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My speech to the Hastings Independent Press/YMCA Hustings on Wednesday

April 25, 2015

Fifteen years experience working in frontline mental health

Nick putting the Lib Dem case at the Y Centre

Nick putting the Lib Dem case at the Y Centre

services; a family life rooted in our constituency; independent-minded and in no-one’s pocket – these are the things that I bring to the table as a candidate to be our next MP.

And I believe that the Liberal Democrats have a job to finish in Government – delivering a stronger economy in order to underwrite a fairer society, so that there is opportunity for everyone…

There is no doubt that this has been a tough five years.

You will remember where we were in 2010.

With the real possibility of economic crisis in the UK, the Liberal Democrats decided to form a government with Conservatives , in order to provide confidence and stability in the markets, and to create a stronger, re-balanced economy.

Well.  There have been mistakes and problems along the way, and it’s not always been garlands and laurels for my party, but we have worked in the national interest.

Businesses here in Hastings & Rye, and across the country, have worked with Government to build economic recovery.

Ignore the naysayers, we have one of the fastest growing economies in the industrialised world.

That is why I am so appalled at the Conservatives’ unfunded spending pledges on the NHS and childcare; and why I am so worried by Labour’s approach: outlining £70bn of further spending, but not giving us any detail, stretching back over a whole Parliament, of what they would cut in order to sort out the deficit.

The Liberal Democrats will balance the books, but we will balance them fairly.

Not like the Conservatives, who will make £12 billion cuts in welfare spending without asking the richest to pay a penny more in tax.

Liberal Democrats will balance the books so that we can invest the £8billion that Simon Stevens, the Head of the NHS, has said is needed.

We will fix the country’s finances in order protect the education budget, increasing education spending in line with inflation once the books are balanced.

Mine is the party that has fought in Government for the Pupil Premium – £2.5billion each year of this Parliament, targeted at the most disadvantaged children, so that their life chances are improved.

Mine is the party that has delivered a hot meal at lunchtime for all of the infants of our country, based on the research that says it will help them to learn.

Mine is the party that has, despite opposition from the Conservatives, got on with delivering a step-change in renewable energy investment; insulated 800k homes through the Green Deal; created the world’s first Green Investment Bank.  This is not Green Crap – it matters.

Mine is the party that has taken nearly 3 million people out of tax.

So it won’t surprise you to know that these themes influence my local priorities too.

I have a track record as a health campaigner.  I was a key player in the Hands Off the Conquest campaign team which was successful in opposing the removal of maternity services from the Conquest before the last election.

I have also campaigned during this Parliament against the changes to Stroke services for exactly the same reasons: the importance of shorter journey times, and the accessibility of excellent emergency services across the whole of East Sussex.

And as a mental health professional for 15 years, not a political insider pretending to have had experience of a working life outside of politics, I know how important it is to have parity of excellence in treatment and waiting times between mental and physical healthcare.  And why it matters that we address the serious issue of GP numbers per head of population, and quickly.

Having had our children here, Ruth and I are as concerned as anyone that we have excellent schools right across our constituency.  This will be a priority for me if elected on 7 May.

But I tell you what else will characterise my approach…

I won’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions of our key public services.

I will not be in the pocket of the Unions, or of big business.  I won’t be shy to ask the awkward questions about why we have not seen the value for money that we ought to have seen from the hundreds of millions of pounds of regeneration investment that has been ploughed into Hastings & St Leonards over the previous Parliament and this.

Whilst I congratulate Amber on her work over the HS1 extension, I believe she has seriously taken her eye off the ball regarding the Link Road (which will give us no housing allocation at all) and the Queensway Gateway Road.

I want to see a change of direction in our regeneration efforts – away from empty office space and business parks, to investing in people, homes, sports and community facilities, with an emphasis on public health.

I want to see Sea Change Sussex held accountable for the taxpayer’s money that it is spending.

And if elected on 7 May I will set up an MP’s commission to bring together all of the disparate bodies responsible for different parts of the regeneration picture in our constituency, and get them to work in a properly joined up way.

So there is so much to do.

We have a wonderful constituency and a wonderful, open-minded, open-hearted country.

The Liberal Democrats want a strong presence in Parliament so that we can deliver a stronger economy in order to underwrite a fairer society, so that there is opportunity for everyone.

If you believe in that positive vision of the future, I hope you will consider supporting me on 7 May.

Thank you.

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