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Ask the candidates 2015: Nick Robertson-Brown, Green Party

Earlier this month we asked for your questions to put to the candidates standing for election next week in Altrincham and Sale West. We received well over 50 in total, and have pruned them down to a final selection of 15, chosen so as to provide the candidates with a broad mix of local and national

Earlier this month we asked for your questions to put to the candidates standing for election next week in Altrincham and Sale West. We received well over 50 in total, and have pruned them down to a final selection of 15, chosen so as to provide the candidates with a broad mix of local and national issues.

Each day this week we’ll be publishing the answers to those question as given (in reverse order of the result of their party in the 2010 election) by Nick Robertson-Brown of the Green Party, Labour Party candidate James Wright, Liberal Democrat candidate Jane Brophy and the incumbent MP, Graham Brady for the Conservatives.

Today, we start with Nick Robertson-Brown.


1. Altrincham market area is fabulous! However, the smaller shop units in town centre are unsustainable for small businesses due to ridiculous high rents and unfeasibly high business rates. What are your plans to change this? (Submitted by Tilly Wine)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Thanks Tilly, I agree with you on both points, the market area is fabulous, but there are numerous empty shop fronts too as the rates and rent are so high that small businesses, like my own for example, just cannot afford the business rates that are set by Westminster. I have spoken to your local Green Party candidate for council and he agrees with me that there could be some form of subsidy for small local businesses, but we should exclude the multinational corporate shops and restaurants that dominate every high street in the country. Greens champion small businesses and the local economy, and our Green MP Caroline Lucas was an official Parliamentary champion of the Federation of Small Businesses.

2. What is your view on the most appropriate way to manage MPs’ expenses, and should MPs be subject to more lenient guidelines than anyone else? (Tom Barton)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Thanks for your question Tom, the press and media seem to think this issue has gone away, but they do still seem to be a law amongst themselves. Many MPs are still abusing the expenses scheme by claiming for outrageous items, employing family members and accepting their own pay rises. Yet at the same time approving austerity cuts and damaging and destroying the lives of the disabled and the disadvantaged, then this strikes me as very wrong.

Politicians should absolutely not be treated any differently from the general public in terms of leniency. We (the ‘hard-working people’ that Cameron is so keen to mention all the time) are able to claim reimbursement only for expenses incurred in the line of work, and only on production of valid receipts and approval by some higher authority. This is reasonable. Why should MPs be treated any differently?

3. Should we continue to give financial aid to countries that do not feed their people but have nuclear weapons? (Taxi Mike)

Nick Robertson-Brown: A very important question Mike, but on the basis of not feeding its people and having WMD, then we are just as guilty, with people having to use food banks here in Trafford, whilst we continue to fund Trident. However, I am totally opposed to cutting our foreign aid budget, as this will only make intolerable living conditions for some of the poorest people in the world.

However, we have to be far more thorough in ensuring our funds go to those who need it, and perhaps spend a little bit more of that budget on setting up accountable commissions to distribute the aid to those who need it. The situation in Third World countries is so bad that this will lead to many migrants risking their lives. We need to change their situation for our own sakes as well as theirs. Many Third World countries are still struggling to pay off international debt, and cancellation of this, as proposed by aid agencies, would help enormously.

4. Do you think the pensions’ budget, which absorbs considerably more of the Department of Work & Pensions’ budget than welfare, should be reduced? (James Harper)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Thank you James, this is an emotional one for many people. Firstly, can I say that I believe the people who’ve paid their tax and NI during their working lives are entitled to the pension that was promised them during many years of hardship. However, I also believe the austerity cuts are shocking and unnecessary. The Westminster establishment has built an unfair society where those at the top gain disproportionately to those at the bottom. We would transform our economy by having the courage to challenge the vested interests of the very wealthy and the corporates and provide welfare to all who need it. It really doesn’t have to be one or the other.

5. What do the you feel about the fact that since the last election we now have people in the constituency who have to resort to using food banks to feed themselves (and their families) and what will their party do to help those on low incomes, particularly children living in poverty? (Gwyneth Brock)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Thank you Gwyneth, it’s absolutely shocking and a disgrace that the sixth richest country in the world is using food banks to feed almost 1,000,000 of its people. This is largely due to the fact that 5.2 million people are paid less than the living wage. We would end austerity, get rid of the obscene bedroom tax and ensure that the minimum wage was increased. The growing numbers of children in poverty a disgrace. We propose an enhanced child benefit paid for through a fairer tax system.

6. Would you do anything to save the 360 acres of Davenport Green earmarked to be built upon? (Pete Hughes)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Peter, our remaining green spaces in Altrincham and the surrounding areas are very important. They provide a place for our children to play and explore, give refuge to native species that are struggling to survive and help keep our local environment both healthier and more pleasant to live in. There are huge pressures for more housing and business parks in this area, but until empty shops are filled, boarded up homes are made habitable, and existing business parks are fully utilised, then all green spaces should be protected.

