Political parties running for office in Winchester explain why they deserve your vote
With Winchester’s election campaign well underway, major political parties explain why they deserve your vote.
On May 5, thousands of residents will vote in local elections for Winchester City Council.
The council has 16 wards with two or three councilors representing each, this year there will be one seat in 15 district wards up for election.
Nine of those seats are held by the Liberal Democrats who currently control the council with a majority of 26 out of 44 seats.
READ MORE: Who you can vote for in Winchester 2022 election – full list of candidates
The remaining six seats to be filled are held by Conservatives who hold 16 seats in total and act as the main opposition party.
Council leader Councilor Lucille Thompson said the Liberal Democrats had an “overwhelmingly positive response” to residents’ doorsteps.
“People really like what we do in terms of recycling and our concern for the environment,” she said.
“We want to test low-carbon garbage trucks and electric buses, but we need to figure out how we provide the infrastructure.
“We are also making great strides in our program of building new council houses, I think we have around 130 under construction at the moment and we have already completed 120 in the past two years.
“We would like to continue our environmental improvements in the neighborhood and help those most in need.”
Councilor Caroline Horrill, Leader of the Opposition, said the Conservatives are the party ‘to get things done’.
“We’ve had three years of Liberal administration and no progress on any major project,” she said.
“We advocate for a financial regime that does not impose a cost on our residents, the current administration has increased council tax and fees and charges by 3% and has increased parking charges wherever it can.
“We have indicated that we will cancel some of these charges where we can and indeed before we stick to a zero per cent council tax increase – that would be our position going forward.
“One of the issues is the local plan, there was a lack of transparency on the number of houses the current administration will engage in and there was a lack of involvement from our parish councils to participate in this consultation process.
“The second point is the absolutely outrageous abuse of democratic power in agreeing to sell the River Park Leisure Center to the University of Southampton, not that decision itself but the fact that they failed to consult with residents.
Patrick Davies, Labor candidate for St Bartholomew ward, said residents have lacked a Labor voice on council for years.
“Liberal Democrats and Conservatives both lead the council, but the truth is that they have failed to solve a lot of the problems,” he said.
”They don’t get a serious challenge that, when we had a union group on the council, was able to do that.
“The housing issue is a desperate situation throughout the district because property prices are so absurdly high.
“Fighting to provide housing for the next generation is one of the real nightmares because the locals are sorry their children can’t stay put.”
Malcolm Wallace, Green Party candidate for Central Meon Valley, said his party was focused on “fairness and community, while protecting the places we live and the people we care about”.
“These values resonate in communities across the country. In England and Wales, there are now over 460 elected Green Councilors, a number expected to rise on May 5.
“Other candidates are told how to vote by their party, Greens are free to stand up for what is best for our region, including defending our green spaces from overdevelopment.
“Greens work hard all year, listening to residents, then taking action to support our communities.”
Cost of living crisis
The rising cost of living has become a major political issue at the forefront of this year’s local elections.
Cllr Thompson said people on fixed incomes and the most vulnerable “are really worried”.
“How are they going to pay for an £800 increase in fuel costs – for some of them it will mean heating or eating,” she said.
“We are really keen to help people with the current cost of living crisis and we have put more money into our council tax hardship fund so if people are really struggling they can contact us.
“We’ve maintained our grant budget, so we’re funding our key organizations that really provide support to those who need it most in our communities.”
Cllr Horrill shares concerns about the cost of living crisis and has been ‘very proactive’ in distributing the grants the government has allocated.
“We have supported additional funds in our Winchester budget to provide additional support for those in difficulty,” she said.
“We have an improved municipal tax refund system that my predecessor put in place that puts more money in the pot for officers to distribute.
“We are trying locally to provide more money to our residents, those who are particularly in need.”
Mr Davies said residents have been very receptive to Labor campaigns because of the rising cost of living.
“It comes up every day and people know it can only be solved at the national level,” he said.
“Keir Starmer called for an emergency budget to help households is really what we need and to ditch the National Insurance hike and further business rate cuts and serious money for home insulation that has been completely ignored.
“Also a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas producers – that would be a serious approach to dealing with the difficulties people are facing.”
Mr Wallace pointed out that energy efficiency measures would help people in difficulty to reduce their heating bills.
“It’s hard to believe that the government’s energy strategy that was presented earlier this month made no mention of energy efficiency,” he said.
“Rolling out a national program to insulate people’s homes would be great for the economy, reduce carbon emissions and help keep homes warm.
“An insulation program doesn’t look very glamorous, but it can deliver something incredible: a warm home even on the coldest days with a much lower heating bill.”
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