Election 2019: Labour candidate Margaret Greenwood answers your questions

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We are asking the general election candidates for the Wirral West constituency for their views on certain key issues.

Last week we asked our Facebook community for the questions they’d ask the candidates: Andy Corkhill (Liberal Democrat),  John Coyne (Green), Laura Evans (Conservative), Margaret Greenwood (Labour) and John Kelly (The Brexit Party).

We’ve selected a shortlist using a mix of questions that were suggested 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 candidate, Margaret Greenwood.

  • Council and police budgets have been severely reduced in the last decade due to austerity, meaning the cutting of many essential services. How would you secure more taxpayers money for our area? 

Margaret Greenwood: Councils across the country have seen massive cuts to their funding from central government since the Conservatives came to power and Wirral has been hit particularly hard.

Labour recognises that councils are the voice of local communities and key to the delivery of many essential public services, including libraries, youth centres, swimming pools and leisure centres; the maintenance of beaches, parks, roads and other public spaces and the delivery of support to the most vulnerable in society.

If a Labour government is elected, we will reverse the decade of austerity for local government and aim to restore council spending powers to 2010 levels over the lifetime of a Parliament. That will make a real difference to people in Wirral.

I have held a number of public meetings on the issue of crime and anti-social behaviour and it is clear that this is an issue of concern to many people in West Kirby.

There have been huge cuts to Merseyside Police under the Conservatives and as result we have lost around 1,000 officers since 2010. This has had an impact on the way in which they can respond to anti-social behaviour and crime in West Kirby and surrounding areas.

A Labour government would recruit more police officers and police community support officers and re-establish neighbourhood policing.

  • What will you do to ensure the NHS services on the Wirral have the people and resources to provide support we need?

Margaret Greenwood: I was an NHS campaigner before I entered Parliament and this is a subject very close to my heart. I will always oppose NHS privatisation, fight for a properly funded NHS and act as the patients’ champion.

In October, nearly 40% of people admitted to A&E at Arrowe Park Hospital waited more than four hours to be seen. This is far worse than the national average. In recent weeks I have heard numerous accounts from people who have suffered as a result; I have also increasingly heard stories of the high levels of stress the staff are being put under.

There are 100,000 staff vacancies in NHS England, including a shortage of 43,000 nurses.

A Labour government will change that.

Labour will restore student nurse bursaries so that we can train the nurses we need. We will make it easier for people to get a GP appointment by training 1,500 extra GPs a year. We will also bring in free prescriptions and free hospital parking for everyone.

We will address the crisis in mental health services by providing an additional £1.6 billion a year.

Each primary school will have access to a qualified counsellor and there will be around 3,500 on-site secondary school counsellors. This will really benefit young people across the Wirral.

Labour created the NHS. We will rebuild it and make sure that it is there for any one of us when we need it. 

  • We live on the coast and are at risk of flooding. What practical steps would your party take in government to help to stop climate change and protect our environment?

Margaret Greenwood: I know from the large number of emails I have received that many Wirral West residents feel very strongly about climate change – and rightly so. It is vital we protect our environment – both in Wirral and globally.

Labour will ban fracking and invest in renewables. We will invest £3.5billion in the Mersey tidal power project, bringing jobs and renewable energy to Wirral and deliver enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches.

We will upgrade almost all of the UK’s 27 million homes to the highest energy-efficiency standards, reducing the average household energy bill by £417 per household per year by 2030 and cutting emissions.

A Labour government will introduce a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill. This will set out in law new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitats and species protection.

Our first term of government will see the creation of 10 new National Parks in England and we will plant two billion new trees by 2040. We will invest £1.2 billion to restore natural habitats such as woodland, grasslands, meadows, peatbogs and saltmarshes in England which will really help wildlife to recover and thrive.

Urgent measures to combat climate change must be taken around the world, and Labour has pledged to work closely with countries that are serious about taking action.

This general election is the UK’s last chance to radically change course on climate change. We will respond to the challenge that faces us through Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution.

  • People using the Concourse fitness/health centre have to pay a parking charge whereas at most others in Wirral it is free. Do you think this is unfair, and if so how would you go about changing it?

Margaret Greenwood: Leisure spaces like the Concourse are fundamental for the exercise people need to maintain basic health and they are also spaces where members of the community can meet to exercise together or watch their children play.

The Marine Lake Medical Practice is also a very busy surgery serving lots of people from West Kirby and beyond.

The cost of parking charges can put people off visiting a place and we must be careful to ensure that charges are not prohibitive to people coming and enjoying what’s on offer or, indeed, accessing essential services.

In 2018, I lobbied the council to drop plans to introduce parking charges at coastal locations across Wirral after constituents from West Kirby, Hoylake and Meols wrote to me about the negative effect this could have on the number of people using local shops, hair salons, restaurants, bars and other businesses. This could also have discouraged visitors from enjoying the coast and increased parking in the nearby side streets. I was pleased when, after a public consultation, the council dropped its plans.

If re-elected, I would welcome hearing from any Wirral West residents who feel that parking charges prevent them from visiting places they otherwise would.  

  • The number of banks in the area has fallen dramatically in recent years and there are now just two left. What would you do to preserve counter banking services and cash machines for local people, many of whom are older and are not comfortable with going cashless?

