youth Service – privatised after years of cuts by the Tories – and expanded the team by creating a new outreach service, putting youth workers back on our streets. In its first few months the new team has – using a range of innovative methods – engaged with around 800 young people to build relationships and gather intelligence about young people in the area.
If elected I would push for further investment in youth services nationally, as well as in mental health service, early help and intervention and other key areas that have been hit hard by austerity and impact on the behaviour of our young people.
ROSA CROSBIE: How do you propose to tackle the problem of groups of young people committing anti-social behavior and assaulting and intimidating both youngsters and adults?
ANDREW WESTERN: As with the previous question I would like to see more investment in our youth services and proper funding of local authorities so that councils can rebuild services decimated since 2010. In addition, Labour will increase the number of police on our streets by 22000 nationally and restore neighbourhood policing in our communities.
MARK GORMAN: What’s your favourite cheese?
ANDREW WESTERN: Dale End Cheddar made at Botton Creamery in North Yorkshire, where a friend of mine works.