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Torridge & West Devon

Torridge & West Devon is located in the south west of England. It was created in 1983.

The current member of parliament is the Conservative party’s Geoffrey Cox, who has served since 2005.

2010 General Election Results (Adjusted for non-voters)
Torridge & West Devon

For more information, click here to visit the Wikipedia article.

Candidates

Cathrine Simmons

Background
I have been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years. I have lived in North Devon for 45 years mostly in Great Torrington. I am a farmer’s daughter. Local politics have been a major interest of mine for many years, serving on District, Town and Parish Councils. More recently I was elected on to Torridge District winning at a bi-election beating the UKIP candidate by over a 100 votes. I am Deputy Mayor at present for Great Torrington Town Council.

My working career has been for local authorities or housing associations in housing departments covering affordable housing, homelessness and tenancy management. I retired just over 3 years ago. I am a graduate of the University of the West of England.

I enjoy community work and in the past have served on the senior school Parent Teacher Association, C.A.B. Trustees, the Plough Arts Centre committee and more recently I have been a volunteer for Plough and Share Credit Union. The NHS has been a real focus for me in the last 18 months as we have been trying to save Torrington Community Hospital, so far without success. We are now trying to organise a convention of all the Devon communities who have either lost their hospitals or are about to. I feel strongly that the alternative ‘care at home’ is inadequate for many vulnerable people and we need out small local hospitals at a time when we have an aging population.

The erosion of social justice is a particular worry for me. We are now seeing increasing homelessness and lack of refuges for women and men fleeing domestic abuse. What is happening and where is this all going? Do not get me started on the bedroom tax?

Organic gardening and my family are my main interests outside politics.

1. What do you plan to do in order to make sure you remain ‘in touch’ with the electorate?
I would continue to use my twitter and facebook accounts to keep in touch with my constituents. I would also have local offices in the main towns of Torrington and Tavistock staffed so people could drop in. I would hold regular surgeries and meetings to gauge public opinion. I know that many people find unravelling modern life difficult and I would be willing to help. My experience in housing would I am sure be helpful. I would attend town and district council meetings when appropriate to maintain contact with fellow elected members and the local issues. I hope to be the conduit to government.
2. What makes you the best candidate for this constituency?
I am a local person so know the area well. I have lived in the Torridge area for 44 years. I have served on a number of councils from parish to district and I am familiar with the issues. I am well educated with a degree in Housing and Development and I have worked for housing associations and local authorities for many years. I can bring this housing expertise to the problem of lack of affordable housing in West Devon and Torridge. The high housing prices in both the private rented and ownership sectors needs addressing with more affordable housing for social rent.

I am not from a political family and I have never been a lobbyist. Therefore I hope to bring a realist and ‘down to earth’ attitude to the role.

3. What has the current Member achieved that you believe has been successful?
Geoffrey Cox MP has been helpful in trying to get the inpatient beds reinstated at Torrington Community Hospital. He attended a march in 2013 and spoke to the crowd of Torrington people. He chaired a meeting at the Howe Concert Hall, Great Torrington but his efforts were unsuccessful. The campaigning group called STITCH were disappointed that he voted for the Health and Social Care Act which now makes it easier to close hospitals. Mr Cox has also supported the fishermen in October last when they lost their fishing quota with 12 hours notice although locally the fishermen had not exceeded their local quota. He recognised how unfair it was but the new quota is so small it will be unlikely to revive the fishing industry in Bideford Bay. Unfortunately many fishermen have moved to South Devon ports.
4. In your opinion, is austerity working? What should we take from the state of the economy during this Government’s tenure?
I am disappointed that benefits have been cut and local authority grant lowered. All this pain has not resulted in the deficit being eliminated as suggested it would in 2010 by the government. The bedroom tax has been particularly unfair because there are insufficient smaller homes to move to. Disabled people have been forced to move from their adapted properties only to have their new property adapted. If we continue with this regime there will be more hardship for people on low incomes especially the working poor.

I am also angered with the increase in the discount when council houses are purchased. Half of this has been put into central government ‘coffers’ when it should have been retained to build more social or council housing. Affordable housing was never an issue until the sale of council houses took place.