Margaret Greenwood: West Kirby has been hit hard in recent times by the closure of local bank branches. Earlier this year, both the Santander and Lloyds branches closed within a week of each other.

This has understandably been a real blow to local people, particularly vulnerable people and the elderly who may not be able to bank online or travel to another nearby branch.

There is also the knock-on effect to consider – bank branches are a key feature of the high street and closures have an inevitable impact on the local economy.

We have been very clear in the Labour Party that, if we win the election, we will revive high streets by stopping bank branch closures, banning ATM charges and giving local government new powers to put empty shops to good use.

We will also create a publicly owned Post Bank run through the post office network to ensure that every community has easy access to face-to-face, trusted and affordable banking. A Business Development Agency will be based in the Post Bank, providing free support and advice on how to launch, manage and grow a business.  

  • What do you think needs doing to improve the waterfront at West Kirby? 

Margaret Greenwood: The waterfront at West Kirby is one of the most beautiful areas on the Wirral.

It is of immense value to the community in West Kirby and the many residents who visit it to let their children play on the beach, walk their dogs, sail or watch the sun set over Hilbre Island and the Welsh hills.

The new Wirral Sailing Centre building will be a fantastic addition to the waterfront and will attract visitors from across the region.

To ensure the continued use of the Marine Lake as a water sports hub and host of events such as the Wilson Trophy, it is vital that the lake receives the proper investment and maintenance it requires.

A Labour Government will invest in coastal communities like West Kirby to build the amenities they need and fund local authorities so that they can properly maintain public spaces.

  • The proposed Hoylake Golf Resort has been a bone of contention since it was announced. Would it be a much-needed boost to the local economy, or should it driven into the bunker? 

 Margaret Greenwood: It has always been my personal view that the Hoylake Golf Resort should not go ahead.

As the MP, I listened to public opinion by inviting constituents to write to me with their views and I brought the community together by hosting a public meeting at The Parade in Hoylake so that people could come along and have their say. It was clear from that meeting, and also from the hundreds of letters and emails I received from constituents in opposition to the golf resort, that the vast majority of local people think it’s a bad idea.

I am very concerned about the effect it could have on flood risk and the potential impact it could have on wildlife in the area. Also of concern are the proposals for around 160 executive homes built as part of the resort. It is, of course, important that we build more homes, but these homes should be affordable, and they should be built on brownfield sites such as Wirral Waters in Birkenhead, not on the green belt.

I am opposed to building on our green belt and will continue to actively oppose any such development.  I believe that the natural world is immensely important for our wellbeing and also to the character of Wirral West.

  • West Kirby has seen a high turnover of businesses, particularly restaurants, bars and pubs. Local business people say it is down to high rates and unrealistic rents – what would you do to help small independent business owners?

Margaret Greenwood: Labour will establish a new Post Bank, based in Post Office branches, which will provide face-to-face lending and business support to start-ups, small businesses, local co-operatives and community projects. We will also tackle late payments that leave small businesses waiting months to be paid, and ensure no quarterly reporting for businesses below the VAT threshold. The self-employed will benefit from annual, rather than monthly income assessments for those on Universal Credit.

Labour will list pubs as Assets of Community Value so community groups have the first chance to buy local pubs when they are under threat.

We will deliver full-fibre broadband free to every home by creating a new public service, boosting the economy and connecting communities.

We will get money circulating in the local economy. We will end the public sector pay cap, restoring pay to pre-financial crisis levels by delivering year-on-year above-inflation pay rises, starting with a 5% increase. This will help the thousands of public sector workers living in Wirral West. We will also introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over. Together, these measures will put more money in people’s pockets and so enable them to spend more in their local shops and on local services, thus boosting our local economy.

  • What is the right balance in the ongoing tension between managing future development and retaining the charm and attraction of West Kirby and Hoylake ?

Margaret Greenwood: Hoylake and West Kirby are places of real charm and it is essential that their character is protected. Conservation has an important role to play, as does meaningful consultation with local residents when any development is proposed.

The Beacon Arts Centre in Hoylake, which I have supported from the start, is a development that has the interests of the community at its core. The project will be a real asset to the high street, attracting investment, providing jobs and breathing new life into an historic building.

Many people choose to live in Wirral West because of the abundance of open green spaces and beautiful beaches. I believe we should preserve these areas for the benefit of everyone and protect the greenbelt as a priority.

A Labour government will put the voices of local people at the heart of the planning process and will require the climate and environmental emergency to be factored into all planning decisions.

I also believe that developments should be challenged if they fail to meet the very best aesthetic standards. Design quality really matters and the public deserve architecture that is human in scale and appealing to look at.

  • What is your favourite place in West Kirby, Hoylake or Meols, and why?

Margaret Greenwood: That’s a very tough question to end with! There are some really lovely places in West Kirby, Hoylake and Meols, but if I had to choose, it would have to be the view from West Kirby beach to Hilbre Island. A walk out across the sands is a wholly memorable experience; arriving at the island I always feel that it is a really special place, with its wonderful bird life and the seals that are such a feature of the estuary.

I started a campaign against Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in the Dee Estuary long before I became MP for Wirral West. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government granted a licence to a company called Cluff Natural Resources to drill for coal gas there back in 2013. The campaign has been successful thus far, but the government has still not committed to the outright ban of UCG in the Dee that I have long been calling for. If I am re-elected I will continue to make protecting the Dee from industrialisation a top priority.