7. Do you agree that there is a dire need for an A56 bypass, especially as yet another supermarket is to open in Broadheath? (Pete Hughes)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Thanks again Pete, I certainly agree with you that at peak times the traffic along the A56 is horrendous and thousands of cars chucking out poisonous gases and pollutants has a serious effect upon our health and the environment. I think this problem would be vastly reduced if Trafford Council would make it easier for people to cycle along and improve public transport as well as fighting for more local shops and small businesses to reduce the need for commuting and other journeys by car.

8. When will Altrincham FC finally stop playing second fiddle to the ice hockey teams who get council funding, whilst the true local sports team get none? (Jay Jackson)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Thank you Jay – what a fantastic question. We should be looking at many of the current Trafford Council financial decisions in my opinion. For example, they seem to have the funds to lend Lancashire Cricket Club £4 million to build a hotel and yet we hear that our leisure centres may now be at risk and youth centres are being closed throughout our borough. I don’t believe the council should be favouring any single sports team, but rather, they should be promoting youth sports across the spectrum.

9. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist? (Abi Richardson)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Yes I do, Abi. I believe in equal opportunities for all in our society regardless of gender, and I do also recognise that, even now, in the 21st century, it is appalling that women are generally paid less and are still denied the top jobs, particularly in the private sector. I am proud to stand for a party whose representatives in the House of Commons and House of Lords and leader are all women; a party that leads the way in fielding women as candidates in this general election. The Green Party stands for equality throughout society. A vote for the Green Party is a vote against the usual political old boys’ network.

10. Should consumers be protected from further energy price rises? (Sue Greenstreet)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Yes I do Sue, but not in the way that Ed Miliband is proposing. The biggest problem here is that the energy companies that we once owned were sold at giveaway prices to corporate companies and people who could afford the shares. In a very short space of time, our whole energy policy could revolve around renewable sources owned by the people of this country so we could heat our homes without continuing to destroy the planet.

11. As a governor of a local school I can state categorically that schools funding HAS NOT been protected. Budget cuts and additional expenses regarding staffing amount to approximately 10 teachers’ salaries. How do you propose that our schools be protected in order that we can continue to deliver the excellent standards of education we are noted for in Trafford? (Sue Greenstreet)

Nick Robertson-Brown: You’re absolutely right, Sue, school funding has not been protected and when this government talks about the money they want to put into schools, they don’t mention the fact that a disproportionate amount of the budget is going to free schools and academies and this comes out of the education budget. Education and the future of our young people is a priority in the Green Party and we believe in promoting good schools for all and paying the teachers the better salary they deserve. By putting a price tag on education, running schools as businesses and making them exam factories we are wasting children’s potential and stifling creativity. Our proposal includes reducing class sizes to 20.

12. Why are our green bins demanded every week? We recycle as much as we can and still don’t fill it week on week. That means a dirty great dumpster trawling the streets for nothing, and lots of families making extra trips to the ‘recycling centre’ (tip). How is that ‘green’ or even sensible? (Chris Hanley)

Nick Robertson-Brown: I totally agree with you, Chris. We need to increase the amount we are able to recycle, putting less and less into landfill. On top of this we need to review the green bin collection, ensuring that this is efficient for everyone and not just those with large gardens that might fill their green bin every week. However, as these bins also take food waste, you would not want this hanging around in our lovely hot summers. Maybe the idea of shared bins might work better? It is certainly a complex issue. If you help to get Altrincham’s Green councillor candidate, Daniel Jerrome, elected then he will fight to research and improve this.

13. What do you think should happen to the big eyesore that is the old McDonalds? (Adam Wilkinson)

Nick Robertson-Brown: Thank you Adam. This is a pretty specific question, but I think this is principally a question for your local Green Party council candidate, Daniel Jerrome. He believes that charging a little more for the car parking, which I’m sure you’ll agree is inexpensive, would help fund a reduction in business rates for local and smaller businesses and get these eyesores and empty properties back into use creating a vibrant town centre.

14. Do you support HS2? If it was scrapped, what would you spend the £50bn on instead? (Richard Smith)

Nick Robertson-Brown: No Richard, I do not support HS2 and as I believe the funding has already hit £80 billion, it is a total waste of money. It is yet more unnecessary destruction of our environment and will do absolutely nothing for the northern economy. This money could be spent reducing rail fares, improving public transport, and a whole host of other more important uses. I would renationalise the rail system and use that money to reinvest in a totally integrated public transport system.

15. What would you say to encourage the 32% of local electorate who didn’t vote last time, to vote this time? (Jamie Murphy)

Nick Robertson-Brown: This is one of my favourite questions, Jamie. As you can imagine, my team and I have been out and about the constituency talking to people and it is particularly amongst the young who have been disenfranchised by consecutive governments who spout the same rhetoric with very little difference between them. I spoke to someone recently in Altrincham who must have been about 30 with children and had never voted. After she spoke to us about our policies, she said she actually believed in what we stand for and will vote – More people need to hear about what we stand for. Why not try

For more on the Green Party’s policies, view its 2015 manifesto here.

Tomorrow: James Wright, Labour