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16/10/2007 - Q&A with Linda Grace, Labour Party Candidate for Haywards Heath Franklands Ward By-Election

I have had the pleasure of meeting many residents of Franklands Ward over the last few weeks and have been grateful for the warm and positive response. Ahead of the election this Thursday, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the common questions I have been hearing and to provide feedback.

Q: Why should I vote for you?

I have worked as a caseworker in Children’s Services in local government for many years and appreciate the challenges faced by councils. I will use my experience to take up any local issues or concerns which are raised with me, and ask challenging questions when needed. I will ensure that I will respond to any concerns or comments sent to me by residents. I will also use my position as Councillor to take up wider issues with the District and County Councils for example transport infrastructure.

Q: What will Labour do differently?

I feel very strongly that there should be Labour representation on the Town Council to provide an alternative voice to the current 100% Conservative Council. I have spoken to many voters during the last few weeks and listened to their concerns. Residents have reported feeling that in the past promises have been made by potential Councillors but not kept. Concerns have also been raised that people do not feel listened to, with some expressing disengagement from the democratic process locally believing it does not work for them. I will not make promises I cannot keep but assure you that I will attend meetings and represent local views.

Q: We vote for these people and nothing seems to happen. How can you fix that?

Looking back over the last two years at the records of the two Tories who have been elected and then resigned from this seat in Franklands it is hard to see what they have contributed. One missed 80% of the council and sub-committee meetings in that period and neither of them are recorded as saying anything in the minutes of those meetings. I promise to attend meetings, contribute and ensure that there is a regular feedback channel from me to all my constituents so that they can see what I have done.

Q: What do you think about the seemingly endless swathe of new developments started and planned in the area?

We have been let down by the failure of Mid Sussex District Council to provide land supply figures in their District Plan. This has allowed developers to pick and choose the sites they want to operate on, often small sites with no responsibility to provide quotas for social housing and with restricted and inconvenient access. This must be stopped. The Haywards Heath Neighbourhood Plan will be sent back to the Town Council for revision to find the extra houses that are now demanded. We must make sure that this is sustainable development, with proper resources for roads, schools and health and we must ensure that future developments are in the interests of the residents and not of the developers.

Q: What are your views on protecting our local environment?

Here in Mid Sussex we are lucky to live amongst beautiful countryside. Yet we mustn’t forget that many newly built houses are small, lacking in garden space and privacy. Our town needs green space. Parks and allotments are vital requirements for a balanced life. Any review of the Neighbourhood Plan must take into account the preservation and extension of sites for healthy leisure activity. I also want to ensure that the environment within Franklands and Haywards Heath Town e.g. pavements, car parking and public areas are cared for.

Q: What would you do to see 6th Form education restored to Haywards Heath?

Despite the protestations of Sir Nicholas Soames there is no evidence that the purchase of the site of the former College by the Department for Education will mean the return of this facility. It is a scandal that some parents are unable to afford the costs of lengthy daily journeys to Crawley or Brighton and that their children’s future may be limited by the lack of opportunity in this area. I will lobby tirelessly at Town Council, through colleagues on the District Council and in every way that I can to fight for the future of our children.

Q: What will you do to promote local businesses?

There are some imaginative local businesses and good existing forums, such as the Town Team. More needs to be done to bring them together and look at how businesses can help to serve communities in the internet age. I will make it my business to explore opportunities.

I ask you to vote for me this Thursday so that I can work with you to address all these issues and more as your Town Councillor.

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