5. Does (legal) immigration need more limitations or is it vital for the UK?
Immigration is a ‘red herring’ it is dividing communities who believe that the immigrants are responsible for their difficulties, when usually it is other factors. Remember many British people work and live abroad. If we become too heavy handed then the 5 million (or so) British abroad will be forced to return home and that will cause much upset and misery. Imagine the pensioners returning from Spain and the cost to the NHS.

The Green Party’s highest priority is the creation of a just and ecological world order in which environmental devastation is minimised and needs can be met without recourse to migration. This is what we should continue to strive for in our dealings with the EU, Taxation, Free Trade, Multi-national Corporations and so on. Crowded Schools, a failing NHS, housing shortage and unemployment are not the fault of immigrants but the fault of bad government.

6. Many people are concerned about the cost of living in the UK, with wages having failed to rise in line with the price of food, energy and rent in recent years. How can this be corrected?
Firstly the minimum wage rate should be increased and secondly there should be incentives to firms to pay the living wage. If more affordable homes were provided then this would bring down rents in the private sector. There is not enough competition because of the shortage of properties. This creates high rents. We still need to do more to insulate homes to bring down energy bills and continue to increase renewable energy generation which will bring down the cost of energy in the future.

Growing your own fruit and vegetables is not only a healthy activity but helps with food costs. There are in some places long waiting lists for allotments so local councils should be encouraged to increase their allotments. There is often unused land dotted around communities which could be used to great benefit.

7. How would you like to see the NHS change in the future in order to become more successful?
The NHS should not be privatised; the public owned sector can be as efficient as the private sector. The new Clinical Commissioning Group is an expensive bureaucratic layer. In Devon alone the salaries of the CCG is over £4 million which could be spent on patients instead. Health care services should be delivered with compassion. This includes single sex wards in hospitals, ensuring that maternity care is of the highest quality, ensuring that care reflects people’s needs and that care promotes the dignity of all patients.

Preventive health care is really important and more effort should be put into this area. Funding will be diverted away from centralised facilities towards community healthcare, illness prevention and health promotion. Community Health Centres should be the focal points for self-help and community-based initiatives and will also provide a wide range of services including primary healthcare, and health education and health promotion programmes.

8. What measures do you think need to be taken to decrease unemployment, particularly youth unemployment and those who have never been employed?
We need green jobs, as in renewable energy of which there are many sources in Devon such as the sewage treatment plants, where methane gas drives turbines (you can see the pipes on Deep Moor tip which are already collecting methane to power a generator) but hydroelectric, tidal and wave power are all currently under-used. There is equal employment potential in improving energy efficiency in all our building stock.

The Green Party would wholeheartedly support the third sector, those ‘not for profit’ companies and co-operatives. This would be done via a network of Community Banks. Local people would have a safe place to carry out their banking knowing that it would benefit their local businesses and consequently local workers. The Green Party would like to see a Green National Investment Bank which would invest in green technologies and sustainable businesses.

9. Does the lack of diversity in Parliament equate to a lack of representation?
The lack of women and ethnic minorities MPs is shocking, and it is a reflection of the old fashioned way that Parliament operates. It is unfriendly to family life with ridiculous hours especially for whose MPs who represent constituencies a long way from London. Governments often make many changes in our society but when it comes to their own institution, they seem to be blind. Also I think it is seen to be an unattractive job because of complicated procedures and formalities. The fact that people have to be counted through lobbies to vote seems bizarre. It does not happen in other areas of government. These archaic rules should be modernised as it is ‘off putting’ to many people especially those who are not part of the establishment like women and ethnic minorities. This leads to a Parliament which does not reflect the diversity of Britain.
10 . If an EU Referendum were to take place, how would you encourage your constituents to vote and why?
The Green Party would like an EU referendum we need to settle this once and for all. We would campaign to stay in the EU and encourage constituents to vote. There is no doubt that the EU needs reform. It has to be more efficient with better democratic processes, for example reducing the power of the commissioners. Decisions should be taken at the most appropriate level with decentralised groupings of nations and regions.

We should co-operate with our EU partners for the common interest on matters such as social justice and democracy. I think that standards of justice have been improved by being in the EU. We must continue to be partners in the European Convention of Human Rights; after all we set it up. It may need some adjustment to make sure our sovereignty prevails but the basic standards have been an example to the rest of the world.

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